You wonder why you feel cold despite of heavy, thick winter outerwear? The short answer is that there are cold gaps in clothing. However, read on for an explanation of what good insulation is demonstrated by the example of an Alaskan house and what to look for in clothing to reduce cold gaps. In the end, you may become a wiser shopper with respect to finding clothing that minimizes uncomfortable cold gaps and thermal stress.
- Insulation from the Stone Age to the Fashion of Today
- From Ice Crystals to Why You Have Dry Skin in Winter
- Ice Buildup Outside Is an Indicator for Good Insulation
- Insulation and Cold Gaps in Clothing
- Why Is There Ice Build-up on Facial Hair When It Is Cold?
- Dry Skin due to Low Temperatures
- Alaskans’ Humor on Problem Solving
- Fall Business Casual Work Outfits
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Insulation from the Stone Age to the Fashion of Today
Eons ago, Homo Sapiens moved into caves for shelter from the elements. They started using hides and furs of the animals they ate to insulate themselves from the cold air. There was a long road of optimizing paved with trial and error and learning. However, they found out that leaving the hair on the skin keeps the body warm for longer time then scrapping them off. Thus, bare hides were used in the warm season and fur in the cold season.
The physics behind the better insulation of fur? Lots of thin air pockets. That’s why faux fur (like the colorful sweater later in the photos below) pops up as a trend every now and then.
From Ice Crystals to Why You Have Dry Skin in Winter
A couple of years ago, I was on the phone with someone in Europe. The person told me that they had just watched a documentary about Russia and that there was ice on the walls. “Icicles?” I asked. “No, just ice crystals up to the size of a woman’s pinky nail.” “On the inside or outside walls of the houses?” “Outside.” “That’s great” I responded.
Ice Buildup Outside Is an Indicator for Good Insulation
Why? The ice crystals can only grow on the little aerosols called ice nuclei when the wall’s temperature is below freezing. When the inside of the house is heated, ice crystals on the outside indicate good insulation. Areas with weak insulation conduct heat from inside to the outside. These “cold bridges” become visible as areas without ice crystals (see chess plant on the wall in the outfit photo) or at temperatures below -20F (-28.9oC) or so as areas with much smaller ice crystals than their better insulated surroundings. Even a 5 star energy house has some cold bridges as seen in the photos. These cold bridges occur at the static pieces of the construction.
Insulation and Cold Gaps in Clothing
When we dress, there will be cold bridges too. The most obvious ones are the gaps between the gloves and the sleeves. Of course, gloves and sleeves overlap. However, the motion permits cold, dry air to enter, i.e. the motion acts like a ventilation. Thus, cold ambient air reaches your skin.
Add the legs of pants, the neck, and where ever your jacket or coat ends to the list. Rib knitted bands on the hems of the sweater, sewn inside the sleeves of outerwear and inside the legs of thermal pants reduce the exchange of air warmed by your body and the cold ambient air.
Why Is There Ice Build-up on Facial Hair When It Is Cold?
The other main gap – at least for people living in Alaska – are the eyes. Alaskans cover their faces with a mask when they are outside for an extended amount of time for snow machining, dog mushing, ski-joring, skiing, ice-fishing, you name it, but they wear a bikini at 40 below. However, the eyes are exposed to the air. At temperatures below -20F (-28.9oC), ice often builds on the eye brows and lashes. Without mask ice will also grow on any facial hair, not only on beards.
In contrast to the houses, the ice crystals on the face build because of sweat/moisture being exposed to the cold ambient air. The metabolism of a person exposed to extreme cold ambient air reduces the blood flow in the skin to avoid body heat loss. That’s why the skin gets cold.
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Dry Skin due to Low Temperatures
Despite there may be ice fog and the relative humidity may be high, the actual absolute humidity is low at the extremely low winter temperatures in the Interior. Thus, Alaskans living in the Interior, where it is the coldest in Alaska, all suffer from dry skin. Their skin is especially dry along the wrists and, in the case of outdoor enthusiasts, around the eyes. At the end of the winter, some people’s skin even bleeds because it is so dry that it cracks and even bleeds! See how to take care of your skin in Alaska.
Alaskans’ Humor on Problem Solving
Since dry skin is a common problem, there is a Fairbanks running joke on how to solve the dry skin problem. Olay should fill the Hammie Pool with lotion for advertisement of their brand and the Fairbanksans would do the swimming for free.
Fall Business Casual Work Outfits
The next example outfit illustrates styling a summer dress for fall. To increase thermal comfort a layering top covers the cleavage and neck. The motorcycle jacket and tights with fall sandals complete the look. The turquoise of the tights and jacket as well as the black of the jacket and layering top and the white of the dress and jacket tie the outfit together. The turquoise sandals elongate the legs. For the commute to work, I just added a coat, gloves and beret.
The second look in this post is a variation on how to look modern in tweed using a skirt with twinset recipe. Creating a “fake” twinset keeps the look from being too conservative, which over 40 often reads old fashioned.
And of course, don’t forget to style your outerwear. And add a hat for style and to protect your health.
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Do you get dry skin in winter? What do you do about it? How do you protect yourself from the cold ambient air in the cold season?
Mölders, Nicole, 2019. Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska, Atmosphere and Climate Sciences, DOI: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036
Photos: G. Kramm
© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved