Real Simpleanswers your questions.

By Real Simple
Updated February 20, 2009
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Grant Cornett

Q. What are the best fabrics to wear in freezing temperatures?

Melissa Harris

Indianapolis, Indiana

A. When temperatures drop below 32 degrees, layer smartly so that you can maximize the function of each piece of clothing. Use this step-by-step guide when getting dressed.

  • Base layer: The layer of clothing next to your skin should be soft and comfortable. It needs to prevent your body's warmth from escaping―but be sure that it doesn't retain moisture. One affordable and smart option: tops made out of extra-fine merino wool. This type of wool is made of highly concentrated lightweight fibers that create better insulation for the body, says Ingrid Johnston, a professor of textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City.
  • Insulation layer: Next, build on your base layer by wearing a fleece shirt, which is made of synthetic fibers. Tim Rhone, of the outdoor clothing–maker Patagonia, says fleece best serves the two purposes necessary when it comes to insulating: warmth and moisture management. "And always remember that cotton fabric, a moisture absorber, makes good towels but not good insulation," says Rhone.
  • Shell: The shell layer, otherwise known as your winter coat, should be able to block wind and keep you dry on cold, wet days. If your inner layers are substantial enough, then a lightweight nylon shell might suffice. But if you don't enjoy bundling up underneath, wear an insulated piece of outerwear. This usually comes in the form of a down or fleece-lined nylon jacket.