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Gray, pink and white plaid cape (two trends in one) belted over short black shearling coat with Modalo Pippa shark gray bag, LeatherCoatEtc gloves, LeatherCoatsEtc beret, and Salvatore Ferragamo belt (all own)

This post provides tips from an Alaskan stylist how to combine and layer outerwear to stay both warm and stylish in extremely cold weather. Learn how to look great and feel comfy to be ready next time when the polar vortex hits.

  1. When it’s cold, layering is key
  2. How to layer to create best insulation
  3. Create insulation from the ground with socks
  4. Increase the insulation of your coat with a blanket scarf
  5. Try thrift stores to get a shearling or down coat on the cheap

Well, it is cold, very cold, not to say extremely cold around the Great Lakes lately. The general circulation of the atmosphere shovels a lot of polar air down south over the plains and north over the Pacific. Thus, it is pleasantly warm for Alaskans right now with temperature in the positive single digits (-18 to -12.7oC).

When it’s cold, layering is key

In  Alaska, we face -40 and below on a regular basis each winter. Actually, when the thermometer drops, below 40, it is great for a bikini look. Our kids still go to school in these temperature, and we still try to look stylish. Thus, how can you keep on going to the grocery store, work, etc.? There is no need to buy an entire wardrobe of Arctic weather wear. Look what you have already in your closet and then layer, layer, layer. Here is how we Alaskan women do it.

#advancedStyle woman in styled outerwear with plaid blanked scarf, coat, booties and beret
Plaid blanket scarf over shearling coat belted for shape and styled with burgundy beret and Modalu Pippa bag (all own)

How to layer to create best insulation

The first layer is silk long underwear. It is the best for insulation. Then put on a flannel, thick silk or wool shirt (depending on your dress code at work), and a cashmere or wool sweater and a vest or cardigan or blazer on top. At work, you peel the upper two layers off as needed. But they may be needed even at work as the furnace may not be designed to provide the usual room temperature when it is so cold outside.

When you are worried about your body shape use these tips to look stunning when layering.

Get your work dress code and insulation needs covered

If you have them and the dress code allows them, then wear winter wool lined slacks. If you do not have wool slacks and your dress code allows denim, put some flannel leggings over the silk long Johns and pull boyfriend jeans on. Any skinnies or ripped boyfriend jeans are not a good idea as the former are too tight and hence squeeze the air between the layers out. However, you want a little air between the layers as air is a bad conductor and hence provides some extra insulation. The latter are not a good idea as the distressed areas act as cold bridges. Cold knees are not fun, I can tell you that. Learn more about how to avoid cold bridges.

If your work place’s dress code calls for dresses or skirts, wear two pairs of tights. I typically wear a pair of opaque tights and a pair of opaque tights that have a flannel inner side on top of them. Under a wool skirt I wear a half slip for extra insulation and some biker shorts. Nobody looks what is under your skirt. If you have, consider wearing over-the-knee boots. You don’t have to fear that you woud look like pretty woman in the same named movie, when you use the tips in this guide on how to wear over-the-knee boots over 40.

Create insulation from the ground with socks

Ok, now search your closet for socks that have terry soles. Put a wider pair of wool socks over them. Winter boots should always be a size larger than your summer shoes so you can wear thick socks or double socks in them. I hope you have a pair of boots that fits with double socks. Make sure that your socks/feet are not squeezed in for the same reasons as stated above regarding the skinnies. Try insulation insoles as an alternative. You can find more tips on how to avoid cold feet at frigid temperatures in the post at the link.

Increase the insulation of your coat with a blanket scarf

Now to do your daily errands put on a down coat or real shearling coat like above. Have a scarf around your neck inside the coat. Wrap a stole or large shawl around your coat like shown above, or in this winter outerwear look or layer a plaid blanket scarf for style over your coat. Belt it for shape to look stylish, and to avoid that the wind blows it off or plays too much with it. Then the blanket would not serve its purpose, right? Finish the look with a hat that covers your ears and two pairs of gloves or a pair of gloves in mittens. Best is a pair of cashmere or silk lines leather finger gloves in a pair of shearling mittens. Learn more on how to improve your style with gloves in the guide at the link.

Try thrift stores to get a shearling or down coat on the cheap

If you do not own a shearling or down coat, thrift stores are a good start to browse for them when you are on a budget. There are always people leaving the state for a warmer one and sell their cold weather gear that they expect not to need in the south. I scored once a really good one in a thrift store for a real bargain. Here is a list which designer brands to look for at a thrift shops as a starting point.

Note there are also tricks how to look lean in a shearling coat.

P.S.  Check this lookbook on how  Alaskans dress in January.

Stay warm.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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