Updated: Aug 24, 2021
When I moved to London, I actually owned approximately 3 pairs of closed-toed shoes: my tennis shoes, a pair of trusty low-top vans and a pair of hiking shoes. Before I left southern California, I had had so much to think about - a wedding, a visa, tying up loose ends at home, and my students at Strive - that I couldn’t even begin to research the weather thoroughly to make sure I had enough cold weather gear. I had thought a few times “I know it gets cold there...”, and even tried a Google search or two, but never got beyond advertisements for clothes I didn’t even like. At the time, I couldn't find many videos on the topic, either! As I packed, I looked at my beach-ready wardrobe, and couldn’t bear to part with some of my favorite comfort-bringing items. I only had a 2-box (checked luggage) maximum for the flight to London, and thought “well it’s not as cold as the east coast, or as cold as Northern Europe, it will be fine!” So I brought 1.5 boxes of beach-ready clothes, and .5 boxes of clothes that would be - at best - warm enough for fall.
Was this a bad strategy? Not exactly, but it came with some unintended consequences. The weather was pretty similar to back home when I moved to London in August, which provided a false confidence. By October, when I would normally be gearing up for another SoCal heat wave, I felt the days get shorter and colder. I still didn't get the hint. I spent that first winter layering all my sweaters, and clinging to a jacket and a pair of boots that were really more suitable for a cozy fall day than a snowy January morning. Meanwhile, everyone who had grown up in the English climate was looking at me like I was crazy for not knowing how to dress for the weather.
For a whole winter, it was me vs. the weather. The weather was winning. Christmas the following year, my brother finally broke my stubborn showdown, and bought me the best coat I've ever owned. I'm here to tell you - Do not suffer in silence like I did! Here are some things I wish I’d known:
Be prepared to be dressed wrong: I was notoriously underdressed for fancy occasions and was notoriously COLD! But forgiveness is key as you’re getting used to a new climate.
Sweaters are great! Layering is important for going from outside, where it’s cold, to inside with normal heated temperatures.
Warm loungewear will likely be your go-to items while studying.
If you’re on the east coast or abroad, you may want to consider having two sides of your wardrobe. For key items like boots and coats, I’d recommend owning both a“Business Casual” and a “Casual” option: one for job interviews and nights out, and one for romping to class for those 8 AMs. If you don't see a need for Business Casual right now, just keep it in mind for the future.
Get a good quality cold weather coat! Styles vary, but I really love mine because it goes to my mid-thigh and keeps me really warm.
Packing for four seasons with a baggage limit may mean you have less of a choice than you are used to when you get to college. That is fine! Everyone else will be in the same boat, too. The good thing about having four seasons is that you won't have to wear any one item for too long. A good "Capsule wardrobe" (google that one) will become your personal brand and style
Your “personal brand” may change, which can be daunting. Do your best to enjoy the process of reinventing your look :)
For those studying or interning abroad: let’s talk about smart casual, and struggling with new brands.
What does smart casual mean? This is the British vernacular for business casual (think trendy OR classic). It is sometimes used in English translations in other European countries that have adopted British English rather than American English. Smart casual can include nice sweaters, collared shirts, slacks, loafers, and heels or heeled-boots.
Do I have to buy expensive things? No. Something clean and neutral will work just fine for the workplace and after-work socializing.
Where do I find smart casual items for my internship if I didn't bring my own? ASOS, Topshop, H&M, and other stores have produced good results. Google "Smart casual workwear [your city]" for more.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list, but it is definitely some basics to keep in mind. And, in my experience, the basics are the most important. I am not a fashion blogger, unfortunately, but take a look at the video below for some advice from an actual Youtuber. Now, go out there and get cozy! :)