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Real Women Approved: 20+ Must-Have Essentials to Get You Through Winter

must-have winter essentials

Happy Monday, guys!

(Midwesterners, hope you survived your first snow! ?This post comes at a good time!)

It’s Kendall today, back with another Real Women Approved post! Today (based on popular demand!) we’re talking about what you need to get through the upcoming winter months.

From commuting, office dressing and packed holiday social calendars, there are a lot of pieces needed to keep you warm, comfortable and stylish all while battling bone-chilling winds and arctic temps. (Can you tell how excited I am that winter is around the corner?! ?) 

Still, winter is a very magical time of year — especially if you have the right layers on hand! We polled you guys on IG stories for your best, tried-and-true winter essentials and you really delivered! (Special shout out to all my Midwestern girls who weighed in!!)

Without further ado, here’s a detailed list we can all bookmark to stock our winter wardrobes with the essentials–because when it comes to surviving winter, we’re all in this together! 

20+ Must-Have Winter Essentials


Down Parka

First thing’s first — Let’s talk winter coats. There are two kinds: Those made with real down (feathers) and those with synthetic down. Real down is though to last longer than synthetic and has a better warmth to weight ratio (keeping you warm without the extra bulk/weight). A real down coat can last up to 20 years, while a synthetic has an average lifespan of 7 years. Definitely all good things to consider when investing in a winter coat. Bottom line: If you live somewhere really cold, it’s most likely a better investment longterm (and better quality of life warmth-wise) to purchase a real down parka. 

So it’s no surprise that a down parka is by far the #1 GG reader recommendation! This roundup of favorite parkas is a great guide if you’re in the market for something to keep you warm during windy commutes and frosty winter days. Consider these tips while you’re browsing for parkas: 

  • Try a few on! You really do need to order a few or go to a store to try a bunch on before committing to a winter coat you’ll have for decades to come. 
  • Don’t skimp on warmth! If you live in the Midwest or Northeast, I’d look for a down fill power of 600 or higher (this indicates how warm the coat is). 
  • Consider shape! Some coats are more fitted at the waist, which are more flattering, while others are rather shapeless. It just depends on what’s important to you! 
  • Sizing: Try on your coat with the number of layers you will typically wear. If you’re not one for bulky layers, you might be able to size down for a more form-fitting look, whereas you’ll want to take your typical size if you plan on bundling several layers underneath. 

down parka - must-have winter essentials

Arc’teryx Seyla Coat 

An investment piece for sure, this Arc’teryx down coat has 750-fill-power goose down insulation, is water repellant and has a down-insulated hood for added warmth. It comes in three colors!

Canada Goose Ellesmere Arctic Tech 

Canada Goose is known for its warm (and pricey) coats. While certainly an investment, Jess says she’s never heard anyone say their Canada Goose Parka is not worth the money.  This Ellesmere version is new and was a popular suggestion! It’s a down coat with 625 fill power, and has a pretty, smooth exterior. It comes in black, navy and military green!

Canada Goose Shelburne Parka (above)

One of the most popular Canada Goose parkas! It has a fill power of 675 (warmer than the above), which is suitable for temps down to -5F/-21C, has a tailored waist, has a zipper that goes over the chin to keep out drafts and has straps on the inside of the jacket that you can loop your arms through and wear the jacket like a backpack. (This is great for commuting, when you’re hot on a train or standing in line for a coffee and are burning up, but don’t want to or can’t take your coat all the way off). Jess loves this jacket especially because it’s very air-tight. No cold air gets in through the sleeves, through the zipper, neck, etc! 

must-have winter essentials

Lolë Marybeth Jacket

Lolë makes truly AMAZING winter coats for less than half the price of other popular parkas! The Lolë Marybeth Jacket uses the highest quality eco-friendly fabric, cruelty-free down, 700 fill-power (it’s actually warmer heat rating than Canada Goose), and 90/10 down to feather ratio (the lightest available). It’s also waterproof, windproof, has a removable hood lined. (Last year’s had faux fur, looks like this year’s doesn’t!) It comes in 3 colors–I love the new ecru color! This was their warmest jacket last year, but it actually looks like they came out with an even WARMER one–called the Nora, which is longer! 

Lolë Katie Jacket

While a little less warm than the Marybeth, the Lolë Katie Jacket is a really cute (and less expensive!) option for those who don’t live in such bone-chilling parts of the world! It’s most comparable to a North Face puffer in terms of warmth (but is actually a little bit warmer, at a fill-power of 600 vs. North Face’s 550).


boots - must-have winter essentials

Blondo Boots 

If you’ve been a GG reader for any amount of time, you know how much Jess raves about this brand! They have a ton of styles, all waterproof (and salt proof) suede! She’s had her OTK pair for several years, but the Blondo Presto Waterproof Knee High Boot (25% off right now!) is this year’s equivalent! You can wear them through the sleet and slush–they have tread AND are attractive (which I think we can all agree can be a rare combo when it comes to true winter boots!) 

Sorel Tofino II Boots 

A GG reader fan favorite, these waterproof boots have a faux-fur lining and 100 grams of fixed insulation to keep you warm. They come in 3 colorways! 

LL Bean Goretex Thinsulate Bean Boots 

Another popular suggestion, the Bean Boot is a classic and this pair is waterproof and has 400 grams of insulation!

“In Between” snow boots: 

Yes, everyone needs a pair of heavy-duty Sorels for (inevitable) very deep snow, but it’s also helpful to have a pair of “in-between” snow boots–when you need something more intense than regular boots, but not as heavy-duty as Sorels. For example, when it’s slushy, or there are only a couple inches of snow on the ground, and you don’t want to have to waddle around in your giant yeti boots. That’s where a good “in-between” pair comes in (Bean Boots are a good example of that) but this pair of Cole Haans are really cute too! (Jess has them in her cart right now!) 

Chelsea Boots (30% off right now!)

Ideal for sloshing through slush, the Chelsea Rain Boot comes highly recommended. They definitely require thick socks in the winter, but they are lightweight and great for damp conditions.

Regular leather Chelsea boots are also a must-have–both comfortable and stylish! These Sherpa-lined Chelsea Boots will keep you warmer than your average leather pair! 


great gifts from Everlane

Cozy Wraps + Scarves:

This J.Crew Oversized Cashmere Wrap was a popular suggestion! Especially great to keep on your chair at the –wear it as a blanket, scarf, or wrap! (Jess got the exact same one for her MIL last Christmas, too!) It’s gorgeous and comes in six colors!

Other great suggestions: Buffalo Check Blanket Scarf, this Free People Rib Knit Blanket Scarf and this huge woven option from Shopbop! Jess also loves Everlane’s cashmere rib scarf! (Not blanket-style, but super cozy and chunky so it’s great for keeping that cold air from seeping through your jacket!) 

More Oversized Scarves: 

The best gloves: 

A good pair of warm gloves that are tech-friendly is a non-negotiable winter staple! Having to pull your gloves off to type on your phone screen is never fun and a sure-fire way to lose a glove! (I speak from much experience! ?) This Nordstrom pair is perfect for any occasion: leather, lined in cashmere and touchscreen compatible. They come in black and saddle brown!

These J.Crew Wool/Leather Smartphone Gloves come in two beautiful colorways and Uniqlo has a bunch of HeatTech gloves in a variety of colors and materials, including this faux suede pair and this fleece pair. 

A great GG Reader Tip: Keep a pair of affordable gloves in every place you might need them (i.e. your work bag, your work desk, in your car, etc. You never want to be without gloves if you get stuck somewhere!  

More Gloves: 


Need to keep your ears warm, but can’t stand another day of hat hair? Enter earmuffs. This UGG pair is made of genuine shearling and is bluetooth compatible (perfect for commutes!) They come in two colors and would make a great gift! This Halogen pair is more affordable, and I love this wool knit pair that comes in 5 colors! 

The warmest socks: 

One Chicago native swears by silk liner socks to keep feet warm and comfortable. ?She got hers at REI. SmartWool socks were also highly recommended. This J.Crew pair, this Nordstrom pair and this L.L. Bean pair are all great options! 


blazers - must-have winter essentials

Sweater Blazers

Not surprisingly, everyone raved about the Sweater Blazer as a popular layering option for winter! Part cardigan, part blazer, the J.Crew Sophie Blazer (30% right now!) is an essential wardrobe staple for both work and weekend! Add a layer of sophistication in the office or dress it down for a cozy weekend look. It also comes in six gorgeous colors! 

cozy sweaters

Cozy Sweaters:

OBVIOUSLY cozy sweaters are a given for surviving any winter! You also said also you love layering sweater turtlenecks over dresses for your commute! Jess’ favorite go-to’s for sweaters are J.Crew and Everlane. This Everlane Square Turtleneck is one of Jess’ new favorites and is the best cashmere for your buck! (Lots more Everlane sweaters reviewed over in this post!) 

More cozy sweaters:

Dudley Stephens Fleece Turtlenecks: 

Jess newest favorite: Dudley Stephens turtlenecks! They’re a small, women-owned brand that makes the WARMEST, COZIEST fleeces out of recycled plastic bottles! 

The Park Slope Turtleneck and Cobble Hill turtleneck tunic (worn above) are her favorites! This brand is really popular with those of you on the East Coast (where the brand is based!) but they’re slowly making their way west! ??They’re more of an investment, but are built to last a lifetime! 

vests for winter


One GG reader said vests are an essential layering piece “because leggings and sweaters don’t have pockets.” ? Jess loves a good Barbour Liner Vest because it can be worn under a coat for added warmth, or worn over a sweater for warmer days! Such a classic look and comes in two colors! More options: this adorable Madewell x Penfield Fleece Vest and Patagonia’s vest selection never disappoints, either! 

More vests: 

Leather leggings - must-have winter essentials

Faux Leather and Suede Leggings

Faux leather and suede leggings were popular submissions because they “look like you’re trying, but they’re just leggings” ? They really do elevate a look while still keeping you warm and cozy! If you’re in the market, Spanx and Commando make great faux leather pairs! These Hue microsuede leggings are a great price point and this Lyssé pair comes in three beautiful colors! 

More faux leather and suede leggings: 

Fleece-Lined Tights and Leggings

Fleece-lined tights: The faux leather legging’s greatest competitor! You guys said “Perfect for when you’re sick of pants, they work with all boots and are great for wearing under dresses and skirts.” This Shopbop pair comes with stirrups to ensure your tights stay in place under thick socks and boots and this Nordstrom pair is a steal and has rave reviews! 

When you get away with something thicker, fleece-lined leggings are perfect under sweater dresses and chunky knits. So check out this Shopbop pair or this pair that comes with stirrups! 

Tissue Turtlenecks (30% off!)

Beloved by everyone, you guys said tissue turtlenecks were far and away the most popular base layer for surviving business casual commutes. They come in a ton of colors and prints and really can be worn under everything or by themselves! (Jess has 4 colors!) 

Uniqlo HeatTech 

You all raved about Uniqlo’s HeatTech items! From thermal shirts and leggings to bodysuits and socks, they have everything to keep you warm! Made from bio-warming material, HeatTech uses technology to convert body moisture into heat, providing warmth without bulk. One reader said they also keep your sweaters (other insulated layers) from smelling bad. They offer three types to choose from — opt for Ultra Warm HeatTech items for extreme cold days! 

Don’t know where to start? These tights, fair isle socks and crew necks are all essentials! One reader swears by their leggings pants, “they feel like leggings, look like jeans, perfect for cold!”


Everyone agrees that bodysuits are amazingggg as winter base layers. They keep you tucked in, air-tight. They’re cute layering pieces and are great backup if you need to strip all the way down to your base layers! I.e. you can start your day layering your bodysuit with a chunky sweater or sweater blazer for work and strip down to just your bodysuit and denim for a date night! 

There are so many great bodysuit styles right now — from turtlenecks (you guys said these are game changers) to crewnecks and v-necks. Everlane has a great long-sleeve v-neck bodysuit and a square neck bodysuit in three colors! Uniqlo has a turtleneck and crewneck bodysuit in their HeatTech collection and this Free People Thermal Knit Bodysuit has snap buttons and comes in four colors! 

More Bodysuits: 

Collared Sleeveless Shirts 

I loved this GG reader tip! (We would’ve never thought of this!) Sleeveless collared shirts to wear under sweaters! Sleeveless tops give off less bulk, which is key with a mountain of winter layers, but you can still achieve the layered vibe! Everlane makes a great Silk Relaxed Sleeveless Shirt and I love the structured collar on this one from Ann Taylor (on sale!)



Leave your winter essentials below, and we’ll add to this list! Check out more Real Women Approved reccos here!