Clothes Layering

Woman wearing a jersey turtleneck and a winter coat
Winter-Wear Advisory: Dressing for the Season
Let's take a look at dressing appropriately for colder weather. We’ve all heard about the need to wear layers in cold weather, but why?
The answer is two-fold.
First, layering is the best way for you to insulate yourself against the cold. But you need to do it properly. That means starting with a layer of close-fitting absorbent fabric. Usually a cotton jersey-knit or other natural fiber is a good choice. The fabric should be tightly woven and able to wick away moisture from the skin, so that you stay comfortable.
The next layer should be something bulky, and loose-woven that allows air to circulate through it. This lets the cold air from outside get trapped in the fibers and slowly warmed before reaching your skin. Think of this as the insulating layer.
The outer layer of garments should be tightly-woven and at least somewhat windproof and waterproof (for inclement weather like rain and snow). With the wind-tight outer layer, the insular layer creates a warming pocket around you to keep you snug in the harsher outside weather.
Let’s break this down:
Layer one: Close-fitted Garments
These are your undergarments and street clothing. These would be the garments you would be left wearing in most non-home settings after coming in from the cold. If you are going to be in the outdoors for long periods of time, or if the interior you are headed for tends to be colder than you are comfortable with, you may want to wear long underwear (thermals) to give you better maintenance of your body temperature.
Layer two: The Insular Pocket
This would be the heavy, bulky sweater that you wear over your street clothes. Air will pass through it in direct wind, but it allows you to maintain a measure of your body heat when the air is not moving. It creates a warm pocket of body-temperature air when covered by the outer layer. You may not immediately remove this layer when you enter your destination, but you certainly would if you need to adjust your comfort level.
Layer three: The Outer Layer
These are the garments that provide the primary defense against the elements. It can be an overcoat, or rain coat, or simply a windbreaker. This also includes scarves, hats and gloves. This layer would be the part that would be removed upon entering most places, particularly your destination.
The other reason layering is so important is in temperature management. Since most of us have to travel from one climate controlled environment to another by going through the harsh winter outside, and since we generally have little control over any but our home environments, it becomes necessary to layer our clothing to allow us to maintain a comfortable temperature by adding or removing garments.
For example, if you wear a bulky sweater to work and it’s warm in your office, you will probably spend the day being miserable because you are overheating. If, however, you had opted instead for a blouse under a light sweater or an over-shirt, you could remove a layer and regain a more comfortable body temperature.
Here are the simple rules:
Rule One: More Layers means greater control over your temperature.
This means that you should always choose to layer lighter fabrics over one another than to choose a single heavy garment. If you’re wearing three layers and you get warm, you can take something off, but if you are only wearing one heavy shirt and get warm, you can only get naked.
Rule Two: Dress with your Destination in Mind.
This means that if you know the kind of climate your headed for, then you can keep your bottom layer something you know will be comfortable for you. However, if you don’t know what to expect, be sure to dress so that you can make adjustments without much trouble.
Rule Three: When in Doubt, Take Extra.
If you’re ever headed somewhere that you just aren’t sure what you should expect, take the extra light-weight sweater, or over-shirt. It will keep you from being sorry if the temperature is just “too cool” to be comfortable with your street clothes, but too warm to tolerate with your bulkier sweater on, and allow to have that happy medium.
The bottom line is this, layering for winter makes sense from a practical standpoint. A little preparedness can make or break you when it comes to staying comfortable in the colder weather.
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