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The Fine Art of Layering in Buffalo

Author: Yonina Andrea Foster, Ph.D.

Ahhh, the fine art of layering for Buffalo winters and year-round. I learned it here and didn’t know that until I returned after decades in the mid-Atlantic region. Alas, I don’t think this is a show the Albright Knox* will install. Instead, this is the kind of show I and many others have mastered and will continue to through our final breath.

Layering has been my fashion style of choice, year round, removing or adding according to my comfort, for as long as I can recall while living in Virginia, then Maryland for thirty plus years, and now, here, after my return in July 2017.**

Depending on the season, obviously, there are more or fewer layers. What’s your base? Well, sometime in the 1970s it was polypropylene. How many of you frequented the shop somewhere on Main near Transit, if I recall the location correctly? Now what do I wear? Merino wool. Wool, the only natural material, Breezy Reed would say to our Backpacking Club at Amherst High School before a trip, to keep you warm when wet. Toss the denim if you want to stay alive in cold weather, forgoing hypothermia that could kill you. I chose wool. I know, I know there are many materials these days. And some people itch from wool. I figure if the sheep, or other hairy mammals, can survive, so can I. And I can handle non-itchy merino wool.

Of course, the base layer is over the undergarments closest to your skin. You can even use wool there these days. Next? Depends on the wind chill. Right? The kind of snow, the kind of cold. Okay. Okay. So my Dad offered me my Mom’s*** mink coat and though some folks mistakenly think I am a vegetarian and wouldn’t imagine I’d accept such a gift, they’d be wrong. I accepted. So that coat returned from Massachusetts, to reside near Palankers Fur Shop, where it was purchased in 1981.

I get ahead of myself. Layers. So if I wear wool as my base, which pants, or skirt, fit over them smoothly for work? Then there’s walking in the cold, a common past-time of mine. Maybe snow pants. Then I could jump on the slopes. Well, I could if I down-hill skied. I used to cross-country. I’m still waiting to use the snowshoes. I might even slip Yaktrax on my boots (yes, wool socks) to prevent me from slipping in the ice.Twice this winter I went down outside the house. I had left those Yaktrax in the car. Sigh. The bruise from one of those falls lasted weeks. So did the pain.

Layering has been my fashion style of choice, year round, removing or adding according to my comfort, for as long as I can recall.

Accchhhh——the joy of childhood comes to mind, tobogganing at Chestnut Ridge. Do you remember?? The laughter, going down, the hill you had to then walk up. The hot chocolate that always burned my tongue. And standing by the huge fireplace to recover feelings in my fingers and toes.

My cousin, Ellen Sue, recently sent me a picture into that memory. My Uncle George took the photo just off to the side and there we are coming down the chute, me in front, my sister behind, followed by Ellen Sue, I, gleefully laughing. I’m sure we each got a chance in that front seat. Could I do it now???

Sweater? Jacket outer layer?? Zip vest. My favorite one I picked up at a thrift store about twenty years ago. It’s got, you guessed it, an outer layer with (boiled) wool and some quilted polyfil inner. Endless possibilities. And this past Thanksgiving I saw choices the Turkey Trotters had made, some, no layers at all. Some of those folks are nuts!! It was frigid and inside I even wore layers. Once upon a time, okay, decades ago, my Dad, sister, and I jogged that Turkey Trot. I will again.

Gloves? Mittens? Hat, hood? Depends. Always depends on what I’m doing. Driving. Playing.

Finally, I have this long neck and those Buff tubes are a daily for my neck and head. I wear one now as I type in an unheated sunroom on the west side of the apartment I’m in. Then I”ll sometimes add a scarf to that. Oi. Maybe ear muffs, also. And if I go to my acupuncturist, then all those layers have to be removed and replaced once I’m done. It’s practically bed time by the time I wrap myself up again in the layers.

So did the groundhog see its shadow?


Maybe I ought to call the Albright Knox curator and see if she’d consider such an exhibit after all. Heck, they’ve got plasticized dresses in a current show. Maybe they’ll do one in layers.

*I frequent the Albright Knox, an amazing gallery. Did you know it was to be built for the 1901 Pan American Expo, but a strike at the quarry in Baltimore delayed its completion until 1905. What we know as the Buffalo History Museum is the only permanent structure from the Expo.

**Some of you read my essays that fall as I visited Buffalo sites and mused about history and working through my grief following my husband’s death from brain cancer. He, 62, I, 58, at the time of his transition. I disappeared last year into depression and have now recovered.

***My Mom, Anita Greenberg Foster, of Blessed Memory, was third generation American of Eastern European heritage. She earned an Ed.D at UB and was the Reading Specialist at Maple West Elementary School. A coat like my Mom finally owned was a prized accomplishment that they’d made it in America. Inside the coat my mother’s name is embroidered. My Dad, Herb Foster, earned an Ed.D. at Columbia University, and at 91-years-of-age is Professor Emeritus at UB. He recently authored Ghetto to Ghetto: Yiddish and Jive in Everyday Life. In the late 1960s he authored Ribbin’ Jivin’ and Playin’ the Dozens, having started his career as a shop teacher in the NYC 600 schools.

Lead image: Turkey Trot – My Dad is in center. I’m on the left, sister, Donna, is on the right.

Written by BRo Guest Authors

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