What to Wear in New York in December

Hi Deborah,

I’m off to NYC for Christmas shopping and wondering what to wear in New York in December. It will be cold, and we will be doing a lot of walking along 5th Avenue and popping into Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Can you give me some ideas for shopping outfits that would be appropriate weather-wise and look nice when I shop and stop for lunch?  Thanks, Tina

Hi Tina,

Wow, New York in December! I’ve gone a few times in December, and it’s always magical. You will love all the gigantic Christmas decorations, incredible holiday lights, the skaters at Rockefeller Center, the Christmas markets, and the buzz from all the excited holiday shoppers.

Fifth Avenue is known for making the holidays spectacular.  They play Christmas music and even pump the smell of Christmas into the air as you walk along 5th. Be prepared for the heavenly scent of pomegranate, pine, cloves, cinnamon, and mandarin orange! It gets you in the shopping mood!

As we all know, the weather in general is pretty unpredictable these days, but according to the Weather stats,  New York in December is as follows:

  • Average Daytime Temperature is low 40’s -50’s F and sometimes low 60’s F. Average daily temp is: 46 F (8C)
  • Average Overnight Temperatures: 32 F (0C)
  • Early December starts warmer, and as the month progresses, it gets colder
  • Most of December is sunny or partly sunny,
  • Rain – usually 8-10 days of rain and cold.
  • As for snow – usually, 2-3 days of snow but not usually more than one inch

My Trip to NYC in December

I’m usually in NYC around Dec 5th- 8th because my husband has a yearly conference there. It has been sunny and chilly in the morning and very cold and snowing like crazy in the afternoon.

What to Wear in New York in December

Here’s me in sunny weather, then up to my eyeballs in big, wet snowflakes. I wore a warm but lightweight parka, thick leggings, a thin sweater underneath, and over-the-knee suede boots.

I was so glad I had tucked a wooly faux fur-trimmed hat into my purse because I needed it once the snow started falling. You should check with the weather channel to see what is predicted while you are there, but here are a few outfits to cover most weather.


woman in red coat by nyc taxi

This last time, it was fairly mild with a bit of rain. I still wore a very similar puffer coat but with a hood. I didn’t need my hat, but I did wear gloves in the evening. And I wore waterproof suede lug sole boots.

If you are wondering what to wear in NYC in December, you will need: 

What to Wear in NYC in December - Lilac wool Parka and jeans outfit

1.  Warm, Comfy Boots

A good pair of boots should be at the top of your list because it will be cold and you will be walking a lot. Many women like riding boots or over-the-knee boots to wear with jeans, and these are just fine so long as they are fairly flat or have low heels. They shouldn’t pinch your toes, and they need to be waterproof. They look stylish, and they keep your legs nice and warm.

If you have a fancy pair of boots that would make you look chic walking around NY but are more for the show, don’t wear them because if it snows and is slushy, they will get messy! You have to be real.

Short booties are fine, too. Suede booties are very popular and look classy. If you want to be practical, wear a hiking boot style that laces up the front. These won’t let you down and can look quite stylish with leggings or jeans. Please look at the collage below with the burgundy parka and these boots.

Prefer sneakers? That makes sense as long as you know it won’t snow, although your feet may get chilly depending on the temperature. Also, I’d like you to please be prepared to get your sneakers dirty. It’s NYC, after all. I wore sneakers this past Dec when it was fairly mild. Nothing beats them for comfort, and everybody wears them.

More on boots to wear shopping in NYC here.

2.  A Cozy, Lightweight Coat

As I mentioned,  a warm coat to keep you toasty is important, but you don’t want to wear anything too heavy if you go in and out of stores. You may want to slip off your coat if you are in a hot store, and you certainly don’t want the hassle of carrying a heavy coat on your arm with all those shopping bags!

Some women like lightweight cloth coats. I prefer a simple, lightweight, puffy parka. Faux fur coats look hip, but if they are bulky, they will not be very practical for a day of walking. Leather jackets can be heavy, too, especially if they have a lot of hardware, and they’re a bit more for the show since they don’t keep you toasty.

Keep everything light enough because you will be sightseeing and shopping on the move all day. You have to think practically.


What to Wear in New York in December Fauz Fur coat and Booties

3.  Jeans with Stretch or Leggings are Perfect 

Leggings are my favorite option for shopping, but not the thin type, or you will freeze your legs. Try thicker Ponte leggings, Spanx fleece-lined leggings, and a long top or sweater to cover your bottom. Leggings are always easy when trying things on because they have no zipper or buttons, and you can pull them off and on easily.

Stretchy jeans are another possibility but remember that denim is heavier than leggings, so if it’s raining or snowing and they get wet, you might start to feel pretty damp and cold.  If you decide on jeans, choose snug through the hips and thighs to keep you cozy. I like jeggings (a cross between leggings and jeans) with a skinny or straight leg. They move with me.

What to Wear in New York in December | Parka, jeans and waterproof boots



4.  Take Gloves, a Hat, Maybe even a Scarf

If they call for snow, you will need gloves; a hat and a scarf are good ideas.  You’ll have to play it by ear and watch the weather reports because if you don’t need these, carrying them around in your purse or shopping bag can be a drag..however, when you need them, you need them.

Also, so that you know, you need to shop with a purse. You don’t mind getting wet because it will get wet if it snows. If you happen to be carrying your new velvet Gucci bag, you will not be too happy about this.

Also, could you make sure to bring a purse that is light or that is loaded down with hardware? A bag you can carry over your shoulder or a crossbody is better than a top handle or a bag with a short strap.

You can only load up your bag with a little stuff.  Carrying a clunky bag that drags you down can get very tiring, very fast, especially when you are juggling shopping bags. Talk about an energy zapper!

NYC - Ruffle Poncho


5.  The Key is to Layer

The key to colder weather in New York or anywhere is to layer. Layer a sweater or top with a scarf and a coat. This way, depending on the weather, you can add or subtract during the day.

If you are going to NYC more towards the end of November or the weather report doesn’t look too bad for early December, you should take a warm, classy poncho to layer over jeans or leggings. This may not work for a day of shopping, but if you catch a cab to dinner and then return to the hotel, a wooly cape or poncho can look chic, especially worn with fab boots.

This is an extra option you should consider tucking into your suitcase.

Tina, I hope you had a marvelous time. Be sure to get out and see the giant holiday tree at Rockefeller Center, and send me a photo of you there! Happy Holidays. Deborah

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