(April, April, it does what it wants!)
For many in Germany this ‘April, April,’ saying is more annoying than the weather it alludes to! As soon as you mention anything about the weather during April someone is going to say this to you while everyone else around cringes.
The unpredictability of the weather in Germany is something that took me a couple of years to adjust to. I’m not sure what it’s like on other continents, but where I lived in Australia I was used to the weather being predictable. I was used to being able to plan my outfits for the whole week and never have an issue of weather change to ruin my plans. Probably helped that the difference between dry and 35°C and dry and 45°C isn’t really going to change your outfit too much. But here?! During spring it could be 18°C and sunny, 8°C and raining or it could be windy or it might even snow! The list goes on…
So just how do you deal with such unpredictability? Straight from the outset we’ll say you’ll have a tough time getting it right every time, but here are my top three tips to give you a good head start in dressing and packing for those unpredictable days:
I know, I know, you’ve all heard it before, it’s the most obvious answer. The thing is, it’s also the most important. Layering really is the key to dealing with unpredictable weather, unless you want to freeze, sweat or walk around with a suitcase. But are you getting the most out of your layering?A lot of Europeans are already really good at layering, there are all kinds of things you can get here that just aren’t that common where I come from (Australian outback). Wrist warmers, leg warmers, waist warmers. All these little “layery” bits and pieces. The real trick here though is to pick the right layers for each outfit. At this time of year you don’t want to layer yourself with thick bulky knits or down-coats otherwise half way through the day when the temperature goes up you’ll have to carry it all around with you. Instead you want to layer finer knits, lighter scarves, socks, tights and pantyhose.
- Pick your fabrics
I see a lot of people overlooking the importance of fabric.Choosing the right fabrics to layer is the difference between looking like the Michelin Man and keeping your own lovely shape while staying warm. It also means you can take a smaller bag when travelling. More on that in a minute.I’m a dress wearer. I avoid pants as much as possible, even in winter. Layering with the right fabrics is how I get to wear dresses throughout autumn, winter and spring without freezing.Here is just a quick overview of fabrics, I promise to go into more detail about this topic in a future post. For now though the important thing to know is to look for natural fabrics. You should aim to have a selection of singlets, slips (under-dresses), scarves and fine knit long or ¾ sleeved tops in silk, merino wool and/or cashmere. Cotton is good too, but it can go out of shape and look old quicker, whereas merino wool and silk, when properly cared for, can last in excellent condition for years.
Depending on their quality and weight all of these fabrics can be worn year round, they work well to regulate your body temperature in a range of weather conditions. When purchasing buy the best quality you can afford. This should be relatively easy with silk and merino, however you’ll find the less expensive cashmere’s are prone to pilling and look old quickly. If you’re on a budget, stick to one or two good items in merino wool. You don’t always have to have 100% merino/silk/cashmere. For some items, like socks for example, there will be some polyamid or elastane in the mix so they stay up and keep their shape. Just look for items that have a high percentage of natural material.
There are of course other more luxury natural fabrics which might belong on this list, but these are the most common, so we’ll look into the others another time.
- The Mary Poppins Bag
If you’re not familiar with the concept of the Mary Poppins bag then here’s a quick clip to get you acquainted: https://youtu.be/_FgTCbS6WBM
Now, while you don’t need to be able to pull a hat stand out of your bag, it is really helpful to carry a few little light extras with you if the day might get cooler, or to have somewhere to put a few extras if the day gets warmer.Here are a list of items I recommend to either have on as extra layers, which can roll up small and go into your handbag if you need to take them off, or which are small enough to carry in your handbag and put on throughout the day:
– Leather gloves (silk or cashmere lined)
– Woolen beret (or beanie depending on your personal style)
– Fine merino, cashmere or silk socks (knee or thigh high)
– An extra pair of tights or pantyhose
– Thermal shoe liners (lots of warmth is lost through your feet on the cold ground so, flat and easy to switch between your shoes & your bag, thermal insoles are perfect to have on hand)
– Fine knit cardigans in merino wool, silk or cashmere
– Fine merino, silk or cashmere singlet or thermal top
– Silk scarf (can be worn in various ways around your neck when you need it or tied onto your bag when you don’t)
– Pashminas, I rarely go anywhere without one or two pashminas. Pashminas are a fabulous multi-purpose item. They are wide enough to be a wrap or shawl. They can be folded into a thin scarf, wrap them around your neck more to have a thicker scarf. Wear them open draped around your neck if it’s warmer and tuck them into or tie them onto your bag if it gets too warm.
– A fold up umbrella (of course!)
Travelling particulars for mixed weather
If you are travelling during periods of unpredictable weather, the first thing to do of course is to check average temperatures for your destination. If you know that you’re not going to have 40°C one day and -20°C the next then you’ve already got a range to work with. In the comments on the website I’m going to share about a time where I didn’t check the destination weather properly before leaving home, which really ended in a bit of a disasterous holiday!
But assuming you’ve done your research properly, the next step is to choose the thinnest coat you can based on the coldest likely temperature. Once you know what coat you will need to take, match the rest of our outfits and accessories for the holiday to this. If the coat is brown, choose brown boots/shoes, bag, gloves, hat and complementary scarves. If black, then the same (with black you’ll have more flexibility with your colour choice). Be sure to take light merino or silk singlets which are easy to wash and quick to dray so that you can layer them under everything as needed. Use the ‘Mary Poppins’ bag idea above to have little extras with you as you need them. So, for example, if you know it could be anywhere between 5°C and 15°C, and you’re not sure if the sun will come out and make it feel warmer again, you would pack/prepare the following:
Start the day with two pairs of thick tights, fine merino knee high socks, knee high boots and thermal shoe liners on the the bottom. A fine merino singlet and a silk slip under a dress with a fine merino, silk or cashmere cardigan, silk scarf, pashmina and wool jacket/coat/blazer on the top. Accessorise with a beret or beanie and lined leather gloves.
As the day goes on you can add and take away layers as needed. If the sun comes out and it’s suddenly much warmer, pop to the bathroom and layer down to one pair of tights, the silk slip, the dress and wear the pashmina open. You’ll have to carry your coat/jacket/blazer, but the rest of these items should tuck up nicely into your handbag. The cardigan, socks or pashmina might even fit in the pocket of your coat. Tie the silk scarf on your bag, put your sunglasses on and enjoy!
This is the first in a three part holiday packing series throughout May covering:
- Dressing & packing for mixed weather,
- Having some fun in summer
- and what to do when you’re only taking hand luggage!
Keep an eye out for the extra post mid May for more travel packing tips and to find out how I attended a weekend course, two weddings and spent a week in London with only carry on luggage (summer), and had a new outfit everyday for a February weekend in London, again, with one bag of carry on. Then the June post is coming forward a week too, for some summer fun and summer holiday packing – look out for that on the 31st of May.
In the mean time I’d LOVE to hear from you!
Share your best tip for dealing with unpredictable weather, your worst mixed weather disaster and one item you always pack when you travel, in the comments below.
I’ll go first 😉
Much love & layers,
Want help spring cleaning your wardrobe? Email me at amanda(at)chicforcharity.com to book your wardrobe styling session now!
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