Winter Clothes/ Image: Pexels
Image: Pexels

Sensible is the new sexy: how to layer like a pro and stay warm in the bleak midwinter

It’s grey, it’s cold, it’s winter – and it will stay that way for a bit longer. As days grow longer at an excruciatingly slow pace, and we find ourselves yearning for the first glimpses of spring, Warwick students wonder how to best persist in the face of wintery adversity and stay warm even on the coldest days.

You’re in luck, because yours truly has the solution: the onion principle. It’s not new, but it’s exciting (the same way spreadsheets and doing laundry before you run out of underwear are exciting). I never understood when my parents or older relatives said they valued “having their kidneys kept warm” during wintertime. Well, maybe it’s time for me to reassess the true extent of my youthfulness because now I do. It turns out sensible is the new sexy.

Only once temperatures drop below 10°C do I allow myself the luxury of wearing leggings under my trousers

In case you’re wondering what onions have to do with fashion (besides making people cry occasionally), the idea is to imitate the layers that make up an onion by wearing multiple layers of clothing. The case for onionisation is easily made: while bundling up in one hyper-chunky jumper to protect yourself against the cold once and for all might be tempting at first glance, it is not a very flexible solution. Navigating the sudden temperature changes that occur when passing between the freezing cold in the great outdoors and potentially overheated indoor spaces is a big part of what makes dressing appropriately in winter so tricky.

Layering allows you to readjust depending on the actual temperature and your subjective perception of how cold it is.

How do you layer like a pro? The innermost layer should be thin and snug, like a protective suit or a second skin warding off the arctic winds that haunt the FAB. Remember those thermal leggings or woollen tights you were ‘strongly encouraged’ to wear underneath your clothes as a young child and that you abandoned at some point during your early teenage years, bravely freezing in the name of fashion? It’s time to bring them back – but make sure not to overindulge. Only once temperatures drop below 10°C do I allow myself the luxury of wearing leggings under my trousers (better, braver, and altogether more weatherproof Warwickians than I might be able to resist the cold for even longer). This is because when getting dressed, one finds the options for layering on the legs are quickly exhausted. Tights or leggings, yes, then trousers or a skirt, and then what – crawling into the carcass of a Tauntaun like Luke Skywalker does in The Empire Strikes Back? Let’s not go there.

For the top half of your core layer, a light-weight t-shirt or vest is an excellent option to embrace your inner superhero and fight that nasty villain: British weather. Don’t forget to tuck your tops into your bottoms, layer by layer, to really keep those kidneys nice and toasty.

In the absence of a tauntaun, wool or corduroy trousers can be lifesavers during the cold months and a great alternative to jeans. Keeping warm while wearing a dress or a skirt is tricky but not impossible: you can still layer, especially when wearing a sleeveless dress.

This winter, embrace your inner onion

While options for your bottom half might be limited, thankfully, the torso exists to save the day in terms of fashion. A long-sleeve top or a button-up shirt is a good shout for the second layer, and next, a fine knit jumper. The trick is wearing thinner layers on the inside and thicker, warmer materials on the outside. I like to have a chunky knit jumper on top of everything else to round things off and embrace the wholesomeness of the cold season, but this top layer could also be a cardigan, a sweatshirt, or a hoodie.

In addition to your coat, don’t forget to pop on a hat, a scarf, and gloves, before you leave for a busy day of lectures and seminars. Now, this outermost shell of your new existence as an onion might be stretching the boundaries of what counts as a ‘layer’, but it will serve you well: a scarf doubles as a wrap when indoor spaces aren’t heated sufficiently, and the gloves allow you to furiously gesture, hold a cup of coffee, or efficiently ingest an easy peeler without getting cold hands. What’s more, walking around with your hands in your pockets is a potential safety hazard (take it from someone who has a habit of tripping over their own feet).

If you’re looking to keep your outfits exciting even as temperatures drop, you can try experimenting with different materials, collar shapes, and patterns that peak out from underneath the top layer. Not quite sure how to showcase your beloved button-up shirts during the winter months? Consider layering them over a turtleneck jumper. Layering can produce some gorgeous outfits, but most importantly, it will help you stay warm – so this winter, embrace your inner onion. And if you do get cold, you can always add another layer.


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