Surviving winter fashion

Surviving winter fashion

Some women view hats as a cute accessory, the perfect way to top off an outfit or cover up a bad hair day. For others, hats are the antithesis of looking good in the winter and should be worn only on the ski slope or the coldest day of the year – and grudgingly, at that.

But we live in Maine. It gets cold here in the winter, and we’re adults so we have to at least try to dress appropriately. Is it possible to dress for the weather and look good at the same time?

So first of all, what’s a non-hat girl to do?

Dorinda Putnam, owner of Queen of Hats in Portland, is obviously someone who likes hats. For 21 years she’s been selling them from her Congress Street store and now also online at www.queenofhats.com. Hats are her passion, and she quickly dismisses the idea that hats are not for everyone.

“We actually bring people in with the idea that there is a hat for them,” said Putnam, who explained that finding the right hat depends on many factors, including not only face shape, but also what the wearer needs the hat for, her stature and personality; that is, how much hat a person can handle. Do you want a hat that says, “look at me?” Some people, believe it or not, do.

Putnam said one of her most popular hats for winter is the “Jeannette” style hat – a wool cloche that combines a vintage design with winter practicality by having pull-down ear flaps for very cold days.

“That particular hat looks good on any face shape,” said Putnam. “It’s a beautiful hat for a lot of people, and it’s a great style because it’s casual and because it could also be dressed up. It’s really a great, all-around hat.”

Putnam said some women are afraid to wear hats because they’ll mess up their hairstyles. To combat this, her hats are lined with satin, which she said is not a foolproof way of maintaining your $100 hairstyle, but won’t destroy it completely. And besides, she said, “going bareheaded while it’s 20 below zero does not make sense. It’s a matter of balancing priorities.”

Still not convinced to give up your hat-shunning ways? Liana Zaborowski, store manager at Helene M. boutique in Portland, suggested a couple other options for keeping your head warm, including buying a coat with a hood or a hooded scarf.

“It’s less fitted to your head then your typical hat so you don’t have to worry about ruining your hair,” said Zaborowski.

As for the rest of your outfit, Zaborowski recommended giving up on some of the pieces you might have been able to wear in the fall, such as the strapless dress that made its way from summer to fall by pairing it with a cardigan and boots. The time has come to switch to wool skirts or sweater dresses.

“You can’t keep stretching that strapless dress into the next season,” said Zaborowski. “It’s done.”

She suggested putting together a good winter “uniform” – an easy outfit you can effortlessly pull together and look good – of a long, skinny sweater and scarf paired with jeans tucked into boots. Having a “go-to” sweater that you can dress up or down is also key. For sweater trends this year, she said, a lot of chunkier knits have come into play.

“This year we saw a lot of black and gray, chunkier knits, sweater dresses, and sequins and lace,” said Zaborowski.

Sequins and lace? This is Maine, after all, and winter. Zaborowski recommends pieces with a “smattering” of sequin or lace details, such as a shirt with a subtle stripe of sequins worn under a sweater. Such layers are another must for winter dressing. Make sure you choose the right fabrics – so you’re not too puffy in your puffy coat. Merino wool or cashmere, for example, can give you warmth while still being thin, and both of those fabrics last a long time too so it’s worth the extra investment.

For coats, stylist Adrienne Bailey, who works at Sugarz Salon in Kittery, said anything camel-colored is hot for this year, as well as designs with military details. She said styles for winter don’t vary too wildly from year to year because we’re limited to choosing pieces that keep us warm. Puffy coats, for example, are a trend she thinks is here to stay, though they may vary slightly in length and style from year to year.

Footwear is also important for dressing right in the winter. Boots over denim is no longer just a trend, but has become a winter staple, both stylish and practical because the boots protect clothing against the salt and slush on the sidewalks.

For boots that will keep you dry and warm, Zaborowski recommended buying a pair of L.L. Bean or Hunter Wellingtons, or “wellies.” In winter, these rubber rain boots protect against the snow and can be paired with fleece liners that keep you warm and fold over the top of your boot to display different patterns, including cable knits and faux fur. Unlike leather boots, they won’t be ruined by the elements.

“Living in Maine, you have to choose the right thing,” said Zaborowski.

Melissa Wood is a reporter and feature writer for Current PublishingThis outfit pairing a sequined tank by Michael Stars for $64 with a mulberry duster by White & Warren for $224 plays up but doesn’t overdo this year’s sequin trend.Chunky knits are in this year, but make sure you don’t go too bulky for your frame. Kristen Ockenfels, assistant store manager at Helene M., models a sweater by Beth Browley, a designer originally from Brunswick, Maine, paired with a printed cashmere scarf. Sweater sells for $258, and the scarf is $134.This wool and cashmere coat by Diane Von Furstenburg is a splurge at $700, but is classic enough to last through more than one season. Plaid scarf is $60.The options at Helene M. are nearly endless for winter fashion. It all depends on your taste … and budget.Hunter wellies, right, can be paired with an assortment of fleece liners to warm up your feet and fold over to display a fabric pattern, such as wool cables or faux fur, at the top of your boot. Boots start at $120. Liners are $40 each.

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