Winter is the best time of year to look your very best and flash a little style. Starting with Thanksgiving and concluding with St. Paddy's Day, you'll attend countless parties, festivals, and get-togethers in the winter season. Odds are that you'll spend much of your time indoors, but you may get out in the elements to ski, to catch a football game, or just to enjoy building a snowman with a loved one.
So how do you put together a winter fashion look that's both stylish and ready to handle the cold? Layering will be your winning strategy. Outdoor conditions can change quickly, and you'll be moving frequently between the cool or cold of the outdoors and the warm comfort of heated buildings. It's crucial to be prepared for all situations; you'll need to shed and then recover warm layers as the air temperature around you changes.
In warmer weather, lightweight cottons and linens play first fiddle, but winter requires more substantial fabrics better-suited to the cold. Wool is the classic winter fabric, particularly for outerwear, sweaters, and base layers. Cotton doesn't serve as the best insulating fabric, but French terry sweatshirts and hoodies, corduroy, and flannel are winter staples as mid-layers and in moderate conditions. Winter is also the right time to mix in long sleeve tees, henleys, and polos made from heavier cotton fabrics. Contemporary synthetics such as nylon and fleece make for warm and often waterproof outerwear, vests, and base layers.
Winter weather practically begs for great accessories. Knit hats and ball caps protect the head from wind and snow, and you'll absolutely have to have stylish and protective gloves, scarves, and shawls before you venture out into the cold. Insulated synthetic gloves are often made for the abuse dealt out by winter sports and outdoor activities, and natural materials such as wool and leather create the right look for more refined urban wear.
Boots are an essential part of winter fashion. They run the the gamut from rugged hunting boots to chic black leather, and all provide protection to the foot and upper leg from cold, ice, and snow. You'll need a collection of winter boots suitable for all social situations. Also, don't forget the winter socks. Wool mixes make for great winter socks, and synthetic sock liners can add a great deal of warmth to even cotton socks.
For very cold climates and particularly for outdoor activities, thermal underwear is a necessity. You're probably familiar with the standard cotton long johns, and they do provide some warmth in moderate conditions with limited physical activity. For colder weather and for winter sports, you'll need to step up to synthetic, wool, and silk base layers. All thermals should fit tightly against the body to provide maximum insulation and to allow additional layers of clothing to fit properly.
Classic winter colors such as greys, black, and navy blue suit the grey skies, snow-covered landscapes, and limited sunlight of winter. To master winter fashion, however, you'll need to incorporate a pop of bright color into your outfit. A good rule of thumb is to add one brightly-colored item per outfit. As examples, you could work in a sharp red sweater, a bright orange scarf, or even an expressive piece of outerwear to your look.
In a layered outfit, contrasting fabrics are another way of adding visual interest. A quilted nylon coat over a flannel shirt is a great look, but the fabrics don't have to be of different materials. A wool tweed blazer paired with a more delicate wool sweater plays two different fabrics off of one another to create a pleasing visual.
Creating a great winter wardrobe isn't rocket science. It only requires a commitment to building a collection of versatile, winter-suitable pieces and then mastering the art of layering. With time, practice, and an attention to detail, you can put together the winter wardrobe of your dreams.