Myth: Coats and boots
have to look good first and foremost.

Truth: They have to protect you
 from the elements first and foremost.

As many of my readers know by now, I really do not like cold weather. There are those who prefer cold weather because they figure you can easily add a layer, whereas in warm weather there’s only so much you can remove. But even in cold weather you can’t layer too much because then you lose movement. I also don’t like putting on layers, taking them off indoors, and putting them back on to go outdoors. It may be a necessary potchky, but I don’t like potchkying. And in warmer temperatures it’s easier to move because the muscles are more relaxed. This is especially important for exercise, when you risk injury if you don’t warm up properly. I love yoga as an exercise and I always find myself doing the poses better when it’s warmer.

However, as long as we’re living in a climate that has cold weather, we need to know how to handle it.

From me, you get the truth.

There are people who have complained about winter coats that look like “eyesores” and who feel that a coat should look good. I agree that outerwear need not be ugly, but if it’s a choice between not-so-pretty outerwear that keeps you warm vs. pretty outerwear that doesn’t keep you warm, I will always tell you to go with the former.

Yes, really.

I can just hear my readers wondering about this. Usually, I’m such a strong advocate for looking your best at all times, and now here I am telling you to put that aside. No, I haven’t lost it. I do still firmly believe that looking your best is a must. But I also believe that no one looks good when they’re freezing. Even if you’re just uncomfortably cold, it’s not pretty or attractive. Frostbite and hypothermia are downright ugly in more ways than one. So now what do you do?

Start with your winter coat. It needs to be substantial and made of fabric that will keep you warm and dry. It should be water-resistant but not waterproof because waterproof materials don’t breathe well. I’ve heard many times that down coats are warmer than wool coats, but I’ve tried both and I’ve found no noticeable difference in warmth. However, the down coats that I’ve worn were not water-resistant and that did leave me with a preference for wool or wool blends. If your down coat is water-resistant and keeps you warm, then go with that. While your coat’s fabric needs to be substantial, it shouldn’t be too heavy because that will just bulk you up unnecessarily. It’s better to go a little lighter and just layer underneath. If the coat has a hood, so much the better.

The best length for coats ranges from just below the derriere to knee length. If the coat falls too high it’s really more of a jacket and it won’t protect you as well. If it falls past the knee it might get in the way. And fit counts. Make sure that you try on coats over a few layers to make sure they’ll fit just right. You need to make sure that you have plenty of movement to prevent frostbite. 

Once you have a choice of coats that will do their primary job, it’s okay to go with one that appeals to your aesthetic taste. Your coat need not be black and it shouldn’t be too puffy anyway. It’s great to go with a sleek shape and a nice color. Classic neutrals work best with everything, but it’s fine to do a secondary neutral and get some extra color. If you like bright colors it’s okay to even do that. I admit that I prefer a classic neutral and then adding color with hats, scarves, and gloves. However, I remember a favorite coat that I got at a rummage sale. It was wool with blocks of bright colors all over. It kept me warm for several years and brightened things up a lot.

Next is boots. Here in New York we need boots to get through snow and rain. Yes, there are nice, flattering boots out there and those are fine for when it’s cold but otherwise dry. However, your priority should be boots that keep your feet warm and dry. Waterproof boots are best. I haven’t seen winter boots that I think are truly pretty, but if you’re going out into rain or snow you need boots that will protect your feet. Frostbitten feet are definitely not pretty. Always try on boots over socks to make sure you have enough movement. You need to be able to wiggle your toes freely. Without enough movement, your circulation is restricted, and that could lead to frostbite.

As for smaller things…

You need cover for your head and ears. You lose a lot of heat through the top of your head, so that must be covered. If you wear a headcover for religious reasons, then a heavier-weight cover (such as a wool hat/beret or a pashmina mitpachat) can work by itself if it’s not too cold. But if it gets seriously cold it’s not enough. You might need an extra hat or scarf. Your ears are very prone to frostbite, so make sure they’re covered. If you wear hair of any kind, leave it down to give your ears extra cover.

I’m never a fan of turtlenecks because they don’t flatter most women, myself included. There are those who like them for winter because they add that extra layer. But you don’t need that layer when you’re indoors and it’s warm. I say that if you need extra neck cover (and you probably do), it’s better to get that with a winter scarf. Try to wrap it in a loose way so you’re comfortable. If it’s really freezing you can use that scarf to cover your nose and mouth. Once indoors, just remove it and you have your neck back. 

For your hands, mittens are warmer than gloves. If you need finger movement, it’s okay to have gloves and wear them, but if you’re out in the snow, whether to shovel snow or build a snowman with your children, mittens are better. For your feet you need tights and perhaps some hose underneath for extra warmth. I sometimes wear leggings over my hose or tights if it’s truly freezing outside. As a general rule I don’t recommend regular pants under a skirt because that could add bulk, but leggings under a skirt can give you extra warmth as needed without being too bulky. And you need good strong socks. Again, when putting on all these things, make sure you have enough room to wiggle your toes freely to prevent frostbite.   

Don’t forget basic skincare. Your skin needs to be clean but also protected. Make sure you use lip balm and basic moisturizer to prevent chapping. If those items don’t have sunscreen in them, add that. The sun doesn’t stop just because it’s cold otherwise.  

I’m still more passionate about good health than about any other aspect of style. The healthier you are, the easier it is to look great. Be careful and stay warm and safe.

Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe organizer, personal shopper, jewelry design|er, and fashion writer/blogger and speaker. She helps women look great while saving time, effort, and money, all within tznius guidelines, and she’ll add to that with custom-designed jewelry. Read more about her ideas on her blog- She also has a YouTube channel, “Look Your Best in Mitpachot,” where she does head-wrapping tutorials, and she is also available for private demonstrations. She can be reached at (718) 644-6135 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.