I was recently asked if I would like to review the Magic Layer top from JML, which you may have seen advertised. When I read that the top promises to retain heat yet doesn't feel like you're wearing an extra layer due to the ultralight Tactel fabric, I was curious. I hate feeling cold - who doesn't? - and right around that time we had our first few chilly days of the season and I was not ready. As I've mentioned, I live right by the sea and there's a damp chill in autumn and winter (and sometimes spring and summer) that can't be escaped by going indoors, thanks to the general lack of insulation. (This Canadian will forever lament the lack of pink stuff behind the walls in British homes!) Add to that my grudging resolution to make it to November without turning on the heat because it is just so painfully expensive, and I have the ideal conditions in which to try out the top both in and out of the house. I decided to wear it one morning when my phone was telling me that it's currently 7 degrees but feels like 4, and is windy. You know, those dark, gloomy mornings when you just want to cry but you settle for a huff and feeling sorry for yourself.
I received my top in black in size Small/Medium (it also comes in white and beige and in size Large/Xtra Large). I would know right away if it was something I would wear, regardless of its heat-retaining capabilities, based on whether it was comfortable or annoying. I've got lots of stretchy scoop-neck tops but I would never wear one under a jumper, that would just feel weird, so would this 'Magic Layer' do the trick without making me look and feel like the Michelin man? I put it on. It is remarkably light, like a couple of layers of mesh, yet it was surprisingly opaque. Maybe the black is especially forgiving and I suppose it depends on how tight the top fits you - mine was snug but not taut - but it certainly didn't leave me feeling like I wasn't dressed. I was dressing for chilly weather and I was going to be walking near the sea, so I put on a wool turtleneck jumper that also fits close. I was very happy to find that I was completely unaware of anything underneath. The top moves with you and adds no bulk whatsoever, and doesn't constrict around bent elbows. I went out and I wasn't cold. Of course I was dressed properly with a coat and therefore it was kind of hard to tell. So I did an experiment when I got home. I sat by a window with just the jumper on. (And pants and socks, I mean I just took off the Magic Layer!) I was cold. Then I put the other top back on under the jumper and sat down again in the same place. I was noticeably warmer. It made a big difference. It's hard to say whether simply having a second layer did the trick or it was the special fabric, but what I did appreciate is that I could be warm and still comfortable. It kind of sucks having to put on a bunch of bulky layers in your own house or trying to fit them all under your coat when going out, so it's worth it for the fact that it really does feel like nothing. However, a few unseasonably lovely days returned but I had already gotten used to wearing the top underneath which is the real test, that you will make it part of your routine, and I immediately felt really hot once I got outside. I had to take it off as soon as I got home, so I think there is actually something magical in that Tactel.
In case it's not obvious, my verdict is that the Magic Layer does its job of keeping you warm while remaining undetectable. I would advise tucking it in because it does have a tendency to roll up, but you can't even feel it when it does, it's that light. I just noticed when I specifically went to check where it was. I'm buying two more because I can't find where I put mine after taking it off the other day and I don't want to head out on a chilly morning without it! I think it works well psychologically as well as physically, I feel better just knowing it's on. Pretty good for something that costs £12.99.