Do you know what nature’s strangest phenomenon is? Volcanic lightning? Fire rainbows? That fish that changes sex behind a rock? No, it’s February at New York Fashion Week. For those unaware of New York’s winter climate, it’s cold. And I mean cold. It’s the kind of cold that takes your breath away – especially when hit in the face with the icy wind off the Hudson. A cold that gets to your bones and makes your nose run. A cold that makes you stop caring what the hell you look like as long as you’re warm – even if that means Uggs. Except not if you are an editor at New York Fashion Week. Because if you’re an editor at NYFW you don’t look cold, your nose is not running and you are not wearing Uggs (except, this season, maybe you are). You are wearing bright colours, wifty-wafty fabrics and the latest shoe shapes – all the new springy clothes we want to wear, but can’t, because it’s too damn cold. One of my lasting memories of NYFW was sitting in a drafty venue and trying not to stick my hands in my armpits (never appropriate), while watching a woman in a white trouser suit – no coat – walk in and sit opposite me, with not even a hint of a shiver. The Aurora Borealis has nothing on these guys, they defy logic.
I’ve often marvelled at these people – wondering how, when everyone else is wearing their winter coats until April, they manage to look au courant while apparently avoiding hypothermia. Do they have self-heating underpants? Did they neck a glass of wine before leaving the house? It took me until I experienced it first hand, to figure it all out. When it comes to impressive sartorial skills, New Yorkers are remarkable at secret spring layering. And we’re not talking about sticking a vest underneath a top here (though, if we were, I’d tell you to go and buy an M&S thermal vest, which is the softest, cosiest thing you could wish to ever wear), this is all about warmth-giving layers masquerading as style tweaks. They are stealthy, they are stylish and my God are they brilliant.
This is quite simply the art of wearing two jackets instead of one. Or, rather, a jacket with a bigger coat on top. Think a blazer or a denim jacket (this seasons transitional jacket of choice) underneath an overcoat. How to wear your spring jacket now? With your winter coat on top. This works particularly well when both coat and jacket are in coordinating colours or prints (see Eva Chen’s checked combo, below) but, to be honest, anything goes – layer up what you already have at home. Just make sure your coat is longer than your jacket otherwise the proportions are off. For an additional layer of warmth, stick a Uniqlo Ultra Light Down vest under your jacket. These are so thin you hardly know they’re there, but they make such a difference.
A good friend, who used to live in New York, once told me “always take an extra jumper with you”. I expect she meant to pull on over the top of whatever you were already wearing, but had she been referring to this season she would have meant to wear around your neck. The official fashion word for this is a “schmoo”, so christened by Michael Kors, when he debuted jumpers worn as scarves on his catwalk. And what started as a daft fashiony thing has caught on; New Yorkers are schmooing big time. Somewhat country club, it has a preppy feel, but with a hint of surrealism – is it a jumper? Is it a snood? No, it’s a schmoo. You can’t deny it’s practicality – I defy anything to keep your neck and shoulders quite so warm… except, maybe, an actual scarf.
A white roll neck
Talking about jumpers, the roll neck layered under a dress/shirt thing is still going strong (thank God). The new season update? White. Think Princess Diana, think apres-ski, think 1985. You’ll want something slim fit for optimum layering abilities and, for this, you cannot beat M&S. Remember that black roll neck that went with everything? It comes in white. A simple and quick way to spring-up your existing wardrobe.
THE TEDDY COAT
Currently, what fashion folk refer to as “texture” is big news. This means anything bobbly, knobbly, fuzzy or faux fluffy. One of the happiest things to come out of this trend is the teddy coat – so called because it looks like it’s made out of one (and it make you look a bit like one, too). The beauty of a teddy coat is that it looks suitably springy – somewhat Easter chick-esque – but has all the warmth of your winter coat. You need to get one in a pale colour – off-white/cream or, if you fancy going the whole fashion hog, a pastel colour.
A pair of pop socks
No I haven’t gone mad – pop socks are having a fashion moment. A progression from 2017 “posh sock” trend, these are the lightweight, spring-ready version. “Always cover your ankles”, a fellow fashion editor once advised me and, while these won’t do the job of your thermals, they keep the chill out and look a darn sight prettier. Wear them peeping out over the top of your ankle boots, with trainers or, if you’re feeling very new-season-now, with heeled sandals.
The white boots
While we’re on the subject of feet, let’s talk about spring boots. For those looking to transition to spring and not yet ready for slingbacks, you will need a pair of these. Ankle-length, thigh-high, sock-style or scrunchy, anything goes, so long as it’s white. Surprisingly stylish, there’s a fabulous western-inspired pair in & Other Stories that would make a great springy alternative to your usual black boots. Just have the stain remover at the ready.