How to dress minimal in winter without adding bulk

(ENG only) Oh boy, it’s frosty out there! After a mild December and a slightly colder January, February has been hitting -C° temperatures many times already here in Berlin. But the sun has been shining a lot lately, so I don`t mind. But for sure one thing I`ve always hated about winter is the humongous bulkiness that clothes usually create.

Okay, okay, I admit that I like wrapping myself up in my comfy warm clothes, but when I look more like a ball of fabric than a real person, it kind of bothers me.

I`ve been living in the northern side of Europe for almost 4 years now,  I`ve been through all sorts of climate situations, and I definitely have to deal with layering a lot more than I used to when I was living in my hometown.

I feel like for years I have been dressing myself totally wrong to face winter and cold temperatures: I always thought that the bulkier the better. I couldn`t be more wrong. Usually being wrapped up in thick bulky layers made me feel okay at first, but than too hot and sweaty when I was entering in some place (not a pleasant feeling if you have to stay in a subway train full of people while going to work) and not well insulated when being outside. Not to mention how big of a hassle it is to dress or undress when going from indoor to outdoor or viceversa, or when traveling, driving, going grocery shopping, or doing pretty much anything.

Having a smaller wardrobe for the past 2+ years though, slowly made me understand what having a quality wardrobe made of the right garments means.

So here`s how I dress minimal and layer smart to face the frosty temperatures without adding any bulk. I tend to use these simple rules in my every day life as well as for traveling.

(please keep in mind that each one of us can be differently sensitive to hot or cold, but this little guide will give you a rough idea. With hotter or colder temperatures, layers can be easily removed or added accordingly).

  1. As first layer, I always wear a tank top with spaghetti straps that is well fitted. Neutral colored, long enough so it can be tucked well into bottoms. I prefer cotton with a bit of elastane: natural fibers are more breathable and elastane prevents the top from losing its shape quickly (I also still have a couple of spandex ones since years and I still wear them if the cotton ones need to be washed).
  2. As second layer, a longsleeve top made of cotton. I usually go for plain neutral long sleeve tops (again fitted) or a button down shirt (I currently only have two, that I both included in my winter 10×10 challenge, and both made of cotton). Again, I like to stick to natural fibers: the first two layers are directly in contact with my skin, so I like to have soft and breathable materials to work with as base layers. I usually don`t go for turtleneck tops, as I like my neck to be free when being at work or at home (but if you`re the turtleneck type of person, go for it).
  3. As a third layer, I like to stay warm and cozy by wearing a sweater. Here I can play around a bit more fit colors shapes and fits, but I try to avoid 100% polyester items (even if thrifted), because… well, they’re basically made of plastic, plus they make me sweat a lot. I don’t have 100% wool sweaters either, because they’re a bit more difficult to take care of. So I found myself for the past two winters using some blend materials, and I find them to be the perfect balance. They are warm but breathable and more durable due to the synthetic fibers (sad but true). If you are looking for some good quality sweaters, thrift stores are a great place to find some on a budget! To make you some examples, I found a cashemire blend sweater for 16€, a fitted, wool blend striped one for around 10€, and a 100% cotton thick open cardigan for around 20€. All I have to do is use a pill remover from time to time and they always look brand spanking new.
    Also, I usually play more with shapes and silhouettes when it comes to sweaters, and I can go a bit oversized if I want, to stay extra cozy.
  4. Bottoms: I am usually a pants/jeans girl, and when it`s cold outside it`s no exception. If it`s really cold though, I wear some tights/leggings underneath to keep my legs warmer.
  5. Coat/Jacket. It is so important to invest in a good quality coat! It doesn’t have to be bulky to keep you warm and protect from the harsh temperatures, nor to be made of animal derived materials like duck down. After wearing big bulky fabric parkas for more than 10 years, last year I decided that it was about time to invest in a jacket that could be stylish and practical, combining the parka style that I like so much and that could be more lightweight but warm and functional too. I got a coat by the outdoors brand Jack Wolfskin, but there are so many on the market nowadays! All you need is a bit of research. If you invest in a good quality coat, that`s everything you`re going to need for several winters to come.
  6. Scarf. This is the only exception to the “no bulk” rule. I like big scarves, they keep me warm and they add a nice touch to an otherwise plain, dark outfit. I got my yellow knitted one on Etsy (it is an infinity scarf, so I don’t have to constantly adjust it).
  7. Shoes: I like comfortable but robust shoes that are water resistant and have a thick sole that can grip well if walking on wet or icy ground. My choice for the past years has been Dr. Martens boots. I’ve had a brown thrifted pair for years and I’ve worn the crap out of them, and they still look great. But because brown is not really my color anymore, I have decided to sell those boots and to invest in a new pair. DM as I said is my choice, and thankfully they provide a vegan version now. I went with black chelsea boots so they’re easier to put on/take off and the faux leather is not stiff at all, making walking in them very easy since the first wear.
  8. Beanie and gloves. Keeping your head warm is essential when it’s freezing outside! I have a hand-me-down beanie from my partner, black so it matches everything I own. I usually keep my hands in my coat pockets most of the time when being outside, and I don`t really like to wear gloves, so I didn’t purchase new ones since I lost my last pair. It`been quite okay for now, so I`ll wait until next winter to see if I really need them, and get a new pair in case.
  9. Bonus layer. This is something that I use during winter or other seasons, or when traveling too, if needed. It is an “emergency” layer that is very thin but  warm and can be packed really small in its own bag, so it’s very easy to carry around and can be easily added to the outfit to create some warmth. I have a black puffer vest by Uniqlo (Ultra Light Down). The vest gives me a good range of movement both if layered underneath or on top of something, and keeps me warmer if needed. Sadly this item is down filled, but I’ll keep on using it until it is worn out or until I feel like it is financially a good time to invest in a new one (no offense to my vegan lifestyle, but I have other priorities now).

And what about you? Which tricks do you use to layer without bulk in winter? And how cold it is right now where you live?

xoxo

Jen

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4 Comments

  1. February 14, 2018 / 16:38

    What’s your take per design per layer? Would you say no to hoodies, since they’re tough to layer under a coat? I’m not used to having winter nor live through seasons due to being on a tropical island so I’m quite clueless on a minimalist’s take on winter essentials. I’m still contemplating on getting rid of my hoodie and just buying a really good classic winter coat. What’s stopping me is that…. hoodies are great to chill in. So, would you say get rid of hoodies and replace with winter coat? Which type of coat would be sufficient for spring, autumn and winter?

    • February 16, 2018 / 06:58

      Hi! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! 🙂 I used to wear hoodies a lot, but slowly ditched them over the years… I have become a cardigan/sweater person. Considering you don’t have to face winter where you live, I wouldn’t get rid of your hoodies if you like them and use them regularly! Also I cannot really recommend a coat that is good for spring autumn and winter, because I live in a 4 seasons climate and it is quite impossible for me to have only 1 coat that can be used in all seasons, since the weather can go from -10C to +35C in the year. I’d recommend a foldable jacket or vest eventually, that can keep you can easily bring with you and that warm if it’s chilly or if you travel to destinations with different climates… there are so many on the market in these days, you can definitely find something that will match your style and clothes! 🙂

  2. March 3, 2018 / 20:18

    I love hoodies and I live in Canada . You can layer under them easily and they work under a coats of you pull the hood through so it sits on top of the coats hood. For some reason I’m able to stay warmer in hoodies as opposed to sweaters . Esp when I wear the thermal kind

    • March 5, 2018 / 07:03

      I guess that’s a personal thing… I used to wear hoodies a lot, but during the years I changed my style a lot and kind of ditched hoodies and started wearing sweaters a lot more. But if they are fleecy on the inside, they can be extra warm and cozy as well.
      On a side note: wow, Canada? I’d love to visit it someday! I fell in love with its landscapes when browsing through photos online!! 🙂

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