2021 Seasonal Capsule Wardrobes — My Winter Capsule

In 2021, I'm going back to seasonal capsules. Seasonal capsules were how I began figuring out my personal style and reducing my impulse shopping habit—and it's time to revisit them, five years later.

Read on to see why I'm going back to seasonal capsules, what they are and how they work, and see my ~40 piece winter wardrobe.

(I always feel like these blog posts start with the breathless Instagram influencer-style voice, since sooooo many people have been asking me about my capsule wardrobe—narrator voice: no-one asked—)

Why am I going back to seasonal capsules this year?

My main reason? Reducing mental overhead.

As a self-employed entrepreneur with a new business, I've got a lot on my plate. I hate the whole idea of "busy" and hustle culture—I'm not busy, filling my days with pointless meetings and tedious work, but entrepreneurship requires a lot of mental and emotional energy.

Needing that energy means I need a lot of self-care. Clothes and style can be self-care—but mindless scrolling and shopping isn't. Lately, I've found myself futzing with my closet, telling myself I'm putting together outfits when I'm really just taking my sweet time getting ready in the morning, or wasting time scrolling the New Arrivals sections.

That's fine... to a point. I've started to notice that I'm not doing it as intentional hobby time. Instead, I'm avoiding some of my business challenges, and that scrolling/shopping time isn't the kind of self-care I need. (The kind I do need? More journaling, more device-free time, more walks, not more scrolling.)

So I'm letting my closet support me, by devoting some up-front time to making a capsule and planning my shopping. This way, I know I don't have anything to shop for, I have a list of outfits to reference and grab in the morning, and I can show up in Real Clothes with real good energy.

The other big reason is planning ahead for quality. At this point in my wardrobe journey, I know how many pieces I bought last year—23—and my budget. Seasonal capsules help me plan ahead so that I'm buying the high-quality pieces that will really last and make a difference in my closet, not being distracted and excited by new arrivals. It's easy to find something you "need" that's new, and it's harder to wait and buy something basic (or luxe!) that doesn't seem as exciting. My goal for my closet from here is to increase quality as I decrease quantity, a little bit each year, and seasonal capsules are helping me focus.

My 2021 Winter Seasonal Capsule

I was chatting with a client the other week about seasonality and patterns in our style. In winter, I tend to lean heavily into two aspects of my style: sleek and sporty, or that boring normcore basics. It's cold, allergies are bad, I just want to be comfortable and warm, so I'm not expending a lot of energy trying to "make outfits."

My winter capsule is focused on simplicity, and that balance between work-from-home comfort and feeling polished and motivated. Personally, lounge pants aren't enough of an outfit for my work days, but I still want to grab and go—and spend my mental energy on other productive pursuits.

Capsule Vibe:  Berlin normcore meets California jeans-and-a-sweater meets Texas — simplicity, ease, boring (in a good way!)

top row: creamy comfy simple outfits — middle row: Americana classic jeans looks — bottom row: Berlin/Euro normcore basics and city jeans outfits

More inspiration, photos (and photo credit) on my Winter Capsule Pinterest board.

I associate Berlin's style with a lovely sort of functional dressing. Every time I go to Berlin (RIP travel), I fall in love all over again with how deeply pragmatic most people's outfits are. There's cobbles, it's cold, we're walking—comfortable chunky loafer-boots, super-functional sneakers, with, yes, socks, and yes, with Birkenstocks. Yet it has a cool aesthetic vibe all its own, that can't really be replicated by the "I got dressed so you could take a photo of me" street style/Fashion week/influencer types. Just boring real people clothes, not run through the style influencer press. Unsurprisingly, it's not easy to find inspiration photos of this real-life look. Normcore looks come close, but are often still styled on 6' tall Scandi models.

I'm also always love the Americana, California/Maine jeans-and-a-cashmere-sweater look. Texas weather doesn't often support that: it's either actually cold enough that you (okay, me) want to be fully layered, or it's warm enough in the sun you'd be dying in a cashmere sweater. But at home I can control the weather!, and I've been reaching for my cozy sweaters more than ever.

And the Texas part? Well, I finally bought a western-esque hat. More on that some other time, but you bet your ass I'm going to be wearing a hat around my living room all year.

  • structured, classic high rise jeans; soft but subtly shaped interesting pants
  • classic cashmere sweaters and sweatshirts, relaxed fits
  • normcore shapes and fabrics: a chunky sneaker, a relaxed-fit sweatshirt or shirt; cotton, denim, cashmere
  • color palette: black, faded black, navy, dark/mid wash denim, white, charcoal grey, lentil grey-green

I got to this capsule vibe by considering what I've been feeling best in lately. As "boring" as it is, I've been reaching for my classic blue jeans, my cashmere sweaters and soft turtlenecks, a simple palette of grey-black-denim and ivory, and for a break, soft wide leg pants and joggers. I've been moving smoothly between day to evening lounge by switching my pants and shoes, and it's been so pleasurable I want to keep it going. It's a good boundary between work and personal evening time that I find helps my mental state.

What's in my 40 Piece Winter Capsule Wardrobe

I love that capsules can be small—this is 41 pieces, if you include a necklace—but there's still so much flexibility. Could I have pared it down more? Sure—but I don't need to, and this level of flexibility and options makes me happy, while still being honed in.

BOTTOMS (11) — classic blue wash tapered leg jeans  · classic blue wash straight leg jeans · indigo wash slim-straight jeans · true black high-rise slim jeans · faded black raw hem skinny jeans · cream raw hem straight leg jeans · ivory fleece crop wide-leg soft pants · black cotton knit cropped joggers · black long wide-leg joggers · plush black high-rise leggings · natural linen wide-leg jumpsuit

TOPS (17) — light grey cashmere v-neck sweater · ivory mock neck cashmere sweater · camel rib knit roll neck sweater · crea rib knit crew neck sweater · ivory cotton loose tee · white oversized oxford button-up shirt · black lightweight long-sleeve body · black rib knit mock neck crop tee · sporty heather grey relaxed tee · black cotton racerback tank top · black cotton turtleneck · navy cropped turtleneck · tan vintage crop sweatshirt · ivory relaxed fit cotton sweatshirt · beige quarter-zip crop sweatshirt · green-grey oversized turtleneck tunic · black merino v-neck boxy cardigan

OUTERWEAR, SHOES, & ACCESSORIES (13) — camel wool robe coat · black cotton canvas open trench coat · black fleece high-neck bomber jacket · ivory canvas work tote · taupe western hat · grey rib knit foldover beanie · gold chain necklace · classic plain white leather lace-up sneakers · white and tan running sneakers · cream wool casual sneakers · black pointed toe patent croc mules · black birkenstocks · black low-heel booties

Shopping is 98% off limits—but I do have a few things on my wishlist that I only intend to buy secondhand/on sale, so if the right one pops up, I've got room for that. It'll just be borrowed from next season's budget, which means I'm strictly limiting it to pieces I'm already sure about. In the same way, Texas weather between January and March means we might have some hot days, and if I want to reach for a dress or tee that's not in here, I'll do that.

I'm not immune to wishing for new pieces, though. I focused this capsule's shopping budget on the hat, jumpsuit, and some jeans. A number of my favorite jeans don't fit me that well right now, and I'm looking to replace a pair or two with some straighter leg styles that are more relaxed than my skinnies, and that fit more comfortably. I opted for that instead of upgrading my sweaters. I'm also itching for a cool pair of chunky loafer/chelsea style boots with a big lug sole. The black booties I included likely won't get worn a lot; the heel is low, but it's still a heel, and a flat lug sole sounds way more comfy. But: priorities! (Was the hat a priority? Maybe. Am I obsessed? Yes. Deal with it.)

Outfit Options

Here's some of the outfits I'm most excited to wear from this capsule. Check for them on IG soon!

I can lean in to the normcore look, and wear straight leg jeans, a relaxed fit grey cashmere, and chunky socks and sneakers or birkenstocks.

Or I can get a little Texas in my jumpsuit and hat. Or I can feel polished and chic in all-black jeans, sweater, and loafers.

Or vintage Americana with tapered 80s style jeans, a sweatshirt, and white sneakers.

And on days I don't feel like much at all? There's still a plush legging and oversized turtleneck waiting for me.

What's a seasonal capsule?

A seasonal capsule is a small wardrobe, curated for a specific 3-month season. Unlike paring your whole closet down to a tiny capsule wardrobe, seasonal capsules are a way to focus in on a certain aesthetic or set of items during a season, and to reduce shopping and spending during that time.

Reflecting on using capsules this way in a previous blog post, I wrote:

"Creating a defined set of items to wear for a season helped me narrow down what was and wasn't working. It was also the first time I ever thought critically about how fabric and fit related to my lifestyle and the weather. It was definitely the first time I had done any kind of pause on my constant, emotional, impulsive shopping. That was hard—and liberating."

Then and now, I'm choosing to make an under-50 piece seasonal capsule, and do all my shopping for the season at once.

How do seasonal capsules work?

  1. Consider the season, the weather, your lifestyle, and your closet.
  2. Create a capsule of 30-50 pieces. Set them out or store everything else.
  3. Do any shopping, based on your overall budget for the year/season.
  4. Wear only those pieces and don't do any additional shopping during the season (three months).
  5. Rinse and repeat!

You can be as rigid or loose with this as you personally prefer. If you need more structure and find that the constraints help you—get strict. If you rebel against the rules, it can flex a little.

Want to create your own seasonal capsule? Download my 30x30 capsule planner.

My 30x30 planner is intended for a 30-day challenge, but the questions and structure are perfect for a seasonal capsule—just keep going! Download it here.

  • Brainstorm your capsule vibe and feel, including inspiration, color palette, and fabric.
  • Consider the weather, your lifestyle, and what you've been wearing lately.
  • List your key pieces that really define the look.
  • Create a full list of pieces, and what you're wishing for.
  • Consider your budget and do your shopping. (This is the only bit that isn't included in the capsule planner worksheet.)
  • Make a list of outfits, and go!

Need more guidance or accountability? Book a one-hour Strategy Session to put together a seasonal capsule, budget, and wishlist. We'll get you ready to make your shopping decisions, clear on your capsule aesthetic, and prepared to review at the end of the season. Strategy Sessions are pay-what-you-can. Book one here!