Chicago Winter Essentials

East coast winters are tough. Midwest winters are tougher. Having lived through a handful of New York City winters and a handful of Chicago winters, I've built up a solid winter wardrobe fit for freezing temps. Here are winter essentials that have kept this California girl warm without totally compromising personal style.


OUTWEAR - When it gets really cold, down coats are non-negotiable. Believe me, I tried to get around it with Thinsulate lined wool coats, but nothing ever feels as warm as a quality down-filled coat.

I like outwear made with matte materials because they look more like parkas and less like sleeping bags. Above I've linked to a couple options from Spiewak and Woolrich, both brands known for quality outerwear. Four years ago, I bought a Community coat from Aritizia. It seemed a bit pricey at the time, but I've worn it so much that my cost per wear is down to pennies. The exterior is a blend of hemp and recycled fibers, and it's held up really well in Chiberia. I highly recommend it!

If you're looking for a sleeker option, you might want to check out this modular parka from The Arrivals. I can't vouch for the quality or warmth as I haven't seen one in person yet, but it's a piece I've been eying.

The other coat I wear a lot in the winter is my faux fur coat pictured up top. Whether it's just the collar or the entire coat, fur instantly adds a bit of glam to any look. Before buying a faux fur, pet it and see if it feels sticky or creates static. Cheaper faux furs tend to be dust magnets, but that's not to say you have to spend a lot. Mine was $50 from the super clearance rack of Topshop, and I've had it for three years.

THERMALS - Thermals, long underwear, layers, call it whatever you want. They're so key! I swear by Uniqlo Heattech. I first tried Heattech in 2009, when I was reviewing it for my old blog, and I've been hooked since. I layer then under everything. The three styles I wear most often are the turtleneck, scoop neck, and leggings in black, navy, and gray. Layering thermals under fall and even summer dresses is a great way to expand your winter wardrobe.

SHOES - I'm a shoe girl because I walk as much as possible and DJing I spend so much time on my feet. I will always have a lot of shoes in rotation, but there are three pairs that great the most wear - Nike Dunk Sky Hi sneakerboots, Dr. Martens Salome heels, and Cougar Riley boots.

The Nikes I wear almost everyday. I love the little lift the wedged heel provides, and  they're warm, comfortable, and water resistant. That said, they're not waterproof, so anything more than light rain or snowfall, I switch to my Cougar boots.

The Cougar boots are great because they're snow shoes that look somewhat like regular boots. They're very warm, so if you're going to be inside somewhere toasty for awhile, you may want to consider bringing a change of shoes. Other than that, I have no complaints.

I don't wear heels quite as much as I used to, but I still love them. The Dr. Martens heels have been good to me. I've been able to wear them through unexpected inclement weather because they've got that signature Dr. Martens tread. That said, two of my friends have suffered major injuries as a result of slipping on ice. So be careful and make sure you have the right shoes on!

HAT & SCARF - When it gets below 30 degrees, every accessory makes a difference. I'm really thrifty when it comes to winter hats because I lose them pretty easily. I have a few nice hats, but the ones I wear the most often are $3-10 beanies from the drugstore and H&M. I don't spend too much on scarves either, but since they up against my skin, I'm willing to pay a little more and look for ones made with soft organic fabrics.


Skincare & Beauty

LIP BALM - I've tried practically every lip product out there, and I always come back to Maybelline Baby Lips and Blistex Medicated. Both products are super affordable and available at your local drugstore, which is great because I have a bad habit of misplacing chapsticks. There is a black hole in the universe for chapstick, hair ties, and bobby pins.

COCONUT OIL - To protect and heal my skin from the drying effects running the heat non-stop and the harsh cold, I turn to Cocovit coconut oil. I discovered Cocovit last fall while I was writing for Racked Chicago, and I've been been hooked ever since. In the winter, I like to apply it to my elbows, knees, scars, and cuticles immediately after getting out of the shower. And whenever I remember to, I'll also rub it on my feet and in my hair before bed.

Coconut oil is truly great for all over, but since it does take a little time and rubbing to absorb, I tend to use lotion for the rest of my body.

LOTION - Like lip balms, I've tried so many products, and I always come back to good old drugstore Vaseline, Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant. The scent isn't my favorite because I generally dislike sweet smelling body products, but I love the way it quickly absorbs into my skin and the results seem to be long lasting.



SNOW DAY SOUNDTRACK - Watching snowfall can be so serene. It's especially great with chill and dreamy soundtracks. A few of my favorite albums for snow days are: Sufjan Stevens Come On Feel the Illinoise, Chet Faker Built on GlassAlbum Leaf In A Safe Place

DANCE PARTY - When I'm not working, I like to make a point to go out and dance, especially when it's cold out. It's good for the mind, body, and soul! There's no reason for cabin fever, especially when you live in a city with awesome DJs and bars.


Stay Warm Out There!