How to Stay Cozy but Look Sleek During the Winter Season at Work

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“I woke up this morning and put on a flannel shirt I just bought,” said my client last week.

How many cold days would we prefer to wear only flannel to work – from top to bottom — because it’s cold? But what if we could just be warm in our work clothes, and not have to think about extra layers?

In today’s world of fashion, it is entirely possible to look fashionable and be warm. 

And I would start from the inside.

Try a new tea or French press coffee-maker instead of drip, and warm up enough to look for your silk long underwear.  Then find that scoop or v-neck (depending on your blouse) silk long underwear to keep you warm in the one area that medical science says to start: your core!

Start with the vital organs, and you are on the way to being warm – all day.

Layering your clothing is the best way to maximize your comfort in the cold.

The beauty of this simple concept is that it allows you to make adjustments during the day to your outer layers only, as you can stay warm in a simple blouse or trouser, without having to wear your down parka in the office.

The question of what to choose for a piece of warm clothing under your outfit depends on your needs and the weather conditions.

Ideally, thermal underwear works as an insulator by trapping heat within its fibers, while at the same time wicking away moisture (perspiration or wet weather), so that you stay toasty.

Benefits and qualities of each type of thermal underwear: 

Silk

The exciting thing about silk underwear is that it is thin and breathable – thin enough to wear under blouses, trousers, leggings and even sweaters. While silk is warm (though not the warmest of all thermal fabrics), the fibers of silk are long, making wicking and long-wear  possible.

Another benefit of silk besides the width is that silk is the least allergenic of fabrics should you have any sensitivities. Make sure to read the care instructions for silk, as often it is not machine- washable, requires some time to dry (unlike synthetics) and does not retain warmth when wet.  But, for durability and thinness, silk is the best.

Wool

If you prefer wool to silk, I would choose merino wool which can replace solid wool, thanks to its non-itchy fibers.  Merino sheep have the softest fur among their kind, and thermal underwear made from this fiber offers more warmth than cotton or synthetic, but is close to silk in feeling.

Wool long underwear may be too warm for the office, but it is ideal for outdoor activities.  Wool thermal underwear is also more expensive than cotton or polyester, but it is breathable – keeping you warm and cool, unless you mix it with synthetics or polyester (try and stay below 20% synthetic in the blend), and then it will lose some of its anti-bacterial properties and retain smells more easily.

Cotton

If you prefer a natural fiber that is non-animal, then cotton is one choice you have.  Cotton is a highly absorbent fabric, and is also non-allergenic. If you prefer cotton to wool, silk or synthetics, you will also be getting a heavier weight.  I like Rock Face brand, which is mid- to heavy-weight and very affordable from places like Sears, JC Penney and K-Mart.

Unlike the long fibers of silk that wear well, cotton has short fibers, so it will shrink upon washing and drying. Most long (thermal) underwear is made with a cotton blend because cotton alone can be stiff; also, a polyester/cotton blend is more affordable and less likely to shrink.  If the environmental impact of production is your biggest concern, think about buying organic cotton.

Polyester

Polyester is a man-made fabric that can go by many names such as: Dacron, acetate, acrylic, Lyocell , modal, olefin, rayon, spandex and nylon.  Unlike cotton, polyester is not absorbent, but it does dry fast when wet. There is some high-performance polyester long underwear that does wick away moisture and sweat, but if you spend too little for this product, expect it to smell after a short time.  One of the most well-known and well-liked names for polyester is microfiber.  Microfiber’s appeal lies in its ability to feel like washed silk and suede.  However, most polyesters are made from petroleum, so you have to decide which fabric you like up against your skin – i.e. if you prefer entirely natural materials.

That said, polyester not only keeps its shape well — which is fabulous under clothing — it also dyes well if you would like colors other than white, beige and black.  In general, it’s a good idea to mix some of these fibers with wool, silk or cotton to get a blend that suits you and your skin, your color preference and your wallet.

Synthetics

Last are synthetics which are blends of silk, wool or cotton with man-made fabrics, or are completely man-made fabrics.  The most popular is polar fleece, a high-tech synthetic fabric made from recycled bottles, which is a good alternative for people against opposed to wearing fabrics made from animal by-products. It is lighter that wool, offers better insulation, but still remains warmth when wet and dries fast. The most popular brands for polar fleece as an undergarment are Under Armour and Helly Hansen.

If you want to stand out at work then consider these undergarments, a blouse or shirt and then a third layer piece, such as a jacket, cardigan, or button-front blouse or tunic that looks fabulous but doesn’t add weight like a parka.  Because you have started with a layer of fabric right next to your skin, you will be warm without the bulk.

General guidelines for choosing the weight of your underwear and long underwear: 

Ultralightweight: For mild to cool conditions. Also referred to as microweight.
Lightweight: Cool to moderately cold conditions.
Midweight: Moderately cold to cold conditions.
Heavyweight: Cold, frigid or blustery conditions.

Besides clothing that keeps your core warm, I would focus on your feet. Schlepping through the wet and cold or snow does not have to mean unstylish. Stylish boots can easily replace the usual sneaker or sport shoe. If you need durable, weather-proof footwear to get you to work, then consider water-proofing your boots or buying a pair that are stylish and waterproof. Find the ones that fit your personality and weather conditions and splurge on a pair. Invest in one good pair that you use exclusively for getting to and from work.

Some Warm Stylish Options:

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