how this Chicago girl gets ready for winter.

It’s finally snowing in Chicago, and you know, I’m really kind of okay with that. This mild winter’s been nice–hey, more days to wear skirts! But yeah, I’m kind of ready for a little bit of a real winter.

It seems like every year in Chicago winter hits and people get all “OMG SNOW! ICE! THE WORLD IS ENDING!!”-sorts of stupid. Um. Hi. Welcome to Chicago. It snows here. And yes, it happens to get pretty toasty in the summer. As Steinomite has taught us: We actually have all 4 seasons. So again. Welcome to Chicago. It snows here.

So a few weeks ago, I found this post via twitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chicago Winter by Confessions. There’s A LOT of good info, but I thought I’d share my own advice on getting through what some people say is the season that make people true Chicagoans.

First, Your legs: I choose not to drive and take the CTA, because of this I spend a fair bit of time outside. Not to mention, I still like walking places. Also, my office can vary in temperature quite a bit. Once it’s below freezing, I wear long underwear under my jeans. Jeans aren’t made super thick any more, so I need a little extra something. Tights or leggings work, but I really suggest thin, silky long underwear. I also tend to wear knee-high socks under my jeans, over the long underwear.

Your upper body: I’ve got camis (men, think a prettier and better named version of wife-beaters*) that I’ll wear under shirts and sweaters. I’ll wear a decent amount of cardigans still. Fleeces are good too, but I’m not a big fleece person. I don’t go do uber heavy sweaters because wearing that under a winter coat means dying of heat. I’ve got regular gloves, but I also have fingerless and arm warmers. I’ve definitely worn both of those, even together, while at the office. Also: it’s totally appropriate to wear your scarf inside. No jacket needed. But good gloves, with complete coverage is important.

On the topic of jackets and coats… Get one that covers your butt. I have a lot of coats, but three staples for the winter. The first is a wool-blend that’s lined. It’s nice, pretty, and light-ish weight. Anything 35-degrees and above (no snow). It goes past my waist of course. The second is my puffy coat. It’s nylon with a polyester liner. So it’s not completely waterproof, but it keeps me pretty much dry in snow. It’s got a fur lined hood and yep, covers my butt. Most importantly, it’s got good cuffs. So inside the sleeve is a knit cuff, sort of like a second sleeve that keeps the snow from getting in as well as protect my wrists from getting exposed. A good cuff is very important. Lastly, I have my OMG BLIZZARD coat. It’s an ankle-length coat that’s goose-down. It’s pretty much waterproof as well. Also has a good hood. The only thing I don’t like is it sucks interms of cuffs. Extending my arm means exposing my wrists.

Why am I so adamant about the butt coverage? Ice. Big puffy coats that cover your butt just give you a bit more cushion for if/when you fall. Also, it helps keep some air from sneaking up and getting your waist cold. (I’d also go for one that synchs.)  So. Coats. Remember: cuffs, butt, hood.

Your head: I’m done with winter beanies. Tiny knit caps that never really keep me warm. Once snow melts on them? Yeah. Done. Personally, I’m a fan of trapper hats. They’re warm and have flaps to cover your ears. Generally you can secure them under your chin. Mine’s fur lined (and actually fleece lined too). I’m more a fan of these types of hats, but just make sure the top of your head is completely covered AND your ears are covered. Whether this is a hat and ear muff combo or just a snazzy hat like mine, just make sure you’re covered.

Now, most importantly… Footwear: I’ve seen a lot of people make dumb winter footwear choices in this city. Hell. I’ve made them. (Sorry, but cloth boots in snow is not a good mix.) Personally, I always suggest boots that are at least mid-calf. If you’re walking around, eventually you’ll have to cross a street and you’ll get a nice mound of snow and slush to climb over. Mid-calf helps insure great coverage. I like going knee-high because it’s just that much more protection from the cold. (So between my boots and my coat, it’s only my thighs that are exposed.) Secondly, WATERPROOF. Get boots that will keep your feet dry. There’s always slush. Thirdly, TRACTION. These things are in all caps because they’re important. There’s a lot of ice. People are dumb and don’t take care of their sidewalks even though they’re supposed to. Give yourself every advantage you can to not fall. This year I’m investing in some good boots that’ll hopefully last a few years. (My Nike boots were awesome looking, but tore up my ankles, so those are dead to me.) Looking at Sorel boots now, which I’ll probably order from Zappos or REI just in case they don’t work out.

Just remember… Don’t worry how ridiculous you look. Bring a change of shoes or whatever to wear at work. Just be smart, and most importantly warm if you’re going to be outside. Others may laugh at you, but you can laugh at them for as they freeze.

Now that we’re done with getting you dress properly, later I’ll write about just general rules for surviving and dealing with winter itself.

*Hate the name “wife beater” all you want… I’m originally from Indiana and that’s what we call those tank tops on dude. Just kind of stuck now.