January 26, 2010

Staying Hot in Ithaca Cold

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A decade after Y2K, the curse of the New Year’s Resolution has failed to become achievable even as I have become older and discovered that vague goals such as “spread karmic goodness” and “reinvent self” have reached the point of utter ambiguity. While the extent of my karmic reinvention usually stops at the purchase of a new wardrobe and an annual teeth cleaning, my last days of winter break usually consist of cleaning out my closet and scouring the malls of my cozy California neighborhood for the latest winter accessories. Though I have sugarplum visions of thick, cocoon worthy scarves and opulent mink coats that would make me look like an attractive baby bear, I find thin cashmere gloves, a pair of earmuffs that look like two anorexic hamsters attached to a headband and a fur vest that according to my mother, makes me look like a “cute rat” (if one can even exist).

While back west people are already beginning to store their joke of a winter wardrobe (imagine lined moccasins and a North Face fleece) to debut happier, lighter ensembles, we east coasters are only beginning to brace ourselves for the exact opposite. How can one appear not as a blubbery overweight seal, but a spritely Eskimo princess when wearing fur and other serious winter trends? Imagine layering to the extent of a delicious mille-feuille in the dead of February — cashmere over cashmere sealed by expertly packed down coats. But even with the body buried in the security of warmth and protection, the predicament of winter embellishments is a daunting one, especially when a ski mask seems at times the only appropriate accessory to braving the Ithacan cold.

The first winter I spent in Ithaca, I came with no protection other than a corduroy pea coat and a pair of suede boots that I purchased in California. (That said, I also got pneumonia that year and was sent home to recuperate for two weeks). But with each year of experience, I also gained a sleeker, warmer more stylish coat, and learned that puffier is not always warmer. A brisk walk down Ho Plaza proves to be an illuminating exposure of how Cornellians confront the abnormally long winter season. One glance affords a view of many students who opt for the more traditional route of red Cornell sweatshirts peeking from under snowboard jackets — typically complete with designs using primary colors and engraved rubber labels that scream some kind of athletic legitimacy. Another glance introduces one to the world of common (but personally detested) female fashions: overly puffy, long coats (usually of the North Face brand) finished off by a pom-pom embellished cable knit scarf and shearling-trimmed Ugg boots. Then there are the students who are in denial of the cold weather, attempting to wear thin jackets and flip-flops in the dead of winter, but failing to look effortlessly chic because of the amount of sweaters layered underneath.

Though dealing with winter misery is a personal endeavor, I’ve moved beyond the coat and have often pondered how the triumvirate of winter accessories (Hat, Scarf, Gloves) can make or break an Ithaca-proof outfit. So my 2010 karmic reinvention will strive for accessories that claim luxurious undertones (think of Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago: fur hats, leather gloves and boots of epic proportions. This spring counts as my last semester in the grand zip code of 14850, and I continue to find myself in the same stage of naïve denial that weather can waver above 30 degrees with the hopes that a brief global warming movement will affect Ithaca. But until Antarctica melts (which is sadly, an impending tragedy), fashion’s predicted Spring/Summer 2010 trends of seductive sheer chiffon paired with exposed undergarments, carefree trench coats and animal print dresses that scream tribal beats will have to stay in one’s storage closet until the last two weeks of school. That is, if you can bear to part with the comforting cocoon of your winter coat.

Original Author: Courtney Jiyun Song