Saturday October 1st 2022

Build a Winter Wardrobe on the cheap

Katie Holmes wears Winter well

THIS winter, slash your fashion budget in half and create a look that lasts by building a sexy, practical seasonal wardrobe.

And, for those of you  hitting the Summer months, take advantage of the end-of-season sales and get prepared for next year’s chilly season!

Fed up with frumpy separates and impulse buys that cost a fortune and may be worn once – if at all? Re-vamping your existing togs, swapping trend purchases for timeless pieces and building a set of multi-functional basics are simple tools for a stylish, cost-effective look during chilly weather.

Feng Shui Fashion – get rid of “clutter” clothing

The perfect wardrobe? A healthy mix of basics – foundation pieces that work with virtually everything –  and seasonal separates, comprising a couple of weather-specific, mix ‘n match items.

The “I don’t have a thing to wear” syndrome is typical of a cupboard stuffed with duplicated items (yes, you can have too many white t-shirts), bargain buys and over-priced boutique pieces.

Before spending another cent on new sweaters, coats, scarves or stripy beanies, honestly assess what you already own.

  • Put into a pile clothes that are obvious winter items, such as wool jerseys, leather jackets and long, heavy skirts.
  • Add another pile that works in a winter layered look – tailored shirts, short skirts (worn with pantyhose), waistcoats, lightweight jerseys and jeans.
  • Identify clothes from these piles (and any still lurking in your cupboard) that you can wear comfortably across both autumn and winter.  For example, an autumn-friendly, medium-length skirt is perfectly cosy in winter when teamed with long boots and warm stockings.
  • Haul out your sewing kit (or phone your mom for help). We often neglect gorgeous outfits because of a missing button or ragged hem.
  • Make a mental note of your favourite separates – those you wear time and again. Do you love the colour, the way they slim you down or a bit of both? Chances are you need to invest in another two or three similar styles or shades.
  • Sell, give to charity or dump on your book club any items that you have not worn in about a year and which – after trying them on in front of a mirror right now – just don’t grab you. Be brave; there’s no room for hangers-on here.
  • Spend at least an hour mixing and matching all the separates in your winter and almost-winter piles. Pair things up differently, add and remove belts – anything that gives you a fresh new look. Make notes of what works and throw out what doesn’t.
  • Lastly, clean up your act! Mouldy cupboard walls and musty fragrance sachets malingering in drawers attract clothing chaos. Wash walls and shelves, vacuum, use draw liners and find visible, practical spots for clothes, shoes and accessories. Tip : Large items such as heavy trench coats should always be stored in clothing protectors and ideally, professionally cleaned pre-season.

How-to Haute Couture – build a set of stylish basics

The rule of thumb for your foundation wardrobe is to have a good range of separates in complementary colours. These essential items can also mostly be worn throughout the year and should easily mix and match.

Identify a primary colour for your wardrobe, bearing in mind that it must mix easily with a range of secondary colours. Choose from black, gray, brown, charcoal or navy.

Now select two main secondary colours from your existing wardrobe and bear these colours in mind when shopping for new clothes.

The smart girl’s basic wardrobe contains all or most of the following items :

  • Two pairs of full-length pants – at least one that’s crease-resistant and in a dark colour
  • One medium or short skirt and a full-length skirt. Have one neutral-colour skirt and one patterned
  • At least two long-sleeved tops – one your primary colour and the other a secondary colour
  • About four to six shirts and tops – long and short-sleeved – that match your skirts and pants collection
  • A button-up cardigan or light-weight jacket in your primary colour
  • One or two jerseys or sweaters that match at least one pair of pants and one skirt.

Winter Wonderland – what to wear when it’s cold

Even a lightweight summer vest works in cooler weather – it’s all about layering. Once your basic wardrobe is set up, you can easily identify which clothes work in winter and what you need to buy to ward off the chill.

  • Wear t-shirts or vests under long-sleeved tops and a basic jacket in winter
  • Tight, long-sleeved tops in lycra material work like stylish vests – wear them under smart, crisp shirts for work and add a warm neck scarf for a dash of style
  • Woollen and velvet materials are super-warm – wear summer tops underneath them.

To build a complete winter wardrobe, you only need invest in a couple of good quality separates such as long, woollen skirts, warm jerseys, at least one heavyweight jacket and hard-wearing long pants. These all work in autumn, can be toned down for the office and jazzed up for after hours.

  • A minimum of two dark-coloured, beautifully tailored long pants
  • A well-cut, warm blazer or jacket, preferably in a primary or dark colour
  • Bite the bullet and buy the loveliest, most well-cut trench coat or long, fitted jacket that you can afford. This winter staple is the ultimate crowd pleaser – wear with long pants and a light-coloured shirt for the office and pair with thick stockings, long boots and a short skirt for parties
  • A rich-coloured jersey in wool or cashmere works well with long, medium and short skirts, as well as pants. Preferably splash out on colour a bit, choosing purple, vibrant dark green, wine or chocolate
  • Two long-sleeved shirts in medium to heavyweight material
  • At least one pair of jeans – dress up or down with jerseys, smart shirts, colourful scarves and a jacket
  • Boots are essential – knee-length if possible. Ensure they’re roomy enough for thick stockings or socks
  • For the office, invest in a trouser suit and wear the top and bottom as separates with other winter items

© Beth Cooper, 2010. This article first appeared in Femina magazine.