Every year when the temperatures drop and knitwear and muted colors start to show up in stores, the second most asked question after “do I have Christmas gifts for everyone yet” is: “How to stay warm in winter”. Who doesn’t have a bazillion cute sweaters in their closet but still feels like an ice cube a good 60 seconds into scratching off ice from the windshield of your trusted car?
No more, I say! No more! It’s about damn time we turn into smart shoppers, invest wisely and finally stay warm in winter! If not in this one, then in the next after we raided the sales like lunatics!
But first things first:
I will be talking about and recommending materials kindly provided to us by animals. I love animals very much, I believe they are precious souls. However, the fashion industry can be evil when it comes to animals. Therefore I urge you to look behind the curtains and dig deep into the fashion brand’s policy on animal welfare before purchasing. There are lots of companies that realized the importance of animal welfare in the fashion industry, so I suggest to support those and stay away from brands and designers that don’t care about animals.
I will NOT go into details of animal welfare in this article and I will NOT post pictures or videos on this, simply because I. cannot. stomach. it.
If you can’t either or if you don’t know where to start your research (or, let’s be real here, you are on a tight budget like so many of us), I recommend thrift or vintage stores where you can find awesome bargains without sending the wrong signals to brands.
Ok, let’s get bouncing. For starters let’s look at a couple materials that, against popular believes, don’t keep you warm in winter. They might, however, be perfect for summer – among other materials, and you can read all about that in my summer fabric guide to stay cool and dry during the hot months. But now back on topic:
It keeps you protected from wind and rain, but not warm.
Super popular and rather cheap, but so not for fall/winter, it’s not even funny anymore! “Why’s that”, you ask? Simply due to the fact that cotton absorbs moisture and retains it. Taking into account the low temperatures in winter it should be a no-brainer that it’s best to stay away from cotton in the colder months.
Super soft to the touch but similar to cotton it won’t keep you warm, simple as that. Thank you, next.
How to actually stay warm in winter
The most popular natural material for your winter wardrobe, wool has been used for centuries, if not for thousands of years to keep us warm. It reflects warmth back to your body, is breathable and doesn’t retain moisture like cotton does. For apparel the go-to wool is usually sheep wool. The most popular sheep wool comes from Merino sheep as it is super soft, but wool from other breeds is used as well.
I used to visit a sheep farm in the UK about once a year until recently when the owners retired and the sheep farm was closed to the public. Naturally the owners were very knowledgeable and happily shared their wisdom. Did you know, that the scratchiness of wool on your skin doesn’t necessarily have to do with allergies? What’s basically happening is that each hair (as in “wool hair”) has little hooks which makes the wool stick together, so to speak. Because of these little hooks you can actually spin wool. Now depending on the breed these hooks can be softer or harsher, longer or shorter. So if your sweater is itchy it’s likely that the “wrong” kind of wool was used for it.
Since we are talking about sheep already, let’s have a closer look at Merino wool. It’s great wool to pick if you want to stay warm in winter and even rather cool in summer. It’s soft and durable plus protects you from UV rays! We are talking up to SPF 40 kind of protection here! It also doesn’t really get smelly, plus airing it for a couple hours will often be enough to make merino wool smell all fresh again.
Often referred to as “cashmere wool”, cashmere is actually not wool as it comes from goats, not from sheep. Like alpaca and camel it’s considered hair. The cashmere fiber is also softer, stronger, lighter and warmer than wool, therefore makes it a fantastic fiber to keep you warm in winter.
More goats! Angora goats, to be exact, not to be mistaken for bunnies, please. This soft and very durable fiber is breathable, has great insulating properties that keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. Due to the fact that it only absorbs up to 30% of it’s own weight in moisture it’s considered antibacterial as well. Plus it doesn’t crease easily, which makes it perfect if you’re running late in the mornings.
An amazing fiber that keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. It’s extremely durable, protects from UV rays, is breathable, soft and hypoallergenic! Keeping alpacas is expensive though, which can make their products rather expensive in return.
If you ever touched a bunny you will know how incredibly soft their fur is. Angora bunnies are no exception. It’s so soft you don’t know what hit you! It’s like touching a cloud, in my opinion anyway! Also it can absorb up to 60% of it’s weight in moisture but keeps you very warm. It’s also said that angora fiber has anti-rheumatic properties. However, angora is known to shed at the beginning. It’s considered normal, so don’t be surprised or disappointed.
It’s popularity comes and goes in waves but camel hair is in fact a great material for summer as well as winter. It has a neutral scent, anti-rheumatic properties and is hypoallergenic. It’s also a great alternative for vegan fashionistas as camels naturally shed their fur, which is then collected, processed and made into clothes, throws and more.
In general silk is great to keep your body temperature regulated through all seasons, so it’s a great choice if you wonder how to stay warm in winter. Silk is also lightweight, shape-retaining and oh-so-soft! It’s usually expensive and hand-wash only, which can add to your workload.
An ideal filling for jackets and coats, but for obvious reasons you won’t find any sweaters made of down feathers. They are light, warm, shape-retaining and easy to compress – as long as they stay dry. If down feathers get wet though, those advantages go “poof” quicker than you can sneeze. Down feather jackets should only be washed with special laundry detergent and drying needs patience – or tennis balls (to return the fluffiness to those poor soaked feathers), if you have a tumble dryer.
Another go-to for vegan fashionistas, since fleece is usually made of polyester based synthetic wool. Unlike polyester, which won’t keep you warm in winter, fleece does. It’s also durable and therefore often used for outdoor apparel. Fun fact: polyester (and kind of therefore fleece too) is made of PET plastic bottles! If you want to know more about it, watch the following YouTube video. Granted, the image quality isn’t top notch due to its age, but the video is very educational.
More for those who want to go “vegan” with their wardrobe contents. Acrylic is definitely better than cotton or viscose because it keeps you somewhat warm, However, the fibers don’t breathe, thus can make you sweat, which, in winter, can be rather uncomfortable.
The clue is in the name. It’s a good way to stay warm and perfect for layering as thermal wear is usually very tight.
And there you have it. Armed with this guide it will be much easier for you to shop savvy and stay warm in winter! Happy shopping! And don’t forget to check what’s (literally) cool in summer!