A Terribly Important Question

Can a fat girl pull off a three-quarter-length down coat without looking like the Michelin man?

I have worn nothing but wool winter coats for years and years. I love them, but I’m sick of them. So this year, I bought myself an honest-to-goodness ’80s-style parka, and I’m quite happy with it except for one thing: their temperature rating LIES. We’re barely into December, and I’ve already been outside in enough below-freezing weather to know this coat ain’t gettin’ me through winter in Chicago.

So I could get a new wool coat. Which would be super practical and familiar and have the added benefit of being slightly dressier if I actually go somewhere dressy. (For a while, I was convinced I needed a long wool dress coat AND a warmer everyday coat, until it dawned on me that I usually only bust out the dress coat about twice a year, max, and never for occasions that truly demand a dress coat. My life is just not that fancy. When Al gets us season tickets to the opera, I’ll think about getting a nicer coat.) But for some reason, for the first time since about 1985, I’m finding myself completely smitten with the idea of a down coat.

Probably this, this, or this.

Anybody got any strong opinions or advice with regard to fatness and down? (Or Land’s End v. Eddie Bauer v. L.L. Bean for coats?)

126 thoughts on “A Terribly Important Question

  1. Can a fat girl pull off a three-quarter-length down coat without looking like the Michelin man?

    Kate, you will be SO WARM. Who cares what you look like outside? Everyone’s eyes will be stinging and watering from the cold anyway. (That said, the first one is the chic-est.)

  2. I broke down last year and bought a coat almost just like the first one from Land’s End. It is more “figure-flattering” than some puffy coats, as the copy indicates, but I’m not fooling anyone: it’s a puffy down coat. I tell you what, though, I don’t regret it for an instant. It is twice as warm as my old wool coats and it weighs half as much (which you wouldn’t think would be important, but really is when you’re already laden with five kinds of layers and heavy boots). I am super-happy with it. You may already know this, but Land’s End sizing runs big: I bought an M (which claims to be a 10/12), but it was big enough on me at a size 14 that I almost returned it and went for an S (!).

    Go for the coat. You’ll be happy. And your crimes against fashion could be so much worse — at least you won’t be wearing leggings and Uggs.

  3. I agree with fillyjonk on all points. My own two bits are, as a tall and long fat person, I find the lands end stuff fits really well..never tried eddie bauer…the color of the LLbean is nice! But yes, the stitching on the lands end coat is the best.

  4. And your crimes against fashion could be so much worse–at least you won’t be wearing leggings and Uggs.

    Says you.

    (No, actually, you’re right about that.)

    And good point about the lightness, SM. I hadn’t taken that into consideration, but god, one of my favorite things about spring is finally getting to go outside without 187 lbs. of wool on my back.

    And good point to both of you about the WARM. The older I get, the more I turn into my father, who never gave a rat’s ass what he looked like in winter — mismatched hat, scarf, gloves, who cares? — as long as he was WARM.

  5. I have a North Face down jacket that I absolutely love. It’s boxy and not terribly stylish (it’s actually a man’s coat, passed down from an ex), and yes I sometimes feel like the Michelin Man in it. But everyone – even skinny girls – looks big in a down coat like that. And when it’s cold outside and I’m all snuggly warm inside??? Who cares!!! :)

  6. I like the first one– it looks warm but not too puffy (the super puff is a lil’ too J.Lo 1999).

    But…Are you aware that geese and are plucked live to obtain down? No coat is cute enough to justify exploitation.

  7. the color of the LLbean is nice!

    I should note that although I do think that blue is cool, I’d be getting it in black (which is still available in petites, but sold out in regular sizes). Blue is just the default color for that page.

    And it already sounds like the Land’s End one is the way to go. I definitely like the waist stitching, and the fact that it’s the cheapest of the 3. (In fact, Eddie Bauer’s pretty much ruled out for being disproportionately expensive.) I was afraid to commit to that one because A) it has no hood (though I never leave the house in winter without a hat, so I don’t know why I’m worried about that), and B) the not-warm-enough coat came from Land’s End, so I’m wary of their temperature ratings. But then, how not-warm can down be?

  8. I am quite fond of the furry hood. And I think the array of blues and purples from LL Bean would look awesome on you. I agree with Fillyjonk, pick the one that you’re the most psyched about and don’t fret about the rest. It will look awesome because you will be WARM.

  9. Down and other fluffy coats are for those times when you’re putting warmth above appearance, IMHO. You’re allowed to look like the Michelin Man in the winter.

    I wear my wool coat 75% the time – even with jeans. But, I own… hum. A short(ish) black parka, a black long wool coat, a 3/4 length leather coat, a brown suede swing coat, and a vintage kelly green wool coat with a fur collar. If I only had one coat, I’d go for black, gray or red wool. I just like the classic look of wool coats.

    BTW, I agree that the first one is chicist, but I’d get the second one. A lined hood is always nice to have,

  10. Please recognize that this advice comes from the Canadian prairies (so very, very cold), but having a warm coat means that I am warm. If I am warm, I am happy. If I am happy, I look way more fashionable and fancy than if I’m a crabby-ass. I can pull up my hood, velcro the storm-flap shut, and peak at the world through 2 inches of open hood. So really, no one would know it is me anyhow.

    And living here, I scoff at people who don’t dress warmly enough. They are ridiculous and look silly in their waist-length jackets with their hands pulled into their sleeves, skidding around on the ice in their heels.

    So, buy the coat, and love it.

  11. They are all cute, but I am thinking Land’s End will probably be the best of ‘em.

    However, just to add even more choices to your life, have you ever looked at the Denis Basso quotes on QVC.com? They are faux fur lined and mine is about the snuggliest coat I ever had, and many are comparable in price range. Also they make them in all kinds of sizes and he cuts to flatter everyone. However it will probably be heavier to carry around, so that’s a downside.

  12. *lmao*

    “Denis Basso quotes” should be (obviously) “Denis Basso coats.” Apparently my brain decided that those two words were close enough in sound that they must be the same!

  13. GAH! Now I want a hooded one! And of those, I like the Eddie Bauer better, but I can’t quite see paying $40 more just to get brown fake fur instead of white. DILEMMA.

    I can pull up my hood, velcro the storm-flap shut, and peak at the world through 2 inches of open hood. So really, no one would know it is me anyhow.

    Hee hee, Femme! Al has a big, red parka with a big, red hood that has a bill on it, just to make the whole look even goofier. He looks so cute when he puts the hood up and cinches up the neck, so only 2 inches of his face are showing, I want to DIE.

    Somehow, I don’t think he’d have the same reaction to me, but I don’t really care.

  14. I love my down coat. I can’t even wear it until it hits -15 C or I overheat. No idea on whether it looks OK — I’m just so happy not to be cold when I’m wearing it.

    Regarding the temperature rating, are you wearing a sweater under it? I think that’s what they base their ratings on. Good to know, though, that that coat’s not particularly warm.

  15. Jae, I actually looked at the Dennis Basso coats last night (inspired by Colleen),. but they didn’t have any winter styles in petites. And I have sworn off ever buying a non-petite coat again, if I can help it.

  16. Regarding the temperature rating, are you wearing a sweater under it? I think that’s what they base their ratings on.

    They claim it’s good to -5 with a heavy layer and 15 with a light layer, but in my experience, it’s more like good to 20 with a heavy layer (plus fleece hat, scarf and gloves) and useless as tits on a bull with a light layer.

  17. Hey, I just ordered the shorter version of the LLBean one because I’m crazy-smitten with that hood! But that’s just me.

    I too was concerned about the whole fat-girl-in-giant-coat thing, but honestly, I’d rather not spend this winter shivering every time the temperature drops into the twenties. Anyone who doesn’t like looking at me tottering around in my giant coat can go suck it.

  18. My brother (who still lives in Chicago, along with the rest of my family) has a jacket from The North Face; it looks like a windbreaker, and he can (and does!) wear it out in below-freezing weather with no problems.

    What’s more: his girlfriend is one of those perpetually cold types… and she won’t wear the jacket because it’s too hot.

    There’s no down in it, so it adds no bulk. It’s very lightweight. No idea what the sizes are like, to be honest, but it might be worth looking into.

    And if you really wanna go to the opera, Lyric usually has free/cheap dress rehearsals. All the goodness of vocal nummies without the pomp and circumstance. I can find out more information for you if you’re interested – i’ve got family who works there.

  19. Jae, I actually looked at the Dennis Basso coats last night (inspired by Colleen),. but they didn’t have any winter styles in petites. And I have sworn off ever buying a non-petite coat again, if I can help it.

    As one who always has to have pants (and sometimes jacket sleeves) hemmed I understand that! It is the bane of my clothes shopping life.

  20. Living the last two years in Minnesota I was able to just say no to down. However when it was -15 outside last year in Minneapolis I was nice and toasty in my Land’s End Weatherfield Parka with Primaloft.

    I think the synthetic down which I’ve never heard of is doing you in. Both my Land’s End and North Face jackets have been Primaloft and they’ve been nice and toasty (I just stopped wearing the North Face jacket as much as it only covered the top half and I had a bear of a time finding long undies which fit and kept me warm last year, so my thighs started to freeze).

  21. Astrobabe, if they made the weatherfield jackets in a longer length, I might very well go for that. I will NOT wear a coat that doesn’t fully cover my ass, and in fact, my other complaint about the Chelsea parka is that it’s not quite long enough. It just barely covers my ass, whereas my previous coats all covered most of my thighs. That can make a huge difference in warmth, so I’m definitely all about the three-quarter length on this round.

  22. I like the Land’s End one. I wouldn’t worry about looking bulky, it’s more important to be warm! I have a stylish, figure flattering wool coat for moderately cold days, but I bust out my bulky ski jacket when it hits -15°C because fashion takes a backseat to not freezing my ass off. (I don’t think it’s even a woman’s coat, because it’s XS and I normally take an XL, so even with weird sizing it’s got to be a men’s coat. I’ve had it for so long I don’t remember now). Although now I’m looking at all those cute down coats you’re posting and thinking it might be time for a new one!

  23. I have and love the Stadium Squall Parka in black.* It’s really warm and not puffy, if that is your main concern, although I think if you want a puffy down coat, you should get a puffy down coat. I mean, have you seen what people look like in their attempts to make it through the Chicago winter? Everybody is too busy not freezing to death to care what you look like. If anybody stands out, it’s the silly things with the short jackets and sockless feet.

    *Actually, the one I have and love is a way too small medium (which is a way to look like the Michelin Man without down, oy). as I have yet to get around to buying a new coat for my new bod but unless I miraculously accidentally stumble on a new and different coat, I’m just going to buy that same one in the proper size after Christmas.

  24. Okay, I just got inappropriately tickled by the instructions for the Eddie Bauer coat’s faux fur.

    I’m supposed to “gently fluff for the fullest appearance.”

    Good advice, that.

  25. Can a fat girl pull off a three-quarter-length down coat without looking like the Michelin man?

    Yes, if she’s tall. But if you live in a cold climate, who cares? When ice crystals are being flung in my face by hurricane-force winds, I’d rather look like an Intelligent Morlock than a fashionable Eloi.

    I’m kind of Smitten with the Morlock/Eloi thing. Can you tell?

  26. Aw, shit, OTM, way to make things even more complicated. I’ve considered the Stadium Squall Parka, but then I decided I was leaning toward down… but now that I’m looking at it again, I like it… And actually, in addition to feeling bad for the geese, I know that feather pillows make my eyes itch, so it’s possible I’d be allergic to a down coat…

    AAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    Wait, question — do you ever find yourself TOO warm in the SS Parka? ‘Cause that’s another fear — having a jacket that’s great for warmer days and one that’s great for ass-freezing days, but nothing for the many in-between days.

  27. I have a down jacket that actually just barely covers my butt. Technically it should only reach my waist but because I am both short and fat the coat is longer than it should be on me. Which I’m fine with. I do realize it makes me look totally shorter and fatter than I am but I don’t care because I’m warm, at least the top half of me is warm. I’ve been standing on the El platform the past few days muttering to myself how I need an ankle length coat.
    I agree with your Dad, Kate, who cares HOW you look when it is this cold (and just gunna get colder) if you are warm, that is all that matters. No point in being cute when you’re gunna end up with frostbite. My mother wore a coat from the Army/Navy surplus store with a bright orange hunters hat and gloves that only would look appropriate in the Arctic Circle. She was a crossing guard, she didn’t care if she looked like a freak, cuz she had to stand on the corner for several hours for the kids. If you like the coat, get it! If it will make you warm it’s perfect.

  28. My fashion motto in winter is always, “Fuck it, I’m cold.” (Before I moved to Florida, anyway.) I had a Lands End down coat (this one, to be precise), and I loved it, and it will be greeting me at the airport when I go home to Minnesota for Christmas.

    As to the ducks and geese… this is going to sound horrible, but fuck ‘em. I’m cold. *snuggles back under down comforter*

    (Yes, I know, exploitation is bad and it would be much nicer if the feathers were plucked lovingly from geese and ducks who had expired of natural causes after living to a ripe old age, but I really like down. Please don’t kill me.)

  29. As to the ducks and geese… this is going to sound horrible, but fuck ‘em. I’m cold. *snuggles back under down comforter*

    Hee! Yeah, I mean, I eat meat and wear leather without a second thought,* so what makes the geese so special?

    *one could certainly argue that I SHOULD be giving that second and third thoughts, but that’s another story.

  30. Haven’t read the comments but I’ve been in your shoes.

    I first bought a Lands End squall jacket (somewhat longer than what you’re looking at). I hated it. Hated the velcro over the zipper, hated the short sleeves (I’m tall and have long arms), hated the lack of knit cuffage in the sleeves, hated the zipper, and hated the color choices. Noisy fabric, too.

    Then I bought an Eddie Bauer down coat, a lot like an unhooded version of what you selected. ::LOVE::. I’m not a hood person…but am thrilled with the quality and much more flattering wearability of this coat. It’s quilted where the other one was not…and yet I always felt Michelin-esque in the other one.

    This reminds me to just go put the Lands End coat in a coat drive box this weekend. I’m sure something’s better than nothing if you’re in dire straits, and maybe somebody else can use this totally ignored coat.

    A dress wool coat can last you for eons. They don’t change style rapidly and who cares, anyhow. The only real changes are in fullness vs fittedness, and you will probably find that you look better in one or the other and not want to switch back and forth. Mine is kind of a straight cut tweed with lapels; it just works with any kind of dressing up.

    It’s truly a midwestern thing to need several coats and jackets. You have to be ready to shift all the time; there is no such thing as one coat that does everything, so invest in what you need and take on the day!!!!! (I’m from northwest Indiana…this post completely resonates with me!).

  31. On a related note, I just got some fleece-lined boots last week and I am fucking delighted with them already. I learned my lesson last year: every winter item needs to be lined with every imaginable fabric to make it through a Chicago February.

  32. I think the first one from lands end with the stitching being narrower at the waist would help it not look so boxy and shapeless.. and it looks so comfy cozy I say go for it and cuddle right up in that thing and smile at all the freezing people you pass by. Plus for most occasions where it matters you will be taking your coat off anyway once you get in the door to show of your awesome style beneath :P

  33. Dude, the Eddie Bauer coat is the most un-Michelin. I’ve done some research on this one. No matter what you choose, you’ll look like a dork — just like everyone else on the streets in the wintertime.

    Of course, you could move to Michigan where Eddie Bauer is the height of style.

  34. Hee! Yeah, I mean, I eat meat and wear leather without a second thought,* so what makes the geese so special?

    Exactly. I mean, I can and will agitate for more humane conditions for cows and geese and ducks and so forth, but I use animal products, and probably always will. I may try to eat less meat and use alternatives on occasion, but… some things just don’t beat down or leather.

  35. My mother wore a coat from the Army/Navy surplus store with a bright orange hunters hat and gloves that only would look appropriate in the Arctic Circle

    I used to live pretty close to the Arctic Circle, and can tell you that bright orange is good when it’s dark all day. Some people put reflective stripes on their clothes. Some people choose their huge-ass parkas in pink or some other “feminine” color in a desperate bid to fight the androgyny that comes with wearing 30 pounds of clothes. It’s amazing how little fashion matters.

  36. Yes, a fat girl can pull off a 3/4 length puffer coat without looking like the Michelin Man. Although, really? Everyone’s eyes are streaming tears in that kind of cold and they aren’t focused on anything but the patch of ice underneath their own puffer coat. AND, I did have to trade in my ivory one for a bronzy olive one because…the ivory just CEMENTED the Michelin Man resemblance, but we’re talking about your very smart black pick and not my questionable ivory one. Ahem. Oh, but may I recommend? LL Bean Smart Wool. I live in a very similar climate to Chicago in Upstate NY and I am loving my investment in Smart Wool this year. It makes a coat that maybe isn’t QUITE rated for the weather perfect…

  37. I’m shaped a lot like you, and, it sounds like, even closer to sweetmachine, and I live in a down coat similar to #1. It’s fine. Promise. That really is the point of that kind of down coat. Honestly, I wouldn’t care, I grew up in New England where puffy parkas were just part of life in winter and I hate being cold way more than I hate having a suboptimal silhouette, but I must say it’s nice to wear snug cozy down and still sort of semi-acknowledge one’s waist.

    I can’t speak to the rating on that particular version. I always prefer a hat and scarf to a hood, personally. Snugger, thus warmer, and so much more opportunity to accessorize with flair and variety.

    The lightness factor really DOES matter. My dress-up winter coat is a full-length fake-but-not-cheap shearling that’s gorgeous and warm as fire, and I just don’t wear it much because it’s so damned heavy.

  38. The thing I hate about winter in Chicago isn’t so much feeling your nosehairs freeze or how it just hurts to go outside, but how shapeless and just…lumpy my coat and scarf and all the accoutrements make me. I get mistaken for a guy more in the winter than at any other time of the year. :)

    On topic–I did like that Eddie Bauer coat a lot. I’d like it more if it were cheaper.

  39. To answer your first question, I’m not sure it’s possible for ANYONE to wear a down coat without looking like a human version of the Sta-Puff marshmallow man. But given a choice between being cold and looking puffy, warmth is the hands-down winner.

    My limited experience with Chicago winters, and more extensive experience in the neighborhood of the Battery in lower Manhattan is that it isn’t just the temperature rating you need to worry about, but the wind-resistance. I bought a ski jacket from Junonia that’s actually a wind resistant shell with a zipout fleece lining that can be worn separately. It covers my backside thoroughly (I’m 5’6″), and it’s nice because it’s a rain jacket, light winter jacket and heavier winter jacket all in one. But, it’s a lot sportier than the long coats you’re looking at (and might not come small enough). It also might be a little pricey, but when you consider that it’s like getting 3 coats for the price of one, I felt it was justified. You can see it here.

    The nice thing about all the coats you picked is that they look — on the internets anyway — dressy enough to wear anyplace but the most fancy of fancy occassions. I’d definitely go for a hood. Who needs to worry about keeping track of a hat? I think the stadium parka would probably be your best bet if down pillows make you sneeze.

  40. Oh, about Lands End coats running big — I traded in my 20W (what I was wearing at the time in jeans), which I was swimming in, for a 16 straight last year after I talked to their online representative. The measurements they give are not even close to actual garment measurements — they’re the measurements they think you should have to wear that size, but they assume lots of layers between you and the coat. If you talk to their online person, he or she can tell you garment measurements, and you can figure out from that what size you want based on how closely you want it to fit.

    Re: geese, I don’t know if anyone else is enough of a Douglas Adams fanatic to have read and remembered the last Hitchhiker’s book, but there’s a part where Ford decides he is opposed to cruelty to all living things except geese. He orders some foie gras, and when Arthur says it’s cruel to the geese, he says “fuck ‘em, you can’t care about every damn thing.” That really stuck with me. (Not that I would eat foie gras, but it’s more about the hepatic lipidosis really.)

  41. Truly, down coats are not fashionable or flattering on *anyone* of any size. Personally, I’m willing to suffer a bit for style. But not a lot. If I lived in an area that was consistently below freezing in winter, I’d say to hell with it, I mean who’s going to be looking at you anyway when they’re trudging through ice and snow and harsh winds.

  42. Disclaimer: I don’t think three-quarter-length down coats look very good on anyone, but it’s not me getting the coat, so that’s not a problem…BUT, I don’t think they look especially bad on fat people (compared to a similar coat on a thin person). So if you like them, I think you’re safe.

    If you do happen to look a bit like the Michelin man in it, there are worse things in the world than that. And I think being cold is one of them.

  43. Wow, so you and Al *are* an item. I was trying to tell based on your writings. I always thought of him as a bit of a jerk – I hope you’ve reformed him. ;)

  44. If it keeps you warm, go for it.

    My mother-in-law is a small woman and it is a running joke that her 3/4-length down coat is her “Kenny coat” because you can barely see HER in it. (Kenny from South Park.) Anyways, like others have said, they’re not for fashion, they’re from comfort.

  45. I guess you didn’t leave room for more layers in the parka?

    I actually bought myself a nice wool coat for winter this year for the first time ever. Not that it gets properly Chicago style cold here. Previously it’s always seemed too expensive, especially when I’m not sure I’m going to be the same size next year. Still don’t know, but if I’m not I’ll buy another one then.

    Mind you the fact they were surprisingly cheap in Evans helps :) On cold days I make sure I have a jumper or my little fleece hoodie underneath, or both.

  46. I have a Lands End down coat. I just bought it this year from last year’s overstocks, in Wild Rose, with matching waterproof Squall Gloves (also bought from overstocks) I wore the Stadium Squall for a couple of years and loved it; I just didn’t love the fact that they didn’t make it in Classic Red anymore, so I switched to the down coat, with a hood (I don’t give a shit if I look puffy, I have to keep my head warm), and yeah, the below-knee length (ditto, my thighs get cold). I am a huge cold-weather wimp, and it doesn’t even get that cold in PDX, but I’m a bus-rider too, and I don’t want to be standing out there waiting in the cold rain without maximal protection. There are also storm cuffs in it, which I also love.

    Agreed that the sizing runs large and that they probably assume you are going to be holding your 2-year-old inside the coat with you. I bought an XL petite (18-20) and am now swimming in it. Oh well. Better that than it should be too tight and then I hold up an arm and RIIIIIP.

    Given the fact that I found the Stadium Squall about perfect for how cold it ever gets here (maybe in the low 30s/upper 20s), you might find it lacking in oomph for a Chicago winter as I’ve heard it described, I dunno. Can you go to Sears and try one out? If they don’t have a Stadium Squall they probably have a regular Squall jacket (same thickness, much shorter length) you can try. They also make an Extreme Squall which I understand is much warmer, although I think the maximum length for it is parka.

  47. Okay, funny thing about Land’s End sizing. I definitely expect them to run big, and I just checked the size on my parka, to see if I’d ordered petite XL or L. (‘Cause I think I’m probably getting another LE coat, after all this.) Turns out I ordered the petite XL, which is — as Meowser just said, 18/20 — not 14/16, which is what I’d usually order. (I’m a petite XL everywhere else — straight 16/18 — so I probably just had a brain fart on that order.)

    The coat actually fits pretty well — it seemed a smidge big when I got it, but there’s a drawstring inside the waist that I yanked as tight as possible, and I figured I’d be putting bulky sweaters and such under it. But now I’m wondering if the reason it doesn’t keep me warm enough is that it’s too damn big. Oops.

  48. “Somehow, I don’t think he’d have the same reaction to me, but I don’t really care.”

    I think you might need to change your desired outcome from super sophisticated hott woman* to super cute and fun woman. Because seriously–down + woman, (especially petite women) =absolutely, huggably adorable. This is the equation for people of any size, because puffy down-ness is the great size and bulk equalizer. Anyone who tells you anything else is either lying or trying to make you feel bad.

    But in going back to your original post, is looking like the Michelin Man so very terrible? Really? With cute toque and scarf and mitts and great boots?

    Perhaps my Cdn-ness gives me an entirely different definition of fashion. Last year a columnist in the Globe and Mail even did a piece about the cuteness and desireability of a long down coat with a fuzzy hood, so maybe you’d just look Canadian. Which I think is fine…but YMMV. ;)

    *this is an assumption I am making, and it might be totally off.

  49. No time to read through all the comments, but I want to say something about QVC and their large sizes… they work very hard with their designers, INSISTING design consistency from size to size. Where ever the seam falls on an extra small, it will fall proportionately in the same place on a 3X. I have never bought clothing from them, (other items though) but I know this is true.

  50. Last year a columnist in the Globe and Mail even did a piece about the cuteness and desireability of a long down coat with a fuzzy hood, so maybe you’d just look Canadian.

    Heh. Well, I am half-Canadian (that would be my dad’s side — see comment about him above) and did live there for years, so I guess I could just use that argument.

  51. A dress wool coat can last you for eons.

    Yeah, unless your weight fluctuates. :) Thanks again, Lexapro!

    On a related note, I just got some fleece-lined boots last week and I am fucking delighted with them already. I learned my lesson last year: every winter item needs to be lined with every imaginable fabric to make it through a Chicago February.

    Oh, hell yeah. I have both insulated comfort boots and extreme squall boots in rotation. And that might not be enough.

    I’d definitely go for a hood. Who needs to worry about keeping track of a hat?

    See, I’m totally a hat person, and can’t stand the lack of peripheral vision with a hood — but a hood would be nice for days when I don’t want to fuck up my hair. Decisions, decisions.

  52. Land’s End is AWESOME. I’m too fat to wear anything they make now, but I once bought a fleece parka from them (just right for the wet Northwest winters). That thing lasted over a decade. The only reason I had to retire it was because my mom kept stealing it and throwing it in the dryer on high heat which broke down the fleece to the point that the slightest breeze cut right through it.

    Still, I highly recommend their coats because that jacket was the softest, warmest, longest lasting thing I ever wore. I’d still have it if not for the high heat setting.

    As for fashion, as long as you are warm, comfortable, and HAPPY in what you are wearing, who cares? I tried being fashionable for a long time and never pulled it off because I was so uncomfortable.

    I wear ankle length rayon skirts with sneakers and frumpy tunics and sweaters because that’s what I like, slightly feminine and VERY comfortable. I get compliments all the time. Clothes don’t make you look good. You make clothes look good when you wear something that fits your comfort level as well as it fits your body.

    Buy a coat you LOVE.

  53. Can a fat girl pull off a three-quarter-length down coat without looking like the Michelin man?

    Everyone looks like the Michelin man in a down coat – man, woman, adult, child, fat, thin. :D Screw the look, go for the warmth!

    If you are sensitive to down pillows Kate, you might be okay with a coat. I can’t do down pillows or anything else, by my down puffy vest is the snuggliest thing ever and I don’t react as long as there is a layer between me and the vest!

  54. Lands End customer service rocks. I got my Squall parka by calling their customer service line and informing the person who answered I was cold, holding a check book and a tape measure, and drinking a hot buttered rum.

    “Sounds like we’re set!” she said brightly and proceeded to help me figure out what size to order. She asked what kind of clothing I’d be wearing under the coat most often, what weather I’d be dealing with and what my activity levels while outdoors are usually like, as well as my height and measurements.

    It’s gotten me through several rather cold wet winters now in toasty dry happiness. It also fits like a dream.

    The velcro over the zipper is useful when I am over at the Oregon coast, where the wind can just suck the heat out of you. And it has so many pockets I owned the coat for eight weeks before I found them all. (Seriously. Standing there one day waiting for my ride and ‘hey, there’s a pocket here on the zipper flap! ‘)

  55. Yeah. No idea who Hedda is, but… okay.

    And further coat comments are welcome, of course, but I actually just ordered the Land’s End one. I decided my hat-loving self didn’t need to pay so much extra for a hood, and I’ve always been happy with their quality. I got this one in PL, so we’ll see if it fits better than the parka — or is too damned tight over my hips, which is always a fear. (All of this came about because I had to replace an LL Bean PL coat due to hips becoming categorically XL.) We’ll see.

    Thanks for your help, everyone!

  56. *no one* can pull off a down parka without looking like the michelin man. no one at all.

    i prefer to say that i look like the staypuf marshmellow man, however.

  57. Kate I hope it works for you!

    And I completely agree with fillyjon re: Lands End running large. The Weatherfield I bought in 1X and it’s a bit too big, but I figured it’d go fine with a sweater (let me just say that there are some sections of UMN buildings that require sweaters or jackets in the winter and I don’t like looking like a doofus with my jacket on all the time) and it comes down to abut 3.5 inches above my knees.

    I’ll admit it, I’m in lust with that jacket and will love it come this winter when I have to go to Kitt Peak or Mauna Kea. So many years living in Southern Arizona and LA made me forget that jackets really are needed in winter on top of very high mountains.

  58. The puffiness of down jackets and coats was a part of their appeal, back in the 70s and 80s. It was supposed to be a fun look, not a dignified one — woodsy, roly-poly and cute as a bug’s ear!

  59. I can’t wear down coats because I tolerate heat extremely well. When I was in college in upstate NY, I’d have a sweater and a wool peacoat and that would be it. (With hat and gloves, of course.) In a windchill of 20 below. I am a freak, though!

    My mom has the non-hooded L.L. Bean coat and loves it – and she’s tiny and always freezing. It goes down to about her calves, it’s fantastic. She looks like she’s shuffling around in a sleeping bag.

  60. I think you will look like a snow woman! Which is a compliment, really it is! I love when I bundle up and look like a snow woman. It’s a very adorable look.

  61. I like the Land’s End one, it looks like it’s as well cut as a poofy thing can be :-) I’m going through the same question myself in Michigan, it’s time for a coat as the multiple layers of sweaters just aren’t cutting it any more. I have cats who can actually shed white hair into a hermetically sealed clean room from six blocks away, so wool is definitely out!

  62. Maine native here, who has done thousands of dollars worth of business with Bean over more than 25 years & considerable business with Land’s End. No one can beat the quality, the service, & the guarantees of these two places; Bean is definitely the best business in the world with whom to do business (I buy almost ALL my clothing by mail order) & Land’s End is a close #2. You can own an item ten or 15 years, send it back with no explanation necessary, & get a full refund or replacement. Both stores tend to run a bit large on their sizing, Land’s End a bit moreso, & both do carry some clothes in plus sizes, though I will admit that Land’s End has a LOT more than Bean. I love LLBean, but this is a topic about which I have sent them numerous mails & had some phone conversations with their representatives. Most of the styles I like best do not come in plus sizes. And, for some unknown reason, they did for several years carry plus size jeans up to 26W, but have now decided that women over a size 22W do not deserve to wear jeans. Overall, though, I can endorse doing business with either company, but Land’s End is showing more respect for the larger woman & more interest in selling to her.

  63. PS. Bean has totally free shipping until December 21 & delivers by Fedex. Most instock items arrive in 3 to 6 days. I just ordered snow pants & boots for my 2-year-old granddaughter.

  64. I’m skipping a lot of comments to answer your question, Kate, since I’m at work and stuff so I hope I’m not repeating anything someone else said but ANYWAY:

    Wait, question — do you ever find yourself TOO warm in the SS Parka? ‘Cause that’s another fear — having a jacket that’s great for warmer days and one that’s great for ass-freezing days, but nothing for the many in-between days.

    I, like a good Chicagoan, have a light, medium, and heavy coat. The SSP is my heavy coat. I usually bust it out when the temps fall into the mid-30s, maybe a little higher if I don’t have any clean sweaters to wear under my medium coat. I’ve only been hot in the coat when it’s been too hot outside for any winter coat. I also vary my underlayers depending on the temp. (The outerwear algorithms are complicated, yes.)

    A note on Land’s End sizing… I am 5’6″, 200+, 38 D(maybe DD, even), generally wear a straight 16 or 18 or 14W-16W or XL, 1X in most stores, and I will reiterate that although it is tight and not the most flattering thing I could put on, my MEDIUM, as in 10-12 range, SSP fits well enough that I wear it every day, weather permitting, and am not totally freaking out about it, nor am I uncomfortable in it. I also have a bunch of Lands End twinsets in medium and again, I wouldn’t buy that size if I were shopping today, but they work well enough until I can add some dollars to the clothing budget.

  65. I bought the LL Bean one (the full length one) two winters ago when we lived on the Brooklyn waterfront (the wind coming off of the East River is a mutha fugga!!!) and I was walking my dog three times a day. Definitely the warmest coat I’ve ever had, and the extra length hid my pajama bottoms or whatever unfashionable comfort wear I happened to have on when the dog needed to pee.

  66. I’m in the southern part of Australia, so there’s no need for coats of such extreme toastiness, but sometimes I’d like *something* warmer than what I’ve got. But I have incredible trouble just getting something that is wide enough at the hips but doesn’t swim at the shoulders. There is NOTHING here. It’s INFURIATING. Do coats over there cater for, like, actual shape?

  67. the extra length hid my pajama bottoms or whatever unfashionable comfort wear I happened to have on when the dog needed to pee.

    This is also key. I’m fine with pj bottoms or yoga pants peeking out from under a 3/4 length coat, but not the current parka. And the only GOOD thing about winter is having a coat to cover that up so I don’t have to put real pants on to take the dogs out!

  68. At 5’6″ and 120 lbs, I looked like the Michelin Man in my down jacket. I don’t look any bigger (or smaller) now that I’m 160 lbs. Mine is a hip length one, because until fairly recently (like this year) the worst winter temperatures I had to deal with were about 0F. This year, I have good reason to expect at least a week of -10F.

    Mine is L.L. Bean, size medium and I’m utterly happy with it. If I remember right, I picked the size based on my hip size rather than bust size because if I want something to fit over my hips I should buy to *fit* them. There is enough room to fit me, an undershirt, a long sleeve shirt and a heavy sweater or polarfleece under the jacket.

  69. Having visited Chicago in just April and shivering my butt off at times…I don’t know how you can say no to the cozy warmth of a down jacket!

    Personally, I always thought anyone and everyone looked like the Michelin Man in down jackets – its part of the cuteness of them. I had a 5’1″, 140 and loved her down jacket for its mystery appeal, as she put it: “Am I 110? 210? You can’t tell under all this puff! *insert slightly maniacal laugh*”

  70. I’ve got to say, this is not a question I’d ever think to ask. If I wanted down I’d wear down. I actually have a Land’s End down vest (gift from my mom) which is the boxiest thing ever…unfortunately I’m not much of a vest person.

    This thread is reminding me I’m going to Wisconsin in 2 weeks and really have nothing appropriate to the climate and in good repair, though, ugh. Maybe I’ll order a parka and have it shipped home ahead of me.

  71. Maybe I’ll order a parka and have it shipped home ahead of me.

    I read this as “maybe I’ll order a parka and have it shipped home instead of me,” which I think is actually a good way to deal with family visits.

  72. I had just this debate with friends of mine, and ended up with a Lands End coat similar to the one you link, and it is warm and cute, I think. I stood outside for two hours in the blustery snow in Upstate NY yesterday and was toasty warm with just a button down underneath.

    The argument that convinced me to buy it was a friend quoting a friend of hers, saying “In my down coat, no one can tell if I am a big mother-fucker in an itty-bitty coat or an itty-bitty guy in a big mother-fucking coat!”

    So– go down, choose down.

  73. One of the few actual joys about being fat for me is never needing to worry if I look fat in something! I do, because I’m, y’know, fat. I always get the warmest thickest garment available. :) That said, I’m a size 32, and naturally 14/16 folks have a different experience.

  74. I converted to the ankle-length down coat with faux-fur trimmed hood after just one cold month of waiting for the subway on the elevated platform at Astoria Blvd, in Queens. Anything else I wore was totally useless against the wind whipping up from Hell’s Gate.

    And yes, I probably looked like a dork. But I was a warm dork.

    Now that I live on the Central Coast of California, I barely need a coat. An Eileen Fisher boiled wool coat does what I need most of the time.

  75. I’ve been working at Old Navy for years now, and I’ve seen every shape and size, in everything they should and shouldn’t wear. Even Twiggy would look a little bulky in a puffy coat, no worries. If I could suggest getting a puffy coat that is quilted–squares sewn instead of big rows of down sewn–it looks much better and takes away from the overall size of the coat and avoids the horizontal line problem you should avoid with larger sizes. Much more flattering quilted, I say. Good luck

  76. Ummm, everyone looks like the Michelin Man in down coats, whether they weigh 100 pounds or 300 pounds.

    Out of the three coats, I like the first one the best.

  77. I have a down vest from Lands’ End that I love, and I’ve been working the wool peacoat for a couple of years now — but I think I really need that LL Bean Ultrawarm Jacket. (This is my second Baltimore winter and apparently I have gotten used to not being cold. I wear more hats, scarves, and mittens now than I ever did growing up in Michigan.)

  78. Kate, what do you think of the Chelsea parka? I’m seriously thinking of getting it, and you and I are about the same size.

  79. Yay for this topic! This year I also have the down-jacket bee in my bonnet– but it’s more of a fashion bee than a staying-warm bee. All of a sudden, they strike me as strangely appealing. (Of course, I also feel that Swedish clogs are excellent fashion.)

    Although I do feel qualified to comment on coldness, too; Minnesotans (and some Canadians) have special authority on this topic. My warmest coat is a vintage persian lamb eBay find– basically like shearling but more sophisticated– but it weighs about 20 million pounds. The day-to-day coat is wool. If it’s above about 25F, then I can do the mod leather swing coat or the boucle-with-fur-collar jacket. But all my coats are pretty dressy; a down coat/jacket is appealing because it could be as warm as the persian lamb, but a little more casual and jeans-friendly.

    Also? You can be bundled up and still totally fabulous! Cute hat, cute scarf, mittens, a pin or other decoration on your collar… Fabulousness. Seriously. Think of your coat as the backdrop for your cute wool (or, ideally, cashmere) winter accessories. And if you don’t have cute winter accessories, I suggest going to http://www.etsy.com and obtaining some handmade ones.

    My vote is for the Lands’ End coat, but 1) I am not a hood person, and 2) fake fur just says “stuffed animal” to me.

  80. Kate, what do you think of the Chelsea parka?

    I like it a lot, and just wore it tonight walking around downtown in 30-degree weather and driving snow (cotton ribbed turtleneck under it), and was much more pleased than I expected to be. Very water resistant and fairly wind resistant. If you zip it all the way up, it’s good around the neck. (I always wear a bulky scarf, though.) And with a hat, scarf, and gloves, not at all bad in 30 degrees.

    My two complaints are that it’s not long enough for my tastes, and the pockets can only be accessed from the top, not the sides. (I’ve gotten used to that now, but it pissed me off a lot at first.) Other than that, it’s definitely a good coat — and about as flattering as parkas get. Not very bulky, all things considered, and about the same weight as a wool coat — a little lighter maybe. It’s just not going to get me through a winter of really low temps and insane wind.

  81. Oh man. My feet are like ice blocks and I have 3 different Bean footwear windows open right now counting slippers. I so know what I’m getting for Christmas.

    I hope your coat is perfect!

  82. All this talk of Michelin men and Stay-Puft marshmallow men is making me picture an army of Shapelings rolling down the street in giant puffy coats, obliterating all that they pass… it’s kind of hilariously awesome as a mental image. We are legion, and we are warm and cozy!

    Also, I saw a girl today struggling against the 40 mph wind and the snow flurries wearing a skirt and Uggs. And she looked cold and miserable. (And stumpy, because Uggs are evil and make Kate Moss look stumpy.) Why do people do this to themselves?

  83. for years now I have worn puffy down coats that made little me look like a big round blob and they are THE BEST THING EVER because I am WARM and I HATE BEING COLD.

    Actually my current down coat is less ludicrously round than my old one, but it is also hip-length and hoodless, and I supplement with this fleece-lined parka that is much too large so it comes down to my feet and I wear it over layers of sweaters and it looks even more ridiculous than the old down. But it is SO WORTH IT because there’s no other way I’m getting to an 8 am class when it’s -10 and windy (screw you too, Iowa winters). So, another vote to go for the down. Down coats are awesome, even if the high school kids do make fun of you for looking like a turtle behind your back (true story).

    I like the third one myself, mostly because it comes in the most interesting colors.

  84. My hubby and I both have men’s “mechanic” style coats with fleece lining and corduroy details that have stood up so far to sub-freezing temperatures. His was bought at a Casual Male XL and mine through I think the online store of Old Navy. They’re not stylish in the least, and on a 5′ 9″ woman they hit just under the butt for length so one would be longer on you. I prefer them to looking like a stuffed and rolled piece of beef in my hubby’s bubble jacket, especially since his jacket is a Starter with a team logo and I live and work in an area where I could be mugged for it.

    I think, rack of doom notwithstanding, you’re probably slender enough to pull off the bubble jacket without looking like an advertisement for tires, but I also think you might miss having the extra coverage that a longer coat might give you.

    (ON’s closest version online is a “Sherpa Lined Cord Jacket” in something regrettably called ‘moose brown’.)

  85. Gah, strike that last bit about missing the extra length, I thought you meant one of those short jackets that’s a chest only dealie (and a lot more bubble like).

    Personal quirk, I don’t like anything lined on the inside with a slippery lining. I like stuff that’s going to feel warm as soon as I put it on, not warm up eventually as I wear it.

  86. Yes yes yes!!! Mine is pumpkin colored and it’s straight up and down. It’s the 3/4 length one from L.L. Bean with a puffy faux-fur lining on the hood. I LOVE it. Down is SO warm and it has fleece wrist warmers that keep the coat from moving around and exposing your poor arms to winter wind.

    OK, it’s not exactly slimming, but that’s not the point. A size 2 girl would look like a marshmallow. A cute, brightly colored marshmallow.

  87. For me, the fat acceptance movement is largely about women refusing to be defined by thier bodies. When we exploit animals be eating. wearing, or otherwise using them for our entertainment/ amusement, we reduce them to the very status of objects we rail against when it comes to humans.

    “Fuck em?” Hmmm… I wonder if that response would be condoned or encouraged (“hee hee”) in a discussion about any other form of exlpoitation.

  88. Many of us don’t put animals on the same level as people. Of course we exploit them. We’re omnivores. Most of us eat animals. And, after we eat them, it’s a good idea to use as many as their parts as possible, in order to avoid being wasteful and to respect the value of the animal. Would you rather have the byproducts of the meat industry (things like feather and leather) rot away rather than being used?

  89. I knew I shouldn’t have said that.

    I am not an animal rights activist. I understand and to some degree sympathize with those who are, but it’s not a hot button for me. I find down to be efficacious in keeping me warm in the winter, and, to me, that outweighs the conditions under which the down is collected.

    I am aware this makes me a terrible person, and that I will probably come back as a duck. But in the meantime, I’m warm.

    Please don’t derail Kate’s thread.

  90. Oh shit, luckyliz is a Baltimoron? That does it, we have to set up local Shapeling groups yesterday.

    Lina, it was Douglas Adams who said “fuck ‘em,” so take it up with him. It’ll take some doing.

  91. Pingback: Fat Acceptance the Same as Animal Rights? « The Long and Winding Road

  92. As someone who is literally allergic to the cold, who cares if you look puffy? Down is so warm that it becomes irrelevant.

    For good reliable discount codes on stuff like this, I suggest scouring Retail Me Not. It’s a little late for this purchase, but a good place to look for deals in the future. When it comes to a fancy winter coat that won’t have sizing issues, why not a heavy wool or velvet cape? I’ve used the same one for years and while it’s not the best at -5 degree weather, it is really good for almost all cold fancy event times and isn’t affected by any gain/loss of weight. Plus, a dress event is about the only time you can wear a cape without looking like you’re going to a renn faire.

  93. Oh shit, luckyliz is a Baltimoron? That does it, we have to set up local Shapeling groups yesterday.

    Fillyjonk – Absolutely! Though I don’t know if I qualify as a Baltimoron yet. I’ve only been here for a year and a half, and I’m actually in a suburb. I can’t afford the city.

  94. I know I’m so late to this thread, but: I too was sick of my wool peacoats. Actually wasn’t so much sick of them as “the two I own actually no longer fit me bc I gained another 15 lb this year and they were a bit snug last year”, but whatever.

    I went out and bought a poofy WHITE down coat and I absolutely love it. I could give a rat’s ass that it makes me look 2x as fat as I am (it reall does) or that I honestly do look just a little like the michelin man (it’s white, after all), or that I had to buy it from the women’s section at Macy’s bc (gasp!) the XL from the straight section which would have fit me last year…didn’t. I just love wearing it, and being so warm, and was glad that for once they actually had the exact same coat I tried on in XL in the straight section in a plus size.

    Oh, and it was 40% off. Can’t go wrong. I alos really like the blue one, by the way.

  95. How dare you instruct me not to “derail” the thread. Sh put up pictures of down filled coats, and should be open to criticism about thier appearance, materials, etc.
    “We are omnivores.”
    Speak for yourself hon!
    And no, it does not matter to me whether someone uses the whole animal or a tiny fraction. You believe it is ok to torture and kill animals for your eating and wearing pleasure, I believe it is immoral. We differ. But don’t try to explain your position using psuedo- science or “well, that’s the way we’ve always done things, so…” Think of what horrors those justifications have been used to justify.

  96. How dare you instruct me not to “derail” the thread.

    Lina, she may not have been speaking officially for the blog, but I would have said the same thing if I’d gotten there first.

    You’ve said your piece. Some people here agree with you, others don’t. You’ve provided plenty of information for people to come to their own conclusions.

    Beyond that, a discussion of animal rights is WAY beyond the purview of this blog or this thread, so yeah, you’re derailing. Please stop posting about this issue here.

  97. I wanted to follow-up. I have been officially diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. I started my medicine today.

    I called my mother earlier to let her know. She immediately points out that I really look great this thin and if I watch what I eat I probably don’t need to gain any weight in my recovery.

    Somehow, the story I told a few days ago on this thread I found amusing, but right now I’m not feeling amused at all. I’m really pissed off. I have a fucking autoimmune disease, maybe she can worry about my health and well being instead of the goddamn size of my ass. Of course I’m going to gain weight! My metabolism has gone crazy on me and fixing it will burn ways less calories than I’m currently burning. I’d have to go on a starvation diet to maintain and I’m not going to do that! No fucking way!

    Anyway, I’ll get over it, I just needed to vent and I thought you’d all understand where I’m coming from. Thanks for being an oasis of sanity in an insane world!

  98. Oh, man, Rose, I’m glad you’ve got a diagnosis, but I’m sorry it sucks, and I’m REALLY sorry your mom said that. I would say “unbelievable,” except it’s so totally believable. And typical of so many moms. Grrr.

  99. Rose, that was really innappropriate. I know it would be hard and maybe even impossible, but it might make you feel better to call your mom out? Because if she doesn’t understand how offensive her comments are to someone with Real. Health. Problem. she may very well keep making them, which certainly won’t do a damn bit of good except piss you off more.

    Grain of salt ‘course. We’re all here for venting, natch.

  100. Okay, I’m sorry I’m late, and I can’t read all these comments or derailments or whatever, but I just wanted to say,

    Kate, everyone looks like the Michelen Tire Man in a down coat. Fat has no impact.

  101. maewyn and fillyjonk – I’m in Owings Mills, but I work at JHU so I’m close to downtown for work…a meet-up would be fun!

  102. Oh, Rose, I’m so sorry. Maybe you should have your doctor explain all this stuff to her, maybe she’ll be more likely to get it if she hears it from a Health Care Professional. At least you recognize it for the irrationality it is, though, congratulations!

  103. Just be careful of layering up underneath a down coat. I did that, and slipped on a patch of ice, landing on my back and rolling around like a bug before I managed to get myself back up!
    Ah, winter! This is why I now live in California.

  104. BTW, just wanted to add that a down coat will keep you warm and happy (as long as you don’t slip on the ice).

  105. Pingback: Animal Rights & Fat Acceptance : BigBoyBlog

  106. Coming in late on this, I just want to put in a shout out to LL Bean’s flannel-lined jeans. TOASTY!!!

    Also, I wear my warm Weatherfield jacket under my prettier (but not as warm) wool coat with the flattering waist.

    And then I can barely button my pretty wool coat, what with the GGinormous tatas.

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