Showing posts with label clothing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clothing. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2012

Need an Extra Layer for Warmth?

If you are a person of size and a "cold" person ─ that is, strongly affected by cold weather and in need of lots of extra layers during the wintertime ─ then you know how hard it can be to find those extra layers in our sizes.  So let's talk about that for a minute.

As frequent readers know, I have hypothyroidism.  It's well-treated with meds, my TSH is in my ideal range, and I'm much less symptomatic than I used to be, but that doesn't mean I am totally symptom-free.

One of the most striking symptoms that remains is how poorly I regulate my temperature.  Within a certain range of temps, I'm fine, but even slightly outside that narrow range and I'm really uncomfortable.  In particular, I am strongly affected by cold.  It really makes me absolutely miserable, I kid you not.

So I'm always looking for extra layers to help keep me warmer in the winter...but I am a bit claustrophobic and hate feeling suffocated by really thick or poufy layers.  And I don't tolerate itchy fabrics like wool very well either.  In addition, even when there's good-quality stuff available, it's usually not available in my size.  Most plus-sized stuff in the athletic brands goes up to 2x or maybe 3x, but I typically prefer a 4x because I like things quite roomy and comfortable.  So it's not easy to find something that suits my needs very well.

Junonia makes exercise and outdoorwear in extended sizes (4x, 5x, sometimes 6x). I've bought from them for years but their quality is spotty.  Sometimes I get something really great from them (so they are definitely worth checking out), but sometimes I've gotten some very mediocre stuff too.  Generally speaking, they don't seem to have the kind of quality and choice of really good outdoor stuff that I could get at REI if I were of average size, like the really high-tech insulation-against-cold fabrics or the ultra-light packable gear, etc.  And I really want the good stuff.

I am not overly outdoorsy because of my cold-weather intolerance but I do have times when I do outdoorsy stuff.  I like to take walks in my area, and we have been known to camp or hike. I also volunteer at my kids' school, which regularly has "farm days" (for environmental education), no matter what the weather is...raining, windy, snowing, sleeting, you name it. That can be pretty brutal.  So I definitely need some layers and good outerwear for these activities.

Even around the house at night, it gets a lot colder than I am comfortable with, but I'm not willing to crank up the heat for the whole house that far when I'm the only one really affected. So, given how cold I tend to be, I need some good-quality layers for lounging around or working at home. I'm looking for lightweight but very warm layers ─ in my size ─ that I can add and subtract as needed.

Last year, I discovered that Columbia Sportswear carries good-quality sports and cold-weather clothing/gear in plus sizes.  They have women's sizes up to 3x, but their men's sizes go up to 4x and sometimes 5x.  This gives more choices to those of us who need/prefer extended sizes. (The men's sizes also have an option for "tall" sizes if you need that. I, alas, am very far from needing that.)

It frustrates me to have to shop in the men's department in order to get really good-quality sports and outdoor clothing in my size, but hey, at least we have some choices, even if it's in menswear.  So last year I invested in a whole bunch of winter gear from Junonia and Columbia, and have been testing it this year to see what's best.

I've fallen in love with the following item and wanted to let you know about it before it's all gone:

http://www.columbia.com/Men%E2%80%99s-Mountain-Tech%E2%84%A2-1/2-Zip-%E2%80%94-Big/AX6565,default,pd.html#

It's a lightweight polyester half-zip sports shirt for wicking away moisture while running or biking.  However, I've found that it does an amazing job of keeping me warmer, much better than a wool sweater or a cardigan.  I just wear normal clothes underneath, and put this on top whenever I start feeling chilly.

That's usually enough for hanging around the house, doing chores, driving in the car or for short jaunts outside if the weather's not too bad.  For longer outside jaunts in nasty weather, I wear them for layering under my winter coat (the soft shell coat or the Bugaboo parka from Columbia) as needed.

Sometimes if I'm really cold I will put on two of these zip-up sports shirts.  They are so lightweight that I don't feel like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and they really do add a nice layer of extra warmth.  I haven't found this combination of warmth and thinness of fabric with any other product, so I wanted to be sure to let you know about these before they are all gone.

These little zip-up sport shirts have made a MAJOR difference for me in staying warmer in and out of the house.  I still have cold moments, but these have really helped. They come in several different colors and pack really well, so they'd be ideal for trips too.

I'm buying some more to have on-hand.  I was hoping they'd be on sale after the holidays, but no such luck. So they're not cheap....about $40.....but well worth it in my book!

If you need some more stay-warm options, you might want to check them out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Score!! Winter Stuff in Extended Sizes

I've written before about the difficulties I've encountered finding good rain gear and winter coats in extended plus sizes.  It's a problem that frustrates me no end.  I'm a chronically cold person (even when my hypothyroidism is well-controlled), and I get cold far more easily than anyone around me.  I need good warm clothing, sweaters, raincoats, and winter coats. 

We discussed before that my best sources so far were Junonia (women's sizes to 4x, sometimes 5-6x), and sometimes Land's End (women's sizes to 3x, men's sizes to some 4-5x) and L.L. Bean (some women's sizes to 3x, men's sizes mostly to 2x but a few 3x).  I can sometimes get outstanding stuff in these companies, but not always. 

The quality at Junonia really varies; some stuff is great, and some stuff isn't, either in fit or in quality. I got a ski jacket from them that was a huge disappointment, and a fleece jacket that was only so-so. And while they have some of the QuickWik-type materials and some ski wear, the stuff I've gotten from them in these have not been of the quality my kids get at REI or other major sports labels.  There's really a noticeable difference in terms of high-tech gear that helps wick away moisture or helps hold in the heat etc.  And as I see my kids with the really good stuff, I think ─ why can't I have that stuff too?

Land's End and L.L. Bean usually have some good stuff, and I got a couple of really great moderate-cold coats from them last year.  I also got a great wool sweater (not scratchy at all) from L.L. Bean that I use for keeping warm inside.  But the problem is that LL Bean stuff typically only goes up to a 2x in men's. Both LL Bean and Land's End only go to 3x in women's (not quite big enough in the boobs for me).  So, not always the best match for me.

Well, now I have a new source: Columbia Sportswear.  I knew about this company before, but last time I checked they didn't have women's coats anywhere close to my size.  My husband bought me a men's extended size coat from them 12 years ago, but it wasn't that great.  So I never really considered shopping for myself there.

But recently, a friend of mine gave me a "friends and family" pass (major discounts!) to Columbia's online store. My oldest son needed a bigger ski jacket, so I was hoping to use the pass to get a really good ski jacket for him at a halfway decent price.

When I went online to shop, though, I discovered that Columbia now carries extended sizes.  Score!!!

As is so typical these days, they only carry women's sizes to a 3x, which is almost but not quite enough for me....BUT they had men's sizes to 4x and 5x at times.  Whoohooo!

While it ticks me off majorly that more accommodation is made for men of size than for women of size (i.e., men are "allowed" to be fatter than women, and "allowed" to have more functional and quality clothing in extended sizes), I had to take a deep breath and move on.  At least they had some stuff in 4x, and I hoped the men's 4x might fit me. (Men's plus sizes are shaped differently ─ bigger in the belly and smaller in the chest and hips than I am ─ so it wasn't a sure thing). 

Because I had this one-time pass for a major discount, I took a risk and ordered a whole BUNCH of things from Columbia.com in 4x, crossing my fingers that they would work.  

Well, I got my package this week and IT WORKED!!!  I am so stoked.  I got a moisture-wicking shirt for workouts, a couple of full-zip or half-zip light jackets/fleeces, a high-tech wicking half-zip for layering warmth, a rain jacket (with special lining for more warmth), a soft-shell jacket (fleece on the inside, waterproof on the outside), and a full-on ski parka. 

I tried them all on and they all worked.  And the quality was way better than the stuff I ordered via Junonia, Land's End, or L.L. Bean.  Whoohooo!

I almost bought a pair of hiking pants too, but I decided not to risk buying pants at this point.  Men and women's shapes are too different and I've not had good luck buying men's pants in the past, so I didn't want to waste money on something I couldn't try on in person. 

But to get such ultra-warm, high-quality coats in my size?  Freakin' awesome when you consider I've been looking for years for quality stuff like this. 

Oh, and my son?  Got an AMAZING ski jacket ($260 retail!) for $90, plus some fitness shirts, hiking shirts, rain pants, and ski pants.  All very high-quality materials and workmanship, and they will keep him well-equipped for skiing, snow caving, wilderness survival, fencing, and Boy Scout hikes. 

I'm way poor now but it was worth it!  All in all, an excellent find!  http://www.columbia.com/.  They don't go to 4-5x in everything, alas, and they are quite pricey without the discount pass ─ but they had quite a few choices in coats, at far better quality than most other sources. Worth the price if you are needing a really good winter coat.