How to Create an Affordable Winter Wardrobe

Written by Frances Grove

No matter what your size or budget, you can build a fashionable winter wardrobe without breaking the bank. The key is versatility — clothes that match as many other pieces in your wardrobe as possible. Your goal: to reach into your closet every day and — with minimal effort — pull out a few pieces that look great on you, look great with each other and keep you comfortable.

Sort, save and purge

Start by clearing out the clothing from spring and summer. Put those sundresses, shorts and miniskirts in short term storage — in bins on your closet floor, for example. If they’re simple enough to be layered under sweaters or jackets, keep lightweight tops in rotation — even sleeveless ones like tanks, tees and camis. Medium-weight skirts are fine to keep in rotation as well, as long as they look good over tights and boots.

Purge any items that are ripped, stained, unflattering, out of style or otherwise unfortunate. Seriously. By keeping these items, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Donate them, swap with a friend, sell them to a thrift shop. Just get them out of your home.

What’s missing?

Lay everything that survived the Great Store and Purge out on the bed, the tops on one end and the bottoms on the other, and compare it to this recommended list of winter wardrobe basics. For your convenience, I’ve also included some buying recommendations.

The bottom half:

  • A few pairs of jeans.
  • A few pairs of dressier pants.
  • A few skirts.
  • 1 pair of closed-toe, high-heeled shoes, 1 pair of closed-toe flat shoes and 1 pair of boots. Nine West has some nice, affordable options.
  • A few pairs of opaque, colored or patterned tights.

The top half:

Color check and outerwear

Is everything black? If so, you need some color. Is everything made of patterned fabric? If so, you need some solids. Figure out how much you can afford to spend, make a list and go shopping.

But first, a word about outerwear: After you’ve put together a fantastic winter wardrobe, you won’t want to cover it with a ratty coat. I suggest you invest in a lined trench, a menswear-inspired long wool coat or some other stylish cold-weather jacket. Plus, if you’re wearing a grimy top underneath, no one will know because you’ll have a fabulous coat covering you. This coat may eat up half your winter wardrobe budget, but it will be worth it.

Shopping tips

I recommend looking through thrift stores for gently used coats. Boutiques are also great if you want designer pieces or clothes that are different from what everybody else in the office is wearing. For plus sizes, as well as good deals on basics like jeans and sweaters, your best bet is the mall or online shopping. Having tons of options means you can comparison shop without running separate errands. Also, fall is the time for sale prices, so hit the stores with that in mind.

Look for solid fabrics over patterns, in neutral colors like white, navy, khaki, chocolate, black or gray. I’m not telling you to dress like a mortician. You definitely want to pepper in some brightly colored and/or patterned pieces that coordinate with as many of your solid neutrals as possible.

Then, mix and match. Wear warm, long-sleeved tops with jeans or a skirt and boots. Wear a summery top under a warmer piece like a sweater, and pair with dressy pants. A winter wardrobe of comfortable, stylish clothes doesn’t need to be huge — just smart. With the right pieces, youll be feeling warm and looking fab all season.

About the author

Frances Grove

Frances Grove is a freelance writer and script coordinator in Los Angeles. She's written articles for the Los Angeles Downtown News and creative content for HBO, along with a waist high stack of scripts on spec. She's worked in the TV industry for ten years, but her fantasy careers would be to name nail polish colors, grow tomatoes, and do crosswords professionally.

Currently reading: Spoiled by The Fug Girls

Workout m.o.: Brisk walk or hike through Griffith Park, aqua aerobics or a yoga class

Secretly obsessed with: The Stellar's Sea Cow (extinct)

Dream vacation: Italian countryside, rented villa for a month, friends and family visiting in shifts.

Currently listening to: Talking Heads' "Talking Heads:77"

Go-to relaxation technique:Adult beverage + hammock

Personal theme song: "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby" by The Smiths

Must-haves if trapped on a desert island: Tweezers, SPF, light-weight poolside coverup and kicky wedge heels, The Coen Brothers Collection and suitable playing device.