I remember I used to look at some of the pictures in magazines and wonder where on earth such an ensemble would be sensible. I mean, where might one reasonably dress badly for all the seasons? One outfit in particular has always stuck in my mind. I believe it was an advert for American Eagle, which is a shop I generally adore what with their array of plaid shirts and range of underpants with a polar bear print. But this outfit in particular never made any bloody sense: the girl was wearing shorts, with knee high socks, a puffy vest of some kind (which I have only recently come to understand could also be called a gillet here), tank top, scarf, and those funny gloves that aren’t gloves but are actually leg warmers for your arms (one might point out here that if this girl had been wearing a long-sleeved top, perhaps the wrist warmers would’ve been unnecessary, but as I have learned over the years it’s best not to question fashion choices and even better if you promise never to use logic).
This outfit makes no sense to me. There is no season for this outfit. Or so I thought. and then I moved to the UK. Having lived all over the place, from Cornwall to Scotland, I have come to appreciate a few things as far as functioning fashion goes, which I will share here, in case you’re going on holiday in the near future. (And if you’re expecting something that looks like what most people think summer is, come in May or September. The actual summer months can be… changeable).
1. Always have a scarf. I didn’t understand the point of these scarves when I first rocked up in the UK. These aren’t the heavy wool scarves I grew up with, ones that protected you from frost bite and temperatures of -35C. No, these are sort of fashion scarves. At first glance they look like they serve no purpose beyond jazzing up a dull outfit, but when you experience the wind in this country, they start to make more sense. It can be a perfectly lovely looking day – nary a hint of rain in the sky – and you might think to yourself, “Excellent, I’ll go out in this!” But there will usually be a stiff breeze, wind or gale coming in off the sea, for you’re never too far from the coast here (using a non-British sense of geographical distance). That previously useless looking scarf will keep the chill off the back of your neck. And when the clouds come (and with them the rain), and they will, oh they will, you can always wrap the scarf over your head to protect what’s left of your wind-blown hair-do.
2. Always pack a sweater/jumper/cardi. This is a no-brainer to North Americans who are used to aggressive levels of air-conditioning and will always turn up with a layer in tow. But in the UK this piece of clothing will come in handy because the day might start out looking an awful lot like the summer you grew up with (if you’re me that is), but chances are that it will wind up feeling a lot like fall by the time you get home. You can opt to wear a beer or wine coat, but even with one of those, you’ll need another layer because once the sun goes down, this island gets cold.
3. Get a summer coat. This has to be the most heartbreaking thing I have learned, fashion-wise, since living on these shores. The weight you’ll need depends on where you are – down in Cornwall, you can use a puffy vest. Yes, a down-filled vest, at the height of summer, will be a useful thing. You’ll be near the coast, it gets cold. Don’t let the temperature readings fool you: the BBC might tell you it will be 20C but it will not feel like the 20C you’re used to. Because there will be a sea breeze, and it will probably be raining. Up in Scotland, you’ll need something with wool. Like the coats I’ve always favoured for February in Canada (coats which are wildly impractical and are not warm enough), you know, the kind of coats Tornto-people wear when they’re pretending that Toronto doesn’t get winter even though we all know it does. That’s a good summer in Scotland coat. If you’re lucky enough to be in Scotland for the weekend summer arrives – go out at all costs! Do not ever set foot inside! This is cause for intense celebration – it’s like winning the lottery and having the best hair day of your life. And it will be a fleeting moment.
4. Accept that whatever footwear you’ve got on, it will be the wrong kind. Myself, I’ve just gotten used to having wet feet. Even with my sturdy Canadian-made cowboy boots on, if it’s raining, like BBC forecast black cloud of doom with two raindrops icon kind of raining, that basically means start building the ark. Just accept that you’re going to be soaking wet forever. It’s easier that way.
I am gently reminding The Mom of all this in advance of her atumun visit and hoping that when she does arrive that maybe, just maybe the British weather will be on its good behaviour.