Old Man Winter is back and the National Weather Service sayshe's got a mean streak down his spine. Real mean.
Bully for you if you're ready to face his nasty temper - ortemperature. But what if you're not, and deep-freeze or nodeep-freeze, you don't want to look like Klondike Kate or Ken? Andwhat if you can't or for whatever reason don't want to shell out fora great-looking fur coat to keep you warm?
Most cold-weather gear made with modern technology'ssuper-duper insulations and coatings still looks about as interestingas a sink full of dirty dishes on New Year's morning. It's good forblizzards, when (1) staying dry is crucial to staying warm, (2) youcouldn't care less how you look and (3) you wouldn't go out in a finefur if you had one.
Blizzards are one thing. How you look the rest of the time whenit's bitter cold is what we're mainly talking about here.
Don't turn thumbs down on down because it got such a dirty namewhen an avalanche of dumb-looking coats flooded the market a fewyears ago. You just have to know your labels.
Bill Blass down coats and jackets for women this year lookpretty nifty in bright colors and interesting patterns such aspaisleys and scroll prints. Guys who think a down coat means lookinglike an Eskimo in a parka have something to learn. Ralph Lauren isdoing good-looking downs in his Polo line that are steps ahead ofstyles you'll find in sporting goods stores. A few smart retailersare picking up on winter's chief coat styles and having down versionsproduced with their own labels.
When it comes to warmth, nature's goose down beats anythingchemists have come up with. Just be sure the shell iswater-repellent in case you do get caught in a storm. If down getswet it will do you about as much good as getting caught out in yourunderwear.
Shearlings have come a long way since the days when you wouldn'tget near one unless you were a Montana rancher. In the past coupleof years, since big-shot designers started pushing them, they'vebecome major fashion items for men and women. They're super warm,look terrific and will last more years than you probably would careto wear them. Prices vary widely, usually from close to $3,000 forsome of the snazziest to around $800. Prorate the price over theyears the coat will last if you want to convince yourself what a gooddeal you're getting.
In recent years, fur-lined coats have become extremely popularfor men and women because you can get a lot of fashion and warm forconsiderably less than a fine fur would cost. The hot new shell,from private-label merchandise to top-price designer lines such asJames Galanos, is denim, often lined in mink or sable.
This year's cloth coats make a lot more sense for combatting thecold than those of several years ago because of their styling -roomier styles and longer lengths. Alpaca, which is very warm, isshowing up both in linings and toppings from top designer camps ondown to less expensive merchandise. The ample styles lend themselvesto the pile-and-peel theory: pile on the layers when you're headinginto the cold and peel them off when you get indoors.
If you want to take advantage of some modern technology thatwon't show, get yourself some polypropylene underwear and liners forsocks, hats and gloves. Polypropylene is an extremely lightweightfabric that wicks moisture away from the body, allowing top layers tokeep you warm. And nobody but you need know you're wearinglongjohns.