As of May 2019, it will officially be a decade we’ve been living in Chicago. That’s right – it was May 2009 that my husband and I packed up our lives in Miami and moved to Illinois. In those early days, we made camp at his parents’ place in New Lenox (it’s near Joliet). One thing I remember realizing early on was that cold here wasn’t limited to just one season. I legit used to think snow only fell in winter, and winter was confined to one season. I was wrong. I’ve been learning how wrong every year since.
This meme has been making its way around social media, and it’s so funny and so true.
We are totally in third winter right now. Chicago looked like a shaken up snowglobe all day on April 14th. Then it heated up to delightful temps in the 60’s and 70s. And right now it’s April 27th and it’s snowing heavily outside my window.
Prince was right. Sometimes it snows in April.
This is the time of year when you keep your winter gear handy because you just never know what tomorrow will bring. It’s technically spring, but winter weather can roll in without much notice. You need to be ready for whatever.
I used to think I had a decent winter coat. I still have it, actually. It’s a heavy chocolate brown coat that I got at an off-price department store retailer. It’s faux suede lined with a faux fur. This isn’t a coat with any kind of filler or technology intended to trap or reflect heat. It’s just a heavy, thick coat. Back in 2009 when it came time to buy my first winter coat, my thinking was “the heavier the coat, the warmer it must be.” I’ve come to realize that isn’t always the case. I dutifully wore it for years – in fact, it’s still in my closet. I had plans to wear it this season. Until the Polar Vortex made me realize I was NOT READY for extreme winter.
It was time to upgrade my whole approach to winter. It was time to investigate real coats, intentionally made for steep temperature declines. It was time for coat technology. All of this was inspired by this Chicago Tribune piece, simply titled Remembering your first Chicago coat, and the other mistakes after it.
After reading it, I quickly realized that I was still holding on to my first Chicago coat and expecting it to perform at a level it was unable to rise to. I was repeating my own Chicago coat mistakes year after year. It was time to find a grown woman’s coat, one intended for form but especially for function. I started shopping around in earnest. I’m done with short insufficient coats. I needed a coat that was longer, one that was intended to shield me from these dangerous temperatures and high winds if I happened to be outside during the coldest weather.
The issue is, there aren’t enough true cold weather brands focusing on and including plus sizes in their selection. Very few brands are rising to the call, and the landscape gets more dismal when you’re looking for sizes beyond 3X. Do these brands think that we don’t also feel cold? We do. And we need coats and flannel lined pants and long johns and wide calf boots to get us through extreme weather, too. We’re still very much an underserved market in super cold weather clothing. I wear a 2X. The brand that best met my polar vortex needs was the classic and venerable LL Bean. They know how to do this outerwear thing! And they offer sizes up to a 3X right now.
I’ve been wanting a classic L.L Bean boot for years now – click here to read a post where I said just that in 2016. Finally for this winter of 2019, I got all the way geared up. The wonderful folks at L.L. Bean heard my cry and allowed me to pick out winter essentials for the season to give them a real trial run. Here’s what I got:
Here I’m wearing the L.L. Bean Maine Mountain Parka – sold out at the moment, but click here to check out their winter coats and outerwear. I love that you can shop their site by size and then by warmth rating – because I knew what we were facing in Chicago, I definitely went for the warmest rating possible! This coat is no joke, super heavy duty and it keeps me warm and dry in the coldest weather. Keep your eyes on their page, coats do sell out but then new pieces pop up as the seasons progress.
My gloves here are by Pendleton – another brand with longevity making clothes and gear for all climates! They have all kinds of cool, unique cold weather accessories.
This is the Warm Core Down Coat. It’s designed with L.L Bean’s DownTek technology, and it falls into their “warmest” category – meaning it’ll keep you warm in light activity up to 10 degrees, and in moderate activity to negative 40 degrees. It’s a lightweight coat but keeps my body so incredibly warm.
These boots are also by L.L Bean, these are their snow boots with tumbled leather and shearling lining, SO plush and comfortable with such excellent tread for walking in slick conditions thanks to their original rubber chain-tread bottom. I walk like a grandma in the cold, guys. I hate walking in snow and ice. These are some heavy duty boots with great trend and their Thinsulate technology, that makes me feel a bit more confident with warmer feet as I make my way around a snowy Chicago.
Underneath it all, the warmth begins with the foundation and I’m rocking L.L Bean’s silk long underwear. I would be lost without long underwear in the winter, it’s a total game changer and IMO and experience, L.L Bean’s is amongst the best. I got a pair for Christmas several years ago and they have lasted so well, and make such a difference. Base layer is everything.
This weather definitely continues to vacillate, and the cold affects my whole mood and sense of well-being. I truly hate snow, ice and cold – living here for a decade has taught me that. At least now I’ve got the gear to get through it, so I don’t resort to shivering or being a hermit for months. Thank you, L.L. Bean! If you wear up to a size 3X, I definitely recommend checking out L.L Bean if you’ve been looking for winter wear that will keep you truly warm, cozy and comfortable. You can visit them at LLBean.com or click here to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
L.L.Bean provided these items for the review and feature. But these opinions and this style is all mine!