Conquering the Cold



My winter style relies on layers not only to keep me warm, but to add a little something unexpected to my look. 

Here are some of the essentials you’ll see me in all season.

Down Undercoat

I know everyone in the city swears by their Canada Goose parkas, or some variation of those hardcore winter downs. But I spend so much time popping in and out of stores that I’d easily burn up in that kind of coat. I much prefer my thinner, yet still totally reliable Patagonia Fiona. 

On super cold days, I layer it underneath my faux fur which not only ups the warmth factor, but extends the life of my not­so­appropriate winter jackets.

Leg Warmers

Since I’m a total Flashdance wanna­be at heart, I always have my leg warmers on in the cold. I like to go with a bold color or statement print to pop a simple look. Something like this pair here: 

Thigh High Socks

I hate the way tights feel under pants so instead I turn to thigh high socks— my secret weapon when the weather goes below freezing! The pair I scored was from way back when in the East Village, but I’m happy to report this style can now be found allover the city as well as online. 

Chunky Scarf

For a face­mask effect, but in a cute, colorful pattern. This one looks cozy. 

Tall Boots

For those days when you don’t have to go Full­on Sorrel, but still need some protection against the slush pools between the sidewalk and the street, these will do the job. 

View Elysha’s work here­ & Instagram.

Check out our interview with Elysha.

SARAH BENGE, Portland Stylist

This week, while in the grocery checkout line, the woman ringing me up said, “Wow, I really like how you shop”, indicating my basket of coffee, chocolate, wine, cheese and bread. I laughed, "Yes, all of life’s essentials...well almost".  As I left the store, I thought, if I were to shop winter, what would be in my basket?

I’ve been a fashion stylist for 12 years now. After 10 years in NYC, I fell in love with a man who convinced me to move north, way north, to Portland, Maine.  Marital bliss aside, there was definitely an adjustment period to the full four season lifestyle--especially winter! Maine winters are beautiful, but seriously cold and I needed to quickly figure out what I would need to handle my new circumstances.

Most importantly, I needed to get a real winter coat. It’s so important to not dread leaving the house when the temperature drops into the teens or below. Invest in a coat that will keep you warm and endure many seasons. I bought myself a Canada Goose parka last year and have no regrets. Don’t be the person on set who looks uncomfortable or unprepared in those extreme circumstances. I learned this lesson the hard way as an assistant in NYC on a sub-zero day; Annie Leibowitz was shooting a campaign job and she looked in my direction mid shooting and a few hushed comments later the producer told my boss Annie had asked, “who is that woman? She looks cold.”  I was asked to leave set to “warm up”.  Yikes. Lesson learned.

While you are at it, invest in good waterproof winter boots. Stay dry on your way to work by wearing your boots but bring loafers or booties for on set if you are shooting inside. It’s annoying to carry an extra pair of shoes with you everywhere, but it’s more annoying to start your day with cold wet feet.    

For an urban look, I love my Sorel Joan of Arc boot.

If I’m feeling a more heritage look, I go with the classics and wear my vintage LL. Bean duck boots which get better looking with each winter’s wear.

It’s  true that some of your best work will come out of the most trying circumstances. For example, after weeks of back-and-forth with Burberry's PR department, you've finally confirmed the most epic sheer gown and military boots, and it's 13 degrees and snowing on your shoot day. When you have to get that shot, my best advice is for you is to be prepared. On a winter location, remember, you are only as happy as your coldest model.

During the cold months, my kit expands exponentially to include extra parkas and blankets for cold talent, as well as base layers for under the wardrobe. I also bring disposable hand warmers, warm socks, and a hair dryer to provide a blast of heat while off-camera. It's also a good idea to keep a peace offering of fancy tea and chocolate handy- when it’s February and you are shooting a Spring/Summer collection, a hot cup of nice tea and some sugary energy can go a long way with a freezing model.

Another key winter item is texting gloves...if I am on an editorial shoot with lots of sample logistics, I need to be constantly emailing with PR houses. Avoid frostbite by getting a pair of these techie gloves!

A dose of good old vitamin D is the best way to keep going in the winter months. I am lucky enough to do a lot of swimsuit styling, so location shoots make that happen. Apart from the job, plan for at least one winter getaway during the coldest months to get a little sunshine...even if only for a weekend. Don’t underestimate the rejuvenating powers of the sun!

After a day on-set in the cold, it’s nice to warm up from the inside out! My favorite thing post-set [but pre-red wine] in the winter is to head to hot yoga.  Nothing feels better during a cold winter day.  And if you are lucky enough to be in a city with one, get thee to the banya. This is my absolute favorite way to warm my bones. My favorites are listed below...

Sarah Benge is a stylist based in Portland, Maine

She is represented by Anchor Artists.

Her work can also be seen HERE, on Twitter & on Instagram.