Well, it finally happened. After a lackluster start to the season, Old Man Winter upped his game last week, sending out a negative windchill and piles of snow to unprepared citizens across the nation.
In light of this sudden cold front, you might be scrambling to get together some semblance of a practical winter wardrobe. And if you're anything like me, you're lusting after exclusively high-end duds. But while those North Face coats and UGG boots might seem worth it in the moment, there are much cheaper alternatives out there that will keep you warm and fashionable all winter long.
We took the liberty of scouring the web for the best low-price, high-warmth designer substitutes that look and feel just like the real thing.
Down Parkas: swap out The North Face for UNIQLO
Everyone who lived through the polar vortex of 2014 will know a down parka is absolutely essential for staying warm when the temperature drops below zero. No one can deny thatThe North Face makes some high-quality down parkas, like this Miss Metro Parka pictured above, but at $320 a pop, these cozy coats are out of reach for a lot of shoppers.
Luckily UNIQLO sells nearly identical down parkas for $69.90, and as the proud owner of a UNIQLO coat (this ultra light down wrap coat, if you're curious), I can say with authority that these coats are warm AND stylish. Plus, I have an extra $250 in my wallet to spend as I please.
Touch Screen Gloves: head to Walmart, not Nordstrom
Responding to important texts and emails while on the go in the winter can be a real finger-freezer, but sometimes it just can't wait. The good news is that it's 2015, and smartphone gloves are a thing now! The bad news is that it's easy to spend way too much on them, like this cashmere pair from Nordstrom going for $42.
Unless you're physically addicted to cashmere, skip the Halogens and head to Walmart, where you can get a pair of perfectly good texting gloves for just $3.99. I got a couple pairs of these bad boys as stocking stuffers this Christmas, and I wear them literally every day. I mean, they're cute, warm and it's easy to text when I'm wearing them--I don't see the point of spending $38 more for a slightly softer version.
UGG boots: Kohl's knockoffs are quite convincing
Although they've become a bit of a cliche in recent years, people are still buying UGG boots, and lots of them. And I see the appeal, I really do! I had a few pairs in high school and college that were super cozy and comfy, but the fact of the matter is they rarely held up against serious winter weather. Ten minutes outside in a snowstorm would always leave the boots soggy and my feet wet and cold, so while I do like the style of the new Bailey Button Triplet UGG boots, I would never spend $220 on them. Experience has taught me that no matter how much of that lethal suede protector I spray on 'em, they won't last longer than one winter.
So if you must have UGG-like boots this season, save yourself some serious cash and opt for these $34.97 SONOMA life + style boots from Kohl's. They're nearly identical in style, and while they might not boast a real fur lining like UGGs do, they'll get the job done. Plus, you won't have to feel guilty if you accidentally step into a slush puddle and ruin them; yay for cheap boots!
Knit Sweaters: trade in Banana Republic for H&M
If you don't think a quality knit sweater is a winter weather must-have, you need to buy a one-way ticket to Florida and never look back. Seriously, byeee! Layering knits is key to staying toasty warm through even the most intense winter storms, but of course good quality wool sweaters can get pricey. This $115 cardigan from Banana Republic is adorable, but is it worth $115?
Obviously not. This cardigan from H&M is virtually the same sweater in every way...except for the $24.95 price tag. Let this be a lesson to you: when you see something cute that's above your price range, check places like H&M, Forever 21 and Target for similar styles at serious discounts.
Frye Boots: if it's style you want, Target's got what you need
I will not deny my deep love/borderline obsession with Frye boots, but I will attest that they're out of the average Jane's price range. Take these Melissa Button Boots in Cognac for example: they're nothing if not gorgeous--but at $368 they're not something I can purchase without saving up for a long while. That being said, Frye boots are an investment that will totally pay off in the end: my mom's best friend still has her pair from the 1970s, and has only had to replace the soles once. So you're looking for a shoe that will potentially outlive you, definitely splurge on Fryes.
Then again, if you love the look of Frye boots but are the kind of person who switches up their footwear every season, you can get eerily similar styles for crazy low prices at Target. Check out these Kamari Tall Harness Boots in Cognac and tell me they're not a carbon copy the Melissa Button Boots. They literally use the same COLOR NAMES, people. Again, if you want long-lasting boots made of real leather, spring for Fryes, if you're looking for a quick style fix, Mossimo is ready to welcome you with open arms.
Infinity Scarves: try Forever 21 over Michael Kors
Who doesn't love a good infinity scarf? They keep your neck free of frostbite and unlike normal scarves, they don't require an hour of tying and retying to look chic and effortless (what, no one else spends an hour every morning trying to tie their scarves? YOU'RE ALL LIARS!). While some winter apparel makes up for its expense with quality (see Frye boots above), infinity scarves aren't something you should be spending over $30 on. This Michael Kors infinity scarf from Macy's is pretty cute, but for $75, I'm gonna have to pass...
...Because, let's face it, for that kind of money I could get about 7.5 of these similarly styled infinity scarves from Forever 21. At $9.80 they're a steal, and you can up your winter fashion street cred by getting a bunch of different colors and rotating them throughout the week. Who wants to be the girl with only one scarf? At these prices you'll be reborn as the mythical rainbow scarf girl, bringing joy to all her coworkers through the magic of her colorful scarf collection.
Wellington Boots: swap out Hunter boots for Target styles
If you insist on wearing your new UGG boots through the cold slush, you should be aware that the best way to keep your feet warm and dry is to slip on a thick pair of socks and some rubber wellington boots and go about your day. Hunter boots are the obvious choice here, but for $148, they shouldn't be your only option.
Beanies: don't splurge on unnecessary luxury
It might be possible to stay comfortably warm without a hat, but this isn't something I'll ever attempt. There are few things more upsetting than leaving home sans hat and realizing too late that your ears are in for a frostbitten ride. Now beanies are all the rage this year, and while I'm sure the quality of this one from Nordstrom is top-notch, it's certainly nowhere near worth the $195 price tag. Like seriously, $195 for a hat?! OK, yes, the puffball on the top is real rabbit fur, but that soft, furry puff ball will never come into contact with your skin, and thus does you absolutely no good in the long run.
Tights/Leggings: keep those legs warm for less at Target
I'm a sundress kinda girl, so winter winds really cramp my style. I'll mix it up with a pair of jeans every now and again, but denim doesn't do much to keep the cold from infiltrating my legs. Thick, wool-blend tights are pretty much my only solace this time of year, but getting a quality pair on the cheap isn't easy. Take these $74 soft wool tights from Neiman Marcus--I'm sure they're very warm, but spending $74 on tights that could rip at any moment isn't a very solid life choice.
Try these $10 fleece-lined tights from Target instead. They're a godsend on blustery winter days, and the fleece lining keeps rips at bay.
What are your winter weather essentials? Tell us in the comments which brands you think are worth splurging on, and which you're better off swapping out!