Friends, Romans, country people, lend me your earmuffs.
Where I’m from, in Orlando, Florida, we definitely know how to stay warm: We go outside. When I tell Midwestern people this, they tell me literally everything they think I might need to know to withstand this, my first Chicago winter. Allow me to pass on some unsolicited tips. Well, unsolicited by you; my editors are, in fact, soliciting.
Let’s Get Practical: On Puffy Coats, the Challenge of Scarves, And Dangers in Disguise
The most stylish thing to have during a Chicago winter is knowledge. Learn from others who actually know what they are talking about, like where to find the ugliest — but warmest — coats. Believe me, you want the ugliest one.
For instance, my warmest coat has a built-in belt. Who knew a cinched waist could go so poorly? However, almost immediately upon my arrival in Chicago, I was given permission by a fellow citizen to look as unseemly as necessary in order to ensure my delicate Florida bones would not freeze. Learn from your winter-worn neighbors!
I was worried when I acquired said coat that, upon entering buildings in it, I would not know where to put the hefty item. In Florida, we don’t have coat hooks because we don’t have coats; on our one day of winter, we keep all of our layers on so that we can bake in the heat of whatever room we occupy. Then I learned about coat hooks, which are installed in many of our classrooms. Then I got to use the coat hooks! Finding joy in small things is extremely stylish; enjoy the coat hooks.
Another thing to learn about: scarves. Did you know there are about a million ways to wrap a scarf? And another fun fact: I didn’t know how a single one of them when I got here. YouTube is a great resource in this department, as are roommates who watch you struggle to toss the ends of your scarf around your neck, using a huge amount of effort. I don’t recommend the tossing method; I do recommend scarves.
I also recommend you learn to wear static electricity with grace. There are ways to avoid being shocked, but all of them involve also avoiding rubber-soled shoes or wool. Tip: to stay warm and safe while walking on ice, just succumb to the fact that you are going to get shocked and wear your rubber-soled boots and wool. While those boots will make you feel invincible walking around in the snow and ice, I will caution you: Don’t kick the old snow. (I realize this is not a style tip, but everyone yells at me when I do this. You shouldn’t kick old snow either, unless the type of boot you want is one that keeps your bones together because you broke your bones kicking leftover snow which is really just ice in disguise, turns out.) I also recommend the boots have some kind of warm lining to keep your feet extra toasty and high tops for when the snow is deep.
Making a Shopping List, Checking It Twice (Gonna Find Out Who’s Warm And Who Dies)
I’ve already mentioned that you need an ugly coat, scarves, and rubber-soled boots to round out your winter look. Another essential? Long underwear. There is nothing sexier than wearing an entire form-fitting outfit underneath your outfit. It’s like you have a secret that no one knows. Or like you’re Catwoman. I like pretending I’m the Flash because then I could minimize my time in the Chicago tundra if I wanted to. But then again, I don’t have to because I’m wearing long underwear, which is secretly keeping me warm.
Because your street fashion is limited to warm and ugly, I also suggest an enamel pin that lets everyone know what you’re about, even when you look like a marshmallow that’s been microwaved, but colder. My pin is a rainbow because I’m hoping for an end to suffering — both with regard to Trump’s America and to this, my first Chicago winter. It also adds color to my outfit and lets everyone know I’m gay. It’s a win-win pin.
Once I’m completely bundled in my full winter outfit, the only thing uncovered on my body are my eyes. I suggest you wear a pair of sunglasses to keep your eyes warm. So far this has only marginally worked for me, but I feel hip.
The Mom-Friend Section
I have a few more tips for you to remain comfortable while everything else turns to ice. First, don’t trust your roommate when she tells you leggings will be enough to wear outside. They aren’t. They won’t be until probably April. (I am basing this estimate on intuition alone.)
Remember that snow is water, too. I can feel the look you are giving me right now like, “Of course snow is frozen water.” But if you go out in a non-waterproof jacket or coat or sweater, you will get wet and uncomfortable to a degree I had not guessed based on my basic knowledge of what snow is. I share my mistakes with you so you don’t repeat them.
Make sure to give yourself extra time to prepare for the out-of-doors so you can put on all the things and make it to wherever you’re going on time. I feel that saying, “Sorry I’m late; I had to put on four layers and my boots and my pants over my long underwear” is not a valid excuse for being late to something. Being late is never in style. Plus, once you arrive at your destination you have to shed your layers, too — so you can use the coat hooks — and this is embarrassing and distracting if you’re already late.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some guidance for those of you who might visit my home state.
If you’re in Florida and it’s “winter,” I think it looks cool when you get to wear jeans with your t-shirts. I’m just saying that it’s not every day you get to wear long pants with your tees and tanks in the Sunshine State. Take advantage of the 75-degree weather! As a child, I particularly enjoyed rolling around in the grass in my long corduroys during cooler days; I highly recommend this activity. You could also go to the beach. And in all seriousness: Make sure you always wear sunscreen in Florida any time of the year. Sunburn is worse than windburn and about as bad as frostbite. From what I hear.