Choosing a Winter Coat

Before winter ends, I’ve gotta talk about my coat. Black, down, puffy, beautiful; a match made in heaven.

big puffy coat

I found it in Denmark a few years ago. I was backpacking through Europe at the time and, before leaving the states, had spent a fair bit of money on a nice, versatile coat from REI. I loved that coat. And then Halloween in Berlin happened, and I found myself leaving a club with a British golf pro at 9 AM in a coat that was decidedly not mine. So, realizing the time, I gathered myself and made my train to Copenhagen, spending the journey wondering about the nights we forget and the ones we remember, and how they influence our growth respectively. Upon arrival in Denmark, in late October, en route back to Iceland and wearing a hideous, huge, and annoyingly not-warm jacket that smelled like cheap cologne, I searched for a coat.

puffy coat winter style

And look what I found! Isn’t she lovely? I remember being shocked at how cheap it was, but it was perfect – simple, sleek, functional, comfortable. I can wear it literally over anything, from dressed up pajamas to a fancy formal dress. I like the length because it works just as well with skinny pants as it does with a full skirt. The zipper, just for kicks, can zip my entire face away inside the brilliantly massive hood. I’ve worn this skiing and traveling and dancing and through the sub-zero Siberian winter of Harbin, and I have stayed warm. And I like to think I looked pretty fresh, too.

A coat is an important piece in a wardrobe. I came upon this one by chance and, until moving to Harbin, would only wear it on the coldest of cold days in Colorado. Using it daily here, I’ve been continually reminded of what a fantastic coat it is – but what makes a fantastic coat?

A coat, above all, is functional – it should keep you warm. Down does this most dependably, but wool and fur work as well if you don’t want to look like a marshmallow. But sometimes you need the warmth. Consider length, color, and style.

coat puffy winter style

Length – many coats hit around your thigh, and some go as low as the calf. What works best for you, what works with the clothes you own already? Or maybe the questions is what can you afford, and, as you can see, I got the cheapest option.

puffy coat winter style

As color goes, keep thinking about your current wardrobe. A coat needs to go with absolutely everything, so black is the easiest color to fit in with what you rock regularly. But maybe blush pink matches everything you own, or white, or brown – just don’t go buying a magenta coat that looks ridiculous over your favorite chocolate brown corduroys.

Finally, style. Do you want a coat with a cinched waist? A fur-trimmed hood? Bell sleeves? The options range as far as you can click your way into online stores, and I figure Burlington Coat Factory and Overstock.com are good places to start, but Google your vision

puffy coat winter style

Maybe you’ve spent this entire winter dreaming of a new coat and unable to afford one. Well, good news, kids, now is the time to buy! Coats everywhere will be on clearance as stores clear room for bathing suits, so make your way to the mall and get yourself excited about next winter.

Love, calm, & care –

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Cocoon Sweater

I love wearing black in the winter. Excessive color just seems wrong to me this time of year – I take a cue from nature, and let the color fade out of my wardrobe, blanketing myself in cozy neutrals. It’s easy and comfortable, and makes getting dressed a breeze. One of my favorite winter pieces is my big black cocoon sweater.

I found it at a thrift store a few years ago – the tag says 22W, so it’s massively oversized, and that’s what makes is so ideal. I can layer a shirt underneath if it’s really cold, but, even in these subzero temps, that’s hardly necessary. It’s roomy and soft, like wearing a hug, and it works with any pair of leggings or skinny pants in my closet.

cozy black sweater winter style

The sleeves hang low, giving it that safe cocoon feel, and the neck is fitted without being constricting. There’s a little zipper up the back to give it an extra bit of polish – zipping up a sweater feels far more fancy than just pulling it over your head.

sweater neckline zipper

I can throw on my loafers for a pedagogical look –

teacher loafers black sweater winter style

Or boots and leather leggings for a bit more swag –

maroon leather leggings winter style

Or if I just need to run out of my house to the market or something quick, it’s the easiest thing to reach for to be dressed in a hurry. Stay warm!

Love, calm & care –

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Winter Layering with Summer Crop Tops

I’ll let you in on something – I haven’t always adored being female. There are just so many rules! As a kid I ran around in my brother’s hand-me-down basketball shorts all morning and then had afternoon tea in a fake silk ballgown my mother stitched up, but the romantic comedies I watched and the novels I read told me that women needed men in order to be confident, whole people and that, above all else, we’re supposed to be pretty – devoting our lives to finding a mate. This didn’t jive with me even in my adolescence, so I wore ridiculous, ostentatiously feminine outfits – playing dress up everyday with high heels and makeup in an attempt to find clothes in which I actually felt like myself.

And this, my friends, is why I love androgyny – a blending of gender concepts and styles and feelings and traits that allows men to be emotional and women to be intelligent and all of us to wear whatever the hell we please.

Sometimes I feel like dressing like a boy. A boy who has my closet and my tastes and my figure. When the mood strikes, I’ll layer my black summer crop tops over button downs for a comfy boyish sweater vest look. I just love it, and there’s so much variety to be found within it, depending on how far I want to go – necklace or no, silky top or flannel.

close up layering pajama top

I like to balance masculine and feminine elements, so I put the edgy leather leggings with the silky pajama top –

androgynous girl winter layering style

The lumberjack flannel with the beanie, pencil skirt, and bulky boots –

androgynous girl winter style flannel

androgynous flannel girl winter layering style

And the sweet lilac suede with simple black pants, a necklace, and my loafers –

androgynous female winter style

People might do a double take when you step out like this, but so what? What really matters is that your clothes honestly represent who you are. Personally, I find it liberating.

androgynous female purple winter layering style

What are your thoughts on this baby step into androgyny? Not for you? Down to try it?

Love, calm, & care –

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Cozy Cashmere Sweater

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Harbin it has been c-c-c-COLD. Like below 0. Constantly. Celsius or Fahrenheit. It’s just extra freezing, all the time. The redeeming quality of cold weather – apart from a constant excuse to stay in and read books – is the cozy clothing. Sweater weather. One of my favorite pieces is my cashmere sweater.

girl in cashmere sweater

Soft and roomy, with a pattern and color scheme that match just about anything – it’s a staple. I love having pieces that I can wear with my entire wardrobe, and this is absolutely one of those. It’s great by itself or fantastic for layering. Anytime I don’t feel quite cozy enough in my outfit to go outside, I throw this on under my coat and I feel like I’m wearing a blanket.

winter style girl woman

It’s the adult version of a blanky that I take with me everywhere. Because why does that have to end when you start 1st grade?

cashmere sweater

girl in cashmere sweater

I found this at J. Crew three years ago and haven’t looked back, but I found a couple similar ones online. J. Crew, of course, has a gorgeous one that is currently on clearance, Everlane has a couple mid-range price options, and Uniqlo has an okay one on the lower end. Cashmere won’t be cheap, but I swear it’s worth every penny – it’s warm as shit, and it lasts forever.

cashmere sweater winter style girl

When thinking of getting your own sweater – what are your priorities? I wanted to be able to layer, so I got mine in a bigger size. I wear a lot of black and white with the occasional pop of color, so I wanted something that would go with everything. Take into account the rest of your wardrobe, the type of silhouette you want, etc.

girl in cashmere sweater

And, once you’ve got your sweater, enjoy drinking tea in it and watching the snow fall. Because we still have three more months of this.

girl in cashmere sweater winter style

Love, calm, & care –

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I Left on a Jet Plane

Guess what? I live in China now. I’ll post about my apartment, the Siberian cold, and all that jazz later, but for now – how do I travel? I like to streamline, so in any packing situation I try to take as few things that will serve me in as many ways as possible. I checked my bags, so I challenged myself with filling my little backpack effectively. When you’re facing 17+ hours of flight time, you gotta consider entertainment, hygiene, nourishment, and, of course, comfort.

leather backpack

I found this genuine leather gem on Amazon for $30.

Entertainment

I’m not a huge magazine reader in general, but when I’m waiting to board a flight or only mentally awake enough for something small, a magazine is just the thing. This issue of The Economist is bangin, and is educating me on current events around the world from a perspective I’ve always loved and understood.

delta airlines seatback pocket entertainment

I love the feeling of a novel in my hands, but, given overseas move, I had to give in and get a kindle. It took me a minute to get used to it, but now I love it – it’s convenient, has that flat screen that doesn’t punish your eyes, and makes underlining and looking up words a breeze. I started Hesse’s Demian on the flight, have since finished it, and, as usual am impressed by Hesse’s wisdom. I could say a lot more about him as a writer, but I’ll leave that for another post. If you want a coming of age novel that is grounded in reality but isn’t afraid to get wacky, this would be a good choice.

stack of books notebook headphones poetry

When it comes to books, I always like a sampling – poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. A good friend got me that copy of e e cummings’ poetry in Paris, and I take a juicy bite out of that every now and then. My other constant companion is my pocket Emily Dickinson. Both of these poets require a a little chewing and have pretty short poems, so they’re perfect when you need a quick burst of flavor. I haven’t begun Wages of Rebellion yet, but it’s a history of revolutions around the world, so I’m amped about starting it.

The long flight had a fantastic selection of movies, and I watched Citizen Kane, Suited – a documentary about Bindle & Keep, a custom suiting company with a focus on fitting the growing trans population, and a Ted talk on the Chinese Zodiac. I wanted to watch All the President’s Men, too, but sleep overtook me.

Fold-up, noise cancelling headphones are a must, and I brought my laptop, too – it’s light, and I didn’t want it getting flung around in my checked luggage. And, of course, I don’t go anywhere without my notebook and pen. I got this notebook at The Strand in New York a couple months ago, and the cover is so soft.

Hygiene

Flights make me feel gross. So these are my tools to combat that – cleansing water, dry shampoo, unscented lotion and deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. I also had chapstick in my pocket. Taking a minute to cleanse between flights really makes a difference for my mood. Call me crazy, but I just hate walking around with that layer of greasy recycled air on my face all day. And it’s still serving me well because Delta lost my baggage, and I spent two full days with nothing but this backpack.

cleansing water unscented deodorant hygiene easy airport airplane

Mini glass bottle courtesy of an olive oil sample set #irecycle.

I like a sleep mask, too, because you never know when they’ll turn the cabin lights on, or if the person next to you won’t close the window. All this fits perfectly in a little travel case from a United business class flight that a friend of mine took.travel pouch sleep mask

Nourishment

I pack as much food as I can when I’m out because I never like to be caught without a snack, and, since I can’t eat dairy, my options can be limited. I brought apple slices and a mix of nuts and seeds and, of course, water. I also brought chocolate, because I’ve been raised as a human woman. They served a lot of food on the flight, and my body was confused and I ate at such weird times, but I think it went as well as it could.

bring your own healthy airplane snacks

Sparkling water, apples, nuts.

Comfort

Black is my favorite, especially in the colder months. Don’t tell anyone, but all my underwear is blush pink and lacey! It’s a fun secret. I like to be able to move freely with nothing pinching my body parts, but I also don’t like to look schlumpy.

in flight outfit comfort ease black selfie

Please excuse my face; I just flew halfway around the world.

A turtleneck keeps my neck warm, black jeans are roomy and fitted at the same time, scrunched down over-the-knee socks warm my ankles and keep the jeans from bunching at my knees, Clarks loafers are beautiful and oh-so-orthopedic. I layered with my beanie, scarf, and cashmere sweater because I like to wear blankets and call it style.

cashmere sweater J Crew beanie scarf warm airplane

If you must know, I took this in an airport bathroom stall.

Time keeping is essential, so I wear a watch that I take off during flights. I don’t wear much jewelry ever, so I wore my only pair of earrings and a couple rings as I would any other day.

menswear watch bold face black outfit

Timex. Target. Just watch.

A good night’s sleep and a morning workout have bolstered me against jet lag, and, sitting in my very own apartment with my view of Harbin’s 20 story apartment buildings, I’m feeling ready.

Love, calm, and care –