Historically, my puffer coats have always epitomized the necessity-laden bent of getting dressed in the winter: heavy on the utility, lacking in aesthetic personality. An enormous, puffy coat is also often the very thing that denies the remainder of my outfits their opportunity to express a modicum of personality, because it covers everything up! I am thus forced to waddle to and fro in a giant, unmemorable duvet with arms, looking like every other frozen human on the street.
But this winter, I vowed to show my puffer coat who’s boss. Instead of letting it wear me, I challenged myself to figure out how to do things the other way around. My ultimate goal? To prove to myself, and the world, that a puffer can be more than just a practical necessity; it can actually be a stylistic enhancement that works in tandem with the rest of an outfit.
I enlisted THE one and only Crystal Shawnté Anderson to assist in the experiment, and if I can brag for a quick second, I’m pretty pleased with our results. Scroll below for three ways to make a puffer coat look intentional, and meet us in the comments for further parsing.
The Five Day Work Week
The Ideal Canvas: A neutral puffer! Think of it as a base instead of a top layer that covers everything else up. It’s not an afterthought, it’s part of the main event, and thus should mesh with a wide array of colors and patterns.
Styling Ideas: Layer it under a vest, or belt it and pull it slightly open for a pop of color and texture.
I love that this puffer we’re both wearing is collarless. It really lends itself to layering with something hooded, or a collar over collar situation. I belted the coat to give it some shape (puffers can look like sacs sometimes, right?) and kept my shoes walkable because I am like to traverse the Williamsburg bridge. In this scenario I imagine myself taking the coat off once I get to the office and re-belting the vest I have underneath. Easy! Did I mention this coat is on sale for $36? Meanwhile, Crystal incorporated the jacket as a true layer to her outfit, wearing a furry vest over it. She paired her cozy coat with shoes from the new Rosetta Getty x ECCO collaboration, which apparently feel like clouds.
Saturday Night Live
The Ideal Canvas: A puffer that functions as a statement piece while still keeping you warm. Look for something with an “it” factor–like a cool color, a distinct silhouette, details or features like slanted pockets, a drawstring waist, side zippers, or an asymmetric hem.
Styling Ideas: Scrunch up the sleeves and pair with long gloves, or turn it into a puffer crop top if your coat happens to have a slit like this one.
I tend to cancel plans or not make them at all in the winter because it feels impossible to look how I want to look (for me, a critical component of “going out”). But as soon as I began entertaining the possibilities of using a puffer coat as the basis of my Saturday night ensemble instead of the death of it, my preconceived notions were cracked wide open like a walnut. This particular puffer is perfect for the occasion because of all the interesting details, like the cinch-able waist and side slits. Paired with a long gloves, a colorful jacket underneath, festive heels, pearls, and my trusty Heattech tights, I was actually warm and pleased with my party outfit. Crystal said the same of her respective concoction, which involved unzipping the sides and tying the two front flaps around her waist. With a metallic pair of party shoes and an orange faux fur headband to contrast the purple jacket, she is my new winter style icon–a reality only reinforced by the fact that she made her fringed jeans herself.
The Ideal Canvas: A uniquely puffy puffer–one that feels like an endless bear hug!
Styling Ideas: Identify a winter style persona (i.e. “human marshmallow” or “après-ski bum”) and pursue it with a vengeance.
When I think of a stylish puffer coat I think of something Princess Diana might have worn while skiing–the ultimate example of looking elegant and sporty all at the same time, which is incidentally a great combination of adjectives for running errands on the weekend. I leaned into this persona with a fairisle sweater and a headband (again, thank you Princess Diana) to keep my ears toasty. The addition of stirrup leggings and comfortable lug sole boots made me feel like I should be in a cabin with hot chocolate. That’s how skiing works, right?
Speaking of hot chocolate, Crystal moonlighted as the human equivalent of a marshmallow with a puffer onesie under her peachy, puffy coat. I loved that she kept the outfit casual and thus practical with a pair of her favorite sneakers while still serving up a look that would turn heads.
Any other puffer qualms you need tackled? Or other style conundrums we can help address in general? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
Photos by Franey Miller.