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Cold Weather Dressing Guide

by Daniel Estevao on February 3, 2017

young woman wearing jacket and scarf for cold winter weatherWe dress differently based on the weather, keeping our closets packed with a variety of items, from swimsuits to parkas. During the winter season, some days are bearable, demanding only a sweater and a windbreaker. But other days are unbearable, demanding intense layering and all the socks and scarves you can throw on. Like with anything else, there is an art to dressing for the cold.

If you’re looking for ways to reduce your heating and electric bill, this guide will help as well. If you layer in your home, you won’t need the heat on as often or as high. When you hit the streets or head to work, trade those sweats for several layers of insulation and comfort. Who says you can’t be warm and stylish?

The Three-Layer System

Layering is key to surviving the cold weather months. You may be wondering, “What is layering, anyway?” When you practice fashionable layering, you are wearing multiple layers of clothing—hence its name! People like to layer for aesthetic reasons, but it’s also imperative for comfort in the cold.

Putting on several thinner layers will actually keep you warmer than if you just put on one big fluffy jacket. When you wear multiple layers, warm air is trapped between each layer, self-generating more heat.

There is some common sense and planning needed when it comes to layering. Especially if you’re facing sub-zero temperatures, the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm may leave you looking ridiculous. Your goal is to be warm, not look bulky enough to be a snowman yourself.

For optimal layering, we recommend sticking to three essential layers. According to The Art of Manliness, these are the three layers you should have for maximum cold weather insulation:

1. Base Layer

The base layer is the first layer you put on your body. Its purpose is to provide insulation and protection from moisture. Recommended fabrics include specialty athletic garments made for cold weather or any synthetic fiber garment that will repel moisture. Be sure to base layer your hands and feet as well, by wearing breathable socks and thin wool gloves. Base layers should be thin and form fit to your body.

2. Insulating Layer

The purpose of the insulating layer is to insulate, or trap in heat. Natural fibers make the best insulators, such as wool, cashmere, angora, or cotton. Layer a cotton button-down with a wool sweater, for example. Wool and fleece are the warmest options for your legs. Jeans won’t offer you much warmth unless you’ve paired them with a base layer underneath, such as thermal undergarments.

If you’re interested in how to stay warm while still wearing your favorite jeans, check out this guide:

3. Protective Layer

The protective layer goes on the outside and is your final layer. It is the “shell” that protects the other layers underneath. This layer is less about insulation and more about stopping wind. It needs to be breathable and preferably water-resistant. It doesn’t need to be made from waterproof material, only if you think that is necessary.

Parkas are super warm, but not as fashionable as a long wool overcoat. The final layer is up to you and how much protection you’ll need from the cold is dependent on how well you base layered and insulated. If you’re going skiing, you’ll need different protection than if you are taking a stroll in New York. Dress accordingly.

For a visual guide of Cold Weather Dressing Tips and the Three Layer System, check out these videos below:

Fit Tips

If your layers don’t fit properly then you will lose mobility in your hands and feet, making it difficult to walk, drive, ski, or whatever else you’re doing. It’s really easy to think that thickness amounts to warmth. But throwing on all your puffiest stuff will only allow cold air and wetness in without insulating. Remember that your base layer should be form fitting, meaning that it has a skintight fit.

It should be stretchy and breathable; the base layer should never be bulky. Your insulating layer should be a warm fabric and provide more thickness. Your protective layer will be the bulkiest; you may choose a zip-up parka or a long button-down jacket. Your layers should generally follow the guideline of thin to thick and tight to loose.

Cold Weather Fashion Must-Haves

  • Hats
  • Beanies
  • Goggles
  • Scarves
  • Parkas
  • Ski Jackets
  • Waterproof Shells
  • Sweaters
  • Performance Fleece
  • Snow Pants
  • Wool Trousers
  • Flannel-Lined Pants
  • Snow Boots
  • Wool Socks
  • Long Underwear
  • Under Armor
  • Wool Gloves
  • Ski Gloves
  • Fingerless Gloves
  • Mittens

Additional Heat & Home Resources:


Pacific Air Systems offers year-round HVAC and humidifier services.

Contact Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service (holidays included)!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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