I realize this week most of us are finalizing our Christmas shopping, baking, and preparing for the holiday festivities; but there are so many good sales going on (and more to come after Christmas) that I figured it’s a good time to write a Winter Wardrobe Essentials post. I hope this list helps you shop more intentionally as you round out your winter wardrobe.
Lots of people ask me how I always have the right clothes for the right occasion, and I often hear people say they have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I wish I could tell you I’m an expert at having an efficient wardrobe that always works together or that I had an easy formula to follow, but in all honesty, it has taken a lot of trial and error. I hate it when I purchase something and end up wearing it only once or twice, but I still prefer to donate something when I realize I’m not going to get much use out of it, rather than let it hang in my closet causing mental clutter. I’m trying to get better about buying things only when I know I have several pieces to go with them already in my closet, but it’s a work in progress.
Also, given my job, I can justify having more options than most people. I realize, for example, I have way more jeans and boots than anyone actually needs, but it helps keep my outfit posts interesting… or so I hope! That’s the goal, anyway.
Everyone’s winter wardrobe essentials will vary based on climate, but I’m going to write this post assuming we’re talking about cold weather climates. If you’re in a warmer climate, my Fall Wardrobe Essentials might be more relevant for you. You also have to take into consideration your lifestyle and personal needs. I spend most days at home, so my personal winter wardrobe essentials are heavier on casual wear and lighter on dressier styles, but I still try to make sure I have something for any occasion that might crop up.
When I’m putting together a post like this, I usually start with shoes. Shoes are the item in my closet that changes most dramatically with each each season. For example, I will wear short sleeved tees and white jeans all year round, but I definitely put away my sandals and open toe booties when cold weather arrives and pull out my snow boots. So I’ll start with shoes and then work on down the line to the lesser essentials.
2017 Winter Wardrobe Essentials
1. Tall Fashion Boots
I love booties in the fall, and I still wear them some in the wintertime, but I find myself gravitating more often to my tall boots because they’re so much warmer. I like to have both knee-high boots and over-the-knee boots in various heel heights. Last weekend, I was so glad I had my UGG suede heeled boots when we were in the Poconos. I felt chic and put together and totally weather appropriate (we had some snow!) I also brought along my Sorel snow boots, which I wore over to the water park and then changed into ballet flats while I was inside. Flat tall boots are also nice to have (I have some similar to these) for casual wear.
Style Tip >> When tucking pants into knee-high and OTK boots, always wear skinny jeans (see #5 below.) I actually prefer legging jeans. If your pants are too baggy, you’ll look like a pirate. (And that is NOT a good look, in case you were wondering.)
2. Snow Boots or Rain Boots
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you may want snow boots in your wardrobe. I admit that I haven’t always had snow boots, at least not the fashionable ones, because a good leather riding boot can be worn in almost any condition you would need a snow boot for. But snow boots definitely keep you warmer than riding boots, plus, they’re fun to own! If you’re in a warmer climate that doesn’t get much snow, rain boots would certainly suffice. When it’s cold, you can wear thick socks, or better yet, Smartwool inside.
3. Ankle Boots
While my ankle boots tend to take backseat to my tall boots during the colder months, there’s still a place for ankle boots, especially for those who work and need more professional attire. Ankle boots are great because of their versatility. They still keep your feet out of the mud and the muck, but you can wear them with just about every style of jeans and pants. If you prefer a bootcut or straight leg pant, you can wear them longer, over top of your ankle boots. If you wear a lot of skinny jeans and slim ankle pants, you can also wear them with your ankle boots. I have these Halogen ankle boots in the black leather, and they’re perfect for wearing under trousers or bootcut jeans because the pointy toe is elongating. Also, the leather is more weather resistant than suede.
4. Classic Pumps
These aren’t as practical as the boots, but I love throwing on a pair of pumps every once in a while. It doesn’t have to be with a dress. Sometimes it’s fun to wear pumps with jeans and a nice sweater to go out to dinner, as long as the weather isn’t too messy. I recommend a block heel because it’s trending right now, for one thing, but also because it’s more practical than a stiletto. I have a pair of black suede Stuart Weitzman pumps that I’ve had for over 10 years and I still wear them often. They have a thicker heel and a more rounded toe (similar to these) but both are within classic parameters so they’ve never gone out of style.
Not that I’m saying you have to invest in pricey pumps. I also have a pair from Payless that I’ve enjoyed wearing this fall. Go with whatever suits your budget and consider how often you will wear them. I’m all about calculating price per wear when I make a purchase. If I know I’ll wear it a ton and I want it to last and feel great, I’ll spend more. If I know it’s something I think I’ll only wear a couple times a year, I’ll try to find a bargain. For a more delicate, mid-priced pump, I love the Sam Edelman Hazel.
5. Skinny Jeans
Skinny jeans are a necessity for tucking into your tall boots. As I said above, I prefer the legging style because the look better and are much easier to fit inside my tall boots. Even if you never wear your skinnies with pumps or flats because you feel they’re not flattering on your body type, you’ll want to have them for your tall boots. If you’re trying to balance out a carrot or a pear shape, wear a bulkier boot or shoe with your skinny jeans.
6. Classic Wool Coat
A classic wool coat will take you anywhere — from the office to dinner, from the grocery store to the shopping mall, and anywhere in between. You can throw it on over jeans and a casual sweater and look instantly chic, and you can also wear it over your favorite workwear looks. I even wore my camel reefer coat over a cocktail dress to my husband’s office holiday party, although I was wishing at that very moment that it was grey or black instead of camel, but it didn’t really matter. (I noticed there were other camel coats hanging in the coat room.) I also have a shorter red one that is fun for a change from the drab neutrals that tend to prevail in our outerwear choices.
7. Puffer Coat
A puffer coat basically takes you everywhere a wool coat can’t. Just make sure your puffer coat is waterproof, so it will hold up to all kinds of inclement weather. Whether it is short or long and lightweight or heavy duty depends on your climate and lifestyle. I have a shorter, lightweight quilted jacket for milder weather and a long, heavy duty puffer coat for the coldest days.
This sort of goes without saying, but I can’t really write a winter wardrobe essentials post without including sweaters, can I??? I think every woman should have at least one cashmere sweater in her wardrobe. They’re not as spendy as they used to be, and this time of year, you can usually find good sales. Halogen makes a classic cashmere sweater in a crewneck and a v-neck. They both come in tons of colors, and they’re priced well under $100. These are super soft, although they do pill so you may want to pick up a pill and lint removing sweater stone. This style of sweater is highly versatile because you can wear it alone, over a collared button-down shirt, or under a vest or blazer. They pair well with pants, jeans, and skirts.
Chunky, oversized sweaters are also super popular right now, and turtlenecks are having a moment. A couple of cardigans are great to have as well. Throw them on over your favorite tee for a casual look or over a silky camisole for a dressier vibe. Off-the-shoulder styles are popular this year, and I’m always a sucker for a good cowl neck.
9. Sweater Dress
I love a sweater dress in the wintertime. Pair it with tights and boots or booties for a look that’s chic and effortless. Wear it to the office, to church, on a dinner date, or for lunch with the girls.
10. Cozy Scarf
Blanket scarves are on their way out, but more traditional scarves are here to stay. I, for one, am very happy about this! The big blanket scarf draped over the front kerchief-style really isn’t that practical, but I am all for draping a long, cozy scarf around my neck when I’m outside. Infinity scarves are even easier still, and they take all guesswork out of styling.
11. Winter Hat/Beanie
I love it when a trend is as practical as it is cute. How I lived my whole life without wearing hats in the wintertime is beyond me. Also note, my favorite pompom beanie is back in stock!!! See how I styled it here. The fedora is super trendy, as are wool floppy hats, but I don’t think I’m cool enough to pull off either of those looks. If you are, then definitely consider adding one to your winter wardrobe.
12. Quilted Vest
Ever since I discovered the excursion quilted down vest at J.Crew, I’ve been sold on this trend. I love having an option in my closet for days that don’t really require a coat, but you definitely need to wear more than just a sweater. This vest fits well and doesn’t add bulk or do anything strange over the bosoms. I have it in red and black, and I’m debating the navy. For something a little dressier, J.Crew Factory has this popular herringbone style.
13. Tech Gloves
My fingers freeze in the wintertime, so I always need gloves, but I want to be able to access my iPhone so I have several pairs of tech-friendly gloves. I keep them in a basket in my office, which is right by the front door, so I can grab the ones that best compliment my outfit and walk right out the door.
14. Good Quality Tights
True confessions, I hate tights, but sometimes they’re a necessity. I highly recommend Spanx tights because they do double-duty as shapewear, plus they’re nice and thick and opaque.
15. Neutral Carryall
You really need this all year ’round, but I felt like this list wasn’t complete without a go-to handbag. I will always prefer a tote for my go-to handbag, although a hobo comes in a close second. I’m always drawn to the hobo style, but totes hold more and are easier to access. I’m all for having a few colorful handbags in my closet, but I think your go-to bag should be a neutral. Consider grey, cognac, brown, or black, depending on what colors you tend to wear the most.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! What would you add to this list? I realize it will vary a bit for everyone, but I think this is a pretty good place to start.
And because the sales right now are insane, here’s a roundup for your convenience. Most of these are good for today only, but see each retailer for exact details.
Nordstrom // Tons on sale, plus free delivery by Christmas Eve on gift cards and qualifying merchandise if you order by 12pm EST on 12/22.
J.Crew // 40% off in stores and online with code HOLIDAY.
Lands’ End // 50% off your order with code PRESENT.
LOFT // 40% off everything with code FESTIVE40.
Banana Republic // Extra 50% off; discount applied at checkout.
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