Cold Weather

The Coat Guide

When I went to Georgetown, I did not have the proper coats. I thought I did, but it wasn’t until I was living in NYC and wearing coats that actually kept me warm that I realized I had been doing it all wrong. When you go from Florida to the “north” (I know DC isn’t technically the north), the weather is quite the culture shock. I don’t think people who grew up in cold climates even realize that there is a skill for dressing in cold weather. When you grow up with it, you just know what to wear. When you grew up somewhere where boots are worn are 70 degree days, you do not.

I shiver just thinking about the “puffer” coat I had to keep me warm on the coldest days. It was NOT warm enough, but I just assumed, “well, of course, I’m cold, it’s cold out!” For four years!

Maybe it’s because I never got to go coat shopping in Florida or because I know what it’s like to not be appropriately dressed… I’m now pretty obsessed with having a coat closet filled with options for the winter. (Read: I have entirely too many coats.)

There is a coat for every temperature and type of weather. Right around this time is when I start getting emails from girls (and moms) who have moved to colder climates about what coats to buy. Instead of going through my huge collection of coats (and, um, it’s a collection), I thought I’d share my top four favorites and why I recommend them.

Coat Guide

HOODED PUFFER // I found this coat on major sale after eyeing it for months two winters ago. It’s worth purchasing at full price though because it’s that good. It’s comfortable and easy to wear. Almost everyone in Connecticut seems to have it too, and I can see why. I find myself wearing it throughout winter and into spring, too. The best part is how packable it is– I squeeze it into the tiniest nook within my suitcase. On warmer days, I’ve even skied in it too.

PUFFER PARKA // This is the coat I resisted for years and years. After suffering through a polar vortex without a parka though, I finally bit the bullet. A parka is so, so necessary for the coldest of days. Don’t worry about what you look like, just know you’re warm and fully protected from the elements. I don’t have this particular one, but it’s still a coat I’d recommend as it comes highly reviewed.

Other popular parkas: Canada Goose, North Face, belted J. Crew, & Vince Camuto.

COCOON COAT // In addition to the puffer coats, it’s worth having a great looking wool coat in your closet. There are a million wool coats to choose from, and I have a number of different ones myself. You can’t go wrong with the cocoon coat though. I think it has the chicest shape and has plenty of room to layer cozy sweaters underneath.

Other wool coats I recommend: Peacoat, Duffle Coat, & Topcoat.

BARBOUR COAT // This is technically not a “warm” coat, but it’s one that I reach for all the time throughout the winter. You know when you have a super chunky sweater that doesn’t quite sit well under a tighter coat? A Barbour keeps you protected from the elements and still fits over those sweaters. You can also zip in a liner, which adds more warmth!

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SO true about not *getting* the true art of dressing for cold weather if you grew up in a more temperate climate. I grew up in Oregon, where’s it’s usually pretty mild, and then went to undergrad in SoCal, so when I went to study abroad in Berlin my junior year, my idea of a “winter coat” was a wool pea coat. I was freezing ALL. THE. TIME. But like you, I thought “oh I guess it’s just cold here! Nothing more I can do about it.” I remember trying on my classmate’s floor-length puffer coat at one point toward the end of the winter (she was from Chicago) and suddenly realizing that a wool pea coat was apparently not the warmest kind of coat…not by a long shot.

Flash forward a million years (seven?) and I now live in NYC and, like you, I have quite the (growing) collection of coats. Last year I finally switched from hip-length puffer coat to shin-length puffer coat and it is amaaaazing. Not sure why I waited so long haha (I think part of me thought I would have to shell out hundreds of dollars for one, but I ended up finding a great deal at Lands’ End!). Clearly it takes some time to become a true winter coat connoisseur! Thanks for the post 🙂


I wear it the most, for sure. Easiest to throw on. I even pack it during trips in the summer if I think we’ll have chilly nights.


I appreciate the quality of writing on this post and the Art of Being Female! This post was super helpful. I would also love to see your coat collection 🙂


I live a bit north of Toronto, and I got a Nobis parka at the beginning of high school. It’s now about to take on it’s 8th (!!) winter and still looks brand new, despite surviving snow storms, hail, freezing rain, etc. It’s price-per-use is way lower than any other jacket I own, and it definitely has a lot more winters in its future. It’s a great alternative to the Canada Goose parka, which I feel like everyone has, and I still find it relatively cute! I cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking for a coat for warmth.

Hannah @ AndThenWeTried

Born and raised Clevelander here. I don’t have any excuse for my coat collection haha. I just always need more! When you live in a colder climate I feel like no one cares if your coat is more utilitarian than it is cute, but you will get stares if you’re underdressed! Head-to-toe puffers for me, please!


As a Canadian who is used to dealing with cold (and I mean cold!) winters, your list is right on the money! For the ladies, the puffer parka is the only way to go. What I love about them is they are longer so they protect the tops of your legs when the winter wind is biting. The trick is to also layer like crazy underneath. A few winters ago when the polar vortex hit and it was -38 and I had to go out to let the dogs out, I layered like crazy and wore my long puffer on top. It was still cold but at least I survived it! Thankfully we have had some mild winters since that bad one. Hoping this winter isn’t too cold! xx Rox-Anne Celebrating This Life

Shannon Mahaney

Great post! I too am a Florida girl and never went “coat” shopping. When we traveled to Philly for the holidays one year I had to borrow thicker jackets to survive the cold.


I wish I would have had a parka when I visited Chicago in December a couple of years ago! Being from Texas I was verrrry ill equipped, it was about 9 degrees and I had on a wool coat from Old Navy and Merona hat from Target which I also thought I would keep me warm, lol. It was sooo cold!!!


This post is just what I needed heading in to winter! I love the cocoon coat, but was wondering if you had other suggestions for chic looking coats that will still keep you warm? My grad classes let out at 9:30pm and we’re expected to dress professionally. However, my chunky (double layer) north face tends to detract from the business clothes underneath.

Alex C.

I’m right there with you, I always just sort of assumed that you were supposed to be cold in winter and there was nothing you could do about it…boy was I wrong! I’ve definitely started to build up my coat collection, and I think another great lightweight but warm option is the Barbour Annandale Quilted Jacket! I’m obsessed with the big pockets and the corduroy collar, and I’ve gotten tons of compliments while wearing it.
Alex C. //


I just bought a reversible puffer parka. It has red/black with a drawstring, which I’m hoping makes it a bit cuter. We’ll see! It’s in the middle of shipping limbo but DC is 75 degrees right now so no winter weather in sight quite yet.

Kristen from Pugs & Pearls

I died laughing when you mentioned the boots worn on 70 degree days because I literally saw that yesterday. I was wearing shorts walking into a store, and the lady in front of me was wearing a sweater and boots! #Florida

AZ @ AZinTheCity

Couldn’t agree more with all of these and your note about figuring out just how warm a coat can be! I invested in a heavy parka after moving to NYC and it might be the best thing I’ve ever bought!

Jordana @WhiteCabana

Yes, yes, we northerners have really learned how to bundle up in cold weather. And, yet, even after 30+ years, I’m still not used to it!
I think I need to invest in some Patagonia. I did an MBA project on the company, and it has a lot of impressive things going on!


Alas, when you live in Canada and there are 6 months of cold weather – you get used to walking around in a sleeping bag. No one cares what one looks like anymore in the winter! Accentuate with a little colour and all is good:) On another front, Eddie Bauer and the North Face have nice puffer jackets in various thicknesses. I honestly travel with a very light “puffer coat” (as you call them) all the time, even in the summer as they make for a nice little blanket on the plane or on car rides. So light and so comfy! 🙂