Find out how to Layer for Outside Consuming This Fall and Winter

Are you planning to go out for dinner soon? Plan to sit outside. New York City has just added indefinitely to its outdoor dining program, creating a model for other cities but also creating a mystery for diners and restaurants. How do you make yourself comfortable to sit outside when it's cold, dark and wet? I think I have the answer.

The problem

As of late September, restaurants in New York City reopened indoor seating, but only at 25 percent of normal capacity. There are similar measures elsewhere. Even with all of these seats permanently occupied, such limited capacity is unlikely to provide enough income to allow restaurants to cover their costs, let alone make enough money to justify staying in business. To increase the number of seats available and offer another option for guests who do not feel safe indoors, restaurants have added tables outside, and local authorities have changed regulations to expand outdoor dining options. New York recently closed 85 streets to vehicle traffic to make room for outdoor tables.

During the summer months it is easy to eat on a patio or sidewalk. However, as the days get shorter and temperatures drop, it becomes difficult to keep the experience comfortable. Restaurants have experimented with awnings, heaters, and even plastic domes that cover individual tables. However, the boom in demand for these products is overlapping with the supply chain problems caused by the pandemic, and many restaurants are unable to source the materials they need to cover and heat their new outdoor spaces.

Those looking to visit their favorite restaurants this fall and winter may face bad weather. How do I deal with it? Think about dressing for dinner as you dress for the great outdoors. With the right layers, you can feel comfortable in both seasons.

Aether uses incredibly smooth merino wool of Japanese origin to create this henley that looks just as good on its own as it does under a shirt. The ability to pull off or add layers as needed while dressing your way is key to responding to unpredictable dining conditions. (Photo: ether clothing)

It starts with base layers

Base layers draw sweat away from your skin and keep you warm by keeping you dry. You can also provide a small amount of insulation.

Factors to Consider: Sitting down to enjoy a meal is a static activity. So you want to focus on retaining body heat. Since dressing in style often excludes bulk, base layers, especially on the lower half of the body, can be your best chance of adding warmth.

Materials to choose from: you can find base layers made of silk, wool or synthetic. Silk provides an exceptional amount of warmth due to its thickness and is most easily layered under clothing such as tight jeans without adding bulk. Plastics are better able to handle moisture and dry much faster. Wool tends to strike a good balance between the two, while also providing a level of thermoregulation that the other materials cannot compete with. While silk or plastics can get unbearably warm indoors, wool can stay comfortable in a wider temperature range. The finer the wool fibers, the softer it will feel on your skin. This is what varieties like Merino are known for.

Best Options: REI sells silk pads that are affordable, generate a noticeable amount of warmth, and should fit under your existing clothing. These will get you through the fall weather, but when the temperatures start really dropping at the beginning of winter, you'll likely want something thicker. The Intraknit series from Smartwool is woven without seams and with integrated ventilation. This makes its parts more adept at responding to changing temperatures and activity levels. While you're active, the 200-weight Intraknits stay as cool as 125-weight base layers made with traditional technology. However, you stay much cozier when you are not moving. The warmest items in his range are pieces made from 250-weight merino wool. You will likely have trouble getting these under your normal, fashionable clothing, but you will find yourself wearing the warmest base layers possible.

Stylish alternatives: If you want to stay warm without looking like you're on a ski trip, put on some silk panties and add a merino henley before putting on your jeans. I made good use of Aether's Merino Henley this fall. It offers a ridiculously cozy feel against the skin and looks just as good on its own as it does under a collared shirt.

This looks like a regular crew neck sweater but is made from Polartec Power Air, a fleece material that sheds few fibers and moves easily when placed under other clothing. This looks like a regular crew neck sweater but is made from Polartec Power Air, a fleece material that sheds few fibers and moves easily when placed under other clothing. (Photo: Houdini)

Add midlayers for warmth

By trapping warm air next to your body, middle layers provide warmth.

Factors to Consider: It will be difficult to predict what conditions will be in restaurants in the coming months. Tent and awning walls may not be allowed at all or with limited coverage. Even if the place has propane heaters, it may not be enough to cover all the tables evenly. You can customize with midlayers that you can drop and add as needed.

Materials to choose from: let's talk about shirts, sweaters, and the like. If possible, avoid cotton. Although dinner is a stationary activity, moisture that gets into a cotton garment through sweat or precipitation becomes cold. Because of this, wool is the best choice here. Synthetic fleece materials come second.

The best options: Real wool flannels are ideal for button-down shirts. I've covered the reasons for this and presented several options in this article. Sweaters are the other obvious choice. Naadam sells ethical cashmere items starting at just $ 75. Placing a woolen sweater over a woolen button (or a sports top) can easily respond to changing temperatures.

Stylish Alternatives: Nonwovens tend not to be particularly stylish (although some of my colleagues disagree), but Houdini, a Swedish outdoor brand, sells a variety of options in good colors designed to flatter athletic bodies.

Aether's senna jacket is as technical as it is stylish.Aether's senna jacket is as technical as it is stylish. (Photo: ether clothing)

Puffies – without markup

Puffy jackets (and puffy pants) can trap a great deal of warm air and provide more warmth than heavier materials.

Factors to Consider: The merits of the materials used in puffies are often misunderstood, and people end up paying more for a logo than for function or style. Regardless of the materials used, the warmth of a puffy layer is based on its thickness. Puffies can be worn as a mid-layer or as an outer layer. Thin puffies may offer little to no additional warmth beyond that of a sweater. However, they can easily be layered under additional clothing. Very thick puffies, on the other hand, can withstand the coldest temperatures, but are difficult to layer under a shell. An outer material that is treated with a water-repellent coating or equipped with a waterproof or waterproof membrane can eliminate the need for an additional shell layer, but it usually affects breathability.

Materials to choose from: ducks are usually collected. Goose down is usually plucked. Because geese are larger, they also produce larger clusters of down, and larger clusters produce higher fill power numbers. Look for the cluster to feather ratio on an item's labels. In all cases, a higher down ratio is better. The filling power defines the packability of the insulation used, not its warmth. Expressed as a three-digit number, fill power is the volume (in cubic inches) that an ounce of down can add to fill. Piles of down lose their ability to loft and therefore provide warmth when wet. Over the past few years, some companies have used permanent water repellent (DWR) coatings to prevent this from happening. This is important not only for rain and snow, but also for when your sweat is getting down. DWR treated down may not work as well as synthetic insulation when wet, but synthetic insulation is only just getting closer to the compressibility of down. Down is also able to outlast synthetic alternatives, and garments made from it can be worn for decades.

The best options: Unless you are a dog sled driver, a large down parka made from low-fill down down is usually a poor choice for active wear due to its bulk and lack of breathability. However, sitting in a restaurant is a situation that actually deserves to be worn. Direct-to-consumer brand Triple F.A.T. Goose sells parkas just as warm as others on the market and just as beautiful as anything else out there – but usually at half the price.

Stylish Alternatives: There are many more nuances involved in making lightweight, packable, puffy items. A lightweight, packable puff layer will help you respond better to changing conditions.

Aether recently sent one of their new senna jackets to my wife Virginia to try. Made from ultralight, pre-amazed shell material and 800 fill, it looks sleek and feels off most technical layers – without sacrificing breathability or weather resistance. The Senna is cut like a bomber jacket and has a stretchable hem that keeps the jacket firmly on the wearer's body. Along with a pinpoint cut, it's the most flattering pouf I've ever seen. At $ 375, the price for such a beautiful piece of clothing is reasonable and available for men too.

In the meantime, I've loved the new Stretchdown Shacket from Mountain Hardwear. It is cut like a button-down shirt and has a stretchy outer fabric that allows complete freedom of movement. It also comes with 800 fill, which means it can easily be stuffed into a pocket during the day without taking up a lot of space. And unlike many puff jackets for men, it is suitable for flat stomachs, not Santa Claus bellies. At $ 200, this is exceptional value.

The new Featherlite blanket from Rumpl is small enough to fit easily in a handbag or backpack, but offers noticeable and versatile weather protection. The new Featherlite blanket from Rumpl is small enough to fit easily in a handbag or backpack, but offers noticeable and versatile weather protection. (Photo: Rumpl)

What about pants?

It's really difficult to find pants that will keep you warm and dry in bad weather without seriously compromising style. Most of us likely have longstanding loyalty to certain brands that we know will fit our bodies exactly, and most of these non-technical brands make our jeans or pants out of cotton or similar suboptimal materials. Semi-technical options like Patagonia Performance Jeans are excellent choices as they combine synthetic fibers with cotton for very little stretch and weather resistance. But these still get wet in the pouring rain and then stick to the water for a long time to keep you cold.

Instead of suggesting that you show up at dinner in hiking pants, one solution might be to bring a blanket. Rumpl's new Featherlite puffy packs are small enough to fit in a handbag or small backpack, weigh a pound, and keep your legs warmer than any Dayglow shell pants. The DWR treated synthetic shell fabric can also shed light rain and block the wind. This makes it the perfect insurance against unexpectedly cold conditions or a table without adequate weather protection.

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Main photo: Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty

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