I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and I can vouch that whatever you’ve heard about Canadian winters is absolutely true. They’re harsh, cold, and can feel never-ending. And of course, there’s always that one gorgeous day in March that makes you uncharacteristically optimistic about the arrival of spring, only to collapse back into winter the very next day.
Whether you need to dress professionally or casually, trying to match your style to the unpredictable mood swings of Mother Nature can leave you feeling frustrated. Learning to transition your wardrobe to warmer weather when the seasons are slow to change is essential.
Must-Have Transition Pieces for Spring
The best way to straddle the line between seasons is to make sure that your closet features transition pieces – clothing that can be layered and reconfigured according to the weather. That way, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe for each season, but can still change up your look and stay comfortable when temperatures are shifting back and forth. Here are some of my major must-haves and how to utilize them as transition pieces until true shorts and flip-flop weather returns.
Whether you wear tights, nylons, leggings, or something else, the concept is the same: It’s easier to transition into dress and skirt weather if you can cover up your legs when it gets chilly. The best part about tights and nylons is the fact that they make it possible to wear your spring skirts and dresses without completely compromising on comfort. Still, they can be a little tricky if you don’t pair dresses, tights, and other alternatives properly.
- Nylons. Often called pantyhose, these are usually made from a combination of nylon and Spandex. They can be sheer or opaque, and often have features like a control top to help give you a svelter look, making them great under clingy dresses and thinner fabrics. Nylons work well under dresses that look best with a bare leg, especially when those nylons are close to your actual skin color. However, you should probably wear a slip between your nylons and your dress or skirt, since they can produce static and result in cling.
- Tights. Sometimes called stockings, tights are made with a thicker fabric than nylons – think a cotton-Spandex mix. They’re usually more opaque and can feature any number of patterns and colors. Wear colored tights to punch up a neutral spring outfit or wear them for modesty’s sake when you have a skirt or dress that might be a little too short for comfort.
- Leggings. A hybrid of pants and tights and completely opaque, these are a sleek alternative to bulky pants when wearing longer shirts or tunics. They’re warmer than going bare-legged, but not as hot as wearing pants, which may work as you transition from spring to summer. Just remember, while they may be opaque, you can often see underwear lines beneath the fabric. Invest in some seamless lingerie if you plan on swapping your pants for leggings in the spring-to-summer transition period.
Perfect for warming up while still working your favorite spring and summer dresses into rotation, legwear is also great for adding color and pattern to outfits. The best part? You can usually snag a pair for about $6 to $10, so it’s a cheap way to change up your look.
Scarves are completely versatile and can do everything from keep your neck warm, to make an outfit look super trendy. When it comes to seasonal transitions, even thin scarves are great for staying warm while wearing lighter jackets and sweaters.
Scarves are pretty cheap (I won’t spend more than $20 on one) and they’re great for adding color and pattern to a drab wardrobe – whether they’re neon pink worn with a neutral top, or floral worn under a classic trench coat, scarves easily add life to your outfit. I especially love them for work, since office temperatures can be hard to predict. By wearing a lighter spring outfit and adding a scarf, you can remove layers when it’s too warm, or keep them on if someone has cranked up the A/C.
Some women are a little intimidated by scarves, since they can seem like an “advanced” accessory. My advice would be to find a signature tie – a way of wearing a scarf that you can execute perfectly every time and that makes you feel great. My favorite is the infinity knot: Fold a long, thin scarf in half and drape it around the back of your neck. Grasp the loop and insert one of the loose ends. Then, twist the loop – so it’s like an infinity symbol – and insert the other loose end into the second loop you’ve created. Simple and creative.
When it’s finally time to shed your puffy winter jacket, you probably won’t be able to go straight to bare arms. It’s important to have a “wardrobe” of jackets to finish off your look and keep you warm through spring without getting too toasty when the sun does come out.
- Neutral Trench. Ideal for work wear, a neutral trench is one of those classic pieces worth investing in. For about $50, you can own a classic trench that goes with everything from jeans on the weekend, to skirts and dresses for work during the week. Look for one with feminine styling – a belt cinched around the waist is a must. While some cool colors are available (I actually own a canary yellow trench), starting with a classic beige means getting the most bang for your buck.
- Denim Jacket. A denim jacket goes with positively anything casual. I like to throw one with a dark-wash over a maxi dress or an A-line floral skirt. You can even pair it with some Bermuda shorts and wedges when the temp gets up to about 70 degrees. Since denim jackets can be a bit boxy, choose a tailored one that nips in at the waist and features sleeves that can be folded up or pushed back for a flirty spring look.
- A Moto-Inspired Leather Jacket. Choose more conservative styles and neutral colors for your real leather jackets, and then go for trendier shapes and colors with faux leather. Spring is all about moto styling, so look for cool details on faux jackets, like a moto collar or extra snaps and buckles. You can spend around $150 on a real leather jacket, but it’s easy to find faux leather in the $30 range. Wear yours with skinny jeans and booties for date night when it’s still a little chilly.
4. Maxi Skirts and Dresses
I love long skirts and dresses for spring, since they help you stay covered but still add that flirty note to your wardrobe. I always refer to my maxi dresses as “formal pajamas” because they’re comfortable but look perfectly presentable for everything from running errands to a casual office setting. You may have worn your maxi skirts and dresses with tights and boots in the winter, but now it’s time to lighten up a bit while you transition into warmer months.
My favorite way to wear maxi skirts and dresses for spring is with a crisp chambray shirt: Slip it over your dress, button it down to the second-to-last button, and then tie the ends for a retro look. Or, ditch the winter cardigans for a boyfriend blazer – just remember to push your sleeves up and add a statement bracelet for a breezy style. Finish off the look with ankle boots or closed-toe wedges.
If the weather where you live is anything like the weather I have to contend with, a day that starts sunny and warm can easily end cold and wet, and that means it’s probably not time to bust out your flip-flops just yet. That’s why I’m glad to have a solid boot wardrobe – it allows me to change up my look without completely sacrificing dry toes in inclement weather.
Boots can add warmth to a shorter dress or skirt or be worn over jeans to keep the mud at bay. Like jackets, it’s important to own a few different types. Luckily, the best time to buy boots is during the spring, when stores close them out to make room for more summery footwear, like sandals. Go on a bargain hunt and see if you can score some sweet deals on the following options.
- Flat Riding Boots. If you own just one pair of boots for spring, this should be the pair. Equestrian-style riding boots are great because they usually reach to the knee, giving you a trendy, streamlined look. They also have flat heels, though, which means you won’t be sliding in the mud. Plan to spend around $50 on a good pair of riding boots. Wear them with a blazer and skinny jeans, with an A-line skirt, or with tights and your favorite summer-weight dress.
- Rain Boots. Rain boots have come a long way in recent years – they’re no longer as utilitarian-looking as they once were. The various colors and patterns mean you can commute in style – just remember to pack a pair of pumps for when you’re actually in the office. You can get a great pair of rain boots for about $30.
- Ankle Boots. Ankle booties might not be a must-have, but they definitely add a trendy note to your spring and summer outfits for around $30 to $50 with spring clothing sales. Wedged ankle boots offer stability, and they look great with pencil skirts and sweaters, or with skinny jeans and leather jackets. Just avoid ankle booties made from suede, which can get ruined in the rain.
When something is labeled “basic” in style terms, it usually means it’s a foundational piece upon which an outfit is built – think jeans, neutral pants, t-shirts, and button-ups. What makes basics so appropriate for transitional weather is the fact that they’re ideal for layering under and over other pieces to create a look that’s stylish and warm. What’s more, layers can easily be removed to account for different temperatures, like that glorious spring lunch break that finally happens around April.
Make sure you have well-made basics upon which to build your style. Camis work under low-cut shirts and add warmth to button-ups. T-shirts can be worn under patterned cardigans to pull a look together, or they can be worn with a blazer, jeans, and heels for date night. When you have basics that can easily be layered and accessorized, you can always have the perfect look, no matter the weather.
During the spring transition, I like to build outfits out of at least three layers. First, a cami or t-shirt as my basic piece. Then, a fun or trendy addition like a floral cardigan. Finally, I finish the look off with a topper, such as a trench coat or scarf. That way, I can always adjust the number of layers I need according to the weather, while still wearing a cohesive overall look.
Accessories present a cheap way to change up your look, swap out winter wear, and follow trends all at the same time. I love loading up on fresh spring-appropriate accessories when the sun finally starts shining again. Adding a few chunky floral necklaces, a big cocktail ring, or even a bright white watch all help to update what may be a lackluster post-winter wardrobe. Try some of these accessory swaps to add some color and life into your transitional wardrobe:
- Swap the belt on your trench coat for a colored patent leather belt (I love red).
- Look for enamel earrings with spring pastel colors.
- Wear a pair of bright heels in place of your usual black pumps.
- Swap your plain aviators for a pair of cheap, yellow Wayfarer-style sunglasses.
- Change your black bag out for something brighter. Blush is a huge color trend this year and looks fresh against beige and gray for spring.
- Wear a bright bangle or swap your usual gold bracelet for rose gold instead.
Don’t take accessories too seriously. Sure, it might make sense to invest in a good watch, but for costume rings, necklaces, earrings, sunglasses, and belts, you can get great deals from mall stores such as Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and even Old Navy. Then, when the season’s over or the jewelry breaks, you won’t feel bad about replacing your accessories because they were inexpensive.
April showers, May flowers, and everything in between can have you scratching your head when trying to get ready in the morning. However, by building a transitional wardrobe based on layering, adding color and pattern for spring, and throwing in some trendy pieces, you can stay warm and dry even when the weather isn’t. Plan for rapid changes in temperature, carry a cute umbrella, and you can ensure you’re always dressed for comfort without sacrificing your personal style.
What are your must-have pieces for spring style?