However, what if you don't want to make the sacrifice? Is it possible to maintain your chic and not resemble a fluffy marshmallow swaddled in fleece? At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, yes! It is possible to not look ten sizes bigger than you actually are in winter clothes. Since I've lived in the northern Midwest (first Detroit, now Chicago) all my life, I had lots of experience with keeping warm in style.
First of all, cashmere, thinsulate, and any similiar material that provides warmth without a lot of bulk are your best friends. My big cashmere scarves are life-savers, particularly when it is windy out. Buying the real stuff is indeed worth it, and if you shop the sales in the spring and summer, when no one is buying cashmere, you can get great deals. Think about it - if it keeps people warm up in the Himalayas (where cashmere comes from), it will keep you very toasty at lower altitudes. I tend to favor bright happy colors to counteract the season's gray gloom, but neutrals work too - depends on your wardrobe and overall look.
Next, you want to define your waist somehow, whether it is with a belted coat, a peacoat, or something with princess seams. Try to find a coat with structure - the more defined your silhouette, the less likely you are to suffer from human marshmallow syndrome. Something with an empire waist, -a-line, or swing style might also work, especially if you're tall. The point is to think tailored, and avoid most parkas and/or anything with puffy quilting. I think this Via Spiga coat is pretty spectacular, and that high collar will protect your neck and throat from the biting wind.
Now for the accessories - while I love the look of a bright coat, it does make sense to buy neutral, particularly if you are investing in something high end. However, if you do that, try wearing a hat, scarf, or gloves that pop with vivid colors or unique patterns (say, houndstooth or zebra print?). Also, mixing it up with the extras is a good way to update an older coat, or just to brighten up your day. There are tons of adorable long gloves out this season that will keep your hands and wrists nice and cozy, so now is the time to find the perfect pair (for you or someone else - holiday gifts, anyone?)
Last but not least, let's consider boots. Yes, they are necessary; no, you don't have to wear Uggs, Sorrels, or those clunky moonboat things. It is possible to find sleek, elegant boots that are fairly if you're willing to dig through Zappos a little, and never underestimate the power of a pair of thick wool or cashmere socks.
Need to upgrade your cold weather ensemble?
So what are your tips for keeping your cool in the cold?