I'm freezing. I have goosebumps on my skin. All I need is a cardigan sweater, but I know it's folded in my closet at home. Instead I reach for a hot cup of coffee, a quick fix for dealing with the temperature. The warm beverage cupped in my hands helps a bit, but I still feel a small chill in the air.
This is how fall used to be for me. Growing up in New England then the Midwest, fall meant the start of the colder months. The temperature was usually in the 50s, but could reach the high 40s in New England. September brought the first post-summer day when you stepped outside and the chill in the air reminded you to swap your summer clothes for winter attire. Inside was where the heat was, a refuge from the outdoors.
But today's goosebumps aren't caused by any outdoor air. Instead, I am freezing in my office in the air conditioning. As I gaze out the window, the sun is shining and it's a little bit windy. But that's not a cold and blustery wind moving the bushes; it's a warm wind, the very reason the air conditioning is still cranking on Sept. 18.
Looking at the calendar, it's technically the start of fall, but New Orleans feels a lot like summer. It's supposed to be 80 degrees today, Jay Galle told me. Well, that's summer weather, I think as I walk outside into the warm air. But now I'm freezing in my office chair, wishing I had at least brought a scarf to protect myself from the frigid AC.
And here lies my latest question about the Big Easy: what do New Orleanians wear when fall feels like summer?
I’m not used to this 80-degree September weather outside. Growing up in places with four seasons, mid-September has always meant the start of cool mornings, open windows and falling leaves. As a lover of fashion, September has also been the time to update my wardrobe. In the fashion world, September is the time of back-to-school shopping, New York Fashion Week and Vogue’s famous September issue (916 pages this year!!). It’s the time when you buy the latest boots or corduroys, or restock the sweater pile.
But I am no mood for sweaters right now. Even though life in the AC is cold, I have a hard time justifying a cashmere purchase when it’s still tank top weather outside. The walk from my car is warm and humid, so why would I want to put on more layers? My body is as confused as my closet.
So in an effort to solve my fashion conundrum, I have spent the last two weekends rethinking my fall wardrobe, reorganizing my closet and getting acquainted with the New Orleans shopping scene. I started in my closet after Labor Day, putting away all my white dresses, white sandals and that seersucker skirt. There are just some things that only work June through August.
Next, I turned to a few of my favorite fashion blogs, specifically seeking out bloggers that live in warm climates. First, there’s my favorite Kendi Everyday, written by Kendi, a resident of McKinney, Texas. Her fall wardrobe consists of dark-colored blouses and dresses made of light fabrics. I add the idea to my shopping list.
I also check out J’s Everyday Fashion, written by a blogger from Florida. She pairs tank tops with pants and closed-toe shoes. I make a mental note.
After doing a little research and shopping in my closet (I’m a young professional on a budget), I start to wander the New Orleans stores. I start on Magazine Street, one of my new favorite places. Last weekend I walked up and down the street popping my head into little boutiques to see what there is to offer for the cool-weather-free clientele. I find colorful blouses and ballet flats that would work perfectly in both the warm weather and the frigid air conditioning. I don’t buy anything, but I feel better seeing the possibilites.
This past weekend, I ventured to the Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie to try my old standbys: Gap, Banana Republic and J.Crew. The hot pink cashmere sweater in the front teases me as I walk by, but when I reach the clearence section, I have a revelation. One of the nice things about living in a warmer climate is the summer sale stuff turns into a plethora of fall possibilities. There are cropped pants, bright colored skirts and summer scarves all on sale and all perfect for New Orleans’ summer-fall season. I head to the dressing room with neon blouses, flowy tank tops and a new outlook on my fashion woes.
I leave the store with just one blouse from the sale section, but I am full of hope. Maybe getting adjusted to a warm fall won’t be so weird. I won’t need the turtlenecks and fuzzy wool sweaters I used to enjoy in the cooler temps, but being able to get anything on sale makes everything better. And who doesn’t like a new place that requires a new outfit?
I know New Orleans gets cooler in December, and I am looking forward to that. While I will miss the crisp fall mornings and the snowy days of winter I became accustomed to in New England and the Midwest, it will be nice to go through fall and winter without slipping on ice, scraping snow off my windshield or sitting at work with frozen feet.
I just have to remember that cardigan for when the AC is on full blast.