How to choose the right winter coat – a complete guide!

A lot of people get excited about winter in New York City – especially tourists coming from places that don’t have such a cold winter like here. I always receive a lot of questions from my Brazilian readers on what to wear for this season in the city.  And after almost 6 years living here, I have been learning more and more about it, so, I’ve decided to write this guide about winter coats. Remember: the key for a perfect winter outfit is not to wear dozens of pieces but a few good ones. The quality of the layers you wear will determine how protected you will be. Here are tips on what to look for in a coat, as well as shopping suggestions.

Quick tips

  • Quality matters – You know how important it is to read the label to check the list of ingredients when we talk about groceries, right? Just like the ingredient list of a cosmetic, right? It’s the same with clothes! Get in the habit of reading the label, especially when it comes to coats. Many are made of cheap acrylic. Sometimes you find something advertised as “wool” but in reality, there is only a small percentage of wool and then 80% nylon and spandex.
  • Check the length – there are jackets of all length sizes: short, mid, long. For extreme cold temperatures – and to ensure you stay warm and well protected – prioritize coats that cover at least your hips.
  • Important features – Pockets and hoods are essential in a good winter coat – even if you wear gloves and a winter hat, these are details that make a difference, especially when it is windy.
  • Insulation – For extreme cold, it is important that the jacket is insulated. Remember that wool and leather jackets are usually not insulated. To identify an insulated jacket, see the photo below, like puff coats.
  • Be patient and do your research -Understanding your needs and having a budget are factors that will help you a lot when choosing a good winter coat! Explore the options carefully!

Different types of insulation

  • Down is the most lightweight and compressible insulation on the market and it comes from the undercoating of ducks and geese known as plumage. It retains your body heat while maintaining breathability. Usually, these jackets come with a fill rating that typically falls between 500 and 900 (the higher, the warmer). But, remember:  when wet, the feathers will clump and lose a lot of their insulation properties. If you need something waterproof, there are down jackets in the market with this feature. Down is lightweight so it can be easily packed and it can last a long time when properly cared for.
  •  Synthetic – it is comprised of polyester fibers and it can retain warmth when wet and dries easily. These materials, usually less expensive than down, mimic the down warming qualities and it is measured in grams of a square meter. Remember that “puffiness” sometimes doesn’t matter —superfine fibers in the insulation can create slim-yet-warm jackets. Also, synthetic can be heavy and a little less durable than a down jacket. Synthetic insulation is water-resistant washing machine friendly.

REMEMBER: While each type of insulation has its benefits, at the end of the day, YOUR needs will determine which one to choose.

Things to note when reading a jacket label 

  • Body shell 
  • Lining
  • Filling
  • Wool %
  • Waterproof
  • Water-resistant

Shopping Tips

If you are on a budget

Uniqlo – the Japanese brand is a reference in clothing for cold weather and, in addition to thermal items, they also have down coats and parkas.

Macy’s – the famous multibrand store offers coats from brands such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Cole Haan. And there’s always a special sale/discount going on! Use the filters to search for down or synthetic options

thredUP – this is an online consignment & thrift store that sells women’s and kids’ secondhand apparel – thredUP features around 55k brands, from Gap to Gucci, up to 90% off
estimated retail price. thredUP is in possession of all items and, because of that, every item they receive undergoes rigorous quality inspection before being listed. The items are sorted into the following conditions: excellent / very good / good. I bought a coat on thredUP for $16! Get 40% off plus free shipping on your first order.

If you can spend more money and you worry about quality standards and design

Mackage – this brand is from Montreal and is famous for its beautiful coats that have been worn by celebrities such as Meghan Markle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Madonna. Their coats stand out for their distinctive design and mix of fabrics. It is a brand with a luxury footprint, more expensive – but far from the luxury price.

SAM. -A relatively new brand on the market and based in NYC – SAM has down coats and jackets with a super modern and cool design. I love their coats!

Aritzia –  love everything about this Canadian brand. They feature the Super Puff collection, engineered to deliver warmth to -30°C/-22°F.  Designed with maximalist proportions, this version is made from an innovative Japanese ripstop fabric that’s water-repellent and gives when you move. Additionally, it contains 100% responsibly sourced goose down.

Patagonia – in addition to being a quality brand – especially considering outdoor settings, they follow sustainable and responsible guidelines and their customer service is excellent. My husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law have coats from the brand and they even have worn them in Iceland!

Moose Knuckles – a famous Canadian brand when it comes to winter coats – you’ve noticed that many of the brands are from Canada, right? In addition to the coats being of the highest quality and suitable for extremely low temperatures, the design is also gorgeous. I had the opportunity to try it during an event and I was impressed!

7 tips to upgrade your winter outfit 

  • Try leather pants – it doesn’t have to be leather, it may be faux leather. The texture of the leather is great for winter outfits and adds a modern look. I have one from Lulus – it fits perfectly, it is comfortable and it keeps you warm. A basic outfit – with sweater and coat – will be well stylish if you wear this type of pants. And you can use it with both sneakers or boots.
  • Wear a scarf – it’s a fact: the scarf is a must for winter. Believe me: it makes all the difference when it comes to keeping you warm in the freezing temperatures in New York. And since it is necessary, make smart choices. Analyze your clothes and choose scarves with shades that will match your clothes. Plaid prints, for example, are charming and add some color to a neutral look.
  • Wear knit-hat – Besides keeping your head and your ears protected, these kinds of hats are also super charming and give you a very cool look. It is a simple and cheap accessory that makes a huge difference.
  • Wear a hat – hats can add a cool and elegant vibe too!
  • Try over-the-knee boots – besides keeping you warm, over-the-knee boots are sexy, powerful and modern.
  • Wear skirts and dresses – use your thermal tights and show your legs wearing dresses and skirts, just to change a little bit! You can also play with tights in colors like purple, grey, or burgundy.
  • Follow me on Pinterest for more winter inspiration!


Final tips:

  • Check my Uniqlo guide.
  • The links in the post are from affiliates – it costs nothing more to buy for them and you help me!


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