When the cold weather bites, there's nothing like a good fleece jacket, sweater or blanket to keep you toasty. This soft, breathable fabric is easy to care for and feels heavenly against your skin, making it a popular choice for women's apparel. However, fleece comes in many varieties, and some types are warmer than others.
Made from cotton or a blend of cotton and other fibers, this type of fleece is commonly used to make comfy fleece robes, sweatshirts and sweatpants, thanks to its smooth exterior and plush inner nap. Some reusable diapers are also made from this material, since it's gentle against a baby's skin. However, it might not feel as warm as other kinds of fleece.
Thin, soft and smooth, French terry fleece is completely unbrushed, so it doesn't have the fluffy quality many fleeces are known for. This means it lays flatter against the body and it also has a looser weave, so it has more give. It's often used for sweat shorts and light hoodies, but it's not super warm, so it's not ideal for something like a women's fleece vest. Many women's sweatshirts are made from French terry fleece because it allows a more feminine fit. Look for tunic sweatshirts to wear inside when the temperatures drop. They look great with slim fit jeans or leggings.
A touch of Lycra spandex gives this variety of fleece some stretch, though it's mostly made from cotton. Fitted clothing for women and girls is often made from Lycra spandex fleece, since it hugs the body. And it's also used in performance apparel, since it's nice and toasty and moves with the wearer, making it great for sports and physical activities.
If you love the fluffy feel of real wool, you'll like Sherpa fleece. Made from polyester, it has a touchable texture and is often used to line clothes and make them warmer. Sometimes, it looks like faux fur, but it's totally made from synthetic fibers so it even dries faster than animal-based fibers. Sherpa is often referred to as "high pile fleece" because it's more plush feel, like a sheep's coat.
One of the most popular types of fleece, polyester fleece is used to make many types of clothes, including your favorite fleece sweater and your favorite fall fleece jacket. It also has a smooth side, which has a shiny look. Better at repelling moisture than cotton fleece, it can be damaged by heat, so treat it with care.
Warm and thick, polar fleece is your friend in cold weather – just as the name suggests – and it's probably what your women's fleece jacket is made from. It's available in different thicknesses and the thicker it gets, the less flexible it becomes. And though it's not windproof, it repels water, dries quickly and can keep you warm even when wet.
Double-sided microfleece is soft, smooth and warm. It also wicks away moisture to keep you dry. Since it's light and thin, it's commonly used in performance apparel and is also popular for lining coats. Clothing made from microfleece is also nice for travel, as it's not bulky and won't take up lots of room in your bag.
Almost any kind of fleece can be turned into bonded fleece, which simply means that it's bonded to another material, like the fabric used to make a waterproof coat. Though a garment made from bonded fleece won't be as soft or stretchy as something made from polar or microfleece, it can be good for harsh climates when you need something extra tough. If you see the words "windproof fleece," chances are it's made from bonded fleece. The layer, sandwiched between two soft fleece sides, is the secret sauce.
Most types of fleece can be washed using your machine's cool cycle, but don't use bleach or fabric softener, which can damage the material. If your fleece quarter zip is wrinkled, let the creases fall out on their own or use a wrinkle-releasing spray. In a pinch, you can set your iron on low and carefully run it over your coat or vest, but be careful, as polyester can burn.