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In search of the not-awful parka


Over the years, there are a handful of shopping questions that I’ve been asked repeatedly. And possibly the one in highest rotation has been: Kim! Where are all the good winter parkas? It’s a question I myself struggled with for ages before discovering the wonder that is the Spiewak Snorkel Parka. Super-warm and not too bulky, with a look that bridges the outdoorsy/rugged and tough/urban divide quite satisfactorily.

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Many have also asked: Is there such thing as very stylish longer-length parka? To this I say, manage your expectations. There is  something about taking the basic  parka shape and then stretching it that appears to defy chic. Better just to try a good mid-knee length, like this piece,  also from Spiewak. The collar’s nice and sophisticated, and I like how the puffy rings aren’t too symmetrical and Michelin Man. So much more flattering.


Luxury site Ssense is Canadian, so it would only figure that they’d have some pretty memorable down jackets. I am all over this this very sportif one from Parajumpers, which also comes in black.


Impossibly expensive but perfect beyond reason: a down jacket with a heather charcoal wool exterior.

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And for those  times when only knee-length or lower will suffice: you could do a whole lot worse than this hooded coat coat from LL Bean. The design is pretty clean—I’ve seen very similar looks from rather fancy designers that go for a lot more—and it keeps you warm in -5 degree weather.  Which is the exact temperature when style goes out the window anyway, so you’ll be way ahead of the game.



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Posted on January 23rd, 2013 11 Comments

11 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    I love your “too damn cold” tag. That’s exactly what it is right now (I’m in Pittsburgh, PA). I can deal with the 20’s, but once it goes below that I don’t want to go out. These coats are quite nice, though. And I completely agree about the “long very stylish parkas”. I do have a dilemma with down coats, however, ever since a friend forwarded something about where they get the feathers for the down. Could I possibly hope for a cruelty-free down coat?

  2. It’s going to be 70 here in Denver today, so warmer weather is headed your way.

    And I loathe fur trim (real or faux) around parka hoods. When did this become necessary?

  3. Giulia says:

    I got a great parka from Massimo Dutti (Zara’s older sister brand – do you get that in the States?). It was part of their New York range, which is on sale. It mixes navy and black and is nicely edgy. It’s also oversized so I can wear another coat underneath it. Perfection.

  4. Sara says:

    I don’t recommend the Parajumpers one- I tried it on in a shop once, and it had too much “stuff” hanging off of it. Plus it didn’t seem super warm.
    I found the perfect one a couple years ago and still love it. It is the arctic down parka from Woolrich John Rich & Bros, which I think is an Italian offshoot of good ol’ Woolrich. Their webshop is, and I also saw them on It seems warm enough for an arctic expedition, and yet I don’t feel like George Costanza when I wear it in the city.

  5. Katharine says:

    I have found the beautiful, sexy (!) and warm parka; it is also Canadian, and the source is Sicily Clothing. Also not particularly cheap, but I stalked them and got the Chris style in their Boxing Day sale, and couldn’t be more pleased with it. (Not cruelty-free, though, I’m afraid, as they are trimmed with real leather and fur.)

  6. keirele says:

    Not-awful really is the best you can do when it comes to parkas. Montrealers do it right in the winter, though, where it’s -5 on a warm day, plus there’s the wind AND the 2 feet of snow. They steadfastly ignore it or *really* go with it by piling on the parkas, sorels, trapper hats and giant scarves. The key is to a) wear lipstick and b) keep everything else slim and c) pretend your hat-head is really bed-head and affect a tousled Bardot thing.

  7. LeopardPrint says:

    WHAAAAAA, I love Spiewak. Just discovered them this season and am in fact wearing their fishtail parka today. Seeing as how it’s 50 degrees here in the SF bay area. It’s a parka that somehow magically makes me look sleek and slender(er).
    If you’re super budget minded, I found mine at for less than $50!

  8. Katie Lynn says:

    When it gets really cold and I want full-body protection (I wear underarmor knee socks, so basically I am looking at knees-up) I actually just go straight for my wool-cashmere greatcoat. It’s surprisingly warm when zipped up with a big scarf. And I live in Michigan. I spent a half hour walking my dog in windchills of -9 and was perfectly fine.

  9. Tee-Bone says:

    Aritzia has a couple lines with parkas that are crazy-popular in Canada. The TNA and Community ones are especially warm AND nice:,default,pd.html?dwvar_15123_color=3005#start=3

  10. Mimi says:

    I live in a Rocky Mountain ski resort, so parkas are a way of life. Of all the ones I own, my Parajumpers parka is the warmest. I like the whole line, which is sporty, well-made and really cute. I can understand that some of the details might not be ideal for a city look, but they keep the line from being too plain. (Fur haters don’t read on.) A lot of the parka hoods that are trimmed with a skanky strip of fur look awful, but the whole hood of my Parajumpers jacket is lined in luxurious fur. I’m sure it came from an animal who lived on a farm and was treatedy humanely.

  11. Jobeans says:

    Just got the Penfield Hoosac parka and I love it!