My stay-home casual winter 2020-2021 capsule wardrobe
What to wear this winter? It’s made so much more difficult to decide on a capsule wardrobe because who knows whether we will be in lockdown as soon as Christmas is over? If the virus is still very active will we older women wish to mix very much even if there are no rules? Is it worth buying outfits for evenings or smart casual? Or should we invest more in athleisure clothes?
Dressing for my age, body shape and lifestyle
If you follow these articles you’ll know that I am over 70 now. I’m short and square. I live in a village in rural South West France in the warmer months and move here, to the French Riviera, in mid October each year. I’ll stay until mid March. I love walking the coastal paths, browsing the Provencal markets and having breakfast in a café. But of course this year things are very different with all cafes and restaurants closed. I still do lots of walking though and now I take a flask of hot coffee along to a very remote little beach, buying my croissant from the bakery on the way. Perfect!
I had to make most of my choices for this wardrobe back in October because I had to pack it for my winter stay.
I brought with me the main elements of my wardrobe but intended to buy a couple of things here. However as soon as I arrived France went into lockdown and we just came out about a week ago. The lockdown meant that no stores were allowed to sell non-essentials. And clothes are considered non essential.
So what you’ll see here is perhaps not my ideal winter capsule but this site is all about authenticity. So I’ve shown exactly what I really will be wearing from now to mid March.
By the way, as you can see I’m taking these selfies in a corner of my tiny studio apartment. They’re taken in a mirror which is why you can see the camera!
Putting together a seasonal capsule depending on the weather
This is my Winter wardrobe for life on the Cote d’Azur. One of the vital things you have to bear in mind when deciding on a season’s wardrobe is the climate.
Your winter wardrobe may include many more layers or warmer clothes than mine depending on where you live. Here in the South of France things have just started getting cold. Not freezing but too cold to go out without a coat or warm jacket after dark. However, despite some rainy days, I’m still eating lunch on my balcony in the sunshine about one in every two or three days.
My capsule has to see me through the last part of December – a month of transition from sunshine to cloud and rain – then into January when it’s usually cold but bright. But by February the sun is often back and people are on their balconies again. I’d like to say they are sitting on the terraces of cafes but when will that ever happen again? Possibly not till late springtime.
By the time March comes around the weather is rather good. Bright days most of the time with enough warmth to allow you to remove your cardigan by midday. Heaven!
Dressing for a Covid-safe lifestyle
Winter here usually means long walks along the cliffs and beach paths plus lots of trips into nearby towns to amble around the sights and galleries. There’s usually lots going on culturally and as a single person I love to go to as much as I can in the evening.
But in 2021 I doubt there will be much happening in the evening. Even though France is no longer in lockdown we have a curfew from 8pm to 6am to stop (mainly young) people gathering indoors. As Macron said ‘It’s not much fun being 20 in 2020’.
So I’ve included in my capsule few items for going out and more items for staying in – athleisure clothes.
Everyone has been warned to limit gatherings at Christmas and New Year and at my age we all feel we should isolate. The thought of taking a flight to the UK to celebrate with my daughter and her family is worrying and today she just rang me to say London is now closed till after Christmas.
So no need to include a special outfit for festivities this year. (Though I’m keeping a simple dress from my Fall wardrobe on the hanging rail and I’m going to wear it on Christmas Day in splendid isolation. What a strange world we suddenly live in!)
But I’m not going to stop enjoying what I wear. It’s just going to be simpler than I might choose in other years. (And less expensive – mmm I’m liking that. Who knows what will happen to my pension after Brexit on January 1st?!)
Using the Capsule Wardrobe Recipe
You can read my 10 step recipe for a seasonal capsule wardrobe here. I’ll be following the ten steps as usual.
So let’s get going and see what I put into my Winter 2020-2021 Capsule Wardrobe and why. I hope that I can tempt you to make your own capsule this season. It will save you money and get rid of those ‘I’ve nothing to wear’ moments in front of your open closet. I know dressing by capsule has changed my life for the better in so many ways. In fact I’ve listed 45 of them here!
Choosing a color palette for the winter
For my base or neutral color I’ve decided on black. I have lots of items in black and this year is not the year to buy too many new clothes.
I’ve added grey as my secondary color with just a touch of white in one or two items to give some brightness. I really like grey although it’s becoming more difficult to wear close to my face as I get paler every year now.
My special color is red. I’d decided on this combination early in October when I started organizing what to bring with me here to the Riviera.
I didn’t want my wardrobe to be too drab especially as black and grey are not easy colors to wear when you are over 70. So I decided I’d buy a patterned top with red in it and a red, or mainly red, cardigan that could be worn with most of my tops and bottoms.
But clothes shops were closed due to lockdown. This didn’t worry me too much as I often shop online these days anyway. So I trawled through site after site looking for red. That’s the great thing about having a capsule – you don’t get distracted by pretty things that you’ll rarely wear. You know exactly where the gaps are and you just look for those.
So I was searching efficiently. But I just couldn’t find things in a good strong bright red. I found this really odd because I thought back in the autumn, ‘no problem to pick up the extra items I need later on because it will be Christmastime so red will be everywhere’.
The mistake I made this year choosing one of my colors
But I hadn’t checked the season’s colors closely enough.
In Fall I bought almond and Bordeaux-red items easily as they were the season’s colors. What I hadn’t remembered was that they were the Fall/Winter season’s colors, not just Fall. So the red I was seeing everywhere in December was that wine-red I’d already worn all autumn.
Sure, red is everywhere but not the bright red I need.
Bad planning. I should have checked. A capsule is all about planning in advance and being effortlessly well-dressed once the season arrives.
One of the best things about a seasonal wardrobe is that on a certain day – for me when I’ve photographed the wardrobe and published the post – you simply pack one whole season’s clothes away. Suddenly you have the fun of a whole new set of items which you’ve organized just right. You enjoy new colorways and styles, even if many of the clothes are years old.
I didn’t want to wear that Bordeaux color again so my wardrobe is a bit less jolly than I’d hoped this year. Still, I saved money!
Buy stategically and save money every season
As usual I’ll list out all my items in my Winter Capsule Wardrobe and you’ll see that most of my clothes are ones I’ve had for a while. A capsule is all about doing more with less. It’s not about buying more stuff because you’re bored with what’s hanging in your closet. Making a capsule wardrobe is a creative exercise. You’re making every item work harder for you and looking even more stylish at the same time.
Once you get the habit you’ll always be on the lookout for clothes you really need while the sales are on. You’ll treasure every purchase. And you’ll never get anxious about what to wear ever again.
My Capsule Wardrobe Winter 2020 – 2021 list
Bottoms for Winter time
- Black straight leg pencil pants bought locally at Cache Cache France. Discounted. They’re too long of course so I had to turn them up – which is a shame as the little side vents no longer appear at the ankle. But I wanted a warmer pair of trousers and a simple line with a neat flat waistband.
- Grey and white micro-check pencil pants in a warm jersey fabric. Purchased 5 years ago in a small boutique in France – in the sales of course! I must have been really large then because I’ve had to take them in a lot at the waist.
- Black with white stripes stretch joggers. I’ve had these for years and they were part of my Fall wardrobe. They’re really comfortable though not very thick. Perfect for a morning walk along the beach with the dog. If I get caught in a shower they wash out fast and dry easily.
- Knitted warm athleisure cuffed jogging bottoms (Cache Cache France). I’ve been searching everywhere for this item in petite because nothing looks better than a cuff ending just above the ankle. But not even Boden, who does exactly the pants I wanted, offered a petite size. Crazy really. Perhaps they think that athleisure is slouchy anyway so it doesn’t matter.
I ended up buying these in a hurry last week when the shops reopened. I wasn’t comfortable trying things on in the store – it was very warm and I had to keep my mask on. I grabbed a size Large because I didn’t want them to be fitted. (Cache Cache is the typical high street/mall fast fashion outlet aimed at young girls and women. So anything smaller than Large is usually far too tiny at the waist and hips for me.)
But another error. I should have taken more time to try them on properly. As it is they are HUGE!!! And that’s even with me having broadened in the beam yet again.
As you’ll see I had to roll the cuffs up twice too.
I see the jogging pants at Boden were reduced so I didn’t even save any money. I should have made a decision earlier and bought online. Planning. Planning. Planning. (Link to Boden US for these gorgeous athleisure straight cut pants.)
Tops for cooler and cold days
- Red round neck short sleeved tee bought three years ago in the local supermarket during a sale. Actually I bought it to wear as part of our choir uniform which is red. However the choir hasn’t met in almost a year so it’s good to have a reason to wear it. I hate leaving clothes unused – it makes me feel wasteful and guilty.
- White shirt by Marks & Spencer’s bought when I ordered my blue shirt at the end of last summer . I love that it has interior buttons between the ones on show. That means no gapping. I pounced on this shirt because it is unfussy, very inexpensive, has those extra buttons and…it comes in petite (as well as lots of other sizes).
- Black three-quarter sleeve high neck sweater that I’ve had for ten years or more. I never get rid of classics like this. They don’t go in and out of fashion and are so useful even if only now and again.
- New grey merino wool fine knit roll collar sweater from Marks & Spencer bought online during their early lockdown sale (Yes, I knew even then that I’d be having grey as my secondary color for winter). It’s a classic item for any wardrobe and well worth even the full price (which actually is tiny!!)
- Pale grey longish cashmere cardigan from Boden bought online two years ago and washed and worn quite a bit since then. I’m not generally a fan of this traditional hip length for a cardi but it certainly keeps one warm in the winter, so useful to have as a wardrobe staple in colder weather.
- Black and grey classic thick jersey lined jacket bought twelve years ago from Carroll France when I was dressing for business meetings. I’ve hung onto it because the short boxy shape works well for me and I can dress it down over jeans rather than up over tailored trousers as I used to.
- Bordeaux-red cotton jersey slip-on Penny dress from Boden bought for my Fall wardrobe. Very comfortable and I’m going to wear it for Christmas Day, come what may! It’s not the year to splash out on a new dress that’s for sure. Here’s the US Boden store Penny dress link. I notice both stores are offering this super little dress at 30% off right now. (Lots of other colors so I might buy now for next Spring or Fall).
- Athleisure – warm grey knitted hoodie that goes with the jogging bottoms (though together they drown me when worn as an outfit so I’ll use as separates). Easy to wear over a vest or tee on colder days.
Outdoorwear for changeable weather
- Black faux leather biker jacket bought new from Cache Cache France three months ago because I knew I’d be choosing black as my winter base color. It looks and feels like the finest quality supple leather. I don’t have any great worries over wearing real leather but this vegan variety is inexpensive and looks great. Again it’s that short boxy shape that I find looks best on me. Stopping above my widest point and bulking up my top to balance my heavy lower half.
- Grey sleeveless puffer jacket. Source unknown. It must be six years old at least. Perfect for stuffing in a bag in case the weather gets chilly. This puffer and a big scarf are all that’s usually needed for outdoors here in winter during the day. Easy to wear over jeans, pants and my dress.
My one special item this season
- My bright orange coat in wool and cashmere from Marks & Spencers. I bought it in 2014 or 2015 and I’ve worn it masses since. It’s generously cut and I’ve often worn it over thick sweaters when I’ve been in colder climates. It works well with pants but also with an over the knee skirt or, as here, with a dress. Orange isn’t in my winter wardrobe color palette but it is so direct that it looks good even with a clashing color like red. Over black it can look very smart too.
If you’re looking to buy a new coat this winter read my post on Best Winter Coats. I’ve included the slightly updated version of this coat there too.
Footwear for a casual life
- Black sneakers bought a year ago from the local supermarket. Good with athleisure items.
- Beige tan and black animal print sneakers bought for my Fall wardrobe.
- Black ankle boots with gold trim bought several months ago because I knew black would be the base color of my winter wardrobe.
Black nylon with tan trim medium sized bag. M&S were doing these a few years ago. Much cheaper than the similar Longchamps bags I’d been buying for years. They fold up small so can be kept for years without taking up valuable space. I consider them to be classic items for casual or smart casual outfits.
- Assorted gold chains. I’d intended to bring my heavy gold chain necklace (see Fall Wardrobe) but somehow it got left behind. So while I was in Cache Cache buying the black trousers and huge jogging bottoms, I collected up a few fine gold chains that look good worn together. They’ll see me through the whole of 2021 in fact. And of course this type of jewelry costs very little. I also bought a shiny new gold bangle too. What is it with me and chains this year?
- Gold hoop earrings. I’d already got several gold hoop earrings that work with most casual outfits. They take up no space when packing so it’s worth keeping a stock of them on hand.
- Four scarves
Looking for red I managed to find a large red and multi color scarf discounted by 50% so snapped it up to add a lively touch to my rather sombre wardrobe.
I already had a large red and navy blanket scarf so that went into the capsule too for the same reasons.
My black, white and pink silk square that I’ve had since the nineties goes well with the black theme and helps to pull some outfits together with a bit more style.
And a grey and navy narrow cashmere scarf – with a matching pom pom hat – was a Christmas present from my daughter three years ago so I always enjoy wearing it. That’s especially true this year when we will not be spending the holidays together. (I hope I don’t get tearful when I wrap it around me on Christmas morning for my walk.)
- Two pairs of gloves grey (new) and a pair in tan with animal print (bought several years ago).
- Socks in black and grey, some thick black tights and a couple of pairs of black leggings from M&S.
- A cashmere pom pom hat (I’ve worn it in the snow before but it’s very unlikely we’ll get snow here on the Riviera.) But if I go up into the mountains in February I’ll certainly take it with me.
- I’ve got several vests and a black and two grey tees that I’ll wear under tops but who knows, perhaps it will be wrm enough in March 2021 to wear them as tops?
- Plus I’ve packed a lighter weight pair of cotton three quarter pants just in case March is as warm as it was last year here.
Why bother to make seasonal capsule wardrobes?
Isn’t it a lot of hassle you might ask?
Well, it does take planning. But if you’d seen how speedily I zapped through three stores last week with my attention only on red items and grey athleisure you’d agree with me that shopping is faster, less tiring and less frustrating. Plus you’d see that I didn’t come home with extra items that ‘caught my eye’. So over all I definitely save money.
Knowing what my next season’s wardrobe is likely to be I mainly shop when items are discounted just before the new fashions come onto the shelves. I don’t need the latest fashion. In fact I tend to prefer styles that are becoming ‘classic’ as I know they will not look too young and will not look dated too fast.
It’s amazing how often a fashion is seen in every shop one season then not again for years. I don’t want to buy those clothes.
Then there are the surprises like animal prints that everyone thinks will last a year but carry on for almost a decade. Those styles have become modern classics.
Who thought platform sole sneakers would last more than a season? Yet they’ve been with us for years now. I didn’t buy them at first because they were too ‘fast fashion’ for my personal style and age. But once I saw they were popular the following year, and in every season, I took the plunge.
Make your own capsule wardrobe
Why not use this New Year to start organizing your closet and pulling together a winter wardrobe or starting one ready for Spring? Here is my 10 step recipe to help you.
Because I know a total restyle and re-organization of your clothes can be a massive task, I’ve been working on a step by step program you can do at your own pace. The course takes you from too many clothes but nothing to wear to a streamlined stylish collection that is exactly right for your personal style and your life.
I want you to love the way you look.
As a pre-program step I’ve put together a free information sheet to help you find Your Personal Style. It starts with a five minute quiz. Then I’ve added extra notes and tips for each style personality so you learn which clothes will bring out the real you.