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I’ve become quite the master of layering my clothing, even if I do say so myself. A little like being like a walking mille feuille (what a great word to say), or one of those Sara Lee strudels some European woman used to advertise on tele decades ago – you know, layer upon layer upon layer, in a lovely sing-songy sort of accent. Who remembers her?

I live in Canberra, so this clothes-layering technique is a necessary component of life, at least if you want to look half decent and not either sweat or freeze to death several times a day. It’s quite a delightful place, this city, but bloody cold in winter – at least outside. That means, when you head out to work or in the evening to a restaurant all rugged up in your coat and scarf, you also have to give careful consideration to what’s underneath. Because as soon as you arrive, you’ll probably have to lose the coat, and within ten minutes the scarf will come off, within twenty you’ll lose your jumper or cardi, and there you’ll be dressed for summer inside.

Which of course means you can’t just chuck on anything on those bottom layers willy-nilly. I quickly learnt that it is not possible to just iron the collar of your badly crushed silk shirt to hide under a jumper, because the days you try and be sneaky and do that, you will end up in some establishment where it’s suddenly like the Bahamas inside and you will have to either suffer in sweaty silence or suffer the indignity of being caught out for being slovenly and a failed fashion cheat. And that super comfy cotton cami with the tiny straps that leaves your bra straps gloriously on display, or the t-shirt that’s way too tight and accentuates that evil tummy? Don’t rely on those on as your bottom layer, as you will be caught out. As above. When you add varying internal temperatures to the unpredictable and wildly oscillating temperatures of a mad middle-age woman, you need to consider these bottom layers very carefully.

When I first arrived in the nation’s capital straight from Newcastle (think temperate coastal clime), that first Canberra winter really threw me. When winter arrived in Newcastle, that pretty much meant you put a jumper over your summer gear. I think the only closed in shoes I had were gym boots, those horrid ankle-hugging things with a white plastic disc on the outside of each ankle bone. Certainly no overcoat. I bought my first one of those in my first Canberra winter when I discovered what wind chill was. Now decades later, I can’t count the number of coats or jackets I own. Never leave the house without a jacket is almost one of my life mottos. (*see exception below)


Last night we went out to dinner in the middle of our winter, rugged up enough to face the ravages of the Himalayas, and landed in a very busy (lovely) restaurant. As I peeled off items as the temperature rose, then converted scarf to light shawl as the crowds dispersed and the temperature dropped, it struck me that I’ve really got this down pat now.

It’s all about the layers. Which is all about options. That’s it.

Well, actually, here’s a few more tips I can add:

  • Start with a basic bottom or top but don’t be afraid to mix up patterns like stripes or prints.
  • Stick to one colour tone or theme.
  • To avoid looking like the abominable snowman, stick to light weight fabrics underneath or firm-fitting items. Middle age plus snowman look isn’t good.
  • Have lots of scarves in plains or patterns to use as accessories or a bit of glam or colour. (I have a theory one can never have too many scarves. Mr T disagrees.)
  • Always keep basic black and cream tops in your wardrobe.

So finally, I have it mastered for life in Canberra, especially in winter.

Next thing to work on is how to adjust when travelling to Queensland for the weekend to visit M2 where it’s suddenly 29 degrees outside instead of 10. Such is life in a big country. Hint: remember to pack some sandals and *leave the coat behind.

What’s your best layering tips?