How to Build a Wardrobe that You Love and that Serves You

I have written before here and here about my small closet and limited wardrobe and how it doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of style and that it also helps me to get ready quickly in the morning – about 15 minutes (unless I need to shower that morning because PS I don’t shower every day). I don’t have a ‘capsule wardrobe’ or really know what that means (it overwhelmed me once looking into it and I realized whatever I was doing wasn’t broken so I decided not to fix it.) Whenever I’ve written on this topic, I get a lot of feedback from ladies and so I started to think back to when I was still standing in front of my closet for 20 minutes every morning trying to decide what to wear for the day or trying on multiple ‘outfits’ until I decided on something that still annoyed me when I walked out the door and then how I changed that. Overtime, I have created a wardrobe that I love, that doesn’t cost a fortune and that I don’t have to think about excessively (it does take some thought to buy the right pieces but the daily agony is gone). So how exactly did I do that? I tried to create some simple actionable steps that you could take that aren’t extreme – just guidelines – to move your wardrobe to serve you the way you want it to!

  1. Define your goal. Ultimately, you first have to decide your goal with your wardrobe. I think that for all of us, we want to look and feel great when we walk out the door! This will mean different things for different people though. For me that means that primarily I want a professional wardrobe that can convert easily to afterwork activities and then also have comfy clothes for home. I also need it to fit into my small closet and three drawers. Along with that I want to feel comfortable. I want to be able to transport my children to daycare without falling or tripping, or showing my undergarments. I don’t want anything that is too tight or that makes me feel uncomfortable ’emotionally’ (I’ve got enough to deal with). I want to feel pulled together and fashionable, but I personally, also don’t want to look ‘boring’ (my definition of that). I like something to be intriguing or fun or different in what I wear (think Vianne Rocher meets Kathleen Kelly – if you know who I’m referencing we need to hang out more). Also, on the days I’m at home, running errands, etc, I want to look pulled together as well. Even if I’m in yoga pants and haven’t showered all weekend with a hat on, I personally don’t like to look disheveled or mismatchy – I don’t have to look like Joanna Gaines, just not sloppy. Those are my goals – yours will be unique to your lifestyle!
  2. Start with your favorite outfit. Pull out your go to outfit from your closet. Analyze it. Why do you love it? How does it make you feel? That’s how I want you to feel every  day! What colors make it up – neutrals? solids? prints? I lean toward solid neutrals, but I also have some floral prints and some royal blue and pink hues. Are there little details about it that you love? I love shirts that have little ‘puffs’ on the shoulders or lace detail on the tops – they make me feel very feminine and make the shirts feel higher end. What about the fit of it do you love? I prefer high waisted pants with thin or skinny legs, high waisted pencil skirts and A line dresses. For casual, I want high waisted bottoms and a loose fitting comfy top. Looking back, when I started my professional wardrobe, I purchased a really nice black suit from Express. I loved the fit of the jacket and the pants and honestly I wore it every day while I went out knocking on doors to build my practice. I did not have the money to spend on a lot of clothes at the time. I had a few tops – a lot were hand me downs – that went underneath it and some sensible black flats for walking miles a day. I kid you not, I wore it almost every day for 8 months. I still have it to this day but don’t wear it much not because I don’t like it but because I have so many other options now! The point is, if you feel good in something, you can wear it every day. You might need to wash it sometimes, but wearing something that makes you feel great is the point. It’s silly to have things in your closet that you don’t like wearing, and sillier still to feel bad that you don’t wear them – guilt is not going to help you here. Now if it’s because you don’t have something to go with it or it’s for special occasions, that’s different, but don’t keep stuff that you don’t like. I used to feel bad giving away or returning an item that someone gave me as a gift and now I just realize I need to be honest that it’s not my style and return it! Now do the same for items that you think you should like but don’t or just plain don’t like. Why don’t you like them? Often I find it’s the fit. I loved the idea of it but it doesn’t fit me right. Now you know what not to buy.
  3. Pinterest. Create a board of outfits you like that fit your goal and just keep pinning
    without thinking. After awhile you will notice what you like, what colors emerge, what styles come up, etc. Use this as a way to confirm purchases as you start to build out your wardrobe or if you have something you love but don’t know what to wear it with – search that! Put in “casual outfits with a red top” or “professional boho outfit black shirt” and you can see what to purchase to compliment that lonely piece.
  4. Build out from that one outfit. After awhile, I bought a nice black pencil skirt to add to my wardrobe. This now gave me something to go with that black suit jacket and the shirts I had. Slowly from there I’ve added pieces to my wardrobe so that many of my pieces are interchangeable. Shopping mainly from one store can help with this too because they tend to have items that work well together. If what you buy can also be worn with that outfit you love, then you will have many outfits to choose from without much thought. Investing in the quality foundational pieces first makes the most sense to me – pants, skirts, dresses and jackets. If you buy similar colors that flow – whether its all neutrals or all bold, they will make your options of multiple outfit possibilities grow. As I mentioned before, I have neutrals and quite a few pink hued tones in my wardrobe. I have a few royal blue pieces but outside of that I don’t buy a million colors because I just have found I don’t wear them much and they don’t all work together well which makes for easier decisions in the morning because it all pretty much goes together. If I bought a bright green shirt I would have black pants, khaki pants and a black skirt to wear with it. Three outfits. If I buy a white shirt (there are tons of different white options out there!) or a tan or a light pink shirt, I can literally wear it with almost everything in my closet and all my jackets and make a million combinations. Again you can see my previous posts about how I shop my clothes via the Express app to find the best deals.
  5. Add accessories. I consider jewelry, shoes, bag, makeup and hair to be my accessories and I personally don’t feel complete without those when I walk out the door. Accessories can be an easy way to make a new look or get your bold statement for less money. You can wear a white shirt and jeans every day but switch out your accessories and have a completely different look. However, if you don’t like the way your white shirt and jeans fit you, no amount of accessories will make those feel or look better. You have to like the foundation before you can add accessories. What you like in accessories will be different from me but I’ll share my thought here on how I approach each of these in an effort to give you ideas. Jewelry – I love big, bold earrings that are unique and have story from a vacation or a local artist. They are my go to accessory. They don’t cost a lot and take up little space so I have a lot!  Shoes – I love heels, but I have kids so I wear only wedges and block heels and try to get shoes with ankle straps as well. I stick to black, nude and white and I think about what kind of shoe looks good with the majority of my clothes. This summer I wanted really comfy and no thinking required, so I bought one pair of off white espadrille wedge heels and I have wore them because they go with everything.
    Makeup – I personally don’t like to spend time on makeup so I have a simple makeup routine. I literally have one lipstick always in my bag and it goes with most of my outfits and I just put it on in the car or office if I want to completely change up my look and add some boldness. Hair – Your hair changes your look too. I prefer long hair because it’s much simpler to throw back in a ponytail and still look polished. I don’t buy hair accessories because it’s another thing to think about and manage and I have had the same straightener and curling wand for about 10 years and 7 years now because they work!  Purse – I have a whole post on efficiencies and my bag here and how it’s my mobile office, what goes in it, etc. I don’t like to sacrifice style here either. I shopped a very long time to find my current bag that is a ‘diaper bag’, but doesn’t look like one. I specifically wanted a backpack option because three kids need all my hands! I find it much easier to have one bag (I switch with the seasons sometimes) that fits everything and then pull out my wallet/clutch for ease and maybe slip it in a fun small bag for date night. My main bags are neutral to go with everything – black, tan and light pink leather. Accessories are a lot of fun, but in my experience they can also clutter up your life if you have too many.
  6. Purge. Overtime you will find you aren’t wearing things anymore for many reasons – it doesn’t fit, it’s worn out, it’s not in style anymore, or you don’t have anything to go with it. I just keep a bag at the bottom of my closet and add things to it when I notice I haven’t worn it for a long time. Once it’s full I go back through it to confirm I really don’t want it, and then I stick it in the front seat  of the car (put it the back and you’ll forget about it) and donate it. I don’t have to purge as much if I’m not buying on impulse instead of necessity or just truly loving a beautiful piece.
  7. No pressure. Again, this is about what makes you feel good so you can walk out of the house confidently and feel like you are representing your personal style. We all need more time in the day so if you strategically purchase clothes that work for you and your life, then you don’t have to spend so much time wondering what to put on.  If you can find a few items in your closet that you absolutely love – start there and over time you will build a lovely closet of things you love, bring you joy and make you feel confident when you walk out the door.