Fall/winter fashion/grooming for women - Oregon/cold office filter.
September 18, 2016 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I just moved back to the Willamette Valley after a couple-year stint in year-round warm climates. While living in Oregon I never quite got the hang of constant clothing layering and dampness. I am determined this time around to look fashionable while staying warm and dry. It seems like everyone is perpetually wearing outdoor gear (REI/Patagonia/North Face rain layers, practical waterproof clogs, sporty-wear) and I'm just not into doing that - I want to look put-together and stylish. How can I go about doing this? More snowflakes inside.

I got used to wearing nice plain tank tops and trousers with nice shoes day-in, day-out - nothing fancy, but I looked streamlined and well-dressed. Now I've been borrowing my boyfriend's (well-fitting) button-up shirts and layering whatever jackets I have over them but I'm still cold and uncomfortable wearing all these layers. My shoes are inappropriate generally for the rain. It's been cold and damp in the mornings when I go to the bus stop and then I walk from the stop about 10 minutes to my office (very casual dress code), which is over-air-conditioned (even in winter, they warn me). And then when I get off of work it's warm and sunny and I'm wearing too many layers. I had thought that I might try to bike to work but that adds a whole other component to my situation I don't know that I can deal with.

In addition, I am used to straightening my hair daily and having it stay straight - now my hair starts to curl up as soon as I step into the wind and drizzle and my makeup starts melting off from the damp - I just feel frumpy and terrible!

I've tried looking on Pinterest for fall/winter outfits but I don't know if what I'm finding would be amenable to just how DAMP it is here in Oregon, sans-umbrella. Should I be looking for tank top + sweater + wool coat? Is there a fashionable water-resistant coat/jacket? I also had a hard time last year in that all sweaters in style (I only really shop at/can afford H&M levels of clothing) were oversized and short, a terrible style for me. I just don't know how to dress for this weather and not look puffy from layers or like I'm about to go hiking. These are examples of the types of outfits I'd like to wear but I just don't know if they'd protect me enough from the rain/wind/air conditioning or look good on my body type.

Final notes - I'm 26, somewhat tall, fit but curvy so most oversized, shapeless things that are in fashion look poor on me.

Any tips for looking fashionable while constantly being damp would be much appreciated!
posted by majesty_snowbird to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
try some of the heattech undergarments from uniqlo for non bulky layering
posted by amapolaroja at 9:01 PM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

You absolutely can dress like that here! (I'm in Seattle and I see women dressing like that all the time.)

I would suggest boots/booties plus leggings/skinny jeans for the bottom, but the key is that you want to wear thin wool socks under the boots. The kind you buy at REI. They will keep your feet warm and dry.

For the top layer, I would say a wool coat for winter. It will keep you dry for the standard misty/spitting rain weather. Under, I think your idea of layering sweaters over tanks is good - the sweaters seem to be longer this year.

As for your hair/makeup - now you know why women style themselves the way they do here! For hair, have you looked into a keratin treatment? Otherwise I'd suggest leaning into the wave/curl and using a product that will simply minimize frizz.

I will say if you can splurge a bit on high quality thin wool socks and a few nice coats, I really think it's worth it. Also, soon you won't have to worry as much about it getting warm and sunny in the afternoon because it will just be grey and damp all day ...
posted by lunasol at 9:10 PM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fleece lined tights. They look like normal tights but feel like sweatpants.

(Ok, I live in a warmer climate but work in a very cold building. Srsly, fleece lined tights.) Also, silk thermal underwear is washable and non-bulky, merino wool is way more durable. I'm wearing one or both every day from Nov-Mar.)
posted by workerant at 9:21 PM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I feel you SO HARD. I'm also new to the PNW and, yeah, pretty much everything you said. I got this raincoat because it's less raincoat and more awesome, stylish (to me) outer layer. It's less preppy than some of the coats you linked, and it's maybe on a slightly high end of the H&M budget, but it's been a good investment for me. I'm also into Chelsea boots with cuffed pants. You seem to like a multiply-layered look, which is great for adjusting between temperatures- adding a blazer to your outfit (maybe you could keep a couple at work to keep them dry?) could help you feel more comfortable in the AC.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:08 PM on September 18, 2016

Yeah, Oregon and San Francisco are two places where I just stop dressing the same way that I do elsewhere. I do like to be well dressed, though.

I just got a cute raincoat at H&M, and I like chelsea boots (either regular ones or the rainboot ones) as well. Wool is kind of annoying to me, but it does help.

For makeup/hair, I just accept that it ain't gonna happen and wear my hair wavy/curly/usually short. Makeup becomes minimal, but in good news, the damp can be good for your skin.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:18 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a reason people dress the way they do here! But there are always standouts and you can definitely achieve your fashion goals. Part of the problem you're having is a budgetary one - H&M just isn't going to cut it. One or two pricepoints higher, like Nordstrom, J Crew, Prana, and Born shoes and similar will fill in your wardrobe with sleek staples that will last for years and keep you more comfortable.

So find the nicer thrift and consignment shops around and really scour them. Be vigilant about online sales and when fashion seasons shift so you can catch things heading to discount outlets. Keep an eye on sites like sierratradingpost.com and 6pm.com. And if you see people who are dressed in a way that you envy, don't hesitate to ask where they got something. You might be surprised - Target can really thread that PNW needle sometimes!

The reason the more $$ brands will be better for you is that apart from cut and fit, the fabrics they use will work better to keep you warm but not sweaty or bulky. Wool can be heavy and aggravating and layers poorly in that in between weather. Silk blends, cotton, bamboo and viscose, linen, and snazzier wools like merino and cashmere are going to be thinner, softer, last longer, breathe nicely and keep you warmer, as well as wash up better and last longer. I know it doesn't seem worth the price at first but in ten years when you're still wearing the same lovely cashmere sweater (try uniqlo) that's kept its shape and doesn't pill, you'll be glad you put in the effort.

Fleece lined tights and leggings will help you out too. Hue makes good ones. Longer skirts can work well to keep yourself warm but also not bulky, like a straight lined midi skirt, paired with fleece lined tights, cute boots, and warm socks. Figure out a type and cut of cardigan that you like - that thin sleeved layer between your sleeveless top and your weather-resistant coat can be the thing that keeps you comfy in an overly AC'd office and what provides the extra layers of air to bump up the warmth on your walks outside. You can also wear button up tops like cardigans, loose and open, instead of under a sweater or as your primary top. Sweater dresses and ribbed tights might work very well for you, too.
posted by Mizu at 4:46 AM on September 19, 2016

These two pricey but top-quality items have made me look forward to rainy days:
Sorel wedge boots
Helly Hansen Wesley Trench
posted by beyond_pink at 5:47 AM on September 19, 2016

If you can, leave some cute shoes (and spare socks just in case!) in your office. I bus commute in waterproof boots (leather) or sneakers, and change at work. I put my purse in a waterproof tote with my lunch and other stuff. Good luck!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 6:29 AM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

A silk scarf, merino wool headband and fingerless gloves tucked in your purse weigh hardly anything and will all help a lot with the layering issue. Keep them in a little packing cube when not in use and they'll hold up well.
posted by veery at 7:50 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Merino wool sweaters aren't always much more expensive than sweaters from H&M and they last way way longer. I'm a fan of the Uniqlo sweaters mentioned above, which go on sale a few times a year. I also have a few Lord and Taylor house-brand merino sweaters, currently on sale for $40. They're very lightweight and great for layering. My poorly-insulated old apartment gets chilly and damp in winter and I will sometimes wear a long underwear type undershirt, one of these merino sweaters, and then a flannel over the top of that, but the look is still just jeans and a button down.
posted by mskyle at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2016

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