Whether you recently moved to a particularly chilly climate, are traveling to a snowy place, or just want to be prepared when the temperature drops this winter, it’s good to know how to dress warm in cold weather.
While it seems like a simple concept, dressing for the cold requires a bit of thought and careful planning. But don’t worry—after reading this guide, you’ll know how to outfit yourself for anything, no matter how cold the weather gets.
How to Dress for the Cold: 7 Tips
When it comes to winter attire, the number one goal is to protect yourself from the cold. If you’re not dressed accordingly, the frigid temps and precipitation could make you sick at worst and immensely uncomfortable at best.
With that said, wearing a cold weather outfit and waterproof boots doesn’t mean you can’t express your personal style and play around with trends. At Vionic, we believe fashion and practicality aren’t mutually exclusive. In other words, you can wear warm, functional, flattering ensembles that make you look as good as you feel.
Ahead, our best tips and ideas for how to dress for the cold and what to add to your winter wardrobe.
Layer It On
Dressing warm in cold weather isn’t always about wearing winter-specific pieces. One of the best ways to stay cozy is layering multiple pieces on top and bottom. There is such a thing as too many layers, though, so don’t overdo it à la Joey from Friends.
Aim for 3 Layers
While it depends on the temperature outside and how long you’ll be spending outdoors, three layers are usually ideal for that extra warmth: a base layer, a mid layer, and an outer layer.
Base Layer: The base layer includes undergarments, as well as pieces like an undershirt, tank top, tights, thick socks, or long underwear (aka long johns or thermal underwear).
Mid Layer: For your mid layer, you’ll want to think in terms of insulation. This could be a long-sleeve t-shirt, turtleneck, or wool sweater on top and potentially leggings, jeans, or joggers on the bottom. You could also wear a sweater dress instead of pants.
Outer Layer: The outer layer should focus mostly on weather resistance while also helping to keep you warm. It could be a down jacket, peacoat, trench coat, rain jacket, or windbreaker. You may not need another layer on the bottom, but if you’ll be spending time in the snow or expect deep puddles, you might want to get snow pants or another type of weather-resistant shell pants.
Choose Snug Fits
To prevent sharp winds from blowing under your layers, opt for snug fits. They don’t have to be uncomfortable tight—breathability and ease of movement are also priorities—but fitted cuts are best.
Think stretchy undershirts, long-sleeve tees, crew-neck pullovers, knit sweaters, leggings, tights, and skinny jeans. Not only will you avoid wind chill, but snug fits won’t look as lumpy as loose clothing when layered.
Look for Cold-Weather Materials
When buying layerable pieces, you’ll want to look for cold-weather materials. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and rayon tend to be best for outerwear, as they have water-repellent properties.
Fleece, wool, and cashmere are good for both the mid and outer layers because they offer insulation. Cotton isn’t typically recommended for winter conditions, but the inherently breathable material will help you stay comfortable when wearing multiple layers.
For a little extra warmth, go with brushed cotton. Silk and cashmere-blend undershirts, merino wool socks, fleece-lined tights, and cotton-blend stockings are also good options.
Get Down with Down
When it comes to staying toasty in the frigid cold, you really can’t beat down. Sourced from the water-repellent undercoats of ducks and geese, the incredibly soft and fluffy material is used to fill puffer coats, vests, and sometimes boots.
Down is impressively lightweight and naturally insulating with moisture-wicking properties. If you prefer vegan outerwear, a winter coat with down-alternative (synthetic) insulation is a solid choice, though it won’t be quite as warm.
Reach for a Long Jacket
Cropped puffer coats can work if you’re not spending very much time outdoors. But if you’re going to be outside for longer than about a half-hour, we recommend getting a long jacket for that extra layer. A thigh-, knee-, or even ankle-length parka is an investment, but trust us, you’ll be glad to have it when braving icy-cold temps—even better if it’s down.
Look for Weather-Resistant Styles
Some dryer regions may simply get super cold without any precipitation. In that case, a leather jacket might suffice if you have the right layers underneath. Still, you’ll typically want to make sure your outer layer is weather resistant.
Consider these weather-resistant styles to stay warm in cold weather:
- Hooded waterproof rain jacket
- Full-zip windbreaker
- Down parka with a weather-resistant shell
- Water-repellent wool peacoat
- Waterproof gloves
- Waterproof boots
- Slip-resistant shoes with weather-treated uppers
If your jacket or shoes aren’t waterproof or otherwise weather-resistant, you can typically treat them with a repellent spray, like Vionic’s Rain & Stain. Also, bear in mind that the water resistance of textiles and footwear materials often wear down over time, so it’s a good idea to treat them periodically with a weather-proofing spray.
Accessorize, But Make It Functional
Accessories are where you can really express your personal style. And when dressing for the cold, they’re also a key component to staying warm. Depending on the activity and the specific weather conditions, you may want to slip on a hat, scarf, neck gaiter, and a pair of gloves or mittens. It might be wise to keep a couple of hand warmers in your pockets too.
Prioritize Head Warmth
A winter hat is arguably the most critical accessory when dressing for cold weather. While it’s not the only factor, keeping your head insulated can help keep the rest of your body warm.
Keep Your Feet Warm and Dry in Weather-Resistant Shoes
Don’t forget your feet! When the chilly season hits, your everyday sneakers or street shoes may not cut it. We recommend winter boots, booties, ankle boots, or chukkas with weather-resistant (if not completely waterproof) uppers. Weather-ready footwear is key because as soon as your socks, hosiery, or pants get wet, all bets are off for staying warm. Luckily for you, Vionic offers a range of both men’s and women’s rain shoes along with cute waterproof shoes.
Aside from the uppers, you’ll want to look for a pair with durable rubber outsoles and patterned tread. The added traction and grip will help you stay steady on your feet when walking around on wet, slippery, or icy ground.
Cold-Weather Footwear for Men and Women from Vionic
If you’re in the market for wintertime footwear, you’ve come to the right place. Vionic carries an impressive selection of comfortable boots for women and men, many of which are treated for weather resistance.
Whether you’re heading to a dressy event, a work function, a football game, going on a walk, or just jaunting about town, you’ll find the right pair of shoes to go with your cold-weather outfit here. Browse our inventory today!
- “How to Dress for Winter: 13 Fashion Tips for Cold Weather”. Master Class. Last updated on Nov 8, 2020, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-dress-for-winter
- “How to Dress for the Cold”. Wiki How. January 31, 2020, https://www.wikihow.com/Dress-for-the-Cold
- “How to Dress for Cold Weather and Not Over-Heat”. Travel Fashion Girl. https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/avoid-over-heating-in-cold-weather/
- Lauren Cochrane. “Denim is rubbish for keeping you warm’: experts’ tips for cold-weather dressing”, The Guardian. Sept 30, 2020,https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/sep/30/denim-is-rubbish-for-keeping-you-warm-experts-tips-for-cold-weather-dressing
- Christina Cauterucci. “Let This Be the Winter You Finally Learn How to Dress for the Cold”. Slate Group. Feb 11, 2021, https://slate.com/human-interest/2021/02/cold-weather-gear-pandemic-winter-clothing-guide.html