Women's gear, up first
Comfortable, practical—and, yes, they actually keep you warm
I got Outdoor Research’s Plaza down skirt on a whim this fall—hey, I like skirts, I like the cold—and it immediately changed my life. And by life I mean outfits. Picture this: I live on a farm in the northwoods, splitting my time, vaguely seasonally, between writing from my couch and training a competitive team of long-distance sled dogs. I regularly chop 40 pounds of frozen venison in a day and consider it an accomplishment when I wash my hair. I live in leggings and long underwear because they’re comfy and transition fairly well from the couch to the dog yard and back again. And then I got this skirt.
First thing: It’s warm. Like way warmer than I expected. Apparently, this is because hot air rises, and the fattier parts of your body (hips and butt, hey!) get chilled more easily, but this down mini made a big difference in my comfort during late fall/early winter days. It’s slightly A-line, which means you can take long strides, and it won’t ride up if, like me, you’ve got bigger thighs and a smaller waist. Plus, it’s purple and adorable.
Newly evangelical about insulated miniskirts, I set out to test and review other options on the market. And my god, most are overwhelmingly mediocre: short expensive tubes that are vaguely stylish in an après-ski-at-a-stand-up-bar sort of way but not particularly warm, practical, or comfortable. They’re not awful so much as tragic. A lost opportunity. If you got one of these skirts, you’d never know what you were missing.
Luckily, a few stood out. Stick with me here.
Outdoor Research Plaza Down Skirt ($110)
Best For: Everything
Outdoor Research’s Plaza down skirt is first on my list for the reasons described above, and it’s held up to some serious abrasion and stays cleanish-looking even when covered in dog hair. Next.
Icebreaker Affinity Skirt Flurry ($100)
Best For: Travel
It may look like just another short expensive tube, but Icebreaker’s Affinity skirt is an excellent short expensive tube. I wouldn’t use this one for manual labor or serious cold, but it’d be great for winter walks or pulling on when you leave the gym. It’s long enough to sit at your waist and still hit midthigh, and the stretchy wool holds its shape nicely. I wore mine on a chilly seven-hour drive to dinner at the in-laws’ and still felt plenty cute upon arrival.
Skhoop Alaska Long Down Skirt ($199)
Best For: Serious cold
I’m obsessed with this garment. It’s not a miniskirt, I know, but it’s as much of a game-changer for me in midwinter subzero temps as the OR skirt was last fall. It is a mitten for your legs. It has more warmth than snow pants with none of that weird bulky-clothing claustrophobia. You can adjust the side zippers to fit the temperature and/or your stride length, pull it easily over pants and snow boots, and, when you’re not wearing it, squash it down to the size of a pair of gloves. I’ve worn it every day this month for shoveling snow, chopping meat, running errands, attending bonfires, and even doing some dogsled training runs. I am genuinely resentful when I can’t wear it because it’s in the wash.
Skhoop, which is woman-owned, calls itself the Original Insulated Skirt Company—the company makes down and synthetic skirts in all lengths, ranging from mini to ankle-length. I also tested the Short Down Skirt, which was great, although I found myself often tugging it back into place. If you’re narrow-hipped, it will probably fit perfectly as-is; otherwise, size up and plan to wear a belt.