Whether layered beneath a blazer or as its own top layer, the vest, much like a good pair of boots, is an essential piece of winter clothing. The insulating mid-layers — be they in muted colors or in aggressive throwback shades — offer insulation of a where you need it most (your core) while letting your arms move freely. They’re stylish, versatile, and, given their packable size, you can carry one in your diaper bag to pull out when the weather starts to sour. We found our favorites for this fall below, and they run the gamut from modest puffer vests to no-expense-spaired-high-style options.
Wrangler Born Ready Puffer Vest
The Wrangler Born Ready Puffer Vest, judged on its base components, seems simple: a nylon face fabric, well known for water- and wind-resistance, and a polyester-fill insulation. But we love the varied-thickness baffles down the body, which provide a subtle difference from competitors. Bonus: Two side pockets offer hand warmth on even colder days.
United by Blue Bison Puffer Vest
Bison have survived the winters of the American plains for millions of years, so it makes sense that their fur makes for an amazing insulator. The United by Blue Bison Puffer Vest uses 190 grams of it sandwiched between a waterproof-breathable two-layer shell. Small details like a generous internal phone pocket (which fits even the biggest iPhones), fleece-lined hand pockets, and a drawstring hem made this a go-to for late-season playdates.
Aviator Nation Traveler Vest
Does an extreme aesthetic justify the extreme price of the Aviator Nation Traveler Vest? For some people, absolutely. Lined with a warm flannel interior, which assuredly (and most likely, intentionally) clashes with the strong color-blocking of synthetic exterior, it harkens back to classic California post-surf apparel. PrimaLoft insulation allows it to be one of the warmest vests around.
Patagonia Retro Pile Fleece Vest
Patagonia is nearly synonymous with dependable outerwear, and the Retro Pile Fleece Vest is another hit. Sourcing double-sided synthetic shearling, it’s plenty comfy as an overlayer to a button-down. But we especially liked the three exterior pockets — two for hands and one on the chest — which all zipper shut for extra security.
Timberland Goose Eye Down Vest
The Timberland Goose Eye Down Vest distinguishes itself with a 650-fill-power grey duck down, but it has the standard three exterior pockets (closed by snaps) and interior zip pocket. We loved this most because of the rare addition of a hood. Surround your noggin with down and cold weather is a world away.
Woolrich Andes II Fleece Vest
The strength of the Woolrich Andes II Fleece Vest is its simplicity. Synthetic, 7.75-ounce fleece is trim to the body, making it perfect to layer for a little extra warmth without adding bulk. Bonus: Its low price point means it’s an easy addition to your fall wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Gap ColdControl Puffer Vest
Utilizing a recycled fill for its insulation, the Gap ColdControl Puffer Vest leaves the smallest footprint of any piece on this list. Its fleece-lined collar is also one of the most comfortable we wore.
The North Face Cervas Vest
The diamond-quilted patter of the The North Face’s Cervas Vest calls back to the original insulating pieces of high-alpine climbers. The vest features North Face’s proprietary synthetic insulation, a brushed fleece lining, and a DWR finish that seals out the elements.