Where Life Meets Style: Winter wonders

Aaron Leth

Unsurprisingly, it seems returning from Thanksgiving beckons the coldest air to waif across the area. This year was no different, and as I went to class Monday morning in my new H&M parka with a fur-lined collar, I wished I’d bought that sexy matching checkerboard scarf. Speaking of and in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d spill some of my favorite wintertime trends, and let’s just say one word could probably sum it all up: volume.

Take, for example, the recent fur movement, already highlighted by my recent splurge. I say screw PETA; don the scruffiest accessory or coat possible. It seems fuzzy purses, most of which look like they’ve just been snatched from some sort of cage, are a mainstay this season. My favorite is the Prada bags where Miuccia (creative force at the house) basically sewed up the barnyard: think mohair, ostrich and pony. For something a tad more economical, try the holiday collection from Kate Spade or local Patina boutiques.

Along the same line of furry goodness, I’ve noticed the whole “sweater-as-a-dress” fad is back. I vaguely remember it surfacing a few years ago (via Jessica Simpson and that blasted “Newlyweds” show), but it’s definitely back this winter, although I’d say a tad more tasteful this time around. If you don’t want the full sweater, try an oversized cardigan or a voluminous sleeveless hoodie to complement tights or skinny jeans. The effect of the proportion is truly magical enough to warm any cold day.

Last month I went to the Albertville outlets (which I highly recommend, although I’m sure you Coach whores probably already went!). I stumbled upon the Polo Ralph Lauren and immediately entered. Ralph Lauren’s pieces are all so timeless it doesn’t matter where or when you buy them. So I scoured the racks seeking that perfect statement coat. I found a toggle coat – a coat with those animal-teeth-resembling buttons that loop to the other side? It was stellar, even though with the hood, I looked a little like the villain in “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” As I surveyed the whole package in the mirror I noticed coat style was all over the store. Some might say since the coat was in an outlet that it’s not a popular style. No, no, friend. Oftentimes outlets sell merchandise with minor flaws or products that have simply not sold well in other areas of the country during the lightning-speed retail cycle. So ladies and gentleladies NEVER discount that discount.

And here’s one for the boys: vests. Although oft worn in concert with a full-blown suit, this simple garment can take a regular shirt – T or dress – and make a polished statement. I suggest a tartan or madras pattern à la J. Crew. With such a wild color palette comprising the outer piece, aim for a solid undershirt. Mixing patterns is OK only when they are made of the same hue and one is a solid, e.g. black vest on black and white pinstriped button down, my personal favorite. For a warmer approach, I love the sweater vests at Gap this season. Most are neutral colors or striped, allowing for lots of creativity with what to wear underneath.

What would be the holidays without party-going, no? I love puttin’ on the Ritz for cocktails and conversation, and much like fall, loud colors are in for both sexes. Banana Republic’s entire holiday ad campaign celebrates this idea, and let’s just say walking into Gap’s sea of primary-colored striped gear rivals the dang Holidazzle Parade on Nicollet Mall. But think about it: Would you rather show up monochromatic (dull) or multicolored (festive)? The choice is yours, and I suppose it depends on the event. Something tells me, though, it’d be better to make a splash than slip in unknowingly. Just lay off the eggnog – it will seriously mess you up, so shine in other ways. Yay for holidays!

-Aaron Leth welcomes comments at [email protected]