(I wish I could be as structured and succinct as Jenn in my wardrobe thoughts! It would probably help if I did this monthly instead of yearly...)

I always have wardrobe thinky thoughts at the end of August. I love warm weather, but by this time I'm just wanting a change. It's tough to be officially fall and still clocking 98F daily. There's a long, slow decent just from "burning" to "quite warm" to "nice." Actual cold is a looong way off... but it's still a tough one. I'm never quite sure what to do with it once it arrives.

Wintertime Challenge

My adjectives are Colorful, Comfortable, Structured, and Elegant, and my moniker is the Duchess Next Door.

Summertime, and the dressing is easy. For church or office, a dress, nice sandals, and a cardigan. For home, simple dress or jean shorts and graphic t-shirt; skip cardigan and footwear. For errands, substitute casual sandals or light sneakers. That's it. I love variety, so with lots of items these basic formulas are perfect. I have lots of dresses to pair with white or cognac sandals, and jean shorts go with every t-shirt.

But in winter, I struggle to optimize my wardrobe. I've got awesome pieces, but the awesome outfits are either rare, or not very adaptable (ex: works only with high heels or sheer hose). It's so much more complicated just to get dressed, let alone make everything look beautiful together. There are so many more pieces! Often I need a second layer even indoors, and legwear and footwear are never optional. Each piece exponentially increases the challenge. Despite this, I do have some terrific outfits... but then again, if I wear them too much, I get bored!

Working from Home

I've been working from home since March and will likely be home for a number of months yet. It's possible I'll be part-time WFH permanently.

After going home, I switched to my favorite evening and weekend uniform: knit dress, leggings, and long hoodie. But I got bored even of that. Little things started to aggravate me: layering socks under the leggings, the leggings being both bulky and compression-tight, my toes and ankles being cold even with house shoes, and the limited palette of my hoodies. And I stopped feeling cute and started feeling slovenly.

Clothes got a lot easier in the spring. I switched to spring dresses with cardigans, and footie socks when it was chilly in the morning. When it got hot I learned that even jean shorts aren't comfortable for sitting at a desk for 10 hours, but I put time into sewing a spectrum of linen dresses. It's been good.

Now I'm looking ahead to winter again. Whether I go back to the office or not, I need to think things through more.. And I want to put in the planning effort now instead of when I'm cold and cranky, and the stores are sold out of the good stuff.


At the end of June, a clothing line I follow (Emmy Design) announced their Midsummer sale. I'd only bought twice (a single sweater dress each time, see first Find), but those purchases have been winter workhorses. I've worn each once a week to work, and even on the weekends as well. I rarely need to layer over them, and I never overheat.

Emmy Design is best-known for their cozy retro-style cardigans in 100% wool, vintage-inspired knit patterns, and spectrum of colors. They only do one sale a year, the Midsummer. It's not a cheap brand, and shipping from Sweden is about $30 additional. So this was the time to order some cardigans, if I ever would. (And to be honest, I wanted to support them.) So I started thinking through winter clothing. I literally stood in my closet and went through the cardigan colors with all my dresses and skirts.

I now own four Emmy cardigans! Two are wool (dusty blue and navy), and two are cotton (bright white and coral pink), and I've been using them already. Especially the white, which is a summer staple for air-conditioning.

But a fire had been kindled. I kept coming back to the Autumn/Winter 2019 collection. (scroll down for "The knitty-gritty knitwear collection") This collection, but even moreso the styling, hit all of my style adjectives perfectly. The comfortable, cozy cardigans with structured shoulders and waists; the rich and pretty colors and patterns, including both darker tints and midtones; the absence of black; the layers; the boots and tights - all of it works. And the setting! Autumn in Sweden looks like winter in Texas. There's still warmth in the colors, with the golden-brown dead grass, grayish-brownish-purple brush, brown tree bark, and sunshine. That's how I want to feel in the winter.


Sometimes I see a collection and want to buy all of it. This wasn't that way. It showed the vibe I want but am not quite reaching. The formula and styling is the key. Breaking it down showed me what I was missing:

* No black
* Balance of dark tones with mid-tones, and lighter touches of oatmeal or light gray
* Monochrome, textured tights
* Tights in warm tones (burgundy and rust), or light gray
* Most footwear lace-up boots, above-ankle or knee-high
* Footwear in warm tones (brown and cognac)

Particularly remarkable was the number of outfits that combined burgundy/dark red with cognac/rust. These colors didn't fight with each other. Moreover, they blend with the rest of the outfit without drawing special attention. And while I have a lot of burgundy, I tend to put it with black, navy, and blush - none of which are featured in these photos. A brand new color combination to play with!

I do not dislike black. But while I usually default to black shoes and tights, it's almost never represented elsewhere in my outfits. It makes me much happier when everything is really part of the outfit, not just receding into the background. I try to match in shoes, but finding just the right styles in non-black, gray, or brown colors can be an ordeal.


* Good sweater tights in burgundy, rust, light gray
* Cognac/brown boots

I have spent so much time on ebay and Poshmark shopping for just the right boots: smooth leather, lace up, above ankle, medium height heel, shaped (not block), and wingtip detail. The effect should be traditional and refined, but also practical instead of costumey. Lots of ropers and traditional work boots get close, but the heel is usually too low or a block. I have yet to find any fashion boots that approach the right look. Right now I'm leaning toward the Abilene "Victorian" boot, which is unfortunately brown instead of cognac, but ticks all the other boxes.

I've had mixed success in tights shopping. The MeMoi brand on Amazon feels great; I tried navy in one pattern, and went back for two shades of true gray in other patterns since they seem to fit and feel just right. But I'm still looking for burgundy and a rust/tan color. I'm hoping they will get new colors back in for the fall, since their current stock is depleting. The navy ones I got are already gone.

Making this Work at Home

I'll still wear tights at home. They just need to be very comfortable, gently snug without a tight waistband. (And maybe colored leggings.)

Footwear for at-home needs to be:
* Warm over the ankles and lower legs
* Some kind of sole so I can slip out to get the mail or walk around the yard without destroying them
* Soft because I sit on my feet while working

Regular cabin socks don't work because they don't have soles. They are soft and fuzzy, so they pick up bits of dead grass and twigs, or dampness, when I step outside. And I don't like the bulk of Ugg-style house boots.

On ebay I found several options under the MukLuks name: "sweater boots" with a thick rubber sole, and "slipper sox" with knit uppers and a (hopefully) grass-shedding fabric sole. Both styles are in long lengths that go most of the way up my calf. So far I've bought one pair of each; they fit very well on my feet and over tights. I will have to wait until it gets cold enough to wear them for real, but I think these two options may be best. So I'm counting this option sorted, and I can add more colors and patterns since they're fairly inexpensive.

Situation Now

By the time it really gets cold, fall items will have been available, and depleting, for months. It's so nice to have a list now!

The one thing I really can't do yet is a serious try-on session. Sweater dresses and woolens are packed away to keep the moths out, so I'm not anxious to drag them out until the weather is more suitable. And try-on sessions are warm enough without doing wool layers when it's in the 90s outside.

So I'm not buying the Abilene boots quite yet. Any returnable boots will need a real try-on with several full outfits to make sure they're keepers. The Abilenes are current stock, so I don't expect them to sell out. I'll continue to keep an eye out for different styles, too, in case an even more perfect pair shows up.

I'm also a bit impatient to get more slipper sox, but that really needs to wait for a try-on session as well. Most of the available pair are patterned and I just can't predict what is most versatile.

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