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Gray, pink and white plaid cape (two trends in one) belted over short black shearling coat with Modalo Pippa shark gray bag, LeatherCoatEtc gloves, LeatherCoatsEtc beret, and Salvatore Ferragamo belt (all own)

Tips from an Alaskan style book author on how to stay warm when the polar vortex hits. Read how to combine and layer outerwear to stay both warm and stylish in the extremely cold weather when the polar vortex hits.


Layering Is Key to Stay Warm When the Polar Vortex Hits

In Alaska, we face -40 and below on a regular basis. Actually, when the thermometer drops, below 40, it is great for a bikini look. Our kids still go to school, and you still have to keep going to the grocery store, work, etc.? There is no need to buy an entire wardrobe of Arctic weather wear.

Look what you have already in your closet and then layer, layer, layer. Here is how.


woman in outerwear with plaid blanked scarf, coat, booties and beret to stay warm when the polar vortex hits
Plaid blanket scarf over shearling coat belted for shape and styled with burgundy beret and Modalu Pippa bag


How to Layer to Create the Best Insulation by Use of the Right Fabrics

The first layer is silk long underwear. It is the best for insulation. Then put on a flannel, thick silk or wool shirt (depending on your dress code at work), and a cashmere or wool sweater and a vest or cardigan or blazer on top. At work, you peel the upper two layers off as needed. But they may be needed even at work as the furnace may not be designed to provide the usual room temperature when it is so cold outside. More tips to look stunning when layering.

Advice: Avoid anything cotton!



How to Get Your Work Dress Code and Insulation Needs Covered

If you have them and the dress code allows them, then wear winter wool lined slacks. If you do not have wool slacks, wear your thickest dress trousers with (non-cotton) flannel leggings over the silk long Johns. Any skinnies or ripped jeans are too tight and squeeze the air between the layers out. However, you want a little air between the layers because air is a bad conductor. Therefore, it provides good extra insulation. Distressed areas act as cold bridges. More on how to avoid cold bridges.

If your work place’s dress code calls for dresses or skirts, wear two pairs of tights. I typically wear a pair of opaque tights and a pair of opaque tights that have a flannel inner side on top of them. Under a wool skirt I wear a half slip for extra insulation and some biker shorts. Nobody looks what is under your skirt. If you have, consider wearing over-the-knee boots. to not look like Vivian Ward in the movie Pretty Woman, use the tips in this guide on how to wear over-the-knee boots over 40.


Create Insulation From the Ground With Wool Socks

Ok, now search your closet for socks that have terry soles. Put a wider pair of wool socks over them. Winter boots should always be a size larger than your summer shoes so you can wear thick socks or double socks in them. I hope you have a pair of boots that fits with double socks. Make sure that your socks/feet are not squeezed in for the same reasons as stated above regarding the skinnies. Try insulation insoles as an alternative. More on how to avoid cold feet at frigid temperatures.


Increase the Insulation of Your Coat With a Blanket Scarf

Now to do your daily errands put on a down coat or real shearling coat like above. Have a scarf around your neck inside the coat. Wrap a stole or large shawl around your coat like shown above, or in this winter outerwear look or layer a plaid blanket scarf for style over your coat. Belt it for shape to look stylish, and to avoid that the wind blows it off or plays too much with it. Then the blanket would not serve its purpose, right? Finish the look with a hat that covers your ears and two pairs of gloves or a pair of gloves in mittens. Best is a pair of shearling mittens or gloves. More on how to improve your style with gloves.


Try Thrift Stores to Get a Shearling or Down Coat on the Cheap

If you do not own a shearling or down coat, thrift stores are a good start to browse for them when you are on a budget. There are always people leaving the state for a warmer one and sell their cold weather gear that they expect not to need in the south. I scored once a really good one in a thrift store for a real bargain. Here is a list which designer brands to look for at a thrift shops as a starting point.

More on how to look lean in a shearling coat.

P.S.  Check this lookbook on how  Alaskans dress in January.

Stay warm.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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