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Dear Allie:It’s a lot colder where I live (Minnesota) than where you are in DC and a simple wool peacoat isn’t going to cut it. How can I stay warm in winter without looking like the abominable snowman?Thanks,CaraAlison,I need a new winter coat, and I want one that will keep me dry during wet slush and freezing rain as well as cold. I want it to have a hood and cover my butt because I walk several blocks to work. And since it’s a work coat, I don’t want it to look like a ski jacket, but be something I can wear to a business lunch without embarrassment. Does such a coat exist?-AimeeWhy is it that all winter coats make women either freeze or look like The Michelin Man? Any suggestions where I can find one that will keep me warm when it’s below freezing but not make me look [ridiculous]?
My fellow women, I feel your pain. It’s not easy to find a coat that actually keeps you warm and doesn’t wreak havoc on your silhouette or personal style. Not easy… but definitely doable. Here’s a few tips to keep you looking stylish, professional, and frostbite-free:
Choose a solid color. Yesterday I was on the elevator with a woman I recognized from a different company in our building. Based on her usual attire, I assume she is a high-ranking person within her corporation. While this woman usually looks very polished and put together, this day she looked as though she was heading for the slopes. Over her taupe pantsuit and black snakeskin pumps, she was wearing a plum and beige graphic-print shiny quilted anorak.
Same coat in black, gray, or olive would have been quite appropriate for her personal style and position with the company. The print made the jacket resemble something a toddler wears in the snow and took away from the polish of the rest of her ensemble.
Flatter the figure. Not every warm coat has to make you look like the Michelin Man. In the past couple of years companies have realized that women like to have a figure even when it’s below freezing. Coats that taper at the waist, have belts, or strategically placed quilting will flatter your figure while keeping you toasty. Last year Lands’ End sent me their Luxe Down Parka, a coat that is super warm (rated -40° to -5° Fahrenheit), but has a belt to cinch the waist. I am wearing this coat today – it was below 40 degrees when I left this morning yet I felt no chill as I walked to the Metro and stood for 15 minutes waiting for a train.
Another way to flatter the figure and stay warm is to choose a longer coat. While I don’t encourage you to purchase one of those full-length parkas that make one look as though she is walking down the street in a sleeping bag, a coat that hits between your mid-hip to your knee will better flatter your figure than one that ends at the waist. Such length of coat will also keep the entirety of your torso warm, and insulate your bum if you have to sit on a cold bench.
Reduce shine. Many parkas these days have a metallic or ultra-shiny finish which is very modern and trendy. The thing is this finish really screams “cold weather sports.” By choosing a quilted winter coat in a matte finish, the coat looks more expensive and professional.
Look for a stylish detail. A faux fur-trimmed hood, a contrast belt, military details – these are all additions that can take a winter coat from being appropriate for bobsledding to being appropriate for boardrooms. Just be sure to not go overboard – one specific detail is plenty, keep the rest of the details in your accessories.
Know your fabrics. A wool coat can be extremely warm if it’s 100% wool and has an insulated lining. Wool blends usually incorporate polyester which doesn’t insulate. Many companies provide details on their site or the coat’s hang tag on what temperatures are appropriate for the coat – wool blends are usually best for temperatures over 40 degrees if without an insulated lining.
Even quilted coats vary in warmth. Down is usually warmer than any synthetic material, however some synthetics like Lands’ End’s PolarThin insulation are quite warm. A coat with a windproof exterior and fleece interior will be warmer than one without. Don’t assume that the puffier a coat, the warmer it will be.
Don’t rely on just the coat. While recent studies have debunked the myth that half of your body’s heat escapes through your head, heat is still lost by a bare skull. Pair your warm coat with a hat to keep your entire body feeling warm. Along with that, insulated gloves (not those knit stretch gloves from the dollar store), and a scarf to wrap around the exposed part of your neck will do wonders for keeping you warm. This seems like such common sense, but I regularly see women huddled at bus enclosures and on Metro platforms rubbing their hands to stay warm, remaining hatless so not to muss their hair.
If you are a texting machine, companies currently carry “touch” gloves that have a special pad on the index and thumb tips to let you swipe and type with ease. As for the hat head, fedoras and cloches are styles of hats that rest on the head instead of smashing down on your ‘do – while they don’t keep your ears warm they are better than nothing. A slouchy beanie is also a way to wear a hat without reuining your hairstyle – hold it in place with a Bobby pin or two to cover the tip top of your head and leave your mane free.
Those of you who live in colder climates than I, do you have any suggestions on how to remain stylish yet stay warm this winter?