Recently I received emails from two readers asking for advice about how to build a new wardrobe and create a personal style.One reader lost a significant amount of weight and needs new clothing but doesn’t know where to begin. And the other reader wants to start a new wardrobe from scratch and make some big changes to her individual style.
Since beginning my blog over three years ago, my own style and wardrobe have changed quite a bit and they are still evolving. Though I don’t profess to be a style or wardrobe expert, I do love fashion and have become mindful of the importance of budget, versatility, personal style and trying new things when creating a wardrobe. And I think I’ve become a pretty good shopper over the last few years. Lots of practice, you know!
Here is how I would go about building a wardrobe:
1. Assess your lifestyle
Ask yourself these questions:
~ Do you work in a professional environment or work from home?
~ Or are you retired, a stay-at-home mother or homemaker?
~ Do you live in a city, the suburbs or the country?
~ What’s the weather like where you live?
~ What do you like to do in your free time? What hobbies and activities do you participate in?
~ Do you want a small, minimalist wardrobe or a vast wardrobe with many options?
~ How often do you dress up?
Remember these questions and their answers when you’re shopping. You’ll have a better chance of bringing home items you’ll wear if you do.
2. Clean out your closet
Get rid of everything that you don’t like, doesn’t fit, is beyond repair or you just don’t wear. If you’re serious about rebuilding a wardrobe, you’ll likely be parting with lots of things. Take your nicer clothing to consignment or sell them on eBay. You will want the extra money to put toward your new wardrobe. Take the rest to Goodwill or give away to friends and family.
3. Make a list of your core pieces
Before you begin shopping, make a list of ten to twelve items that will make up the foundation of your wardrobe, your core pieces. They will be your workhorses and are the most important – and probably the most expensive – items you will buy.
The ten core pieces in my wardrobe are:
4. Start a Pinterest account
Pinterest and Amazon Collections are both fantastic tools for getting style ideas and staying current on the latest fashions.
Once you create your style boards, don’t think too much about what you’ll pin or collect on them. Browse fashion images and pick out what you like, what speaks to you. This is an exercise in figuring out what you’re drawn to so don’t worry about your body style, age or budget right now. Find looks you like and have fun with it!
There may be several styles you’re drawn too, don’t feel like you have to stick with only one. Over time you will see patterns in what you’ve amassed. Notice lots of menswear inspired looks? Or maybe you’ve grouped together dozens of feminine and delicate looks. Take notice of these patterns as they are insights to your personal style.
5. Determine your budget
Figure out how much you want to spend on building your wardrobe. The smaller the budget, the more selective and aware of spending you’ll have to be. If your budget is $1000 you certainly won’t want to splurge on a $900 coat if you’re trying to build a wardrobe.
6. Learn from your past
You know that tangerine horizontal striped tunic with the pockets at the hip that you wore once, then gave to donation? Why didn’t it work for you? And that fabulous black sheath dress that you always get compliments on. What is it about that dress that turns heads? Examine the winners and the losers for valuable information about what works and what doesn’t work and use that information every time you try something on.
7. Try it on
Curious about how that jumpsuit you pinned on Pinterest would look on you? Love the color chartreuse but not sure you want to wear it? Be open! There is only one way to determine if something works for you or not and that is to try it on.
While you’re out there trying things on, be sure to pay attention to the labels that fit you well and the labels that don’t. Next time, you can skip trying on the designers that don’t work for you and head straight for the great ones that do.
8. Take selfies
Snap pictures of yourself in outfits or ask a friend or significant other to take photos of you. You’re not being vain, you’re working on a project important to you and there is money involved!
There is nothing quite like seeing an outfit on your body in a photo. Mirrors are okay but they don’t really give you enough objectivity. Sometimes it helps to not look at the photo for a few days to gain even more clarity.
9. Take a stylish friend to lunch
We all know someone who has a style we admire. Invite her out for lunch and shopping one day. Tell her you’re working on building your wardrobe and ask her for some tips. Where does she like to shop? What are her favorite wardrobe pieces? Which designers does she favor? Chances are she will be flattered and more than happy to help you.
10. Ditch the style rules
There was a time several years ago when I steadfastly held on to many fashion rules: No shorts after 35, tall women shouldn’t wear heels, only wear colors that are in your season, stay away from black, and so on. Yawn.
After a few years of exploring my tastes and personal style, I ditched those rules. I dress for me and wear what makes me feel good. Pay attention to how clothes and styles make you feel. If you follow every fashion rule out there, you’ll never buy a thing.
Give yourself permission to get creative. Try new colors and trends, mix a few patterns and revisit a style you once loved. Make it fun!