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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 01/17/2009

Inauguration Weather: What to Wear

By Ann Posegate

Wx and the City

* Inauguration Day Forecast *

There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. -Mark Twain

With the Inaugural balls and numerous outdoor events nearly upon us, I got to thinking: How does one look cool while keeping warm? In addition, what is the best way to stay warm while standing on the National Mall for hours on end?

Keep reading for tips on what to wear and how to stay healthy during the inaugural festivities...

Women's formalwear will be especially tricky. Should we wear pants, socks and boots on the way to an event, and just change once we get there? Or dress formally and take a cab, assuming we can find one? What if we want to walk to another event afterward and cannot change in between? Men have it a bit easier: suits and slacks go better with socks and shoes than hose and heels.

In all seriousness, dressing appropriately will be key to weathering inaugural activities. Although the near-zero wind chills have departed, it remains cold out and one should still be prepared for the threats of hypothermia and frostbite. (The Centers for Disease Control offer helpful tips and warning signs.)

Children, the elderly, people who are outside for long periods of time, and adults under the influence of alcohol are the most vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. If you plan on attending an outdoor event with an elder or child, please be sure they are especially bundled up and have eaten well beforehand. Hypothermia usually occurs at extremely cold temperatures, but it can occur at temperatures up to about 40 degrees if a person is soaked in water, sweat or rain, or is chilled by the wind.

Five Tips for Staying Toasty:

1) Check our forecast. Plan for the temperature to feel at least 10 degrees colder than predicted, especially if you will be outside for hours at a time. Also be sure to take into account wind chill -- what the temperature feels like to your body with wind and temperature combined. (Here's a calculator.)

2) Wear layers and cover as much exposed skin as possible. If you step outside and immediately feel cold, you're not wearing enough layers. Wear layers (including a base layer like thermal underwear), bring an extra warm layer with you, and wear a wind-proof outer layer if you have one. Wool, fleece, and synthetic fibers are generally warmer than cotton. Wear tight-fitting sleeves and tuck in your shirt to prevent cold air from sneaking in. A scarf, hat, gloves and thick socks are essential: they cover the parts of your body that lose heat the fastest. You might also consider buying toe and hand-warmers -- inserts for your gloves and shoes that cost under a few dollars, but last for hours! They can be found at sports and outdoor clothing stores throughout the area.

3) Get plenty of rest, eat well and stay hydrated. These basic wellness tips especially apply to cold weather. High-calorie, well-balanced meals, warm liquids and water are fuel. Your body has to work to stay warm, and taking care of it will help it work better.

4) Stay warm first, look cool second. Image is not everything, especially when it's cold out. Ladies, you may want to consider doubling-up on stockings, or wearing pants and shoes on your way to an event (wearing a long dress and long coat will help this look less awkward -- most events will have a coat check). You might also want to wear a shawl in case the event room is not well-heated. At the least, wear boots or tennis shoes and bring along dress shoes...I welcome other suggestions! Men, wear thick socks, and a suit liner or extra layer under your suit.

5) Use your better judgment. If you are persistently shivering, or if your skin feels cold despite your many layers of clothing, consider going indoors for a while. Also, keep an eye out for the person standing next to you, since a cold body temperature can impair judgment. If it's just too cold to bear, you can always watch the major events from home.

Oh, and one more thing: you may want to bring tissues or a handkerchief -- there's a good chance of cold, runny noses!

By Ann Posegate  | January 17, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration, Inauguration Features, Posegate, Wx and the City  | Tags:  inaugural weather, inauguration weather  
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Flurries reported by my parents in between McLean and DC.

Posted by: KBurchfiel | January 17, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I've had enough of the cold! Is this worse than usual? Seems like it!

Posted by: ChattyCathyVA | January 17, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse


This cold happens about once every five to ten years. So unusual? Kinda. Historic? Not really.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | January 18, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Don't take it personal Capital Weather Guys but if people need to be told what to wear when the temperature is in the low 30's and they will be out there for hours then they are clueless.

Posted by: MKadyman | January 18, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Well MKadyman that's kinda the point. Speaking as someone from a warmer climate, I've had a hard time this winter because I'm not used to the consistent cold. It gets just as cold in Georgia as it does here but never for more than a couple days then it's back to 60 degrees. This is first time in my life where I"ve gone this long without epxeriencing at least one day with 60+ degree weather. I'm 27 years old but never worn a scarf didn't even understand what they're used for just saw them on tv. Now I know.

I can still count on one hand the number of sweaters I've worn. Not to mention people are visiting who may have never experienced this weather before. I've certainly never spent more than say a couple hours outdoors in this type of weather before. So yeah if you're from a warmer climate you're clueless, that's the point.

Posted by: TerrenceM | January 19, 2009 4:01 AM | Report abuse

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