You may remember that when I went to Paris in May, one of the things I commented on was that lots of Parisians were demonstrating the art of chic layering by wearing a Uniqlo quilt underneath their coat. I have since discovered that Uniqlo is a big thing in France. When they opened a new store in Bordeaux recently, the police had to be called in to control the excited crowd.

Of course I’d just like to add that living in the frozen North, I am way ahead of the French and have never knowingly been without one of the Ultra Light compact jackets in my handbag since about 2009. It’s one of the 7 items I always carry, along with my purse, phone, keys, lipstick, reading glasses and bag for life.

Anyway, when I was borrowing the items to wash for the cashmere post, I had a chat with the team at Uniqlo about the other ranges that I consider to be their strongholds. They asked me if I’d tried other Ultra Light Down pieces, I hadn’t so they have sent me some to review.

The Ultra Light Down Compact Jacket

Starting off with my old favourite, the compact jacket, as well as carrying these in my bag, girl guide style to slip on underneath other jackets, I also wear them when I go to the gym. Almost every week someone stops me to ask where they’re from as they see me tuck them away in their pouch before the class. They’re great when you leave feeling hot but then start to cool down quickly. Here’s an early morning pre-gym shot to give you an idea.

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Ultra Light Down compact jacket (US link)

The Ultra Light Down Compact Coat

Moving on, who knew the compact jacket had a big brother, the compact coat? This sparked great joy in me, especially with this season’s trend for unlined coats, I’ve been wondering how they would fare in Winter. Although I would very happily wear this as a coat on its own too.

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Ultra Light Down compact coat

I’ve had a few emails from people who are having midlife struggles with hot flushes asking for ideas about chic layering. These compact coats are the answer in my view, enabling you to wear light layers that you can pack away discretely when you need to.

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Wool trench; Paris fit tailored trousers

I tucked the collar into a V-neck when I added the unlined coat because I like to look neat. In France they wouldn’t do this, they wear the quilt as a visible extra layer. You can see how well it worked when this sudden gust of Autumn wind came from nowhere.

chic layering

This is brilliant for anyone like me who spends a lot of time on trains. They’re always either overheated or over air conditioned and you never know which it will be.

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The Ultra Light Down Compact Parka

Now I’ve mentioned lots of times that despite being rurally based, I refuse to wear proper walking gear unless I’m actually doing some serious hiking. I simply don’t need all that equipment for my walks with Gary which are generally on the shore, through the woods or along the canal. This compact parka is a warmer version of the compact jacket and more stylish than your standard walking jacket, it is water repellent (not waterproof) and …

chic layering

Ultra Light Down compact parka; (US link); Extra warm Heat Tech polo neck (US link); Grey Joplin jeans; Wellies; Fur welly socks discontinued but available here

…it has a hood. Gary appears to be overjoyed by the thought that I might be less likely to shirk away from his walk on a grey morning! The range of colours is as good as the cashmere. You can, of course, buy classic navy, grey and black but there is also a rainbow of other, less obvious options such as this raspberry pink. I’m wearing the HeatTech polo neck underneath. These two layers alone would be warm enough to about 5°C I would say.

Although I’m wearing it in the countryside, with its urban styling, this jacket would look great underneath a leather biker jacket too. It currently has £10 off here but the offer is due to end soon.

chic layering

In case you’re wondering, this is how the jackets pack down. A nifty little bag is attached at the neck like this

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And this is the size that they went down to when packed very inexpertly by me.

L-R: Ultra Light coat; Ultra Light parka; Ultra Light jacket

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We have never known there to be such a plentiful crop of fruits and berries as there has been this Autumn. Local lore would tell you that it’s the sign of a harsh Winter to come. People round here believe that a strong crop of berries is nature’s way of enabling birds and hibernating animals to fatten themselves up in readiness for frozen ground. Time will tell. The sloes have usually gone by now but the hedgerows were still full of them. We had our first frost last week and so they were just right for picking.

sloe picking

What did we do with them? Made sloe gin of course, here it is steeping. We turn the jars every day and just doing that is a ‘project happier’ moment in anticipation of good times to come with family and friends at Christmas.

sloe-gin

HeatTech Layering

So, assuming that the berries are right and a hard Winter is on its way, layers are what we will need. I last bought Uniqlo’s HeatTech layers when we had a ski client about 9 years ago. Unlike Mr MC and the boys, I am not a natural on skis and I don’t miss the regular trips we had to St Anton. When I Marie Kondoed earlier this year, I got rid of all my HeatTech stuff, not because it wasn’t useful but because it was very itchy.

I’m pleased that Uniqlo put this in the pack for me to review because I would never have bought it again. However they have really moved it on. It doesn’t feel very different to any other kind of jersey but it is so much warmer. I’ll probably buy some of the camis and t-shirts. I’m even thinking of wearing them as pyjama tops too – our bedroom is in the old part of the house and it is cold and draughty in the Winter.

There are 2 levels of warmth, ordinary HeatTech and extra warm. This grey scoop neck is the extra warm. The difference, of course, is in the thermal properties.

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Extra warm grey scoop neck; (US link); HeatTech skinny jeans; HeatTech neck warmer; HeatTech beanie hat; HeatTech gloves

The review package also included the HeatTech skinny jeans shown above. Not only do they have HeatTech properties but they are enriched with Argan oil for a supple feel. They’re a little looser from the knee down than a super skinny but they immediately feel warmer than normal jeans. I still need to test them out properly on a frozen rugby pitch (watching of course, not playing). If they work, it will be so much nicer than the feeling of woolly tights or thermals under jeans.

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Last out of the bag were HeatTech accessories. The hat looks like an ordinary beanie but it has HeatTech properties; the HeatTech neck warmer is soft fleece and the gloves have touchscreen tips so you can still use your smartphone when you’re wearing them. They say if your extremities are warm, the rest of you is so, come at me Winter – I’m ready for you!

The Down Volume Collar Coat

So, with the base layers done, it was time to pull out the big one. Uniqlo have 3 types of down, Ultra-Light which I’ve already featured, Light Down and Heavy Down. The difference is that Light Down is heavier so it is too plush to pack down into a bag. Heavy Down has just come into stock so I haven’t seen it but the website says that it gives you the full monty of down packs, high necks and hoods, all designed for very cold conditions.

Here I’m wearing the Light Down coat. The first thing I want to remark on (rather vapidly) is the colour which is listed as beige on the website but is actually a much nicer dove grey. I also want to point out the on trend ‘volume collar’ which looks as though it has come straight from the catwalks. It is also available in a more sensible navy or black by the way, but it is hand washable so this dove grey becomes a viable option.

It is light but very cosy, you feel as though you’re snuggled up in a wearable sleeping bag. I suspect it could become a permanent fixture for me in the Winter. I would point out that unusually for Uniqlo it comes up quite big. They sent a large in all of these options and this is the only one that really felt a bit too big.

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Down volume collar coat (US link)

As you can tell, Uniqlo are continuing to listen to what we say on Midlifechic so please do add your comments. It is your opportunity to speak directly to a team who are clearly interested in your opinions. I genuinely liked all of these pieces. If you asked me to choose, I’d say my favourite was the parka because it was a really great cut and it would fit into my life so well. Uniqlo have become my one-stop shop for everything Winter related and you can find all of their Winter clothes here on their Keep Warm page.

International Delivery

Not all of these items are available overseas but I’ve added US links where I can. In terms of sizing, I am a UK 12 (US 8) and I wore a size large which was right for all items apart from the volume collar coat which would have been better in a medium. The jeans were true to size.

Midlife lately

I am making a new pledge. I will never again say that I’ve had a chaotic week just because it has included a lot of travelling. That is not a chaotic week. Last week was a chaotic week.

You may remember that it began with the youngest, a car door and a broken finger. An episode made worse as Mr MC was running ahead with the keys in his pocket because they were late and so the door automatically locked on the trapped finger. I can’t imagine how agonising the seconds between it happening, Mr MC hearing the screams and getting back to unlock it were but I can tell by the amount of bruising that is getting worse every day.

On Thursday night we had a lot on, starting with the middle son’s parents’ evening, followed by an eagerly anticipated awards ceremony where we were due to receive an architectural award for the extension to our house. As we were sitting with the boy’s English teacher, my phone started to buzz repeatedly in my handbag. I glanced and saw a number I didn’t recognise and so as soon as the meeting was over, I called it.

It was answered by the eldest who said “Mum, I don’t want you to worry but I’m in hospital. They’re just about to blue light me to Preston for an urgent MRI scan because they think I might have broken my neck.”

He had been playing rugby and a ruck had collapsed with a particularly big player landing heavily on his neck. It’s the thing I dread every single time one of them plays. I know I don’t need to explain to you how I felt. Fortunately the middle son’s school is right next to the hospital so we were able to be there within minutes.

As always with my boy he was somehow still smiling and sending selfies to the rest of his team!

neck-brace

We had to leave him to be transported by ambulance accompanied by his very sweet girlfriend who had been by his side since it happened (and yes, it was hard for me to stand back but it was the right thing to do). We followed him down to the large county hospital in Preston and of course there was then the very long, worrying wait for the consultant and his team to arrive.

In the end, the wait was so long was that he slowly started to feel some sensation returning to his right side and each time he was checked, the prognosis became more hopeful. Eventually they advised us that he was stable enough for us to go home for some sleep. You can see the relief on his face.

hospital

(His t-shirt says ‘sweet dreams are made of this.’ I don’t think so my son)!

The following morning he had further tests and an MRI scan which concluded that he had possible nerve damage and a serious case of concussion but nothing more. So late on Friday I was able to collect him and bring him home for the weekend. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, we could have been facing a very different kind of week.

As they say, all’s well that ends well because it meant the whole family was together to watch the middle son’s TV début. Thank you to everyone who watched it – it was lovely to receive so many texts / Tweets / Facebook messages and emails as it was airing – I felt almost as popular as he did!

For those who missed it or were unable to watch, I have a little snippet for you. This is from the end of the programme when the teens scripted their own play about how they now feel about reading.

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As you can imagine, he will never live his “hmm girls” moment down with those who know and love him, especially his brothers who already have plans of how they’ll use it in their speeches on his wedding day…!

Have a great day everyone and, by the way, this is my second post in two days. If you’ve missed it, the first one was my pick of Hush’s flash sale.

Disclosure: thank you to Uniqlo for working with me on this chic layering post and providing the clothes.