2019 Update: Yes, we still love silk long johns for warmth — nothing beats them for a super thin but warm option. Still, you may want to check out our most recent discussion on warm women’s dress pants for the office, as well as what to wear beneath unlined suit pants.
Reader N writes in with a question about how to stay warm in the winter in unlined/non-wool pants — and we have some great suggestions!
I am based in Northern California, and have recently started having to travel for business. I am finding that the wool pants I buy around me are no match for winter in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and New York. I’m told that I should find lined wool pants for warmth, but can’t seem to find any. Are there other fabrics that would be warm enough? To add an additional wrinkle I am a size 18 , so I need to find someplace that carries extended sizes as well.
Welcome to the land of seasons! Out here, if the low temperatures don’t get you, the windchill factor will. We’re weirdly excited to share with you one of the best secrets we picked up from our undergrad years, which we spent in a city known for sub-zero temperatures: silk long johns. Wear these babies under regular pants or jeans and you’ll be comfortable (with a proper jacket) below 35 degrees or so — if it’s very cold (and windchill takes it subzero), we’d suggest wearing them with wool pants.
The amazing thing about silk long johns is a) they’re super thin, so they don’t add bulk to your pants; b) they’re silk, so they block the wind like nobody’s business, and c) when you’re inside, in a normal temperature, you don’t really notice they’re there — it isn’t like a cashmere or wool sweater that can feel suffocating. As a bonus, d), if you’re wearing unlined wool pants, they stop the pants from being itchy. Ok, and fine, e) the other great thing is that you can usually find the long johns, on sale for around $15, at your local discount store. (The one pictured above is available at Amazon for $25-$45.) They also come in fun patterns, but we recommend your basic black for a working wardrobe.)
I’m a fan of the Winter Silks line (as of 2019, they are apparently sold exclusively at Appleseeds) and notice that they do carry a full range of sizes, including women, tall, and petite); silk long johns are also available through Land’s End.
Off topic note: Alas, because they’re silk, they can be a bit see-through — so they won’t be appropriate for your next Jammy Shuffle.
Readers, what are your favorite things to wear to work in the winter? Do you also use silk long johns to layer beneath unlined suit pants?