How to Look Good in Winter

Is it possible to man-oeuvre oneself through a gory scene like this and maintain a modicum of style? Yes, it is.

At the time of writing this story, Toronto has recently acquired yet another dumping of snow. Fifty cms over the past five days and there is more to come. And it’s cold. But not cold enough to eliminate plenty of shoe-destroying slush. Under these conditions, how in the world can one maintain a modicum of style and also stay warm and dry?

We caught up with the three chic, Canadian women who maintain you don’t have spend the wintery months looking like an unkempt frump.

Katharine Mulherin, Director, Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects
Alison Lawler Dean, Associate Fashion Editor, Wish magazine
Deborah Wang, Architectural Designer, KPMB Architects

Here are their style secrets:

Q: It’s pretty cold here, eh? How do you deal with the Canadian winter?

KM: I have to admit that my attire gets quite a bit more casual in the winter months. Through the fall, I pick up a few items to wear at the art fairs and I just make them last through the winter.

ALD: It’s all about layering! And thank goodness it’s an important trend this season. Put a long sleeve T-Shirt under a pretty blouse and top it off with a great knit. And Canada is known for super warm outerwear like Canada Goose coats and Sorel boots. Why not embrace the snow bunny look? You’ll be much happier if you’re warm.

DW: To survive Canadian winter fashionably, everyone’s got to have a great coat, hat and mittens. The coat has got to be warm. Mine’s thick wool and it’s black so I can wear it everywhere. The Canadian winter is tough and you have to wear sensible boots. That doesn’t mean they have to be Ugg-ly though. I think it’s totally possible to be stylish while staying warm. Call it your “winter look”.

Q: Do you have a secret to combating hat hair?

KM: Wear a ponytail or keep the hat on. Just let it be, hat head, like bed head, can be super cute.

ALD: I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair, so it’s often a few runs through with this great Conair curler and hairdryer I found or a ponytail.

DW: I have straight hair, so I just jive with the flat-hair look. Combat hat hair by smoothing down your hair as you put on your hat. Don’t wear a hat that’s too tight. It’ll allow your head to breathe and your hat won’t get overly flattened.

Q: What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to dressing up for winter?

KM: Static cling and not being warm enough without a sweater. I’m not a big sweater fan.

ALD: All the bits and pieces drive me crazy and I’m always afraid I’ll leave my gloves or hat somewhere and inevitably I do.

DW: Hot feet and static cling. I wear warm winter boots or double up on socks and my feet are always hot. Clothes that cling in the wrong way are awful.

Q: What are you likely to wear and what do you try to get across by the way you dress?

KM: I like dresses, tights, boots, or longer tops and jeans. I think my attire is really about saying where I’m at in my life. I’m 43, an art dealer, a mother and I live in Canada. I also travel a lot. Being in the arts, I feel like I can be a bit more experimental with the way I dress. I can be fancy when I want to, or not at all. It all depends on the work that I’m doing at the moment.

ALD: My work is in the creative field so we don’t have a strict dress code. I often wear a dress or jeans and a nice blouse. For winter, it’s all about layering and I’ll throw on a long sleeve tee and thick tights under a lighter dress. After work, it’s much of the same with higher heels and a few more accessories like bangles, a scarf or a fun necklace. I like to look put-together, but in a relaxed way.

DW: I almost never change between work and going out after work. Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of jeans (because it’s winter) paired with a fine wool sweater or a shirt and blazer. I try not to look too professional, and never wear anything that resembles a suit. I feel too young to look that serious. I usually look neat and put-together, but a bit off-beat.

Q: How would you describe your personal style?

KM: I think I’m a bit of a tomboy. For example, I have a real hard time with heels and make-up. I like things that look cool, but a lot of the time I’m a little too busy to care about fashion, so a sort of rock ‘n roll, disheveled thing with touches of femininity works pretty well with me. I do better in the summer, when I don’t have to wear so much.

ALD: My style is pretty classic, but I incorporate a few trends into each look in a small way. I’m all about building a wardrobe of well-fitting, timeless pieces and accessorizing to bring in the season’s fashion messages. I definitely follow the international trends.

DW: I’ve been told I look “funny”, which is probably a good description for the days I look like I’m half wearing a costume. Sometimes, the way I put myself together is reminiscent of the circus or military. Most of the time I look put-together, but a bit off-beat. I love to layer. I’m also influenced by “not taking myself too seriously”.

Q: What are some of the key pieces you can’t imagine living without?

KM: Boots, dresses and knee-high socks: That’s my look. I also have some pretty ratty T-Shirts that look best just before they die. They have holes and thin spots in the right places. I’ve often been asked who designed them. The answer would be that they kind of designed themselves.

ALD: Denim! I live in a great pair of jeans. And I have a favorite vintage black velvet blazer that always looks chic for the evening. And shoes, you can never have too many pairs of shoes.

DW: I love my Isabel Marant frock. It’s light gray, raw wool and drapes really well. I look like a clown when I wear my elephant-colored leather jacket (another essential) with it. And my Ernesto faded-black cigarette jeans are awesome. They’re really called Ernest Sewn, but I misheard the name and I think Ernesto is funny.

Q: What was the last fashion item you splurged on?

KM: A gold Ralph Lauren bag that I bought in New York. My 13-year-old son convinced me to buy it because I deserved it. It was half price but still an investment for me.

ALD: I recently splurged on four pairs of shoes & boots, but they were on sale so the damage wasn’t too bad. I shop at every level, a little designer, some great mid-point classics, a lot of mass to satisfy my shopping fix and I love vintage.

DW: I think the last thing was a pair of jeans. They are Seven Jeans. They are expensive for jeans. I don’t splurge frequently.

Q: Who are some of your favorite designers?

KM: I don’t really wear designer clothes but Prada ads in fashion magazines always excite me. And I buy way too many things at H&M.

ALD: Right now, it’s Lanvin, Balenciaga, and Nina Ricci. They all have new designers revitalizing historic brands with beautifully dramatic results.

DW: Locally, my favorite clothing designers are Zoran Dobric, Lydia K and Philip Sparks. Philip doesn’t produce a women’s line, but I love his military-inspired pieces, and I think Lydia K isn’t making clothes anymore, but I love her “Frida Kahlo transplanted to the Victorian age” feel. Not locally and not for fashion, Rem Koolhaas and Marcel Wanders for architecture and industrial design, respectively. Although they don’t make clothing, they inspire a way of thinking that I feel is an overall way for thinking about life, even when getting dressed in the morning.

Q: Who are your style icons?

KM: I like Kate Moss. Her popularity started when grunge was in. And she’s still around, with this timeless beauty and she looks good in anything. I’ve also always thought that the Canadian artist Shary Boyle pulls off fashion really well, mixing vintage and new and not caring sometimes.

ALD: I love timeless beauties like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O. and Grace Kelly. I especially enjoyed Ali McGraw’s’ style in Love Story, Jean Seberg in Breathless and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. And I like the eclectic street-style of some of today’s party girls like Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.

DW: I love Bjork style.

Q: What style advice do you always live by?

KM: Style comes from within. Clothes can be fun but I think that you can be creative with very little investment.

ALD: Dress in what suits you and what you are comfortable in. Invest in classics, but have fun with trends.

DW: Dress your age and for your body-type. That doesn’t mean not having fun. There are just parts that need to be gradually covered up or treated in a modest way as your body starts to defy you. Short shorts are not everyone’s friend. Think about it.