Step away from the puffer vest. Now

Nikki Parkinson Fashion 45 Comments

It all started with a blog comment from the esteemed craft/mummy/beauty/damn hilarious blogger Mrs Woog:

I am looking forward to watching my kids strut this afternoon and I also think I might spot the first blooms of puffer vests from the mum brigade. The leaves are starting to fall.

When I picked myself up off the floor and cleaned up the tea that I’d just spurted all over my keyboard,  I realised that, in the interests of Australian style, an interventionist campaign was needed.  And when I received this tweet from a very stylish Melbourne bloggie friend, I knew I had to get the campaign up and running. Fast.

I think I want a puffer jacket (minus the fur) am I mad? Uncool? It is cold down here in Melb

I gently suggested perhaps a nice coat would work …

I live in Melb, have many, many a jacket, but the puffer could be good for parks, dog walking, Weetbix wiping off it?


(Yes, I’m shouting. And I refuse to apologise.)

Puffer vests, well, puff, you out.  Yes, that’s right.  Grown women who otherwise want to appear as svelte as they possibly can, who think nothing of spending a small fortune on sucker-inner pants and miracle jeans, defy all logic and turn to the puffer vest as soon as the season turns.

Seriously, if Reese Witherspoon and Elle Macpherson look puffy in a puffer vest, what do you think the rest of us look like?

Reese Witherspoon Elle Macpherson puffer vest

Reese and Elle work a black puffer vest. Yes, even they are puffy as a result.

THAT’S RIGHT. PUFFY.  (There I go shouting again)

Like denim overalls and Crocs, puffer vests look super cute on kids.  The cute effect quickly disappears, however, some time around a child’s 6th birthday.

Brad Pitt and Pax Jolie Pitt working an acceptable puffer vest look

Brad Pitt with son Pax Jolie Pitt working an acceptable puffer vest look. Same cannot be said for Brad's facial hair growth.

Now, don’t be lulled into a false sense of fashion security with the appearance of puffer vests in normally reliable and fashionable chain stores or boutiques;

Witchery puffer vest

Witchery sleeveless puffer vest $129.95.

or any which come with a designer label attached.

Michael Kors puffer vest

Michael Kors puffer vest $US91.

Such offerings should not be left in the hands of us mere mortals.  I’ve searched high and low but about the only person I’ve found who’s managed to pull off a fashionable puffer vest look is blogger Karla Deras from Karla’s Closet.

Karla from Karla's Closet works a fashionable puffer vest outfit

Karla from Karla's Closet works a fashionable puffer vest outfit. Photo:

Now, Karla is an uber-fashion blogger, she’s young and, well, she can pretty well work any style and make it her own.  Unless you can do the same, repeat after me, STEP AWAY FROM THE PUFFER.

See, most puffer wearers do not an uber-fashion statement make.

The natural habitat of the PufferGiganteus is not front row at fashion festivals.  It is front row at children’s soccer matches. Or at the school gate, huddled in clusters talking among their own kind, only lifting their heads out of the gaggle for a false smile and a wave to any non-PufferGiganteus, who might deign to walk past.  In certain suburbs the puffer is worked back with designer gym gear.  Apparently the puffer species doesn’t necessarily have to have a gym membership. They just need to look like they’re on their way to the gym; of have just been.

The elders of the PufferGiganteus tribe will have long given up any gym membership pretence, opting to team their puffer vests with high-waisted jeans and $300 gum boots.  When not in puffer season, they holiday in Noosha with best friends, Prude and Trude.  And their wardrobes are filled with an inordinate amount of navy-coloured garments.

If you are curious to see more of the PufferGiganteus in their natural habitat, head on over to the Flickr group – Female Puffy Vest Wearers – dedicated especially to them. (I AM NOT KIDDING.)

And if anyone could actually tell me when and where a puffer sleeveless vest is an absolutely essential piece of clothing to wear, please do? Someone on Twitter suggested:  “When skinning the deer you just shot in the Rockies. You need warmth, but a sleeve is impractical”.

Lucky I’m not planning a Rockies adventure any time soon.  Are you?

Editor’s note:  Blogger and fashion stylist Megan Harding has written a fantastic post over at Style Farm about some great alternatives to the puffer vest.  And yes, they all have sleeves!

  • Alexis

    I stumbled upon this and skimmed it thinking it was humorous at first. Then it just got sad. It’s a piece of clothing, people. I’m into fashion too, but really?! Oh nooo I can’t believe somebody is wearing a down vest, she looks so “puffed out”! I’m comfortable with the way I look. I’m stepping back into my puffer vest, thanks.

    • It is meant to be humourous. I advise people on how to look their best but I totally get that most of us have clothes that are in our wardrobe for comfort not style. My ideal clothes are both comfortable and stylish.

  • I’ve only just seen this article. I can’t do the puffer vest. I watched far too much Seinfeld in the 90s and would feel very George Costanza’ish. I once got a fleece vest given to me at a conference, as part of the courtesy pack. I rarely wear it, preferring my trench or frock coats. That said, I do live in Brisbane and just layer in colder climates.

  • Ha Ha! Nikki, Thanks for the wardrobe edit today, I suddenly feel liberated and cleansed… one of the first things to hit the lifeline bag with glee? Yep, my puffer vest 🙂

    • My pleasure, Jeanne! And so glad the puffer vest has gone!

  • I can’t help it – I need to come out of the closet and defend the puffer vest…. I live on a farm (with sheep and crop and real tractors and stuff). I wear a puffer vest. Often. (please do not ostracise me from the blogosphere). And – this is where it gets bad, sometimes I wear gumboots too! I also drive a 4WD but live on a gravel road and my 4WD has real mud on it.

    When I am working physically hard, but it is a bit cold, I get too hot in a coat and too cold in my shirtsleeves. Plus if I fall off a motorbike I just bounce right back up with a puffer on (puffer vest as safety garment is not to be under rated).

    I draw the line at excess wearing of navy and have yet to embrace the concept of a scarf on my head or a gingham shirt. I am only 36 though so I am sure there is still time….

    Thanks for a fantastic and funny post!

    • No way are you ostracised! See, you actually work and live on a farm and I love that there is a safety, bounceability to the puffer.

  • Aaaahhhh, the sweet smell of my puffer vest burning. They truly are a staple of Adelaide fashion and once I move out of the hills I vow not wear them again!

  • Either I am puffer blind or people in Kansas don’t wear them. It’s either too cold or too hot here. Puffers are for mild climates. If you wore a puffer in the winter here your arms would freeze off.

    • Love that you live in a puffer-vest-free zone already, Kristin x

  • Bugger, I have a puffervest that I bought in Edinburgh in 1999 which believe it or not still looks as good as the day I bought it plus its reversible!! Light grey fleece inside, shiny black waterproof outside. And I have to get rid of it? Ok. I admit that I have known for a few winters that its probably time to say goodbye but I have been holding on to the memories. While its been holding onto my mammaries. Puffy. RIP.

    • Ah, Sarah now that’s made me sad. I do like a piece of clothing with a story. Frame it by all means – but on the wall, not on your body. x

      • I might do a little photoshoot this winter and then set it loose….. sob.
        (Embarrassing but most of my clothes have a story of some kind, I am nearly 35 but my Mum still buys most of my clothes, I have no interest in shopping and have had no money for the last few years. I really need a makeover!)

        • It is difficult on a budget but setting time aside to really look through your wardrobe can make a huge difference to motivating yourself to find the gaps and only buy (or get your mum to buy) the things you really need.

  • Ooh, I have to disagree! I wear for purely practical reasons (and although I love skinny Target jeans and boots, I don’t own a 4wd). I live in Perth and it rarely gets really cold. It was my standard dress for organising cross country breakfast for primary school last year. Like a singlet, as long as your chest is warm then you are warm. No way I could have made breakfasts for 40 kids during winter with a bulky jacket on. And seriously, polar fleece is more attractive???? Dare I disagree?

    • Thanks for adding to the debate and glad you dared to disagree! Clarification: polar fleece is for dagging around and only trumps puffer vest for not puffing its wearer up. Both are not optimal in my books; more stylish would be an anorak or duffle coat.

  • Mrs Woog

    Puffy vests with fake fur collar make my neck itch.

    Seriously – I am allergic to faux

    Loathe them and see them EVERY DAY

  • Ahh love it when someone else agrees that Puffer vests are just NOT the way to go! It simply reminds me of a lifejacket. Or the fact that people can’t make up their minds if they’re cold or not. Seriously, how can your chest be cold only and not your arms? STEP AWAY FROM THE PUFFER VEST. There, I’ve joined the brigade!

    • Norlin, it’s SO wonderful to have you on board the campaign!

  • Hi.lari.ous!! I had one once, it was pale blue and it was probably the most expensive item of clothing I owned at the time (I think it came from Witchery). SAfe to say I never wore it, and then sold it at Rozelle Markets in Sydney for $20. Never again

    • I’m surprised you were not able to get more for that gem, Caitlin! Maybe if it had been pale pink.

  • Paula

    OOOH, I’m torn on the puffer, you know.
    My boobs are big to pull this look off successfully, I admit that sometimes when i see some of the yummy mummies at school getting out of their Range Rovers sporting skinny jeans/pants, long hair and a puffer vest – i have moments of envy!

    • Paula, do I need to put Sawhole on a plane to come sort you out!! You do not need to have puffer envy!

      • Paula

        Ha! Please do!
        It’s only the occasional twinge…. And i do know better. I went to a book reading today by Libbi Gorr and the local newsreader who intro’ed her (a friend of libbi’s) got up looking a million bucks in that polished, thin, newsreader way and said she was intimidated by glamour mums!

        • Geez, if she was intimated, what hope have the rest of us got?!!

  • Thanks Nikki!

    I’m going to be stepping away from them this season and not clicking buy or place in cart as well.

    However, I do like a quilted jacket or a quilted handbag. It’s more subtle than the puff.

    Please say it’s okay 🙂

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

    • I do love a quilted Chanel handbag. Don’t own one but one day I will. Quilting definitely more subtle, and less puffy. Do need to make sure not too mumsie too.

  • thanks Nikki this will now ensure I don’t bring out my old one for this year! I think we need some suggestions on alternatives! Would a black duffle coat be a good alternative?

    • I LOVE a duffle coat. Timeless, practical and down-to-earth style.

  • I could not agree with you more…who wants to look like a marshmallow! There are so many more stylish and flattering looks that even have the comfortable, outdoors edge to them…this does not work on any level!!

  • oh, it’s me, the puffy wannabe.

    My only cure was seeing said “natural habitat of the PufferGiganteus” on the weekend and knowing that, 1) I don’t own a Volvo, 2)I don’t want the $300 gumboots, and 3)What if anyone who knew me ever saw me with one on.

    So, I will refrain from the puffy purchase and go in search of a coat that stil is suitable for dog walking, swing pushing, running in rain to get the paper etc. Because I am telling you, a tailored coat will not work for such things.

    I basically need a Parka, like my two year old wears, but not puffy, not pink and no fluffy hood.

    Because as much as I am totally embarrassed to say, currently the option is (shock horror, please still be friends with me) snowgum polar fleece wind breaker thingie from three years ago.

    It really is cold here you know!

  • SawHole

    Thank you for expsoing this crime against humanity.
    WTF what Michael Kors thinking? I might buy that as a joke for someone.

  • Natasha andrews

    I too have been toying with the idea of a puffer vest …..Tassie in winter is cold! But I think I will stick to a nice tailored coat instead 🙂

    • Excellent, Natasha. I beautiful coat is a way more stylish option!

      • Sarah

        I agree, but what does one wear that is warm, for walking said dog in the park (did I mention that it is cold?) and one is wearing exercise gear (a la Elle)? Tailored coat does not cut it! I also, being a Melburnian, have many tailored coats/jackets, but I need something a bit more casual for pushing swings in the park etc etc. I thought the puffa vest was my only option, HELP!

      • SawHole