Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Fashion 101

We are leaving for Korea in a few days, I find my head filled with confusion and excitement, the feelings alternating with each other. There are so many things to pack, so many checklists to mark off, countless bits and pieces to clean up before we leave. I try to prioritize, but I constantly and rudely get interrupted by a thought bubble in my head about something that always seem more important than the task on hand. Tsk! Tsk!

What makes packing for this trip harder than the previous ones is that we will be staying in three different hotels for the first three nights. To minimize the number of luggage to be opened each day, I have segregated our clothes into clusters. Two luggage contain our clothing divided for the first and second half of the trip, and the last one for other travel needs.

For someone living in the tropics, keeping an up to date winter wardrobe is a wasted and expensive indulgence. My operative fashion word when buying winter clothes is timeless classic. I will only buy it if it is: 1.not trendy (so I can wear it eight years from now and call it vintage), 2.reasonably priced (I don’t know how soon I’ll be wearing it again or how often), 3.in a neutral color (black, beige, gray or deep brown). So with those restrictions carefully set, I went here, here, and here to have a glimpse of winter fashion in the opposite side of the world.

While surfing for winter fashion inspirations, I decided to make a quick check at CNN-weather. It showed that temperature at Incheon and Seoul is at subzero degrees. With that cruel weather to welcome us when we land, I want to ensure that the kids bring enough of the proper clothing to stay warm and toasty at all times. In temperatures this chilly, proper layering is key to a comfortable trip. Here’s how I plan to keep the kids warm: Start with a woolen (preferably merino) thermal undershirt with a snug (but not tight) fit, then add a long sleeved shirt over that, then put on a sweater, finish with a heavy coat with hood, preferably with down insulation. Should they get too warm, layering makes it easy to just peel clothing off one at a time.

Legs should not be forgotten, start with thermal underpants and finish with heavy duty jeans. And since feet come in contact with the ground, it is key to wear thick soled shoes (to keep feet as far from the ground as possible) and heavy wool socks, double up if possible. I started paying more attention to materials after almost getting my toes frostbitten a few years back. I doubled up on cotton socks under my boots, mistakenly thinking that this would make my feet warm. Instead I got too warm, which made my feet sweat, and which made my socks wet and which ultimately made me very, very cold. I have since invested in wool socks, which stays warm even when wet. While cotton is our preferred material in the tropics, it is the worst material to wear in harsh, cold weather, it doesn’t trap body heat and worse, its fibers are loosely woven that cold air easily passes through. On the other hand, wool, fleece and polyester are good materials to insulate the body and trap heat.

Matching accessories like hats, scarves and gloves not only look nice, but they are essential to maintaining body warmth. Head, neck and hands should always be kept warm.

Help me pray that I do a good job of keeping everyone warm - and fashionably so!