Stormy Weather!

Because SCIENCE.

Wellington: windy from the north, windy from the south.

There’s a particular style challenge in Wellington: how to look passable in its windy winter storms. The kind that feature icy, 100-km gales and horizontal rain. Is it really that windy? Yes, it is – details here. In my previous blog, I observed the winter styles of Wellington – the Merino Bullet, Parka Girl, and Layer Lady come to mind.

We’ve just had a glorious, if over-dry summer here. Despite this, NOW is the time to get your winter outergear sorted out. Before the weather really kicks in and you don’t want to leave the house. Haul out and try on what you’ve got. Do you need, or want, something new? Not satisfied with how warm/dry/windswept you’ve been? The Antipodean retailers are just getting their winter ranges in the stores. Northern Hemisphere retailers are wrapping up their winter sales. And Easter weekend has sales and discounts around the world.

Bizarrely, our Wellington need for warm, dry outerwear goes almost completely unmet by New Zealand clothing companies. Kathmandu, our sportswear juggernaut, has one or two options, which I mention grudgingly (their profit margin explains why “things are more expensive in NZ”). Kiwis often resort to the Australian-made Drizabone. Swanndri, that Kiwi-est of Kiwi brands, has very limited women’s options. What, we’re supposed to be home making the scones? Tell that to a farmer (who is, 50% of the time, a woman) dealing with a downed pregnant animal in a sleet storm. Or to Wellington commuters. There’s agricultural rainwear, some of which is so radical as to be appealing, but again, lacking in women’s sizing.

Last winter in Europe and the US was all about puffy down jackets. Is this one of those styles that caught on because it really only suits you if you’re slender? Quite possibly. The inevitable Kathmandu has a decent range, but if they are merely water-resistant, they won’t hold up to a Wellington downpour. See this discussion here.

I often spend the most severe weather hermetically sealed into a waterproof sports shell my mom sent me, with warm layers beneath. The sports shell wasn’t cut for petites, so the effect is Darth Vader meets garbage bag. Nonetheless, because the shell is a premium activewear brand, on those rainy winter days, I’ve been treated in downtown boutiques as if I was dressed in Chanel! Still, I’m not the only one who begs, “Please help me escape the GoreTex shell prison…”

Brunettes - no need to "black out" from head to to with neutrals or neutral details.

Some options for the storm. London Fog – Riley, Eddie Bauer – Weatheredge (windproof too), L.L. Bean – wool lined Commuter Trench, lining and hood removable.

For any sex appeal at all, there is, blessedly, the trench coat. I once went to a burlesque event rehearsal in my work clothes and trench coat, where I was greeted with, “Ooooh! You wore your stripper coat!” Make sure you’ve acquired a water resistant or water proof trench, and try to get one with a hood. Don’t let Australian chain stores fob you off with a cotton or non-water resistant trench!

If you want something on the trench coat/insulated continuum that can stand up to the rigors of Wellington in July, here are some sources. All of them are mail order, because based on what’s available at brick-and-mortar New Zealand retailers, you’re going to be paying through the nose anyway. Understandably, good raingear doesn’t land in thrift/secondhand venues on a regular basis. So you might as well get something with the fit, color, and features that will make you happy to wear it for four to five years.

  • First on the list, because they’re Kiwis: Moa Clothing. Sealed seams, storm wraps, adjustable hoods, and a range of attractive colors, with sleek tailoring. BLESS.
  • There’s a trifecta of midrange US retailers that ship directly to NZ: Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, and Land’s End. These retailers have a large size and color range, accomodating petites and pluses. L.L. Bean’s trench coats and Land’s End’s Storm Squall range are widely recommended. Eddie Bauer is based in our climate twin, Seattle.
  • Barbour. For the default wear of Britain’s Sloanes, this stuff is priced surprisingly well,  has a good size range (up to 20+), and will last forever and a day. Some coats have Liberty of London linings, too. Free shipping via ASOS, shipping also via JulesB – at 40% off.
  • London Fog. You’ll have to use mail forwarding, but the selection and waterproofing just might be worth it. Many petites, check for the ones with zip-out winter linings. Or check eBay for secondhand/outlet.

When in doubt: size up. It is tragic but true that nothing makes you look larger than you are than undersized outerwear. And if you’re short, like me, petite sizing is worth it to avoid looking swamped by fabric as well as by water.

Your winter rainwear investment can be repaired for you in New Zealand by Twin Needle. While you’re at it, hit your leather shoes, boots, and handbags up with some leather waterproofing spray. This stuff is a lifesaver, and is available at good shoe repair places.

Stormy weather grooming – I try, you know? I moisturize. My hair gets tucked into a bun – many Wellington women go for short cuts instead. I wear lipstick and concealer that will stay on, waterproof mascara, I pencil my brows and tightline my upper eyelid. On rainy days I avoid less-enduring makeup, like lip glosses, smoky shadow-based eye looks, and cats’ eye liner. It works about half the time: the other half, I still emerge from the weather blotchy and blurred. Even perfume gets muddled in the layers and the fug of cold humidity.

I wish this last link wasn’t necessary, but it is: Winter-Time Hygeine. What we all need to know about keeping winter wear clean and fresh. I know it’s especially hard in Wellington’s chilly sogginess. I, too, have waited a week for my denim jeans to dry. Also, I’ve tried Febreze and I hate it – this winter I’ll try vodka spray. On my clothes, that is.

-peeks outside- It’s still sunny. Soak it up…but don’t count on it lasting in Wellington!

Embroidery on one of my raincoats.