Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside!

So here I thought that I was leaving frigid Connecticut for the comparatively balmy climes of northwest London, but no. Marooned for hours on the only working runway at Heathrow by the worst snowstorm in 18 years. Weather, eh?

Now that I'm laughing again, how about a quick look at fashionably old ways to conquer the cold?

As bad as it gets for most of us in the northern hemisphere, it will never be quite as dreadfully cold as it was for Josephine Peary, here looking fetching in a caribou-skin parka. She was the wife of Robert Peary, the Polar explorer, and accompanied him on his North Greenland expedition--primarily to keep him out of trouble with the Inuit ladies. Her journal makes for fascinating reading; she doesn't stint on descriptions of what she wore while harpooning walrus and jumping crevasses.

On the other side of the New World, on the Northwest coast of North America, bitter cold rains were kept at bay by textiles made from woven cedar fibers. This picture illustrates a noblewoman wearing a cedar cloak, possibly lined with sealskin or other fur, a basketry hat and some fairly spectacular abalone earrings.

Zipping through the decades to the 60s, here's a photo of a winter nymph frolicking with Rudolf in her maxi-coat and hood. Never mind that the photo shows the trees in full leaf and the grass verdant on the ground, it's winter! In catalog land, anyway.

Of all these looks, a vintage maxi is by far the most appropriate for us now. It's a fantastically dramatic option for cold-weather wear, especially when a parka or a puffa is just too casual. I found a wonderful cut-velvet black maxi-coat at Portobello and rely on it completely when the weather gets fierce. Just one caveat: when you hunt for one, be sure it's not so sweeping that it's as gritty as the pavement by the time you get home.

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