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Top fleece trends to try in 2021, according to stylists

Forget sweater weather — experts say now’s the time to rock some fleece.
Young woman wearing fleece looking away while standing at mountain during vacation
Maskot / Getty Images

Isn’t fall fashion so much fun? From fresh jeans to chunky sweaters to cute structured hats and sick leather boots, there’s nothing that gets me more excited for PSL season than swapping out my warm weather clothes to my cool weather wears. There are so many stylish items that grace the streets once the leaves start turning, including snuggly fleece.

While it carries the name of a sheep's coat, fleece (the clothing material) is actually most often made of polyester. “It's a typically synthetic material made of fibers woven into a light fabric, then brushed into the soft, fluffy fabric we typically see in outdoor sportswear for winter,” explained New York-based stylist Gloria Cospito. “Fleece is good for cold, wet weather and winter sports because it's moisture-resistant, perspiration-wicking but also breathable, and increases body temperature when next to the skin, so it's warming as well.”

Types of fleece fabric

Fleece comes in a wide range of textures created through different fabric blends — some are more plush than others, some are softer and some can even appear shinier. The type of fleece you opt for should really depend on the function you want it to have in your wardrobe.

“If you want to wear fleece as outerwear, then you’d want to opt for a heavier, more rugged option like a sherpa,” explained Gianna Nucci, a Jersey City-based stylist.“If you want a sweatshirt style, you should opt for a microfleece that is thinner and more lightweight, which is typically offered a lot by activewear brands to help you create that gym-to-street look.”

How to wear fleece this season

Fleece is a big trend this season, as we’re starting to see a lot of sherpa options in jackets, accessories and even shoes. “I recommend opting for pieces with some structure and detail, like cool buttons, that will help you add dimension to your look and avoid feeling like a polar bear,” suggested Nucci.

In particular, fleece is being imbued with fun, colorful hues many stylists are seeing in fashion across the board, as well as warm neutrals that elevate the pieces from activewear to style-forward going out. “Lean into the bright shades for a fun pop of color or sport a monochromatic winter white look like a chic divorcée in a Nancy Meyers film,” explained Cospito.

Another easy way to make fleece more stylish is to wear mixed media pieces. Combining the material with another standout fabric like nylon, leather or denim will surely make a statement while you're oout and about. Nucci also recommends pairing fleece pieces with more polished ones, like nice denim and boots, to help create an elevated casual look that’s both cozy and chic.

How to not wear fleece this season

It should go without saying, but don’t wear fleece to a formal event. “Fleece is still firmly attached to its active outerwear roots so when dressing for a formal event, I recommend reaching for your more traditional evening toppers — like a blazer or bolero — rather than sporting a fleece jacket or pullover to the party,” explained Cospito.

Also, keep the pajamas at home. “Since fleece is also used heavily in the sleepwear category, I see people struggle with what’s appropriate to wear in public and what’s not,” said Nucci. “I’m also not a fan of crazy prints or loud colors when it comes to fleece since it might come across as a pajama piece.”

Stylist-approved fleece to wear this season

Zara Fleece Cap

Nucci loves this perfect alternative to a beanie in the cold temps. “It’s an easy way to incorporate the fleece trend into your accessory collection,” she said.

The North Face City Standard Micro Fleece 1/4 Zip

“[This is] gorgeous on its own or as a layering item underneath a coat with a more open neckline,” suggested Cospito. Not a fan of plum? You can also get this North Face fleece jacket in three other neutral colors.

Gap Factory Fleece Jogger

Fluffy and warm, these are the perfect lounging at home winter joggers. Diving into specifics, one Gap Factory shopper said, "They're high waisted, the fabric is so soft and good quality. The fit and length are perfect. I have a lot of joggers but this is my favorite right now."

Vineyard Vines Sweater Fleece Vest

For the preppy ladies who need a light layer on a warmer fall day, this pick from Vineyard Vines works great for outdoor hikes or a day at the winery.

Lands' End EZ Touch Screen Fleece Winter Gloves

No need to fumble around taking your gloves off when you need to send a text while you're out in the cold. These warm Lands' End gloves have EZ Touch™ fingertips that are compatible with digital devices!

The North Face Cragmont Fleece Jacket

“Colorful but not bright, the green shades in this jacket are a great way to slowly step into color,” explained Cospito.

Free People Hit The Slopes Fleece Jacket

Throw on this bold jacket and you've made a simple yet colorful statement. Free People shoppers clearly love this vibrant activewear, with 91% of reviewers recommending it.

J.Crew Polartec Fleece Half-Zip Pullover

“The mint shades in this jacket feel refreshing for fall,” Cospito said about this cozy J.Crew pullover.

Sorel Explorer II Joan Cozy Boots

These Sorel boots are equal parts fashion and function, according to Cospito. Plus, this pair has grippy rubber soles that were made to take on sleek streets and sidewalks.

Athleta Tugga Sherpa Jacket

For when you just want to be enveloped in coziness but still look cute, this Athleta sherpa jacket is everything you could possibly need. Available in sizes up to 3X, this piece of outerwear currently has over 250 five-star reviews on the brand's website.

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