Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I lived in southern Maryland. For six years. Sometimes I would wait for the bus in below freezing temperatures, and sometimes we didn’t have school for a whole week because there was so much snow. Back then, my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house into the icy weather without earmuffs, gloves, and of course…a puffy, warm coat. The coat I had in middle school was both puffy and light blue, so my best friend nicknamed it “my marshmallow coat.”
Then I moved to sunny Florida, followed by HOT Texas, and the marshmallow coat became a relic of the past.
And here I am living in the Northeast in the winter, when it is COLD. I mean, not horridly, unmanageably cold. But definitely a good 20+ degrees colder than whatever temperature it is in Houston right now. Never fear! I have found many warm replacements for my childhood marshmallow coat.
Note: I’m no fashionista, as you will notice from the bland color scheme below. But I am a real person who is aware of the weather and stuff, so I think I’m allowed to have some opinions about the things I wear. I’ve mainly learned what is acceptable/useful for cold-weather from observation and talking to people who have lived here longer than I have, so now I’m going to spread the word to others!
Guide to Not Freezing to Death in NYC Winter:
For not so cold days:
This first one is so basic, it’s a little ridiculous: your standard fleece. I got this completely inexpensive and totally practical full-zip fleece in “charcoal heather” (read: fancy word for “gray”) from Columbia on Amazon while I was in college. It has served me well in all occasions from Saturday football games to late nights working at the college newspaper to our June honeymoon in Seattle (where it is chilly…in June, go figure).
But what’s totally great about a fleece, aside from being super-comfy, is that if it is thin enough, it can be great for layering under other coats. See below!
For a little bit colder, possibly rainy days:
This raincoat has been a wonderfully loyal companion on rainy fall days up here. Sean and I both got his & hers raincoats (we’re awful) on our honeymoon because it was colder than we expected. We shopped at the large Columbia store in downtown Seattle and felt very Pacific Northwest-y. Raincoats are all the rage in Seattle, because it is always raining, you see. And everywhere we went for the rest of the week, we looked like outdoors wear models. Ha.
This (Columbia’s Women’s Ramble Rain Jacket) was more pricey at $90, but uh, we used wedding gift money on it, and it has been FAR more useful than any mortar and pestle or million-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. It’s a great light jacket, and when you layer the fleece under it, they do great teamwork, blocking out wind, water, and most cold. Also, it has large pockets that are great at holding things. And, of course, a hood so you don’t have to carry an umbrella. I got mine in Black Like My Soul, as you can see.
When it’s cold, and you want to look stylish:
My mom insisted I get a wool winter coat before I went to college, which sounded silly at the time, because in Florida, winter lasts for two weeks and everyone just wears two hoodies layered on top of one another and makes it through. But you know what? Mothers really do know best. Wool coats are great.
She found this secondhand one for me on eBay, and it was originally longer than my knees, but she tailored it to mid-thigh, fixed the too-long sleeves, and then got it dry-cleaned. It’s a very good quality coat, so I’m not sure how much it would have cost to get it brand-new.
I love this coat because it is very tailored and makes you instantly look classy. I also sometimes hate this coat because the classy black color highlights my blondish hair (and more recently, the white-belly fur of my cat-daughter that manages to get in every nook and cranny of the apartment). I guess that’s why they invented lint brushes, right?
My wool coat is in I’m A New Yorker Now And Black Is The Only Color Of the Rainbow I Know.
When it is BEYOND COLD, and all you care about is not dying from the cold:
This is me modeling my new, ridiculous parka hood. When I wear the faux-fur-trimmed hood, it makes me feel like I’m possibly being eaten by a live animal, so I have to make strange faces. Sorry.
I got this parka from Land’s End in, you guessed it, Black Appropriately Represents The Impending Doom I Feel About The Live Animal Residing On My Coat. It’s on sale, and when I bought it, they had a 30% off EVERYTHING sale and free shipping for all orders over $50. And guys, I got a $160 parka for $55!!! Whooooo.
I am in love with this coat. It takes me back to my marshmallow coat days. It’s like enveloping my body in an impenetrable fortress of warm. Whatever skin this parka covers, it does not feel the cold. Not even a little bit. Supposedly it can keep me comfortably warm down to -30F, but 1) I don’t think NYC gets that cold, 2) If it does, I think I’ll be more worried about my nose falling off from frostbite. Or my eyeballs freezing (does this happen?)
My coat is in…*drumroll,please*…BLACK. Ha, you weren’t expecting that, were you?
When I wear the hood on this coat, I feel like fictional childhood heroine Julie of the Wolves:
For your feet, when it’s a bit nippy out:
This picture is kind of funny, because it turns out even though I wear my boots all the time, they never make it into normal photos. These riding-style, real leather boots were Sean’s birthday gift to me this year. We went to Macy’s flagship store the Saturday before my birthday, and it was an all-around nauseating shopping experience (the things we do for love!), but these boots are wonderful.
They are these boots from b.o.c. by Born Shoes (full price is $150, but they were having a beginning-of-fall boots sale that week, conveniently enough, and we scored them for around $100). I’ve gotten a number of compliments on them, including once from a random woman at the subway station (this never happens!), so I think they are winners.
Plus, they are sooo warm. Girls in Texas like to wear boots in the fall and winter because they are cute. Girls in New York wear boots in the fall and winter because they are a necessity! OK, and they are still cute.
For your feet, when it’s cold and icy and UGH outside:
I haven’t had to use these snow boots yet, but Sean and I viewed the freak storm Nor’Easter that happened a week after Hurricane Sandy (absolutely insane weather) as a wakeup call. We both scrambled to Amazon to find affordable boots that would prevent undesired slipping and sliding.
I settled on these Columbia Women’s Ice Maiden Lace-Up Weather Boots for around $60. They are waterproof, something that my leather boots are not, and they can apparently keep my toes warm at -40 F. How do they determine these things?
I’ve only worn them around my apartment to check out the size/style, but they seem pretty warm. They are not the prettiest shoes, but if you shop for snow boots, you will quickly learn that they are all on the bulky side, and with good reason.
My boots are in Black Is The Official Color of My Wardrobe.
They sure beat my Floridian winter footwear, that’s for sure. I used to wear Rainbows sandals year-round, more or less. My clarinet lessons instructor used to tease me about this, asking if I owned any other shoes.Rainbows are the best flip-flops you will ever own, I promise. They cost $40-$50, which I know sounds absurd, but they will last you for YEARS. They mold to your feet and are so, so comfortable. They withstand beach sands and rain puddles and all the walks of life. Everyone in high school wore them, and this is one trend I will proudly stand behind. I’ve owned three pairs, mainly because the first got chewed up by a dog and another got so dingy looking after hundreds of wears. But I knew guys in Florida who had the same pair for four, five, six years. I’ve converted Sean to the Rainbow Cult. I will convert you, too.
That had nothing to do with cold-weather wear. Oh, well. I still wear my Rainbows while doing laundry in the NYC winter. For maximum sock-washing potential.
Other warm stuff:
- Scarves! I’m starting a small collection, any and all donations will be happily accepted. (Hint hint: Christmas gift idea!)
- My raspberry beret (yeah, like the Prince song) I got at Target this past weekend. It’s not nearly as loosely crocheted as it looks in the photo. It’s made of warm, and looks much less ridiculous than my parka hood.
- Leggings! I got this two-pack for $10 from H&M. The black and dark gray go with all colors of dresses, and when you pair them with thick socks and boots, you can be surprisingly warm.
- Gloves! I only have cheap ones from CVS I bought when I came here for spring break last year, but I’m holding out for Santa to bring me some cashmere-lined leather ones like Sean has and loves so much.
- Starbucks! On every corner! City living comes with its perks.
Really though, I want to know Buddy the Elf’s secrets to winter wear. He has a snowball fight in Central Park in leggings and a thin jacket made out of what appears to be felt. Maybe it’s the hat?