How to build a winter capsule wardrobe: What to wear for warmth and style

Need help curating a winter capsule wardrobe? Here's everything you need in your closet to see you through in style

winter capsule wardrobe: women wearing clothes from ted baker, cos, mango, H&M, fatface
(Image credit: Ted Baker, Cos, Mango, H&M, FatFace)

Learning how to build a winter capsule wardrobe can save you both money and wardrobe space. A smart edit of pieces that are stylishly interchangeable that provide the right amount of warmth for the season, your winter capsule wardrobe should also be full of timeless pieces you can wear year after year.

A winter capsule wardrobe is an edit of essentials that will see you through the season in style. While, like any type of capsule wardrobe, there is no set number of pieces it should hold, the idea is that if you create a minimalist capsule wardrobe for each season, you can invest in better quality items that can be mixed and matched together to create numerous outfit options. This, in the long run, saves time, money and closet space. 

To create your winter capsule wardrobe, you will need a range of basics that will cover you for everything from smart-casual outfits, and work ensembles, to cozy pieces, and as it's for winter, some party-ready holiday items too. Your winter capsule wardrobe should incorporate all the basics you need, such as the best sweaters, a winter-ready coat, and boots to help you beat the chill. And while your basics should be of high enough quality that you can wear them for several winters, you can add a directional feel by weaving in more trend-led pieces each year for an automatic refresh. 

How to build a winter capsule wardrobe

Deciding the volume of what you need in terms of a winter capsule wardrobe really is down to personal taste and there is no set number of items you need to stick to. However, for the most effective winter capsule wardrobe, it is good practice to start each season by reminding yourself how to clear out a closet. This will involve going through existing items, checking what needs to be repaired, what should be cleaned, sold, or donated, and making a list of missing items or styles so you know what to replace.

When it comes to picking colors for your winter capsule wardrobe, the top priority is to think about what color suits me and build your wardrobe around pieces in colors that make you feel good. Having said that, make sure you have a good selection of neutral basics that can team up with pops of color for easy styling. 

These are the items we suggest find a home in your winter capsule wardrobe, to help you make a range of winter outfit ideas.

  • Sweaters: Sweaters and knitwear in general is the obvious first thing to put on our winter capsule wardrobe list, but finding the ideal sweater isn't always easy. Think about the types of sweaters you require and the length. Shorter knits are ideal for wearing with skirts and trousers, where you want the waists of each item to balance one another while nailing how to style oversized sweaters is great for leggings outfits and skinny jeans wearers. The best cashmere sweaters offer the best quality in terms of body temperature regulation but are more difficult to look after, so you need to think about practicalities too. And don't forget classic roll necks in core neutrals as these can be layered under blouses and dresses. 
  • Thermals: If where you live or are traveling to gets super cold, you may want to consider having some emergency thermal pieces too. This can take the form of thermal long-sleeve tops and leggings. Straight-to-market brands such as Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo have great, cost-effective thermal ranges. If you're heading skiing or to similar temperatures, then specialist base layers may be required. 
  • Shirts/blouses/tops: Ideal for the office, for adding an androgynous edge to outfits, or for layering under sweaters or dresses, having both formal shirts and dressy blouses are great for a winter capsule wardrobe. You may find that your winter and spring capsule wardrobes can share the same or similar blouses, and just need different separates paired with them. In terms of tops, jersey pieces are great for everyday, while a silky or sequined camisole will help dress up evening looks.
  • Skirts: Unlike the spring and summer when long skirt outfits are key if your winter is full of rain and snow, then midi skirts are far more practical. For a winter capsule wardrobe look to hardier fabrics, such as wool pencil skirts for the office, knitted skirt co-ords for cozy casual wear, and discover how to wear a leather skirt, for a versatile separate that wears well and can be dressed up or down. You may also want to invest in a sequin skirt for a party-ready aesthetic. Silver or gold sequins will never go out of style.
  • Dresses: Similarly to skirts, maxi dresses should be confined to a spring/summer closet or a capsule wardrobe for travel. But for a winter capsule wardrobe, there are plenty of great dress options. As it is the holiday season you will want to ensure you have a party dress, either in a classic metallic sequin, seasonal red, or a black frock that can double up as the best cocktail dress when the invites start rolling in. In addition to this, you can carry over the best midi dresses from the spring, if they're dark enough in color to feel seasonally appropriate. For added warmth, layer a roll neck underneath, or a jumper or cardigan over the top for added warmth. And don't forget about the best jumper dresses, fusing a sweater and dress in one for a cozy, winter-ready look.
  • Trousers: A wardrobe essential, whatever the season, your best jeans can of course find their way into your winter capsule wardrobe, however, as jeans are made of cotton, they're not always the warmest choice. Look for wool and cashmere blend trousers for extra warmth. The silhouette will very much be down to personal preference, but it's good to play with a variety of shapes to ensure you can switch up your look. From high-waisted, wide-leg pants, to tailored cigarette trousers and of course leggings.
  • Coat: The best winter coat is essential for a winter capsule wardrobe and there are several types of coat you should own as part of this. The first is something heavy duty, but weekend-ready, such as one of the best puffer jackets, while the second should offer something a little more polished, like one of the best wool coats that will work for both the office and with evening wear. 
  • Shoes: First and foremost, you will need one of the best winter boots, to solve the sartorial dilemma of what to wear in the snow and rain. Your winter capsule wardrobe should also contain a pair of the best knee-high boots, as these are great for pairing with a skirt for extra leg coverage, offer warmth and a black or brown pair are always on-trend. You should also consider sturdy shoes for work, such as the best loafers for women, a pair of shorter boots that can be paired with trousers or dresses, and a pair of neutral-colored party shoes to see you through the festive period. 
  • Winter accessories: The best winter hats, gloves and scarves are all important for a winter capsule wardrobe. Opt for the highest quality materials you can, with wool and/or cashmere ideal for cozy knitted hats and scarves, while lined leather gloves will look elegant and keep you snug.

Items you need in a winter capsule wardrobe

Rivkie Baum
Fashion channel editor

Rivkie is a fashion editor, writer and stylist with over fifteen years' experience in the industry. Having studied design and pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, Rivkie fell in love with styling and journalism, covering fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York. 

Specialising in plus size fashion, Rivkie has long championed that style is for everyBODY and has been a regular talking head on a host of radio stations and television shows, pushing for greater representation for plus size women and fashion throughout her career.