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What (Not) To Wear in an Irish Summer: rain, wind, heat, cold, humidity, hailstones in an afternoon

By Anna | July 3 2012 | 42 Comments

Sometimes, I find myself wondering what it would be like to live in a place where there are proper summers. Where you can plan a barbecue or outdoor event safe in the knowledge that unless something very odd happens, it will be sunny, or at least not-raining. Where you can leave your washing on the line in July without it getting soaked the second it’s finally dry. Where you can go out without a jacket and not end up shivering at some stage of the day.

Even on the warmest days of Irish “summer” always ensure you have all of the above. Seriously

Constant clothing dilemmas
There are many, many problems with Irish weather, especially the sort of dreadful, end-of-days weather we’ve been getting in recent summers. But although obviously flooding and crop damage are the most serious crap-Irish-summer problem, one of the most annoying is the fact that our country’s miserable climate leaves us with constant clothing dilemmas. Not only does the temperature go up and down like a yo-yo, but torrential rains are likely to come along on even the balmiest days.

Current weather: damp yet hot.  Humidity high
So what can you wear? Let’s take the weather as I write this: damp yet hot. If a garment is waterproof, it’s probably too warm. So unless you want to carry around an umbrella and rain jacket at all times, you’re in constant danger of getting drenched. This is especially true for shoes. The summer shoe issue is a vexing one. If you wear sandals, it’ll either get freezing cold, or it’ll start lashing rain, or both. Though actually, sandals are sometimes better in the rain than other shoes. At least when it stops raining sandals let your feet dry out, while normal shoes leave you squelching around in horrible dampness.

Freezing, huddled round the fire. Ten minutes later  sun blazing and it’s warm enough for flipflops

Bring a cardigan
And even if it’s not raining, the temperature is likely to take you by surprise. Over the last month, I’ve ended many an afternoon out carrying a jacket around in my arms, because what was necessary when I left the house in a chilly breeze has now become far too hot. Cardigans tied around the waist, jackets slung over the arm – these are the accessories of the Irish summer.

They have actual summers in other lands!
One of my fondest memories of my J1 summer in Boston in 1997 was being able to go on a night out without a jacket or cardigan. It took me and my Irish friends weeks to get used to this. At first our American chums would just look at us in confusion and wonder why we were carrying a cardigan with us when the temperature was about 30 degrees. Then slowly they managed to persuade us that no, it wasn’t going to suddenly get cold and we didn’t have to take around extra layers with us at all times. I don’t think I have ever felt like that in Ireland. It was liberating.

Summer/Winter clothes: they’re all the one
Of course, sometimes the weather is consistent. But that’s only when it’s cold. We get days that are icy from start to finish, but few that are blissfully balmy from dawn to dusk. So forget all that ladymag advice about putting your winter clothes up in the attic – in Ireland, chances are you’ll need that wooly jumper at some stage in July.

BE PREPARED
So today I’m yet again wearing a very boring outfit – jeans, a stripy tee from the Gap, and sandals. It’s warm at the moment, so I go out, I’ll tie a cardigan around my waist in case of emergencies. And I might change my shoes in case it rains. But what I can’t do is go out with a skirt and bare legs, or leave the cardigan at home, or do all those other things people with proper summers can do. Bah!

So what about you? Do you ignore the grim realities of Irish weather and decide “feck it, it’s summer, I’m wearing a skirt AND NO TIGHTS” or have you found any ingenious ways to combat the freaky climate?

Do tell!

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