How To Look Cute Even When It’s Really, Really Cold

Winter style tips don't end with tights and boots! It's possible to look cute even when it's cold! Click through for winter hairstyle, winter makeup and skincare tips, and winter fashion advice! >>


Is it even possible to look when it’s cold? Can you really look stylish while wearing three layers and your hair is all full of static and your lips are chapped?

Sure, looking super cute is slightly more challenging when it’s -20, but it can be done (as evidenced by, oh, the entire population of Scandinavia). As a third-generation Minnesotan, I’ve figured out a few ways to stay cute and warm this winter, some of which you might not know!

How To Look Cute Even When It’s Really, Really Cold

Wear fleece-lined leggings

These are nearly as life-changing for us cold-climate ladies as the invention of heated car seats. These leggings have 1,100+ 4.5 star reviews AND A WIDE WAISTBAND which means none of that segmented-worm-body syndrome we all struggle with.

For a long time, I’ve been trying to pretend that my silk long underwear were leggings. While they’re amazing and warm-keeping, they can also get a bit baggy around the knees. Not these leggings!

Wear Merino wool everything

Is Merino wool expensive? Yes. Is it an investment in the quality of your winter life? Also yes. Gap carries Merino sweaters that are $49 and you can pretty frequently find 100% wool sweaters at thrift stores.

Tuck serious socks inside your stylish boots

Want to wear those cute, pointy-toed black leather boots? You can stay warm if you wear a pair of not-particularly-cute wool socks inside your cute boots. And if wool makes you itchy? Layer thin ‘business’ socks between your feet and the wool.

Try shoe inserts

Now, I’m a missionary for Dr. Scholls inserts because I’m a vain weirdo who’s concerned about varicose veins. But you know what else they’re good for? Adding some much-needed distance between your feet and the cold, icy ground.

If you don’t need the arch support, you can just get fleece inserts. (But don’t use the gel inserts because that ish will freeze.)

Keep separate shoes/boots at work

If you have to walk any distance on your way to work (home to bus, home to office) chances are that your Warm Footwear and your Office Appropriate Footwear are not one and the same. Make things easier on yourself by keeping 2-3 pairs of shoes at work and changing into them when you get there. No one will be the wiser!

Also, this year I’m getting Yaktrax ice cleats. I am so tired of slipping and sliding on icy sidewalks a-holes can’t be bothered to shovel.

Buy real, actual winter clothes

Like, investment pieces. That aren’t from Target.

When I first moved back to Minnesota, I made the mistake of buying a pair of cheap, cute, slouchy cloth (!!!) boots and thinking that I could wear them to walk to the grocery store and dig my car out of snowbanks.

Spoiler alert: they dissolved in about a month and I nearly lost a toe to frostbite. Be ye not so stupid as me.

Those Norwegians are onto something when they say “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” and I’m sorry to say most of those ‘bad weather clothes’ are from Target, Old Navy, and H & M.

Now is the time to be a grown up and buy an actual wool coat (again, you can totally thrift these) and real winter boots. (I liiiiive in these.)

Buy a winter coat with a zip-in liner that’s long enough to cover your butt. If you’re hair-obsessed (like me) get a jacket with a hood; it’ll keep you warm, protect your neck + carefully styled-to-look-slightly-messy hair.

Use serious moisturizer + conditioner

Yup, it’s time to switch it up. I use this moisturizer exclusively in the winter and this leave-in conditioner.

Run a humidifier with essential oils

Yes, I’ve banged on about humidifiers, like, 18 times. Because they work. They make your home feel warmer, they’re good for your skin and hair, and they can actually prevent you from getting sick. If you want to feel fancy, add a few drops of essential oil – lavender to feel calm, peppermint to boost your energy.

Use coconut oil or petroleum jelly on your nose, cheeks, knuckles 

Just about any body part that has contact with the great outdoors will get chapped and dry, I’m afraid. But if you oil up before you head out, you can keep things smooth and supple.

Put translucent powder on your lashes

SO THEY WON’T FREEZE TOGETHER. What? Yes. We choose to live in a place where frozen eyelashes are a viable concern.

Wash your hair waaaaay less

Winter is that excuse you (aka: I) have been seeking to only wash our hair once or twice a week. I go for ye olde ‘wash my bangs in the sink’ trick and use a lot of dry shampoo. Also: 15 hairstyles for dirty hair.

Do you live in a cold climate? Share your best tips or products with us in the comments!

P.S. Putting thought and effort in your outfits is a habit, just like making your bed or taking your vitamins. It’s something you can develop! This will help – and it’s free!

photo by  dmitry ratushny // cc

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  1. katielookingforward

    Dr. Scholls Make's fleece inserts?! Buying!! Also, thank goodness for a wide waistband on the hue leg gings. That's pretty much the key to my winter dressing happiness.

  2. walking dot photography

    Ahhh, this is EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. I'm going on my second winter in Chicago and last year was so miserable, that I've been trying to up my game this year. Hadn't heard about the fleece shoe liners, so I'm actually ordering a pair right now! Do you think fleece leggings or fleece tights are better? I tend to be a legging or skirt wearing person on a daily basis, so I'm not entirely sure how leggings under leggings will work. Thanks for all the tips!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I'd double up on the tights if I were you! I remember doing a Real Life Style Icon with a fashion blogger from Alaska who swore by doubled-up tights!

  3. Barbara Kelly

    Add a survival candle in a tin and matches to light it. Why? If you are stuck in a car for a long time, you can conserve your gasoline by not running the engine to heat the car, and using the survival candle for warmth instead. But keep a window open a little, so that you don't get carbon monoxide poisoning from running the engine;and make sure that the car's exhaust pipe is clear of snow/ice. Keep a good-size bottle of water in the car, so that you won't get dehydrated . (eating snow is not a great idea). Snack items such as high quality food bars, unsalted nuts, raisins, GORP will keep you going if you're stranded for some time. Road flares or other survival signal equipment help avoid collisions with your car stranded on the road. People who travel in remote areas here also carry a metal container, to use with the candle for heating water and making instant coffee, tea, soup – something that will warm a chilled body sitting in a cold car.
    I live in Manitoba, Canada – WAY north of Minnesota – and have been stuck in a ditch in the country. . Not fun! as the Scouts say -" Be prepared" – and may you never need to use the survival stuff!

  4. Paige Podbelsek

    Just moved back to Chicago from Arizona after an almost 4 year absence…I needed all of these reminders. Thank you!!!

    • Paige Podbelsek

      Also just immediately hopped on Amazon and purchased the moisturizer, tights, and hair cream soooo….thanks for the recommendations 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. Adilah

    Thanks for this ! so useful for me since I live in the northeast and our winters last around 6 months. definitely going to get a humidifier!

  6. Vanessa @ Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts

    This is my second Minnesota winter and I feel far more prepared. I'm also buying fleece/flannel lined jeans. They're crazy ugly mom jeans but so warm. I've also learned to layer! Tank top/camisole, thin long sleeved thermal shirt and sometimes another shirt or a sweater over that. I'm embracing my grunge loving past and wearing a long shirt with a t shirt over it.

  7. Becky C.

    We have the slightly-milder-but-often-freezing winters in the UK – I have the Joan of Arctic Sorels too, they're perfect! Nothing better than fleece lined leggings, fleece pyjamas and fluffy socks from Primark for keeping warm in the winter.

  8. Sarah Woehler

    Uniqlo has great Heattech thermal wear in different levels of warmth. For someone who is always cold – and who lives in Maine – these were a lifesaver, especially since they fit so nicely, especially the tops.

    Sarah Woehler

    • Kayla

      I second Uniqlo's Heattech stuff! I wish we had it where I live. Might have to venture back down to the US to stock up.

  9. Rachel Ann

    Winter is my favorite season (grew up all over the east coast and went to school in Chicago), but now that I live in Southern California I miss it like crazy. People round here are confused/horrified at 60 degrees and it makes me sad.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Even though I complain about winter, I know I'd miss it. I've read it's actually possible to get seasonal depression in places where it's 'too sunny,' too!

  10. Audrey Lin

    I lived in China for the last eight years, and while it sometimes gets so cold to the point of snowing, I usually don't have to deal with it, because I'm inside most of the time, thanks to the pollution. Now I'm back in the States for college, and I'm not used to this east coast weather! …and I actually have to deal with it when I walk to class (doesn't help that the dorm I'm housed in is the furthest from everything except for the gym). Thanks for these tips! Much needed! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

  11. Teri Ahlm

    FAIRLY awesome. I love it! I haven't left the house in almost a week! One tip about shoe inserts… steer clear of the gel inserts because they freeze. I once had a totally miserable day walking around with those ice packs in my shoes!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      OH MY GOD. I had to edit the blog post to include that information! Thanks for the head's up, Teri!

  12. renee

    Lovely list; bless you Sarah! I'm a fellow Twin Citian and feel as though being prepared makes all the difference so you can be less crabby/cold and thus save your energy for nice bottles of Cab and nibbling on cheese and crackers in front of the fire.
    My fave tip here? Essential oils in the humidifier. Freaking brilliant.

  13. Van

    This is fantastically helpful! I live in North Florida so I shouldn't complain but we got an unseasonable cold snap (28 low- cold for Florida) and I'm not prepared. I've tried essential oils/humidifier but ended up returning the humidifier I got from Target, didn't work well enough for me. Any recommendations?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Hmmm, the humidifier I use has a tiny cup that's specifically designed for oils, etc. Maybe next time around look for one that has that feature?

      • Erin

        With essential oils when they are heated they kind of evaporate and nothing is really coming out. Try something fake for the smell if that’s what your going for.

  14. RunawayBrit

    When I lived in Sweden I was told by a number of Swedish girls not to wash your face in the morning before you go out as the skin takes a long time to dry and the cold will damage damp skin. Instead I would do a deep oil cleanse at night before going to bed. That winter my skin didn't get dry at all, so it definitely worked.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      That's so smart! And if anyone knows how to manage dry winter skin it's those gorgeous Swedes!

  15. Anonymous

    Oh my! I live in Ontario, Canada where it is -16 today (it's only November!). I must say that the biggest improvement I made to my wardrobe was buying a feather down lined coat. Yes, it cost $300.00 but it is the best $300.00 I have ever spent. I walk everywhere and don't know how I ever lived without it. It is so warm that sometimes I get sweaty walking places (although this is a serious issue in the back-country it is a great problem to have in an urban environment). I strongly recommend a serious winter coat to anyone in a cold climate!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I swear to god, my winter life changed once I stopped trying to wear tiny $20 'winter' coats from Old Navy!

  16. Anonymous

    what is this about shoe inserts and preventing varicose veins??? Is this a well known thing and I am the only one living my life insertless?

  17. Anette

    Uniqlo ultra down jacket – wear it under your cute wool coat! Wool coats are just not warm enough…

  18. Erika

    I don't live in a cold place, but I'm traveling to one in January and feel woefully unprepared. Thanks for the tips, these will be super helpful!

  19. jill

    Yaktrax – oh my god. You will not regret this purchase. I bought some last year so I could go running in the in winter, and I ended up wearing them everywhere – on dog walks, hiking, taking a short trip across the street to the convenience store. Not only do they prevent you from falling on your butt, but you can get everywhere so much speedier, too, due to the extra friction. Amazing.

    For people with super duper dry, eczema-prone skin, I would also recommend using a balm instead of a cream (I use Avene Xeraclam Balm – it's a little pricey, but if you're just using it on your face, it will last a while – and it's worth the extra $$).

    Also – as much as those long, hot showers feel so good in the winter, they can be awfully drying to your skin. I try to take tepid-to-warm shorter showers in the winter (and if I absolutely need the water hot, I make sure the shower is all the quicker!). To make sure your moisturizer is all the more effective, don't completely dry off after a shower before you apply it. I just dab some water off so I'm not dripping, and apply cream/balm to my wet skin. This ensures that the moisturizer will seal and lock in all the water on your skin. Yes, it feels a little weird, and you need to spend some time really rubbing it in, but it will make a huge difference if you have very dry skin.

  20. Laura

    When i read the leggings description you linked it didnt say they are fleece lined so wanted to verify that they are. Thanks for the tips!

  21. Heather

    YES. This is exactly what I needed. I too am heading back to Minnesota after three years away from the winters and I’m only sort of panicking about my complete lack of winter preparedness. Definitely getting my hands on some of those leggings and merino. <3

  22. Mary

    Don’t forget to avoid acrylic sweaters at all costs! They’ll make you sweat but won’t keep you warm — gross!

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