Cold Weather Capsule (My Ten Item Wardrobe)

skirts, tops, coats and accessories are laid out in a grid showing possible outfit combinations

Have you ever heard of the “10 Item Wardrobe” by Jennifer of The Daily Connoisseur? The principle is to create a seasonal wardrobe consisting of ten core items- tops, bottoms and dresses- which form the staples of your wardrobe. Then to these pieces you add layering cardigans, t-shirts, leisure wear, shoes and accessories. It’s not so much focused on having a certain number of items, like a capsule wardrobe often is, but rather on choosing items which can be easily dressed up or down, and layered or simplified as you need them to.

Over the past couple of years I have been seeking to create two capsule wardrobes; one for warm weather and one for cold. We have four distinct seasons where I live, so there isn’t a large amount of crossover between my warm and cold weather clothing items. As I have been curating my capsule wardrobe/ ten item wardrobe, I have not been focusing too heavily on making sure I have a certain number of items, but rather on the versatility and “mix and matchability” of each piece that I have. I’ve added a few new items in the past year, so I thought it would be fun to see them all laid out and how they work together.

Firstly, for the core pieces, I have four skirts, though one of these will soon be headed out and one may be brought in.

a row of skirts- peach floral, brown plaid, black pleated and brown houndstooth

A lightweight peach floral gathered skirt, a brown and black houndstooth patterned 3/4 circle skirt, a classic black wool pleated skirt and a brown plaid 3/4 circle skirt give me plenty of options. I have plans to add in another tan/ivory/black plaid skirt, but I have to finish sewing it first! I also will be removing the peach skirt, because it’s a bit too lightweight for snowy weather. With our warm fall and winter, I was able to get quite a bit of use out of it this season, but since we got snow this week, I think it’s time to pack it away.

As for tops, I have a few different categories and you will quickly see that this is the larger part of my wardrobe, which makes sense because tops take more wear and tear than bottoms.

a row of pullovers: a black and white leopard print, chocolate brown, black and gold stripe angora and black with dot detail

For stand-alone sweater tops I have my favourite off white and black leopard print with 3/4 sleeves, a chocolate brown mockneck (it’s not as red in real life), a black and gold striped 3/4 sleeve, and a black 3/4 sleeve with french knot detail at the neck.

a row of blouses and tops- a cream embroidered camisole, a black cardigan, a green cardigan and a black and cream lace cardigan

An off white embroidered camisole is a good layering piece, and I also have three cardigans that I wear tucked in like pullovers: one in black with a v-neck, one in green, and one short sleeved with lace detail. The green one is new-to-me this season.  Those are all of my “Core Pieces”, except for one more I will mention in a minute.  You can see that I have more than just 10 pieces!

Now, for the additional pieces, I have more casual tops which, to be honest, I probably wear more than the other dressier ones. It all depends on the situation and whether I need layers or not.

row of tshirts in brown, green and black

For t-shirts, I have a short sleeved brown, a 3/4 length sleeve green, a 3/4 length sleeve draped collar oxblood/brown and a short sleeved black. All of these are new pieces I added this year to replace some others that had worn out. The t-shirts are casual pieces which dress down my wool skirts, and I like to layer them with cardigans too.

cardigans and a blazer in brown, black and green

For layering I have several cardigans and a tweed blazer. The blazer and the brown cardigan are new this year, but the black and green are old favourites. Adding layers completely changes the look and the function of an outfit. You can make it dressier by adding a blazer, or cozier by adding a cardigan.

Moving on to outerwear I have four main coats, though I predominantly wear the trenchcoat for warmer days and the camel coat for cold days. The other two dressy coats I wear occasionally to church etc.

four coats including a black trenchcoat, two black dressy coats and a camel wool coat

I actually have more shoes than this (most of which I have had for 10 years or so) but I didn’t feel like taking a photo of every pair. All of my winter shoes, except one, are black or brown and I have a variety of casual and dressy boots as well as a few dress shoes. Some have heels and I wear them only on Sundays, but my low heeled boots are the ones I wear day to day. I used to buy a lot of high heeled shoes, but my feet don’t like them now, so I mostly wear my brown boots on the right, which I have had for 11 years!

winter shoes and boots in brown and black

Then it’s time for accessories! I have more than these pictured, but didn’t want to photograph everything, or we’d be here a while.

purses and hats- brown structured leather, soft green leather and wool berets in a variety of colours

These are my most worn, for example; the satchel on the right is my everyday purse. Accessories are really where you can change up your outfits, and are not necessarily season specific, so they are an important component of your wardrobe. Some accessories I wear are purses, scarves, berets, tights, jewelry, hatpins, hats, gloves, fur collars etc.

scarves including cashmere ones, a blanket scarf, a lightweight taupe one and a silky one

Now I mentioned another “core item” earlier, and this is it… my navy dress. The reason why it is lonely down here and not with my other core items, is because it doesn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe except these navy heels, and my navy purse.

navy silk scarf, navy dress, navy structured purse and navy high heeled pumps

When I sewed this dress I thought it would be one of these background pieces that you could dress up or down and pair with many different accessories, but it really doesn’t go with anything else! So it just hangs out with my other few navy accessories which still make it an excellent and easy go-to outfit.

But to get back to the capsule wardrobe items that do play well together…

All of my main pieces are easy to mix and match and I can get a fairly good amount of combinations from them. I’m not a mathematician, but if I was, I could figure out the number of unique combinations and I’m sure it would be in the hundreds.  If I added in all of my accessories, I’m sure it would be in the hundreds of thousands. I always used to want to have a large wardrobe with many pieces to choose from in all colours, but I’ve realized over the years, it’s much nicer to have several pieces that work well together and are easy to accessorize. Not only does it make it easier to dress in the morning, but also easier to shop and launder and maintain.

Here are just a few quick outfit combinations I came up with.

First up, my black pleated wool skirt paired with off-white and green accessories. I think I’d wear sheer black or patterned tights (such as polka dots) and for jewelry a short chain necklace and either my silky or woven taupe scarf. My leopard beret would add in some nice texture and pattern as well.

an outfit grid consisting of a black pleated skirt, embroidered cream top, green sweater and leather bag, black ankle boots and a black trench coat

Another green and off white combination. Because I don’t have a black purse, I struggle with which bag to pair with an outfit like this, so either go with this green one, or a tiny clutch if I don’t have to carry much. I would pair this with sheer hosiery, and for jewelry, my pearls.

an outfit grid with a black dress coat with fur cuffs, a black wool skirt, a printed sweater, silky scarf, green purse and mary jane shoes

Now for my houndstooth patterned skirt. You can’t tell in the picture, but in person the brown has a bit of a green undertone, so I’ve got the green purse back in. I’d probably do sheer beige tights and maybe a pin on the lapel of the blazer. 

houndstooth brown skirt outfit grid with a camel coat, brown shoes, a blazer and green purse

For something completely different, here the skirt is paired with black accessories. I’d pair this with sheer beige or black tights and for jewelry a pendant necklace and a hat pin.

brown houndstooth skirt paired with black accessories and coat

Now for a splash of pink, I’ve paired this peach skirt with a casual brown top, gingham scarf (which does coordinate in person, I promise!), a green bag and brown shoes. The coat doesn’t match very well, but it’s what I have, and I wouldn’t be wearing it inside anyway. I’d pair this with sheer tights because the skirt is so lightweight.

peach skirt paired with brown top, brown shoes, green bag and gingham scarf

For the next outfit with the peach skirt, I did the opposite and have all brown accessories and a green top. I’d wear stud earrings and a pendant necklace to finish it off.

peach skirt outfit with a camel coat, green top and brown accessories

Finally, here is my plaid skirt, which goes the best with most of my clothing pieces, so I did four outfit combinations. I originally did three combinations, but since I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, I found another top!

First a monochromatic look in shades of brown. I’d wear sheer tights and for jewelry do just earrings since the collar takes the place of a necklace.

brown plaid skirt paired with camel coat and all brown accessories and top

Next, an outfit with a mix of black and brown accessories; I have no problem mixing brown and black together, even in leather.  If I wanted this outfit a bit dressier, I could switch the satchel for my top handle brown bag. I would wear black or “hint-o’-black” (which is more of a brown/grey colour) tights with this look, and if I wanted to add a hat, I’d pick my black beret and add a hat pin.

plaid skirt outfit with brown and black pieces paired

Here is a more casual outfit with a mix of predominantly black accessories. I would wear a long pendant necklace with the drapey top, a hat pin, black tights and as for purse, I would probably wear my satchel. I’ve been wearing this outfit basically on repeat this winter, since it’s so easy and comfortable and perfect for a day out running errands.

brown plaid skirt paired with taupe and black accessories and top

And finally an outfit with colour! When I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I was on the lookout for some pink and taupe tops, and I have since found one! This top pairs really nicely with my plaid skirt and brown accessories. Again, I have paired it with the top handle brown purse, a brown scarf and brown shoes, with my camel coat. For jewelry I’d probably do earrings and skip a necklace.

a plaid skirt paired with a pink turtleneck and brown accessories and coat

Well, there are ten outfit combinations to start with, and I didn’t even feature all of the pieces I have in my wardrobe.

I’ve noticed that my colours change a little bit with the seasons; in summer I predominantly wear blue and brown, but in the winter I predominantly wear black and brown! Almost all of these outfits were just a blend of black and brown, with the occasional splash of green and pink. What can I say? I love neutrals! However, I still would like to add some blush pink, taupe and off white to bring in a bit of lightness, and have been actively avoiding looking at black when I’m shopping. Black is chic and versatile, but wearing it head-to-toe is a bit overwhelming for me. As I wrote about in this post, it’s nice to hone in on your signature colours and shop from there. It’s been so helpful when shopping to immediately skip over the pieces I know won’t look good on me and won’t coordinate with the other pieces in my wardrobe. I’ve also got small swatches of fabric of my two brown skirts, so when I’m shopping I can easily see whether the pieces I’m looking at will coordinate with them or not.

The problem with wearing “slow fashion”, though, is that it is also slow to find new pieces. However, I know that there will always be those pieces that I “need” to fill a gap in my wardrobe, and it’s alright if it takes a while to find the right ones. The nice thing about building a capsule wardrobe is that it isn’t static, things are always changing, just as we are, and it’s OK to add and remove pieces as you need them.

So, other than wanting to add in a bit more colour than I currently have, I am really happy with how my capsule/ ten item wardrobe came together this year. It’s nice to be able to put together outfits without overthinking it, and I like the direction it gives me when shopping.

Have you ever heard of the 10 Item Wardrobe? Do you like to have a capsule wardrobe? What are the predominant colours in your closet? And, do you have a seasonal wardrobe, or do you wear the same things year round? 

a group of accessories including hats, gloves, jewelry, collars and clutch bags