I grew up in New Brighton, a northern suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. As all Minnesotans will attest, the weather is an obsession. An intensely hot and humid summers day can suddenly all go to hell – tornado! Or at the end of October, the temperature can drop quickly and – blizzard! I’m familiar with doppler radar. I recognise the American Meteorological Society emblem. The tornado warning siren reminds me of my childhood.
When I left Minnesota to attend the University of Chicago, I was shocked to find that others, who were from all over the country and overseas, were not obsessed about the weather (and that the world was not populated by Scandinavians and Germans). When I went to Los Angeles for a summer internship after my third year, I was briefly mystified because people were completely disinterested in the weather. Why? Because it’s always sunny in Southern California. In New York, I was too busy working to notice. Thanks to global warming, the weather in London improved over time. Even so, I found an indoor tennis club and went rambling with others who were similarly attired in waterproof pants, jacket, boots. I enjoyed the effects of Gulf Stream as the temperature never dropped below freezing in London. When friends complained about the winter, especially the Australians, I’m sure that I was irritatingly cheerful because of my measure of comparison which was extreme.
Ironically, here in Sydney, I’ve returned to my youthful pattern of weather obsession. Why? Because I have children and because I bicycle every day. Under-dressing my kids is a problem as they get sick. And of course, because they love me, I will get sick too. Two days of mild fever and coughing for them results in a virulent week-long journey of misery for me.
Bicycling to work every day is an adventure because of the many obstacles: Lack of infrastructure, cars, pedestrians, other cyclists etc. It’s also a challenge because the weather can change quickly. Also, I hate being too hot or too cold while bicycling. Now that we are in autumn in Sydney, the iPhone Weather app fuels my obsession by breaking the days into hourly weather predictions. The million dollar question in the morning is: “Is it going to rain?” My husband Justin has started asking me this before he leaves. Of course, I always answer with authority and precision. There is a 100% chance of rain at 2pm. It’s supposed to drop to 70% at 10pm tonight. Really? Who knows? It makes dressing for the day a challenge.
In summer, I wear cotton-based, silk and linen clothing. These are all fabrics that breathe. I also ride an e-bike to avoid sweating too much which would require me to have a shower and carry a change of clothes. Some synthetics work well as I have found with many Leona Edmiston dresses. I don’t wear tights or stockings in summer. It’s too hot.
A few weeks ago, with the temperature dropping to 13-14C at night, I packed away the Spring/Summer collection and hung the Autumn/Winter collection in my wardrobe. The dresses that I have are wool, viscose, polyester, heavy silk. Some are lined and some not. Now that we are heading into winter, layers work well. Consequently, I have broken out the Spanx. Not only does it tuck everything in nicely, it keeps me warm. Spanx as a foundation garment combined with a short sleeve dress and a jacket, gloves, scarf, and tall boots is a super combination for winter. For a chillier day, a wool long sleeve dress works wonders. I hate tights but my legs get cold so I wear stay ups/thigh highs. I tried garters and stockings a few years ago and while it looks super sexy, the motion of pedaling is not conducive. Let’s just say that I lost a stocking once and there was an audible snap involved. Plus all that bending and stretching to lock up? Not comfortable!
My Lululemon raincoat is not warm but it provides excellent water and wind protection. I’ll wear a jacket underneath and scarf to stay warm. I also have light, medium and heavy weight coats. When the temperature drops to below 10C at night, I’ll wear the heavy weight coat which is lined with Thinsulate. Between 20-23C, I’ll wear the light coat. Below 20C, I’ll wear the medium weight coat. Frustratingly, by lunch, it can often be warm enough to leave the jacket behind. But riding home at night means that the warmth of the sun is gone. I’m thankful for the gloves, that I keep in my pockets, and the scarf, that I tuck into the jacket arm, when I cycle home at night. When it rains, I ride the eZee Sprint because it’s heavy and has great traction and brakes. When it’s clear in winter, I ride my Giant hybrid.
Because of my experience growing up in a place with very extreme weather, I think that I have a slightly different view to many Sydneysiders. Having the proper gear can make everything more comfortable, even riding in the rain. After all, we’re not made of sugar!