The Art

of changing your clothes in a car

Anne’s Review:   Have you considered getting a van?


Photos are of places I’ve changed my clothes in the car.

Everywhere in Colorado!

Suddenly I was seized by a painful cramp in my left hamstring.  This was a direct protest over the task at hand.  I was beginning to sweat in what felt like a struggle for survival.  I was in the front seat of our compact rental car, parked in the very busy parking lot for the Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado.  My husband and I had arrived too early to check into our condo.  We drove directly to the ski area, parked, pulled our luggage out of the trunk and scrounged around within it to find our ski gear. 

After living in Houston for a number of years, skiing seemed a ridiculous activity.  I did not own a winter coat.  I had never worn those clunky ski boots or even known where to shop for winter wear in my tropical city near the Gulf of Mexico.  To my surprise, I discovered that many Texans go skiing in Colorado and there are places in town to buy the proper gear.  My husband, who had formerly lived in Colorado, was familiar with the whole culture of winter and skiing.  He bought me capilene underwear (fancy, high-tech long johns) and a ski bib, a sort of waterproof overalls.  These were the essentials I sought among my neatly packed clothing, along with my hat, gloves and scarf.  I needed several layers for the top of me as well, as I still had no winter coat. 

Mount Mitchell, NC

Items found, I nipped back into the car with my collection of warmies to prepare myself for an afternoon of downhill skiing.  The resort base sits at 9,000 ft above sea level, a bit of a shock for one floundering flat-lander.  It was cold, a balmy 20-something degrees.  I had to remove clothes before putting the new ones on.  I insisted the car stay running with the heat on.  Shoe removal was an imperative first step, yet challenging in a tight space.  Once the shoes were wrestled off, I wriggled out of my travel clothes and began the arduous task of sliding the longs johns onto my legs.  I was slumped over with my head on my knees looking for my feet, when a car pulled alongside ours in the parking lot. 

Now, here is the tricky part, the art, if you will, of changing clothes in the car.  If you are bent over in your skivvies and a car pulls up next to you, don’t unbend to see who it is.  It is the natural response.  Resist.  I looked of course.  Then immediately grabbed my raincoat to cover up as much of me as possible.  Thankfully there were no smirks among the passengers as they exited the neighboring car.  I envied them.  They were already appropriately attired.  As they departed, I wrestled one long john leg up to my thigh, one foot on the seat and knee in my face. 

Lake Champlain, Vermont

As I reached for the cuff of the second leg, the cramp hit.  I had to unbend my knee immediately.  Unfortunately, there is not much room to flail in the front seat of a Ford Escort.  At this altitude and with this much activity, I was panting for oxygen.  Mr. Former Resident of Colorado was nearly finished changing with minimal fuss.  I was beginning to question my desire to ski.  By this time, putting on the thick socks seemed a formidable, Olympian activity.  I still had to untangle the bib and figure out how to put it on without succumbing to contortions and lightheadedness.

Canyon Lake, TX

How many layers should go on top?  Capilene undershirt, long sleeve tee, flannel shirt, fleece jacket, raincoat.  I couldn’t move my arms to zip up the coat.  I was too hot.  If I took stuff off, would I freeze to death?  I would surely succumb to hypothermia if I kept them all on, a victim of freezing sweat.  In that moment, it all seemed a bit ridiculous.  We turned the car off to reduce the temperature inside.  I inelegantly removed the long sleeve tee, prayed for comfort and oxygen and brought my layers down to four.  I hoped I had adequate strength and mobility left to raise my body from a snowbank should that necessity arise.  I emerged from that car an amateur skier, but a budding pro at changing my clothes in a cramped, hot and public place.  That skill would serve me well.  Skiing, that activity where you terrifyingly fly down a hill for about 30 feet, then land on your ass in the cold snow while people whiz by in their fashionable ski gear? You can keep that.

Boulder, CO

Camping.  There’s the activity where this skill pays off.  Drive to Louisiana or Arkansas or pretty much anywhere in Texas.  Long hours in a car, no plans for a hotel room.  Travel in a caravan to your trailhead.  Change in the car.   Better yet, fly to Wyoming and hike for six days with nine men.  Being the only woman for six long days and multiple changes of clothes calls for changing one’s gear in a sleeping bag.  And a bit of crying, but we won’t go into that.

Lake Powhatan aka Bent Creek, NC

On a recent morning, I was reminded of all these adventures as my husband and I pulled up to the relatively benign parking area for the Lake Powhatan Recreational Area in the Pisgah National Forest.  It was a chilly morning and I was dressed appropriately for the damp and cool weather with two layers top and bottom.  As we parked, the sun came out and the temperature didn’t seem so cold.  I rolled my eyes at my husband as I assessed the situation.  I would need to once again disrobe in a very public place.  The lot was jammed with cars and hikers.  The layer which needed to come off was the one closest to my skin.  I began stripping, pausing as people wandered past.

Enchanted Rock, Texas

 Removing my shoes in order to rid myself of the lower layer is always the trickiest.  After untying my hiking boots, I struggled with excavating feet from footwear.  With a mighty tug I released one foot from its boot, causing my arm to snap back and whack the car door.  After a moment of wailing and clutching my arm, I regained my composure, before my agony was inconveniently noticed by my husband and other hikers, prompting the question “What are you doing in there?”  The pants slipped off but the leggings protested their removal.  I began to roll them down my leg like an exotic dancer in a strip club.  Slowly and with great purpose.  Thankfully I was not showcased for this entertainment.  I got them off and put my hiking pants back on without anyone ogling.  I gave up on ridding myself of the inner shirt, so I just took off the outer one and put my fleece vest on.  Hiking happiness resumed.

Mountain to Sea Trail, NC

Weather is the catalyst to perfecting the art of changing your clothes in the car.  In the south, I feel the need to remove a layer that was perfect for the morning temperatures but unnecessary for the heat of the afternoon.  In the north or mountain areas, more is needed.  If that one extra layer should be the innermost one, tact and dexterity are required in order to accomplish this feat of semi-public undressing.  A car is a great place to discretely complete this task, best if parked but, what the hell if the car is careening down the interstate.  Not everyone looks and if they do, slow down and let them get ahead so that they don’t catch up to you at the next truck stop.  It’s one thing to be seen from a moving vehicle and another entirely to be the object of pointing and smirking in Buc-ees. (The best bathrooms in Texas).

Glacier National Park, Montana

A certain amount of flexibility is required for the vehicular clothing change during travel and other adventures, so keep up your yoga practice or whatever suppleness-maintaining activity you enjoy.  Don’t let your modesty or those awkward maneuvers keep you from enjoying that skiing or hiking in comfort.  And, as your mother always advised, wear your best underwear and all will be well.

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

People will stare. Make it worth their while. (Harry Winston)


Guest Editor Anne is a member of the Asheville Women Writers Cooperative and, with her ankle injury, is currently super challenged by changing clothes in a car, in a van or even in a well-lit room.  She is an erudite editor who makes me pause to reconsider any tangle of words which might confuse my readers.


  1. ? wow. With my long legs and stiff back there is no way I could do this. You are flexible my dear. Next time get a video.

  2. Very entertaining. Been there, done that.

    • Thanks Deborah! Yes, if you play outdoors, you will sometimes need to change (or pee, which is a whole nother story) in a public place!

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