Dressing for unpredictable weather
Wear something you can take off when it grows too warm, or carry something you can add should it get too cool
As I write this, it has been raining all night and pretty much most of the morning. The day before was gloriously windy. And hot. And the day before was extra hot. And then the
Met Department made my day by reminding me that March is rainy. I love rainy weather.
And, like any other Kenyan, a conversation about the weather is an expected one.
We collectively feel tortured by the weather and sometimes even take it personally. Like it is an individual attack.
It makes it harder to dress for unpredictable weather in a region where entire seasons are experienced in a day.
Now, this is not because I walk around with a judgy notebook and pen, but I have always wondered how women who wear flip-flops or mules function in the middle of the street when
it is raining heavily. I see toes gripping shoes for dear life, trying hard not to lose one’s sole.
Perhaps it is because I am not the biggest fan of flats in their padding glory. That being said, I do not want to deprive others of their shoe joy or interfere with anyone’s shoe game.
The challenge, and problem, with unpredictable weather, is that it can stumble you into a fashion faux pas.
You leave the house one way and return in a whole other state and sometimes it is not particularly within your control. The most common way to handle uninhibited weather is layering. This is the most prevalent advise when it comes to dressing up — wear something you can take off when it grows too warm, or carry something you can add should it get too cool. I hate this advice, but I subscribe to it because the alternative is to walk around butt-naked or overwhelmed by clothes.
There are creative workarounds with the current weather. The kind of weather that if you write about it will develop a personality and play games with you. Layering makes sense because it is sound. It allows you to handle fluctuations. An example is anything from a light jacket to a kimono, the latter trapping heat when it gets warm or working with a breeze when it gets windy.
One of the ways to be smart about layering is to select waterproof outerwear. A good quality waterproof coat; be it a parka or a trench coat. It protects your outfit, keeps you dry and, because of fashion technology, keeps you warm all at the same time.
Waterproofed clothes make it possible to operate outdoors when grappling with transport and keep you protected when you have a stretch to cover.
A trend that I see globally but not so much internationally unless you’re Joy Kendi, is an oversized sweater.
These feel warm, soft and cosy (if you shop right and use fabric softener of course), and can be paired with boots; be the ankle, thigh or knee-length. It allows you to create a look that transitions from day to night and from cool to warm. Be sure to wear a light little cami or spaghetti dress on the inside. Not because you will need to take off your oversized sweater at some point, but because it is more comfortable for you, and because it prevents the scratchy wool or polyester blends from stifling your skin.
Wearing something softer underneath eliminates the displeasure of grating fabric.
Then there’s boots — my favourite fashion topic. I am, unfortunately, one of those women who has a vast collection of boots that are worn across the entire year. I am not picky about the weather mainly because I spend my life indoors. There are different types of boots a woman needs to have in her wardrobe.
These are not related to length, height or anything of that sort. There are boots that work great for rainy weather —they tend to be made out of all kinds of leather and synthetic fabric; then there is suede. The latter is great for cold weather, not so much rainy weather.
Not unless you live a white party outfit kind of lifestyle where money coats you from normal human interactions such as toe-stepping people, water splooshed at you from other cars or feet dipping into puddles. Keep that in mind when shopping or boot-wearing.
An alternative to boots if that is not your thing could be sneakers. Women’s sneakers have come a long way from functional to stylish. You have your pick of the lot and boy oh boy are there options. Sneakers can be pretty or chunky. And they are any weather shoes that you can walk, matatu in or drive in and with. Always get soles with good support no matter the weather.
There was a season when leggings replaced trousers, which is why I hesitate to suggest them. Leggings are not pants. They will never be pants. They should not be pants. Do not wear them as pants. Wear them with boots and tops that effectively cover your bottom. I don’t care if you’re a fashion model off-duty or an angel fell from heaven. Pair your leggings with denim or leather jackets for an edgy look and as a jeans substitute.
Finally, do not get rid of your dresses. Mini, midi or maxi dresses can be dressed up and down depending on the weather with anything from boots to sneakers. Throw on an interesting scarf and you can wrap it around your head, your neck, or if it tickles your fancy, your waist.
The beauty of unpredictable weather is this — it forces you to combine style and function and there is no greater way for a woman to grow fashionably than when she has to figure out how to combine the two.