Quote Origin: There Is No Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing

Elisabeth Woodbridge? Charlotte V. Gulick? Ranulph Fiennes? Alfred Wainwright? Anonymous?

Silhouette of a person in golden sunlight from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: With the proper clothing a person is capable of adapting to almost any type of weather. Here is an adage reflecting this attitude:

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This maxim is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. The earliest match known to QI appeared in a story by Elisabeth Woodbridge published in “The Outlook” magazine of New York in 1911. The author signaled that the saying was already in circulation, thus the ascription was anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

“Don’t you think it’s rather poor weather for walking?”
“This was what I had been waiting for, and I responded glibly, “Some one has said there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only good clothes.”

This above instance employed the phrase “good clothes” instead of “bad clothes”. The adage encouraged readers to wear carefully selected clothing attuned to the weather.

Here is an overview with dates

Precursor 1830: There is no such thing in nature as bad weather (John Wilson)

Precursor 1883: There was no such thing as bad weather, but only different kinds of pleasant weather (John Ruskin)

1911: There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only good clothes (Anonymous attribution by Elisabeth Woodbridge)

1915: There is no such thing as bad weather if one is dressed properly (Charlotte V. Gulick of Camp Fire Girls)

1935: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad dressing for the weather. (Anonymous attribution by Helen Johnson Keyes)

1941: There is no bad weather, only bad clothes (Anonymous attribution in Vogue)

1960: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes (Anonymous attribution by Duchess of Windsor)

1962: There’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Margot Benary-Isbert)

1974: There is no bad weather for bikes, only bad clothing (Attributed to Swedes)

1977: There is no such thing as bad weather—only inadequate clothing (Comical attribution to Freud in Punch)

1978: There is no inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing (Anonymous attribution in Wisconsin State Journal)

1985: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing (Anonymous in Cruising World)

2006: There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (Attribution to Ranulph Fiennes)

2009: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Attribution to Alfred Wainwright)

Below are selected citations with details in chronological order.

A separate Quote Investigator article discussing the 1830 and 1883 citation is available here.

In 1912 Elisabeth Woodbridge published a novel titled “The Jonathan Papers” which included her 1911 story from “The Outlook”. Thus, the maxim achieved further distribution:2

. . . I responded glibly, “Some one has said there is no such thing as bad weather, there are only good clothes.”

In 1915 Charlotte V. Gulick published “A Book of Symbols for Camp Fire Girls” which contained the following passage:3

The beauty of the storm, the cool, refreshing rain, so necessary to growth, the preservation of life and the prevention of forest fires, make the Cloud Symbol, Yoki, an appealing one. Then, too, every Camp Fire Girl believes in being prepared for all weathers and knows there is no such thing as bad weather if one is dressed properly.

In 1935 “The Christian Science Monitor” printed an article about men’s fashion by Helen Johnson Keyes which included an instance of the saying:4

It was a wise man who once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad dressing for the weather.” When this assertion was made, 20 and more years ago, there was a greater amount of bad dressing for the weather than there is today.

In 1940 the linkage to Elizabeth Woodbridge was recalled in a filler item printed in the mass-circulation magazine “The Reader’s Digest”:5

There is no such thing as bad weather; there are only good clothes.
—Elizabeth Woodbridge, The Jonathan Papers (Houghton Mifflin)

In 1941 fashion magazine “Vogue” printed the following:6

There are the fashion maxims these days: beware of the cold, of the wind and the rain, for, as the English say, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”; don’t be conspicuous or look frivolous in the streets; do not display your valuable skins when others are freezing.

In 1960 the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson) stated that one of her acquaintances used the expression:7

After a long wet holiday in Europe this past summer, an acquaintance of mine came up with the observation that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I was confounded by this remark at first, but in discussing it further, I soon realized she had a point and a very valid one.

In 1962 Margot Benary-Isbert published the novel “A Time To Love” which was translated from German to English by Joyce Emerson and the author. A character in the novel used the saying:8

Dr. Schenker maintains there’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. His main purpose in life seems to be to prevent us from becoming “soft.”

In 1974 the book “The Pedestrian Revolution; Streets Without Cars” contained a version of the saying tailored to bicycle riders:9

What about bike use in winter? In Sweden, which has far more severe weather than most cities in the United States, the response to this is: “There is no bad weather for bikes, only bad clothing.” Bicycle use in Stockholm continues year-round . . .

In 1977 the London humor magazine “Punch” contained a piece which comically credited Freud:10

Like Freud I believe that there is no such thing as bad weather—only inadequate clothing.

In 1978 the “Wisconsin State Journal” of Madison, Wisconsin published another version of the saying:11

She had never been a winter person, but decided she would adapt. Taking the advice of a friend that “there is no inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing,” she assembled a proper winter wardrobe and took up cross country skiing.

In 1985 the magazine “Cruising World” printed a piece discussing Sweden which included the following:12

Swedes don’t mind torrential rains and biting cold; they’ve got it and they’re used to it. (“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing,” is an often-heard axiom.)

In 1997 “Backpacker: The Magazine of Wilderness Travel” published an advertisement for Terramar Sports Worldwide with the following slogan:13

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, ONLY BAD CLOTHING

In 2006 the saying was ascribed to British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the book “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car”:14

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
—SIR RANULPH FIENNES, EXPLORER

In 2009 “The Wit and Wisdom of the North” compiled by Rosemarie Jarski ascribed the saying to British guidebook author Alfred Wainwright:15

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
Alfred Wainwright

In 2011 “Preposterous Proverbs” compiled by Max Cryer included the following skeptical entry:16

‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.’ (Sweden)
Have they considered tornadoes, blizzards and floods?

In conclusion, this article presents a snapshot of current knowledge. The earliest citation in 1911 was written by Elisabeth Woodbridge, but she used the phrase: “Some one has said”. Thus, the creator of the adage remains anonymous. The attributions to Ranulph Fiennes (born in 1944) and Alfred Wainwright (born in 1907) appeared very late. Neither of them originated the saying.

Image Notes: Silhouette of a person in golden sunlight from Javier Allegue Barros at Unsplash. The image has been cropped and resized.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Jane (twitter handle) and Simon Koppel whose inquiries provided encouragement for this research. Also, thanks to the “Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” (2015) which contains a pertinent entry listing the 1883 Ruskin citation and the 1911 Woodbridge citation.

  1. 1911 April 29, The Outlook, In The Rain by Elisabeth Woodbridge, Start Page 974, Quote Page 975, The Outlook Company, New York, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩︎
  2. 1912, The Jonathan Papers by Elisabeth Woodbridge, Chapter 11: In the Rain, Quote Page 144, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Internet Archive archive.org) link   ↩︎
  3. 1915, A Book of Symbols for Camp Fire Girls by  Charlotte V. Gulick, Symbol Number 104, Quote Page 54, The Camp Fire Outfitting Company, New York. (Internet Archive) link ↩︎
  4. 1935 July 17, The Christian Science Monitor, Summer Suits, Smart Accents by Helen Johnson Keyes (Special from The Christian Science Monitor Bureau), Quote Page 8, Column 1, Boston,. Massachusetts. (ProQuest) ↩︎
  5. 1940 September, The Reader’s Digest, Volume 37, Number 221, (Filler item), Quote Page 102, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩︎
  6. 1941 January 15, Vogue, Volume 97, Number 2, Germans over Paris, Start Page 60, Quote Page 95, Column 1, Condé Nast. New York. (ProQuest) ↩︎
  7. 1960 November 24, The Atlanta Constitution, Duchess Says If Weather Is Bad–Plan a Costume With Distinction by the Duchess of Windsor, Quote Page 41A, Column 5, Atlanta, Georgia. (ProQuest) ↩︎
  8. 1962 Copyright, A Time To Love by Margot Benary-Isbert, Translated from the German by Joyce Emerson and the author, Chapter 11: Heiligenwald Christmas, Quote Page 136, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  9. 1974, The Pedestrian Revolution; Streets Without Cars by Simon Breines and William J. Dean, Chapter 5: The Bicycle As Urban Transport, Quote Page 87, Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  10. 1977 August 10, Punch, Strictly Personal by Melvyn Bragg, Quote Page 240, Column 2, Punch Publications Limited, London. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  11. 1978 December 3, Wisconsin State Journal, Southern influence takes over in kitchen by Ann Rundell (The State Journal), Section 7, Quote Page 18, Column 3, Madison, Wisconsin. (Newspapers_com) ↩︎
  12. 1985 November, Cruising World, Volume 11, Number 11, Sailing’s Smorgasbord by Bernadette Brennan, Start Page 71, Quote Page 73, Column 1, Cruising World Publications, Newport, Rhode Island. (Google Books Full View) ↩︎
  13. 1997 September, Backpacker: The Magazine of Wilderness Travel, Advertisement: Terramar Sports Worldwide, Port Chester, New York, Quote Page 85, Rodale Press Inc., Emmaus, Pennsylvania. (Google Books Full View) ↩︎
  14. 2006, How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish, Chapter 15: Wardrobe, Appearance, and Grooming, (Quote occurs as chapter epigraph), Quote Page 140, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  15. 2009, The Wit and Wisdom of the North, Compiled by Rosemarie Jarski, Topic: The Natural World, Quote Page 130, Ebury Press: A Random House Group Company, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  16. 2011, Preposterous Proverbs: Why Fine Words Butter No Parsnips, Compiled by Max Cryer, Chapter: Weather and Gardens, Quote Page 229, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, New Zealand. (Verified with scans) ↩︎