New York Fashion Week Street Style Begs the Question, Are We Just Less Stylish In the Winter?

Photographing street style at New York Fashion Week Fall 2014, I had my eyes on the outfits around me, looking for trends. Although I spotted plenty of outfits that were stylish while still being appropriate for the weather, I couldn't help but notice that fashion and function were distinctly at odds more often than not. There was a striking difference between people bundled up for the winter freeze and others who were dressed completely wrong for the New York cold — those who ignored the thermometer tended to look more put-together. I found myself wondering, do fashion and cold temperatures really just not agree? Is it a universal truth you just can't dress as well in the winter?

Dan Trotter, Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Fashion and Design Group (FAD), which produces fashion-related television content, is one of the fashion insiders who attended New York Fashion Week Fall 2014, says that's not the case at all — winter is about showing off different style. Trotter believes the cold weather opens up more style opportunities to those in, or interested in, the industry.

“New York’s quite fortunate in a way that you have these extreme temperatures,” he said. “In summer, you’ve got this raging 40 degrees Celsius and winter today it’s at -11 Celsius, and so you see [that] season by season it really does benefit [style] when you get to wear great layers. You know people can be wearing a big overcoat and then they’ll take it off and all of this color comes out.”

The so-called “polar vortex” has brought record-breaking cold weather across the country this winter. During New York Fashion Week, temperatures mostly fell between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

“What I see here is a boldness of personal style,” said Trotter. “People either feel very comfortable in having a personal style or they feel that they need to have a personal style to stand out.”

Since he lives in Sydney, Trotter says he’s able to see a striking difference between New York and his hometown, where people dress more casually and there are no distinct seasons.

“I really like that the cold does help us,” he said. “I think it gives designers a real latitude to design clothes for all of the seasons and to create really great styles.”

While attendees like Trotter embraced winter fashion, those who were at New York Fashion Week to people watch from the outside, mostly said the cold hurts their personal style, pointing to a clear difference between fashion and function.

“I always want to look like presentable and cute, but recently it’s been so cold [that] it’s been really hard to try to look nice and still be warm,” said Emily Freebery, who came to Fashion Week to photograph people going into shows for her film class at Fordham University. “I just wear a lot of layers under my clothes and try to have nice clothes on the outside.”

Another student at Fashion Week to observe, Isabella Jacuzzi, 18, from Brisbane, Australia, agreed with Freebery. However, her metallic circle skirt, shiny blue shirt, black tights, holographic boots, small fur coat, and ear cuff did catch the eyes of street style photographers. When they came to take her photo, she stopped them so she could first remove her earmuffs.

“I think you have to compromise, but it definitely sucks sometimes,” said Jacuzzi. “Unless you can afford expensive trendy coats, which I can’t as I'm a student, it's really hard to stay warm without detracting from your outfit.”

Jacuzzi noted that many Fashion Week attendees attracting the most attention were wearing large, fur coats. I definitely agree that these are the fashionistas who've mastered dressing for both style and comfort.

Freebery, on the other hand, pointed to attendees who dressed inappropriately for the weather.

“I guess a lot of the people here hanging around taking pictures definitely dress for the weather, but a lot of the people going into shows are in tights and cute coats and big heels and I just don’t know how they do it,” said Freebery.

According to Trotter, winter doesn't detract from fashion — one just has to reframe how she think of what she's wearing, and broaden her definition of personal style.

“I guess sometimes it just has to be functional,” he said. “I saw that this morning, that a lot of people were just wearing boots built for the snow, but I don’t really see that that’s a negative. I guess the only negative of cold is that people who aren’t into fashion tend to look really bad when it’s cold. But they don’t care, because they’re not into fashion.”

Images: Rebecca Shinners