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:

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  • 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?

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  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 :


  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.


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

    • My 2 cents say Aubergine, maybe because I don’t look good in camel shades (but you might!). Also the dark color just looks a bit dressier, imho. Nice coat!

    • I really like the Aubergine.

      I have this coat in black (I got it for a steal on clearance two years ago). It used to be my favorite “dog walking” coat. But honestly, it ended up not being enough when it got into the low teens (I’m Chicago area). The pockets let in too much air. I ended up purchasing something pretty similar by Calvin Klein that I like better. I didn’t get it at Overstock but this looks like it’s the same:


    • divaliscious11 :

      Aubergine…. but I love that color so….

    • Aubergine all the way.

    • Go aubergine – more unique!

    • Great choice. My law school classmate at freezing, snowy, icy Notre Dame had this coat and I tried it on a couple times and loved it. It will definitely be my selection next time I need a winter coat – not this year sadly.

      • ND Law here, too! Oh, the memory of those winters still makes me shudder! I laughed at my Phoenix-based roommate for getting a big ol’ North Face parka, but man did I love to borrow it! That’s where I learned to appreciate the magic of a cashmere scarf as well.

  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.


    • 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.

        • I don’t see how that’s any more cruel/disturbing than the dead cow that my foot is currently ensconced in.

          • Agreed. Uggs are ugly but I don’t understand the offense at the sheep skin.

    • 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.

    • Second this! They don’t break the bank but definitely help keep warm. Lands’ End also makes great long johns.

  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!

  21. I’ll take my waterproof LLBean coat over your overpriced and frankly ugly Cinzia Rocca pick anyday … and no, I don’t find it sad in the least!

    My checkbook still has enough to contribute to my IRA and my body is far warmer than any overpriced wool coat can keep it on a rainy day!

    • Anonymous :

      This is just rude, everyone has their own style and Kat didn’t mean to be malicious. It’s her blog, if you don’t like her opinions you don’t have to read it.

      • Kat is starting to get over the top with prices on some stuff though.

      • anonymous #2 :

        I agree! No need to be rude. Also, it’s getting annoying for the same posters to weigh in with the same snark or disagreeableness in one thread after another…

    • I think it’s weird you’re getting so defensive about this. Wear whatever coat you’d like. If it keeps you warm – more power to you! I bet most people are more focused on staying warm and getting inside rather than other people’s coats. Or maybe that’s just me….

    • Shayna! I expect more from you.

  22. OrgManiac :

    Reading all of this makes me so glad I live in SoCal. To anyone who manages to look good in bad weather, congratulations to you!!

  23. If you want Ugg warmth but not the Ugg style, consider this boot. http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3093299?origin=category&resultback=0

    • I have these in black suede — love them! So warm (maybe even warmer than my *traditional* uggs as they go up so high and hug my calves more closely.

    • Can anyone tell me if Uggs are actually waterproof? The product description doesn’t say they are. If they are, I might consider them.

      • They are NOT. They are decent at repelling water but by my second Minnesota winter my feet would sometimes get wet.

      • They’re not. The sheepskin does keep moisture at bay but it’s not good for heavy rain or snow.
        That’s one of the reasons for all the ugg-hate, I think.
        For the purpose, there are loads better, actually waterproof options!
        La Canadienne is one. There are tons others.

      • anotheranon :

        Your feet will get wet if you’re stomping through puddles, or for extreme slushiness, but they handle snow fine. I sprayed mine with some waterproofing spray when I got them.

  24. Last winter I discovered Wolford merino wool tights. They were $78 and the best.purchase.ever. At first I thought it was pricey for tights, but they are super-warm and lasted me all winter with me wearing them 3 times a week for a month. They’re still alive & kicking but I am going to buy another pair and see if they make them in colors other than black. If you are a devoted skirt/dress wearer like I am, they are definitely worth the investment.

    • I’ve been DEBATING getting Wolfords this winter. Mostly I want tights that are nice and opaque and won’t stretch out and are comfy. Do they pass that test?

      • Try Hue sweater tights for $18. They’re comfy and mine fit well and haven’t stretched out after 3 years.

        • L from Oz :

          I have Falke merino tights – similar pricing, alas, but excellent quality, looks good and are warm. (And they come in grey, at least.)

      • I love my Wolfords – I first splurged on some black velvet deluxe 50’s, then quickly bought the 80’s and sweater tights. They are expensive, but they really last. I wore one pair of 50’s with a pair of boots that had a loose thread, and while the thread rubbed the tights and gave them tights-stubble, it didn’t rip them (any other pair of pantyhose would have been shredded).

        And they are super-comfortable – the waistband is comfortable and the stockings just feel richer. And if you get the control top, it is a lot of control.

        I just bought a pair of Falke sweater tights and they were $65 (not much less than Wolford) so maybe I am buying a more expensive type of Falke?

  25. Context – Midwest with real winters but take my own car as opposed to public transportation.

    I wear a long wool coat and always carry scarf, hat and mittens. I usually just wear my heels because I am walking from my apartment into a covered garage, get into my car, park in another covered garage and walk to my office building door. I stay completely sheltered on a good day.

    However… I ALWAYS keep a pair of boots, tennis shoes, jeans, long sleeve tshirt, socks, sweatshirt, and a regular ski-coat in my car. If my car breaks down or I get stuck somewhere, I don’t want to deal with that in a skirt suit and stilletos. On a two occassions, I have been VERY happy to have an emergency change of clothes in my car.

    On my most recent need for the emergency stash, I was not only thrilled to have spare clothes but thrilled that I fit into the jeans! It was a lone joy in an otherwise crappy, stressful, and dangerously flash-flooded day!

    • Second this! I keep a sleeping bag, winter boots, tennies, and extra gloves and mittens in my car. Never felt silly about it and ALWAYS glad thy are there when I need them.

      • Another Laura :

        Funny, I had just thought about making my college-age daughter pack a kit like this. She just got a car and goes to a cold-weather school after living in the (relatively) warm PNW. Sleeping bag, parka, boots, hat/gloves/mittens will be added to the flashlight, space blanket and tire chain kit (including shovel and mat to lay on). Thanks for the tips.

    • A friend from college kept a box of Milk Bones in his emergency car kit – his explanation was that he wouldn’t eat them unless he was starving, and they were pretty nutritious. No idea if he was right on the nutrition part, but a couple protein bars in an emergency kit might be a good idea.

      Also important for an emergency kit – jumper cables. I’ve made someone’s day a couple times just because I carry jumper cables in my trunk.

    • In the winter I also keep a bucket of cat litter in my trunk. It roughs up ice if you ever get stuck, and has the added benefit of weighing down my car (since it’s 2-wheel drive). And if I don’t end up needing it, I have cats anyway, so no waste.

      Also second the granola bars. Actually, I always keep those in the car b/c I get a little loopy when my blood sugar gets low. :-)

  26. AGREED on the rain boots comment!!

    Do not, under any circumstances, buy rain boots from J.Crew!! I have owned two pairs, and both leaked/split at the seams. And do you know what the salesperson had to say about it? She said: “Did you walk through puddles?” Um, yes, because they’re rain boots!! Please go anywhere but J.Crew.

    (Sorry, I am still not over it, and this was 2 years ago!) :P

  27. NE Attorney :

    Related question for the corporettes out there who have been through this: I am pregnant (so excited!) and due in February – in New England. I bought a beautiful, fitted BB calf-length cashmere coat last winter that I love. Clearly that’s not an option for this winter. I don’t want to spend a huge amount on a winter coat that I will wear for maybe four months, but I know that I will need something. Any suggestions? Also, does anyone know of good, slip-on type winter commuting shoes? (If tying my shoelaces now is difficult, I can’t imagine trying to wrestle with normal winter commuting boots in two months.)

    • I live in New England and had a baby last winter. I ended up getting a wool-blend maternity coat from Old Navy and got tons of compliments! It was very warm and I seriously got nice comments on the coat almost every day. I didn’t spend more than $50 on it. For boots, by the end I had to go up a size. I couldn’t find any slip-ons that could make it through the snow and slush, so I just had my husband zip them up for me .

    • Merrill shoes are what EVERYONE in New England wears. Find them at EMS or REI. They’re not stylish, but also not offensive. You’ll see them everywhere!

    • When I was pregnant (due in May, though, so this might not work for you), I used a J. Crew pea coat. It was perfect because the coat flared a little and left lots of room for belly. But, since you’re having a winter baby, you may have to buck up and get a maternity coat. Some are cute and fairly reasonable — I second the Old Navy recommendation and will add that the Gap has some, too. Good luck!

  28. Parisienne :

    Someetimes I wear socks under boots and over hose – this does not show but feels cozy. For cold climates I think it is essentail to have at least one coat which is long – but I don’t mean floor length. Lined leather gloves are a good investment. It is also great to have a couple of suits with jackets big enough to accomodate a sweater underneth. A layer of silk next to the body is a great warmer, too. Finally, I would NEVER wear a hat (except skiing) no matter what the weather, but I have a huge collection of warm neck scarves, some to go with each coat.

  29. I totally agree with getting the very best coat you can afford. Some coats have zip-in liners so you can wear them for very cold and “regular” cold weather. A classic black 3/4 length coat and a scarf that works for both casual and professional situations (like the classic Burberry print) is a great investment that will last a really long time! I agree with the silk undergarments.. much more comfortable than other types of long underwear.

  30. I think there is nothing sadder than seeing a woman freezing, slipping and sliding across the sidewalks, wet and chilled to the bone because she was trying so hard to be stylish she forgot to dress appropriately for the weather. I live in a city with a *real* winter (read, temps often below zero, wind chills even lower, crazy snows, etc.) and the most important thing is to dress appropriately for all situations you might face (including a broken down car on the drive in to work, longer than usual wait at the bus/train stop, etc.).

    I second all others that say don’t wear any shoes outside you don’t to be ruined. Wear comfortable, warm, waterproof winter boots that are tall enough to protect your legs from splash and slush, and change into the work-appropriate shoes when in the office. No one will think anything of it.

    • Yes, but there is stylish and warm outerwear that is more appropriate for the office than ski jackets.

      • ADS: buy something nice and expensive for yourself and mind your own business about the ski coats that the other women are wearing.

        • I DO mind my own business at the office about what other people are wearing, but in case you hadn’t noticed, this is a fashion blog, where we discuss that which is stylish and office appropriate, and that which is not. If you don’t want to discuss that or care when it comes to your winter coats, you’re well within your rights, and I certainly won’t judge you for it, but please don’t criticize me for being on topic.

  31. Anonymous :

    I am a big fan of La Canadienne. They have water proof dress boots that are actually fashionable.

  32. (1) Best classic coat you can afford. I spent an enormous amount of $$$ at Saks years back for a longer coat and a three-quarter length jacket. I still have and love them both, and still get compliments on them. They are in great shape after 8 years.
    (2) Scarves are wonderfully stylish and warm. When necessary, if they are on the wider side, they can sort of be wrapped around the head.
    (3) Cashmere-lined leather gloves are elegant and warm. Do not go for the nylon-lined. If it’s crazy cold, mittens are warmer than gloves, but that’s really extreme.
    (4) I would never wear a hat on a work day, but if it’s really wet outside, I have a great umbrella.
    (5) Boots. Yes. Warm and flat. I second and third La Canadienne.

  33. Hard to believe these days, but when it’s 12 degrees outside and ice pellets are hitting you in the face, you won’t care one tiny bit about how anybody looks, and they won’t care about how you look either. You and everyone else will have one goal: to get inside as quickly as possible. You’ll be shockingly warmer in a hat (if you are truly in a cold climate, everyone will be wearing one—I promise). I rely on my Northface Metro down coat and Keen winter boots (have received lots of complements on the boots — the coat is so commonplace here that any admiration of its appearance would be weird. When they are a topic of small talk, it’s usually about how WARM they are). I agree on silk underwear (or even just a tissue t-shirt) underneath your professional clothes. And, I stock up lip balm and run the humidifier like crazy at night. Good luck.

  34. Live in the coast of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin now, went to law school in Minnesota. I work for a local government.

    Get the warmest coat you can find! I have some great wool coats that are lined with Thinsulate that work most days, however if it gets below -10 or so, I’m wearing my parka and I don’t care what you think about it.

    I dress in layers in the winter – an oxford shirt, a cashmere sweater or vest, and a suitjacket, or a tank top, a blouse, and a sweater. I tend to dress a little more casually in winter if I don’t have court or a big meeting, as does everyone else in our building.

    Keep extra gloves or mittens everywhere – glovebox, desk, purse.

    Cashmere socks can make a huge difference in how warm your feet stay during the day. I buy inexpensive pairs at Macy’s or Boston Store or similar department stores.

    Most days I will wear snow boots into the office (mine are a fleece pair from Lands End) and change into heels, but I do have two great pairs of flat leather boots that I will wear with skirts. On days when it is not snowy but just really cold, I’ll wear UGGS into work and change.

    I wear a hat or earmuffs most days. On hat days I sometimes wear a silk headband under the hat to keep my hair a little smoother.

    I have a 4 mile commute but my boss commutes 45 minutes, so she generally will wear jeans and a sweatshirt into work during the winter and change. I’d never question that because she wants to be comfortable and warm on her commute!

  35. As a long time motorcyclist who has had her hands out in 75 mph winds in all sort of weather, I am a big fan of silk glove liners. They make a HUGE difference in keeping your hands warm. Get the really thin kind and they will fit under almost any style of glove or mitten.

    As a bonus, they keep your gloves cleaner inside and the liners are simple to wash.

  36. Has anyone tried the ugg highkoo?

    • Yes, and I LOVE them! I have received SO many compliments. I can’t believe that people don’t know the UGG line has expanded beyond their classic boots. I also love the Belcloud–waterproof outside and warm sheepskin inside. HEAVEN!

  37. RE: entitlement. When I was about 13-years-old and living in a tropical climate, it was very, very cold for a few days in the winter and I froze without a real coat. Another student said, “Well tell your mom to buy you a coat!” Duh, if she could have afforded a coat for me, she would have bought one. Listen, not everyone can afford to dress warmly AND professional. Proper and stylish cold weather clothing costs money.

    • All the clothes we discuss here cost money. I think we all generally start with the assumption that women with professional jobs are not living in abject poverty. For those who are, you can find dress coats and cold weather accessories inexpensively at thrift stores and in places like Old Navy. My mother-in-law no longer lives in dire poverty but she still gets all of her clothes second hand, and she saves a bundle by doing so.

      I’m sorry about your childhood experiences.

      • My point is that there is a difference between trying to look your best, and judging another woman for wearing an old ski coat in a professional office.

        • The other thing is that flip-flips are a no-no all the time. Everyone can buy five decent outfits, even from the Goodwill. But, there is another level of buying when it comes to cold weather so can’t compare old heavy coats that are comfortable to flip-flops.

        • Who’s judging?

    • I agree completely that it’s not worth it to shell out big bucks for winter clothing in certain climates. Last winter was so unusual with the extended periods of cold, but I still wouldn’t expect someone in a normally warm climate to fork out a few hundred dollars on a professional winter coat. I think the suggestion to splurge on winter clothing is more for people who need them for several months a year minimum!

  38. Anonymous :

    Ok, so where does one buy a nice wool coat with Thinsulate lining? I buy my coats from catalog-type places (I favor long puffers in neutrals, which may or may not be office appropriate), but would love to find more stylish coats.

  39. why is my comment from yesterday removed? it looks like lots of people list ther favorite brands, I only listed two of mine.

  40. Uggs are ugly. But I do recommend six inch heels and short dresses.

  41. Anotheranon :

    Check out how Scandanavians dress – every time I watch Danish or Icelandic films, I’m amazed by how stylish everyone makes winter dressing look.

  42. I think these are not very good looking to look at in the office.

  43. Northland Lawyer :

    Twenty plus years of practicing law in Minnesota talking here. Best thing to start with is a good quality longer raincoat with a removable lining. Have them tailor it to pieces if you have to, but get one that fits over a suit. Buy it in black so that when you’re headed into the sixth week of trial and you haven’t had a chance to get it to the cleaners, the grubby sleeves won’t show. It will work for you for most of the year. Last one I bought was at Nordstrom’s and put me back $600, but I’m going to wear it for ten years.

    How you commute makes a difference. If you have to walk or wait for a bus or train, you’ll need more substantial gear, probably a longer down coat during the worst months. If you drive to work, the boots don’t have to be as warm. You will soon discover that having a “shoe drawer” at the office is pretty common when you wear the boots into the office.

    And depending on where you are, looking stupid is the least of your troubles. January in places like St. Paul and Fargo can be very unforgiving, so bundle up.

  44. Anonymous :

    Think movie “Up in the Air”

  45. Anonymous :

    hello stupid people its asking about what to wear not to work but interview in cold weather who cares about fashion its about staying warm…
    did yall not read the main page WHAT TO WEAR IN COLD WEATHERS TO “INTERVIEWS”

  46. I every time emailed this weblog post page to
    all my friends, since if like to read it then my friends will too.

  47. I read the thing about the overshoes, because this is a huge beef for me right now, and I did a search on amazon for these overshoes things and found this : http://www.amazon.com/PYSIS-Galosh-Overboots-Over—Heel/dp/B00HGIF3QU/ref=sr_1_6?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1424460241&sr=1-6&keywords=overshoes+women

    The reviews are pretty favorable. I’m intrigued. Have you heard of these??? I am curious if you can actually walk around with heels on inside of these things or not. They look pretty decent.