Dress this snowflake for snowflakes
November 10, 2017 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Recently moved to a cold, snowy place. Could use advice for dressing warmly. Snowflakes inside! (And outside!)

We got our first snow of the year today, so I guess it's time to figure this out. I am a middle-aged lady librarian who recently moved to Western New York. I walk to work (approx. 1 mile each way). I like to be somewhat fashionable. I also tend to be very cold (I have Reynaud's) so I need clothing to keep me warm. These things seem to be at odds with each other!

Footwear: Are there any snow boots that are well made, attractive, AND not super-expensive? Or do I need to pick two?

Socks: What are the warmest not-super-thick socks? I have tried Smartwool but I've had trouble with them being too tight, which makes my Reynaud's cut off circulation to my toes, is there anything loose-fitting, warm, and not bulky out there?

Leggings/long underwear: I know I need silk. Don't I? What's the best affordable, durable, comfortable option? (I have tried fleece-lined leggings but I can't seem to find ones that fit over my large ass.)

Skirts: I like wearing skirts year-round. Can you point me to some warm skirts? Either longer ones or shorter ones that I can wear with tights/leggings but they gotta keep my ass warm.

Pants: Failing that, what are some work-appropriate warm pants that I can wear with ski boots, and maybe change into shoes at work? I really have a hard time finding pants that are comfortable AND attractive, so it feels like adding warm to the mix just makes this impossible. Hope me!

Coat: Are there any warm coats that don't just make you look like a big lump? Bonus if they aren't black/navy. Ideally I'd like something reflective because I'm crossing streets in the dark but that might be too much to hope for.

Gloves: Anything out there that is somewhat slim-fitting and also warm? Extra difficulty: my Reynaud's kicks in and cuts off circulation to the tips of my fingers if anything presses against the ends of my fingers. Oh and how do people not lose gloves? Oh and also also, how do you prevent that tiny gap between the end of your coat sleeves and the beginning of your glove? Do I just have the wrong kind of sleeves and gloves?

Scarves: I need to keep my face warm. I need a scarf for this, right? How do I scarf? I have tried scarves in the past and I hate them, they never seem to drape properly and also they seem easily lost. What am I doing wrong? Should I try a balaclava/ski mask instead?

Hats: Is there anything that will keep my head warm without flattening my hair? Also how do I not lose my hat?

Ears: Are hats the best option for keeping ears warm? Or a hood? What about earmuffs, are those still a thing? If so what's a good brand?

OK and finally, pajamas/robes/loungewear/slippers: What do I wear in the house to stay warm and also comfortable?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
[H]ow do people not lose gloves?
Well, you could do as the kids do and clip them to a string. I just stuff them into my coat hip pockets. I have a pair of gloves per coat, so there's no transferring back and forth.

I have tried scarves in the past and I hate them, they never seem to drape properly and also they seem easily lost.
Cowls! It's a scarf that's already in a loop! Will not come undone, will not slide off. You can get close-fitting ones that just slide over your head and nestle around your neck, or longer ones that you loop twice or even three times. When you take off your coat and hang it on a hanger, just slip the cowl onto the hanger.

Is there anything that will keep my head warm without flattening my hair? ... Are hats the best option for keeping ears warm?
If you work up a sweat while in the cold, like you would while walking a mile briskly, then I like a warm headband. It allows heat to release from the top of your head but still keeps your ears warm. (And it keeps my earbuds from falling out)
posted by Liesl at 6:56 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


I like socks that are meant for cold-weather sports - I wear them under pants or tall boots so I also like them to cover my calves. They tend to come in sizes so you can get the one that is right for your foot. I have a bunch from Bridgedale (like these). Sierra Trading Co has a LOT of socks, you can try different brands.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:03 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


My husband and I invested in some Triple F.A.T. Down coats within the last year and they were a really good investment. They aren't as expensive as some other parka retailers (by about 50-75%), but the quality is the same. I know it's rough to spend $500 on a coat, but there hasn't been a single day where it was not warm enough. Highly, highly recommend.
posted by ancient star at 7:04 AM on November 10


Coats! I love Land's End rating for how cold coats work in. Outerwear. Take a look here at different styles of coats and what temperatures they are rated for.

These Columbia Minx boots are what I got for my central Minnesota winter wear. Very warm! Very comfy! I think they are cute (I got some forest green colored ones not shown here). Waterproof for snow and slush! I am usually a size 8ish for shoes and had to get the 9 to accommodate thicker socks.

I prefer mittens in cold weather and gloves in cool weather. Mittens help your fingers keep each other warm. Look for some that have knitted cuffs underneath the waterproof cuff, as this will help keep snow out.
posted by jillithd at 7:05 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


(Another keyword for a cowl that might be helpful in your search is "infinity scarf.")

For all of these accessories, get as high a percentage of real wool as you can stand. Acrylic, polyester (that includes most so-called polar fleece) will only make you sweaty.
posted by Liesl at 7:05 AM on November 10


Silk undergarments! They are so light and warm. REI makes the ones that I like. They're thin enough to wear under jeans and not look frumpy.

Also: Go for wool as a mid layer; over your clothes, under your jacket.

Make sure your outercoat covers your butt! I think all the Chicagoan Mefites showed up in unison to tell someone that who moved to their city.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:06 AM on November 10 [4 favorites]


They make down-filled skirts! The one I have isn't being made anymore, so I don't have recommendations, but they exist and are warm and not as fluffy as you might expect.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 7:09 AM on November 10


If there is a ski/snowboarding shop in your town, or even a Scheels or sporting goods store, they tend to have EXCELLENT brands meant for folks outside in winter, especially regarding under layers and mittens. Even Target has some decent mittens, but I prefer the more snow-specific stores.
posted by jillithd at 7:09 AM on November 10


As Liesl says, a cowl and a headband could be the ticket, if you lose too much heat through your head you can also loosely wrap a scarf around your head over the headband. You do have the problem sometimes of the scarf coming undone but it keeps some heat in without being tight on your head & flattening your hair.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 7:15 AM on November 10


As another person who wears mostly skirts and lives in a place that gets cold, fleece-lined tights are a good, dear friend.

The only downside is that they're usually too warm for office settings, so I try to stick it out with 200 dernier tights as long as I humanly can.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:15 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


You also may want to look at CuddlDuds for fleece leggings - I found that they fit really well, and kept me pretty warm on our trip to Alaska, although we weren't walking a ton outside. Maybe you could put them on for the walk and take them off once you got to the office, because they really are too warm for inside, I found.

Yes to cowls, and if you want to spend a ton, look up qiviut - it's musk ox yarn, and is supposed to be the warmest stuff in the world. I tried on a cowl made from it when we were in Alaska, and it was amazingly warm. If I lived somewhere like New York, I might consider it, but Georgia just doesn't get cold enough!

I had a pair of the Columbia Minx boots for Alaska and they were super comfortable, warm, and held up well (we were only there for a week). They are $63 right now on Amazon. I did size up slightly. They gave me pretty good traction.
posted by needlegrrl at 7:18 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


Get a coat with an insulated hood! My hair can’t do hats if I want to look presentable, so all my coats have hoods.
posted by nanhey at 7:20 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


I just left Tahoe after 16 years. Last winter, we had about 20 feet of snow. Insane. Here's what I learned after surviving years of what essentially the Donner Party lived through:

Screw fashion when it comes to staying warm. By that, I mean on really cold days, don't be afraid to invest in a pair of super warm snow pants with light leggings or tights underneath. Once at work, you can take off the snow pants and be back to being fashionable again. I found a pair of snow pants that miraculously fit me at a thrift store and I'm short and chubby.

At home, invest in electric throws for the sofa and electric blankets in bed (I liked turning them on about an hour before bedtime, then turning them off once I was in bed).

I bought the thickest, warmest robe I could find and if no one else but me was at home, that was my go to uniform.

I bought an extra large microwaveable heavenly smelling neck wrap for lounging on the sofa or in bed. Oooh la la. Such luxury.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:22 AM on November 10 [5 favorites]


For socks and gloves, maybe buy a size up - that should help with the tightness. Smartwool and Bridgedale are good brands there. Make a habit of putting your gloves deep in your coat pocket when you take them off so they're always in the same place. Or get mitten clips. I tend to find mittens warmer than gloves, and they might be more comfortable for your circulation, too. Look for a pair with a long cuff - that will go under the sleeve of your jacket and keep the draft out. You can also wear gloves under mittens for extra warmth.

I am also a big fan of cowls, so I'll second that recommendation. Earmuffs are still a thing, though I don't know where to find good ones. You might also like a slouchy beret, which can look quite fashionable.

For loungewear, get a nice robe and you can wear it over everything. Wear slipper-socks (or any tall, cozy socks) and tuck the hems of your pants/leggings/long underwear into the tops.

Coats, you want down or wool. A coat that zippers closed is warmer than one with buttons. Get one long enough to cover your butt. I can't say I've seen many winter coats with built-in reflectiveness, but you can buy reflective straps that you can put on your arm/wrist when you're walking in the dark.

Boots - the most important quality of the boots is waterproofness, so your feet don't get wet when you have to walk through snow/slush/puddles. Cheap boots leak easily and then you're cold and wet. Depending on how cold it gets, you might be able to get by with a pair of Hunter rain boots - they're still fashionable, right? -- and with wool socks tucked into leggings/long underwear on the inside, they would keep you pretty warm and dry.

Wear leggings or long underwear under all skirts through the winter - you can always take the underlayer off when you get to work. Wool skirts will be warmer than polyester or cotton.
posted by kyla at 7:24 AM on November 10


An alternative to silk: uniqlo heattech! It's affordable, holds up well to washing and wear, and is available in both a range of warmth-levels and a range of product types beyond undergarments. My partner loves the longsleeved shirts, and I like the leggings. I had a pair of heattech corduroy pants but I actually found them *too* warm.

Scarves are better for necks than faces, in my opinion. If you layer a neck warmer under your scarf, you can pull it up over your face; I find this works better because the neck warmer stays put.

You might check out Merrell for coats -- they have some nice parkas / duffle-style coats that zip which are neutral without being black or navy (greys, tans) and are typically water-resistant and well-lined. Some even have lined hoods! Merrell also might be a good choice for affordable boots, depending on your foot shape (some people really like their shoes, others find they don't fit well; definitely a try-it-on situation).
posted by halation at 7:28 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]


I am your Raynaud's-having, cold-place-moving-to, work-walking-to spiritual sister! However, I have basically abandoned looking good while I walk to work, which may not be something you want to do. I would consider it, though. It makes this stuff a lot easier.

I gave up on finding the unicorn cute, warm, inexpensive boots and just went for warm and inexpensive. I got them a size larger than usual, so they can accommodate thick socks. I wear my usual socks as a base layer, and then I have thick, warm socks that I put over them before I put on my ugly boots. When I get to work, I take off the boots and the warm socks and change into my work shoes. I have the same issues with needing not to cut off circulation, so I got my thick socks a size larger than usual.

For my hands, I wear mittens. I'm a knitter, so I knit warm mittens, but you can also find warm mittens at your local farm-supply or sporting goods store. I wear glove liners underneath my mittens, so I can take off the mittens to do things like unlock my door. They make fancy, high-tech glove liners, but I just use these cheapo things from Target.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:29 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


Oh! I have a fold-down balaclava thingie that tucks under my chin if I don't want to wear it full balaclava style. That covers my ears. I wear a normal hat over it. I have really bad Raynaud's in my ears, so I find that just a hat isn't sufficient, even if it covers my ears.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:31 AM on November 10


also for home: last year a friend gave me a shawl with pockets and it is literally the greatest winter thing. i am wearing it right now, actually.
posted by halation at 7:33 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Gloves - with the caveat that I have short arms (where most full length sleeves are slightly too long for me) and that I find gloves exceedingly annoying - I just slip my hands up into my sleeves when I walk round or into my coat pockets. But up my sleeves seems to be enough for most general cold days. They may still feels a tiny bit cold but not really uncomfortable. The main downside is - if you slip on ice and fall and brace yourself with your hands your hands are completely unprotected. So that's something to consider.

Fashionable and winter outdoor warm and work wear may be a pick 2 out of 3 thing. Most winter appropriate smart work wear relies on not being outside walking much.

If you walk on wintry surfaces you need boots that facilitate that and warm feet. A lot of people just wear whatever boots they like for walking outside and then change into more work appropriate shoes at work.

You'll need outer garments that keep warmth in and cold/wind/rain/snow out. In my view your coat needs to be long enough to cover your butt if you'll be walking outside. Especially if you prefer skirts. In fact, I'd aim for knee length in that case.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:35 AM on November 10


Re: how to get quality boots at an affordable price. Ebay is your friend. It's not hard to find minimally used snow boots from reputable, quality brands like Sorel in the $40-60 price range.
posted by drlith at 7:36 AM on November 10


I live in Canada. We take staying warm VERY seriously.
My number one "stay warm" tip is just layer layer layer layer. Wear a couple pairs of socks, a couple pairs of mittens, a necker AND a hat AND a scarf. Just layer until you find the sweet spot for that particular day.

Footwear: I say get the warmest, most water proof, most comfortable boots you can find that have NO HEEL, and just keep normal work shoes at work that you change in to. Honestly, when there is a ton of snow on the ground I am a bit "Fuck fashion". Function wins out. That said, there are some cute-ish boots out there that are also warm and waterproof. Sorel is a good brand for winter boots. My son, my husband, and I all wear Sorel boots.

Socks: I'm a multi-sock wearer, myself, but really socks are a much smaller issue if you have proper boots. Get the right boots and normal socks are fine.

Leggings/long underwear: You need fleece lined tights. I have a giant ass, and the fleece lined tights I get from Costco are faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic. Stretchy, warm, comfortable, they stay up... best ever. And they are ~12$ for 2 pairs.

Skirts: I live in skirts all year round, and wear the SAME skirts all year round. Skirts are dead easy to make, so I personally just make basic pencil skirts, skater skirts, and A-line skirts at home.

Pants: I'm no good to you in this regard because I sincerely live all winter in leggings and fleece lined tights with a VERY occasional inclusion of a pair of pants. That said, just wearing fleece lined tights under normal work pants works.

Coat: Look for a wool peacoat. Personally, I own about 5 different winter jackets, each appearing at a different point on the warmth scale and the fashion scale. Some days I'm more willing to sacrifice some warmth for fashion, so I wear my cute winter coat, but other days its a great big basket of "NOPE!" so I wear my giant super warm parka.

Gloves: Slim fitting AND warm is a pretty tough order. You can get some thinsulate leather gloves, but I have yet to discover thin gloves that are as warm as my thrummed wool mittens. I, again, am a function over fashion type person when it comes to keeping my hands warm. I double layer mittens like a boss and my hands are toasty warm.
- I don't lose mine because I knit them myself and am therefore INSANELY PROTECTIVE of them.
- the gap between mitten and coat is solved by a pair of super long gloves that you put on before you put on your coat. Then you put the mittens on over top


Scarves: I wear a lot of scarves, but on SUPER cold days I always end up in a necker/cowl. I have a double layer polar fleece necker that fits quite snugly against my face that I can pull right up over my ears and nose. Pair that with a proper toque and you're locked and loaded.

Hats: I have knit myself about 5 of this bonnet type hat. It is great for keeping my head warm but not destroying my hair. (I have curly hair that I like to keep appropriately voluminous) It pairs great with neckers for ultimate warmth.
Loose tam-type hats can also be warm without hair crushing.
Other than that, a hood is your best bet.

Ears: I'm partial hats, but the kind of ear muffs that go around the back of your head are pretty great.

OK and finally, pajamas/robes/loungewear/slippers: I swear by my Uggs as slippers. Delightful. I spend a LOT of my time at home tromping around in leggings, my uggs, a long sleeve thermal shirt, and an oversized hoodie.

Also, get a heated throw blanket. Magical.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:36 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


If you buy a heavy down parka, it may not be easy to fit a scarf, especially a looped or otherwise bulky one, in at your neck. In which case, I find something like the Quick Link very handy. Those coats often have some kind of chin-warmer or at least bulky collar at the throat so protecting the face becomes more important, and you can pull the Link or similar up to cover what you want covered.
posted by praemunire at 7:44 AM on November 10


For your Raynaud's:

Get out your tiny violin; I get Raynaud's in the freezer section of the grocery store in Southern California. So, when I travel to a place that is actually cold, as I often do in the winter for snow-shoeing, I wear a glove liner, hand warmers for my fingers, and a loose mitten over the top.

Not sure if that would be too extreme for your daily walking commute, but it definitely staves off the ol' dead-and-yet-somehow-still-painful finger problems. If you're anti-chemical hand-warmer, maybe make a teeny tiny little itty bitty rice sock/beanbag for each hand, stick them in the microwave for a minute, then put them in between your glove liner and mittens.
posted by Temeraria at 7:44 AM on November 10


I don't have particularly large feet for a woman, but my smartwool socks are all men's medium.
posted by delezzo at 7:48 AM on November 10


LL Bean has a rare sale on; 25% off through 11/14. I live in Maine and they are a good corporate citizen, but I have no affiliation. The silk long underwear is very comfortable. How warm is it at work? I like wool sweaters, but they can be beastly in a warm place. A long down or synthetic coat is quite toasty and cuts wind. With Reynaud's, I'd get a pair of pretty warm boots, medium to tall. Buy men's smartwool or wool socks so they they don't constrict. I once had fur-lined gloves that were incredibly warm and cozy, but lined/ insulated are okay. Thick double-knitted mittens are warmer. Handwarmers are nice, too. I'm not a fan of hat hair, so I buy the largest fleece hat I can find.

I wear a fleece or wool vest when it's really cold; that extra layer helps a lot. You want to be wearing something warm with long sleeves under your coat. Leg warmers had a moment in the, what, 80s? but they really help under skirts. I like the fleece headband for keeping ears warm, but ear warmers, as well.

As a scarf, and also for warmth at work, I have a couple of very pretty wool pashminas. They add quite a bit of warmth as a shawl, or even a lap blanket. Consider fingerless gloves at work.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


I just bought my first new pair of snowboots in something like 20 years, so I did a bunch of research first, and one really important thing I found was a pretty extensive snowboots review site. I can't find it right away, but it should still be out there, and I'll help if you want to find it. The top reviewed boots overall were a Sorel model and Columbia Bugaboots.

One important thing was that they concluded that none of the boots they reviewed had any real traction, largely because anything that gives you sufficient traction to walk on ice shouldn't be used anywhere except on ice. So if your walk is slippery, you might want to invest in some grips that you strap on over your boots for your commute.

I ended up getting these 1964s, in black,, which I think are low key enough to pass as normal boots since they don't have a sheepskin cuff or anything, and are comfortable enough to walk around in for extended periods. I have no idea what other people think, but I think I look really cool in them. (Some of the pictures with the models make them look way clunkier than my experience, like they're too big plus unlaced or something.)

My previous, 20 year boots were Hi Tecs, and they were great, but obviously that model is discontinued, and I can't vouch for the quality of century's models.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:16 AM on November 10


I moved from a bright sunny place to a very cold place where it's currently snowing now as well. The bad news is that, as everybody was eager to tell me when I first got here: It gets worse from here on out.

The first thing is that there is a temperature under which fashionable is no longer possible or necessary, or that fashionable changes. Around these parts, fashionable has been a Canada Goose parka, which is horribly expensive, but I have had good experiences with my much cheaper non Canada Goose parka. Some people will tell you that a parka is too much and that you should just wear lots of layers, but they are children of icy climes; once I put the parka on, I can't tell that it's cold or windy except where I'm uncovered. Even with the fancy 3-in-1 systems my body can still feel a bit of cold or wind.

Pants: I find long underwear irritating, and prefer flannel lined pants. I'm a man so I can't really help you too much, but I think uniqlo has some lined pants and skirts.

Gloves: I have like five pairs of gloves and I stow them everywhere, so even if one gets lost ... I just buy the cheap runner's gloves from Costco and pair them with ski gloves for when it gets super cold.

Face: If you get a parka, it will have a hood. I like to wear a technical hoodie under my parka, and my technical hoodie has a built in facemask which is breathable and lovely. I have experimented with balacavas but they didn't do too well with me.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:20 AM on November 10


Fellow WNYer here! With about a 1-mile walking commute from train to office. Always cold, but not particularly fashionable.

Footwear: I love my sneaker boots from Lands End. They're not fashionable but they're hella comfy. People around here will tell you that you need very high snow boots, but my calves don't allow for that - if yours do, definitely get the higher-than-ankle-high variety.

Socks: try plus-size socks (Sock Dreams, Lane Bryant, Avenue, etc.) even if you're not plus sized. They are made for wider legs so they don't bind up around the ankle/calf.

Leggings/long underwear: Target usually has decently-priced silk or silk blend undergarments. They're plenty warm. For fleece-lined leggings (or tights!), again, check plus-sized stores even if you are not plus-sized to find options that fit over the most ample of butts.

Coats: I'd recommend going with utility over fashion here - the mornings when it's a negative 30 windchill fashion is less important than being frostbite-proof. You want waterproof, windproof, something that velcros over the zipper, tightens around the wrists and waist, goes up high around your neck, and ideally covers your thighs. You lose a lot of heat from your thighs on a winter commute.

Scarves: get a bunch. Wear several at a shot. Have at least one long one that wraps around your head/face as well as your neck. You'll want that on the really cold days.

Ears: Hat + scarf can do this trick if wrapped properly. Find something (several somethings - they will disappear) that's comfortable and easy for you, and wear it. Ears, fingers, and toes are the key things to keep warm.

Not losing stuff - always shove them in your coat sleeve when you take everything off. Always.

Pajamas/loungewear - lots of polar fleece, lots of layers. The fuzzy socks that look like muppets.

And hey, welcome! It's cold and snowy here but nowhere near as bad as people outside of WNY think it is. :)
posted by okayokayigive at 8:41 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Wool. Wool. Wool. Did I mention wool?

Coat: Are there any warm coats that don't just make you look like a big lump? Bonus if they aren't black/navy. Ideally I'd like something reflective because I'm crossing streets in the dark but that might be too much to hope for.

You want a tan walker coat. They come in hooded and faux fur versions normally for those extra chilly days.

Leggings/long underwear: I know I need silk. Don't I? What's the best affordable, durable, comfortable option? (I have tried fleece-lined leggings but I can't seem to find ones that fit over my large ass.)

Uniqlo Heat Tech leggings are staples in many wardrobes for this.
posted by Talez at 9:32 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


We moved to Ohio from the Bay Area last year and I have now acquired:

Sorel boots (MUCH cuter options than when I was a Canadian snowchild; the first time I wore them and my feet actually stayed DRY all day, I was amazed and regretted Cool Kid me in high school). Make sure they have the felt liner, that's what does it.

A 3-in-1 parka from Patagonia, which was on sale and covers my legs to mid-calf. You can wear parts of it on days that are not totally frozen. I also have a Patagonia down shell that doesn't cover my butt, for less frozen days. Down is the best, except when it's wet.

Mittens - I have wool inners and would recommend leather outers as the snow barrier. Gloves are inadequate.

A hat lined with faux fur with a chin strap, but I really rely on my hood, curly hair hates hats. Also I have a giant raw silk scarf that makes me happy. Wind around and around and over your head when you need to.

Smartwool long underwear. I hate long underwear, especially when it rolls down at the waist. I will be looking into other options this winter. I don't love silk underwear because I don't find it very breathable, and it gets runs and wears at the crotch.

My mom used to walk to work, 3 mi. either way, all winter in Winnipeg. She likes skirts and would wear snowpants underneath, then remove at work. I would not call this the fashionable option but you stay warm.

The general rule of thumb is: wool is your underlayer. Don't wear cotton socks inside woolies, that keeps moisture close to your skin where it chills you.

For indoors, I have a throw that is down on one side (in a kicky plaid) with faux fur on the other. It is almost too warm.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:08 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


A couple things:

Walking a mile to work will heat you up. I used to walk two miles in a knee-length wool coat and just shirtsleeves underneath. My fleece headband got sweaty so I switched to ear muffs. If it was actually snowing, I'd also wear either a baseball cap (for the visor) or carry an umbrella.

For boots, take ice and slush into account. If you are walking through a business district, sidewalks might be cleared to bare pavement but residential neighborhoods rarely bother. Packed snow and/or day melt turns to ice and more snow covers that up. Look into crampons.

Once things start warming up in February, there will be deep slush puddles at every corner, make sure your boots are waterproof well past your ankles.

If your community salts the roads, that's going to chew up leather boots. I had a pair of knee-length down boots with rubber feet and a pair of insulated boot mocs for when the sidewalks were shoveled.

Now if you're ever going to be standing around or sitting outside for a longer time, that's when you need to gear up. I went on a night hayride once in -30 and was warm as toast in a massive vintage fur coat and those down boots over a little cocktail dress.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:19 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Welcome, new upstater!

Here's my starting point. Separate these two things in your mind: What you look like walking to work, and what you look like AT work. Bring a pair of regular shoes to work and leave them under your desk. I'm not much of a skirt-wearer, but keep in mind that you could wear snow pants with leggings and change into a skirt in the bathroom. No one expects fashion outside.

Footwear: My favorite boots are Bogs. They're easy to get on and off, solidly waterproof, surprisingly warm for not being fuzzy in any way. Today I wore these Timberlands in because I'm pretending it's not as bitter outside as it is. If you want thick socks you might want a half-size up.

Socks: I'd try a bigger size, they shouldn't be tight, that's just going to make things worse. I mostly knit my wooly socks so I don't have any good recommendations.

Leggings: I love silk long underwear, I'm wearing some today and they're just enough to not be too much indoors. I've gotten some from WinterSilk and REI and LL Bean and they're all good. I got my husband some merino ones from a local wool place that are often too warm for him, so you might want to look at that too. The year-round skirt-wearer I know found fleece leggings that work for her, sometimes with silk under that.

Coat: I've just been looking at a new coat myself. You'll probably look like a lump, but people who are outside are too cold to judge you for your comfort. Columbia doesn't mess around (and some of the ones I was looking at had a reflective outer surface). LL Bean doesn't mess around. I've seen a bunch of non-winter kids on campus wearing Fjallraven, which looks well-made. A longer coat that hits at least mid-thigh would be very helpful for the WNY bitterness. Seek deep pockets so your gloves and hat will fit.

Gloves: I've started to layer gloves, and can recommend it. Thin gloves (they can even be the cheap kind you find for 2$ each), then thick mittens or water/wind proof gloves. My technique for not losing gloves is to only buy relatively cheap ones. The ugly ones never disappear. For the gap, get gloves with a longer wrist part. Some coats have tight/extra long sleeves that make it easier to tuck ends in.

Scarves: Try a balaclava or a straight up ski mask for sure. I have better luck with wearing a scarf under my coat rather than over it, and I have better luck with wide thin scarves (pashmina types). They're super thin but as other people have said, layering is your friend.

Hats/ears: I. Hate. Cold. Ears. This is the most important thing for me. I just deal with flat hair, but there are good-quality ear muffs made with sheepskin out there that work well. (I have ones similar to this that I got at a country fair, and which I wear when the full earflap getup feels silly.) I recommend earmuffs that aren't adjustable, because the adjusting part usually digs into my scalp. My favorite kind of hat is lined with polarfleece with earflaps and long ties that can be tied even with mittens on.

Jammies: I just layer to a ridiculous extent. Long johns, t-shirt, flannel or fleece pants and top, sometimes bathrobe, sometimes hat or hoodie. I feel like I am a sheepskin evangelist but there are sheepskin slipper liners that my husband likes, and LL Bean's has serious well-made warm slippers.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:04 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


To second and add weight to tchemgrrl's "no one expects fashion outside" - I once worked a black tie fundraiser gala in a particularly cold and snowy February in Buffalo. Folks arrived in their snow boots, with puffy winter coats over their gowns and tuxes, and brought along their nice shoes. The coat check had bags for the boots - this wasn't a rare occurrence.

This sort of thing took a while for me to get used to when I moved here, but it really is much more about the safety of being warm than anything else. And yes, walking will keep you warm to a point, but frostbite happens fast around here - the best advice someone gave me when I moved to WNY was "ears, nose, fingers, and toes" - keep them warm, because if you can't feel them, it's too late.
posted by okayokayigive at 12:57 PM on November 10


Also, fashionable boots are likely to be leather, and salt on roads and sidewalks will make a mess of them.
posted by theora55 at 2:52 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]


I love Icebreaker merino as a base layer for my lower body. Expensive, but so soft and warm (and they have periodic sales). I like the 200/lightweight stuff, and I don't like tight stuff so often go one size up, but ymmv. Nthing that if you are having issues with sock tightness then just size up. Also consider this if you can't find socks that do the job alone. A few years ago I discovered liner socks and they have really helped keep my feet warm.
posted by gudrun at 7:58 AM on November 11


There is plenty of good advice upthread. I just want to add:
- One important consideration when you are buying boots is how well they fit when you walk downhill. You don't want your foot to slide forward so your toes jam up in front. Good stores will provide a sloping board or ramp that you can use to test the fit of your boots. Be sure to wear the same socks that you would wear every day. Camping/hiking/sporting equipment stores are your best bet in this regard.
- I agree with Comrade_robot... Canada Goose coats are over-priced. There are several other manufacturers that make equivalent quality coats, but without the expensive logo. I wear a Quartz Nature parka (that I learned about from AskMetafilter!) Although Quartz Nature makes mostly down-filled coats, mine is insulated with a synthetic called Isoloft, so I can machine launder it if I need to.
- There was a similar question previously. Jessamyn pointed to this article by REI which gives a very good rundown on layering.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:57 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


In the house, make sure your neck is covered, and if necessary, wear a hat. Why do you think the Little House on the Prairie girls always wore their little ruffled night caps? Also, keep your feet insulated from any cold floors. We each have a pair of house Crocs.
posted by lakeroon at 3:31 PM on November 11


This excellent 2016 post by AFABulous has a lot of good information about cold weather gear (and also about the quickest and least messy way to pee outside during winter camping situations, should you need to know).

The post includes a link to wise advice by a Californian who relocated to the Midwest, stressing (among other things) the importance of a long coat:
I thought I could get away with a short coat my first winter in Iowa, and on the first really cold day I tried to walk about three-quarters of a mile to an academic building. By the time I got there I could not feel my thighs. ... I went into a public restroom, took off my pants, wrapped toilet paper all around my legs like a mummy, pulled my pants back on, and went out into the world. This actually worked okay, and I recommend it in a pinch. But seriously, get a long coat.
Plagiarizing my own comment from that discussion, here are my (slightly updated) recommendations:

When it comes to keeping warm, I'm all about the footwear, and as a longtime New Englander, I can recommend silk sock liners as light but effective insulation.

I picked up mine at least 15 years ago at the South Portland, Maine, outpost of Filene's Basement. They're not around anymore (at least not in brick and mortar form), but a quick search for the best + cheapest liners turns up the REI Co-op Silk One Liner socks for $10.95 a pair. I can't vouch for them personally, but they get an average rating of 4.2 on a 1-to-5 scale from 77 reviewers.

I also prefer dresses and skirts to trousers, and I found useful advice from lingerie designer and blogger Quinne Myers in this post for The Lingerie Addict: 4 Amazing Winter Lingerie Solutions So You Never Have to Wear Pants Again.

It's a good read, and she offers where-to-shop suggestions. I can vouch for Sock Dreams, where the extensive staff and consumer reviews make it easier to narrow down the choices. Here are their warm socks, from anklets to thigh highs; here's their warm tights collection.

Here's the tl;dr from Quinne's post:
1. Cotton-lined wool, fleece-lined or wool-blend tights.
2. A sturdy garter belt with stockings, for those with "narrow hips, a big booty, thin legs, or any sort of proportion that makes ready-made tights ride up or fall down."
3.* Thick high socks, over-the-knee or to the thigh, on their own or layered over thin lycra tights.
* Note from virago: If this is your choice, I suggest reducing the chilly gap between top of stocking and bottom of underpants by wearing boxer briefs. I like PACT (organic cotton, $29 for two pair; keep an eye out at your local Whole Paycheck and you might run into a two-pair-for-$25 sale -- I did) and Bia Boro (sadly, it looks like they're out of stock).
4. Over everything: The warmest boot socks.

Now go forth and saunter.
posted by virago at 8:52 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


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