It all comes down to three words: layers, layers, layers.

By Lisa Milbrand
December 23, 2020
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Growing up in Buffalo, I usually had to factor winter gear into my Halloween costume—and the snow was often easily measured in feet. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the great outdoors all winter long, even when it was bitterly cold.

Despite my chilly upbringing, I'm also a person who tends to get cold really quickly, so I live all winter in cozy layers that help keep me toasty, indoors and out. Even though I've moved to a (slightly) more temperate part of the country, those Buffalo cold-weather dressing skills still come in handy—especially now, when outdoor get-togethers are the only safe way to see my friends.

If you're looking for the best way to stay warm outdoors this year, these cold-weather dressing tips should help you stay cozy all winter long.

Credit: Athleta.com

$70, athleta.com

A buttery-soft long-sleeved shirt helps keep itchy wool sweaters and coat cuffs from irritating your skin—especially when the sleeves are extra long.

Credit: Uniqlo

$30, uniqlo.com

Unless you have a pair of thick ski pants, your legs are likely to get cold first. I love Uniqlo's ultra-thin (and ultra-toasty!) HEATTECH leggings, which fit under even the slimmest pants.

Credit: Boden

$190, boden.com

A sweater that goes to at least mid-hip helps keep more of you covered, and shouldn't ride up to a point where your skin's exposed. Wool is great—but now that I'm the one splurging, I'm all in on cashmere. Boden's colorful (and cozy) crewneck is machine washable, so you can pull it out every time you head outdoors.

Credit: Columbia

$290, columbia.com

Columbia's lightweight (but remarkably cozy) coats have a reflective inner liner to help trap heat around you. It's like walking outside wrapped in a down comforter—without the added bulk. 

Credit: Athleta

$98, athleta.com

Bulky ski pants were the way to go when you were sledding or building snow forts in Buffalo, but now that I'm (usually) not rolling around in the snow, I just opt for more grownup cold-weather clothing—a pair of cozy high-tech pants. Athleta's Polartec Altitude pants have extra warmth built in. 

Credit: Old Navy

$8, oldnavy.com

If I'm planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, I'll wear tights under my leggings, then a pair of fuzzy fleece socks to keep them extra cozy. (This pair has treads on the bottom so they're like slippers when you slip out of your boots indoors.)

Pro Tip: Buffalonians often joke about their parents lining their snow boots with bread bags. But the plastic helps keep any leaky spots from getting your feet wet and cold (very important when you're spending a lot of time outdoors), and they provide a windproof layer around your feet. Bonus: It's a nice way to reuse plastic bags. 

Credit: LLBean

$170, zappos.com

Look for something with a rugged heel (the better to dig in on slippery spots), and a thick-and-cozy lining, like these from L.L. Bean. Boots with rubberized or otherwise waterproofed feet are also helpful for when you step into an unexpectedly deep slush puddle. 

Credit: LLBean

$45, llbean.com

Gloves are essential when you're driving or doing other tasks where you need a bit more dexterity with your hands. But if you're going by warmth alone, mittens are the better choice—you're able to generate more warmth when your fingers are all enclosed together, and you can more easily slip a handwarming hot pad into them. But this pair of L.L.Bean mittens, with GORE WINDSTOPPER lining, is so cozy, you might not need a handwarmer at all.

Credit: Smartwool

$38, smartwool.com

Scientists have debunked the myth that you lose half of your heat from your head. (A myth my mom often repeated when I was trying to walk to school without one.) But you'll still lose plenty if you go around bare-headed—or use earmuffs or other gear that doesn't cover your full head. 

Credit: Boden

$75, bodenusa.com

A scarf is your winter warmth MVP. It can help keep your neck warm and cover any gaps around the top of your coat, you can pull it over your mouth and nose to keep the chill away, or it even works as a shawl, in a pinch. Look for scarves that are long and wide, so you have plenty of options for using them.