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5 Tips for Warm Winter Layering

Nov 15, 2017

Coat: Canada Goose Shelburne Parka (comes in lot’s of colors! I’m wearing an XS because I like my coats fitted but if you want more room, size up!) Boots: Hunter “Original Tall” boots–(run large, size down one full size!) but they have a packable version (made of thinner material which easily flattens) which is more practical if you ever want to take them on a trip! If you have larger calves, you might like their adjustable calf versionSweater: old, but identical here and tunic-length here, Turtleneck: J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck–come in tons of colors and only $29! (Similar versions here and here!), Scarf: Old, but similar here, here and here, Velvet leggings: Spanx (they have a control top too and are SO comfortable! I’ve started wearing them instead of regular leggings and they’re so much cuter! They also come in more colors), Beanie: Similar herehere, here Tote: Madewell Transport Tote (comes in lot’s of colors and so many different styles these days! I seriously love this bag so much!)

Last Friday, we got our FIRST snow of the season. I really wasn’t expecting it to stick, much less come down as heavily as it did! Everyone around the city was grumbling, “NOT ALREADY!” but a little part of me was really excited about it. I absolutely love the snow (that is, until it lingers around as dirty, icy slush in February. That part I’m not so thrilled about). But the first snow is always so magical. I will say though, it did totally throw off my calendar because I felt like we should’ve put up the Christmas tree that weekend!

Winter in Chicago always means getting creative with your layers–you want to be warm without being bulky, and you also want to be able to easily remove those layers when you get inside (because, chances are, it will be stifling hot!)

Here is my go-to layering method, if you’re also searching for some layering inspiration:

1. Stock up on a couple of “turtleneck tees”:

Kelly and I always joke that wherever we go in the winter, at least ONE of us is wearing “THE turtleneck“–which is essentially a turtleneck made of super thin t-shirt material. It makes the best under layer–I wear them under crewnecks, cardigans, dresses, sweater dresses, you name it–they add extra warmth without the bulk, and they come in so many colors!

Shop more turtleneck tees: (Start at $29!)

2. Have a few crewnecks in the rotation:

Crewneck sweaters, in my opinion, are the most versatile type of sweater, because there are a lot of options to style them. You can layer a tissue turtleneck underneath, a crisp collared shirt, a silk-button down, or you can wear it as your regular under-layer with something like a chunky cardigan over the top! (Stay tuned for more posts to come in my Winter Capsule Wardrobe series to see how I style a crewneck several ways!)

Shop more crewneck sweaters: 

3. Invest in thick leggings:

I think we can all agree that leggings are THE BEST when it comes to comfort. When it comes to warmth though? Meeeehhhh?

That’s why I love these velvet leggings. They’re so much thicker than regular leggings so they’re much warmer AND they’re just so cute. Neal looked at me wearing them the other day and he was like “those are leggings…but they…look like pants?”

Yes. They do, in fact, look like real pants. Also, they’re made by Spanx and have a control top, which makes them KEY for Thanksgiving. Double thumbs up. (They come in two more colors too–a beautiful dark inky navy and a charcoal grey!)

Shop my favorite velvet leggings: 

4. Hats and scarves make a huge difference:

I don’t know why I denied this for so long, probably because I’m an incredibly impatient person and taking the extra time to track down extra accessories before leaving the house was just simply too much work.

Hats TRULY make the biggest difference in keeping warm. I used to hate wearing them because I didn’t like how they messed up my hair, and would often try to get away with earmuffs instead. (Wrong. Bad move. Don’t do it, really.)

Hats keep so much heat from escaping your body, so invest in a few cute pom pom beanies that actually contribute to your outfit (like the ones below!) and you’ll be a whole lot happier. Same goes with scarves–the warmest way to tie them is the “loop and knot” method that I walked through step by step in my “how to tie a scarf” post!

5. Invest in a real, heavy-duty winter coat you’ll have for decades:

If I’ve learned anything from living in a place that gives Siberia a run for its money during the winter months, it’s that you cannot skimp by on a cheap winter coat. No matter how much you layer underneath, a cheap winter coat is not going to keep you that warm.

I know this isn’t necessarily the case with a lot of other clothing items, but in this instance, you really do get what you pay for.

What to look for in a great winter coat: 

First:

There are two kinds of winter coats you can purchase–those made with real down (i.e. feathers), and synthetic down. As you might guess, real down has a much better warmth to weight ratio. Meaning it will keep you warm without the extra bulk or weight. Real down also lasts much longer than synthetic. Meaning a real down coat can last you up to twenty years, whereas the average lifespan of a synthetic filled coat, according to my research, is about 7.

Second:

There’s the measurement of the down within the jacket. This is kind of tricky, and if you guys want a full review that goes more into detail on this, I can definitely do one–but there is something called “fill power” which is the measurement of how much down is in a jacket relative to how heavy it is–essentially, it’s a bit complicated, but good indication of how warm a jacket is going to keep you–so you want to look for a high number here. (And if you see a parka where this info isn’t listed, it’s probably a good indication that it’s not going to be that warm. And when I say warm, I mean, like–Chicago in February warm. If you live in a warmer climate, then by all means, I’m sure that’s fine!)

Typically, if you want something that is going to REALLY keep you warm when temperatures dip into the negatives, you’ll want something with around 600 fill power or higher–which, you guessed it, comes with a higher price tag.

My coat is the “Shelburne” parka made by Canada Goose.

(Fill power is 675, which is suitable for temps down to -5F/-21C) So let’s first address the elephant in the room: this coat is expensive. Definitely one of the more expensive things I own, but it is also the most functional winter item in my closet. I wear it every. single. day. from November through–let’s be honest, probably March.

I don’t know of anything else in my closet or anyone else’s that gets that much wear, and the difference between that and my regular old North Face parka was astounding in terms of warmth. It truly doesn’t compare. I’m so glad I upgraded, and I will never look back.

So, some quick math–that’s about 4.5-5 months per year that I wear this coat. So, say, roughly, 150 days. Now, multiply it by 15-20 years of wear that I’ll likely get out of it? That price per wear is prettttty darn cheap, even if the upfront price tag sounds hefty.

how to layer winter clothes

I could go on forever about why I love this coat so much, but here are some of the key features that make it the best winter coat out there in my opinion:

Figure-flattering warmth:

This is one of the only puffer coats out there that doesn’t make you look like a giant blob. It’s trim and tailored in the waist, and tapers out nicely, hitting right below the knees. The Kensington is another good option if you want something that’s more cinched at the waist!

No cold air seeping in EVER: 

The jacket was very intentionally designed to not let any air escape into the jacket when you’re bundled up. There are snug, rib-knit sleeves so there is no air gaping in between your gloves, and there is a flap that snaps over the zipper to keep any air from seeping in that way. Plus, the zipper goes ALL the way up over your chin. Right up to your nose. Which has been a game-changer when the wind picks up. The other great feature about this is that there are two cords around the neck that tighten and make it even more snug!

Inside straps make for easy commuting: 

Perhaps the COOLEST feature of this entire jacket–especially if you’re a commuter to and from work–there are two straps on the inside of the jacket that you can loop your arms through that allow you to take the jacket off and wear it like a backpack.

So, for example, when you’re freezing walking to the train in the morning and you get inside the train and are packed in like sardines sweating your you-know-what-off–you can just pull your arms out of the sleeves and virtually take it off, while still keeping it on your back.

When it’s time to jump off the train, just slip your arms back in and go. It’s so easy! (See demonstration below!)

Where to buy:

Nordstrom is my go-to for a lot of things, but especially for a big investment purchase like a coat, because they have an incredible return policy. I like to think of it like insurance. If you aren’t 110% happy with it, you can return or exchange it no questions asked. You never have to be worried about losing your money over something that isn’t the right fit for you. Plus, shipping is free both ways! They stock a ton of Canada Goose jackets too!

Shop more Canada Goose jackets:

how to layer winter clothes

how to layer winter clothes

What are your tips for layering and staying warm in the winter?

In partnership with Nordstrom, one of my favorite retailers that I shop at often. All opinions are 100% my own. 

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