Ask Allie: Winter Fashion in Warmer Climates

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It will be December in just a couple of days, yet yesterday in Washington DC it reached 75 degrees. This crazy warm spell has me feeling for you folks in warmer climates. You often email me asking how to dress appropriately for the season, even if the thermometer says it’s flip-flop weather. Here’s some suggestions on how to dress seasonally appropriate in warmer weather:

Kristin Scott Thomas lanvin paris fashion week
While Kristin Scott Thomas is wearing summer-weight pieces, her color choice makes this ensemble  winter-appropriate

A Whiter Shade of Pale. You can carry off lightweight pieces if they are in a darker shade. If pink is your signature color in the summer, consider berry or fuchsia for fall and winter. While still in the pink family, the darker or brighter tone will feel more seasonally appropriate. Switch out turquoise for teal, banana for mustard, orchid for plum.

Freida Pinto
This same ensemble on Freida Pinto in lighter tones would look inappropriate in the dead of winter

A Life Shot in Black and White. While summer screams for crisp white pants and skirts, such pieces look out of place come fall and winter. Consider switching out your white and beige pieces for similar garments in black, charcoal, camel, and taupe. Balancing your colors and neutrals with a darker accent color will make the entire ensemble feel more seasonally appropriate.

leighton meister

Leighton Meister makes a summery dress work in fall with the addition of chunky bangles and solid black accessories

Solid as a Rock. By switching out delicate strappy sandals and whisper-light chains for more solid wooden bangles and platform shoes, you create a more sturdy and seasonally-appropriate look. While flip-flops and huaraches may be fabulous in July, they can look inappropriate with autumnal and wintry fashions. A strappy platform in a darker color with a solid wood sole will still let your toes breathe on the hottest days, but will far better complement winter fashions. Chunky bangles and pendant necklaces, wide belts in darker shades made with wood and leather, platform sandals and peeptoe booties are accessories that will take a simple knit sundress and transform it from summer to warm-climate winter fashion.

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Julianne Moore makes a light-colored dress look seasonally appropriate with black tights and ankle booties

These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. Boots are an easy way to make summery dresses and skirts feel more seasonally appropriate. A pair of brown riding boots complement floral frocks, black engineer boots balance floaty white sundresses, sleek black or brown classic knee-high boots look elegant with pencil skirts and sheath dresses. I have a pair of boots with shearling lining which is surprisingly comfortable in hot weather – the material wicks away moisture and keeps my legs feeling cool.

olivia palermo
Olivia Palermo's addition of a jacket and heavier accessories takes this dress from summer to fall with style

Short Skirt Long Jacket. The addition of a lightweight jacket can immediately transform most summery dresses into a winter-weather ensemble without too much weight. Cargo jackets are hot right now and look fantastic with stripes, florals, and solids alike. Olive is a gorgeous color with neutrals as well as brights like yellow and pink – in lightweight cotton you can cinch the waist, roll the sleeves, and get a seasonally-appropriate looks with little bulk. For those who want a more polished look, a lightweight leather jacket (unlined or lined in acetate or another lightweight fabric) can be a great way to winterize your look without much bulk.

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Jessica Biel's change last fall to a darker hair color was flattering and appropriate with the change in seasons

Get a Pedicure, Get Your Nails Did. A simple change to the color of your nails, lipstick, and even your highlights can make a big difference in embracing the season. Switch out tangerine and candy pink for the season’s hot dark shades of nail color, consider a dark red or berry lipstick in place of your pink gloss, and ask your stylist if she could add some caramel or toffee highlights to your regular highlights.


Today I am wearing a black and ivory striped sailor tee shirt with a black heavier-knit fit-and-flare skirt and black platform peeptoe ankle booties. The colors and solid feel of the pieces makes it feel right for the last week in November, while the lightweight tee and bare legs keep me cool in this crazy warm weather.

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  1. Yes, the weather was marvelous in DC !
    I live in a very, very hot country and manage to get away with certain trends destined for cooler climates thanks to the crazy a/cs.
    I also take advantage of the rainy days and throw in velvet blazers and even boots – for me it’s all about layering, if it gets too hot just shed away a layer.
    I do stay away from my wool dress and wool sweaters though.

  2. My argument is often undermined by other people running around in shorts and summer clothes – I think that he’s finally come to accept that I am not one of those people and I’m never going to dress out-of-season for anything but walking the dog.

  3. I live in the Houston area, too – I have to admit that I’m one of those people wearing a jacket or coat when it gets in the lower 40s, even though I’m originally from Ohio. Not so much if I’m just running from the car to work or a store, but if I’m going to be outside walking a significant distance.

    The problem that I often have is the same one that Alllie has – it’s cold in the morning, but then warm in the afternoon – so I need the layers. Many is the day that I’ve gone in the bathroom and stripped off my tights in the afternoon and lost the cardigan that I had on over my sheath dress.

    At least I don’t get as overly warm now that I’ve lost weight – I’m more likely to be freezing in the frigid A/C during the summer.

  4. I have been traveling to the South a good bit lately.  I definitely plan on pulling this post back up when packing for my upcoming trip to Houston.  Also, that photo of Meester is one of my very favorites.  Her style is so inspirations!

  5. So glad to see your thoughts on this…we are moving to Tucson next summer, and I’m rethinking all my winter possibilities in light of the warm/sunny to VERY warm/sunny weather we’ll have down there.  I’ve heard that layers are the way to go, since the office AC may be 30 degrees cooler than the outside temps in the summer, and the early mornings and late evenings are cool.  I won’t miss the DC humidity, that’s for sure!  Thanks so much for the tips and help on staying seasonal when there’s not much of a change from season to season!

  6. I’m not that keen on Olivia Palermo’s outfit.  It has the look of “I put my winter accessories on over my summer dress” to me. 

  7. Yesterday I went to get lunch and left my coat in the office. Wished I wasn’t wearing tights it was so warm. Passed several people in puffer coats, hats, scarves and even gloves! I understand not wanting to get sick, but i would think they would get ill from sweating so much under all those layers!

  8. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with a husband who says “why not just wear shorts and t-shirts?”

    We live in Houston, so the cold days are a rarity here. It’s funny to me to see people all bundled in coats when the low is near 40 degrees. I’m having to rethink the whole way I dress in this climate; winter is definitely a challenge.

  9. I was just trying to explain this concept to my husband last month when I had to replace my too-big winter wardrobe and he didn’t understand why I couldn’t just wear my summer dresses since it was still 80 degrees here. I had to explain that the colors and styles just don’t work during this season, no matter what the thermometer said. I don’t know that he believed me, but I bought the new clothes anyway….

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