October 4, 2011

Chicago Manual of Style: A flattering form for fall

Chicago: where rain is a prelude to more rain, and sunshine a prelude to snow. Whether you’re living in the city for the first time or are having trouble re-adjusting after three glorious months of sensible weather, you might need a quick refresher on how to cope with the city’s temperamental temperatures and puzzling precipitation patterns.

Adopt the official motto of the Boy Scouts—those oft-repeated two little words: be prepared. Be prepared for rain, sleet, and the gloom of night. In fact, just imagine yourself as a fashionable blending of the Boy Scouts and the U.S. Postal Service. Invest in a cute and easily compacted umbrella to stow in your book bag permanently. And make sure your bag can be closed securely; not only will this prevent you from losing items or having them stolen, it’ll also keep rain from ruining all of your textbooks. As cute as tote bag might be, it’s not always the best autumnal choice. Take the time to treat your leather items—boots, jackets, the works—so they’ll withstand the rain or snow. Yes, it takes a little effort, but they’ll last longer and look better.

Realizing that the weather could be sour or sweet at any moment, and being cognizant of the fact that however carefully you stalk the weather service you’ll never accurately predict it, dressing in layers is never a bad idea. I rarely venture outdoors without a cardigan or denim button-down, jacket or blazer, and scarf—three items I know I can easily rearrange if need be.

The key to layering is not picking bulky items. You want thin and sleek—items that lie well together so they don’t distort your shape. At the same time, you want enough of a size difference that they don’t bunch up. It’s not about stuffing yourself into multiple tight-fitting items, but about pairing somewhat tailored pieces together that fit in each other like babushka dolls. Otherwise, you’ll look bigger than you are, and like you literally woke up and put on the first three things you saw.

Although Barbie-esque matching has become a major trend over the past few months, I don’t recommend it—it’s a little fussy, especially for most college students. When layering, I prefer using more than one hue or not matching different pieces exactly. Instead, choose items that go together, and one with a bit of pop—a gray cardigan, tweed blazer, and red scarf, for instance. This will also help you maintain your shape while layering. If you only choose one color or get too matchy, your layers could blend together into a single, indistinguishable mass. I lean towards using a bright scarf to jazz up your layers a little as well as prevent them from blurring into each other. However, if you’re still worried about appearing too bulky, try using a long necklace or a rectangular scarf with only one end trailing down the front to break up your layers and create a vertical line for the eye to follow.

With any luck, these tips will keep you constantly cozy, as well as fashionable and fabulous.