Help me stay warm!
March 2, 2014 5:31 PM   Subscribe

In 4 months, I'm starting a new phase of my life where sweatshirts are no longer acceptable. Recommend things to keep me warm!

Background: I'm a 5'2" 120 pound 23 year old American female who usually wears XS or XSP on top. I struggle to stay warm most days, which I cope with by wearing 3-4 layers (camisole, shirt, sweatshirt with nubbly inner layer, optional winter coat). In about 4 months, I'm transitioning to an environment where wearing a sweatshirt and coat will no longer be acceptable.

I'm looking for suggestions for warm, moderately-professional coverups/sweaters/jackets. I'm less interested in blazers because it's a struggle to fit the shoulders (and they often need to be dry-cleaned). I do get to wear another layer on top most days, but it's not very thick or warm.

To head off the long underwear comments, I'm looking for more, but they aren't always feasible with short sleeves. BUT: Bonus for suggestions for super-warm camisoles under $20/each and silk underwear under $60.

1. Warm
2. Soft (low wool content, since it makes me itch)
2. Not a sweatshirt/hoodie
3. No hood, preferably a non-stand up collar
4. Closed with buttons (if possible)
5. Available in multiple colors (grey, navy, black) is a bonus
6. Machine-washable
7. Preferably under $100 (I'm looking to buy multiples)

Hope me hivemind!
posted by smangosbubbles to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
j.crew jackie cardigan
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 5:39 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would something like this work? WinterSilks also has some sleeveless versions, too.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:42 PM on March 2, 2014

Ann Taylor cotton mix boat neck: $79. Petite scoop neck: $69. Both are easily layered. This style of swing cardigan ($79) is very very useful and silk knit is very warm.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:49 PM on March 2, 2014

A cardigan is the piece of clothing you are looking for. Just about every store -- H&M, Gap brands, Modcloth, etc -- has options in multiple lengths and colours. You can get them buttoned or not, short or long, looser or more closely fit.
posted by jeather at 5:53 PM on March 2, 2014

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but I find most cardigans are too thin to actually keep me warm. Suggestions for ones known to be warm would be awesome! (In-person shopping not an option due to transportation and geographic issues.)
posted by smangosbubbles at 5:59 PM on March 2, 2014

I have a silk cashmere blend cardigan that is so thin it is translucent. As a cold all the time person I thought when I bought it that it would not be in my life long.

That was ten years ago. I love it so mucharger now I'm hoping it will last another 10.

What you want is fiber content. Silk. Alpaca. Mohair. Angora. These things are very warm, and bonus points, also look quite classy. This goes for all your layers. If your camisole is cotton, you can get a warmer silk version.

There are some great tutorials online for ways to tie a scarf. Think those big rectangle fake pashmina things. Keeping your neck warm might be a big help.

Another suggestion is to look into the Japanese concept of the belly warmer. Americans believe you lose lots of heat from your head. But wearing a hat looks weird. Japanese say you lose the heat from your midsection. And wearing a extra belly layer does not look weird. Because nobody can see!

Final tip, wrist warmers. It helps that I am a knitter, so mine are all custom designed or knitted by me. Again with the selection of fiber. Don't select cotton. If you aren't crafty, visit etsy. If you want something sleek and not bulky look into lace weight or fingering weight yarns for the material. The seller can tell you if that is the case. You'll probably pay more because thinner yarns take longer to hand knit. But trust me, bulky does not necessarily mean warmer.
posted by bilabial at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're always cold, regardless of the ambient temperature, you may be eating too little. The homeostatic mechanisms that regulate body weight are pretty powerful; if you eat a little too much, rather than gaining weight you might just fidget more; if you eat a bit under maintenance, your body temperature might drop to compensate. I've been in a serious calorie deficit for the last 14 months (i.e., I have been losing weight to no longer be a fat slob), and for the first 2 months I was cold all the time. You might try getting up more often, fidgeting, stretching, etc. - things that get your muscles moving. And possibly eat a bit more, too, especially in the morning.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:13 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love scarves for this; when my neck is warm the rest of my body is warm. Silk is also surprisingly warm (some of my favorite long underwear are silk), so perhaps stock up on things like silk button-downs to layer under cardigans and sweaters?

That said:

I struggle to stay warm most days, which I cope with by wearing 3-4 layers (camisole, shirt, sweatshirt with nubbly inner layer, optional winter coat).

I find most cardigans are too thin to actually keep me warm.

This honestly sounds like a possible medical issue to me. I also tend to feel chilly, but needing 3-4 layers (one of which is a coat!) seems downright extreme and makes me think you need to see a physician.

posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:18 PM on March 2, 2014

I find most cardigans are too thin to actually keep me warm.

My partner is one of those perpetually cold people, and she wears almost exclusively cashmere cardigans. They always seem almost comically thin, but are actually very very warm. Ditto on very light-seeming wool(like actual wool, not "wool") jackets and cardigans.

Cotton and other non-fuzzy material ones don't do anything. But what bilabial said about fiber content is spot on.

My j-crew turtleneck made of thicker wool has kept me warm in sub-freezing temperatures. Like warm enough that a little physical activity made me sweaty. This kind of stuff can be a bit pricy, but if you shop at second hand buffalo exchange type shops or online it isn't too bad... and it lasts a VERY long time if you don't machine wash it or otherwise abuse it.
posted by emptythought at 6:23 PM on March 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: To address the comments regarding medical conditions/not eating enough: I'm warm enough at home. It's a constant topic of discussion how cold the classrooms are (glass walls + New England + budget cuts). We're all in our coats.

I'm walking away now, I promise.
posted by smangosbubbles at 6:31 PM on March 2, 2014

No buttons, but I'm always cold (and sensitive to itchy fabric) and I keep a couple of these and these "Wooby" brand sweaters at my desk.
posted by anaelith at 6:32 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really think that you can't beat thick-ish wool sweaters for keeping warm. [Silk can be good too, but often women's silk shirts are too flimsy to really keep you warm). I would suggest wearing a long-sleeved cotton shirt underneath a wool sweater - that way it won't touch your skin but you'll get the warmth.
posted by leitmotif at 6:34 PM on March 2, 2014

How many bottom layers are you wearing? I find that tights or long underwear beneath my work pants make a huge difference.
posted by yarntheory at 7:23 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried merino wool? Because the fibers are so fine, merino wool does not make me itch even when I wear it right against my skin. I often wear a thin merino wool sweater underneath my button-up shirt as a base layer. Mine were $8 secondhand and that's about the price you can find them on eBay. Most non-technical wool will be labelled dry-clean only, but I wash my sweaters in a front-loading machine with cold water, and lay them out flat to dry on a table. This does not appear to have damaged them yet.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:27 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cashmere sweaters. Cheap, thin cashmere will not keep you as warm as something with a higher-ply yarn, so be prepared to invest a little money. My mom, who is not only Queen of the Cashmere Sweater, but also Queen of Not Spending Unnecessary Money, machine washes hers on gentle and dries them flat. They've lasted for years.

Mary Green is also having a sale on their entire site, and has silk camisoles for about $20 after the discount (it appears when you put an item in the cart.)
posted by corey flood at 7:34 PM on March 2, 2014

Not sure what this new environment is, but I have worked with co-workers who keep a small heater fan either on their desk or on the floor under their desk because they tend to get cold easily.

I find wearing a camisole/tank top + a long sleeve shirt + a winter cardigan keeps me warm. Target has inexpensive Merona cardigans that are pretty thick and warm, but with spring approaching, you'll want to look for heavier wear now.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:35 PM on March 2, 2014

Start with the warmest socks you can find! My warmest are Icelandic wool.

Also shop for high-quality cashmere. The cheap stuff won't last. A nice cashmere cardigan/drapey sweater is helpful.

Irish/Scottish handmade sweaters are great and are traditionally made to replace a jacket in a cold and damp climate. I have a cardigan that I can throw over anything. Get an oversized cardigan and it will go over your regular outfit.

Scandinavian sweaters are also gorgeous but the traditional patterns aren't as flexible. My mom bought the most gorgeous poncho in Iceland and I'm so jealous of it.

Also consider wool tweed pants, lined in rayon. Perhaps as a suit.

A wool blazer is also a nice piece to throw over a dress/everyday outfit, even with jeans. Get a quality one that is well cut and luxuriously lined.

Look to cold climate cultures for inspiration - Canada, Iceland, N UK. It can be seriously cute and warm with some thought and inspiration.

Don't overlook fur if at all possible. The warmest thing you can get and will last decades, and buy vintage for a bargain. I have a lovely little fur scarf I can wear with anything.
posted by littlewater at 7:45 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I actually own a lot of mid-priced cashmere and merino wool sweaters ($40-60 at places like J.Crew or Macy's/Nordstrom house brand, always on sale and I wear the same small sizes as you) which have stayed in decent condition and keep me warm. I actually love wear cashmere against bare skin, but on colder days I'll layer a camisole or a long-sleeved shirt underneath. Long sleeves + 100% cashmere or merino wool is quite toasty! Then you can add a silk scarf for extra warmth--e.g., the big fancy pashmina shawls come in silk fabrications if you can find them, I bought mine in Europe.

Another cheap idea is a chunky acrylic knitted layer. I have two such cardigans from H&M and Kohls which machine wash/dry extremely well and can be easily layered over a thin wool sweater like the cashmere/merino described above.
posted by serelliya at 8:07 PM on March 2, 2014

How about those thick professor sweaters with the bottoms? They're used over other layers.
Pay attention to materials. Acrylic won't help much, cotton is meh. But good wools are fantastic, plus lots of them aren't itchy at all (and you can use layers underneath so it doesn't touch your skin). A friend made me a scarf using baby alpaca wool, super soft and OMG does it get hot.
Last but not least: thermal underwear!
posted by Neekee at 8:18 PM on March 2, 2014

I can vouch for Uniqlo's Heattech long underwear-- super helpful under cashmere sweaters.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:31 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

- Stretch blazers are a common thing now. Usually made from a knit that's similar to a hoodie, and then since they stretch, the shoulders shouldn't be an issue. Target has this one. And this one. And this one.
-Try a layer of warm Under Armor instead of a cami?
-Knee high socks or tights will help. I find that if my feet are warm, the rest of me is more warm.
-Add a scarf. I'm always warmer with a scarf and there are TONS of styles to choose from that stay professional.
-What about a jacket that looks more professional? I think a lot of these look like normal pieces of work-wear and I wouldn't question someone wearing it all day.
One from Modcloth at $90.
Another at $75.
On Sale! (dry clean but cute.)
Blue button up - adorable at $45.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:51 PM on March 2, 2014

Technical underwear! Get thee to REI, or the moral equivalent. I mean, I'm sure Uniqlo's pseudo-technical cloth will work great, but you want something skin-tight to not interfere with the rest of your office look. My two suggestions are: Smartwool, or capilene baselayer.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 8:53 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I realize that this is in the lingere section, but I received one for christams and I LIVE IN IT. Super soft, super warm, reasonably professional.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:05 PM on March 2, 2014

Scarves/cowls. I need to wear something on the back of my neck to keep from getting cold, and they're great accessories. You can get ones that are made to be accessories (so not an outdoor scarf) and are professional, but also warm. Something like this one from Loft would work.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 9:31 PM on March 2, 2014

Also fur-lined tights under your work pants.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 9:32 PM on March 2, 2014

L.L. Bean: Sleeveless silk underwear camisole (they also do short sleeve)
posted by Mizu at 9:39 PM on March 2, 2014

As a thin, tall person with Raynaud's, I am often very cold. I totally concur on the cashmere sweater thing. Enormously helpful, especially layered with a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, and a blazer. I hate shopping, and it sounds like you're not able to shop except online, but in the past (when I worked professional jobs) I wore the same black blazer almost every day. It would be worth it to just order a few (ideally in petite) to try on. Eventually you'll find something that fits, I think! Good luck.
posted by miss tea at 3:24 AM on March 3, 2014

I'd say, get warm undies and layer pretty and professional things on top of them.

Tights or slacks for legs, a thin thermal/silkie, a long sleeved shirt, then a sweater over that.

A nice warm wrap to throw on over everything will still look professional and help keep you toasty.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:04 AM on March 3, 2014

One of my female colleagues wears a thin down vest and a light scarf indoors almost every day during the winter months.
posted by iviken at 6:53 AM on March 3, 2014

A friend of mine wears a kidney warmer underneath her regular clothes. She's petite and the elastic band helps her keep that midsection warm and her muscles not to tense up due to the cold. Not sure how popular they are where you are, but harakami are a thing in Japan. Linking a few examples, you can order on etsy, or get a long one on ebay. Uniqlo calls theirs body warmer, some people call them kidney warmer or belly wrap.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:24 AM on March 3, 2014

It's not a clothing recommendation, but I found that drinking hot water with a little lemon helps me stay warm. You might also want to eat something fatty right before you enter the cold environment. I know a mountaineer who swears by bacon grease, but that might be a bit extreme for you.
posted by windykites at 9:01 AM on March 3, 2014

I used to wear a cardigan over another thin sweater when I lived in New England. In an under heated space, one sweater is not enough!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:08 AM on March 3, 2014

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