How to Look Like a Stylish, Non-Frumpy Person When Wearing a Puffy Coat

For when your dog-walking coat takes over your life.
Publish date:
February 24, 2015
coats, outerwear, puffer coats, outfit ideas

This winter I did something I said I'd never do: I bought a down coat. You know, one of those big puffy coats that look like you're swathed in a comforter (especially if it's white). They're usually frumpy and dorky, but they're warm.

I used to simultaneously judge and envy people who wore this kind of coat, but not anymore. Now I am one of them.

But I have an excuse! This is my first winter with a dog, and I'm constantly out in the cold with him. It's just my dog-walking coat, that's all. Totally acceptable.

Except, of course I immediately started wearing this coat out on errands, to get coffee, to dinner, etc. I don't think I can call it my dog-walking coat anymore if half the time the dog is left at home. Oops.

So let's just say that I've been spending a lot of time this winter trying to figure out how to make a puffy coat look good. And I have some tips for you!

But first, if you're shopping for a down coat, it helps to look for a few things. My five requirements are:

  • Must have a hood.
  • That hood should have some kind of fur edging. (I prefer faux fur.)
  • Must cover one's butt, but not go below the knees.
  • Must have a fitted waist. If there's a belt, that's awesome, but it better be detachable so I can take it off and lose it.
  • Color: preferably black. Army green is okay; white is stupid; brown is ugly.

Also, it goes without saying that it has to be warm, right? Okay, good.

Here are a few puffy coats that I personally think don't look like the worst thing ever:

The Zara coat above is pretty similar to my own puffer coat, which is also from Zara but now sold out. If you have the money (and didn't already spend it on that pretty Burberry coat up there), I've heard Canada Goose parkas are the real deal. Not only are they apparently extremely warm, but they're also surprisingly stylish and form-fitting, and come in a variety of colors.

Once you've managed to find the rare puffy coat that's not an affront to one's eyeballs, that's half the battle. Now the other half is figuring out how to style it.

The first and most important issue is shoes. My rule of thumb is that if I'm wearing nice heels, I can't wear this coat. Formal footwear deserves equally formal outerwear. However, I will pair my down coat with boots, sneakers, and maybe even those chunky heels masquerading as hiking boots that everyone's into lately. I don't own a pair but I sort of like these:

They pair well with the puffer coat's particular brand of utilitarian ugliness.

Besides the "no stilettos" rule, I like to keep a few more guidelines in mind when trying to look nice in my puffer coat. I avoid my baggy mom jeans and yoga pants, obviously, and stick to black or dark-wash skinny jeans (or leggings made of thick material).

Accessories help, such as a bright pink beanie or a nice scarf (not the giant scarf with the million pom-poms that your grandma knitted). Taking the time to put on a bold lipstick makes a big difference too.

Extra points if you coordinate your lipstick with your accessories; I dressed up my puffer coat with red lipstick and a red plaid scarf to go Christmas tree hunting and felt both warm and put-together.

Another example: I wore my coat out for a coffee date with some pleather leggings, gold sneakers, and hot pink lipstick. It sounds like a lot of look when I write it all down like that (PLEATHER! GOLD! HOT PINK LIPS!), but, hey, whatever works to distract from the fact that you've basically resorted to wearing a comforter as a coat.

The key to looking stylish in this, the frumpiest of coats, is to strike a balance between putting effort in but not too much. You're wearing this coat because you want to be comfortable, so why cancel that out (and confuse people) by wearing pumps and bare legs?

At the same time, dressing for comfort doesn't mean you can't look stylish. This is the time to wear what makes you feel so cool that it cancels out the goofiness of your coat — for me, that's these leggings.

Of course, I don't always care about looking cool. Sometimes I just want to be warm and comfortable while walking Doug, so I pair my puffer coat with yoga pants and snow boots, which was probably how it was intended to be worn.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about puffer coats. If you have one, how do you style it? Is it just for dog-walking or do you wear it with everything?

Follow along on Twitter as Kelly keeps making countless questionable fashion choices: @picturesqueliar

Final two photos by Joshua Kirby