Wednesday 26 June 2019

Saggy tights and bobble hats: the winter style issues we all face


Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

There's a bitterly cold weekend ahead, according to Met Eireann. The "cold arctic airmass" on its way to Ireland could bring hail, sleet and a risk of thunder - and while it might not be batten-down-the-hatches weather, it's definitely time to bring our winter woolies out of hibernation.

Some women prepared for the inevitable last month. They read the September issues of their favourite fashion magazines and earmarked the pieces that would become the linchpins of their winter wardrobes.

The rest of us are playing catch-up in the style stakes. The forward march of globalisation - and the disorienting acceleration of global warming - has left us in a sort of trans-seasonal fashion limbo.

It's too cold for a trench coat but too warm for a teddy coat. And while the mercury is undoubtedly dropping, there is still plenty of temptation to entice those of a sunnier disposition. We were coming to terms with the turn of the season only for Meghan Markle to step out in a thigh-split summer dress by Reformation and sunglasses by Karen Walker during a Royal tour of the Antipodes.

It doesn't help that the big online fashion sites were selling shirt dresses, mules and even swimsuits in their mid-season clearance sales last week.

But the moment the temperature does decide to drop, the shops will probably be thronged with women who have left their winter wardrobe edit until the very last minute. These hopeless optimists have begrudgingly accepted that it is time to swap the Capri pants for black opaque tights, but they know from bitter experience that the new season is replete with sartorial challenges. Here are just a few of the worst ones...

The coat

In theory, we choose a winter coat that suits our personal style and budget. In reality, we choose a winter coat based on our current state of mind - which is about as mercurial as the October weather.

Go coat shopping on payday and you'll probably end up with an utterly impractical goat hair coat that is more Burning Man than off-site business meeting. Go coat shopping during a cold snap and you'll end up with a puffer coat that looks more like an oversized sleeping bag.

The boots

The same principle holds true here. Go boot shopping on payday and you'll end up with a pair of thigh-highs that make you look like a pantomime dame. Go shopping during a cold spell and you'll 'invest' in fur-lined country boots that make you walk like John Wayne.

The 'capsule' pieces

Fashion experts tell you that a couple of cashmere sweaters and a good knife-pleat midi skirt will see you through every winter style conundrum. What they don't tell you is that, nine times out of 10, this 'fashion hack' will make you look like an overgrown schoolgirl. And this is before we add the dreaded...


We'd all like to style our winter wardrobes around a capsule collection of well-chosen pieces. The truth, however, is that we tend to build our outfits around a dismal pair of black opaque tights that have to be hooshed up on the hour every hour. The quiet tyranny of tights is perhaps the greatest sartorial challenge that women face over winter. How, in an age of 3D printing and techno-textiles, are we still forced to wear hosiery that makes us feel personally victimised?

The accessories

Hat, scarf, gloves: this part should be easy, so why is it so hard? Hit the shops and you'll soon notice that most women's wool hats now come with a cutesy bobble on top - great if you want to drink hot chocolate and make snow angels; not so great if you want to be treated like a self-respecting adult. Meanwhile, scarfs are now the same size as a small blanket, and most gloves are not designed with smartphone addicts in mind.

The sleepwear

Merino wool pyjamas, fleece-lined dressing gowns, fluffy slippers... Most women boast a winter sleepwear wardrobe that could see them through this season and the next one. This is partly because they enjoy home comforts, but mostly because it's the only winter apparel that doesn't disappoint them in the changing room.

Irish Independent

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