How do you stay warm...
December 14, 2018 5:05 PM   Subscribe

... if you are a person who is always cold when the temp is below 72 degrees? Yes, I am a Very Special Snowflake about staying warm... it's just that I don't want to literally turn into one.

In a few weeks I will be working in an environment in which I expect I will be cold. (Normal people probably consider this temperature comfortable. Around 65 to 70 degrees I'm guessing? Maybe 72 degrees.) In previous jobs (in which the indoor environments were around the same temperature) I was able to move around a lot, and also had leeway in what (professional) warm clothing I wanted to wear. In this job, I expect to be both sitting and standing, but not moving around as much. There is a non-casual uniform, for which they supply all the important parts, including (per the hiring manager) a cardigan. I am not objecting to the wearing of a uniform, just to freezing. I've been looking around online, looking for ideas on what to wear UNDER the uniform that will not be bulky and will keep me warm even when I cannot move around much. I even looked around on Amazon for those heated braces you can wear for back pain that are charged with a USB, but they either have no reviews, or poor ones.

TL;DR, looking for recommendations for lightweight, non- or low-bulky, warm clothing that can be worn comfortably under a non-casual uniform. I suppose many people will be able to answer this in the context of hiking or camping gear. That's fine, just as long as I can wear it under the uniform. Thanks.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Are you allowed to wear any kind of wool scarf? wool hat? wool socks?
posted by aniola at 5:12 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wool base layer is the search term.
posted by aniola at 5:13 PM on December 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Uniqlo's Heattech is very nonbulky. (As a person who is too warm above 72 degrees, I can't speak to how well it keeps one warm, but it's very nonbulky)
posted by crush at 5:20 PM on December 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

+1 for Uniqlo Heattech; they even have an "extra-warm" version now which is slightly more bulky but even warmer, per the name. The regular version is super super lightweight, like how I imagine silk long underwear would feel. Personal credentials: My house is currently heated to 73F and I'm wearing a sweater.
posted by serelliya at 5:28 PM on December 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

A thin merino wool vest or camisole under your uniform is what you're looking for. The human body wants to protect its major organs and brain, so circulates more blood away from fingers and toes to the trunk and head when it's cold. That's why people say you lose so much body heat through your head--wear a hat (which you probably can't do). Or a vest. 100% merino is best, but a little silk mixed in is okay. Hanro, Calida, and Icebreaker are two good brands--expensive but they last forever. A lightweight down vest from Uniqlo will work better than a cardigan if you're allowed to wear one.
posted by Elsie at 5:31 PM on December 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Rechargeable hand warmer in your pocket? Uniqlo or merino wool undergarments. If you can put anything on your desk you can get heated mats that go under your keyboard and they look very discreet and keep my hand nice & warm. Also look into a wool cardigan. They look dressy and are toasty warm.
posted by wwax at 5:32 PM on December 14, 2018

Not clothing and probably not super environmentally-friendly, but the sticky disposable heating pads you find in the pain-relief section of a drugstore will keep you quite warm if you stick one to the inside of your shirt or underwear. Know that they can take up to an hour to heat up after you unwrap them.
posted by corey flood at 5:33 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I discovered Cuddl Duds fleece long underwear last year and now have them in every color offered. They're cheap and warm and fairly thin. I'm almost always cold when the temperature is below 75 and they are a life saver.
posted by irisclara at 5:33 PM on December 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not clothing but will keep you warm: put a soft hot water bottle or a hot sock full of microwaved dry rice on your seat/in your lap: super cheap and environmentally friendly.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:00 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I live in Minnesota and am always cold. My two go-to items are:

1) Smartwool socks (or similar). Feet sweat, and cotton socks get all damp and clammy and make your feet cold. Wool socks are better at wicking away the sweat and keeping you toasty. Smartwool makes different weights, so even if you have to wear a dress loafer or something, you should be able to find thinner ones.

2) Fleece-lined tights. I've never had luck finding long underwear that fit me well and/or don't feel bulky, but fleece-lined tights have been a GODSEND. You can get them for like $6 a pair at TJ Maxx, and they REALLY help.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 6:01 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I live in an often cold, windy, snowy, rainy place right next to the North Atlantic. I am cold from October to June. Merino wool is my best friend.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:03 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of Icebreaker Merino for base layers, particularly their lightweight bottoms. It's pricey, but there are usually sales after the holidays. I'm actually wearing something similar to this right now.

If your uniform includes socks, I've found adding a sock liner really helps.

Will they let you wear a coordinating scarf? Even a silk scarf knotted at the neck will help keep you warm, though something more the weight of a pashmina will be warmer. Here are some light solid color wool/silk blend scarves.
posted by gudrun at 6:41 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I find that a lot of cold comes from the floors; a Spenco type insole (neoprene), and a modern winter sock such as Smartwool that goes over the calf seem to do ok without getting 'hot'. Keeps my feet ok so my head (traditional male burr type cut) and fingers/hands stay warmer.
Coolmax seems to be a fabric that is warm in the winter; and still able to breathe and be comfy in the summer too.
posted by Afghan Stan at 7:55 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

LL Bean sells silk long (and short) underwear, not bulky at all, and surprisingly effective.
posted by theora55 at 8:15 PM on December 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wool socks!
posted by raccoon409 at 8:21 PM on December 14, 2018

These are all great answers, thank you! Corey Flood - I have used disposable heat wraps for this purpose before... they work well, but the one-time use and expense puts me off that option.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 9:19 PM on December 14, 2018

I LOVE my midwieght smartwool long underwear, top and bottoms.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:45 PM on December 14, 2018

If the cardigan has straight sleeves and not tapered sleeves (or if it's slightly too big on you, probably), you could wear arm warmers underneath it. If you get the kind with a hole for your thumb, you can use it when you don't need to be people-facing for extra hand warmth, and then fold it back up along your wrist when you need to tuck it away. They are often sold to runners and cyclists when made with spandex, if you need something much thinner.
posted by Mizu at 11:29 PM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am very often cold. This has lead to repeated disagreements on the perfect temperature at home (it would be tropical jungle-like if it were up to me). I don't feel well when I'm even a little bit cold. I'm totally on board with staying warm!

n'ting Merino, and Icebreaker in particular for the base layer. If possible, get a higher "weight" (fabric density) -- 260 would be the best. Here's a link to their store with the 260s selected. You can typically find their products in sports equipment stores.

Amazon has (some?) Icebreaker products, but the fabric weight doesn't seem to appear in some of the product descriptions. "Midweight" should mean a fabric weight of 260, but triple check to make sure. The fabric weight appears on the product box if you're buying it at a retail store. Try them on if you can before -- some tops have zippers while others don't. This might, or not, make it more or less comfortable for you. Zippers are great as you can "control" the temperature.

Merino leggings and a long sleeve top would be perfect as a lightweight "combo" to keep you warm. The one issue is price, and also to never, ever put them in the dryer. :-)
posted by vert canard at 12:29 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wear a thermal undershirt basically all the time between october and april, and I live in Barcelona. I started last year and it made my (admittedly very mild) winter sooooo much more bearable. Also, a wooly hat or skull cap type thing to protect my bald head.
posted by conifer at 4:31 AM on December 15, 2018

This is a great time of year to buy thin merino wool (or cashmere) sweaters for cheap. I have a couple that I wear under button-down shirts in cold environments. One layering pattern that works well for me (and could perhaps be adapted to your uniform) is baselayer/long underwear*, t-shirt, light sweater, button down shirt, heavy sweater.

When you choose your uniform pants, make sure you get them big enough to comfortably wear tights/long underwear underneath.

*usually uniqlo heattech, because it has a wide neckline that doesn’t show under other things
posted by mskyle at 4:56 AM on December 15, 2018

Wool tights underneath trousers makes a big, big difference to how warm I feel. In very cold weather I add knee high socks as well. Then I have some sort of thermal vest that gets tucked into the tights to create a full warm bodysuit under my outfit.

Fingerless gloves, the kind with one big hole for all your fingers, are great. They block heat escaping and can be entirely pushed onto your wrist if you need your whole hand for something.

I'm posting this from work where everyone else is in fleeces and jackets and complaining they're cold and I'm only in a cardigan and I cope poorly with cold! When I lived somewhere colder, I have indeed brought hot water bottles to particularly cold places.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:29 AM on December 15, 2018

I like silk thermals - super thin and lightweight. I'd also go for really warm socks and if possible fingerless gloves. Assuming you can sip a drink while you are working, take an insulated coffee mug of some kind and an assortment of teas or whatever warm beverage you like. Drinking hot stuff throughout the day will help.

You can look on Sierra Trading Post or similar sites - reviews will give you an idea as to how bulky and warm specific products are.

As for movement during the work day, desk yoga is a thing.
posted by bunderful at 6:16 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of sock liners, compression socks come to just below the knee and are available in multiple colors. They can be worn under thicker socks for added warmth. I have these Novayard brand I got from Amazon a year ago. Can also vouch for Heattech by Uniqlo as being ultra thin but still warm. I wear the turtleneck long sleeve under a regular long sleeve t-shirt and the pants under jeans.
posted by Gino on the Meta at 8:54 AM on December 15, 2018

If you are not allowed a hat or scarf consider a wide hair band in a colour that matches the uniform. If you put your hair into a hairnet additional material can be included in the hairnet to bulk it up and warm the back of your head which is disguised as having thicker or longer hair in the net.

Leggings can be worn under trousers as an alternative to long underwear or tights. If you are wearing a skirt you may be able to wear leggings under it or fleece tights. You may be able to get away with leggins if you choose the colour carefully and get something plain and solid colour that matches the uniform. A half slip can be worn under a skirt. If turtlenecks are allowed, go for a turtleneck worn discreetly under your shirt, the colour of your shirt. Many people find keeping their neck covered makes a huge difference. Their are a lot of blood vessels just under the skin in the neck that can lose a lot of heat.

If there is a button up shirt experiment with looks that are appropriate and pleasing but involve having the buttons done all the way up.

Silk and lambswool is the warmest long winter underwear I have worn that fits under more formal clothes.

When getting fitted for the uniform go for slightly bigger to allow for layering. It would be nice to be able to button the cardigan, if it is the kind that buttons.

If you sew you can baste a flannelette liner into the cardigan.

If you have any latitude in your shoes go for more coverage over less, so if required to wear black shoes, no sneakers, don't wear ballet flats, but oxfords. Apart from the shoe itself keeping your foot warm the more substantial shoe will allow for a shoe liner. If you can get away with a dressy low boot that is even better. Get a pair of felt innersoles to wear inside the shoes.

If there is an optional apron go for it.

As soon as you start work check out your co-workers to see what latitude they have. Take less latitude than they have and be at the job six months before making visible personalization to the outfit that are as extreme as their most extreme. You want to know if they are being sent home or told to lose the scarf before you make modifications like that, and if they aren't getting away with it, finding alternatives that will be approved.

Consider a heated seat cushion or a heat reflective cushion if you do not have to share your chair. Consider a small under the desk heater if that would be allowed too but don't set your heart on either of those. Also consider an on-the-desk hand warmer of some nature - a mug of hot liquid that you don't even drink if you don't want to, a coffee mug warmer, or a tiny heater.

Pee often. Many people apparently have trouble thermo-regulating in cold environments when they have a full bladder. During your breaks run your hands under the hot water, as hot as you can stand and warm your hands up.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:52 PM on December 15, 2018

See if there is a box or footstool you can put your feet on when you are sitting down. There can be a several degree difference between the temperature at floor level and only eight inches or a foot higher.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:32 AM on January 3

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