Thursday, 16 December 2010

Don't Hate the Layer, Hate the Game

In my last year of sixth form (feels simultaneously like only yesterday and like 2 and a 1/2 years ago), we went on an annual school trip to Russia. (Follow the link for more on that.)


I learned many things from this journey of self-discovery. I learned, for example, some Russian history, how to write my name in Russian, the many, many rules they enforce for walking past Lenin's embalmed corpse, how to say 'thank you', 'my name is', some directions, and 'vomit' in Russian, and how to handle copious amounts of vodka (hence the need for the last of those Russian words).

But the most important life-lesson I learned on this school trip was how to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures. (Aside from afore-mentioned copious amounts of vodka.)
(Please remember that alcohol doesn't actually keep you warm but just gives the illusion of feeling warmer, leaving you more at risk of developing hypothermia and pneumonia. Please also enjoy alcohol responsibly. Much more responsibly than I may have done on said school trip.)

Indeed, there were times when the temperature was -20-something celsius and we were walking around outside for hours on end.

First rule: Always have a full stomach. (Food, not alcohol). Eat carbs for slow-release energy.
Second rule: Drink warm drinks. (I'm a Northerner, I don't need to be told twice to drink more tea)
But the third, and most important rule - one which my mother has been trying to instil in me since I was a wee baba - is to LAYER.

So I thought, seeing as the temperatures (in the UK at least) are heading rapidly towards the ones I experienced in Russia, I'd share with you some of my best layering pieces and tips.

The Blazer

Aside from a good coat, blazers are a dream. They raise your chic-factor by like, a few thousand points, go with almost everything and are nothing short of wonderful for layering.

I have a new favourite blazer, which I tend to wear as a coat:
Style Columnist Blazer
Style Columnist Blazer, $69.99, Modcloth
I love this blazer because of its longer length, its gorgeous contrast pockets and collar and the fact it goes with absolutely everything and remains flattering with several layers underneath.
Image from

But my new-found romance with this gorgeous blazer has not entirely displaced my love for old reliable. Yes, that blazer that every girl has in her wardrobe (sometimes in several colours) that just always looks perfect with everything and never goes out of style.

I'm going to warn you now that by the end of this post you'll have heard the names of a couple of shops several times over. Uniqlo is one of those. The Japanese comfort-haven is THE best place for layering. I started shopping at the one on Oxford Street in London about 5 or 6 years ago now and I have never  looked back. This isn't the blazer I got from Uniqlo (mine is navy, though I've been looking to get the same one in black and grey to cover all eventualities), but it's pretty perfect anyway.

Super Light Wool Tailored Jacket
Super Light Wool Tailored Jacket, £29.99, Uniqlo
Also available in black. It might go without saying but get a blazer in a colour that will go with everything and that won't dirty too easily.
Image from

The Cardigan

I love cardigans. I'm a bit of a cardigan fanatic. I literally collect them. Different colours, styles, patterns. Yay, cardigans. You get the idea.

I have two favourite places to buy basic cardigans. The first is (say it with me now), Uniqlo. Again. Duh. I love that I can go to Uniqlo in either Oxford Street or Westfield, London and know that the chances are they'll have some sort of offer on cardigans that will mean I can get one for £15 or 20 (about $23-30). My two favourite styles are these:

Cashmere Blended Cable V Neck Cardigan
Cashmere Blended Cable V-Neck Cardigan, £29.99, Uniqlo
Oh yeah, did I mention that when you shop at Uniqlo you know you're getting quality? Their cashmere blends are so,  so soft and their cardigans honestly last for years and years.
And the best part is, they have each of their styles in a myriad of colours so you can mix, match and always look amazing and cosy.

Merino Cashmere V-Neck Cardigan, £19.99, Uniqlo
Again, these are super soft, available in pretty much any colour you can think of, amazing value for money and great quality. They retain their colour well in the wash, stay soft and cosy, and add to any outfit.
No wonder women in Tokyo always look so perfect. The Japanese have got it soooo right.

Images from

Moving on slightly from my love-in with Uniqlo (though I guarantee I will come back to it), I also love to buy (slightly more costly, but slightly warmer) cardigans from United Colors of Benetton (side-note: I so always want to write it as 'colours'. I'm very British and very fond of our spelling.)

These cardigans don't have quite the staying power of those from Uniqlo but only because their materials mean they require better care; don't do what I did and accidentally stick them in the washing machine. Again, they're available in a rainbow of colours, and (take my word for it), there are Benetton stores all over the world.

What Lies Beneath
So layering doesn't just mean layers on the outside. A great way to stay warm is to stick a camisole on underneath your outfit as a whole. The entire point of layers is that warm air particles get trapped between the layers and keep you warmer, which is why they work better than just wearing one thick layer.

Again, I love buying basics from (you know this by now)... Uniqlo. Check out their merino cashmere range here

Another great place for basics, though, and one of my favourite shops in general (I'm seriously surprised I haven't tagged it in a post until now) is American Apparel

I'm gonna be a total poser and go ahead and say that I was well ahead of the trend in the UK when it comes to American Apparel. I started shopping at their flagship on Oxford Street when I was still at school and have never looked back. 

Again, their items are available in a whole range of colours, great quality, have staying power and are super soft - and I have to say, once I find something I like, I'm a sucker for buying it in all my favourite colours. I'm so their target audience.

Here are some of my favourite Am-Ap pieces for layering:

   RSAPQ454 RSA0310
RSA0403    8328
BR394    RSA0325S
RSAKWS1    RSA0407

Images from

You'll have to take my word for it, but I own some of the above in several colours and they are always favourites (especially the skirt second from bottom, which I have in tan and love sooo much).

On top of this (not necessarily literally), of course, you can wear long johns (always sexy), thermals, double helpings of knickers and tights, and big warm boots.
Never forget to wear gloves, scarf and hat in cold weather. For a great idea for text-friendly gloves, see my flatmate's blog.

Keep warm, everyone! Stock up on hot chocolate, marshmallows and warm blankets for when you get back from your Arctic explorations of your town or city.

Ciao for now,

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