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Chill Chaser

All over the country, people quote the old saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change." What they don't say is that if you do like the weather, it will likely change just as quickly.

I can certainly testify that that's the case in Chicago, a city known for its brutal wind shifts. Which brings us to Columbia Sportswear's Clinton Street jacket. The Clinton Street looks like a wool sweater jacket, has the comfort qualities of fleece, and tops that all off with a water resistant treatment that protects against a sudden shower (though not a major downpour).

Perhaps most surprising of all, this jacket from a company known for its functional and affordable outerwear for hikers, bikers and skiers is actually stylish enough to wear to work in a big city on a business casual day.

I didn't trust my middle-aged instincts on that last part, so I modeled it for a couple of 20-somethings in my office. They actually thought it was cool.

"Sporty but sophisticated," said one. "It's a classic style, but the fitted silhouette makes it contemporary and feminine," said the other. I should add that the Clinton Street won my heart by accommodating a middle-aged figure into that contemporary, fitted look.

Available at Columbia.com for $155, the Clinton Street comes in black or off-white and is part of a new fashion-forward emphasis evident throughout Columbia's women's apparel line. Still, the company rests its reputation on performance technology, including Omni-Shield, the water- and stain-repellent treatment featured in the Clinton Street jacket. Liquid from an errant coffee cup or puddle-splashing bus just beads up and rolls off. The company claims that washing and drying the jacket will renew its repellency.

Columbia Sportswear made one big error, though, in trying to broaden its audience beyond rugged outdoors people to fashion-conscious urban commuters. It embroidered the Columbia logo onto the sleeve, making it impossible to pass the Clinton Street off as a more expensive label.

Still, I've found myself wearing the jacket into the office on days when the morning air is nippy and a shower may pop up. Because our building is chronically cold, I've even kept it on all day, finding it as cozy as a soft sweater. And while I wouldn't recommend it when the temperature plunges below 45 degrees, it is warm enough to protect against an unexpected north wind off Lake Michigan.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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