For women who like to get their hands dirty, here are the work jackets and vests that are as rough and tumble as you are.
I spend most days with an amount of dirt under my fingernails that would be deemed unacceptable by the majority of well-coifed society. But, as the owner of a multicolored horse and a perpetually muddy mule, manure happens. My first job was cleaning stalls at a stable to pay for my riding lessons. These days, I’m more of a keyboard jockey, but after the laptop closes, to the barn I go.
This article focuses on all the stuff that our torsos desire for warmth, comfort, and safety, not to mention durability. Each item I’ve listed has each in spades. But what’s exciting is that style is also — finally — coming into play. I tested most of these options, and to fill in the blanks, I researched, asking friends and digging into online reviews for accuracy.
One thing I’m finding is the growing sense of style across the workwear genre. Perhaps Brooklynites masquerading as lumbersexuals infused a stylish sensibility into true workwear. Or the classic cut of the Barbour coats of the English countryside finally found a crossover space in the workwear realm. But it’s refreshing to see options that blend into society at least a bit.
Here are my picks for the jackets and vests that hardworking women should buy in 2021.
The Best Work Jackets for Women in 2021
Most Versatile Work Jacket for Women: Patagonia Prairie Dawn 3-in-1 Barn Coat
These days, there are lots of great work coats out there in the world, but this is the coat ($249) I find myself reaching for most days. Made of a tough cotton canvas, it boasts a removable vest that can be worn separately or zipped into the coat for extra insulation.
On its own, the jacket is light enough for cool spring or fall days, but paired with a base layer and with the vest zipped in, it covers most of my inclement Montana weather just fine. It’s in the midrange for pricing, but take note, that you’re getting two outerwear garments that can be worn three ways.
Best Bomber Jacket: Dovetail Workwear Evaleen Trucker Jacket
The Evaleen Jacket ($139) is so nice that I have to remind myself that it’s a coat intended for work, not to be saved for less-dirty occasions. The fitted style is flattering, and for a bomber, the pockets make it highly functional.
This is the most affordable of the waxed canvas coats on this list. And arguably, it might be the most fashionable jacket on the list for trendsetting types. It’s lined in soft herringbone cotton for next-to-skin comfort. It’s also lightly insulated, making it an even more budget-friendly option that can cover most winter days.
Best Budget Work Jacket: Carhartt Crawford Bomber
The Carhartt Crawford Bomber ($70) is an iconic silhouette in the Carhartt line. A midweight jacket, it’s also been updated with Rugged Flex technology. This incorporates a bit of spandex into the canvas for a more flexible feel.
A mesh lining is incorporated for breathability, and multiple pockets allow the wearer to stash things on the go. It’s the most affordable coat on this list at just $70, and for the average Jane, it’s the perfect chore coat for hardworking days while still cute enough to wear on the town.
Best Insulated Work Jacket: Ariat Rebar DuraCanvas Insulated Jacket
My go-to cold-weather jacket for barn days this winter, Ariat’s new Rebar line is trading some of the brand’s more equestrian-specific education to the work world. The Rebar Insulated Jacket ($120) is just that: heavily insulated.
I have worn it on the coldest Montana days, and it’s kept me — a perpetually cold wimp — toasty in subzero temperatures, and it even kept me dry on one very rainy morning. Another great aspect of this coat is that I don’t need to worry about it.
How many nice coats have I ruined at the barn in my lifetime? Too many for comfort. With the Ariat Rebar jacket, I have zero worries. If the coat has room for improvement, I personally would like zippered pockets, and I find the sleeves to be a bit short. But warmth is happiness, and this jacket has that in spades.
Best Work Vest for Women: Patagonia All Seasons Hemp Canvas Vest
I love Patagonia’s dedication to its Work Wear line for both men and women, and this is one of the newer pieces in the line. Made from industrial hemp, this vest ($129) feels bombproof. Handwarmer pockets provide refuge, and a phone slides easily into the open chest pocket and stays there.
But my favorite feature is the zippered pocket on the back of the vest. It’s big enough to stash gloves, a beanie, a wallet, or other things you need to keep handy. It’s sort of like having a little backpack built into a vest. More of this, please, in working garments.
I will say to order up a size if you’re looking to layer. This is definitely a fitted vest, and a looser fit will give you more options for warmth.
Best Budget Work Vest for Women: Carhartt Rugged Flex Canvas Insulated Rib Collar Vest
Carhartt has added more flex to its traditional work-focused clothing line, and the Rugged Flex vest ($70) is no exception. Spandex, nylon, and quilted canvas combine to make this an iconic look that can take a beating.
I have to say, I love the line of this vest. Vests can often be bulky and annoying, rather than forgiving and flexible. This vest nets a 4.7-star rating, and reviewers love it. A few folks note that it only buttons up, but it’s an affordable layer from one of the top companies in work clothing. And for that reason, we’re in.
Best High-End Work Coat for Women: Filson Moorcroft Jacket
If you have some dough to drop, Filson tops the line when it comes to high-end workwear. And the Moorcroft Jacket ($395) is my go-to when I need a weatherproofed, midweight coat to roll up and stick behind my saddle.
Not only is it a seriously beautiful coat, but it’s also highly functional. I have beaten the tar out of this coat, and it’s impenetrable. If there’s a contrasting statement to “cotton kills,” it’s that “waxed cotton survives” — and that’s the truth. This jacket is beautifully fitted and flattering while being a bastion of protection against elements and the drudgery of ugly-yet-functional clothing.
And like most Filson wear, it’s both a jacket and a commitment. Spend the $400 or keep your fingers crossed for discounts during Filson’s annual sales, because you won’t need to buy another jacket like it again.
Best of the Rest
Perhaps the original barn coat, Barbour’s Beadnell Wax Jacket ($415) is an iconic piece that likely inspired the shapes and utilitarian style of a few of the coats on the list. A good friend has had two Barbour coats — one for 22 years and another for a decade — and they’re still in daily rotation on her farm.
Made of Sylkoil waxed cotton with a cotton tartan plaid lining, the most recent iteration of the Beadnell is more form-fitting and feminine than silhouettes of the past. Barbour recommends double-checking sizing to accommodate layers, so you might want to order this one a size up.
An affordable piece at just under $100, I love the rainbow of colors offered in L.L.Bean’s Classic Utility Jacket ($99). It’s a classic chore coat with cinching at the waist for a touch of the feminine.
The jacket is cotton twill with a splash of spandex, giving a bit of forgiveness in a plethora of coats that rely more on fit than fabric for give. This jacket also features inclusive sizing, with Petite, Regular, and Plus Sizing that goes up to a 3X.
The OG of work jackets, Carhartt’s hooded duck jacket ($110) is updated for the next class of hardworking women. New details have been added to make for smoother wear, with improved zippers and cord locks so you don’t lose the ability to adjust your hood.
Carhartt is also very size-inclusive, and this particular style offers plus sizes up to 3X. It boasts heavy-duty duck cotton on the surface and 80 g of 3M Thinsulate inside for warmth.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Work Jacket
Choosing the right work jacket for you comes down to a few things. We break them down below.
Where Do You Live?
If you live and work in a tropical climate, a heavy insulated jacket might not be the best bet. But a light canvas chore coat can take the chill out of mornings and evenings. Or, if you’re in a rainier environment, consider investing in a long-lasting waxed canvas jacket that can battle the elements for you.
Layering is common here in Montana, where the weather can be single digits in the morning, then in the 30s by mid-afternoon. I’m often choosing base layers that complement my coat and allow me to adjust as I go.
What Kind of Work Do You Do?
If you’re a construction worker or a hands-on farmer, durability is the key feature you’ll want in a jacket above everything else. And it’s worth paying a few extra bucks for things like waxed canvas or insulated options.
If you dabble in projects, a more affordable, chore-focused coat might be a great option. For someone like me who finds themselves around large animals in muddy situations often, consider what you’re willing to sacrifice.
A waxed canvas jacket can certainly hold up, but you’ll pay a lot of money. On the other hand, a hardcore duck canvas or hemp option will take a beating, but it might not last as long or have the water resistance you need.
Have a favorite work jacket we missed? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.