Clean Closet | Staple Pieces for A “Real” Winter

At the end of the summer, my husband and I moved across the country from Denton, TX to Pullman, WA. I’ve been a little AWOL from blogging while my life has been uprooted, but I’m going to try to prioritize writing more now that I’m a little more settled.

I have lived in the American south my whole life, with the exception of one glorious semester in college when I lived and studied in Italy and was privileged enough to travel around Europe. When my husband and I made the decision to move to the pacific northwest, we knew we would be in for some changes, not least among them, the weather. We’ve lived in the “tornado belt” our entire lives, from Alabama, to central Tennessee, and onto northeast Texas. Out here in eastern Washington: zero tornadoes. Barely a thunderstorm to be seen. We also come from the land of humidity and mosquitoes for most of the year. Again, up here: not a thing.

All of this is enough to make us jump for joy! We’ve experienced a mild summer with long days, an idyllic fall beginning on the stroke of September 1st, and winter came right on cue, long before Christmas hit. But here’s the rub: we were supposed to have a winter with “some snow”. Instead, we’ve had the coldest, snowiest, and overall worst winter in recent years. We’re going on seven weeks of continuous snow; we’ve had at least eight inches of snow on the ground since the beginning of December, and more recently it’s been up to my knee.

I may be one of the only people who absolutely loves it (now that we’ve got our snow tires on and I’m comfortable driving in it), but it’s been a big adjustment. In the south where I’ve lived, we may get some snow, or more likely ice, but it melts quickly and it’s rarely substantial. Most of the time, it meant a snow day, even from work! But up here, snow days are RARE. We will have a fresh six inches of snow from the night before, and it’s business as usual.

As you may imagine, my winter wardrobe was more symbolic than practical. I’ve slowly been accumulating some warm winter staples to make it through the cold, and I plan to continue to add more over the years that we will be living here.

Here are some key pieces that have made a huge difference in my comfort on these snowy days:

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  • Wool Socks. As I aim for minimalism, I’ve only purchased one pair so far, but I’ve been loving this particular brand, Wigwam, which is made in the USA. It’s amazing how much warmer they are than the two-to-three layers of socks made from synthetic materials that I was previously rocking.
  • Fleece leggings. I spent a while shopping online, trying to find quality and ethically made long underwear, but everything I found was well out of my price range, and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Then, on one single-digit stretch, I picked up a $10 pair of fleece leggings out of desperation. And while the quality isn’t top notch (they’ll likely last the season and not much longer), they have upped my cozy and warm level so, so much. I’ve still got my eye out for something better, and I’ve considered silk leggings for a while. Ethical options, here and here.
  • Snow boots. My goal was to find a pair stylish enough to be worn all-day at work, but functional enough to make sense for this area. I really wanted a pair of Chelsea snow boots. That in itself proved to be a challenge, but I also wanted boots that I didn’t have to remove when I got to work. I’m on-the-go a lot at work, in-and-out of the office and local schools, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to buy something that I couldn’t keep on all day. Fortunately, I bumped in to a woman who was wearing exactly what I was looking for (and hey, that means they work for this climate!), and I asked her about her boots. After a lot of searching, I purchased a pair of Merrell’s from a previous season, which made them tricky to track down, BUT likely to be found on sale! I owned a pair of Merrell ballet flats (similar to these) that I wore all across Europe, and then for another seven years, so I knew the quality would be there. I’ve been so happy with them! They’re adorable and practical, and I get compliments on them all the time. The only downside is when I accidentally step into a berm of snow up over my knee, I sometimes get a bit of a boot-full, but thankfully, that’s only happened a couple of times.
  • A warm coat. I went quite a while just layering up under my thin, stylish-over-practical coat, because again, I had such a hard time finding anything that was both actually warm and actually cute that was in my price range. Eventually, I found a vintage London Towne Anorak coat at a thrift store, and it has worked quite nicely! Similar here and here.
  • Cashmere sweaters. Originally, I purchased Everlane’s cashmere crew in camel. I wanted to love it – it’s so soft, and it looks so good on other people, but I just didn’t love the fit on me. But I did luck out and find a cashmere cardigan and a cashmere sweater at a thrift store for six bucks each! Cashmere really is worth the hype. Similar here and here.
  • Wool Beanie. I purchased an Everlane marled wool beanie a couple of years ago, one for me and one for Andrew, and this winter they’ve gotten almost daily use. It’s a amazing how much warmer you feel when your head is warm! Similar here.

In the future, a few things I’d like to collect are a nice pair of warm, waterproof, and stylish gloves (mine are ok, but seriously, why is it so hard to find all of these things together in women’s gloves?), a warm base-layer tank top (because I’ve been wearing tanks more in the winter just to have a layer snug against my skin), more wool socks, and a cashmere scarf.

I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of figuring out how to endure in the snow and cold, but I feel like there isn’t a lot out there to help prepare people who have never dealt with this kind of weather before.

Help me out, folks in cold climates: what are your go-to, high-quality cozy pieces? What else would you recommend?

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