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Weather-proofing your wardrobe

— by Nilgin Yusuf

 

Jill Kennington 1963 – Photograph by: John-Cowan, 1963. Image: Fashion Museum Bath

 

My favourite part of London’s V&A Costume gallery, is a display outside the main exhibition area about British rainwear. On the surface, it’s a dull theme about a mind-numbing subject, but I’ve always lingered here, fascinated by the technological innovation, integrity of design and vital role these garments play.

In the UK, weather is a regular topic of conversation because of its unpredictability and variety. The recent trio of storms:  Dudley, Eunice & Franklin brought disruption, destruction, even death. Extreme weather conditions throw our collective anxieties and concerns about weather into sharp relief but the truth is, it shapes our lives on a daily basis. Weather can dictate how we spend our time, whether we go out, hang the washing or spend time in the garden. British fell walker and guidebook author, Alfred Wainwright, noted ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’  And while we were advised recently to stay indoors, appropriate clothing choices, should we venture out mean we’re less vulnerable or exposed, less likely to become a hostage to weather.

Wellington boots and waterproofs are British armour when it comes to living well despite meteorological vagaries. Once I wouldn’t have considered the warmth of fabrics or impermeability of fibres. Thirty years ago, questions like, ‘Should I put a Pac-A-Mac in my bag or wear extra thick socks?’  never crossed my mind. But now, after checking my weather app, these considerations are high on the agenda.

Alongside the durability of natural fibres: wool, cotton, linen or silk, I trust the performance promise of labels that declare Kevlar, Gore-Tex, Teflon or Microfibre.  When I wander around Decathlon, I’m consciously buying into a practical enhancement of daily life, not some fantasy lifestyle that once might have drawn me in.

I’m no less interested in style, design or how clothes look but I know unless I’m dry, comfortable and warm, everything else will become harder. The misery of wet feet, rain trickling down a neck, freezing cold hands or legs covered in goose pimples are thankfully consigned to history. I’m ready for all weathers with my favourite padded snow boots and a whole range of wellies (footwear I came to late in life) numerous cosy hats, drawers of thermals, gloves and many scarves. I rarely leave the house without both sunglasses and a telescopic umbrella in my bag, prepared for any eventuality. I’ve discovered I’m likely to find the best winter clothing in TK Maxx on the hottest days of the year and the best summer pieces in the dead of winter.

Sartorial weather wisdom isn’t innate but learned over time. We may recall appalled parents telling us we’ll catch our ‘death’ in some insubstantial item or to put on sensible shoes. At a certain point, with life experience or perhaps the responsibility of parenting, we get it. Weather-proofing your wardrobe matters. It’s easy to be downcast by the damp and drizzle but my attitude is the weather can do its biblical worst, hurl down hailstones or send plagues of frogs. As long as I’m in the right gear, somehow I feel everything will be okay.

 

Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf

 

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