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The New Winter Uniform (Don’t Call It a Capsule)

February 5, 2018

The New Winter Uniform (Don’t Call It a Capsule)

A year ago, I started taking stealth pictures in airports and in cities, whenever I saw an outfit that I really loved. I realized that almost every single time, there were certain key elements: a long wool coat, almost always in gray; a moto jacket that fit *just* loose enough to hang casually, versus looking skintight; leggings; cool sneakers; and cozy sweaters. Almost always a fully neutral palette.

Pretty simple, honestly.

It’s funny, I hadn’t realized that I was consistently grabbing shots of those outfits until I was scrolling through my phone and saw them all at once.

It’s not quite the capsule wardrobe concept, but I’ve realized that I do love having a couple of staple outfits to reach for that work pretty much in any situation. In fact, I really, really had that come to life when we were in Europe for a few weeks in November/December and I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough stuff to wear… And ultimately wore the same 10 pieces over and over. Could have basically left a suitcase at home, if I’m being honest. (We did NOT have a washer/dryer, so I would have swapped a pair of jeans that I never touched for several extra pairs of underwear. Just putting it out there, extra underwear will always trump a “I might need this” clothing choice.

I wanted to do a quick post about the ‘formula’ I’ve figured out for myself, because frankly, I’m psyched. I wrote a month ago about finally realizing that not everything I wear needs to feel athletic, and what I love about these options is that they hit the right notes for me with my life right now: easy to move in, comfortable, simple, but a little more fashionable than the usual leggings-team hoodie-down jacket rabbit hole that’s easy to fall into.


In the winter especially in Canada, this is a big one. Jackets are a gamechanger to any outfit—and while I end up sadly in a parka more often than I’d prefer, I really love when I can wear either of these:

Knee-length gray wool coat: After a year of searching (ask my sister!) I settled on Zara’s double-breasted gray wool coat while we were in London.  You guys know I wear A LOT of black, so I wanted a coat that didn’t always match the rest of my outfit. Most of the coats I’d spotted that I loved were gray, and that was neutral enough for me. (True story: I got this jacket and Ellen got to London the next day—we met outside to head to the Rapha Cycle Club and I was wearing exactly what I would have been wearing any other day: same leggings, sweater and sneakers, but with this jacket. She literally did a double take and asked why I looked so stylish.)

Moto Jacket: Ever since seeing Domino, I’ve been obsessed with the perfect moto jacket. I like this faux leather moto jacket (the one I have currently I got on a crazy sale at some small shop in the Netherlands last year)… I recommend sizing up for a more casual / tomboy look. (I’d actually run 2 sizes up in the one I have linked there, as the reviews say it runs tight.) I hate the super short/tight ones that are super fashion-y right now. Not comfortable or warm!


Sweater on Top

I discovered cashmere last year, and was tentative at first. I got one sweater and was scared to wear it. But after I got used to it, I fell in love and it became my primary sweater I wore to anything ‘nice.’ Now, I wear this style constantly, mainly because it doesn’t need to be washed a ton and it holds its shape super well. When Grana had a sale on their Boyfriend Cashmere Sweaters this year, I stocked up like crazy. To make it more casual, I use a sports bra underneath. For a dressier/sexier approach, I have a couple of lacy bralettes that I freaking love. (And honestly, are about as comfy as a sports bra anyway!)

If I know there’s a lot of activity happening on a day, I’ll swap for a merino hoodie like my Chrome one that I’m obsessed with, or the new Redfrog Commute Jacket that I love. I’ve realized that again, merino wool lasts longer than normal sweatshirt material and smells less funky after travel days, but it also looks just a little bit nicer / a tiny bit more adult-ish.

Side note: most of my sweaters and hoodies are butt-covering length because of this next bit: the leggings + sweater combo. As a rule, I take Mo Bruno Roy’s advice and try to get longer layering pieces so I feel more covered/comfortable!

Leggings or Joggers

This year, I actually gave Rapha’s women’s leggings a try—normally, I live in Lululemon’s Align II tights, but the Rapha ones intrigued me. They’re currently on sale, and I HIGHLY recommend a) trying them and b) stocking up. They’re the perfect blend of decent enough to wear in everyday life, great for running, and super durable. Also great: Velocio’s new women’s leggings!

I’m a massive fan of nice sweats, especially when talking long travel days or flights—again, I realized half my stealth photos involved joggers. But the key, I’ve realized, is in finding a pair that fits well—not super baggy, but not legging-tight—that doesn’t end up dropping after a few hours. (Target has some great cheap sweats, but after a few hours, you look like you’re wearing day-old pajamas, sadly.) To that end, I really like Grana’s Pima Jogger option for something that’s still super comfy but offers a little more structure. (I also have these in tan cashmere that I got in Grana’s sale, but the Pima sweats are much cheaper and arguably more wearable, thanks to the machine-wash. I’m happy to hand-wash sweaters since you can do a few days of use before washing, but after a flight or long drive, I can’t NOT wash pants!)


Sneakers or Boots

If I’m wearing the moto jacket with a sweater, I love flat thigh-high boots. A) They’re hella warm, and B) they just look a little more badass. But in general, I stick to sneakers or boots that I can walk a looooong way in. For sneakers, I can’t say enough about the Stealth II SwimRun from VivoBarefoot (I reviewed them here). They’re basic black so they match anything. But for the airport look that I just freaking loved, I got the VivoBarefoot Gobi High Tops in leather with a warm liner (they’re on sale now!). They look like a more fashion-forward boot, but they’re made for serious walking. In rain, Madewell’s Chelsea Rainboots have been amazing. And they don’t look like rain boots! (Note: size up a half size, they run small.)

One last thought on quality…

I also admit that in the deep winter or on active days, I’ll just wear a plain black down jacket—and in the town we live in, since I walk most errands, that’s typically what I end up in on a normal day, along with leggings and a merino hoodie and then either my Gobi high tops or actual winter boots. But if I look back on what I was wearing in the winter back when I first came up here, the list looks similar but the effect was not. My leggings were always cheap, so they were faded and would stretch in the knees after a walk. Hoodies were regular sweatshirt material and would get sweaty and a little haggard looking after a walk or run. My boots were hand-me-down Solomons that almost killed me because the heel was a solid two-inches high. So, similar formula, but not nearly as nice.

So when I look at this uniform that I feel the most comfortable and (dare I say) stylish in, I realize that a lot of that comes down to quality. I don’t need the 15 pairs of $10 leggings when I can go through a couple pairs of nicer ones. Ditto piles of sweaters and sweatshirts. I’m realizing that when I was taking stealth photos of the outfits that I liked, the theme wasn’t just the pieces of clothing, it was the quality. Not super expensive or ridiculous, just nice and well-taken-care-of. That was the missing piece in what I had been doing—and now, despite the fact that the pieces I like cost a bit more, I think it saves money in the long run.


Let me know in the comments: what does your uniform look like these days? 


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