Tuesday, 8am. The temperature—precisely 51 degrees. You commute in the same wool bomber jacket you wore yesterday, still damp from last night’s trip home, and it smells like a wet dog. On your feet: the same old, only-slightly-cool sneakers; the constant threat of rain showers means suede booties won’t make an appearance for months. The person in the adjacent bus seat wears a waterproof Arc’teryx shell, which repels precipitation right into your tote bag, thus prompting a time-honored PNW panic: Did the deluge kill your laptop?
Without fail, Seattle ushers in spring with two weeks of intermittent downpours that eventually give way to, well, slightly less frequent downpours. For the sartorially conscious, that presents a special challenge: dressing for the elements without succumbing to that most insidious—and accurate—Northwest cliche of technical camping gear worn as full-time garb.
Colton Winger, one of the minds behind personal styling agency Cuniform, says the seasonal change requires two things, layers and waterproofing. He likes to embrace layers in the form of cardigans and minimalist coats from brands like Stutterheim and Rains. And investing in Scotchgard, he says, can save you from existing in rubber boots until summer arrives. “While suede and rain classically hate each other, treated dark black suede is often okay in the drizzly rain we get in Seattle,” Winger says. He also suggests trying Aquatalia’s pretreated waterproof boots.
Chelsea Kim, a senior stylist at local clothing-rental service Armoire, takes the layering recommendation one step further; she considers the coat itself a statement. “Try opting for a more stylish raincoat in a different color beyond basic black,” she says. Rather than relegating fair-weather jackets to the back of the closet during wet months, wear them beneath colorful or patterned rain gear for the commute and shed layers once you’re indoors. And skip the daily post-commute heart attack that comes with a drenched work bag (and fried electronics) with a carryall that zips closed; leather backpacks from the work-minded line Holly and Tanager include a hidden zipper pocket designed specifically to ward off laptop-killing wetness.
Finally, both Winger and Kim point to more sustainable ways to battle the elements. Renting a transition wardrobe, a la Armoire, or Cuniform’s practice of buying secondhand allows for seasonal adjustments without a buildup of more disposable fast fashion. That approach may be the best long-term strategy to survive Seattle’s early spring without tanking your credit score (or the climate).