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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Licentiate Column 10/02/11 Transitional Dressing and how to work it

I sometimes wonder who thought up the phrase 'Spring has sprung', because I can categorically guarantee that he or she was not an Irish person. In February Spring doesn't so much leap and bound about like an Easter rabbit as it does limp like a semi-retired March hare with a double hip replacement and an inner ear problem.

We all know that there are four seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter - Ireland is but one temporal nexus in a massive clump of countries where all four seasons make an appearance in one day. You step out on the street in the morning and the walk to work is punctuated by dangerous, icy puddles. It's blisteringly hot as you eat a sandwich in the park on your lunch break.On the way home, your much-needed umbrella gets turned inside-out by gale force winds powered by the unholy sneezes of Zeus.

In the month of February, fashion magazines are stuffed to the gills with articles on transitional dressing, that is, the subtle art of bridging the gap between winter and summer wardrobes without looking like the little girl who broke into her grannies dressing up box and decided that the denim hotpants and the feather-lined parka made a stylish and practical ensemble for all weather eventualities (if you have your own granny-esque dress up box then you deserve a high five - if your granny happens to have a pair of denim hotpants in her dress-up box then give her a high five from me).

Transitional dressing is a bit of a misnomer for temperate places like Melbourne or Cork or Glasgow or Reykjavik, where the time span between seasons can be a matter of minutes. We are forced to dress transitionally all year round, peeling off and putting on more layers than Salome dressed up as an onion at Hallowe'en.

A pessimistic person could argue that the emphasis put on the perceived importance of transitional dressing is one of the unwelcome side effects of global warming; the increasingly uncertain weather means that we have to be prepared for any outcome. A cynical person could argue that transitional dressing is a concerted effort by clothing manufacturers and fashion magazines to sell more clothes and draw in enough full-page advertising to make Vogue look like the Argos catalogue. A realistic person knows that everyone will always be somewhere between hot and cold most of the time, unless you happen to live in Antarctica or on Mercury, so dress accordingly.

There's really only one rule when it comes to transitional dressing, and that is layering. Layer, layer again, then add another layer for luck. Is it rainy but warm? Layer on a light raincoat. Wearing a floaty floral summer dress but unsure of the temperature? Leggings and fine knits are your new best friends.

The cardigan is perpetually useful when the seasons are having mood swings. Simultaneously demure and sexy, in a clich├ęd 'seductive librarian' way, it can be worn buttoned up, open, around the shoulders, with rolled up sleeves or knotted around the waist.

Transitional dressing is as easy as putting on your clothes. If you can't master that (I'm looking at you, Jodie Marsh) then all hope is lost. For everyone else, this is one trend that will outlast the seasons.