Does this seem like an impossible goal? Are you swamped with clothing but feel like you have nothing to wear? Do you wish Clinton Kelly would appear on your doorstep with a box of trash bags and a gift card for new clothes? Are you ready to (almost) never impulse buy again? Keep reading!
I had clothing in all different styles, colors, and sizes, from too small to too large. I didn’t know what to keep or what to pass along. I didn’t know what I really liked or what looked good on me. I tried the “turn the hanger around when you wear something, and if you don’t wear it in a few months, let it go” philosophy. But this didn’t work for me because I still wore things I didn’t truly like, just to be able to say that I was getting use out of them.
Here’s what really worked for me, put in a step-by-step guide so that you can have the wardrobe you’ve always wanted:
⇒ Before you step foot in your closet or open your drawers, write down the answers to the following three questions:
1. What is your life like?
Wear clothes for the life that you have, not necessarily the life you dream of having. Do you have a closet full of party clothes and 4 inch heels, but you’re now a SAHM? Do you spend time outdoors frequently, but have several rarely worn dress suits? Do you have a ton of winter clothes, but the average temperature in your state is rarely below 70 degrees?
I am primarily a SAHM, so I don’t really buy party or business clothes, high/uncomfortable heels, or things that are dry-clean/hand wash only. Identifying what clothes work for your lifestyle helps you focus on the categories that you need and ignore the rest.
2. What is your personal style?
There’s all sorts of style quizzes online. Try a few and see if you get consistent results. Look at your Pinterest clothing boards and write down similarities that you see across all the pins that you truly love. Do you gravitate towards loose, flowy tops with ruffles, or very structured ones? Do you love simple shoes and bags, or ones with lots of hardware? What is similar between the items that you wear the most? Identify stores that carry the types of items you gravitate towards, and ignore all the rest. This will greatly simplify your shopping.
For your essentials (see list below), stick with classic cuts and styles that won’t go “out of style” quickly. That way you’ll get more wear out of your items.
3. What is your color palette? Stick to it when you shop.
Having a closet with clothes in every color of the rainbow means that it will be hard to put an outfit together. Streamline your colors so that you’re not tempted to buy something, only to have it sit at home unworn because it doesn’t go with anything you already own. You can search for color palette suggestions on Pinterest and find some great results based on your hair color and skin tone. Jewel tones are an easy choice because they flatter every hair color and skin tone.
I gravitate towards jewel tones (royal blue, cherry red, eggplant, and forest green) and “cool” neutrals (navy, gray, cream, and black). This means that I usually avoid buying things in neons, brown, beige, orange, orange-red, and yellow/gold.
4. What items work with your body type?
Find out what looks good based on your height and proportions, then ignore anything that doesn’t. You can find all sorts of resources for this on Pinterest. I’m not that tall, so I don’t usually bother with clothing items that are longer than knee-length like maxi skirts/dresses, or capris. Also because of my height, I tend to avoid anything with lots of volume.
⇒ Now that you’ve figured out what works for your lifestyle, personal style, color palette, and body type, pull out all your clothes from your closet and dresser, and ask yourself:
1. Does this fit?
If not, donate or sell it. If you know you may need maternity clothes in the future, keep them but only if they pass the questions below. Be realistic about things that are too small– is that pair of too-small jeans a motivator to lose weight, or are they something that makes you feel sad/guilty about your appearance? Let them go if it’s the latter.
Does it bother you to keep the size ___ jeans, but give the smaller jeans away? Cut the size tag out of the ones that fit you. Sizes vary so greatly across brands that the number is relative anyway.
2. Is it damaged beyond repair?
If so, recycle it. Both Goodwill and H&M take clothing with holes/rips to recycle, as long as it isn’t wet/moldy. H&M will give you a 15% off your purchase coupon just for donating to their recycling program. Nike stores will recycle old sneakers from any brand.
⇒ After getting rid of items based on the first two questions above, if the answer to any of the following is “no” for the rest of your items, donate or sell them:
1. Does it fit my lifestyle?
2. Does it fit my personal style/do I love it?
3. Does it fit my color palette and/or flatter my hair color/skin tone?
4. Are there any bad memories attached to this item?
⇒ After going through the 4 questions above, look at what you have left, and identify gaps in your wardrobe based on the list below. Write down the items that you don’t have, and only buy those when shopping. I won’t suggest how many pants or tops you should have, since everyone has a different amount of storage and closet space. Keep the number of items that fit comfortably in your drawers and closet.
Warm Weather Essentials:
- 3 shorts/tees PJ sets
- Shorts in neutral colors like khaki, black, or navy
- A few skirts
- Tank tops
- A cardigan
- A pair of comfortable sandals
- Rain jacket
- A swim suit & cover up
- A hat that covers your ears
Cold Weather Essentials:
- 3 PJ sets with long-sleeves/pants
- Long sleeved shirts
- A fleece jacket
- A heavy winter coat
- A pair of boots
- A hat/scarf/gloves set
- Thicker woolen socks
- A few pairs of dark wash jeans in a flattering cut
- A few pairs of dress pants in neutral colors
- A few casual dresses
- 1-2 fancier dresses
- Nicer blouses for work, church, or events
- A pair of black heels
- A pair of flats in a neutral color
- Socks/underthings (as your socks wear out, replace them with socks in the same color/style from the same brand, and you won’t have to worry about matching socks)
- A dress suit set, if needed
- A pair of sneakers
- Leggings/yoga pants
- A few work out tops
- One med-large everyday tote bag
- A small evening bag
- A wallet
- A pair of stud earrings
- A pair of hoop or “dangly” earrings
- A watch
- A few necklaces, bracelets, and rings
⇒ Recycle or donate any wire & paper hangers from the dry-cleaners. They can poke holes in your clothes. If you choose to buy all the same hangers, skip the thin ones and the plastic ones (see: Just Say “No” To Plastic Hangers…They’re More Dangerous Than You Think).
⇒ When you go shopping to fill the gaps in your closet, if an item looks like cotton (tshirts, etc.) but is cotton and made with synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon, modal, etc., don’t buy it and keep looking. Anything that looks like cotton but isn’t 100% cotton will pill over time. However, synthetics that look and feel like silk will usually not pill. Check out How To Spot Designer Details In Thrift Store Finds for more tips on how to spot a well made garment.
Looking for well made clothing/shoes is important, so I don’t usually shop online for these things. Just looking at a picture doesn’t tell anything about how the fabric feels, how the seams were finished, or if the item fits well. Buying something in person means I won’t have to return it later.
Be realistic about how much time it will take to accomplish a complete closet overhaul. You could divide the questions and tasks into days to make them easy to accomplish:
Day 1: Come up with an answer for the first four questions.
Day 2: Eliminate items based on the next two questions about the fit and condition of your items.
Day 3: Take another day to answer the next four questions about your remaining items.
Day 4: Take a day to write down what is missing from your wardrobe.
Days 5 and beyond: Take as much time as you need to look for quality items that fit the criteria you’re looking for. Bring your list from Day 4 and the answers to your questions when you go shopping to avoid impulse buying. Taking your time and not buying anything while you’re in a rush will also help with avoiding buyer’s remorse.
It will take a little time and effort to follow the steps above, but the payoff is worth it! You won’t waste time shopping in stores that don’t fit your style. You can get ready for the day faster and be more confident in what you are wearing.
Having a wardrobe of clothes you love is possible!
What are your tips for having a wardrobe you love? Please share in the comments!
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