Life Local

Winter Wardrobe Basics: what you need to survive a midwest winter

November 12, 2014

When I first started my Facebook fan page a few months ago, the first comment I received was from a young lady who had just moved to Ann Arbor (Michigan) from California and was wondering what to wear for winters in the Midwest.

Awesome question! And something us Midwesterners really don’t think about. I mean, we’ve been wearing snow boots and weird overall snow pants since we were old enough to wobble down a sled hill. But when you think about it, we actually do have a pretty distinct style. Or, at least, a few basics we know for sure we will need during a wicked winter.

And since this winter is shaping up to be worse than last year’s polar vortex (it’s already in the 20s today), I thought now would be a good time to share a few of my go-tos for warm winter wear.

all the basics you need to get through a second winter vortex (on


One: Light, fleece-like jacket to layer under jackets or when the temperatures randomly go up for a day.

Two: Down jacket to keep you warm during sledding or snow ball fights, or even skiing. I like Patagonia’s down since it’s sourced in a “kind” way.

Three: Long, professional jacket. Not only does this keep you warm (since it’s protecting more of your body/half your legs), but it looks nice and is perfect for your daily commute.


Four: Small, stylish boot that can stand up to snow salt and still look good. Yes, that means no black suede.

Five: A hefty winter boot for all that snow. Sorels are a Midwest fave.

Six: A soft, warm boot that you can wear around the house to keep your feet warm, when socks aren’t cutting it.

Seven: A riding boot. Great to have for professional/stylish reasons, but also does a great job of keeping half your leg warm.


Eight: Pair with your riding boots to insulate heat, or just wear around your home as an added layer.

Nine: Wool socks are a must. They will keep your feet as warm as possible in boots, shoes or around your home.

Ten: Convertible mittens with a grip in the middle are great for every day. They allow you to pick up your purse or coffee, grip your frozen door handle, toss a snowball, or protect all your digits from the snow.

Eleven: Light, cute mittens are fun to have around, and keep your hands really warm. Obviously they are best for when you don’t come into contact with snow (which can sit on the yarn and melt into your hand) or when you don’t need an exact grip on anything.

Twelve: Whoever made these should get an award. These bad boys, while slightly thicker than your average mitten, have digital compatibility. Meaning, you can access your iPhone without freezing your fingers off.

Thirteen: Collect as many cute beanies and hats as you can. If they are stylish, you can get away with wearing them around the office. If they aren’t, at least your head will stay warm.

Fourteen: If you’re getting sick of the beanie hair, there is always the headband, which still does a good job of keeping your ears warm.

Fifteen: Again, collect as many scarves as possible. Small, big, long, short, thick, thin, they are all great to have. If you’re going to buy just one though, I’d buy a warm infinity scarf. Doubling up around your neck is like extra insulation.

Sixteen: Even if you live in a city, snow pants are nice to have. Either, because you are that cold and want to keep warm on your commute OR because most people will be around snow (there are a lot of activities centered around snow in the Midwest) at some point, and it’s nice to have a pair just in case.

Seventeen: A waffle-weave shirt, or undershirt, is nice to layer under your other clothes to keep warm. But it can also be a stylish, warm shirt by itself.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are you buying for ThePolarVortex.2 ?

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  • Reply Lauren November 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Yay! Glad this became a post! It literally just started snowing here in Ann Arbor this morning! Thanks again for responding so quickly when I commented on the Facebook page. 🙂

    • Reply nicole November 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      No worries! Thanks for the inspo 🙂

  • Reply Jordan November 14, 2014 at 1:47 am

    That is so bizarre, the part you wrote about a young lady who moved from california to ann arbor…My best friend is moving to michigan and told me I should move to ann arbor recently, because its basically amazing. Oh yeah, and we live in california. Like talk about synchronistic. Lol I realize that is not what the post was about but I had to share that. Crazy synchronistic. I do love these items though, got me thinking about stuff I need if I do decide to move there. 🙂

    • Reply nicole November 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      The world is WAY too small lol. But will say, moving to Michigan is quite the adjustment from California. Will say, at times I do miss it (especially having the acai bowls/juice bars everywhere!).

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