If you can't wear wool or animal fibers, join the club. Many people can't wear them because of allergies (which affect one in five Americans), or because they have sensitive skin (along with about half of the rest of America), or because they're vegan. Others simply find the fabrics scratchy. Yet most winter fashion is rife with wool, cashmere, and angora. The coats, the sweaters, the scarves. So does that mean you're left with the dowdy throwbacks? It used to be the case, but not any more.
A few years ago finding a warm, fashionable dress coat without wool was like searching for a diamond in a river. Forget it. Instead you had to buy a cotton/poly trench coat and stuff a fleece jacket under it--or at least that was my experience (and yes, I looked like the Michelin Man, and yes I felt like a fashion disaster next to everyone else in their little tailored J. Crew wool coats looking fab).
Now with so much focus on going green, more mainstream fashion designers and brands are putting out great animal-fiber free coats, sweaters, suits, and accessories--the types of things that used to be off limits if animal fibers made you itch or didn't fit your lifestyle (avoiding animal products, by the way, lowers the carbon footprint by putting less demand on livestock production, thereby lowering greenhouse gas emissions). Whether you're eco-conscious or not, you benefit: It's much easier these days to find great wool-free coats, sweaters and everything else. The problem is you have to know where to look. Here are seven places to check out:
1. VauteCouture.com : The first line of faux-wool coats designed to be fashionable, warm, vegan- and eco-friendly. The coats are more expensive than you'd find in stores because they're made locally using fair trade practices and not mass-produced, but so worth the investment.
2. Nolana-US.com : A shopping site for women featuring only animal-fiber-free fashions from many popular designers like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, and brands like Bebe and Esprit. Full disclosure: I founded this site in order to help others with the same issue I had.
3. Calvin Klein: One of the best brands for wool-free sweaters, dresses and suits that so look like they should be wool. CK is one of my go-to brands.
4. BB Dakota: The last few years BB Dakota seems to have a lot of nice wool-free dress coats, though I haven't seen them in person.
5. Express: I'm impressed with the fact that most items in the store don't contain animal fiber. They also have a nice selection of faux-leather, faux-suede, and faux-fur.
6. Nimli.com : A store that carries only natural, organic and green products, but super-fashionable, nothing dowdy. No coats though.
7. Jessica Simpson coats: I have to give her a shout-out for her faux-wool coats. I purchased a couple this year, and thought her line did a great job of combining warmth with style at a reasonable price. The coats feel like felt, but have a heaviness to them that makes the fabric work.
See? Even if you can't partake of the ubiquitous animal fibers, no reason to give up gorgeous.
Robyn Post is a freelance writer and author, and founder of Nolana-US.com, a shopping site dedicated to animal-fiber-free fashion. After years of searching, she finally found her fashion Holy Grail--a non-wool winter-weight pea coat.