Yesterday morning on my way to work, I sat in a crowded subway car, tightly wedged into a dirty orange plastic seat between a man wearing a bulky winter coat and a tall woman wearing a puffy white jacket, and a series of thoughts flashed through my mind: everyone looks ugly. Including me. I look ugly. Everybody on this train is ugly.
Yes these are mean, uncharitable thoughts. But I had them. It was early in the morning (okay it wasn’t really that early in the morning) and I’m not a morning person. Also, as I’ve already made abundantly clear in a previous post, I hate Januarys.
So there I sat, smooshed, uncomfortable, sneakily glowering at everyone sitting across and beside me on that train, when it struck me: this wasn’t just a simple case of the winter morning blues clouding my vision with misanthropic hate (although there was that as well); everyone, including me, on that train actually didn’t look good because everyone, including me, was wearing layers and layers of winter clothing, and winter clothing is gross.
Thus, I present to you reason number 10,000 for why winter is more always awful than spring, summer, or fall: winter fashion sucks.
(Oh, and here, I also present to you a little disclaimer: I have basically little to no real fashion knowledge/expertise/sense, and everything I’m writing here is simply what I’ve casually observed whilst out wandering through the freezing streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn during wintertime.)
And what I’ve casually observed is that winter clothing is flattering on very, very few people, myself included. And when I write “winter clothing,” I don’t mean California-low-60s winter clothing, I mean East Coast-low-20s winter clothing. Having experienced both types of winters, I can tell you that the thirty degree difference, give or take a few degrees, makes a huge difference in how cute someone looks during winter.
For example, here’s how I looked yesterday morning on that subway: I had on two sweaters, an enormous red jacket my dad bought years ago from a tourist shop in Ketchikan Alaska with the word “Alaska” stitched on the right breast pocket, knit tights under jeans that made my legs look fat, and a thick scarf wrapped tightly around my neck that I had also stuffed into my red Alaska jacket. I was definitely, definitely warm enough. But I was also definitely, definitely ugly-looking. And you know what? I didn’t really care. Because it was really cold.
And that, I think, is the key difference between dressing for winter and dressing for warm weather. It requires more time, more effort, and, most importantly, more imagination to look good in very cold temperatures. When it’s warm, all I have to do is simply throw on a cute simple dress, maybe match it with an easy piece of jewelry, and voila! — outfit complete. But when it’s freezing cold out, not only do I not feel like going through the trouble of finding something “cute” to wear, I don’t even know what that something “cute” might be — winter wear all seems so dull, so bulky, and so cumbersome to me. What’s more, there are just way too many different layers and items of clothing that must be worn all together that could end up looking awful, and way too many other practical considerations to keep in mind alongside the aesthetic ones. For the people (like me) who spend very little time thinking about what to wear, or who don’t possess a very keen eye on how to piece together more complicated outfits, it’s just difficult to look good when it gets cold. And for the people (like me) who have a poor eye on how to put together more complicated outfits, there are so many more opportunities to get things wrong because there are so many more articles of clothing to work with.
I sat on that train, thinking about all this, and suddenly, I felt a warm rush of good-natured camaraderie toward my fellow subway travelers. We were all in it together, these ugly people on the train and I. We were all ugly and poofy on that cold winter morning, swaddled in our big jackets and thick pants. And that’s fine by me.
By Helen Zou