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When you live in New York City, or any part of the mid-to-upper East Coast, you will most likely find yourself in a position to suit up in response to some harsh, atmospheric elements.

Wintertime usually calls for a wardrobe that’s more indicative of protection and warmth in lieu of selective trends. It’s a simple, if not obvious, choice to make, lest you’re literally left out in the cold . . . which in itself is not a good look. You’ve seen that girl, the one who would much rather catch a cold trying to look good, looking as desperate as that sounds. This just exemplifies how so many women, myself included, find themselves in a slight predicament when choosing function over fashion. How do you stand out, make an impression, or maintain a sense of uniqueness in the midst of stifling temperatures?

Almost everyone, at least anyone with an affinity for style, can attest to the downright unsightly (a.k.a, ugly) wardrobe that’s reserved for cold weather. I can remember being a kid in Germany (where the snow could easily surpass your knees) and being forced to don a full-body snowsuit, which in my memory was strikingly similar to the one worn by Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story.” Looking back, I can recall the stark, yet sullen color and unsettling silhouette, not to mention the fact that it took me over ten minutes to get out of. Not good for a five-year-old who has to pee. Once I’d gotten older and eventually relocated to southern California, winter apparel had become a relic. The closest thing I owned to a coat was a slim, down, cropped jacket that only made an appearance a few months out of the year. It was the type of climate where you could get away with wearing short sleeves and shoes without socks in the middle of December. It was a rare thing to have to sacrifice a cultivated look due to unfavorable conditions.

I had surely become spoiled, because once I moved to New York, I  completely forgot just how unforgiving Mother Nature could be, having become accustomed to almost year-round warmth. Hoodies and jackets were now a Fall and Spring staple, and for the first time in a while, I was forced to take real function into account.

But I couldn’t bring myself to just buckle down and submit to the ubiquitous uniform of bulky North Face coats and bulbous, clunky snowboots, or even worse, the abominable UGG. No matter how hard they tried to make these staples somewhat trendy, they still fell short of being anywhere near cute, at least in my opinion. Instead, I opted for something with a little more flair and finesse, since the selection of typical winter wear was wholly unappealing. I knew that in order for me to stay warm AND on the cusp, I had to tap into my creative sensibilities.

My first utilitarian purchase was anything but, at least on the surface. A hip-length, faux fur coat from H&M than ran me a mere $60 bucks proved to be more toasty than anything I could imagine. And it garnered more compliments than I felt necessary, since this is New York City and people must have seen their share of fur coats—real or fake.

The fact is, I was able to prove to myself that fashion and function can exist on the same plane and can also be much cheaper than investing in Michelan Man-inspired outerwear that everyone insists that you must have. Simple measures like making friends with chunky knits and layering can be both sensible and eye-catching. In addition, thrift and vintage stores are great resources that allow you to scour racks of substantial pieces that are unconventionally stylish as well as practical.

Winter dressing doesn’t have to be so bland. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can bet that you won’t be another member the puffy drone club.

-Princess Glover

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  • I am all about function. I can’t stand to be cold. Although there is nothing sexy about a puffer jacket I’d rather be warm than “HOT” (get it). I was in NYC for New Year’s Eve and although it wasn’t NY cold aka 13 degrees it was still a little chilly… I rocked my puffer jacket like it was the Hottest designer coat, and watched the other girls freeze…

  • GA

    I am with you on that one Alesia Michelle. There is nothing cool about waiting for a bus in a coat that feels like you are wearing nothing.