Fleece, flannel provide warmth without wool's itch

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

It's the inside that matters.

Fleece- and flannel-lined apparel and accessories provide warmth during brutal winter cold.

“Fleece is super warm, and it is naturally water-resistant,” says designer Amber Coppings of Stanton Heights, who creates gloves and vests from recycled fleece. She recently added flannel-lined pockets to her hoodie vest line.

“The fleece I use is thicker and really water-resistant,” Coppings says. “Plus, fleece is a material you can wear in fall, winter and into spring. Fleece and flannel are really comfy and they bring an emotional response of comfort, which we really need in the winter.”

Flannel and fleece are available in many colors and patterns, so they can add a little pop to an outfit on a dreary January day, Coppings says.

Her pockets-lined-in-flannel idea came from suggestions from Coppings' customers.

“The way I have designed the flannel-lined pockets, they are right at your hip to where, when you put your hands in there, you are kind of hugging yourself,” Coppings says. “I use flannel I have found at yard sales or from old shirts.”

Lands' End pays attention to customer feedback as well.

“Each year, we listen to what our customers ask for in cold-weather apparel and accessories,” says Michele Casper, senior director, public relations for Lands' End. When the temperature drops, they were told, the last thing anyone wants is cold feet. Having flannel-lined slippers gives feet extra warmth and comfort. The soft flannel is brushed to trap in warm air and keep feet cozy, she says.

“Whether it's walking out to get the morning paper, or spending a weekend inside the house, customers have said they enjoy having our flannel slippers on hand,” Casper says.

Fleece has become extremely popular for two main reasons, says Steve Kopitz, president and CEO of skis.com.

• First, it's a phenomenal insulator, because of its ability to trap and hold large amounts of air without feeling bulky or restricting movement.

• Second, fleece has great wicking properties and helps to continually repel moisture from your skin during activity.

“Fleece is made from synthetic materials, typically polyester, which is what gives it its wicking properties,” Kopitz says. “Alternatively, while ski and snowboarding flannels are made from wicking fabrics, traditional flannel is made from cotton. Cotton, while warm when dry, is a terrible material to use for winter activity due to its susceptibility of absorbing moisture.”

One of the nicest improvements to today's high-tech fleece-lined products is the development of super-lightweight and breathable technical fleece, which maintains its inherent wind resistance and water repellency, Kopitz says.

“Today's ski hats are another popular place to find fleece lining,” he says. “The best material for warmth is wool, but wool is often scratchy and uncomfortable against your skin. Companies have solved this problem by lining hats with fleece. Not only does this provide a cozy feel next to your skin, but also allows moisture-wicking and windproofing technology to complement the warm wool outer fabric, which is ideal for hitting the slopes or hanging around town.”

In clothing or accessories, having items lined is practical, says Kelly Falkenstein, marketing manager for Isotoner, which makes a fleece-lined glove with an additional benefit.

“It can be frustrating to have to choose between warm hands and answering a call or sending a text message,” Falkenstein says. “Our smarTouch gloves are embroidered with a conducive thread on the fingers and thumbs that conveys electrical impulses to your touch screens — allowing you to connect in the cold with family and friends.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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