Looking Professional in C-c-c-old Weather

Ewww! I just got some slush down inside my boots. I really *hate* that!, originally uploaded to Flickr by Ed YourdonReader J has a question probably shared by a lot of other recent graduates…

I have a question about getting dressed in the colder weather. I just graduated from law school and am now beginning my career up north after living in the south for my entire life. After only working summer jobs my whole professional life, I have warm weather office wear down. The big problem is that I have absolutely no idea how to dress myself for work in the winter. Do I wear boots to work? Do I wear something different for the train ride to work? What do I do when it’s raining in all directions? Please help!

This is an excellent question, if only because nothing is sadder than a grown woman wearing a ski jacket with a skirt suit, or someone trouncing around the office in Ugg boots. (Pictured: Ewww! I just got some slush down inside my boots. I really *hate* that!,  originally uploaded to Flickr by Ed Yourdon.) In general, cold weather  dressing should entail:

  • Outerwear: Buy a warm coat that is long enough to (at least) cover your suit jackets (and big enough to wear your suit jackets beneath!). I like the knee-length versions (such as yesterday’s TPS) but there are some mid-thigh versions, as well as some calf-length versions that work nicely. Ultimately, look for something sleek, versatile, and don’t be afraid to splurge — buy the highest quality you can afford, because this coat should last you at least three years (preferably 10-15!).
  • Footwear: Obviously, you can’t wear flip flops to commute to work in the winter — and I would argue that, if you must wear Ugg boots (or anything similar) they’re only acceptable for commuting shoes. Otherwise, there are a ton of options. I’ve always found that for light snowy days, the ankle/calf-length boot (worn with pants) is the most comfortable option — a number of brands make weatherproof boots (Aquatalia by Marvin K., La Canadienne); you can also buy weatherproofing spray for your shoes.
  • Headwear: I’ve always heard that 80% of heat escapes from your head, but I’ve now heard that’s a myth — either way, I’m a fan of hats when things get cold and blustery! That said, I don’t think people will deem it “unprofessional” if you don’t wear a hat — to each his own.  (If you’re looking for advice on which hats are *more* professional, you may want to check out this older post on the topic.)

For extreme weather, there are a number of options. For truly chilly days, I love silk long johns — they’re lightweight enough to not be noticed beneath clothes, but the silk blocks the wind. For days where “the rain is coming down in all directions,” as you put it — or the snow/slush is more than a foot deep — for my $.02, I’d advise you to wear a skirt and pair it with either waterproof boots or, for commuting purposes, a subtle rain boot like Hunter with a nice thick sock (such as Hunter – Welly Socks, available at Zappos for $30).

Readers, what are your closet staples for looking professional in colder weather?

Comments

  1. A little context around the city would be helpful — there is a big difference between needing to dress for a Philadelphia winter (last season’s record breaking notwithstanding) than for a Chicago / Boston / Minneapolis wind+snowfest. In fact, in those colder climates, I believe a down coat (a tailored, knee-length style (North Face makes one I believe) type coat, not a big parka) is perfectly work-appropriate.

    A few things to consider:
    - How much time will you really be spending outside (and walking)? If your commute is more “sit in my car until the train comes” and then walking a block or two, you will probably not need as many bad-weather accoutrements.
    - Please do not wear Uggs, even as commuting shoes. However, other types of boots are perfectly fine to wear as commuting shoes, as long as you change promptly after getting into the office (e.g., no later than after grabbing your coffee from the break room while your computer is booting up).
    - For gross days, the advice to wear a skirt with tall rain boots is spot on. You can also tuck pants into tall boots, but I seem incapable of doing so without looking like I’m wearing bloomers, so I stick to skirts.
    - I don’t think anyone is about to judge you for either wearing (or not wearing) a winter hat. I don’t, because I have enough hair static issues and my commute is a short walk. (Kat, re the myth: I had heard that the study took place with people wearing winter coats and going bareheaded. Of course, relatively speaking, the people lost more heat through their bare heads than through other, covered, parts!)

    • Cat, I totally agree with you. I bought a long down NF coat 2 years ago, and wear it on the really bitter cold / sleeting days to work. Considering that I have seen power women partners in a similar coat, I think this is fine. (And the other option I’ve seen in my firm is a long fur coat, which I think carries a whole other set of issues with it.)

      • I love long down coats! I do not find anything remotely unprofessional about them, even wore one on a job interview once when it was about 5 degree out and got both the job and a compliment on dressing for the weather (unlike some other interviewees, apparently).

        Marmot makes some really nice ones that last forever & are incredibly warm.

        • I have a long tailored down coat, as well as a wool one. I really feel the cold, so I get much more use out of my down coat. The one I have is from Lands End, and I have it in dark brown.

    • Strongly disagree with the “do not wear Uggs” comment. I proudly wear Uggs to commute through the entire winter (note that I wear socks over my pantyhose because the tag inside the boot rubs against my hose and causes hose-stubble). I have two pairs – one that I wear on slushy days and a newer pair that I save for dry days. I don’t understand all the Ugg-hate that floats around. I know they aren’t the most attractive boots out there but they are warm and comfortable.

      • I’m sure it’s irrational on my part, but my Ugg-hate stems from being bombarded with the denim miniskirt and Ugg boots look on my undergrad campus in the spring, year after year. So it’s warm enough to be wearing a miniskirt but cold enough to require shearling around your ankles? Always baffled me.

        • A — I had the same experience, and the vast majority of Ugg-wearers I see are of the teen/tween variety. Aside from that, my style is typically very tailored, and I don’t see any reason to vary from that and choose slouchy commuting shoes. I have no doubt Uggs are comfy and warm… but if comfy and warm were all we were concerned about, we wouldn’t be reading this blog then, no? :)

      • Mimi Stratton :

        Eckkk.

  2. I think I’m going to get this coat for commuting. I walk a mile in low night/early morning temps, so I need something really warm and thinsulate lined dress coats don’t cut it.

    http://www.landsend.com/pp/DownLongCommuterCoat~213588_59.html?bcc=y&action=order_more&sku_0=::AI7&CM_MERCH=IDX_00002__0000002670&origin=index

    Can’t decide between the Beechnut and the Aubergine – help!

  3. 1. I don’t love Kat’s comment re: saddest thing in the world. It’s kind of hyperbolic and insulting. In my poorer days, I decided it was better to wear a sportier warm jacket that I’d had since high school than a dressy-looking but cheap (i.e., not-warming) one. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, especially since you take it off once you get to work. And when I summered in biglaw, I was told by a few of the female associates (the younger ones) that in winter, they just wore Uggs all day long and no one noticed because the office was pretty casual and the heating system wasn’t enough to keep them warm.

    2. Has anyone tried this sweater? I think it’s cute but I don’t understand the second look — how the sides stay up.

    http://www.lordandtaylor.com/eng/womensapparel-Sweaters-Long_Sleeved_Draped_Sweater-lordandtaylor/154928

    • Love this! Think its just wrapped around and tied in the back?

    • re: no. 1 — I agree – there is something very patronizing about statements that reek of entitlement

      • I do not believe the comment “reeks of entitlement.” Kat’s target audience is the professional woman who wants to dress appropriately during cold weather. She did not suggest that you wear a frivolous coat to look pretty, or to not wear any coat at all if you cannot afford anything other than a ski jacket. She answered how to dress professionally.

        I do not care how warm it is, a ski jacket over a suit does NOT look professional. That isn’t an entitled statement; it is one regarding how to dress our best in the conservative work environment. I would feel very foolish walking to a client meeting, lunch, any other place with several higher ups at my firm (or contemporaries) with a ski jacket over my suit. They all have warm, professional coats.

        Isn’t the point of this blog to share with readers what looks professional and what makes you look too young or unprofessional or anything else negative?

        • anonymous :

          I assure you, the men (who, let’s face it, are usually the bosses in these environments) could care less what coat you wear–or if you even wear one for that matter. My husband is a partner in a nyc firm and you should see the ski jackets he walks out of the house in.

          • Not true. For most of my first winter at my job, I couldn’t easily afford a new coat and wore a big puffy down one. When things went on sale in February, I bought a new one. The first day I wore it, my boss (a middle-aged man) looked at me and joked, in front of colleagues, “Look, (name) got a big girl coat!”

            I could have died. He was kidding around, but if I’d thought for one second that he noticed what I was wearing, I’d have gotten a new coat much sooner.

        • legalicious07 :

          I agree. There was nothing about Kat’s statement that “reeked of entitlement.”

          • I kind of feel sorry for you all. I spend my time becoming a better lawyer and contributing member of society while you guys spend your time looking in the mirror and fretting about fashion. What a waste!

          • Anon right back at you :

            To “Anon.” at 9:18a.m. below, you must be seriously slacking. I work at a demanding executive level job, teach as an adjunct at the local law school at night, volunteer extensively in my community and am raising teenagers with my SO. Oh, and I am writing a book, too. I still have time for Corporette, which has saved me oodles on work-appropriate clothing with Kat’s input plus the good reader tips and makes me happy at the same time.

          • There are many young prosecutors and public defenders who can barely afford to pay rent in some cities let alone buy appropriate outer wear clothing during the first few years out of law school. Please forgive the ski jackets! I had to hand wash many dry clean only clothes that first year that I practiced law.

          • anon - chi :

            @ Anon 9:18-

            Actually, you seem to spend your time trolling the comments on blogs that apparently don’t appeal to you since you are too busy doing more worthwhile things to worry about fashion and critizing others (anonymously, of course) in a patronizing tone. If you come to a blog dedicated to professional fashion, guess what? The commenters are going to be (drumroll please) discussing FASHION.

    • Agree with point #1 completely. And for what it’s worth…if you’re wearing a “nice” coat that’s completely inappropriate for the weather (e.g. not warm and/or waterproof), I’m going to think you are less smart for having made that choice. There’s nothing sadder than a grown woman freezing her bottom off in a skirt suit because she’s too embarrassed to wear a functional coat.

      • LOL. Totally agree. I’d rather see women in sportier and warm jackets than cute and freezing their butts off. Also, I’ve worked in BigLaw for 4 years and I wear uggs to work and yes, sometimes don’t take them off. Obviously, I would never wear them to a partner’s office or a client meeting but if I need to be comfortable (i.e. warm enough) to do work, then Uggs it is. And this apparently has no bearing whatsoever on my professional career since when I did finally quit my job, my firm counteroffered to get me to stay. So I think when it comes to cold weather fashion, anything goes! Plus, I think uggs are really cute. :)

        • Anonymous :

          “…when it comes to cold weather fashion, anything goes!” So, based on that line of reasoning, one might say the same about warm-weather fashion? “It was 95 degrees out today, so I wore my sundress and flip flops to the office.” It was hot, so anything goes?

          I just don’t understand the general tone on this thread that it is impossible to dress both professionally and appropriately for cold weather. And I certainly don’t understand how Uggs could ever be considered office appropriate. I’m baffled.

          • anotheranon :

            I’d say that can apply outside of the office. I wouldn’t wear my Uggs, hat, scarf, mitts, coat inside the office, but I do wear it on my commute. When it gets to -20C, I tend to stop caring how i look outside. So by your logic, I guess you could wear flip flops and a sundress to work, if you cover up once you got in.

            Mind you, there have been times when the office has been so cold that I wish I could get away with wearing one of those ridiculous “blankets with sleeves” that they show all the time on infomercials… (don’t worry, I never actually tried)

          • Anonymous from 9:02 :

            Anotheranon — I completely agree about commuting attire, and think we should wear whatever necessary to ensure that we can withstand the elements. I do believe, however, that we still can make some choices that look more professional than others, while still serving their purpose. Maybe a more professional pair of sturdy, warm, waterproof boots rather than Uggs? (I pick on Uggs here because that is an easy example, but really, it applies to all winter gear.) Regardless of our commuting wear, I definitely was struck by those who say that they will wear their Uggs all day at the office. At 34, I missed the undergrad Uggs phenomenon, so maybe I’m just too old to get the attachment to them???

  4. As someone from the PacNW, I can assure you gortex rain jackets are totally appropriate over whatever you are wearing when it’s raining from all directions. So are rain boots.

    I guess this is one place I rebel — I think you should wear what makes sense to you based on the climate. If you can ALSO look a little more professional, that’s great. But don’t get frostbite just because you want to look a certain way.

    As long as you walk in to your workplace, take off your outdoor gear in your office and then go about your day in your usual professional garb, I wouldn’t overthink this. I will admit I do not go out during the middle of the day very often with my colleagues, and I don’t go to court, so I’m not sure if maybe I’m off base in those circumstances.

    Also, even if it is very cold outside, it can be VERY warm inside your work. Make sure you dress in layers so you have options in case your support staff (or anyone else) insist on turning the heat way up.

    • As someone from the PacNW, I can assure you gortex rain jackets are totally appropriate over whatever you are wearing when it’s raining from all directions.

      Indeed; I’m not sure I knew they even made nice coats until I moved away from Oregon. (I exaggerate, but not by much; my dad definitely always wore a gortex rain jacket over his suits to work.)

    • On the few days that it gets REALLY cold, I break out the shearling coat I received for Christmas a couple years ago. I may look a little like an Eskimo but it’s so incredibly warm that it blocks all the chill.

  5. Cashmere sweaters/cardigans are wonderful for keeping warm and they look professional. You don’t have to splurge if you don’t have the money — Lord and Taylor sells great cashmere cardigans for $50, and Filene’s often has big cashmere sales in January.

    Can someone recommend cute and comfortable snow boots? I was stuck in DC last winter without snow boots and it made for a difficult winter. I want to be prepared this time around.

    • To be fair, last winter in DC was really weird.

    • second the cashmere sweaters and cardigans. Whenever I have extra cash, I would splurge in one of these and they are perfect for layering because they are thin so you can still wear layers without looking bulky.

      • I live in the snow country of upstate NY and have 2 pairs of Totes snow boots (that’s what most of the other women in my office wear, too). One is ankle high and one is just under my calf (for snowier days). I take them off when I get to work, but honestly, under pants, you probably wouldn’t really notice it’s a snow shoe most days.

        I keep several pairs of heels in my office in a filing cabinet (a trick I learned from another woman at my office).

    • LL Bean has great snow boots. But you’re unlikely to need them in DC again.

  6. Quibble with Kat’s “best you can afford” recommendation: I wouldn’t want to wear the same coat for more than a few seasons. And if you live somewhere with a long cold season, I actually recommend buying multiple coats so you don’t get too bored. Definitely buy multiple scarves, hats, and gloves. I have coats in neutral colors — camel, gray, black, and navy — and play with color in my accessories. I have a gorgeous and very warm coat that I got for a very reasonable price from a surprising source: Victoria’s Secret. Check ‘em out, if you can. (My firm blocks their web site, bizarrely. I can get on youtube and facebook but not VS.com!)

    Frankly, if you live somewhere with real winters like Chicago or Minnesota you are an idiot if you do not wear boots and a hat no matter how short your commute. But do change your boots at the office no matter how casual. For one thing, it’s a golden opportunity to wear really impractical but gorgeous heels.

    • I second the multiple coat thing. If you can’t afford more than 1 nice one, get 1 really good one and then get a pea coat or a less expensive one (Old Navy sometimes has great ones) and wear it less often. I find that at some point in the winter, if I’m only wearing 1 coat, it starts to need dry cleaning, so I wear the other coat while I’m getting it dry cleaned.

      • I commute on public transit and I look for a coat that’s washable. Escalators and handrails are often greasy and I like a coat that can be washed.

        Since I always have a jacket on underneath and live in DC where the temperature USUALLY isn’t below 25 I can go for a coat that’s not wool and is lightly lined.

  7. Christine :

    Coming from a Canadian- dress in layers and don’t forget your scarf. Make sure your feet are warm & dry. This is vital. And I’m a big fan of tights in the winter. I know the professionalism of tights is debatable but 2 layers of tights keep my legs protected from -30 temps amazingly well.

    • Totally agree with you on scarfs. A warm coat is essential, but even with one, a scarf makes a huge difference.

    • anon - chi :

      When it gets unbearably awful in Chicago, I actually wear tights under lined pants – it’s amazingly warm, and it doesn’t add too much bulk so it’s pretty comfortable and I don’t feel like an idiot if I’m going straight to court.

  8. I guess this is one area where I don’t care as much as I should. I live in a city with little public transportation and work in an area where driving is pretty much the only option. I have a 25 minute commute on a good day and longer when the weather is terrible. I’d rather be warm and dress appropriately when it is sleeting and -10 outside. A warm coat and hat and boots look better than being frostbitten or falling on my rear on the walk on my way into the office. I usually wear cashmere sweaters and wool pants on a nasty weather day. My hunt is on for some decent looking boots that I can wear in and out because my current ones are ugly.

    I’m a litigatorl, but am largely a brief writer and spend many a day in my office plugging away. I’d obviously dress up more if I had to go to court, a client meeting, or a deposition. I have a nice overcoat for these occassions, but I’m choosing warmth over style unless I have to.

  9. As a PNW born, DC-ite I agree that it depends on where you live. Bottom line, you need to look professional in the office not necessarily on your way to and from. Boots (uggs, lined rain boots, etc.) are a must and a big bag for carrying your actual shoes is also a necessity. Shout out to Anne on the amazingly impractical heels. You should wear them all winter long!

    Coats – if it’s super cold getting a Columbia or Northface jacket that is a 3 way (fleece + shell) so you can layer may not feel like the most professional thing to wear, but having the option of shell or fleece or both will be worth it. Additionally if you want a more professional coat, j.crew marks down all their coats in huge ways in like Jan/Feb and their thinsulate coats are both beautiful and warm (size up so you can layer underneath). Also a nice pea coat can be gotten at Target/Old Navy/Gap and other stores for those days when it’s not as cold.

    And please, don’t be afraid to put on a hat and gloves and a scarf and keep your self warm! It drives me crazy to listen to people complain about the cold who aren’t willing to put in the effort to prepare for it. Everyone will understand if you have hat hair! It’s winter, it’s ok.

    Finally, I love mittens. My hands get very, very cold and for me, mittens always work better than gloves at keeping my fingers from falling off!

    • I like to have smart matching hats/gloves/scarves.

      Coming into work from the street I am seen as I enter/depart and I want to look sharp even then.

  10. I live in NYC and we literally get ALL kinds of weather here. My go-to winter coat is wool. I have two wool coats (both from Burlington coat factory) – a knee-length black one and an ankle-length charcoal one with a hood. They keep me very warm and I think they do appear more formal than other types of coats. I’d suggest getting a coat that’s not too fitted so that you can wear layers underneath the coat if necessary. And these coats do last – I’ve had the black one for over 10 years and it still looks new.

  11. I do a fifteen minute walk to work outside of DC and don’t wear pants because they get wet when dragged through rain/snow. I keep my legs warm with sweater-knit tights or footed-leggings under a skirt and Uggs.

    • Another E here! I also wear Uggs in the winter. I LOVE them and truly, I think of mine as just plain black boots. I don’t get what all the fuss is with people “hating” them, and I take them off as soon as I get in. Anyone who wears flip flops coming or going in warmer weather has NO right to criticize my Uggs!

    • divaliscious11 :

      Me three on Uggs – especially if we are doing kid stuff!

  12. divaliscious11 :

    I live in Chicago and if being cold means “looking professional,” oh well. That said, I have a whole wardrobe of scarves, hats, coats etc… because I like a different look, but when its very very cold… fur it is! That may or may not work for you personally, but when the temps/wind hit single digits……

    • Go ahead and splurge on a beautiful warm coat. You will thank me later. I am in Chicago. I have all lengths and varying colors of wool/blend coats. If you want something spicy, Mackage has very hip coats. However, the tried and true brands like Calvin Klein and Elie Tahari are safe bets. If you are short on cash the outlet malls offer fab finds. Good luck to you. Soon, though, you will have an entire winterized wardrobe.

  13. I am curious why Kat and all the women I work with are obsessed with Hunter and all these expensive rain boots. Essentially, they are all waterproof and made of rubber, so what’s the difference between $200 Kate Spade or Hunter ones when I can get a pair for $30-40 on Amazon or Target? I am genuinely curious to hear if anyone can justify the splurge.

    • I have real Hunter boots (but I got them on RueLaLa for a steal… like less than the Target ones… huzzah!) and I can attest to the fact that they truly are better than the Target ones. The rubber on the Hunter boots is thicker and sealed better at the seams. They are also nicely lined (which makes getting them on and off easier) and have a nice footbed. Maybe they aren’t $200 better, but they are better.

      • Yeah, I tried to walk to work in my Target ones yesterday and the lack of anything in the sole made it kind of painful.

      • I have 2 pairs of kenneth cole reaction rubber rain boots that I purchased because I loved the minimalist look of them- they’re plain silver, no frills. I bought one pair to keep in the office and one to keep at home. I figured they would be decent quality since its a mid-range brand. Well guess what? they leak.
        I continue to wear them because they work perfectly for drizzly days and when its really pouring I pair them with thick wintery boot socks (anyone ever tried these? I have several pairs from filene’s that are fantastic). The socks look cute peeking out of the boots.

        But seriously, yes splurge. It’s not like you buy rainboots everyday and when the weather is awful, you will be glad you spent a bit more.

        • A good quality pair of rainboots will literally last you your whole life.
          I go into deep puddles in mine (sometimes on purpose) and my feet stay dry no matter what. I think the benefit of the more expensive boots is that they last longer, don’t leak and — this is key for me — are much more comfortable, both on your feet and your legs (I tried a cheaper pair that really irritated my bare legs from cheap rubber friction). That said, I wouldn’t go for “designer” rain boots — maybe the SW or MJ rain boots are well made, maybe they’re just “designer;” but with a good pair of Hunter or Sperry boots, you pay more and you know you’re getting time tested quality.

    • I bought LL Bean rain boots a few years ago and found myself slipping and sliding all over the place whenever I wore them in the rain. Last year, I bought a pair of Hunters, and they are rock. solid. Very sturdy and stable, even on slipper subway steps. I also hesitated at spending so much but there is a very definite quality difference.

  14. I understand the need for winter boots, and if you just cant do without your UGGs, fine. But, honestly, there are so many better boots out there, that are just as warm or warmer, just as comfortable or more so, and that will look much better and with none of the teenage association that UGGs carry.
    Not to mention that UGGs are just incredibly unflattering and do not have to be so (I get it – you are commuting. But this is a “fashion” site ;)) . . . In fact, UGGs the company has been making a ton of really cute non-”UGG” boots that are both really cute & really practical.

    • If you’re in a cold and wet climate, i.e., will be tromping through snow and slush on the way in, make sure to have WATERPROOF boots. Uggs may or may not cut it. (I live in a wet, cold area, and don’t own any Uggs, but the ones I’ve seen on other people don’t look waterproof at all.)

      I also endorse layers. Keep a cardigan/jacket/pashmina in your office for chilly days. I also have a pair of fingerless wrist-warmers that I can wear at the keyboard. (Like this http://bit.ly/d3VXNs )

      And I swear by the silk long-johns, too. Incredible.

      • Uggs were popularized by surfers in Australia/NZ for wearing after surfing on the beach — never meant to be winter boots! There are many better real winter options. Not to mention that the whole idea of wearing dead sheep skin is kind of cruel and disturbing, or at least it should be.

    • anotheranon :

      I wear Uggs for commuting, and change them as soon as I get to work. While they may be unflattering, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really matter how I look outside when it’s snowy and -20C out. They are definitely the warmest, most comfortable footwear I’ve ever tried.

      So I’m genuinely curious… where could I go to find prettier boots that are just as warm and comfortable, or moreso, than Uggs? :)

  15. I have to second (or third or whatever) Kat’s recommendation for buying the best coat you can afford since a good one will last. I’ve had my very warm (dressier) peacoat since my sophomore or junior year in high school (over 0 years ago, not to age myself). It’s Calvin Klein and I did get it on clearance at TJ Maxx, but it would have been well worth the money if I had paid full price since it is still my go to winter coat for more casual days. This experience also made it a bit easier for me to invest in a more professional wool calf length coat last winter since I know I’ll wear it for the next 10 plus years. I must also admit that I’m pretty hot natured so my coat needs in terms of warmth may differ from someone who tends to get colder more easily.

  16. Anonymous :

    In a truly cold climate, wear whatever keeps you warm. No one will judge you for being pragmatic, and no one wants to hear whining from the chronically underdressed.
    Threadjack- just interviewed with 3 male law partners. Advice on thank you notes? They all said very similar (nice and positive) things. I feel like men would prefer email but can’t articulate why.

    • Go for e-mail.
      It will get there faster, and they are more likely to a) read it and b) maybe even respond.
      Good luck!

    • NE Attorney :

      Agree on the e-mail (not for men or women, just in general)! By the time a hand-written note gets to a partner, any decision or review may have already been completed.

  17. As an alternative to silk long johns, consider a brand called “Cuddleduds.” They are a little more affordable, but thin, breathable, and undetectable under dress clothes. I wear them under dress slacks frequently in winter and no one’s the wiser. Carried at department stores such as Carson Pirie Scott in the Midwest. I also keep a Cuddleduds cami (one in white, one in black) at my office to add under my outfit if the heat’s not cranked high enough. The fabric is more insulating than your traditional camisole fabric–these are more like thin low-cut tanks.

  18. I have both a calf length plus a knee length coat–the knee length one is slightly lighter material. I also have a rain coat with a lining for the days that it snows and rains simultaneously. To me, it is important to make sure the coat is loose enough you can wear sweaters or jackets under it, and a little variety in color / length is necessary when you wear them every day for 6+ months.

    I also have a variety of scarves and shawls, some a bit dressy and others more casual and fun–never wear a hat, mostly because I can’t stand anything on my head.

    Glove are essential, they need to be warm, suitable for driving but don’t need to match your coat as long as they don’t clash. Should also be inexpensive so you are not too upset when you inevitably lose them. This year, I am looking at gloves with either a small pad on the index finger or without a finger tip on the index finger to support so I can read e-mail on my phone with my gloves on. Not a great look, perhaps, but I predict a fashion that will have staying power!

  19. My thoughts (as a MN native, now in Chicago, who went to school in NC and lived with people who thought it was cold when it was 50 degrees): If you are living in a place where it can get cold enough that your can feel your eyelids start to freeze together when you step outside, people aren’t going to be as concerned with how professional you look while getting to and from work. And frankly, at that point, you probably won’t care either. Having said that, there are lots of options for looking professional while still staying warm.

    I think it’s really important to remember that when it gets cold a scarf, gloves, and (for me at least) a hat are a must. Ear muffs can be an option if you want to at least keep your ears warm but don’t want to deal with hat head. I’m a mittens fan myself, but admit that gloves probably look classier. Personally, I think it’s better to wear a hat or earmuffs than to come into the office with bright red ears that don’t go away for half of an hour.

    If you’re living anywhere where they salt the sidewalks/roads, I would be careful about wearing anything but non-work boots to work. Change shoes when you get there. Salt will do a serious number on your shoes (and you’ll get a salt line on your pants if the hem gets wet), and at least in Chicago, there tend to be gigantic slush puddles at many of the crosswalks. I hate having wet feet, so I often have an extra pair of socks with me during the winter as well.

    As for coats, I have a black down Calvin Klein coat that I love. One thing to keep in mind with down is that you can find coats that have great structure. Yes, you’ll be puffy, but you can certainly find ones that are belted or tailored in such a way that you don’t end up looking like the Michelin man. I love having a collar that stands up (and is soft inside–you don’t always think about this, but if it’s rough inside it can make your face chapped) for times when it’s really cold and windy, and highly recommend knee-ish length vs. higher-thigh length if at all possible. Those extra inches make a world of difference.

    • Also worth noting (as I think a few other ladies have mentioned): I have fine, straight hair that gets super static-y in the winter. You may end up using different hair products come winter to combat the static. One thing I learned from my hair dresser is that moisture isn’t always the answer–I thought my hair was dry due to the cold, but she said that moisturizing shampoos (if unneeded) can actually make static worse because they make your hair more slippery.

      Also, if you don’t already, make sure to have some good hand lotion at your desk. You’ll be glad you did.

      • I’ve found that a very light bit of hand lotion helps with static-y hair, too. I sometimes put a dab on the ends when it’s still wet (usually on more casual days, since it makes my hair wave a little bit, which I think is cute, but not the sleek professional look I crave). Or, if it’s mid-day and my hair is flying about, I rub lotion on my hands and then smooth it over my hair.

        I’ve also found a product that helps a lot for it- garnier’s “smoothing milk.” Rub it in before you blow-dry or straighten, and it really smooths hair out and keeps down the static and frizz. Pretty good for less than 5 dollars, IMO.

  20. I posted this question earlier before I knew this post would happen!

    I’m considering buying a Barbour Bedale Jacket (http://www.jcrew.com/womens_feature/ingoodcompany/barbour/PRDOVR~19628/19628.jsp). does anyone have any experience with the sizing? I’m 5’6, about 120lb, and fairly flat-chested, if that helps. I plan to wear it over a suit jacket occasionally.

    Relatedly, is a Bedale jacket appropriate to wear to work? I have a long wool jacket to wear during the winter, but I need something lighter for the fall and early spring. I’m not quite ready to buy a trench coat, and I think that since this is a fairly classic (although rustic) style, it would be appropriate enough for an office on the formal side of business casual (i.e. i usually wear a pencil skirt, heels, and a nice cardigan to work — a full suit usually only when i’ll be working in the C-suite, usually only once a week or so). I feel like I see a lot of ibankers wearing them this season, too. (I’m a young corporate strategist in the northeast)

    • Looks like a great coat! Not sure on the sizing, but you’d probably be safe wearing it to work. Where I live, Barbour is THE yuppie coat, so I can’t imagine corporate would complain.

    • Curious to see what the others say, but I associate these coats with weekend wear. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but that is my first impression. They have a “just going out to feed the horse” vibe that I think might look out of place at work, especially in a skirt and heels. There are SO many fun options for lighter, transitional coats. Reconsider getting a trench coat in shorter length or a fun color!

      I think I am with Kat on wanting a more professional coat for work. I would never wear my ski jacket to the office…it would look odd. But I can see having different priorities in the Pac NW or in a really cold place like Chi-town or Minnesota.

    • I have a Barbour, but a different style (similar to this: http://www.barbour.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=products.view&ProductID=11413&PCategoryID=23&RangeID=2). I have a size 4 US and the label says that the Euro size is 34 – so I’m guessing J.Crew’s size charts don’t apply here and that the sizes listed correspond to the label. I am about 5’1, 110ish lbs, and usually wear a size 0 on top; my Barbour is roomy enough for several layers/a thick sweater underneath. Hope this helps a little with the sizing!

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