Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 01/11/12: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

What I think I look like in pajamas. The reality is more heffalumpish. Pic by Nina Leen for LIFE

Are you cold? I’m cold. I’m bloody freezing. My toes have turned to icy nubs that jolt me awake in chilly shock whenever I shift about in my sleep. Two hot water bottles and the occasional hot port have no alleviating effect. The fuzzy pink Penney’s pajamas I discovered in the airing cupboard make me a little warmer, not that that’s any consolation to the people in hot countries who slave away (in some cases literally) to make us our cut-price winter warmers.

I have taken to working in bed. The pajamas stay. I lump on brightly coloured shawls, hats and jewellery – the jewellery is a smokescreen to make me believe that I am making some kind of effort. It’s like aspirin – I don’t know quite how it works, but it really does. I look like a person who has gone on a gap year to Peru and decided that the locals know where it’s at, wardrobe-wise.

I think that this is perfectly acceptable. I still get my work done, I get to stay warm and no-one sees me looking like an ersatz bag lady/Olsen twin. It’s not my priority to look nice, or even presentable, when I’m at home by myself – the priority is to be cozy or, as a friend of mine who lives in Copenhagen says, hygge. ‘Hygge’ is a great word. It may even be a cozier word than ‘cozy’.

When I step outside the house, though, I am less ‘hygge’ than ‘hyggledy piggeldy’. I have yet to master the gentle art of layering that comes so easily to tall, sylphette women and less to to shortish, vaguely lumpish ones with, y’know, curves n’stuff.

Still, we shall struggle valiantly on, trying to strike that balance between beguiling and well-swaddled. Until the average person’s social life revolves around wearing pjs and never, ever going outside, we will have to spend our time socialising, running errands and attempting to have some semblance of a romantic life wrapped in several layers of fuzzy fibres, making a person look like a less jolly Sta Puft man.

It’s not a lot to ask to want to look both presentable and be warm during the wintertime. Here are a few tips.

1) Take care of your bod. Your face is the one part of your body that will repeatedly be exposed – and the elements we are exposed to are harsh ones. Take your multivitamins, change to a richer moisturiser as the weather will dry out your skin and invest in a few hot oil treatments for your hair. A healthy, glowy person wrapped in a soiled blanket will look better than an unhealthy sniffling one in Burberry.

2) Embrace technology. More specifically, embrace the new generation of thermal underwear, which adds no bulk but is still soft, breathable and snuggly warm. Best of all – it’s available in most high-street stores.

3) Proportions are key. Wearing a lot on top? Keep it slim on the bottom. Skinny jeans (with thermal leggings underneath) tucked into mid-heeled ankle boots will nicely balance out whatever millefeuille duvet-like concoctions we can come up with.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate column 18/10/12: The Merits of the Mom Jumper

There is no kind of comfort quite like the kind you find when, on a cold day, you slip on a jumper that has spent a few minutes warming up on the radiator. It is a kind of comfort only surpassed when it’s rainy outside and said radiator is now hosting a clean pair of flannel pajamas.

It is also a kind of comfort that we’ll have to get used to this winter because it’ll be a cold one, by golly. The average temperature is shaping up to be five or six degrees every day. Come December, that will be even lower. It is definitely time to unpack the winter woolens and banish any tights below forty dernier from whence they came.

Knitwear buying can be a tricky process. There is only one type of body shape that looks good in any kind of sweater, no matter what shape or how scratchy or fluffy the wool. That is the straight up-and-down, modelly type. These women can rejoice in being able to put on an Aran jumper three sizes too big and still look great. We will not begrudge them, because skinny people need extra warmth what with having less insulating body fat than the rest of us, and all.

Especially meritorious for the woman with the in-and-out body shape is the Mom jumper. It’s not necessarily a jumper that mothers wear (mine favours a potato sack-textured Fairisle that she knitted herself) but rather a jumper that gives you the warming, maternal caress that you need on a cold winter’s day. Your jumper loves you. Your jumper will take care of you. It will not judge you if you accidentally slop tomato sauce on it. It does not care about your sexual orientation and will not spoil Downton Abbey for you if you haven’t got around to watching that episode yet.

If you’re looking for a maternal Mom Jumper, then Boden is a great place to start. The British label started business with a mail order catalogue (how mammy-ish can you get?) and specialises in very simply structured, reassuringly classic, untrendy knitwear. It’s the kind of knitwear that, if you take care of it, could last you for several years in both style and practicality stakes. Most jumpers are updated vintage shapes – the Fifties jumper is especially flattering for hourglass figures.

For a non-mumsy Mom jumper, head to Cos. The knitwear at the H&M-owned high-street chain is considered good enough quality to be sold at Brown Thomas. While Cos stands for Collection of Style, just ‘Cos’ is also appropriate – the patterns are finished with mathematical precision that requires a set of tables.

The knits are good quality too. I have my eye on a sheer black alpaca knit that will go with everything and am already living in a grey marl sweatshirt that has been updated with interwoven metallic thread. Note to self – under no circumstances should I put that one under the radiator. It’s comforting enough already without having to endure second degree burns.

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