Baby, It’s Cold Outside Part Two: Winter Outerwear Essentials for the Fashionable Femme

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I recently switched coasts, trading San Francisco’s perpetually foggy and mild climate for the fetching violence of New England seasons. As a result, it seems most people – friends and strangers alike – feel a genuine alarm for me when it comes to The Weather™. Even my own confidence flagged a little when a friend declared that “some days it will be so cold you won’t give a shit what you look like” a few weekends ago.

Surely, a slight shit, I thought. I’m femme, for heaven’s sake. We can’t help ourselves, even in a blizzard.

Besides, nowadays companies like Hunter and Sorel make high-heeled rain boots, you can find fully lined tights almost anywhere (wiser femmes have handed down the trick of doubling up on regular pairs in a pinch), and even the plainest of puffer coats come belted, gathered or fitted so we don’t have to walk around feeling like soggy marshmallows under all that warm, cozy down. Winter coats have gone beyond basic camel, shapeless wool or even, yes, the yawn-worthy, dime-a-dozen puffer. If you’re anything like me, you want something both practical– toasty, weather-resistant, the best quality you can afford– and highly personal, whether your style leans toward classic and pretty, a little bit wild, preppy, elegant or edgy. It needs to work with what you’ve already got and it needs to make you feel good.

So, we’re here to help. Or to make it harder to choose just one.

Anorak Attack


Also known as the parka, sometimes the snorkel parka. Most likely hooded, and often trimmed with fur, faux or otherwise, to help block out the cold. Once deeply uncool, the new anorak hits below the waist without getting too long, and is definitely back on the table as a more chic, knockabout alternative to the puffer or traditional wool coat. Spring for a heftier, down-filled version to pair with skinny jeans and the flannel shirts you keep stealing from your girlfriend.

Capes Galore


Ah, the cape. I saw a woman wearing one today and she seemed to drift ever so gracefully through the crosswalk. It was a wonderful sight. When else can you walk around in what is basically a tailored blanket and get away with it? You can’t! They come in wool with demure Peter Pan collars, in bold colors, in houndstooth or a shag.

In my dreams I’d run around in the extravagant leather number down there by Junya Watanabe for Comme Des Garçons… with spiked leather gloves, high-heeled boots, and dark red lips, femme fatale style. What about you?

Rethinking the Puffer


Now that I live in Massachusetts, I have embraced the puffer as a kind of cold weather staple. When I lived in California, they seemed truly hysterical. Here, they seem inevitable. Good thing all kinds of designers have been hard at work reinventing them – into blazers, with ruffles, coupled with plush panels of fur or buttery leather, in color-blocked brights or fun patterns. There’s no longer an excuse to wear something boring in the name of not freezing.



Animal lovers needn’t fret; most shearling these days is 100% faux. It might be modacrylic, but all that plush, fleecy material is still going to help keep you soft, warm and cuddly, and it’s a fresh, versatile take on a faux fur coat. Well-loved by hard femmes with kohl-lined glares and whiskey kisses in boots that scare you.



Classics are a staple for a reason, and sometimes nothing but a sturdy wool coat does the trick in those long, wintry months. Whether you want yours structured or skirted, fancy or relaxed, trendy or traditional, there’s something for every femme out there. The asymmetrical teal coat below is a steal at $118, or you can spring for the duffle coat with toggles from Burberry for something that’ll last you decades, and the minimalists among us can drool over Jil Sander’s oversized, fire engine red work of art.


Aja Aguirre is a perpetual late bloomer from SF who writes about style, fashion and beauty for Autostraddle. Her award-nominated style blog, Fit for a Femme, takes on both coasts' signature styles and draws on her experience as a personal stylist. Check out Instagram for her latest looks, and Twitter or Tumblr for QPOC Speakeasy x Femme Power vibes.

Aja has written 45 articles for us.


  1. Oh yes for staying femme-y!
    Are “thermo” leggings a thing in the US, too? They are so great! It’s way colder to wear jeans or pants in general. I learned to wear mini-skirts in the winter in Sweden anyway, so.

    But no to the Puffer. Never the Puffer. Never.

    • Is “thermo” the same thing as lined? If so, YES! I’m staring at a pair I got from The Rack for $7.

      Also, Uniqlo now sells their Heat Tech stuff online, so that’s pretty exciting for those of us not in NYC or SF. Hooray!

  2. I just wanted to say that although capes are probably the best thing in the world, you do have to be careful to get one the right length and shade. Otherwise – as I have found out – your look can end up being not so much edgy femme as bad Legolas cosplay. Dressing as a Tolkien character is, of course, fantastic and great and all sorts of other good adjectives, but doing it badly and by accident left me feeling all wrong inside.

    • So true! I have an extensive cape collection (boy I sound cool right now) and it’s very important to choose the right cape and also the right outfit to pair with it. Leggings with a long baggy tshirt and flats is a great look (shhhh), but with just about any cape you’re going to look like a wannabe elf.

      • Yes tell me how to do capes, please! I always ooh and aah over them but they just seem impossible to pull off, like unless I’m wearing elbow-length gloves and fancy boots and lotsa makeup it won’t work at all. (And also, how do you stay warm?? It seems to me that if it is cold enough to want a heavy cape you’d also worry about your arms being cold?) Ahh I dunno, go ahead someone and tell me my cape dreams are hopeless, and I’ll accept it.

  3. I wish I could get through an MA winter with just a wool coat. But honestly, once it hits mid-December the ski jacket comes out, and I start feeling bad for mentally egging on global warming. If it isn’t rated for Arctic exploration or overnighting in a lean-to during a blizzard, I’m not buying it.
    Some of those anoraks look promising, though- I’ll see if I can’t check them out in person.

  4. My dear, my dear, Boston winter is a wonderful time for femmes! Don’t listen to the naysayers. When and where else are you actually PHYSICALLY required to shop for more accessories? You need more hats, more gloves, more scarves, more boots, more tights, more coats, more layering options… phew! I’m shopped-out just thinking about it.

  5. Bless you, darling. Us femmes out there don’t get enough credit for staying gorgeous in the freezing weather! I’ve been googling things along the same line as this and I’ve definitely been unhappy with my findings. Thank goodness this was on the Autostraddle facebook. I may be at work, but I clicked right away! Now if only I had splurge money to buy one of each..

  6. I made the bicoastal transition recently too. Last winter doesn’t count.

    But one of my friends said about waiting in negative degree weather: “Some days the train would take awhile, and there were times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

    I don’t know if I’m ready for a real New England winter. 🙁

  7. I absolutely hate puffers of all kinds, but to make it through Toronto winters, they’re kind of necessary. And the one I have now is truly hideous (but oh so warm!). I have no clue how my best friend makes it through the winter in just a wool coat.

  8. I’ve heard a lot of people swear by thermal skirts for transportation purposes, since they’re much easier to take off than thermal pants and you can have other skirt or dress underneath (duh). Perfect in cold weather!

  9. I would just like to say that living in Lacombe, ALBERTA (equivalent to butt-fuck nowhere) gets to be negative 40 on a real brisk January/February. I’ve learned the double tights rule and the gift of the unisex, versatile, thicker-than-the-snow circle scarf from American Apparel. Those things should be added to this list ASAP. Even my girlfriend, who hates anything unnecessary clothing-wise never complains about them. A gift form the winter gods, I tell you.

  10. I personally love my fur coat! I know some people think it’s unethical, but I bought it vintage! It’s the softest, warmest coat I’ve ever had (silk-lined even), and the colour is perfection. It’s not an option for many femmes, but if you like to rock the over-the-top look, it’s an investment I’d recommend.

    • YES! FUR! I adore my vintage fur coats. My super long persian lamb coat with rabbit trim has kept me cozy even when it’s dropped down to -40 plus windchill. And it’s so elegant! The best/worst part is that people look at me like I’m Cruella deVille, so I usually embrace it by wearing blood red lipstick and spike heeled motorcycle boots or something.

      • I used to rock Cruella inspired hair: black with a white stripe, and I always wore the reddest lipstick!

        The only problem with my favorite fur (I have a friend who’s a vintage clothing dealer, so I have many) is that I have no idea what it is! It’s softer than anything I’ve ever found before! It’s like mink-y, and the fur is bigger than rabbit. Who knows?

  11. Shearling is soooo warm. I have a jacket lined with it, also with the purposeful outer fold-y things as shown in the example. Its pretty cute when like partially unzipped but it is too damn cold to be unzipping things.

    Also, fleece-lined tights sound like exactly what I need so I can still wear tights in winter.

  12. You know what I have a hard time finding? Winter gloves or mittens that are super warm (I’m talking below freezing) that are pretty and functional (waterproof). They all look like sporty snowboarding gloves, which is not the look I am ever going for.

      • Let me know how they do. How am I supposed to get anything done if I am wearing ugly snowboarding gloves? I have to take my wool felted mittens (which are crazy warm) off every time I need to use my hands or touch snow. #defeatspurpose

        • my solution has always been super-warm liner gloves. these are sometimes marketed towards runners (i think i found my last pair labeled as such at target). throw those on UNDER some cute flip-top mittens (do these have a name that’s not “flip-top mittens”?) and voila! flip back the top to use your fingers, flip mittens back over to re-warm your hands.

          also, they seem ridiculous, but always keep hand warmers in your pockets for those -20 colorado winter days.

        • I’m currently living in Korea, and I am not in the loop with fashion back in the States. However, here in Korea they sell gloves in all various designs fit for a femme, where you can use your smartphone with them! Don’t need to take off your gloves to send that reply text or google something! And they are super warm. I don’t know how they do it. Korean technology is the best!

  13. It’s good to hear other women having trouble to combine looking great with staying warm. I’ve just sent back four winter coats that I ordered online to try, because none of them really fit or if they did, they were not warm enough. This gave me some inspiration, but really, all I want are those boots in picture 1.

    • I’m not particularly femme, but I’m also not really into the “sporty” look that’s kind of the freezing-weather default. Plenty of lined or puffy jackets aren’t made with down — or even wool, if you’re a stricter vegan in that regard than I often tend to be. I just got this very pretty, gender-flexible coat from Merrell, it’s greener in real life than the photo makes it seem: The silhouette’s nice and slim, and it’s kept me warm so far. AND while searching for that image I also found these vegan winter boots that I may have to buy! No good for fancywear, but I think that with pants they would be pretty non-hideous, which is about where I’ve set my expectations when it comes to serious winter boots. And for days when you want to keep your feet dry but aren’t trudging through three feet of snow, I have these waterproofable boots from Vegetarian Shoes — again, not distinctly femme, but could certainly work depending on your look:

      Otherwise, layering up — cute hats and scarves can really cut the chill, and can be had cheaply both new and in thrift stores. Oslo, though, that sounds intense!

      • Ooh, thanks for the tips! I don’t buy wool, but I use what I have from before as it doesn’t make sense to me to throw away things. Parka sounds like a good idea. I’m just always cold (why do I even live in this country?) and so I’m looking for something that feels like wearing my duvet outside or something.

        And yes, Oslo winters are indeed intense. These days I get brain freeze walking from the subway to the library, which is a two-minute walk. Staying inside all the time is key.

    • I dream of a coat from Vaute Couture ( but I also can’t afford one so I just put lots of layers under my wool-free H&M peacoat. But also I don’t live in a climate as cold as Oslo.

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