Yesterday we talked about strategies for cleaning out your closet and how many clothes one woman needs. (Answer: It depends! You’re welcome.) Today let’s take on the last part of Sian’s question, about building a wardrobe on a budget. The place to start is by shopping your closet — in other words, now that you know what you have, take some time and figure out how to make it all work for you. Ready? Let’s do this.
Try everything on (take two). Once you’ve narrowed your wardrobe down to things that fit, are in good condition, and make you want to get dressed, it’s time to start putting together actual outfits — which requires that you try everything on, again. Start with basic pieces, like your jeans or an A-line skirt or a white button down shirt. Pair that piece with as many other pieces as you can and look to see what works and what doesn’t. Think about where you would wear each outfit — work? dinner out? running errands? Take notes or photos to help you remember what goes with what.
Make a shopping list. As you’re curating outfits, take note of what you don’t have. Pay particular attention to your undergarments; if you don’t have the right bra for that perfect white shirt, for example, add that to your list. Think, too, about pieces you find yourself wishing you had — a navy blazer or black trousers or pink flats. Write it all down, and then make yourself a deal: You’re only going to buy from this list from now on.
Pay attention to proportion. How do you know if an outfit really works? It can help to have an objective eye, but you can also figure this out for yourself. Start by assessing your own shape honestly. Are you a pear? An apple? A celery stick? Be honest about your shape — not every silhouette works for every woman. Your goal is to put together outfits that play up your best parts and distract from the parts you’re not loving so much. But keep your focus on what’s working for you — don’t get bogged down wishing that you were some other size or shape. That’s not helpful.
(I said this was going to be tough, and I wasn’t kidding. Hang in there — you’re doing great.)
Plan for what’s on your schedule. I work from home, so my “work” wardrobe is pretty fluid — I’m basically just trying to look nice enough that I’m not embarrassed if I am compelled to go to my sons’ school on short notice, or if I run into one of my mother-in-law’s friends at the grocery. But I’m not that mom who spends the day in yoga pants — I put real clothes on, every day, so I really do need to know what my options are. My wardrobe is largely casual, but I also have a reliable selection of more professional options, for client meetings, as well as some pretty things for lunch dates and evenings out with my husband. Because I know exactly what’s in my closet and exactly how it all goes together, I spend a minimal amount of time worrying about what I’m going to wear, no matter where I’m going. A thorough closet edit gives you an opportunity to do the same; spend time pulling together outfits for work and for weekends and for all those other hours in between.
Put everything away, in some kind of thoughtful order. Once you know what you have and how it all goes together, think about what your strategy is for storing it all in the closet. I hang things by type (pants, skirts, blouses, dresses) and by color, because I frequently mix and match my casual and dressy pieces and don’t want to segregate them as “dressy” or “casual.” You may choose to organize your closet by function (work clothes, casual clothes, dress up clothes) or by some other system — it doesn’t matter how you put things away as long as you can see what you have without having to dig around in a big mess. Hang woven shirts; fold t-shirts and sweaters and stack them on a shelf. I roll my t-shirts and line them up in a drawer — that way I can see everything at a glance. And if it makes your life easier, hang actual outfits together — the goal is for you to be able to get dressed without a lot of work. You can also use a valet hook, like the one pictured above, to pull together an outfit the night before.
Tomorrow: Specific outfit strategies by body type. In the meantime, keep weeding through your closet. You can do it, I know you can.
Photo via Real Simple