The Winter Clothes You Need

The snow is on the ground, the sky is getting gray and there's a chill running up your spine. It's time to break out those winter clothes. But, if all you own is a closet full of old sweaters, it's time to think about buying winter clothes you actually need, such as warm tops, warm bottoms and a durable winter coat.

Sweaters
The best winter sweaters are, obviously, ones that you will actually wear, so the colors and patterns should go along with your personal style. The sweater should fit well, without excessive stretching.

Sweaters that are versatile are always your best bet. If the garment can be worn over another shirt and removed if you become hot, it becomes much more useful. You might need the extra warmth of a sweater while going to work, but in today's mostly climate-controlled workplaces, a bulky sweater can quickly make you sweat.

Cardigans, sweater vests and shrugs all work well as warm garments that can be slipped on and off according to need. Turtleneck, shell and belted sweaters should be avoided unless you're sure you want to wear the sweater all day.

Pants
The most important aspect of good winter pants is their overall thickness. Since wind and cold will be whipping around your legs, where there's probably no protection from a coat or multiple layers, your pants are the only protection you have.

Wool blends, cashmere blends, corduroy and heavy cotton blends like denim are fantastic fabrics for winter pants, as well as most other types of winter clothing. They're thick, sturdy and can really help provide a wind break.

Pant hems should be long, of course, since Capris don't work well in the cold. Keep the hem around the ankle, though, since anything longer will likely get wet and dirty. If you prefer leggings, make sure they are thick and tightly woven.

Skirts and Dresses
The big mistake many women make when choosing a winter skirt or dress is picking too long a hem. A miniskirt in winter will probably wind up giving you a cold, but that doesn't automatically mean that you should wear floor-length hems.

The perfect winter hem falls no higher than the knee and ends no lower than the top of the ankle. This not only helps keep you warm but also keeps your skirt from dragging in the snow, slush and water. An icy skirt hem not only looks terrible, but it's cold, heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

Coats
Winter coats that are long enough to cover your backside are hot items, and for a good reason. Anyone who has sat down on an icy bench or chair knows that having the extra waterproof protection on your derrière makes for a much nicer day.

A quality winter coat should provide a wind break, keep out moisture and keep in heat. It should have some sort of gathering at the wrists to prevent snow and ice from sliding into your sleeve. The neck area should be protected with fabric using a collar, hood or drawstring.

The zipper, buttons or snaps used to close the coat should be strong and solid to prevent cold or wet from slipping in. Pay extra attention to the coat's closure methods. A winter coat that doesn't zip shut or refuses to zip open when you want to take it off is of little good. If the zipper looks cheap and you have trouble aligning it, don't bother buying that winter jacket.

Snaps are also gone for good once they pop off a coat. Buttons can be sewn back on, but be honest with yourself before buying the item. How likely is it that you'll actually get around to saving the button and putting it back on the coat?

To find a winter coat that will last, it's important to check the seams. Pull gently at each seam, checking if there are any tears, uneven stitches or excessive give. These are all hallmarks of a coat that will be in rags before the snow has melted.

Pinch the fabric and stuffing to check durability. If the stuffing remains bunched after you let it go, then it's likely to fall and clump in the jacket. Without stuffing, that area of the winter coat will be as warm and protective as a piece of tissue paper.

Storing
Since winter clothes are useful only during those cold months, most of us store them during the summertime. Storing clothes helps create room in closets and drawers, as well as preserves your garments for future use.

Clothing should generally be stored in a dark, cool and dry place to avoid fading, molding and insect damage. Natural fabrics should be stored in breathable containers, whereas synthetic fabrics usually do fine in airtight containers. Clothing should always be washed and dried before storing.

Moth balls or cedar blocks can be helpful for keeping away pests, especially if you're storing any cashmere or wool. Always fold sweaters for storage. If you put them on a hanger, the shoulders will stretch and distort.

Wool and cashmere will keep rather well, but only if stored properly. Materials like denim, fleece and flannel all fare extremely well in storage. Leather, silk and velvet are a little more difficult to store, since they tend to get permanent folds and stain easily.

Waterproof shells for garments like snow pants or snowboarding coats also store well. But be careful that the lining of garments with a waterproof shell is completely dry, or mold will surely develop.

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