Staying Warm When You Can’t Wear Wool


how to stay warm and look stylish when you can't wear woolHi Imogen,
let me first tell you how much I appreciate all the information you share on your website, it has helped me tremendously in my goal to get more comfortable in my own body and improving my body image, so Thank you!
The cold weather is coming soon. I have rather recently developed a strong allergy against all animal hair, and I was so miserable last winter. I can’t wear my wool sweaters anymore, cotton is to cold and polyester fleece is never ever under no circumstances stylish.. I resorted to thermal underwear and polyacryl/polyamid pullovers, but they tend to look rather cheap-
Maybe you have an idea I didn’t think of, I’m rather lost and I can’t be the only one..?
All the Best, Edith

Fabrics to Keep You Warm and Stylish in Winter

This is a tricky one as warmer fabrics tend to be made from animal fibres (wool, cashmere, angora, fur) or plastic (polar fleece) which is fine for outdoor leisure activities but not the day to day.

Wool is a great fabric, particularly fine merino, but I know it’s not an option for many who find it scratchy.

I personally don’t like acrylic as it wears badly and quickly and looks cheap.

Layering is the only way to go with some of those less breathable fabrics underneath.  Cotton is not good next to the skin in winter as when it’s wet (from any sweat) it will actually make you colder.

You can get good thermal underwear and that would be essential, and add an extra polyester cami underneath.

Then keep on adding fine layers of fabrics that include polyester which hold in heat before adding a jacket layer which must have a lining.   Uniqlo make a fabric called “heattech” which you can layer underneath many clothes that really help to keep you warmer.

You could try velvet jackets (with a lining)

Leather (if you are not allergic) for jacketswhat to wear in winter to stay warm

Faux fur (I’ve personally found this is a great option and the fluff of it helps to trap heat).

Silk (if you’re not allergic) for all sorts of layers and thermals.

Keeping your hands and feet warm will help in staving off the cold (thicker socks).

Knee high boots are great (some are lined too with an extra thermal layer) and they can be worn over denim jeans or opaque tights to keep your feet and legs warmer.

Here are some more resources on staying warm:

My Style: Stay Warm

How to stay warm without the bulk

The Finishing Touch


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  • Hi Imogen! I was very interested I your reply on what to wear when you can’t wear wool and animal hair.
    I have that problem plus another that I’m so hoping you can help me with.
    I have an autoimmune disorder such that when I wear tight things against my arms and legs the seams and/or the fabric pressing against my skin cause terrible itching. Even tight socks.
    I wear cotton as much as I can but my clothes need to be loose or drapey. I’m 5’2″ and a bit overweight.
    I want to be stylish ! Please help – what can I wear?

    • Judy – tricky issue and I’m not exactly sure how to advise you as these things can be quite personal. I’d guess that you want everything tailored as close as is comfortable but avoid baggy.

  • I’m in the same boat as your reader, and I’ve found scarves to be wonderful. They add a lot of warmth, they’re stylish (for now, at least!), and the acrylic ones don’t look bad/pill easily/make me sweat, the way acrylic sweaters do. I also wear a lot of jackets and boots. It’s amazing how warm a pair of riding boots over jeans can be.

    I’m a short X or hourglass, depending on weight, so I really don’t like to layer a lot; it just makes me look lost in fabric. But a nicely fitted jacket and scarf with boots keep me warm and allow me to still have a figure.

  • My daughter has psoriasis and can’t wear wool next to her skin. I purchased a bamboo underlayer (leggings and long-sleeved top) and she wears a wool layer over them.

    We have recently moved to Melbourne which is quite a bit colder than where we lived previously and have found that keeping our necks, hands, feet and ears warm are the key to being warm for us. With that in mind I bought my daughter bamboo socks and scarves, leather and cotton (Dents brand from Myer so you can use your electronic devices) gloves.

    I would probably wear the cheaper looking layer next to my skin, if I didn’t have two bamboo layers and wear bamboo as the outer layer. Bamboo does not look cheap plus holds its colour and shape wash after wash. Bamboo does take longer to dry than other fabrics so we buy some socks in a bamboo/cotton mix to reduce drying time. My husband puts his bamboo items through the dryer regularly and this does not seem to have an adverse affect on the items in the short term. Best wishes for staying warm.

  • Thank you this information Imogen. I don’t wear any animal products (for ethical reasons) which includes wool, leather, fur, feathers etc so this was very helpful 🙂

  • Silk is another base layer option, if it doesn’t trigger allergies. It’s thin and warm. (Google silk thermals)

  • I am very sensitive, to cold, fabrics and seams and sometimes wear my underlayers inside out so that seams don’t irritate me. I find the stitching on my tops or underwear is more irritating than the fabric. Although I would never wear wool next to my skin and have heattech for when it gets really cold, I do wear (2nd hand) cashmere over a thick cotton long sleeve top. I find fabric softener helps me keep my cashmere turtlenecks soft enough to wear around the neck but tucking a scarf in underneath is another option for me. It must be very difficult to have to avoid all animal fibres!

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