Seasonal disorder: When weather becomes unpredictable, so do fashion trends

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April in Chicago: it could be winter, it could be summer. It could be one of the magical five days of spring the Midwest gets each year. It’s probably 50 degrees and raining.

But on any given afternoon in the confusing months between a Polar Vortex and heat index warnings, the fashion is as confused as the weather itself.

One man’s parka weather could be, and is, another man’s shorts weather. While some wear sandals, others wear boots. Who’s right?

“I start to switch from winter to spring and summer clothes probably when the temperature hits around 50 degrees,” Carly Gillum, sales associate at The Green Goddess boutique in Lincoln Park, said. “I’m from the St. Louis area originally, so fifty (degrees) signals spring for us.”

Gillum said that heavy sweaters and North Face jackets are the first to go at this time and get traded out for cardigans. Tights are done as well.

“All things corduroy should be put away at this time, as well as Uggs,” Gillum said. “Fifty (degrees) or above means Uggs should only be worn as house slippers and not seen by the outside world.”

But working in retail makes things a little more complicated. At The Green Goddess, Gillum said spring clothes start to appear on the floor as early as February, and encourage her to start the switch a little earlier than normal.

“The store influences what I wear,” Gillum said. “When the new clothes come out, we tend to wear the same color palate or clothes for the same season.”

Alex Zens, manager at Art Effect in Lincoln Park, said her store moves even quicker, making the spring transition in January.

“It’s interesting working in retail because we do get shipments of spring clothing in when it’s still freezing outside,” Zens said. “It’s weird to wear a cashmere sweater when you have T-shirts and tank tops on the floor.”

The fashion industry is always, by nature, ahead of a normal closet. Designers show their autumn/winter lines during fashion weeks in February and spring/summer in September.

“Fashion is on a different schedule,” Nicole Loher, social media specialist for Nanette Lepore and blogger, said. “Right now, everyone is trying for white and spring and color. I can’t get into that yet, it’s still way too cold outside.”

Both Loher and Zens said they try to mix their winter and spring wardrobes, not sticking to an ardent “switching point” in the year.

“I actually believe in having a year-round closet,” Loher said. “I wear a lot of basics so what I wear in the summer, I layer for the fall and winter. I kind of just change as it gets warmer and colder.”

“You can’t oftentimes wear everything (that comes in a spring shipment),” Zens said. “It’s more about layering and being able to wear your winter things with your spring things, mixing and matching.”

Even for those with year- round wardrobe, they still have some minimums. Loher said once she puts away her winter coat, it’s away for the season.

Though the 10-day Chicago forecast calls for a week of below- average temperatures, at the very least, spring made it. But what about the transition from summer to fall in September?

“I’ll find myself wanting to wear my fall clothes when it’s still warm outside in August and September,” Gillum said. “In fact, I like to celebrate mini-fall, which is the period of time between winter and spring where it’s too cold to wear summer clothes but too warm to wear winter clothes.”

“But, absolutely no boots when it’s hot,” Gillum said. “Under no circumstances. Not even for fashion.”