I’m guessing that as you are reading this article, the way you look and the image you present is important to you. If this is the case (as I suspect it is), do you approach your financial investment for “style” as you do other areas of your life that are vital to your overall wellbeing and success?
You probably have a budget set out for your house, car, education and food needs, but have you set yourself a budget for your personal image? Or do you just shop as and when you feel like it - buying something if you can afford it, and not buying it (or sticking it on a credit card) if you can’t?
This kind of shopping leads to bulging closets, empty bank accounts – and still nothing to wear!
Working out how much you want to spend on clothes and accessories, working out how much you have available to spend (you may have to compromise here!!) and setting aside the money accordingly means that you’re less likely to go crazy in the sales buying things you don’t need – and more likely to have funds available to splurge when you really need to.
Shopping for winter wardrobe essential can seem expensive – a good coat and boots are pretty much the most expensive items you can buy! But, with a little bit of planning it’s possible to stay chic all the way through until March – no matter how high or low your budget!
I’m always cold so I need some tricks to keep myself warm at this time of year! I love wearing “undergarments” - my favourite essential basic is my wool Intimissimi camisole that I have in different colors and wear under literally everything! Go for silk or wool to stay stylish and warm.
I consider scarves as a winter basic. In the summer I often go for lighter viscose, cotton, delicate silk scarfs, but in the winter I switch to mainly cashmere. I either buy high quality Italian made wool / cashmere knit, or I go for high-quality handmade Indian cashmere or even occasionally silk (the ones that are very thin woven but super warm).
If you can afford it, invest in a high-end cashmere scarf from a brand such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton, but avoid synthetic materials (generally in winter I always recommend using more natural fabrics as they are more breathable when you’re wearing layers).
I often use plain cotton short & long sleeve t-shirts under my jumpers (again, because I’m always freezing, layers are my best friend!!) but I rarely invest in these as most of the time they remain hidden anyway! Good quality cotton t-shirts can be found inexpensively in many high street stores. In Italy, I love Intimissimi, Benetton or even OVS.
For everyday boots go for leather – this will keep your feet warm and dry, but is also breathable to stop sweatiness. If you have to decide where to prioritize your spending, I’d choose good quality leather boots or shoes every time – there’s nothing more guaranteed to make you miserable than cold, wet feet (and a miserable woman is not a chic woman!).
Avoid faux leather - it often looks tacky and it’s not particularly comfortable or good for your feet either.
Being stylish isn’t necessarily about always buying high-end brands, although I’d recommend making sure that your style budget allows you to spoil yourself every once in a while! I’m lucky enough to be living in Italy because here there are many small artisan stores where you can find really great quality shoes for a good price that are also “on trend”.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to “designer” search out artisans or smaller independent boutiques in your home town. You may be amazed by what you find!
No matter what the item, I always value good quality material much more than the “brand”, so if something’s in a similar price range I recommend choosing the better quality fabric rather than the more famous brand.
For example, Michael Kors bags are nearly always made of faux leather and personally, I think they often also look cheap - especially considering the price! On the other hand, Italian brand Coccinelle which is in the same price range uses super high-quality leather, modern design and is even made in Italy (instead of China).
If you choose to buy from a high-end brand, go for a classic color and shape such as a black quilted Chanel, a bright Kelly or Birkin bag from Hermès, or even a black & white Celine tote bag. These are real investment pieces but they will definitely serve you for a long time.
But even if you can’t or don’t want to spend so much, there are some great medium-high brands out there that will cover all your needs (good quality materials, fashionable design, fashion credentials etc.) without breaking the bank. I’d suggest looking at Coccinelle, Furla and Marc Jacobs.
When it comes to handbags, in the winter I think “the bigger, the better”! That way there is plenty of space for your gloves, extra tissues, hand cream and makeup (I always use more makeup in winter).
The most important item in your winter wardrobe! In the winter most of your first impressions will be made while wearing your coats as it’s usually the first thing that people sees you in (alongside your boots and handbag). It’s also the item that you will wear more than anything else.
During the transition period between the seasons we can play around with lots of different styles and perhaps buy into high-street brands to have some fun, but when the real cold hits we just want to wrap ourselves in something warm and cozy.
Personally I love elegant down coats for this season because there’s nothing better than a waterproof cover for the rainy, drizzly days, however, wool or cashmere coats are equally chic.
Once again I completely avoid any synthetic materials because they often make you feel you cold while you’re outside, but make you hot and sweaty when you go inside.
The winter coat that you’re planning on using for most of the season should always be a “splurge” buy!
In Italy, as with everything else, you often find artisanal boutique brands that offer awesome quality for an affordable price, but there are also some more famous brands that I’d recommend looking at.
At the more expensive end, Fay, Woolrich, and Aspesi all make amazing down jackets that work with any smart casual outfits, while Max Mara and similar lower-priced brands offer great options for wool coats.
The top things I consider when shopping for a winter coat are:
- Material / fabric - always natural!
- Cut - how versatile is it? I recommend going for something longer (around knee-length) regardless of height and body shape because it can be worn with more of the other pieces in your wardrobe (skirts, dresses, and pants).
- Color. The bigger the investment, the less “extreme” the color should be, simply because it’s less likely that you’ll get bored of a neutral color (or that it will go out of fashion). Consider that your skin tone is usually paler in the winter month, so make sure you pick a flattering color. Avoid anything that makes you look washed out!
- Style - I like to find classics with a little twist (fur detail, interesting pocket detail, etc.). I also think about whether or not it could be altered or refreshed with an accessory (belt for example) in the future. I avoid spending too much money on super trendy items – I’ll go for a lower-end high street brand if a still is likely to go out-of-style in a couple of seasons. Generally, I try to buy things that will serve me for a long time, even when shopping for bargains. The advantage of knowing my style, colors and what fits is that I almost never buy into trends that I soon get bored of.
Other things to consider when investing in a winter coat:
- Your body shape, skin tone & coloring and lifestyle. Buy the coat that works for YOU, not the one that everyone else is wearing. Trust me, if a coat flatters your figure people will notice it (and you’ll look good in it!) even if it’s not the latest trend.
- The weather / climate. For example, Milan is quite cold in the winter, and while it rarely goes below zero due to the high humidity, it often feels super cold. Hence I’m looking at down coats.
- Consider your wardrobe and match the coat with your existing clothes! Don’t buy anything that means that you have to change your entire wardrobe!
If you have any questions about how to build your ideal winter wardrobe, or how to choose your essentials, post them over in The Stylish Female Society Facebook group and I’ll answer them personally!