Sunday, January 24, 2016

Surviving Winter: Staying Warm in Places That Rarely Get Cold

This winter season couldn't make up its mind; Christmas was unseasonably warm, New York was warmer than LA at the end of December, and now there's a blizzard causing Snowpocalypse 2016. I'm in Florida, where we are getting down to just above freezing every night. For a lot of people, this is not unmanageable. For Floridians, this is a small crisis.

Keep a few things in mind for the average person who has lived in Florida their entire life:

  • Standard footwear year-round involves sandals 
  • Stores start putting out athletic gear this time of year and start putting away the sweaters and coats and heavy layers
  • Dressing for extreme humidity, heat-stroke prevention, and intense heat is the norm
  • Weather under fifty degrees only comes around for 1-2 months out of the year, leading to...
    • Most people own maybe one decent "coat" that isn't a hoodie, sweatshirt, or cardigan
    • Some people live in SHORTS  year-round (especially masculine-type people) and own about 2 pairs of jeans, max
    • An abundance of sandals, sneakers, and slip-on shoes means people don't have to think about keeping their feet warm on a normal basis
    • Many people, including me, have gone over a year before turning on central heating in their homes
So what's a surprised temperate-to-tropical-dweller to do? Inspired by my own tendency to be cold all of the time, I've compiled a few tips to make the most of a non-cold-friendly wardrobe and housing situation. 

Tip 1. Get Smart with Layers

As previously mentioned, most people in this situation own maybe one decent coat. I own exactly one leather jacket that works as a solid outer layer. I've also owned it since middle school. Since parkas aren't a feasible option, the next best thing will be thin, breathable layers. A lot of them. 

Here are a few examples:
  • Tank tops or camisoles under shirts
  • Wear shirts and other layers both under and over dresses (ex. camisole, long-sleeve shirt, tank-top sundress, sweater, jacket, coat)
  • Thin long-sleeve shirts* (especially UnderArmor-style shirts, even thin pyjama shirts) under short-sleeve or sleeveless shirts
  • Arm gauntlets* (fingerless gloves that reach to the elbows, for those who DIDN'T dress pop-punk/scene/emo in high school) worn under a longer sleeve to avoid wrist drafts
  • Layer scarves, especially with open-front sweaters. Combine fuzzy scarves with silky scarves and fleecy scarves to essentially make a festive chest blanket. Stuff some scarf tails under a jacket and let the rest hang out of the front
  • Wear leggings under pants, jeans, dresses, anything
Tip 2. Don't Forget the Tops and Toes!

Hats are a very easy, quick, and messy-hair-covering way to gain a good ten degrees of body warmth. I've got a faux-furry trapper hat with ear flaps from several years ago that is guaranteed to warm me up no matter how cold it is. Even beanies, baseball caps, and scarves pinned or tied about the head can help with warmth.

Socks and footwear are also something that go by the wayside in places like Florida. Layering socks with leggings, doubling up thin socks, and generally remembering to wear socks or slippers at home instead of going barefoot helps trap more heat.

Tip 3. Cozi-fy the House

Story time: When I first moved to Tampa to attend USF, I lived in an apartment complex from the 1970s that...wasn't the greatest at upgrading appliances. It finally got cold there late in winter and I, having only lived in a nice house before that time, turned on the heater. The intense burnin smell and inconsistent heating over the next few days scared me into turning it right back off. I had to make a plan B for not freezing inside of my house.

Here is an article from Buzzfeed all about taking a blank, cold apartment and making it more cozy. I especially like the suggestion of gathering a collection of candles in one place and lighting them all, which is definitely something I've done before in my search for winter warmth

I also like to layer blankets on my bed because I can't fall asleep if I'm still cold. Fleece blanket can go for $5-$7 at many stores. The size doesn't matter, but the coverage and layering do. I'd do a bed-sized blanket or quilt with a smaller blanket toward the feet and and another small blanket I can pull up over my face and shoulders. This is on top of a standard top sheet (or two) and comforter.

I also highly recommend making the bed every day when it's cold; the cold air settles into exposed sheets pretty seriously.


Crop top tutorials like this are great for a summer (or spring or fall, in Florida) when one is fine with exposing some skin. It can also work in advantage for extreme winter. Recycle old leggings (or buy an extra pair of cheap ones when layering anyway) and cut out a hole between the legs to create a collar. Insert head, pull arms thtough the leg holes, pull the waist down over the chest and - BAM - an UnderArmor style layering tool to wear over or under a tank top or under a shirt with not-so-great sleeve coverage. The long sleeves are also great for cutting thumbholes to make built-in arm gauntlets! 

I like doing it in a basic black and using it with pyjamas for extra warmth as well. In the summer it just goes back into crop top mode. 

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I'm not sure how long the current weather will last. Hopefully, with just a few tips and tricks, even cold-weather-newbs like me can survive it.

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