growing a minimalist wardrobe: cold-weather color.

October 31, 2016

winter wardrobe | growing a minimalist wardrobe | reading my tea leavesIt’s Halloween. And while I’m all about being witchy, this year as cold weather approaches and I think about my fall and winter wardrobe, I’m making a concerted effort to shift, at least a little bit, away from the dark side. 

Here’s an interesting thing that’s come from slowing down and paying attention: discovering the difference between what I actually like and what I think would be a safe or smart thing to own. I’m not pooh-poohing black entirely—I have plenty of black clothes that I quite like. Neither am I disavowing the value I’ve found in keeping a relatively limited color palette—I still think that’s valuable for all the same reasons I talk about here. But for the past few years I’ve been adding items or ensembles that I admire to a “things to wear” board on Pinterest, and sometime in the middle of last winter I realized that despite the fact that my digital inspiration board was filled with cold weather clothes in lighter, brighter, warmer shades, that most of the cold weather clothes in my closet were a deep, dark black: black coats, black sweaters, black leggings, black boots, black and more black. All of the camels and grays and blues and the occasional soft pinks that I enjoyed adding to my imaginary closet were nowhere to be found in my actual closet.

I know the reason for the homogeny stems from wanting to be practical. I want to make sure I make choices that will outlast trends or whims or mood swings and black seems safe. It’s helpful too that I generally think I look nice in black—there’s no hemming and hawing once something arrives about whether a particular shade of black is one that best complements my skin tone. Goodness knows I can scrutinize what a pink shirt does for my complexion til’ the cows come home (someone insert more appropriate urban metaphor here, please and thank you). Still, I think I need to shake things up a bit. I realize that I don’t live in southern California. I live in a place where one must bundle and dress sensibly and where black is the default defense against the harshness of the winter. But I’m going to start trying something a little different. I’m shifting my defense strategy. I have a hard enough time getting through New York winters without dressing up like I’m attending a funeral on a daily basis.

Much of this is aspirational. I’m not doing a wholesale ditching of the black things in my closet and restocking them with lighter colored winter woolens. For one thing, wintry clothes that have been made thoughtfully require a fair bit of saving. (And plenty of advance notice for would-be gift givers.) For another, I don’t really need anything new. But when there is something that I need or would really love to have, I’m trying this new approach and thinking of my wintry wardrobe as a little more Glinda and a little less Wicked Witch of the West.

A few weeks ago, a very special present arrived in the mail from Misha and Puff; a thank you gift. The gift is decidedly not black. It’s a beautiful cream-colored sweater peppered with a colorful sprinkling of rust and yellow, pink and green and blue. Its cheeriness is helped along by the fact that it’s covered in tiny knit balls of “popcorn.” On first glance, it’s the opposite of what Erin of yore would have deemed practical enough to take up room in her closet. And yet, I’ve never worn anything out and about that’s received as many grins or compliments. It’s a sweater to smile over, an admitted relief from so much black, and one of those rare pieces of clothing that I’ve immediately and enthusiastically embraced without hesitation. 

All of this is, I suppose, another long-winded way of saying wear what makes you happy and what makes you practical. And if you can fend off wintertime blues at the same time, well, then, thank goodness.

For the curious, a few thoughtfully made wintertime additions that look soft and seasonal but not at all dreary:

A slightly cropped but still satisfactorily cozy sweater with a dash of coral. 

A striped sweater in undyed wool.

camel-colored tunic in felted wool.

A swing sweater jacket in a rosy, cozy peach.

cropped cowl in caramel.

A silvery ribbed turtleneck.

A subtly spacey sweater.

A classic crew neck in a bright sea blue.

All of my other musings on minimalist wardrobes, right this way.

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  • Reply jane October 31, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Love this! I posted the same thing this weekend! 🙂 Ready to cozy up.

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 31, 2016 at 11:11 am

      Beautiful! I love that Han Starnes seed stitch sweater!

  • Reply Kim October 31, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Oh that M&P sweater is a dream!!! Such a great gift and a great friend you have! 🙂

  • Reply Caroline October 31, 2016 at 11:47 am

    What a gorgeous wool, I love how subtle the colours are. Also I am now totally trying to think of urban versions of till the cows come home… ’till the streetlights come on’? ’till the elevator arrives’?!


    • Reply Mary Kate October 31, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Til the G Train arrives?

      • Reply Erin Boyle October 31, 2016 at 2:33 pm


  • Reply Eva October 31, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Love this! I’m also trying to add some lighter shades to my sweater collection and am keeping my eye out for a good pair of white pants. I’d like to attempt embroidering lettering on a black everlane sweater but am awaiting a delivery of tear-away embroidery stabilizer.

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Oh, sounds like a great project! I can’t wear them right now because of my pregnancy, but I really love my white pants from Elizabeth Suzann!

      • Reply Eva October 31, 2016 at 1:00 pm

        That’s good to know! I’ll keep them on my list of possible investment purchases. The sweater is going to read “oiseau de feu” in red hand-written cursive. Couldn’t help myself after seeing NYCB’s Firebird a few weeks ago. As a redhead it also feels appropriate.

  • Reply Gillian October 31, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Are you familiar with Solo Six knitwear? I’ve been loving their deep red stripes and beautifully patterned cables (and their ethical production and quality materials!).

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 31, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Gillian! No, I wasn’t! Thanks so much for sharing. I love this sand-colored cardigan!

  • Reply shannon October 31, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Does Faye have the exact sweater in miniature? Or does it just look similar? I saw your photo on instagram and was all #momgoals 🙂

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 31, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      She does! The kiddo version she has has slightly fewer colorful dots, and a different cut, but we’re very much twins!

  • Reply Baltina October 31, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    As soon as I saw that sweet photo James snapped of you and faye, I smiled. What a perfectly whimsical sweater. I love that striped sweater from babaà.

    Cheers to lighter brighter garments to keep us cozy and cheery!Thanks for the lovely garments to ooo over.

  • Reply MelD October 31, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Love this.
    Since I went grey, I generally go for grey rather than black, it’s softer and just as good, I think. But as I also have always loved colour – well, this is a beautiful sweater and all those colours just make it more versatile! Like my tweedy jacket and scarf that enable me to mix rose and mustard, otherwise unthinkable lol
    And some colour is generally more flattering to skin, whether winter-rosy or summer tawny in any case, than harsh black 🙂

    • Reply Danielle October 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      I like your point about the different colors warming up skin tone… I see a lot of colors in grey, especially lately. You can always find a warmer brown-grey if you think it looks washed out.

  • Reply Dottie Louise October 31, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    In trying to keep things minimal and practical I’ve also swayed more towards dark grays & charcoals (not black in my case but practically) for my fall/winter wardrobe–which is lovely for matching things and practical for longevity but not so sunshine-y for one’s wardrobe. I couldn’t agree more on pink and skin tones, it’s like every time the lighting changes it looks a little different! Wonderful post! 😀

  • Reply Jen October 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Erin, have you ever tried merino base layers? I bought them for the kids previously but had an epiphany of investing some for myself this winter. Thin, antibacterial, temperature regulating, and made of natural fibers, it’s the kind of high performance stuff that I’d think minimalists would love. Anyway, your sweater is very lovely and I hope you’re doing whatever you can to keep cozy / smiling at this stage of your “condition” 😉 Cheers to you for growing an actual human!!

  • Reply Mary Kate October 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I love white and off-white everything, but I am clumsy and prone to spills and stains. So it’s a balancing act with me 🙂

  • Reply Libby October 31, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Hmm… till the cows come home urban replacement…
    Till the coffee gets cold? But that doesn’t take very long.
    Till the … pigeons? Do a thing?
    I really set a goal of coming up with three good ones but this is the very best I could do. Hahaha!!

  • Reply Jana October 31, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    oh how I wish i wasn’t allergic to wool. I have to stick to cotton 🙂

  • Reply Susan Magnolia October 31, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    I have a red coat and orangey red cape coat both in wool and pair perfectly with my navy and denim. I live in California where it’s not as cold or wintery but I am equally brightened by cheery colors.

  • Reply Amanda @ Anchored to Sunshine October 31, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    That sweater looks so comfy! Fall isn’t complete without cute sweaters 🙂

  • Reply Tyra October 31, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Oh that is such a wonderful sweater! And the perfect item to build on if you want to expand your options. It would still look lovely with all black, but you can use the tiny accent colours in it as a jumping off point for some extra accessories. Like a rust coloured hat, and a lovely blue scarf. You can then continue to wear your current black coat over the top

    I live in Brisbane Australia, and winter doesn’t really exist here. I definitely lust after cozy hats and scarves every year though!

  • Reply Mun November 1, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Agh, so cute! Definitely love a good knitted jumper <3

  • Reply Laura November 1, 2016 at 5:58 am

    I applaud your changes. All my sweaters are bright colors, pretty hue of colors that make me feel happy. I was hoping you would discover color eventually. My Mom always said black is a non color. You will look great in colors!

  • Reply Alex November 1, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I love your minimalist wardrobe posts…I would especially love if you did one on pants. I can’t wear jeans to work and pants have been the most difficult part of building a minimalist wardrobe for me!

  • Reply Lindsay Eryn November 1, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Last winter I realized I wanted to be more cozy in my color choices and started getting more cream and camel in my wardrobe. 🙂

  • Reply Sunshine November 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Yep definitely to each their own. I’m glad you are happy expanding your wardrobe clothing horizons. I will happily stay with my nearly all black wardrobe though. I love it and it still makes me happy. Plus I think black head to toe always looks sharp and on-point for work. I always find it interesting to read about what people who are also minimalists like me keep as their capsule wardrobes and why they add in certain new items. Happy autumn! 😀

  • Reply Rebecca November 2, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    What a gorgeous sweater, too bad it’s $500!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 3, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Understood; it’s definitely an investment. The price reflects the fact that it’s made from eco-friendly and sustainable materials and knit by artisans who are paid a living wage. Sadly, the artificially *low* pricing of so many of our clothes make these kinds of prices look completely shocking by comparison.

  • Reply Alexis November 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I’m in love with that sweater and thinking it might be my big fall/winter investment….but I’m worried the measurements on the website say it’s 21 inches from shoulder to waist? Is that the shoulder to hem measurement? If so it’s way too short for me 🙁 🙁

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 3, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Hey Alexis: I’d definitely be in touch with Misha & Puff directly to inquire about specific measurements before buying!

  • Reply Natalie November 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Love this post – I definitely have a gap between my aspirational/pinned wardrobe and my actual wardrobe and I feel like I’m doing myself a bit of a disservice. But black is so easy. Love love love that bobbled sweater by the way!

    – Natalie

  • Reply Vee November 5, 2016 at 10:57 am

    I’m an all-black wearer for many years and I still love the simplicity of it — although at-best I’m semi-minimalist when it comes to the amount of items in my closet (50 hangers and 30 pairs of shoes, but that’s down from literally hundreds so there’s hope!) I love the way I look in black and I love the aesthetic, but I really appreciated your post because my fair-skinned red-headed daughter struggles with wanting lighter colors that bring her joy and practicality in the same way you do (she’s much more minimalist than I). I’ll share a few suggestions from here and maybe she’ll pick out something I can get her for Christmas. Thank you!

  • Reply Meri November 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    For any admirers of your awesome sweater who can knit (or have a family member who knits, and wants ideas for Xmas gifts), this sweater pattern is quite similar: I may be casting on for this quite soon…

    There are some lovely speckled sock yarns out there that might work with it!

    As for the color thing, I’m trying something new this year. I am really drawn to black and red/orange/russet from Sept to Jan, so that’s what is making up my “Fall/Winter” capsule wardrobe for those months. Then in February I’m going to switch over to a lighter colored Winter/Spring capsule and wear that until the weather warms (I live in Maine, so that happens around mid-May…). I’m thinking white, tan, light pink, and light blue. I was trying to get away with just two wardrobe seasons (cold weather and warm weather), but I think three (smaller) seasons might end up being better.

    • Reply Viv November 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing! Going to try this 🙂

  • Reply Alex Chua November 18, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I hesitated in buying this because it’s expensive but liked it so much that I decided to go for it. To say that I am in love with it is an understatement and I’ve never felt that way about an item of clothing before. Thank you for sharing responsible and ethical brands that make me feel good about where our dollars are going. XO

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