Are winter coat woes bringing your spirits down? Harsh weather is bad enough, but braving the outdoors can be made even worse when proper protective gear is lacking. Thanks to online shopping, you can bury yourself under blankets and pillows while searching for outerwear to get you through season. However, warm does not always translate into fashionable, and not all materials are created equal. To help you navigate the shopping scene, here is a rundown of three popular winter coat materials and stylish options in each category.
1. Down Coats
Down coats score many points in the pro column. Filled with feathers, the coat traps air, making it a great insulator. Down jackets are known for being lightweight and compressible, particularly beneficial for people traveling in cold climates. The outside is usually usually a polyester or nylon, which repels any water or snow. The two factors (warmth and water resistance) combined make down coats an ideal winter-weather selection. The downfall comes in the tendency to turn even the most svelte of wearers into the Michelin Man.
A shorter coat is one way to combat the Michelin Man look. Both of the coats above are drawn in at the waist by a belt and hit at the hips. They will keep you toasty, but not as warm as a longer style. In exchange for length, the coats become easier to carry, an important feature if you choose to take your coat off while running indoor errands.
The puffier the coat, the warmer it is, so it is understandable people in severe weather climates have a “bigger is better” mentality when it comes to down jackets. That said, there are a few tricks that can be applied that will create a slimming effect. The Tommy Hilfiger coat shown has a belt and large visible pockets. Combined, these two features give what would be an entirely shapeless coat a new look.
Another feature to consider is the lining of a down jacket. Inside the coat by DKNY is a fleece lining at the neckline as well as in the pockets. It also has a sweater cuff, which one reviewer notes helps keep the sleeves in place. A hidden half belt gives the same slimming effect of the Tommy Hilfiger coat, but without the fuss of having to deal with a full belt. The coat is also made with a nylon exterior and is water repellant.
2. Wool Coats
Wool is naturally water-resistant — a big plus for snowy winter nights, or damp days in late fall and early spring. That said, when the fabric does get wet, it can take quite a bit of time to dry. Wool coats are available in a variety of styles and weights, so they can easily be customized to the wearer’s preferences and weather needs.
For the outdoors, thick overcoats, as pea coats tend to be the best options in winter because they are the warmest. Additionally, if you are constantly shivering in your office, a wool blazer might be a smart addition to your winter wardrobe. Wool coats tend to look dressier than puffy, down options. A classic wool dress coat in a bright color or fit-and-flare cut can be eye catching and won’t leave you shivering. Many have buttons, and are single or double-breasted. If that is too classic for your tastes, there are many other options, including zippers and coats with a less defined shape.
There are several different types of wool, but sheep’s wool is the most popular. This includes Shetland, merino, lambswool, loden, and melton. Sheep’s wool will not wrinkle and keeps its shape after being stretched.
A major downside to wool is that is generally dry-clean only. Another is that like down jackets, a thicker coat can result in a less figure-flattering shape. Again, this can be overcome by selecting the right style.
Wool coats can also be statement coats, depending on how they are styled. For the fashion risk-takers, a peacoat can ensure every aspect of your wardrobe is up-to-date. Whether you want it to have faux-leather accents — like the Calvin Klein — or add a print to you winter wear, a peacoat can be a chic accessory on a cold day.
3. Fleece Coats
A fleece jacket probably won’t cut it for people facing below 0 temperatures this winter. For people lucky enough to live in a milder climate, a fleece coat can be a staple for the season. The jacket is normally a combination of wool and polyester, but is generally not water resistant. On average, it will be lighter than a wool jacket, but weigh more than a down coat.
Designed with outdoor activities in mind, the coats are often flexible, allowing for a greater range of motion than a down jacket or peacoat. However, unless windproof materials form a part — or all — of the jacket’s outer layer, fleece coats will not provide much protection from harsh winter winds. Another drawback to consider is that cold air can easily seep in at the neck and wrists. One way to avoid this is for the coat to have a higher collar and sleeves that tighten at the wrists, like on the Norrøna Lyngen jacket. Fleece coats will be machine washable, and can be purchased with or without a hood.
Fleece jackets can also be purchased to be the lining to another coat, as is the case with the Arcteryx. It is described as a “middleweight insulator” for camping or hiking, but can also be worn on its own. If you already own a windproof coat or shell that a lining can be snapped into, a fleece jacket is a good investment for both seriously cold weather and more temperate days.
Although a many different companies offer a fleece coat, there is little variety when it comes to cut and color options. More subtle differences become important when selecting for style. The North Face coat in the middle has the most defined shape, highlighting the waistline of the wearer.