I want to go to a conference in Mobile, Alabama, next March. I am already thinking about a travel wardrobe (although I do not plan to sew everything myself). It is a marine ecology conference, so I expect the unwritten rule of clothing can be described as “outdoorsy nerds trying to dress up”. But there will also be more festive activities, like a banquet or so. Additionally I want to add some days for hiking/birdwatching at the coast.
What I am more worried about than the dress code concerning this wardrobe is the weather expectations.
On the internet I found a temperature range from 2 to 23°C for March in Mobile! Do I have to pack everything from woolen cardigans to short sleeved shirts? It would be nice to be able to narrow it down a bit. I also found the information that Mobile is a very rainy city. But what kind of rain? There are different kinds, I was reminded recently when I accompanied my husband to his new work place South of Berlin. We both got a cold. It was rainy and warm, so you need an umbrella. Something that we didn't own because it is completely useless on our island where it is always windy and the rain moves horizontally, so you need a rain jacket and pants. For rain in hot weather, wide, quick drying clothes are great, and then there is the rain that is more like a thick fog, where wool is nice because it keeps you warm even if it is a bit moist.
I know in theory that the gulf current is what keeps our North Sea ice free in winter although we are at the same latitude as Newfoundland! Then I was confused that the climate tables gave temperatures as low as 40 F for March. I have only little experience with hot weather, and no experience with warm humid weather and don’t know how to make the transfer form the climate table to a wardrobe.
I am quite excited about this trip, never been to America before.
I got lots of advice on SG (http://artisanssquare.com/sg/index.php/topic,10929.0.html), which I compile here:
"[...] March in Mobile is variable. I would go for the middle range though, rather than the extremes. We seldom have freezing weather, but we do have some big storms in spring (March). It can be quite humid and warm one day, then a weather front will fly though and it will be cool and breezy. You won't need a heavy coat (I don't even own one). I don't think this area is rainy at all! But I can almost guarantee it will rain in March. I would recommend light-weight long pants with a variety of tops, long and short sleeved, definitely not wool; you would get too hot. If you have some of those hiking pants with zip off legs, that would be perfect for your walks in case it is warm. A light-weight fleece jacket or vest and a light-weight rain jacket that could be worn over the fleece would be perfect in case it gets cold, or alone for just rain. I would bring a pair of shorts, too.
I usually wear knit tops, just because they are comfortable and come in lots of colors. By light weight pants I mean not wool, probably chinos or flowy rayon ones, knits are great, too. We have lots of good seafood so an elastic waist may be in order. The HVAC is very efficient, but in March it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the temperature swings outside....so you may be hot, or you may be cold. Not much help, I know."
"To present I would wear pants and a kick-ass top with a scarf (since that is what they will see from behind the podium) and a jacket I could take off. Or, since you already have it, skirt, boots and the same top/jacket idea. I've done 10 days with a couple pairs solid pants, several solid knit tops and some bright print scarves to change things around--that would separate you from the students. Then I have a solid fleece vest that coordinates so I can use when I need it. Remember, the humidity is a KILLER."
"I'm laughing about outdoorsy nerds! This is a tourist area, so we see people in everything. (I'm always saying that just because people can fit into something doesn't mean they should wear it) If your shorts and T-shirt match, you are dressed up."
"BTW, you will DEFINITELY want sunscreen for any exposed skin, even if it is cloudy. I assume you will be doing something with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab--terrific place."
"I notice you are from the Netherlands. I strongly suspect that you have no idea of how warm and humid the Alabama coast can be. Robbie is the expert but I second her statement that 70 degrees F is cold for us Southerners. I would bring one cardigan, one lightweight hooded rainjacket, and several long sleeved cotton tops. Robbie's idea of a fleece sleeveless vest is excellent, as it could be layered over the cardigan and under the rain jacket if the weather is "cold" and blustery."
"You've picked one of the most unpredictable months in the year for Alabama, could be in the high 70 one day and in a couple days in the high 40 or 50 Th's and then there is our little friend humidity to factor in. [...] March is a good time to wear skirts with boots and sweater sets for us. I start wearing linen, ponto roma knit made out of pants is good this time of the year. Sweater sets A rain coat a must if it lined that would be great so if its cold your OK and if its warm you can take it our . Skirts and dress are always good with boots or even you could do heels just depends It cold rain the whole time you are there or be near 80 you never know in March it Anne in between month There is the wind off the river and the bay too > That will make it seam cooler than it is but may not bother you."
"I would definitely think of layers and some rain gear. We have one or two bird watchers here on the boards and they can probably fill you in better, but sweater sets and nice slacks always work for me for non-outdoor trudging through the weeds activities. Mobile is quite warm and you're apt to get warm drizzle so breathable rainwear is good."
"I would only add that you might be grateful to have sunglasses and perhaps a hat that will shade your eyes."
"The humidity of the American south is hard to describe to a European. Try going into a steam room wearing clothes! It shouldn't be too bad in March, however. Is it too early for mosquitoes in Alabama in March? Is bug protection something to think about?"
"Hen, you'll be amazed by how inexpensive clothing is in the USA compared with European prices. You may want to travel really light and buy things there, if you have time. Shoes are about half the price that I pay in Europe. You can also get good quality basics (underwear, socks, pajamas, tee shirts) for not a lot of money. The basics are available at Walmart or other "discount" stores like Target, Kmart...etc. Buy a couple of new pairs of Levi jeans, too. The good thing is that you can go out and shop for the right clothes if the weather shifts...if it's hot, go native in a tank top and a pair of shorts...if you're freezing just add another layer or two."
"Any more info about the dress code for the banquet? Trying to figure out what a marine biologist considers "dressed up" could be a challenge. It could be alot more casual than a similar European event. Are they giving out awards at the dinner? Is it held at a big fancy hotel or some other place?"
"My point is that with the much-discussed humidity, it will feel MUCH colder than the actual temperature. You should maybe bring one warm sweater to layer under a jacket, because by March in the South, you won't find a sweater anywhere in the local stores , they'll be stocking swimsuits by January!"
"I don't know about Alabama in particular, but having been to a few conferences in the humid and warm parts of the world, I would recommend woven fabric shirts rather than knit tops - cooler to wear if it is hot and also more smart for day wear. If it gets cold you can wear a merino knit tank top or a thermal top underneath and still look smart. Are you presenting? It does not hurt to look better dressed than the other speakers.
Also in the US in my experience, the air conditioning and heating is very efficient - inside temperature may not have any relationship to the outside temperature. - take a cardigan or jacket for the air conditioning on a hot day, and make sure you have a respectable underneath layer for the heating on a cold day. I have sweated my way through a conference in Pennsylvania during winter because I was wearing my smart warm wool jacket and did not want to stand up the front in my camisole. Not fun!"
"I'm going to recommend against ANY type of wool in the Mobile after February for being outdoors. It will be hot and sticky or at least sticky even if it isn't too hot. And you can't wash and dry it easily in the humidity. Yes, it can be done and would be nice for your presentations, perhaps, that are inside and airconditioned. But you won't want that outside doing field work. I would wear long cotton (khaki or chinos) pants. They'll get sandy and salty and muddy. Maybe even shorts (Bermuda length to look "professional") and cotton or knit tops - don't forget mosquito repellent if you show skin. As RobbieK indicated, dressed up in parts of the southern US means your flip-flops match your hair scrunchy. I would wear chinos inside for this type of conference with a nice woven top, probably - Marlene pants would be good. And a sweater or jacket that goes with everything.
I hope you enjoy your trip, the Gulf coast is beautiful (oil spill and all), the people friendly and the seafood excellent. And every month is mosquito month in Alabama (and Mississippi and Louisiana and Georgia and... well, it touches the Gulf)."
"Mobile is very humid and in March I would think that the most you might need is a light sweater or jacket. The sweater for a possible cool night or over air conditioned spaces. You might want an umbrella or light rain jacket. Leave the wool, boots and coats at home. Mobile is more of a khaki pants and sport shirt place for men's attire outside of business settings. You will see just about everything, but I would think that your hubby would find this comfortable and presentable. As for your clothes, once again you will see everything. I would pack skirts, pants and tops knowing that the weather will be in the mid seventies during the day and cooler at night. Having lived in half a dozen U.S. states and in Germany, I find Mobile somewhat conservative in dress (we are talking the norm you will see everything including the proverbial "ugly American")."
"I wouldn't waste my luggage on boots unless you will be in a barn (the riding sort) or fishing or in water (the rubber sort). Boots with a skirt are not going to be comfortable that far south except maybe for New Year's Eve. You will not want wool, either. I like tropical wool, and I do wear pants made of it year round up here in Virginia, but only when inside all day and only the really lightweight stuff. No way I'd wear it outside for any length of time that far south, even in March. Or woolen sweaters, even in the a/c I think. I'd plan to layer, light shirts, a lightweight sweater and a jacket. Yes, something waterproof, either the jacket or an umbrella. Imagine the steamy bathroom after you've taken a hot shower with the door closed. If your clothes would be sticky there, they'll be sticky in Mobile most likely."
"Can't help you with the weather issue in Alabama at that time of year, but I think the other consideration with a travel wardrobe is packablility (if that is a word). The fabric I like the best in my travel wardrobe is the ponte knit. It is basically wrinkle free and folds up very small. I have found that pontes can be lightweight to medium weight. I like the ponte without polyester for breathability. Just a thought."
People in Mobile, Alabama, in February. Everybody is wearing jeans or other long pants, not everyone is wearing a jacket, and you see some with short sleeves. (Thanks to Janis http://janssewingroom.wordpress.com/ for the idea to google street scenes in the place of destination!).