Can you be chic and warm, as in Warm-with-a capital-W? I balk at the idea that a wool coat is enough and am in awe of those who seem to do just fine with thin knits and a puffer—the kind more fashion than function—and walk through the streets unafraid of oncoming traffic or the cold. Perhaps I’m simply fighting against my true nature and should accept that I thrive in heat and hibernate at the first hit below 60 degrees. Only New York could coax me out in the middle of winter. Single-digit weather dictates cuddling indoors, but the promise of people-watching, hours at the Guggenheim or the Met, and potential discovery is too enticing to pass. The city is where I feel most alive; a compatibility I’d like to attribute to shared energy—but it’s also possible that it’s the cold that gave the illusion of exhilaration. Below freezing temps, after all, will invigorate the soul down the the bones.
But New York! In the winter! My favorite city in the world, at the most magical time of year. I would brave the cold for adventure and for once, a step count over 10k.
To survive as a wandering vagabond is to come prepared. Ready yourself for a chill that numbs you to your core until you reach delirium or are convinced that you have hypothermia—but also take into consideration how the walk from midtown to the piers and back to Penn Station again will leave you uncomfortably warm. It’s a fine line between just bearable and too hot, too fast; an art that I, winter-adverse, have yet to master. How do proper New Yorkers, New Englanders, or Canadians do it? As much as I hate how sedentary I am in Jersey, having a car becomes a luxury come November. True, my derrière has adopted the shape of the driver’s seat, but at least I’m warm. Which is also why in New York, I feel obligated to walk—to the point of being crazed enough to brave the 8°F weather.
Layering starts with the skin, because even the most luxurious of cashmere will feel like cheap acrylic on tight, winter-worn skin. So I moisturize. Massage Nécessaire body lotion onto my limbs, into my skin, until the vitamin-rich blend of conditioning oils absorb into a delicious, dewy sheen. Then, a touch of warming Egyptian musk perfume oil at every pulse point.
The base: HEATTECH from head to toe. When Uniqlo launched a collection in collaboration with Alexander Wang, I snapped up as many pieces as I could. Ultra-thin, breathable (key), sexy, and warm—a dream for a girl who despises the cold and has yet to relinquish her childhood love for the ballet uniform, even a decade and a half later—so I layer. First, a long-sleeved bodysuit (sold out, similar) slipped over my head and snapped gingerly at the bottom. One leg at a time into the grey leggings; the beauty of Nécessaire is that there’s no greasy finish that makes dressing sticky or uncomfortable. Be sure to smooth the thick elastic band so these layers sit like a second skin. An invisible suit of warmth that never stifles.
The next: something easily removable, in case you get hot. A thin leather jacket is always a smart choice—but unless you choose a flexible piece, you’ll feel restricted. For me, mobility is paramount. If you can’t pinwheel your arms, it’s a no thank you, next. Today, I choose a beloved Elizabeth and James jacket (navy, a body-skimming silhouette with an incredible puffed sleeve) that offers a fresh alternative to the obvious choice (a sweater, a giant cardigan). Or so I tell myself.
Then, Uniqlo’s lightweight, packable down jacket. It’s nearly weightless but adds comfort and yet another layer of warmth. Normal, East Coast-acclimated humans may find this suffices, but this puffer merely acts as the lining for my real coat—which, depending on the occasion, can range from a heavyweight puffer, slightly nipped at the waist to suggest the existence of a curve, or a teal Max Mara, the one inspired by the photographs of Marilyn Monroe at Malibu Beach, shot by George Barris in 1962. The Uniqlo underpinning is the secret to warmth without the bulk.
Accessories are the finishing touch, but they serve as practical necessities more than they do as beautiful nonessentials. Wool or cashmere touch gloves are highly recommended if you’re like me and depend on your phone for directions or a quick photo opp. A generous hood to shield your scalp from the cold would be ideal—but if you’re prone to static-y hair (again, like yours truly), I recommend ear muffs. The more ridiculous, the better.
Bring a face mist, because the cold leaves your face parched. A hydrating facial spray—I’m partial to Kopari’s Coconut Rose Toner and Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist—will replenish and revive your makeup (inevitably cracking or somehow smudged away while braving the elements). If you’re intent on keeping your look fresh, use creamy, oil-based products if you can. I typically focus on layering rich face creams, conditioning oils, and sunscreen, but if I had a meeting, I’d mix rosehip oil into any foundation or concealer (not water-based—to avoid pilling) and stick to a palette of RMS cheek products. If I’m feeling particularly motivated, I’ll bring a tiny, decanted pot of Lunar with me to make the pink, wind-chapped flush seem more intentional than consequential.
Also in my bag, now turned into a winter-in-New-York survival kit:
hand warmers, for desperate times
tissues, for the inevitable runny nose
hand cream, to prevent or alleviate cracked hands
eye drops, because dryness is unavoidable
a mini Herbivore Lapis Facial Oil, to apply to dry areas or pat all over (the blue tansy helps counteract redness)
a book for the train ride (Sing, Unburied, Sing was my most recent in-transit read)
Off to Penn Station I go.
. . .