The snow has arrived and local image consultant Marybeth Hallmark has a message: "Winter months can be a delight as long as you dress for it."
For many people, that means a puffer jacket. But don't panic. Today's puffers aren't the puffers of the past.
"Puffer jackets have evolved - originally uncomplimentary on even the smallest framed person. The channels were large and bulky. A utility coat to insulate from the chill. As my high school art teacher would repeat: 'form follows function.' That was then," said Hallmark via email.
"Now the silhouette is trimmer; narrow channels of fill and chevron designs control the puffiness. Now you can have a coat that functions as fashion as well as keeping a smile on your face when outdoors," she said.
Hallmark has not one but two of these Western New York winter wardrobe staples. "I personally own a down-filled puffer jacket. The faux-fur collar is extra cozy, keeping body heat in when bracing against Lake Erie winds. I also own a midcalf length for the most blustery days," she said.
Rewind to last February when Victoria Ontman wrote this for Vogue during the run of fall/winter 2016 fashion previews in New York and Europe.
"With fashion month now in full swing, the puffer has re-emerged on the runways in every size, shape, color, and crop imaginable, and is unexpectedly cool. Could the puffer be the It coat next winter?," she asked.
"Next winter" is now. Not that everyone has dashed out to scoop up one of the off-the-shoulder puffer coats shown on the Alexander McQueen runway in London. Or what Ontman called "the-swallow-you-whole toppers" from DKNY in New York, in shiny finishes no less.
Off the runways, puffer vests, jackets and coats are available in a surprising array of styles, colors and prices - from expected brands such as L.L. Bean and Columbia to familiar fashion labels including Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg, Kate Spade New York, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld Paris, Eileen Fisher and Liz Claiborne.
"Designers at every price range show puffer jackets. Find belted and hooded styles, fur-lined or fur-trimmed hoods and collars. Even asymmetrical zipped, moto-style for a fashion-forward look," Hallmark said.
"Arctic inspired and winter-functional, there are a range of 'fill' types: down and feather, poly and other synthetics that replicate the loft of down. Some outdoor-wear companies will note their jackets have 'fill power' and temperature ratings to guide the buyer," she explained.
For her store Turnstyle Designs at 298 Ashland Ave., owner Stephanie Robb landed what she described as "one of the sexiest puffer coats I have ever seen." Earlier this week, there was only one left.
The Italian-made coat, which she priced at $220, features a micro tech polyester filling, shawl collar, nipped-in waist, curved front hem and streamlined ruffled back. It was available in olive, chocolate brown, slate and navy. Last year she even broke down and bought one for herself.
"I wore it to the Kootsie Ball last weekend with my long black dress and a cool hat," said Robb, an artisan jeweler who also co-owns Wild Things on Lexington Avenue.
Robb is spotting many puffer jackets and coats around the Elmwood Village. "I see boxy ones; I see the quilted styles which are cute - sort of like a long jacket - and I've seen some pretty colors like burgundy and bronze," she said.
Colors spotted online from other labels include Brilliant Blue and Mulberry at L.L. Bean. Empire Blue and Cabernet at Lane Bryant. And, for guys, Burnt Orange, Chili Pepper and Yellow at Macy's. And, of course, black is a popular option - sleek and chic.
A tip from Hallmark: "Know when and how you want to wear your jacket or coat. Outdoors at Canalside or Holiday Valley? Or sipping from a hot mug fireside?"
Then choose a puffer that suits your lifestyle, budget and style sense. And keep warm.