How To Dress For California Winters Without Sweating Through Your Jacket — PHOTOS

Last week, I was walking to a BART station in San Francisco. It was early in the morning in November, and it was very cold — cold enough to wear gloves and a scarf and shiver anyway. But despite the temperature, I broke a sweat pretty quickly. If you've ever lived through and had to dress for a California winter, you know that it can be rather confusing. Sure, you don't have to layer on a ton of sweaters and jackets like your fellow East Coasters, but you have to worry about feeling super cold one minute and warm the next.

I have to admit that San Francisco winters are far from the worst. They’re extremely mild, in fact. It doesn’t snow here. It doesn’t really rain either. And the temperature mostly stays between 45 and 65 degrees. To be perfectly honest, this isn’t too different from San Francisco summers.

But winter here comes with its own set of weather challenges. And weird weather always goes hand in hand with fashion issues and opportunities. When you stand in the sunlight, it’s so hot you’re sweating before you can walk down the block to get back in the shade. So maybe you’ll pull off your sweaters and try to air yourself out. But when you’re in the shade again, and the wind starts to blow, it’s freezing. All that sweat from before makes it even worse. This can be pretty irritating. You may not expect to break a sweat on a winter day, but you will if you only dress for the cold.

Personally, I don’t mind sweating in the summer. But there’s something very uncomfortable about sweating, and then putting all your layers back on. While there’s no foolproof way to avoid sweating in a place like San Francisco (or other parts of California) during the winter, there are some tips to keep it minimal. Here are five things to remember:

Thin Sweaters Are Your Best Friends

Women’s Open Layering Cardigan – Merona, $23, Target

The minute you break a sweat, you’re pretty much past the point of no return. Even if you dry out, your clothes will be sweaty for hours now. But if you stick to a thin sweater, you can stay pretty comfortable in both the sunlight and the shade. You might be a bit cold if the wind starts to blow. But if it isn’t freezing out, this still beats taking off and putting on layers every other block.

Carry A Bag Big Enough To Hold All Your Layers

‘Large Le Pliage’ Tote, $145, Nordstrom

No matter how cold it is, if you’re walking around, you’ll always end up warmer than expected. Maybe it’s all the hills that we climb up, or the absurd amount of time we spend getting in and out of a car or bus. One way or another, we tend the shed our layers as the day goes on. And carrying all those layers is no fun. If you have a backpack, or a purse big enough for your sweaters, you can free up your hands.

Assume You'll Be Out After Dark

London Fog Double-Breasted Peacoat with Plaid Scarf, $90, Macy’s

The difference between day and night in San Francisco (and even Los Angeles) is like the difference between sunlight and shade, but more extreme. It could be 59 degrees when the sun’s out, and still be 59 degrees after the sun sets, but it will feel like a different world. Since the sun sets so early now, it’s always a good idea to assume you’ll be out after dark — even if you don’t think you will. No one wants to be caught out in the cold unexpectedly, so it’s always a good idea to keep a warm jacket in your bag.

Put On Gloves & A Scarf Before Adding Extra Layers

Scarf and Tech Gloves Set, $10, Forever 21

Layers are undoubtedly an essential part of dressing for San Francisco weather. But, taking them on and off all the time is a lot of work. Especially if you're wearing a backpack, which is pretty common over here. The solution is warm winter accessories. A scarf and gloves will keep you warm, maybe even warmer than an additional layer would have. And they're much easier to take off if you start to overheat.

Look For Fabrics That Block Out The Wind

Patagonia Women's Adez Hybrid Jacket, $91, MooseJaw

San Francisco can get pretty cold. But when it does, the wind is usually the worst part. Most of the time, you won't need the heaviest of winter coats here. You just need something to block the wind out. A cotton sweatshirt won't do the trick, for example, because cotton is a very breathable fabric, and you'll feel the wind right through it. Instead, look for something wind-resistant. Patagonia's soft-shell hybrid jacket is a practical option. It's sleek, and the polyester shell will protect you from the wind.

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