enjoyed survived 30 Michigan winters, I feel like a bit of a pro on cold weather survival and keeping a simple wardrobe that mixes and matches.
I prefer to keep my closet as minimalist as possible for a few reasons:
- I spend less money when I actively try to own less clothing
- Getting dressed is way easier if most things mix and match
I also have to think about staying warm and dry in the snowy, frigid weather – seriously, winter is no joke around here and I hate being cold and/or wet. It just ruins everything.
So let’s chat about tricks to staying warm and dry and having clothing that works for everything.
Secrets to a Mix & Match Cold Weather Wardrobe
Analyze Your Needs
I’ve found that it’s important to narrow down what your true clothing needs are.
As much as I like having pretty dresses and trendy outfits to go out in, the truth is that I work from home and spend 90% of my week in comfy clothes. It’s a waste of money and closet space for me to have a ton of going out clothes or professional outfits because I have nowhere to wear such things! A few dresses and trendy outfits are more than enough to last me all of the cold weather months.
Maybe your needs are the opposite. If you need to look professional for work each day, then that’s an important area to focus on. A few comfy outfits is probably plenty if you wear work clothes most of the week.
Picking a Neutral
This strategy has made the hugest difference in my closet! I used to get so frustrated that I had pieces of clothing that I loved but could never wear becasue I didn’t have the right stuff to wear with it.
I’d have a super cute dress that required black dress shoes, but I only had brown dress shoes so I never ended up wearing it. Or I’d buy some fabulous red shoes on sale that literally did not go with a single thing in my closet, so they sat unused.
I eventually “picked my neutral”.
I make sure that everything I buy goes with black. Pants, dresses, tops… I almost always buy black shoes (or metallic because they’re amazing and metallic shoes actually go with everything). I never buy clothes or shoes that are brown or tan or that would require brown or tan pieces to match.
This simple strategy makes most things in my closet able to mix and match with each other. I don’t have very many pairs of shoes because my one pair of dress shoes goes with all of my dressy clothes. It makes getting dressed so much easier.
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I don’t really limit the color palette of the clothes that I buy like you often see in smaller capsule wardrobes. I do tend to gravitate toward jewels tones though.
This year, I’ve been trying a new strategy that has been working really well so far. I’ve been trying to only buy bottoms (pants, skirts, shorts) in black. Since black is my chosen neutral, I realized that if I have mostly black colored bottoms, pretty much any top that I own will work with them! It makes pulling together a matching outfit so darn simple!
I don’t yet stick to this rule 100%; I couldn’t pass up some plum colored jeggings and I still have some jewel-toned pants and skirts. However, I did notice that it takes me much longer to pick out an outfit with one of those colored bottoms versus the black ones, so I’m going to try to be more strict about this rule as I shop in the future.
Before you think that this is simply no fun at all, I’ll just remind you that it’s just a guideline (who remembers that part from Pirates of the Caribbean?). I can break the rule if I want. I’m just remindeing myself that it’s truly easier to get dressed and feel good about myself when I follow the guideline.
Plus, most stores carry the same item in multiple color choices so I rarely have to pass up on something I like. Shoes that I like in brown usually come in black as well. Pants that come in blue probably have a black version.
Another way to create more of a mix and match wardrobe is by either (1) sticking with solid colors or (2) limiting patterns to one kind of clothing.
If I only have solid or patterned tops and always buy solid colored bottoms, I don’t have to worry about trying to mix patterns and more pieces will mix and match.
I prefer to wear mostly solid colors simply because I think it makes me look more put together and classy even if I’m in my comfy clothes. I don’t have any patterned pants, but I will buy patterned tops and sweaters.
It also helps to stick with solid colored “toppers”, and by that I mean fleeces, cardigans, or jackets. I wear multiple layers all through the fall and winter and I like having solid colored toppers because I can throw them on over anything without worrying if it matches the patterned shirt I have on underneath.
Jewelry & Accessories
Jewelry and accessories are the stars of the these outfits! I’ve always loved fun accessories and since they’re small and can be very inexpensive, they’re the perfect way to make my mostly solid-colored outfits pop.
I wear a lot of earrings when it’s cold since I’m usually so bundled up that no one would see a bracelet or necklace anyway 🙂 . I have quite a few infinity scarfs that I like as well.
The great thing about a mix and match wardrobe that is made of mostly solid colored pieces is that you can have a lot of fun with jewelry and accessories, so don’t hold back.
Alright, now let’s talk about staying warm. I’ve never been super minimalist about my coats because it’s just necessary here to have options for different kinds of weather and activities! I have four coats to get me through fall and winter.
- Insulated Rain Coat: My spring/fall coat is lightly insulated without being to warm. It’s also waterproof.
- Vest: I have a gray vest that is also pretty light. It layers well with fleeces when I’m out walking.
- Play-in-the-Snow Coat: It’s not very cute, but is perfect for playing in the snow and other physical activities. It’s black so it still matches everything and is very warm.
- Long Down Puffer Coat: I adore my knee-length down coat. When it’s super cold, I feel so much warmer having my butt covered. The longer length also works well with dresses or duster sweaters.
(don’t mind my dirty mirror in the pic, hahaha)
Between these four options (plus multiple fleeces that I layer with all of my outfits), I’m totally good to go for the cold weather. All of my coats are in colors that match everything, mostly gray and black.
I don’t currently have a wool dress coat. I used to have a beautiful one but it didn’t fit anymore and I hardly ever wore it, so I haven’t replaced it yet. It’s very rare that I need a dressy coat and my long puffer coat works with dresses well enough that I don’t mind wearing it.
By sticking with my neutral color for all of my coats, I don’t have to worry about my coat matching my shoes. Also, having a coat that is a longer length is super nice for wearing with dresses or long sweaters.
I generally splurge on our coats to get ones that will be super warm. There are always the fashion coats at Target and other shops that look really cute, but they’re hardly any warmer than a sweatshirt. I’m pretty sure those are meant for people who live in the south where it hardly drops below 50.
I stick with quality brands and materials as much as possible since I know we’ll stay warmer and the coats will last longer. I’ve gotten some great deals on down coats from Land’s End and by shopping on Amazon.
We’ve already talked about shoes a little bit. It’s important to stick with your neutral so that your shoes match as many outfits as possible. I’ve also found that metallic shoes go with everything and they’re super fun!
This allows me to have just one pair of dress shoes, one pair of leather boots, one pair of tennis shoes… You get the idea. Granted, I have a bit of a boot obsession and don’t mind owning more than that 🙂
My biggest winter survival tip when it comes to shoes it so waterproof them!!! Almost every year I spray our shoes with this waterproofing spray to make sure that our feet stay dry in the rain, snow, and slush. I just did this last week in fact.
It’s super easy and quick to do and is so worth it! I am not a happy camper when my feet are wet and frozen so this saves many potentially unhappy moments from happening (not even joking!).
After a few winters of having nothing that matched and looked cute together plus enduring cold, wet feet, I developed a bunch of these cold weather wardrobe strategies.
It does mean that occasionally I’ll like something a lot but won’t buy it because I know it won’t work with anything else I own or won’t be at all practical for the weather. That’s ok though! I try to remind myself that just because I like something doesn’t mean that it needs to come home with me.
I’m much happier when I can easily grab a few pieces out of my closet knowing that they make a cute outfit and I’ll be comfy and warm all day!