My pal Brenda lives in Chicago and is in the middle of a big weight loss journey via a medically prescribed eating plan to address some health issues. She is doing great and feeling amazing. Yay for her, right?
Well, yes, yay and all, but she recently sent me an email with this mildly terrifying all caps subject line: "WINTER IS COMING AND THIS FATTY HAS TO WEAR SKIRTS!"
Brenda then proceeded to tell me about her personal "pants-apocalypse." All of her pants are suddenly many sizes too big and buying new ones at her 'in-between' size is not financially feasible, so she's stuck wearing dresses. In Chicago. In the winter. I couldn't quite wrap my head around just how cold it already is in Chicago (31 degrees as I type this!) until I was watching the Bears game on Sunday and happened to pause the TV at a very opportune moment.
Those poor folks are in actual, physical pain. I could feel a shiver run down my spine.
And then, just like that, Brenda and those fools that to go to football games in the middle of a tornado cursed me, BECAUSE IT'S SUDDENLY, OFFICIALLY FREEZING IN LOS ANGELES. I kid you not -- it was 50 degrees last night when just last Friday, it was a balmy 80+ out.
Of course the minute the temp dips below 70 degrees in California all us lily-livered sissy babies rush to break out the beanies. I take it one step further and go straight to the hard stuff: fleece-lined tights.
That was Brenda's "pants apocalypse" solution, by the way -- she armed herself with the thickest, coziest, warmest fleece-lined tights and leggings money can buy. When I asked her how she was faring in the windy city, she said: "So far, so good! I only had second thoughts one day when it was 9 degrees at the bus stop."
I'm not surprised if you are shaking your head in disbelief that she can make it through a Chicago winter wearing only dresses. Every time someone asks how I can manage to keep wearing dresses all winter long, I tell them "fleece-lined tights!" It's a serious crime how many people don't know about this amazing invention.
If you haven't jumped on the fleece tights and leggings train, ALL ABOARD! This may just be the most valuable thing you will learn about in your adult life. They add very little extra bulk and pack a whallop of warmth.
Target is always my first stop for inexpensive, decent quality tights. This year they have finally expanded their fleece-lined range beyond just my beloved black to include such gems as the color at the far left below, which Le Target has chosen to call "Old Wine".
Isn't all wine old by default? I'd really like to apply for the job of "color-namer of things" at Target, as they keep royally missing the mark. At $10.00 per toasty warm pair, it's hard to be mad about a dumb color name.
This is a good time to stop and point out the beauty of hot pink/wine colored tights as a winter wardrobe perk-up. I have been slavish in my dedication to all black everything (tights, cars, coffee) for years but recently I've been rocking hot pink tights in place of black and I'm loving it.
Target also carries $10.00 fleece lined leggings, which I wore with very warm success underneath a dress and with knee high boots to an outdoor parking lot party last Saturday.
(A little nip of my family's homemade Texas-style bathtub whiskey also helped take the chill out of the air, to be perfectly honest.)
This is totally my new winter trick -- cribbed from my Chi-town pal -- fleece leggings, cozy socks, knee high boots and bike shorts over my leggings (never to be seen under my dress.) It's freakishly warm and has the added bonus of making you feel like a total superhero.
The creme de la creme of fleece lined tights, leggings and socks are made by Plush. Ranging anywhere from $22.00 - $37.00 a pair, they are not cheap -- but they are ridiculously soft, warm and last forever. (They even come in maternity versions, but sadly no plus sizes yet.)
They've only come in black for the longest time -- but just this year I've noticed they carry them in a handful of subdued colors:
The nerdy Vermont Country Store (whose catalog I STILL get, 3 years after my grandmother's death) is another good toasty footwear resource -- I personally own a pair of their fleece lined leggings, and they are hella warm -- maybe a bit too warm for sunny southern California winters.
The lovely Brenda (our pants apocalypse-haver) was kind enough to share her top fleecy finds for plus-sized pretties with me, so I'm passing them along to you.
Cuddl Duds are notoriously well-made and toasty warm, but as Brenda (waist 44, hips 55, thigh 32, inseam 33, pear shaped) sadly reports, "This pair did not go over my ass. Boo! Says fits up to a size 24 but really, it's more like a 22."
Luckily, she had better luck with this pair of specifically plus-sized Cuddl Duds leggings, which come up to a 3X -- and even though they are not technically fleece, they are crazy warm. (There is also a matching plus-sized crewneck top available!)
Brenda says: "Very soft. Not opaque. Shiny. Clam digger length... right to where a crew sock would stop."
Her next fleecy recommendation had us both laughing until snot poured down our faces:
"Ultra Trendy and Functional Outfit!" indeed.
This pair of tights looks like a warming cozy for two droopy cow udders. But Brenda has decent things to say about them: "Not soft. Not harsh either. Tight in thigh, looser in waist. First time putting them on took a while. Second wearing much easier. A little short in the crotch. Hand wash cold ONLY. Not opaque, but close - 120 denier. Feels like control top hose."
She raises a good point here -- you really should be handwashing ALL of your tights in cold water to ensure they live long, happy lives. If you MUST put them in the washer, invest in a $6.00 mesh lingerie wash bag to keep them from snagging, tangling and losing elasticity prematurely!
Her verdict: "Super soft. Non binding. Could be worn as pants, if that's your thing. Reach to right above ankle bone." She bought the L/XL in this pair, but it would appear the M/L is the largest available size right now.
If you really want to amp up the warmth while you wear skirts all winter long, layer a kicky pair of leg warmers over any pair of tights here for the ultimate in toasty Flashdance style. I love the ones at Sock Dreams.
Now get out there and cozily wear your dresses in the snow and driving rain -- pants be damned!
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.