Saturday, January 5, 2013

The tropical girl's guide to winter dressing part 1

I come from a tropical country and visiting a country with full-on cold winter is hard for me.  My body is not acclimatized to a very cold environment and I don't own winter clothes.  Good thing the Philippines now has stores that sell winter clothes.  But how do you dress for winter when you've lived your whole life in a tropical country? This blog post is a guide on how to dress for winter.

My family has been craving for cold winter trips to places near the Philippines since 2009.  We usually head out after December 25 and be back for before or on the day of December 31.  Last 2009, we were at South Korea, 2010 at Shanghai-Harbin, 2011 at Japan, and 2012 Beijing-Guangzhou.  I may not be an expert in fashion, but I think, or I claim that I may be an expert in winter dressing for a tropical girl's body.

Here's the down-low...I get cold easily.  I wear a cardigan or shawl when the air conditioning is set at 25 degrees Celsius.  When we were at South Korea, we were blessed with snow (it was the first time I've seen actual snow and not slush on the streets).  The temperature then was around -2 to 2 degrees Celsius.  Our next trip to Shanghai-Harbin saw us in extreme weather.  Harbin has Siberian weather.  The temperatures there reached -23 to -13 degrees Celsius.  Japan last 2011 was not that bad, with temperatures ranging from 2 to 10 degrees Celsius (at least not a negative Celsius anymore).  But the coldest I've experienced was not at Harbin but at Beijing, China.  We were at Tiananmen Square and the temperature was only at -7 to -3 degrees Celsius.  But the wind was very strong.  It even picked up snow from the ground and threw it on our face.  Even if the temperature was not that severe, the wind was very strong!  Imagine walking through a huge place without protection (there were no walls that can protect you from the strong wind).  The wind chill factor was over the roof.  So, having survived all these winter temperatures, I can probably say that I'm a bit of an expert in winter dressing for a tropical girl's body.

Back to the things you would need...

1. Multiple solid colored sweatshirts (for a 6-day trip, I brought 4 sweaters).  You can buy these kinds of sweaters in different department stores all over the Philippines.  You can put sweaters on top of each other or on top of button-up blouses (for a preppy look).

2. Long-sleeved blouses (I only brought 2)

3. Blazers (I brought 2...1 navy and 1 black...although the navy looks like a black)...again, blazers could be bought in any mall all around our country.

3. 1 shirt (I used this during our departure...over black thermals, so it did not come into contact with my skin and did not become dirty...hence, you can double this shirt as sleepwear)

4. 2 kinds of jackets (your outerwear will always be seen in pictures...better to have 2 different types in 2 different colors so that in pictures there will be variety).  The maroon 1 is from Uniqlo and can be stored in its own small bag.  It's very lightweight but with 90% down, rest assured that it will keep you warm.  There are multiple shops that carry down jackets.  Just make sure it is at least 80% down so that it can keep you warm in very cold weather.  The black outerwear is from H&M but there are similar ones in Mango, Zara or Terranova.  Just make sure it has lining for the much needed warmth.

5. 2 pants---the light blue one is jeans and the black one is jeggings.  I suggest bringing 2 different colored pants so that you can mix and match your outer wear with the pants, making at least 4 different outfits altogether (which means that your clothes look a little bit different in pictures).

6. Accessories - shawl, scarf, bonnet, gloves, and boots

The key in dressing up for the winter is layers and thermals.  I'm sure you'll find thermals in Marks and Spencers and Terranova.  I was given Giordano black thermals bought in Hong Kong.  The good thing about the Giordano thermals is that it is thin (it doesn't add bulk) but it is very efficient in keeping you warm.  The minimum layers that I go for (for 0 to negative degrees Celsius) is 4.  The first one is a thick sando (the ribbed one which you can buy in any department store), second layer thermals, third and fourth layer are sweaters/blouses/blazers.  The last layer is of course your outerwear.  As for the bottom part of your body, layers is also the key.  Again, thermals should be the closest to your body, layer with either another tights/leggings or long socks.

Another tip is to make sure your feet and hands are warm.  For below zero degree temperatures, I suggest using gloves that have fleece inside.  The regular knit ones and the ones that are made of leather or suede will not be enough.  You can buy nice wool gloves with fleece at Uniqlo for less than 500 pesos (by the way, the Uniqlo jacket was put on sale last November for 1999 pesos).  You can buy boots at reasonable prices in Payless Shoe Source, Charles and Keith and even your regular department stores (SM, Robinsons, Metro).  But for zero degree temperatures or if you will play in the snow, I suggest buying boots with thick insulation such as fleece inside them.  I bought mine in China for 1200 pesos.  It's even waterproof.  I don't know if they sell these kinds of boots here in the Philippines, but they definitely have them in Columbia and Merrell.  But shoes from these stores are very expensive.  You could check out the winter shop in Cartimar.  According to a friend, they have winter clothes and accessories at reasonable prices.

That's the first part of this guide.  I know it was a long one, but I hope it will be helpful.  I'll post my winter outfits using the clothes seen above in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!  Have a great day!

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