NEW YORK (AP) -- Forget snow, ice and rain. The real perils of winter are hat hair, cold fingers and unflattering puffy coats.
The proper outerwear, however, can protect against the elements and protect one's sense of style.
"Down is one of the easiest ways to keep warm. It's airtight. But down or down-esque polyester fills don't have to be a big puff anymore," says Jarlath Mellet, design director and senior vice president of Eddie Bauer.
"The old great quilt coat has been streamlined -- now it looks like a great town coat."
Bulky winter wear usually is warm, Mellet concedes, but it's not always comfortable or easy to move in, leading many outerwear designers took a cue from skiers, who manage to bundle up but maintain a sleek silhouette.
"There aren't as many chunky knits. What you will see are old-fashioned streamlined ski sweaters that fit under jackets."
There is a caveat to that, however. Sweater "jackets," often in a chunky weave, have proved popular this fall and will likely stay around through the winter in warmer climates where the sweater doesn't have to be stuffed into another layer.
Another lesson learned from skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts is using long underwear in silk or a thin high-tech fabric as the base layer, says Mellet.
"The real key in staying warm is what you don't see."
And, he adds, the list of fashion options to wear over the long underwear is endless.
For women getting dressed up, Mellet suggests taking the same down coat you'd wear to run errands or walk the dog -- preferably in black because it's the most versatile -- and put a shawl over it. The shawl instantly adds sophistication to the outfit and it likely will come in handy once the coat comes off to reveal a dress with bare arms or an open neck.
The big story for hats, mittens and scarfs is knit coordinates, according to Mellet. Changing these accessories each year allows one to maintain an always-updated look without replacing the coat, which is typically the most expensive piece of outerwear.
Color-block accessories are a hot look for 2001-2002, and red and winter white are almost always "fashionable" colors, so they're a safe bet as having life beyond a single winter.
Buying a hat is probably the most intimidating part of putting together a chic outerwear wardrobe, acknowledges Victoria McMahon-Croce, a hat wearer and merchandise manager for accessories at Henri Bendel in New York City.
Customers are wary of drawing the attention of onlookers as they pose in front of a mirror, McMahon-Croce says, which is why Bendel's hat department has been moved from a prominent and open showcase to a small room off the beaten path. "Buying a hat is a very intimate experience and you need privacy."
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