STYLE // Winter

Inside My Coat Closet: Ethical Outerwear Options

December 12, 2017

Living in the city with three kids means I spend a lot of time outdoors, rain or shine. When running errands, we often end up parking and walking for a few blocks to get to our destination. My kids’ school does not have any sort of pickup or carpool lane, it’s park and walk. In addition to that, we spend a lot of time on the playground. We have zero backyard and three kids in one sub 1,200 square foot townhouse = the need to get outside. It makes me pretty happy to spend a good amount of time outside year-round, but I definitely have learned it takes the right layering strategies and coats to feel comfortable.

The forecast.

In western Oregon our fall and winter weather is a little different than the rest of the country. We get consistent rainfall – it rains more days than it doesn’t and the temperatures usually hover in the 40’s and 50’s. From November – February, the average high temperature in Portland is 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is about 37 degrees. Each month in that range brings approximately five inches of rainfall. Needless to say, I need rain protection nearly all fall, winter and spring, with the occasional cold snap leaving me reaching for my hats and gloves to bundle up. Occasionally, I carry an umbrella but, most of the time – unless it’s absolutely pouring – my hands are tied up with kid-wrangling.

In my closet.

Currently I have four main jackets that I rotate through for fall, winter and into spring.

Light Rain Jacket (S), $88, Everlane – I ordered the City Anorak this last March, and it has been heavily used this fall. The main reason why I like it is the boxy cut. It’s very easy to layer over even the chunkiest of sweaters, and I never look like a snowman. It’s unlined, so it doesn’t provide warmth, but the thick shell does a nice job at deterring light rain. However, the fabric is water resistant, not waterproof. If I needed to be in the rain for a very long time, an umbrella would be needed. Made responsibly in Bac Giang, Vietnam.

Flannel-Lined Rain Jacket (M), $278, Bridge & Burn – I bought this last fall when I was looking for a warmer rain jacket. It’s thick canvas is coated in wax, which makes it heavier and quite rain repellant. The cotton can be re-waxed overtime to maintain the durability of the jacket.Β It is more tailored and fitted than the Everlane jacket, and always lends a bit of polish to whatever I am wearing it with. I am not sure I’ve worn it enough to make it worth the investment, I often reach for black Everlane Anorak, but it is nice to have a second raincoat option since I spend so many days of the year dodging rain drops. Made responsibly in China.

Short Puffer (S), $125, c/o Everlane – I received this coat as a PR sample when Everlane launched their puffer line this fall. I opted for the short puffer because I already own a long puffer jacket (see below). I really like that the shell is made of 70% polyester and 30% polypropylene, which makes it thicker and more wind-resistant than you would typically get on a puffer coat. This coat is 100% polyester-filled and quite warm, but it doesn’t feel super ‘poofy’ when I’m wearing it. I have had it for a little more than a month, and haven’t worn it as much I thought because, if it’s cold out, I like to keep my tush covered and warm so I opt for longer coats. However, I expect by late winter/early spring, when I am tired of wearing a big, long coat, I might reach for it more.Β Made responsibly in Bac Giang, Vietnam.

Down Parka (M), $299, Patagonia – I bought this at the end of last winter and got it at a steep discount ($199) through Backcountry. I highly recommend them, super fast shipping and excellent customer service. The parka has a 100% recycled polyester shell – which means it’s thinner and less wind resistant than the Everlane one, but it’s also softer and less ‘swishy’ sounding. It’s insulated with 600-fill traceable down (per Patagonia’s website this means “duck down traced from parent farm to apparel factory to help ensure the birds that supply it are not force-fed or live-plucked”). This jacket is very warm, and semi-fitted, which creates a nice silhouette despite being a big parka. I like that the hood is removable, though it’s a very warm hood, and I don’t remove it often. The jacket is almost to my knees and has a two-way zipper, which is handy for when I don’t want to feel like I am walking around in a sleeping bag dress. It’s pretty poofy, which is great when I’m trying to stay warm, but some days I find myself craving something sleeker, or with a lower profile on my body. I like the slim cut but it doesn’t leave a lot room for layering bulky pieces underneath. My small complaints being noted, I really, really like this jacket. It’s something I can grab from my closet at anytime, and I know it’s going to keep me warm and look good with whatever I’m wearing. It was an excellent purchase and I hope to wear it for many years to come. Made responsibly in Vietnam.

Coats in action.

Light rain jacket (the City Anorak by Everlane):

Flannel-lined rain jacket (The Cedar Waxed Cotton by Bridge & Burn):

The Short Puffer, c/o Everlane:

Down With It Parka, by Patagonia:

This lineup does a great job of keeping me toasty and dry. Also in my coat closet, but not pictured: fairer-weather options like my leather jacket, my jean jacket, a trench coat and a super lightweight rain jacket. In the future, I’d love to add a wool coat, but it has been hard to find a style I like, in a fabric that is warm enough. I tried the cocoon coat from Everlane, which looks super cute on the models, but not so much on me. The drop shoulders don’t do me any favors, and I looked like a snowman when I buttoned it up. Currently I feel a bit unwilling to invest in a wool jacket, when so much of the year it’s raining. I’ll think through it in the off-season, and maybe next fall I’ll land on a wool jacket that is both functional and stylish. Currently, I’ll be letting some sweater coats fill the gap.

What type of coats do you find yourself drawn toward?

You Might Also Like

  • Jodie December 12, 2017 at 7:58 am

    I live in New York so coats are very important to my style too!
    I have the city anorak also in a small, but in the olive green color, and love it too.
    I have last year’s Everlane long puffer, and it is so warm I can only wear it when it’s freezing, or below.

    Hope you are enjoying the holidays, and your slow December! Xo!

  • Alice December 12, 2017 at 8:34 am

    This is very timely as I am currently figuring out how to optimally pack a warm jacket and a rain jacket in a carry-on to visit friends in Portland this weekend! Will probably go for the puffer that can smoosh under my rain jacket rather than my pea coat. Looking forward to experiencing sub-70 degree weather again as well as getting away from this Thomas Fire smoke.

  • Kathleen December 12, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I really enjoy your blog and fashion sense. But let’s be honest – down isn’t ethical, even if companies want to pretend it is and assign a label. Even if the animals are being treated “humanely,” they are being raised for meat, and the down is simply a byproduct. Isn’t the ethical thing not to raise another living creature and take its life for consumer purposes? I am not saying I am perfect, or that I expect you to be. It just seems that ethical down is not ethical at all (maybe recycled down would be an exception).

    I would love to get some recommendations on ethical parkas that are really warm!

    • Andrea December 12, 2017 at 10:34 am

      Hi Kathleen, great points. If you’re looking for a non-down parka, try the Long Puffer from Everlane or their Unisex Parka, both are down free.

    • Alyssa December 12, 2017 at 10:45 am

      I was thinking about this exact thing while reading. If I want down, I only buy it secondhand on eBay… I snagged a Patagonia down vest on eBay for $40 a few years ago, and it’s been a great layering piece, even if it’s not the most “current” cut. I even use it as a “blanket” in the morning when I drive to work!

      Additionally, I worked at REI for a bit and learned that “synthetic down”, while a synthetic fiber, is just as warm as down however continues to insulate heat even when it gets wet, where goose/duck down is not as insulating once wet. Between natural down that involves killing animals and using synthetic fibers that don’t biodegrade I’m not sure which is a more ethical/responsible option (depends on your values/priorities, maybe?), but there you have it!

      • Andrea December 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

        Hi Alyssa, thanks for this info!! It like choosing the lesser of two evils I suppose. At the very least, the more informed we are, the better choices we can make! I like your second-hand route!

  • Tess December 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    The tres parka by Patagonia is my favorite winter parka. It is a 3in1 style with down on the inside that can be worn as a thin fall down puffer, and a waterproof shell that can be worn as a rain trench. It is so warm for winters in Maine and colorado where my family and in laws are AND it is super sleek. I would feel comfortable wearing it in a city. Plus Patagonia is one of the best companies to support.

    • Andrea December 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

      I totally had my eye on that one last year, what a great looking, highly versatile jacket! I agree, I feel like Patagonia is doing great things!

  • Ella December 13, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Love these coat options and have similar ones (also live in Portland). I actually tried the bridge and burn coat you feature here but found it ran really tight in the shoulder area and sizing up meant everything else was too big. Do you find it’s a bit snug in the shoulders? I wasn’t layering much under it either. It was a bummer cause I loved the coat. Does it give over time at all? I returned it and now have this huge store credit and not sure I’ll have any luck with any of their outerwear due to this problem.

    • Andrea December 15, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Hi Ella, yes, I find it fitted in the shoulders, but not too tight (and I have broad shoulders!). But I only layer thin sweaters under mine, not super chunky ones. I have not noticed any giving over time. What a bummer! It is frustrating when stores only give return credit. Have you tried their wool coat? Maybe that would work.