Welcome to May where it rains all the time, at least in New England. Is it raining outside your window right this very moment? According to my iPhone, it looks like rain all week. Remember that saying “April showers bring May flowers?” That’s bull — April showers bring May showers. Don’t worry though, I’ve got everything you need to safely trek out in to the storm. And what the hell, might you ask, do I know about rainy times? Well, let’s just say my high school mascot was the Amherst Hurricanes.
Put a Sweater and Some Wool Socks On
Before you even think about water-wicking outerwear, you should make sure you’ve got the right stuff on underneath. You might think a sweater and socks are a no-brainer, but actually what I’m really saying is “Don’t wear a hoodie and cotton socks.” As cozy as a hoodie is, it will soak up all moisture, get heavier than you thought humanly possible and stick it directly to your freezing cold body.
Sames goes for your socks. If you end up in a situation where you have to lay your socks out to dry at work, cotton socks will take hours. At least wool socks will dry fast and even stay a bit warm while they’re wet. If you want to go super advanced (or it’s really cold) you can get smartwool, fleece or other synthetic fabrics designed for skiers. This time of year a lot of stores are having huge sales on sweaters, so it’s a great time to buy. Obviously if you live in a place where there are warm showers you can skip this sweater step. (But not the sock part, wet cotton socks are seriously gross.)
Put a Raincoat On
Does this seem obvious? Perhaps it is. You’re really looking at three types of raincoats: trenchcoats, athletic raincoats and anoraks. I avoid the ever-present rain poncho because it doesn’t usually keep me as dry as I think it will.
If it’s not raining too hard, or if you have to be somewhere fancy, you can never go wrong with a classic trench. When shopping for a trenchcoat, look for one that covers your butt and comes to at least mid-thigh, and is made of gabardine. For a femmier look, you can get a trench in a fun color with rounded shoulders, a smaller belted waist and a fuller skirt below the waist.
For a more butch look, go for a boxier cut trench in a neutral tone. I always advocate for tying the belt like a bathrobe as opposed to fastening the buckle. This is particularly true when you’re going for a more masculine-of-center look. Double breasted is in style for now (especially for masculine looks) but just wait, single breasted coats will come back. They always do.
A word of caution: good quality men’s trenchcoats can be extremely expensive, so it might be worth getting a more basic trench so it won’t go out of style. The original trechcoat (as well as gabardine fabric itself) was invented by Thomas Burberry, and Burberry trenches remain the holy grail of rain gear. Unfortunately no one can afford them.
The Athletic Raincoat
If you’re not going anywhere fancy or if it’s pouring cats and dogs, you can go for a waterproof athletic cut raincoat. These are the type of raincoats that tend to have an eye less towards fashion and more towards purpose. They also tend to be the kind you can scrunch up real small in a suitcase. You want to go with this lightweight, waterproof jacket because the rubbery Mackintosh jackets (think Paddington Bear) get sweaty. In my opinion, Patagonia, Columbia and North Face make the best, longest wearing athletic raincoats, but you might find others that fit you better.
I also particularly like athletic raincoats because they tend to be pretty gender neutral. In fact, regardless of where you land on the butch-femme fashion spectrum, if you’re smaller you can almost always get away with buying a little boys jacket for half the price; just watch the length of the arms. Sometimes (the best of times) these jackets come with a soft fuzzy zip-out fleece that makes them just as useful in the fall. One adorable trend in athletic raincoats is the half-zip pullover with a kangaroo pocket.
The trendiest type of rainwear these days is an anorak. An anorak (which is basically synonymous with a lightweight parka) is like a long athletic raincoat that someone sewed a shitton of pockets onto. Sometimes this is a half-zip hoodie-style raincoat with a kangaroo pouch, others it’s more like a waterproof military-style jacket with a string-tie at the waist.
These coats tend to have the coverage of a trencoat with the rain resistance of an athletic coat and the pockets of cargo pants. Like trenchcoats, the more butch anoraks have a boxier shape. They also have a tie at the middle as opposed to more femme anoraks which tend to have an elastic at the middle. These coats are durable and practical, so it’s worth picking one up before they go out of style. They’re usability will far outlast their trendiness.
Use an Umbrella
I’ve noticed no one ever seems to want to carry an umbrella. But holy shit! There’s water falling from the sky and you can buy something to prevent it from falling on you. Why run from awning to awning when you can carry an awning above you? While in reality you can, of course, get by without an umbrella, I believe one is critical if you’re going anywhere slightly formal (such as a job interview or a wedding). You spent a lot of time getting the perfect fauxhawk and it’s worth protecting. Also, a nice big umbrella is the perfect way to get closer to someone cute.
Let’s make an umbrella plan. You can really go two ways with umbrellas. You can get a really nice, big umbrella and commit to carrying it around in your hand everywhere you go when it might rain, or get a ton of those little cheap ones and stick them everyone (at the office, in your car, in your bedroom, tied to your dog). A nice umbrella can cost a ton of money, so I can see why you might be avoiding that plan. On the other hand, a good quality umbrella will usually have a larger span and be more durable in heavy winds. Nicer umbrellas also have the interesting side quality where girly umbrellas look extremely femme, men’s umbrellas look extremely butch, and the solid black umbrella is the ultimate androgynous, gender neutral rain tool.
You can also go for a sort of hybrid umbrella plan where you have your nice umbrella for nice occasions and obvious downpours and cheap umbrellas for unplanned rain attacks.
As a side note: you shouldn’t carry your umbrella in a heavy thunderstorm though an open area. This increase your chances of getting hit by lightening and that would be terrible.
Do Something With Your Feet
Of course there is no amount of umbrellaing that will protect your feet from getting wet. Here’s a bad idea: wearing leather shoes. They will get ruined and you will cry. Here’s a worse idea: wearing canvas shoes (like Toms). They will instantly soak through and you will also cry.
Here’s a really good idea: wear rain boots! Rain boots are the ultimate form of rain protection. I talked about rain boots in my Queer Boots 101 article and gave you a bunch of styles to choose from. That article mostly covers the knee high brightly colored femme rain boots, and I neglected to talk much about what to do in the rain if you’re more butch. While tucking your pants in to high rain boots keeps your pant hem from getting soggy, it’s a pretty femme look. Personally, I think a great butch rain-look is a slightly rolled up straight leg pant over a lower-rise rain boot in a military color. This looks particularly good with old school style two-tone lace-up boots like your dad used to wear to shovel the walk. This way, your feet stay dry while you’re outside, but you still look fresh inside.
The major downside to rain boots is that your feet can get extremely sweaty inside them. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with warm rain showers, you might be happier in sandal or other shoe that won’t get ruined. There are tons of options when it comes to rainy day sandals. The key is not to have any leather or cotton on your sandal that will take longer than a minute to dry. For a more femme look, jellies are basically the cutest shoes ever. Alternatively, a rubber flip-flop or a Keen-style open sneaker might look cute. Some nice looking sandals will promise up and down that their leather sandals are waterproof, but I would still tread carefully. Pun intended.
Regardless of your sandal choice, you should keep two things in mind. First, if you’re not wearing a skirt or shorts you should definitely roll up your pant legs. Even if it’s nice and warm and the rain feels good, when that soaking wet hem cools down, you’re going to be miserable. Secondly, you really shouldn’t go outside in sandals if you’re going any place fancy. Even if you plan to change your shoes when you get there, it’s really unprofessional/not classy to show up with soaking wet feet and wet flip-flops in hand. Additionally, even in warm showers your feet will soak up some water and get a bit shrivled which can make it feel weird/uncomfortable to wear dress shoes right away.
Rain Themed Accessories
Sometimes you just have to go over the top when you embrace a rainy day. I really think that nothing brightens up a rainy day like a few rainy accessories. I mean, I would seriously swoon if I showed up on an awful night and my date had on a umbrella tie clip.
Putting it All Together
I know it can feel like a drag to even bother dressing yourself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your A game dapper cuteness to the table. Your best bet is to incorporate all your rainy day elements in to one cohesive outfit.
For example, if it’s warm out you might want to wear jean shorts, a lightweight grey wool cardigan, jellies, a brightly colored athletic rain coat and carry a bright polka-dot umbrella. If it’s pouring but you want a girlier look, you could wear a long anorak that fully covers a short dress and rain boots with a clear bubble-style umbrella. Alternatively, for a butcher look, you could pair fitted black pants (less fabric to get wet), a white button up and a black vest with a dark colored trench and a navy umbrella for the ultimate dreary day look.
Think about what you want your outfit to say about you and about the weather. The key is to embrace your rain coat and boots as featured articles in your look. Maybe you want to wallow in the dismal grey mist. Maybe you want to look like you totally didn’t even know it was raining outside and your cute outfit just magically totally works out. Maybe you want to be the bright burst of color on a dreary day. In just the right raincoat you can be somebody’s spot of sun. Yes, I’m aware it’s a bit Rachel Berry, but it’s a metaphor and metaphors are important. Your rainy day outfit is how you tell the world “Rain? Whatever, I got this.”
Totally wearing a hoodie, cotton socks, and canvas shoes today. I fail at this.
I love the socks on that link but mannnnnn they cost a bit.
I know! Nice socks are pretty sweet, but the sticker shock is pretty… shocking. The great thing is that fancy-pants socks usually last forever. Sure, you could buy a 20 pack of $5 Target socks that wear out faster than you can re-watch a season of the L Word, but that probably ends up being more expensive in the long run. And Smartwool socks last FOREVER. They’re like, the Voldemort of socks. Only, nice, fluffy Voldemorts.
oooh I love this. If I didn’t live in South Texas where the weather is so finicky, I’d totally rock this. Also, I once had an amazing bubble umbrella and the asshole from across the hall broke it. I was not pleased.
I live somewhere with finicky weather too and it’s funny when it rains because on campus it turns into a really easy way to pick out the American and Canadian exchange students — they’re the only ones who wear rain coats.
Converse looking rain boots sound relevant to our interests.
I’ve been debating over these, but now they’re on sale, it’s a definite. All my shoes are canvas.
i just realized that i have the least functional wardrobe in the world when i scrolled down this page and found that all i own is ‘rain-themed accessories.’
Wow, this was actually useful. Usually when I read articles about what to wear in the rain, I find myself wanting, but I really appreciate the femme v. butch v. andro tips on raincoats, and THANK YOU DEAR LORD for telling people to just by a fucking umbrella.
On the down side, now I’m going to spend a lot of money on rain gear.
I refused to buy umbrellas for this reason when I lived in Chicago!
Where were you yesterday when I wore canvas shoes to work and spent the entire day with sopping wet feet? T__T
Anyway, adorable article! I’m in the “cheap, semi-disposable umbrella” camp myself, but that purple, petaled umbrella is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. And it costs $360.
(Once I saw an umbrella whose print was of people holding umbrellas. I told the person holding it that it was meta and wonderful and she looked at me a little funny.)
It’s decided. I have to buy a functional umbrella today. This $7 convenience store shit is no longer cutting it.
Yeah, it’s been 90 degrees for a week. I don’t miss the rain. (mostly cause I REFUSE to wear shoes besides Converse)
don’t forget to carry this too http://medivida.com.br/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/c/h/charming-hair-spray-fixextra-black.jpg
lol maternity umbrellas
LL Bean is really expensive but they have great rain gear and their stuff is guaranteed for life. They have the best return policy ever.
Also why I love REI! Satisfaction guaranteed, free shipping to store from website and outlet site, and you can return your online order to the store, too!
“… or get a ton of those little cheap ones and stick them EVERYONE(at the office, in your car, in your bedroom, tied to your dog”
On a more relevant note, I love this article. I realize now that my athletic rain jacket is brown, my rainboots are black and my umbrella is grey. Maybe I should spice it up with some colour. Thanks Lizz!!
I think what I really got out of this is that I should go buy an umbrella tie clip and ask Lizz out.
I think you got everything important out of this. Happy shopping!
I need this. Every time I “try” to dress for rain, I feel like a 5yr old with little kid wellies and an oversized raincoat hand-me-down.
I have a rainbow striped umbrella, and striped wellies. I love the rain.
Rainbow umbrellas almost make me look forward to rain – I get to feel like my own little pride parade!
WELLIES!!!! That is the cutest name for a thing. I don’t know what it is but I want some.
lol Wellies are what they call rainboots in the UK, like the tall rubber ones? Since I bought mine while I was living there that’s what I call them.
QUESTION: Does anyone know if there exists a compact umbrella that is actually sturdy and will not invert itself and snap in the wind? Because I love carrying my tiny little fold-up umbrella with me wherever I go, so that I can have it in emergency downpour situations, and I find large umbrellas that don’t fit into my bag to be impractical, but those travel-sized things just FUCKING BREAK ALL THE TIME. Or they fly up in the wind, which results in looking really awkward and ridiculous. Any suggestions?
Believe it or not, Vera Bradley makes a compact umbrella that is awesome. I’ve had mine for 5 years and it survived college in the northeast and 4 months in Europe and its still going strong. It’s small enough that I always have it in my bag for emergencies.
*gasp* I love Vera Bradley… I’ll definitely check that out. Thanks!
Also, only after posting that comment did I realize I maybe should have consulted that “google” thingamajig. Apparently people use to find things sometimes?
But seriously, though. DO NOT WEAR TOMS IN THE POURING RAIN. I got stuck in a storm last week and now my newest TOMS have a hole in them and smell weird. You may as well be barefoot.
My white/green waterproof jacket is the only splash of color in my otherwise-neutral wardrobe. So rainy days = win?
Also, people who ride bikes should REALLY invest in an easily detachable set of fenders, ’cause that line of rain and mud going up your ass and back is NOT attractive. As someone who still doesn’t own fenders, I know. Jackets with a longer hem in the back are also great for protecting your lower back. (I obviously don’t have one of these, either)
Not to self: don’t click picture links when you’re broke.
Somehow a link from this article led me to the Asos.com site – where I promptly fell in love with a jacket while browsing. I then remembered these awesome Fluevog boots that would go nicely with the jacket. So, even before my summer job starts next week, I’ve already dedicated about half a week’s paycheck to clothes.
Still need a trenchcoat and umbrella…
thank you for this. i love rain boots and would prefer to wear them even when it’s not raining.
Bookmarking this for when I move to London. Sigh. I’m really going to miss the glorious LA weather
You’d be better off printing it out and using it as a lousy impromptu umbrella while you sprint to the umbrella shop. It’s been the wettest April ever, or for 60 years, or something. Apparently the new fun this month is cold *and* wet.
(I’m near London).
Gonna have to go shop for proper rainwear now – all I have are wellies, and not the good kind. I predict they’ll begin leaking after about three or four walks. But yes, definitely need an anorach, sounds perfect for me! Lods of pockets, that can always come in handy. ^^
So far, if I really wanna walk and it’s raining (mildy, not puring, then walks can wait) I’ve managed in what I have (not rain appropriate, really, any of it) but I so need stuff, so thanks for the article! Inspired me for sure. =D
This is so useful! Not only do I love you take on giant umbrellas, i also know where to go to get myself a new pair of lightning bolt earrings! I lost my old ones and I have been mourning them ever since.
I have a trench coat with a hood that I can wear with suits and ton of other hoodies that I can wear with normal clothes so there’s no reason for me to ever own an umbrella.
I always carry around the plastic bags that newspapers come in with me. Scrunch them up and throw them in your bag, and you can put your wet umbrella in them.
Somehow I never manage to wear shoes with traction when it rains….
I do, however have this totally boss jacket from work which, in addition to being official-looking and sexy, has proven that it can hold back ALL THE rain.
This is perfect because I’ll be moving from the desert to the rainy northeast, and I really have no idea what to do with myself when water falls from the sky.
It rains all the time in Guangzhou this time of year. This is umbrella country (even/especially when it’s sunny, as parasols), so I have collected about four. One collapsible at the office, one at home, one with a black lining and a pretty floral print for sunny days, and my favorite, a big sturdy rainbow one for seriously rainy days. I also have rain boots, but I’m always forgetting to bring them to work in case of afternoon rain.
I never wear my raincoat here because it’s too frigging hot, but I have an LL Bean anorak that I’ve had for 13 years and it’s still going strong. That’s what I wear when canoeing/hiking/biking in a downpour (along with the matching rain pants).
Perfect timing! It’s been raining here more than ever. My question is, *where* do I find those coral Hunter boots in the last picture? I saw them on another blog but can’t find anyone who sells them… I’m beginning to think they’re an urban shoe myth!
I wish I looked even half as good as any of those people when I’ve been out in the rain.
All rain proofing is always covered and I STILL end up looking like a drowned rat :/
This applies in Ireland all year round, cheers :)
Why is that girl wearing sunglasses when it is raining? There is no sun when it’s ra…OMG THAT MEANS RAINBOW. #gay
Sometimes people in the Northwest make fun of other people who use umbrellas, saying “that’s how you know someone’s not from (insert city).” I’m glad you wrote this bc I think umbrellas are a fun accessory.
Yeah I’ve lived near Boston my whole life and I basically live in Converse and hoodies…it’s a problem. I really, really need some New England weather cloths by now. I wish good raincoats weren’t so expensive…or that I actually liked raincoats… unfortunately I tend to wear leather coats 90% o the time soooo that goes over well in the rain. :/
Boots help you stomp in puddles ^.^
I’m moving to Portland so this is very much relevant! I had no clue about the cotton vs. wool. Also, excellent use of the words anorak and awning.
This article inspired me to spend my bonus on very cute military-style boots, a short skirt and a red trench coat. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do femme-but-still-queer for years, I think you solved it for me!
this post is going to be my bible when I move to Portland this fall. Autostraddle, you’ve done it again.
He used to learn everything by rote.Congratulations!He has a remarkable memory.On behalf of my company, I would like to welcome you here.They hurt.His cake is four times as big as mine.His cake is four times as big as mine.It’s going too far.I am a football fan.The secret was spread among the crowd.
I hate it when it starts to rain and my coat doesn’t have a hood. I found this awesome thing called Hood To Go online. It’s a little vest with a hood attached you can wear under any coat or jacket and it looks like the coat has a hood attached. So cool!