Over the next few days, Chicago may experience the coldest temperatures in over 30 years! We're talking 40-50 below-zero wind chill--that's COLD!! But, there's no reason to panic, hibernate or flee to a beach in the Bahamas (besides, the flights have been cancelled). If you must go out, here's advice from someone who has spent a few winters in this world. Be prepared, and dress accordingly. In the deep freeze, this means dressing to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Here are some style and safety tips for extreme subzero weather---
1. Wear light layers---Yes, layer up! Start with a base--for example, wool socks, long underwear, wool tights, and/or leggings, and a fitted top. Mid layers should be lightweight knits, avoid anything too heavy or bulky sweaters. Top with a cardigan or hoodie. Bottoms can be wool pants, corduroys, jeans, even sweatpants. Over these, add a light outer layer. It should be waterproof and wind-resistant. Snowpants are ideal.
2. Wear a hat--- Please, please, wear a hat! Better yet, wear two hats. Have fun and be creative with winter hats. Whatever you wear, cover your ears. Cover as much exposed skin as possible--Don't worry about hat hair. If you love earrings, don't wear them outside! That goes for other piercings, too. Take the jewelry with you. You can fix your look when you get where you are going.
3. Gloves and mittens---It is very important to keep extremities protected. Frostbite can happen within minutes in extreme cold and wind. Gloves offer flexibility, but mittens are more protective. Why not combine both? If they are waterproof, that's even better. There are even gloves that are touchscreen sensitive, so there's no need to remove your hand coverings, if you must use your mobile devices.
4. Don't forget a big scarf or two--I know, so many accessories to coordinate! Don't worry about matching things. The scarf not only ties your look together, it seals in the heat. Wrap it around your face, cover as much skin as you can.
It's good to have a spare hat, scarf or pair of gloves, anyway. You never know when you'll meet someone who really needs that spare thing.
6. Serious winter coat--- When it gets this cold, the furs come out. Yes, they're beautiful on the minks and foxes. Fur offers insulation and wind resistance, which is why these small furry animals have these beautiful coats. But you don't need to wear their coats to stay warm. The wonders of performance fabrics can offer warmth and wind-resistance without added weight. New designs also eliminate that bulky Michelin Man look, offering a more streamlined appearance. These coats can come in different lengths--I think knee length or just below the knee is best. Anything longer could become a hazard in the snow drifts and piles on the street corners. Again, warmth and agility are important, here. Think Mars explorer, not grizzly bear.
7. Alternative winter coat--A more artistic alternative might be oversized vintage coats, which would accomodate those underlayers. You know they have survived many winters, too. Some of these old overcoats even have zip-in liners. But, they can be quite heavy! Army surplus coats are warm, though. Think Siberian Chic. That was our look 30 years ago when we were young in Rogers Park, walking in 40-below. Harry had a big Army surplus coat, and I had a black 40's style that looked like Anna Karenina (at least I thought so.) Maybe we weren't Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago, but the old guys smiled as we passed on Morse Avenue. They made me smile, too.
8. Positive attitude---We are all in this together. Look out for each other. Look out for your pets and kids. Remember your neighbors, too. So gear up, layer up, keep warm and be kind. Be careful out there.
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