FARGO - Every fall, we pack away summer clothes and brush the dust off our winter coats, preparing for the long winter ahead. It's not long before the snow falls and Midwesterners bundle up to face the cold.
While clothing fashion trends may change in the blink of an eye, outerwear trends move a little slower. (Cue: sigh of relief.)
"There's a lot more of those classic pieces you see year to year," says Niki Larson, a style expert at West Acres Mall. "(Outerwear trends) don't change as drastically as clothing does."
Thankfully, that news comes at an advantage. When trends move more slowly, consumers are able to wear their coats for several seasons. Nonetheless, choosing a coat you not only wear everyday in winter but invest upwards of $300 into requires extensive consideration.
"In our neck of the woods where winter is so dominant, coat trends tend to take precedence," Larson says. "We have the ability to really express our personality through that outerwear."
Keep your eye out for these trends on the racks when winter coats go on sale at the end of the season.
Long and fitted
"Anything that's a little longer has been popular this year," Larson says. "Shorter jackets have kind of fizzled out a bit."
Luckily, the long trend is also warmer.
"It doesn't matter how cute you look if you're freezing. You get over that when you get out of your teens," says Lea Krabbenhoft, an assistant store leader at Scheels.
When it comes to parkas, peacoats and trench coats, fit is also important.
"A lot of women don't want to look boxy," says Scheels women's outerwear manager Sarena Vogel. "(Fitted coats) shape their figure better."
Fashionistas have also embraced furry fabrics.
"Something newer for this season would be all the faux fur and shearling coats," Larson says. "Those have been anywhere; from shorter to longer, it really just depends on what you're buying it for. If it's a true outerwear (coat), it tends to be longer. If it's more of a statement piece, it can be shorter."
While wool is a staple for more formal coats, Larson says suede has also made an appearance, even if just in patches on a pocket or panel.
"As far as statement styles, outerwear has really stepped up its game, creating something a little bit different," Larson says. "If you're into those things, there's plenty of that out there."
When all else fails, neutrals are a safe bet in outerwear.
"Black is always a staple," Larson says. "I don't think that's ever going to go away."
Camel and tan made an appearance in fall and winter while heather gray continues to gain momentum year after year.
"Last year was really good (for the color) but this year is even better. It just continues," says Andrew Herian, men's outerwear manager at Scheels.
From fall hues including rust and green to more feminine shades like pink, several noticeable palettes are visible.
"Usually, you'll see the classic silhouettes in the standard colors, but this season we saw a lot of those classic silhouettes - such as trench and peacoats - in those pops of color, which was fun," Larson says. "Those parkas we all wear all season came in a lot of fun colors this year, whether it was earth tones like green or those purples, reds, pinks. It just gives people the ability to add a little color to a normally very muted color palette."
Fur hoods have become a standard in winter coats and, lucky for ladies, not only are they fashionable, they serve a purpose.
"A lot of women like the hood just because it protects their neck a lot better with the wind," Vogel says.
To create that more fitted look, belts and inner or outer cinching - whether visible or not - are also popular.
"There's a lot of gold hardware," Larson says. "You'll also see how trends transfer over. (There's) a lot of embroidery, especially on those trench and overcoats."
Shearling visible at the seams creates flattering lines, while the ever-popular velvet appeared in details of outerwear as well.
"When choosing a winter coat, as with any article of clothing, go with what feels good," Larson says. "If you're more about comfort and functionality, invest in a long-term piece that fits those needs. If you're after something statement-worthy and trendy, there are many options out there that stand apart from everyday coats. It's all about personal style."
Complete the look
Don't forget accessories to round out your winter look. Here are some trendy ideas.
• Scarves. "Scarves are always standard, but fur scarves have been huge this year," Larson says. Stripes and prints, such as leopard, have also gained popularity.
• Hats. When it comes to hats, both yarn and fur pom hats have been top sellers. "There's not really a color palette that has been standing out," Larson says. "You'll see anything from bright colors to earth tones and pastels, which is kind of nice because then people can choose exactly what they're looking for." "Messy bun" hats by CC also flew off the shelves, allowing women to wear a hat while sporting a high ponytail or bun.
• Mittens and gloves. In general, women tend to look more toward mittens for warmth, but give up the use of their fingers in the process. Thankfully, Krabbenhoft says glove liners - smaller gloves to put on inside mittens - make for easy converting when you need that dexterity.
• Sunglasses. "When you're thinking summer, you think more of the retro glasses, cat eyes or something fun. Winter tends to be more on the functionality side," Larson says. "For women, I think you'll see more of the classic styles, whether its aviators or classic rounds. Not necessarily colored but your black, tortoise shell - something that provides the protection from the very bright snow."