How do you stay fashionably warm in winter?
November 5, 2010 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I started dressing more fashionably in the last year; ditching my Kohls and Sears wardrobe for Banana Republic, J Crew, and Ann Taylor. Overall I'm pleased with my new wardrobe, but I have not figured out what to do for winter! I live in New England where it gets COLD and those thin little "sweaters" that BR and J Crew like so much don't cut it. Last winter I looked great but was frequently cold. Should I just go to LL Bean, or is there some winter fashion secret?
posted by klao to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
It might help to know if you're a male or female.
Generally speaking, your best bet is to layer like crazy. J Crew does sell heavier weight outerwear, which is pricey, but will last you a good while. Given the other stores you mention, LL Bean would be a serious stylistic clash.
posted by Gilbert at 8:41 AM on November 5, 2010

I'm assuming you're a woman based on the Ann Taylor reference.

Banana Republic sells fashionable winter clothing. See, for example, this wool jacket.
posted by dfriedman at 8:42 AM on November 5, 2010

I wear tights, layer, etc, but below freezing, I wear a big one of these over my fabulous outfits. That takes care of being cold outside.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:43 AM on November 5, 2010

Since OP said "Ann Taylor" I'm guessing she's female.

My answer to you: layers.

Wear a camisole. Also, long underwear. Tops and bottoms.

Keep your torso warm and wear thick socks. No one will know what you have on under your fashionable sweaters.
posted by morganannie at 8:43 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Layers. Go to anthropologie and check out how they do layers - a cardy over a cami over a long-sleeved t with a scarf, leggings and over the thigh socks with a skirt and boots. Or a tank top with a dress over it and a cardy over that.

I sometimes wear silk long underwear if I'm freezing. If you're a skirt and dress girl like me, thigh high socks (sockdreams is so good), cute scarves, and fingerless gloves are fashiony and give that extra little layer of warmth.
posted by iconomy at 8:45 AM on November 5, 2010

Thin long underwear is the secret. I adore microweight SmartWool. Silk is also quite lovely.
posted by advicepig at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Layering is the winter fashion secret. So is not giving a damn and putting on as much bulky warm stuff as you need. Keep the bottom two layers fashionable (a button down and a thin sweater, something similar) and pile whatever you need on top. Then, when you're inside, you can shed layers down to the fashionable ones and leave your purpose-driven clothes in the coat closet.

Also, silk long underwear is brilliant. This is something you do indeed go to LL Bean for. They also have some rather jaunty pieces these days, if you choose wisely and don't buy Mom Jeans.

Hats are vital. If you worry about hats not being stylish enough, go the classic alternative route and choose the ugliest hat in the land. One of those fuzzy bomber hats are excellent, and my favorite is the knitted alpaca toque with ear flaps and pompoms. If you don't try to match your hat at all, you can normally pull it off with aplomb. It's when you try to get all cutesy with hats that they go wrong. Also you can get a thin beanie and wear that under your hat for added warmth.
posted by Mizu at 8:47 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

You do have to layer like crazy, which is hard because JCrew and its like are not really cut to accommodate underthings. You also have to pay more attention to fabric content. A thin wool/merino/cashmere sweater, or even a silk one, is significantly warmer than one that is primarily cotton or acrylic sweater.

Icebreaker makes very warm and very thin underlayers of merino wool, which for most people is not itchy. I find their outerlayers very fashionable as well, but you may not. Silk underwear also adds warmth without bulk.

Wear more than one pair of tights and even socks over your tights under your boots.

Cultivate a sense of style that includes pashminas or wool wraps. Again, go for wool over viscose and you'll stay very warm.

Once you're standing on a street corner, waiting for a bus, in 10 degree weather, however, most fashion bets are off. Unless you're wearing real fur, you're probably only truly warm if you look like a bag lady.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2010

Cute bulky cardigans kept at the workplace (for example) are another traditional answer. You can also get some heavier-weight blazers that you can put over your "cute" outfit. (My husband, who is always freezing, has casual blazers that look right with jeans and dressy ones that look right with a tie that he keeps around for when he needs an extra layer. Little harder for women, but more types of things to choose from.)

Outdoors, there's heavy wool coats and cashmere scarves for normal cold, but for super-cold, nobody cares how you look on the outside.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:55 AM on November 5, 2010

Victoria's Secret, of all places, has lots of cute and substantial sweaters.
posted by brainmouse at 8:56 AM on November 5, 2010

Nthing long underwear!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:58 AM on November 5, 2010

A thick, warm cardigan like this or this, belted over a blouse or a long-sleeved jersey top and some sort of bottom with a narrow profile (skinny jeans, pencil skirt, close-cut trousers) is really cozy.

Also, after freezing through several winters with cute, tailored wool coats, I got one of these LL Bean coats last year (in black, so at least I don't look like a cranberry) and am now basically been able to wear whatever I want underneath and still be warm outside. It's great.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:16 AM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Layers of natural fibers are definitely the answer here. I generally go for wool slacks, a cashmere sweater, warm boots (La Canadienne is often recommended, I have a black pair from LL Bean that are not too clunky), a fitted down jacket, cashmere scarf and hat, and wool-lined leather gloves, and find that I am totally fine for walking around New York City in the winter. I find even that even fairly thin cashmere sweaters are quite warm, especially over a long sleeved shirt -- uniqlo's are especially affordable and cozy! Don't bother with acrylic or cotton sweaters until April -- even the thickest don't do diddly-squat to keep out the cold.

For waiting at the bus stop in especially cold weather, add long underwear, wool tights under the pants, boots with more lining, and/or thick hand-knit wool socks under the boots.

The key is good down outerwear. For me, even high-quality wool jackets never were warm enough for real winter weather. Down is the only thing that keeps out the bitter wind, and since switching I feel much more comfortable all winter. They make lots of cute feminine tailored versions that don't make you look like you're walking around in a sleeping bag (though those sleeping bag coats are pretty cozy too, I have to say).
posted by LeeLanded at 9:21 AM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Even silk long underwear can be itchy and if you're wearing under pants, can look bulky (read, make you look fat). Get a really long coat that goes down to your fashionably warm boots, and you can avoid them. Not all down coats are ugly and unflattering - North Face's "C" jacket is quite nicely fitted in the waist and does nice things for your figure. Wearing something warm on the outside will enable you to dress more fashionably on the inside.

On preview, what EmilyFlew said.
posted by walla at 9:35 AM on November 5, 2010

Sorry, OP! I saw the Ann Taylor reference and somehow failed to put 2+2 together. D'oh.
posted by Gilbert at 9:43 AM on November 5, 2010

My winter fashion secret isn't much of a secret, but it's certainly helpful: i wear a lot of wool. I live in frigid Scotland and wear a near-daily uniform of wool dresses, merino wool tights, and leather boots. When it's really cold, i whack a wool cardigan on top of that, and I have a (you guessed it) wool coat. I love wool because it doesn't have to be thick to be cozy - in fact, the warmest scarf I have is this one, a huge open weave that's super-thin. Uniqlo often has merino on sale for great prices, and i also indulge in Jaeger wool dresses on eBay.
posted by ukdanae at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2010

Yes to wool and layering! You can get pretty wool sweaters (and trousers and skirts) at any of the stores you mention and they will be way warmer than a cotton/acrylic number from Kohls. Wool tights are wonderful, too. With wool tights, knee-height boots, and a knee-length skirt I have been comfortable on all but the coldest days on my 30-minute walking commute (in Boston). Real wool tights can be hard to track down so I buy a lot of my tights from
posted by mskyle at 10:38 AM on November 5, 2010

I used to feel the same way. For me, the key is just: a really really warm winter jacket. You have to give in and recognize that wool coats are not warm enough - you need a down coat. I have a down coat that is cute and warm to the point where i could wear a tank top under it and be fine, even in toronto winters. (I bought one from Soia & Kyo.) Then you can keep wearing your cute thin sweaters inside. When its so cold out that you are still a bit cold while indoors, wear a cute wrap or scarf (like a pashmina-weight) over your clothes. Warm and actually looks extra stylish!
posted by Kololo at 10:56 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and to agree with others: wool (and other natural fibers) are really important. A thin wool sweater will be MUCH warmer than a thick acrylic one.
posted by Kololo at 10:57 AM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: I have totally noticed these thin, whispy sweaters everywhere, too. Where are the thick cables?? If you are actually looking for performance in your clothing, as a woman, you have to really put in a lot of effort. Because we are just Barbie dolls looking for fashion and don't need real pockets or lining or long-lasting seams, amirite?

However, even tissue-paper-thin cashmere will get me sweating. It's worth the splurge for cashmere. Silk or silk-blend sweaters are also very warm. Otherwise, yeah, LL Bean or Land's End for "real" sweaters. Or, at stores with a men's section, like J. Crew and Banana, I like the men's sweaters for just plain v-necks. They're thicker, come in more colors, and usually better made and more durable.

Also, fur. It is just the warmest, the end. If you have a fur hat or fur-trimmed hat, you can pretty go out in shorts and a t-shirt. I think there is a Seinfeld about that, actually. But I always feel stupid in a hat so if it's not too cold I wear fur earmuffs instead.

Long underwear under your pants. Get the kind that skiiers wear, like from a sporting goods store. They even make low-rise ones that are cute and wear more like leggings. Under skirts, a real-silk half-slip, with wool stockings or tights, or heavy stockings, like 30-denier and up (harder to find).
posted by thebazilist at 11:00 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like this. Serious winter coats should have a windproof/waterproof outer layer, a hood with drawstrings, hidden front zipper, a collar that'll cover your neck (maybe even your nose), and elastic on the sleeve-ends to keep the wind out.

Also: down coats are way lighter than wool, which is nice when you're out there shoveling.

Look for boots with thick soles. Wool socks.
posted by emeiji at 11:09 AM on November 5, 2010

If you don't like the idea of long underwear: legwarmers, tucked into your shoes/boots. They'll give your legs an extra layer of insulation, but they're easier to take off once you get inside, and you don't have to wash them as often as socks because they're not picking up foot funk.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:36 AM on November 5, 2010

Canadian prairies girl here. Just plain nylons are surprisingly effective for an added layer under your pants in normal winter cold, no bulkiness. I save the long underwear for the evil kind of cold.
posted by lizbunny at 12:15 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can also get thicker soles put onto normal shoes. This is especially good for shoes that you can't, or don't want to, wear socks with. Even a more substantial rubber sole, especially at the ball of your foot, will make a difference (makes them more comfortable, too). It's just another layer, and one that doesn't conduct heat, between your foot and the freezing-cold ground. Any shoe-repair place can do this and it really shouldn't be too expensive -- $30 or something?

But mostly, I'm thinking of just learning to make my own clothing already. I've been fantasizing about cashmere half-slips and wool bloomers to wear under my skirts.
posted by thebazilist at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2010

Silk plus wool does it. I have some Brooks Brothers pants that are very lightweight, but the lining is a satiny silk, and the pants themselves are all wool. They are warm as toast.

Something like a cashmere sweater over a thermal silk shirt will keep you very warm and not look bulky at all.
posted by Leta at 7:16 PM on November 5, 2010

Just saw this post based on a more recent thread, so I thought I'd chime in a bit. My girlfriend is often very cold, and here are her two solutions for staying warm.

- Uniqlo makes a line of clothing called HeatTech. She has a few camisoles and tanktops in that line, and she wears them under her clothes.
- She wears UnderArmour ColdGear in the winter months. She's got two pair - the regular kind and the Base 3.0 (for when we go skiing, etc) and they keep her quite warm.
posted by gchucky at 9:30 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Jezebel covered this today:
posted by k8t at 3:30 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I may have a bit of a bias because I knit, but -- those thick chunky cabley sweaters can also look really cute on us. (The trick is not to go TOO big -- don't wear baggy pants or jeans with a cable sweater, say, make sure your pants are more form-fitting to balance it out.) And -- those sweaters are also WARM.

Also, those weird chunky, cabley vests or short-sleeve turtleneck things layered over longsleeve shirts are in fashion right now, and also warm.

Another final tip from a knitter -- if you can find alpaca anything, that is another very good choice. Alpaca is VERY warm, and is very lightweight. And MASSIVELY soft.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:51 AM on November 6, 2010

An excellent sexy coat! I have an awesome purple coat which is pretty darn warm. This (expensive!) Rudsak coat looks totally awesome and made for Canadian winters.

Otherwise, cashmere sweaters and layers and layers and legwarmers for when I'm wearing skirts.
posted by that girl at 7:23 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Layers. Cashmere - thin, fitted cashmere. Not a fan of Ann Taylor myself but they have these silky fitted camis that I wear under a fitted t-shirt that goes under a slim cardigan that goes under a blazer. Color tones of this would be a classic/toned down palette like: navy, charcoal grey, ballet pink (or whatever neutral suits your skin tone, imo it's more stylish than bright white). Then on top of that a warm scarf (I have a giant 100% scottish cashmere shawl for extra-cold days.. these can get real pricey but I bought it vintage off eBay during the offseason, so it was only like $40), and on top of that, a good heavy coat.

About cashmere though.. wow, there's a lot out there and most of it is cheap, eg what you find at Ann Taylor, J Crew, Banana Republic, department store brands. Not the best quality. but if you get a sweater shaver you can run that over it and remove the pills, so it looks fresh longer. J Crew is decent for the price - I wait til they go on sale or figure out what size suits me and buy them off eBay as well.

Down puffy coats are the warmest and best for the freezing days, if I lived in New England I'd definitely get one.
posted by citron at 7:19 PM on November 6, 2010

Warmest cute winter ensemble:

Layer 1: underwear. duh.

Layer 2: waffle-weave thermal shirt in a nice color or fun pattern. sweater tights.

Layer 2a (optional): t-shirt, worn OVER the thermal. thick wooly socks if they won't be visible with choice of shoe.

Layer 3: cashmere or merino wool sweater, v-neck. wool skirt.

Layer 4: scarf and gloves. pashmina shawl is a good stand in for a scarf, the $7 streetside acrylic ones are fine. hat that can be pulled down over the ears. boots.

Layer 5: long puffy down coat with hood.
posted by Sara C. at 10:09 PM on November 6, 2010

Okay I just cannot quit this thread. Two more things, that I forgot since last winter but just remembered today.

Most of my shoes, even for winter, leave the tops of my feet exposed and I hate wearing socks with shoes like that. Today, for example, I'm wearing flat pumps. So I put on nude stockings, plus:

1. Lambswool inserts for your shoes. You will lose your mind at the difference this makes. There are various levels of quality but I just picked mine up at the shoe-shine place in Penn Station for $8.

2. Ankle warmers underneath my slim/skinny pants. They don't show out from under my cuffs but aren't as bunchy up the leg as full leg warmers.
posted by thebazilist at 7:37 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older Since nobody's actually published the HHGTTG, yet   |   Googling can really mess things up. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.