How to wear a puffer jacket (and not look like the Michelin Man)

When crop tops and cut-outs are banished to the back of the wardrobe and city streets become black rivers of puffer jackets, you know winter has arrived.

For many people, the problem with pursuing a fully functioning blood circulation is that it requires doubling your mass and looking like a member of the cult of Uniqlo, Kathmandu or North Face.

As the puffer jacket celebrates its 100th birthday, a select group of style leaders are staying warm and keeping their cool by branching out from black, finding their waists with belts and cropped styles or going long with ankle-grazing coats.

Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning wearing puffer jackets at the opening of their PE Nation store in Sydney.Credit:Steven Siewert

“It’s all about proportion and the way you layer,” says Pip Edwards, co-founder of Australian activewear brand PE Nation. “A great way to balance the volume of a puffer jacket is to wear it with leggings or a narrow-cut pant, and we reckon that you should add a statement shoe – we love a biker boot or a really oversized trainer and a heel for a night out.”

For the opening of their first store in Sydney, Edwards and Tregoning lined the racks with puffer jackets, including reversible and belted styles that stretch beyond the basic black most cold commuters default to buying at the checkout.

“There are no rules with puffer jackets,” Tregoning says. “We belt a jacket to create more shape and some of our puffers have a belt option. With colour, it’s the bolder, the better.”

The first puffer jackets developed by Australian adventurer George Finch, called “eiderdown coats”, were made from green parachute material for an expedition to Mount Everest in 1922, so by ignoring black you’re taking a heritage approach.

Melbourne stylist Elliot Garnaut recommends looking slimmer by buying true to size, rather than anticipating layers of chunky cardigans and striped scarves to be worn beneath your jacket.

Power Puffer Posse: Sammy Robinson in a One Mile puffer jacket; Jack Huang in a cropped Dion Lee puffer; Violet Grace Atkinson wearing a Ganni puffer jacket.Credit:Getty

“Most people tend to go up a size, but this can backfire unless you’re a fan of the oversized look,” Garnaut says. “Most puffers are already cut quite generously.”

Another simple styling trick is to wear an on-trend cross-body bag, with a wide strap (logo optional), across your chest.

“This breaks up all the fabric and brings you out from underneath all that material. They’re also pretty fashionable and easy to come by.”

Among the influencers and designers at Australian Fashion Week in May, the puffer jacket was used as paparazzi-bait in dopamine shades, cropped styles and suit combinations. In a hot pink, long jacket from Danish label Ganni, Balenciaga rubber boots and a crimson mini-skirt, creative consultant Violet Grace Atkinson triumphantly rose above the puffer’s propensity to overwhelm the body.

“For long-length puffers choose a short hemline underneath to add another level to the look,” Atkinson says. “Miniskirts are in, thanks to Miuccia Prada, and I think the juxtaposition with a huge puffer is interesting and unexpected. For cropped puffers, I love an uber-long pant or jean that is fitted around the waist and then widens to a straight-leg. It makes your legs look longer and your eyes are drawn to the fitted waist then down to the bottom of the pants.”

Straying from the comfort of your activewear essentials can also enliven puffer jackets, with Atkinson looking for adventurous prints and cuts to soften the utilitarian approach of outer layers.

“What matters most is that you feel comfortable taking some risks and that it suits your personality,” she says. “Puffers are also inherently more masculine just by virtue of the bulkier look so adding something a little more risqué and out of the activewear genre is an interesting styling hack.”

On grey mornings, contemplating miniskirts, heels and complementary body bags might be too much before your first coffee so take comfort in Garnaut’s final piece of advice.

“Don’t worry too much about styling your entire look around the jacket,” Garnaut says. “Just choose something warm. It will most likely end up on a coat hook.”

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