This past Friday morning as we were dressing for work, the temperature was 6 degrees with a wind chill of 19 below and a projected high of 11. I could have driven to work, but, along with The Style Sisters (even the quiet ones), I like to amuse myself now and then by taking on stupid challenges. They were all willing to give it a go. “Good for you guys!” I told them. “Not a cream puff in the bunch. So what are we wearing?”
Didn’t them long to sort that out, since we’d faced a similar challenge just the previous Friday, when we had to rouse ourselves from the stupor of a dreadful cold to go to an evening concert at a nearby college to hear the cello-piano husband-wife duo David Finckel and Wu Han playing a program of Russian music, which seemed entirely appropriate to the Moscow-like weather. Missing it would have been a shame, not only because they’re so good but also because the ticket was given to us as a gift for editing services rendered.
So when it came time to dress for our concert outing, we heaved ourselves off the couch, entered reptilian mode, and went to our closet with but one word in our dull collective mind: “Warm.” The sisters managed to exhibit a degree of cooperation that was less impressive than it was inevitable, given how few brain cells were firing. Still, I was pleased with the single-minded speed with which we managed to assemble a respectable and thermally functional outfit:
We got the little fish pendant for one buck at a county fair; it’s a mood fish—it changes colors depending on our mood—but it came with no information, and we choose not to speculate on the reason that it’s usually black. The wool skirt, with it faux wrap design, has an extra layer of fabric in front, so it’s very warm. We found it years ago in a J. Peterman catalog; it was probably our first foray into so-called investment dressing, which doesn’t happen very often in this thrift-shop-oriented family.
The quiet, conservative style sisters asked for extra measures of warmth, worrying that we might fall into a snow bank or slide over an icy embankment or … to which request Paris-Gray Brown snorted in disgust. “Honestly,” she said. “You’d think we were headed for The Polar Regions. I don’t know how you any of you ever manage to get out of the house …” In no mood for arguments of any sort, I silenced her with an alligator-like roar of belligerent grumpiness and pulled out our very thin Lands’ End down vest, which is so warm that we’ve lately started looking for the battery pack and pondering if the fabric might be somehow impregnated with nano nuclear reactors. More: thick gray tights, two scarves (one real wool and one real polyester), and our tallest black winter boots. Even then, the quiet sisters were still whimpering softly. “You’re pushing it,” I told them grimly. They finally calmed down when I pulled out another investment piece: A down coat from LL Bean. It’s so warm that you don’t have to wear heavy stuff under it; in fact, if you do, you might suffer heat stroke. We got this amazing garment several years ago when we began walking a mile or more (depending on our chosen route) to and from work every day. Now we do it because we want to; back then, we had to: For six years after a giant snow plow squashed Addio, my beautiful little Saturn, we had only one car.
We topped the whole enchilada off with our new favorite hat (a wool Parkhurst from Canada), which we love so much that when Francine left it at Midway airport in Chicago, we rushed right out to buy another one (still on sale!) as soon as we got home. (Lucky us: We got the absolutely last one in the entire store.) Our friend Helen says it makes us look like a detective. In an odd coincidence, we think of it as our Father Brown hat. Helen hadn’t heard of him, but he was a detective (in stories written by G.K. Chesterton)!
We were indeed warm as toast as we hobbled over the icy sidewalks from parking lot to concert hall, past the walls and hills of snow, in the single-digit cold. So this past minus-19-wind-chill Friday—a regular work day for us—we followed the same basic plan, swapping in a black turtleneck and brightening things up with a crossover vest from Talbot’s, courtesy of our local Sal A. Rajiki and Jazz have a particular love of the strong geometric patterns and bright color combinations you see in African textiles, and they chose this piece because it echos those characteristics in a muted way that does not upset the quiet style sisters, who have, as we’ve noted, been rather touchy of late.
Our one concession to the weather: We took the one-mile route, instead of the two-miler along the river. Oh my, it was cold alright, but we got to work pretty comfortably—a bit of wild wind under even that long skirt, chilled fingers, stinging cold across the only bit of face not swathed in scarves; no big deal. And guess what? When we went out for our noon walk, 11 degrees with minus 5 windchill felt positively balmy. Or maybe we’re the ones who are positively balmy … is there such a thing as snow madness??