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5 Must-Haves for Cold-Weather Dwellers

by Meagan Francis on November 3, 2014

Brrr! Is it chilly where you are? If it isn’t yet, it will be soon – for most of the country anyway. This post from last winter keeps popping up in our Pinterest feed, so it must mean people are thinking about their cold-weather wardrobes! We’re revisiting it today in case you missed it the first time. Enjoy!

5 cold weather wardrobe essentials.jpg
I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where winters were harsh and long and school was very, very rarely cancelled. And while I didn’t walk uphill both ways to school, I did walk about two miles round trip, almost every day, in often bitter, subzero temperatures.

Strangely, I don’t remember ever feeling chilly while growing up in such a cold climate. Winter was just a fact of life, something we dealt with and prepared for and dressed for. I wore long johns under my pants December through March; we rarely left the house without snowpants, gloves and hats during the winter months. We built fires in the evening and wore sweaters and warm socks inside.

It wasn’t until I moved downstate at the age of 12 that I started hating the winter. My theory? I got spoiled by the unpredictable, up-and-down weather in lower Michigan, and started taking the occasional warm-ish day for granted. Instead of treating every day from December through March as winter and dressing for the cold, I started feeling inconvenienced by cold days and living for warmer ones. 

At some point, I also stopped dressing appropriately for winter in the upper Midwest. I’d throw on any old shoes before going outside and eschewed scarves and gloves on all but the most frigid days.

Finally, one day I had to ask myself if I really wanted to be so miserable all winter long. Maybe there were some subtle changes I could make to the way I dressed that could help me feel more functional – and less like hiding under a down comforter – during the winter months.

So for the past several years I’ve been making changes to the way I dress, indoors and out, and I’ve found that a few simple additions to my daily wardrobe make me a lot happier. In light of the crazy-cold temps and winter weather so many of us are experiencing right now, I thought I’d share five essential pieces that are helping me stay warm – without cranking up the thermostat:


I used to wear wimpy slippers that only covered the bottoms of my feet, but they didn’t accomplish much besides keeping my socks from getting wet when I walked through tracked-in snow. A few years ago I got a set of calf-high Muk Luks for Christmas and they changed the way I experience winter. Now my feet and legs are always toasty and warm, and I’ve become quite the evangelist. My sister-in-law Jenna even brings over her Muk Luks when she hangs out at my house for the evening. We midwesterners know how to stay cozy,  yo.

muk luks

My new pair of Malena Muk Luks are my favorite yet. Technically they are boots, but they are so soft and comfortable they feel like slippers, and I only wear them in the house to keep them dry and clean. (I really don’t think they would stand up to a wet Michigan winter or spring with a lot of outdoor wear, but they might work as boots in a warmer, drier climate.) I wear them more than I wear my regular boots, so they are totally worth the price tag. If you’re in the market for a less expensive pair, Jenna has – and loves – the Helga style slippers. 

Good boots.

Just like a good pair of indoor slippers, every cold-weather dweller needs a good pair of outdoor boots. I don’t mean wimpy “fashion” boots that leak when you step in a puddle and let in wind like they’re made of cheesecloth, but honest-to-goodness BOOTS that cover a decent part of your ankle (preferably also your calf), resist melting snow, and provide enough traction to keep you from falling down on hard-packed snow or ice. The first footwear I ever spent more than $100 on was a pair of suede knee-high Born boots, similar to these, seven or eight years ago. I wear them almost every day, November through March, and they still look new. 

A house sweater.

A few years ago my husband gave me a snuggly cardigan made of thick yarn from the Gap. Since it was so big and puffy it barely fit under a coat, I instead adopted it as my “house sweater.” I’m a big fan of cuddly, warm bathrobes too, but a sweater actually feels like part of an outfit instead of sleepwear, which is important when you want to feel like a productive member of society. 

I wore my original house sweater so much it started to fall apart, and since then I’ve gone through several incarnations. The best house sweaters are drapey, soft, and warm like this long, thick hooded cardigan from Amazon.

hooded cardi
Make a house sweater part of your winter experience. I promise, you will thank me. And if you work outside the home, keep one in your office, too.

A Lightweight Scarf. 

I was a little slow to adopt the scarf-as-fashion-accessory trend, mostly because I got confused by how to tie them (yes that is true) and thought I wouldn’t like having something around my neck. But once I tried wearing a lightweight cotton scarf around the house, I saw the great potential of scarves as more than outerwear. Lightweight scarves (Sarah and I love the ones from FashionABLE) keep my neck and chest toasty while I’m puttering around the house, and are enough to keep me warm outdoors on all but the coldest days.

Leg Warmers.

I never really got into the legwarmer craze of the 80s (I was too busy playing My Little Pony to care much about fashion at that point), and almost missed it this time around, too. But on a whim, I bought a pair at Target a year or so ago and they sat in a drawer, unused, until one particularly nippy day when I decided to pull them on before heading out into the snow. What a difference!

After a few days of toasty warm legs I went to a boutique in town and bought four more pair. Now I wear legwarmers every day, morning through evening, even slipping them back on after changing into my PJ’s at night. They are a small thing that makes a big difference and they honestly make my winter life better, so why not? Plus, they look really cute under boots. Or slippers, for that matter. I’m loving these Dahlia Cable-Knit Legwarmers.


If you live in a cold-weather climate, what are your “must-haves” for staying warm?

note: all Amazon links are affiliates. If you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Janice January 6, 2014 at 8:55 am

One winter here in New England I realized how important it was to have a warm coat that covers my butt, up til then I always wore cute shorter coats. My LLBean coat that goes to my knees has made a huge difference in my outdoor comfort!


MomofTwoPreciousGirls January 6, 2014 at 11:41 am

Were you in my house last week? I was laughing with my husband over the fact that I absolutely never wore leggings or leg Warner’s in the 80’s but they are ALL I WANT TO WEAR!

I AM still playing with My Little Pony…thanks to my little girls being totally obsessed (as I was when I was their age!)


Kelly January 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm

These are exactly what I have! The house sweater is a must! I’ve gone through so many and realize that a good quality one is the way to go. It looks better than a bathrobe when the UPS guy shows up. My only addition to the New England winters is Smartwool socks. I just replaced all my winter socks with them and they are worth the price tag.

Thank you for this!


Laura January 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm

The scarf part is spot on…it’s an Italian saying, “if your neck is warm, you are warm.” I always wear scarves! The one thing I would add is a great set of glove liners and mittens to go on top of them. My fingers are the first things to feel like I must go indoors instantly, and the doubling of gloves and mittens saves me every time.


Jennifer January 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Smartwool socks or other socks that are a wool blend. I’ve created a bunch of monsters here though because now Smartwool is the only brand of socks they want.


Olivia January 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

I grew up in a place that was much colder, much longer than where I live now and I’ve gotten lazy about dressing for the cold, too. Something else tat contributes to me not wanting to dress warm is having kids. Keeping track of their stuff is tough enough without adding my own gloves and hat in the mix. Generally, anything above 35 F I will tough it out with just a heavy sweater (this is just for going between car and inside). For colder than that, I like my good isotoner gloves, and a coat with a hood. No need to keep track of a hat and hoods don’t cause hat hair.

At home I have a pair of wooly slippers, and a cardigan made of sweatshirt material. It’s not really nice enough to wear in public, but it makes the perfect house sweater. Oh, I also cover my legs with a lap sized afghan I made a few years ago whenever I sit down.


Ana January 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Thanks for this! Its not usually quite this cold here, but this winter is keeping me indoors (snacking, watching TV, not being active…) way more than I like to be… I am ordering snow boots, leg warmers, and smartwool socks so I’m ready for the next snowstorm/vortex/ whatever. I also just ordered my kids snowpants and water-proof gloves because they don’t have the proper gear to spend more than 10 minutes outdoors either.
I tend to go overboard sometimes on “simplifying”, and need to realize that sometimes spending/getting stuff may actually be worthwhile.

Reply September 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

After I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked
on the -Notifdy mme when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a
comment is added I get four emails with the same comment.
There has to be a way you can reove me from that service?

Thak you!


Kristen Forgione November 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm

One word- JEALOUS! I want to have to wear slippers and leg warmers! Whaaaah! I know all the snow people reading this think I should be shot buuuuuut it gets a little lonely here in AZ wearing your winter coat only ONCE all season. OK, I’ll think of you when I see y’all shoveling snow and I’m shoveling sunshine! XOXO!


debbie November 12, 2014 at 6:14 am

ok – I currently live in Norway and my log burner is about to be turned on it’s so so cold. I really want these leg warmers.



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