I don’t know if I necessarily subscribe to the concept of a capsule wardrobe, but I do like to keep a tight collection of essentials that are seasonally foundational – the pillars of my fall/winter wardrobe if you will. Over the years I’ve definitely taken a more minimal, less-is-more approach to my closet and have focused on timeless, quality pieces that I can style multiple ways, or simply re-wear year after year. In the colder months it’s all about maximizing coziness, warmth and function without sacrificing style or quality.
Denim is a non-negotiable in my fall/winter wardrobe and often what I wear when the temperature drops. I lean more heavily towards medium washes, as well as black and charcoal, to compliment the gorgeous earth tones that often come with the autumnal season. I’ll even mix in a good ecru if the weather permits – I love a winter white! I also love my AGOLDE recycled leather pants for fall/winter. While not technically denim, it’s just as trusty as some of the pairs that you’ll see below and a total game-changer when it’s extra chilly out!
I personally prefer a high-waisted, straight, slim or skinny leg that hits at, or just above, the ankle – anything that elongates my legs. Some of my favorites are by AGOLDE (I love the cropped Riley, both for jeans and shorts, and as of late, the 90’s Pinch Waist) and Levi’s (the 501’s skinny fit is quickly becoming my favorite skinny style), as well as the Sonya jean by Anine Bing. I’m also very curious about Totême jeans – I always hear such good things about them! The key is finding the length, cut and waist that makes you look and feel fabulous.
It’s also worth plugging the good ole denim jacket – an item that I’ve been wanting to work in more in the cooler months. I love a vintage blue wash jacket paired with either charcoal or off-white denim and a sleek black boot or mules if it’s on the warmer side. I mostly rely on my Anine Bing Rory Jacket (albeit almost too oversized for my petite frame), but have been keeping my eye out for a good wash from Levi’s or AGOLDE. Also if you can find it in a wash that you like, denim jackets are also fantastic to get vintage simply because they tend to be easy to find and they have a bit more character to them.
An essential regardless of the season. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve relied on my collection of trusty t-shirts, tanks, and, more recently bodysuits as the starting point for an outfit that I feel unstoppable in. I view these like a good pair of underwear, easy to find cheap, but better if invested in. For good basics at a competitive price point I often look to Everlane and For Days. I love For Days Vintage Tee (I also appreciate their replacement program) as well as Everlane’s Box-Cut Tee. For tanks, Totême’s Espera tank is one of my favorites. It’s a bit pricey for a tank, but the quality is insane. Also AGOLDE tanks, I have the Rib Tank in latte and white.
When it comes to bodysuits, I am still feeling this one out. I have a long torso (coupled with a larger bust) which, not every bodysuit is made for so I’m still in a bit of trial-and-error phase here. So far the only brands that I’ve had consistently good luck with have been Good American and SKIMS.
The Oversized Button Down
Quite possibly one of the most underrated essentials for women in my opinion. They can be worn on their own, layered over a thin knit or under a larger knit or wool coat for more warmth. For the perfect oversized button down I am a loyal fan of WNU and my husbands closet. Style Tip: when it comes to shopping men’s shirts, focus on slim fit styles as they have a bit more shape while still being oversized.
I will also never say no to a good “shacket” which I would slide into this category. I’m very into the wool ones that have been floating around – the perfect Farmer’s Market jacket! I feel like every brand has one these days, but if you’re not finding what you like, the men’s section like Octobre (brother to Sezane) is my secret weapon.
Snuggle Worthy Knitwear
In addition to denim, this is another ‘must’ category for my fall/winter wardrobe. There’s nothing I love more than a good sweater that I can wear season after season. That being said, there is a lot of knitwear out there all of which vary in quality and style. Some of my favorite brands are: Filippa K, LouLou Studio, Sezane, Envelope1976, Totême, Jenni Kayne (love The Fisherman and The Cocoon), Paradis Perdus, Everlane, Naadam, Eric Bompard, and Vince.
The key is to focus on the fabric content. I typically stick to cashmere, wool, merino wool and sometimes alpaca (sometimes it gets a little itchy for me) and look for it either straight up or blended with another natural fiber like wool, cotton or silk and a smidge of nylon (it adds durability even though it is a synthetic fiber). I try to avoid polyester and acrylic as much as possible. From a sustainability and longevity stand point they are harder on the environment, difficult to recycle post consumer use and, in my opinion, don’t perform as well as natural fibers. That being said, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If I do find something that I love with synthetic fibers in it, I make sure that it’s something that I know will have a nice long lifetime (like many years and wears) in my closet.
When it comes to style, I like to have my basics covered: simple, non-chunky crewnecks and turtlenecks in neutral colors like black, beige, navy and white in either cashmere, merino or a blend. I layer these a ton under blazers, other sweaters, coats or wear them on their own during the day at night. With those covered, then I branch out to chunkier or unique knits, but usually within a neutral color palette. Ultimately it comes down to your style preferences. For me, I love crewnecks, off the shoulder or boat neck sweaters and turtlenecks, but for you it might be v-necks and cardigans. To each their own!
Coats That Do It All
If I lived in a warmer climate I would probably lean more heavily into the jacket and oversized shirt-jacket categories, but the PNW calls for thicker measures. The thing about the PNW is that you never know what you’re going to get and if you run cold like me, then a good collection of cold weather coats that you can layer under is essential to surviving winter. That and an umbrella.
My essential will always be a wool and/or cashmere coat. I know it should be a raincoat, but I refuse to subscribe to a life in rubber from October through April. It will often be double-breasted (although I love single as well) and slightly oversized, hitting around mid-calf or just above the knee for a blazer coat vibe. Unlined wool coats are a bit more versatile such that they can work over a t-shirt or a chunky turtleneck and a great option for more mild winters.
Vince, Attire the Studio, Joseph, Harris Warf, Totême, Lou Lou Studio and Max Mara (all three labels) consistently serve up great coats season over season and while typically expensive, worth the investment. If you really want to invest, Knot Standard offers custom coats and blazers. I did this last year when I was on the hunt for a double-breasted camel wrap coat that had a strong color and could not find something that I loved for the life of me. It is *chef’s kiss*. Regardless of the brand though, the key is finding something that has a high wool and/or cashmere content (shoot for above 50%). When it comes to content, I typically approach outwear in the same way that I do knitwear. Keep an eye out for RWS certified or mulesing-free wool to ensure the ethical treatment of sheep.
Often in the form of blazers and trousers and usually in a heavy weight cotton, wool, and/or cashmere for maximum warmth. I love to pair trousers with sneakers like my Veja V-10 or adidas Sambas, mules or loafers. When it comes to length and shape I gravitate towards a slightly wide (not flare), straight or tapered leg, and either full-length (wide and straight leg) or cropped (tampered or straight leg) hitting just above the ankle. Anything in between just makes me feel stocky.
Blazers are my second love to wool coats, and quite possibly my first love on warmer fall days. I think if I had to pick a uniform it would be pair of good pair of jeans, a t-shirt (or sweater) and an impeccably made and tailored blazer. I often lean towards an ever-so-slightly oversized fit in the shoulders and arms so that I can layer it over sweaters, but still wear it over a t-shirt without being too oversized. I also love to layer them under a wool coat which can come in handy during colder months or if I don’t want to wear a bulky sweater.
If you ask me, you can never have too many blazers, but if I were to recommend three it would be black, tan, and neutral texture or houndstooth. Same goes for trousers – I don’t stray too far outside of shades of black, grey, beige and brown. Filippa K, Vince, Lou Lou Studio, Envelope1976 and Attire are some of my favorite resources for blazer and trousers as well as Theory and The Frankie Shop.
The cherry on top of a good outfit if you ask me! A few beautiful pieces of jewelry can make an otherwise simple outfit look like a work of art. I gravitate towards simple, timeless jewelry, often in the form of 14K and 18K gold, that I can wear with anything and dress up or down. I try to find brands that use responsibly and ethically sourced, and/or recycled materials and that don’t have insane markups.
Boots That Were Made For Walkin’
A good boot collection has become essential for me as I’ve found myself living in the PNW. I feel like I’ve been on a 5 year mission to find a pair of boots that can handle the elements and look chic. My go-to is a Chelsea style boot with a more square or angular toe that has a a small block heel that I can walk miles in. I also prefer a taller boot shaft compared to an ankle bootie and a less rounded toe (it feels less casual and thus more versatile). I also always look for leather (unless I’m intentionally hunting for a rain boots) as they will last longer and age better.
I wouldn’t say that I’m exclusive with any boot brands (the key is style, quality/craftsmanship and comfort regardless of who makes it), but there are a few that I gravitate towards season over season. I love AEYDE and have accumulated a few pairs over the years (be forewarned, they can be a bit painful to break in). Everlane has great classics at a more attainable price point. R.M. Williams has really solid, well made boots with a more workwear vibe. Staud, By Far, Tamara Mellow and Anine Bing are also great options.
Do It All Bags
I’ll be the first to admit that bags are typically an afterthought for me, but as essential nevertheless. I’m working on rounding out my handbag collection beyond the totes and big work bags that dominate my life M-F. A classic bag that’s a little more structured in black or brown with simple gold hardware will take you day-to-night and season-to-season without going out of style. Most of time, I’m carrying a crossbody like my black Demellier Vancouver bag or brown Wandler bag (similar one here). but have been venturing into large clutches like the Khaite Aimee clutch and this Cuyana pouch that I can fit the essentials in and either carry on its own or throw in a tote.
Similar to boots, I don’t discriminate when it comes to brands, but do have a few that I gravitate towards. Overall it really comes down to style, price point, functionality and craftsmanship. Demellier, Sezane, Cuyana, Mansur Gavriel and A.P.C all have timeless designs, great quality at a more modest price point. Khaite, Celine, Chloe, YSL, Gabriella Hearst and Stella McCartney also have beautiful bags at a higher price point.
Flats To Slip Into
Even though it’s often too cold (and rainy) in Portland for me to wear these year round, if weather permits, I will slip on a good mule or classic flat with jeans in lieu of boots. I typically rotate between my Jenni Kayne mules, Everlane loafers (FYI they’ve updated the style to something much clunkier in my opinion), and a pair of off-white and black flats that I came across in Florence that have slowly become my favorite throw-on-and-go shoe.
If I had to choose one flat it would either be a more refined looking loafer or flat with a little 1-2” block heel for extra lift, that is also super comfortable such that I can walk around in them all day. These Jack Rodger’s one’s are on my list and I’ve been loving these AEYDE one’s as well!