Winter is coming and, with it, all the eatin’ holidays. We’ll kick off the season of gluttony with Thanksgiving. Soon after, offices fill with treats: homemade fudge, peanut brittle, peppermint bark. You’ll “win” that giant bucket with three types of popcorn at a gift exchange. Time off for the holidays means time for grazing on the leftover ham in the fridge, chocolates from your aunt, and cookies from the cookie exchange you didn’t really want to attend. We’ll all go on diets January 1st, but, if you want to look good in the meantime, you need a plan to conceal the growing food baby. My recommendation: the poncho.
Whatever you call it, a cape, a ruana, or a poncho, draping your upper body in swaths of fabric is both elegant and practical. You’ll make a statement as you swirl in from the frosty outdoors and every gesture is magnified by dramatic drape. The loose fit balanced with a warm fabrication is the perfect solution for inconsistent indoor heating. Just use caution when reaching for the cheese dip.
I love ponchos, but they can go all wrong if they aren’t styled just right. Consider the following guidelines when dressing for a poncho.
Bottoms. Unless you’re a fan of lagenlook, you’ll want to balance the volume of a poncho on top with less volume on the bottom. Skinny jeans (or their food-baby-friendly cousin, leggings) are the obvious option. I also love a mini-skirt with tights or leggings. For the truly daring, try shorts and tights. Add a pair of knee-high boots and you’ve got a trendy, seasonal outfit. The goal is to clearly delineate the legs. Wide-legged pants or long skirts are tricky to wear with a poncho unless you’re tall and slender.
Bags. Once upon a time, I thought the only bag to carry with a poncho was a clutch. With a clutch, there are no straps to interrupt the drape of fabric. However, a crossbody bag can be very flattering as the strap highlights the shape beneath the poncho. I’ve tried both a shoulder bag and a tote with a poncho and they were terribly inconvenient and ruined the look of the outfit. A top-handle bag works, but can be annoying if the bag is heavy and you have far to carry it.
Outerwear. In most of California, we can get away with just a poncho as outerwear, but, when I lived in Ohio, I needed another layer. Coats, with their tricky sleeves, can be difficult to wear over a poncho. If the poncho is thin enough, I push all the fabric up to my neck and then most of it down my chest like a giant infinity scarf. Then, I can get my arms in the coat sleeves, but sometimes can’t fasten the front. The best outerwear option I’ve tried is a cape over the poncho. It isn’t the warmest solution, as icy winds can easily find their way into a cape, but suitable for a short trip. In the future, I may try layering a puffy vest under the poncho for wintry excursions. Or just never go outside if it’s really cold.
Granted, there are a few pesky “rules” to wearing a poncho, but, besides the beauty and elegance of a poncho, there are also a few special styling moves you can only make with a poncho.
Necklines. A poncho gives you a chance to do some interesting layering at the neckline. Consider a cowl neck sweater exposed by the wide neck opening of a poncho. Try double turtlenecks. How about a preppy collar peeking out of a rustic drape? One of my favorite neckline combinations was the hood of a sweatshirt emerging from a wide-necked poncho.
Jewelry. The vast expanse of a poncho is the perfect setting for a statement necklace. I also like the 70’s vibe of long, beaded earrings dusting poncho-covered shoulders.
Legs. You’ve all heard the rule that if the boobs are out, the legs are put away, right? Don a poncho and it’s time to bring the legs out. A poncho is a conservative top, so it gives you license to wear a shorter skirt or higher heels (or both). If you love your legs, a poncho is a great excuse to flaunt them.
Ponchos are one of the oldest and simplest garments. This is the time of year to take advantage of their easy grace. And they also make a great gift since they’re usually “one size fits all.”