year in review

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Was an Invisible-Under-My-Coat Puffer Jacket

A warm inner layer for when I don’t want to look like the Michelin Man. Photo: courtesy of the Retailer

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls this year, you’ll know that we buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’re asking each editor to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, writer Lori Keong on the whisper-thin Uniqlo puffer she loves.

Last winter, I made the “get” of a lifetime when I spotted a beautiful, stripy vintage coat sandwiched between two muddy brown jackets at Beacon’s Closet. The Peter Pan collar and piped sleeves exuded rich ’60s housewife, and the number of compliments it got me was a sure sign I’d struck consignment gold. The only thing: The coat’s not exactly the warmest on the planet. So when November passed and we were threatened with freezing temperatures, I considered whether to retire my coat for an aggressively puffy thing (the city’s dominant species of outerwear right now).

Then I thought back to some wisdom a friend passed on to me. She’d rather die than be seen in a bulbous Michelin Man puffer and introduced me to the concept of “skinny” puffers (an idea similar in spirit to the removable liner of a field jacket). She wears a barely detectable puffer underneath her favored jacket to stay warm — even on the coldest days — so she always looks enviably streamlined at parties as others are muscling their ten-pound toppers onto a beleaguered rack.

I bought one from Uniqlo: an ultralight down, collarless jacket that’s so paper-thin it’s basically invisible under a coat (no bunching around the shoulders or tightness in the armpit area). It never bubbles up, so you wouldn’t notice any added bulk, and so compact when folded that I always have room in my suitcase. And for how flimsy it looks, it’s incredibly warm: On 30-something degree days, I only need a sweater underneath it and my coat. Any more and I’d risk feverishly sweating in the subway — and for $60, the cost-per-wear is laughable. If you’re looking to bundle up (without going full Canada Goose), it’s the best way to game the system. We’re still cresting 32 degrees for now, but before another snowstorm hits, I’d advise you to layer up — stylishly, of course.

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Compact Jacket

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The Best Thing I Bought This Year Was an Invisible Puffer