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How To Dress for Freezing Winter (and Still Look Kinda Cute)

ByPia Vuolteenaho

If you’re trying to figure out how to dress for winter – do not trust Hollywood. We’ve all seen their feeble attempts at winter dressing:

– A scarf thrown artfully across the shoulder, leaving your neck completely exposed and thus totally defeating the purpose of wearing a scarf in the first place.

– Building a snowman with your bare hands.

– Wearing an unbuttoned jacket in the middle of a snow storm – we’re looking at you, Lorelai Gilmore!

For anyone who has actually lived in a cold country, this sartorial insanity is enough to send you over the edge.

If you have ever spent time in a place that actually has a winter, a real freeze-you-down-to-your-bones kind of winter, you know that a cute little scarf just won’t cut it.

Winter means you have to bring out the big guns.

So step right up. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate list of winter clothes for your winter capsule wardrobe, your stint into the arctic, or you’re a seasoned yeti looking for a bit of extra warmth, this guide will see you through even the frostiest of days.

1. Layers


Once the weather gets really chilly, wearing layers isn’t about making a fashion statement – it’s about keeping you from freezing to death. We’re talking long johns here, ladies. Typically on a cold day, you’re looking at wearing anything between one and four layers of fabric on your skin.
Four layers? Let’s break that down:

  1. Underwear
  2. Long-johns / tights
  3. Jeans
  4. If it’s really, really cold, you might even need a pair of lined winter pants to go over your jeans

And this is just what you’re wearing on your legs. As you might have figured out by know, getting dressed in the winter can be pretty time consuming.

No matter how many layers you’re wearing, none of the layers should be too tight on your body, as insulating is all about having air between the layers. So it’s not just about picking warm clothes – it’s also about choosing clothes with the right fit. This is why the skinniest of skinny jeans are not your best bet in freezing cold weather: there simply is not enough space between the fabric and your skin, which results in huge heat loss.

If you’re still feeling unsure as to how many items you should actually be wearing, this video will give you some idea just what getting dressed in seriously cold weather actually entails:

2. Materials

When it comes to putting together a cold weather outfit, choosing the right materials for each layer is key. Before purchasing anythings, check the label to see if that cozy sweater will actually keep you nice and warm or if it’s just an acrylic nightmare waiting to happen.

For the layers closest to your skin (that would be your long johns and what have you), silk or merino wool works best, though if the price for these materials seems steep, you could opt for a synthetic material instead. It’s important to choose fabrics that keep moisture off your skin, which means cotton is not ideal for these layers.

Looking down at your feet, basic cotton socks work best layered together with thicker wool socks.

Sweaters, of course, are a winter dressing staple. Wool and other natural fibres tend to be warmest, though you could try fleece as well (so long as you don’t mind that very outdoorsy look).

As for the main event – that would be your jacket – it really depends on how cold it is as well as on personal preference. Some people swear by wool coats even in the dead of winter. These coats are rarely lined so you might run cold and if it’s snowing, the material soaks up all moisture, which can result in a faint but unpleasant woolly smell. Still, a wool coat might be your best bet if you’re looking for a cute winter outfit that’s also somewhat dressy.

If you’re serious about staying warm though, nothing really beats a good old parka. Though parka-style coats are readily available in every fast fashion outlet, it’s usually better to look at more outdoorsy retailers, which actually focus on functionality and warmth. In addition to looking for a coat that will keep you warm, it makes sense to opt for a wind-resistant material that’s also water resistant. For the past few years, down jackets have been all the rage, but questions have been raised about just how ethical even “ethical down” actually is, so take some time to look into different options before heading for the checkout.

3. Shoes

Shoes are one the most important things to consider when dressing for winter season. As there are few things worse in life than suffering wet feet in cold weather, you should definitely opt for shoes that are at least somewhat water resistant – if you want to go really hardcore, you might even opt for Gore-Tex. Choosing leather shoes for winter might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really important that you pick the right kind, as leather shoes with no lining can be really cold.

As for the fit of your shoes, it’s good to allow for some wiggle room – literally, because again, it’s important to have a bit of space between the layers. Otherwise, your feet will freeze. So what you’re basically looking for is a pair of shoes that’s big enough to wear thick wool socks in without cutting off the blood circulation in your feet.

Dressing for winter is not just about dodging those frost bites, either. When you’re buying winter shoes, make sure to also check the soles to see that they won’t make you slip on icy roads. If the sole is completely smooth, it won’t offer any grip on the ice. If you’re really worried about slipping, you could even opt for spiked shoes from brands like Icebug.

4. Wind access

Hardcore winter folks know that figuring out what to wear in winter is not just about finding the biggest parka – it’s also about the little things, like tucking in your shirt (as opposed to letting it fall loosely over your pants). This small move makes sure that no cold wind gets to blow up to your exposed stomach. It might sound random, but actually makes a huge difference.

You should also make sure your sleeves don’t allow for any cold air to blow in. Most higher-end parkas have in-built ribbed sleeve cuffs designed just for this purpose. If you’re wearing a looser sleeve coat without the cuffs, it might be a good idea to pull your mittens over the sleeves of the sweater you’re wearing underneath your coat, thus making sure no skin is exposed to the cold winter winds.

5. Hats

There is an old saying that states we lose most our body heat through the head and this is why you should always wear a hat in cold weather – it’s pretty much the first thing parents teach kids about dressing for winter. While that myth has been repeatedly debunked, it still makes sense to cover up your head. The body loses heat through any exposed area, so why should you leave your head vulnerable to the chill?

A hat with a fleece lining is particularly cosy, especially if it’s windy (a looser knit might look cute but it will let the wind blow right through). And let’s face it – what would a cute winter outfit be without an adorable beanie to go with it? If you’re really worried about living with hat hair for months on end, hunt down some earmuffs instead.

6. Accessories

It’s important to choose the right clothes for winter, sure, but there are also some handy accessories specifically designed to keep you extra warm that can really make a difference in surviving the cold weather.

If your hands get cold easily, you can slip a pair of hand warmers into your mitts. Brands like HotSnapZ and Savotta offer reusable ones, while Hot Hands is a single use version of the same product.

To keep you on your feet on icy roads, brands like Winter Walking offer detachable ice cleats that you can slip onto your regular winter shoes when things start getting icy.

If your coat doesn’t have inbuilt sleeve cuffs, you can add them for extra warmth – this in-depth tutorial from Jezebel shows you exactly how to do that.

7. Style

As you might have figured out by now, dressing for winter is no picnic and it might require some serious planning. But that doesn’t have to mean you should sacrifice any and all idea of personal style to the noble goal of not freezing to death.

Bloggers like Bows and Sequins and Steffy’s Pros and Cons are great sources for cute winter outfit ideas since you can browse their outfit posts according to season. Make sure to also check for the latest winter outfits on Pinterest.

Now we’d love to hear from you: how do you survive winter and dress for the winter season? Let us know in the comments below!

Pia Vuolteenaho

Belle âme writer dividing her time between Bali, where she enjoys an endless supply of fresh fruit, and Finland, where she downs copious amounts of coffee (the stronger, the better).

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