Monday, May 10, 2010

Your guide to a well-edited wardrobe

Last month, I wrote a post about how we spend money and our budget plan. In that post, I mentioned that I have what I call a "well-edited" wardrobe. It's not huge, but it's very functional, which makes it easier to keep track of what I have and also not spend as much money on clothes. I had a request for more details about this. Budgeting is (perhaps oddly) one of my favorite subjects, so I'm happy to shed some more light on the subject. :)

My closet - not too big, not too small. This closet is just right.

I mentioned that I have a nicely organized and controlled wardrobe now, but I wasn't always this disciplined. In the past, I've been guilty of having way more clothes than I needed. I was also guilty of having clothes I bought and never wore. Have you ever had one of those moments where you're digging in your closet, and you find a shirt you forgot you had? Yeah, that used to happen to me, and it was a sign that my wardrobe was out of control. Plus having lots of clothes made it somewhat overwhelming to get dressed in the morning. What to choose, and what goes with what? I am guilty of having a full closet but still feeling like I have nothing to wear. That is no fun.

So over the past couple years, I've gradually changed my attitude toward clothes and buying clothes. It takes time, especially since it doesn't make sense (financially or logically) to just get rid of everything and start over. So over the years, I've started to adopt my own "rules" for buying clothes. Though it's an ongoing process, it's really helped to rope in my clothes spending. The unexpected and bonus side effects are that I am much happier with my wardrobe now since each and every item was carefully considered. Here are my tips, trucks, rules, and guidelines for controlling the clothes monster.

Rules for a well-edited wardrobe

1. Create a base with some quality basics and versatile, classic pieces. Things like cardigans, some solid color v-neck tees, tanks/camisoles, fitted button-up shirts, some work-appropriate black pants, khakis, a pencil skirt, and so on. I get those things in solid colors to mix and match. Check out the links at the end of this post for some more examples.

Photo source

2. Stay trendy with inexpensive accent pieces. I usually buy a couple trendy (but inexpensive) tops a year, and a few accessories. I've found that's really all I need. Stores like Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 make it easy to look somewhat fashionable without breaking the bank. Mod Cloth is another one to check out for reasonably priced shoes, jewelry, hats, scarves, etc. New York & Co. and the Limited have awesome sales if you sign up for their email list. Oh and don't count out JCPenney (not just for moms and aunts) because they actually have some pretty cute things (and crazy good sales) these days. I've been eyeballing this cross-body bag for only $17:

Yes, I dig fake leather. A lot.

3. Remember to edit, constantly. Regularly go through your closet and clean it out. If something is out of style or no longer fits and you don't see yourself wearing it anymore, then donate it. Be realistic. There's no reason to keep things that only clutter up your closet (and life). I'm not advocating that people should go out and buy lots of clothes and then simply get rid of them when they're tired of them. That's not a very good use of money. But if you already own things that you honestly aren't going to wear, then just bite the bullet and donate them. If you feel guilty doing this, just use that guilt to motivate you in the future - to stop buying items that you don't love and won't get a fair amount of use from.

4. Think carefully about each purchase. This is probably the most important one. I'm no longer an impulse shopper when it comes to clothes. That is a good thing - most of those previous impulse buys resulted in feelings of regret or rarely worn items. Now when I buy anything, I first try it on (see below), and then I ask myself "Do I love it?" If there's any hesitation or doubt or any condition at all (ex: "This is alright but I bet I will like it better with this certain pair of jeans I have")... then I put it back. Now I put 90% of things back.

5. Don't buy anything that you can't try on first. Yeah yeah, this is kinda hypocritical of me to say since I'm the same girl who ordered her wedding dress online, sight unseen. But since then, I've been burned too many times with online purchases (or in-store purchases when I didn't have time to visit the fitting room) not working out for me. Loving the item doesn't matter if you don't love how it fits. Sure, you can always take it back, but that's often a waste of time, waste of shipping costs (if you ordered online), and sometimes it just gets forgotten until it's too late to return (ouch). So I'm trying hard to avoid buying anything that I can't try on first.

6. Keep a mental inventory. I think people tend to buy the same things over and over again. For me, I'm always picking up black or gray tshirts. I have more than I will ever need, and yet I keep buying more! When you know what your weaknesses are (ex: shoes, graphic tees, jeans, etc.), you can logically ask yourself if you really need ANOTHER one or if it makes more sense to wait and spend your money on more relevant, necessary, or needed things.

Some excellent resources to help you out

  • Frugal Fashionista - Style on a Budget. This blog is awesome for spotting trends and coming up with inexpensive alternatives. I love their look-for-less style outfit designs like this:

    All images from Frugal Fashionista

  • The Budget Babe - Fab Without a Fortune. Another awesome blog with outfit ideas, trendspotting, deals and sales, advice, and a "Dress by Numbers" series that is also a look-for-less type approach. Like so:

    Images from the Budget Babe

  • Polyvore. Don't blame me when you spend hours on this site. It's fun. Basically you create an account and then can import photos from any store site to create your own outfits. This is helpful for me because I don't want to buy a clothing item if I don't already own things that I can pair it with. Or if helps me focus my shopping trips because I figure out exactly what I need to look for in order to get the look I'm trying to achieve. You can also browse other people's outfits to get ideas and inspiration. Check out some of these. They are like design boards for clothes.

    Image source

    Image source

    Image source

  • The Essentials of a Well-Balanced Wardrobe by Real Simple Magazine. I don't love all of their choices, but the concepts are pretty solid.

  • Edit Your Life: Your Wardrobe by Zen Habits. I like this article because it conveys some of the mental benefits to having a more controlled wardrobe. Who doesn't want a more peaceful and stress-free life, right?

So those are my tips, and I sincerely hope that they are useful for some of you. If you've got tips to add, please comment below. As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.


Sarah @ Dream in Domestic May 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM  

Great post! For the past couple years, I've been addicted to floral or vintage-inspired dresses and cardigans. The cardigans I wear a lot, the dresses I never do. I plan on wearing them a few times this summer, but I can't justify buying any more of them. I think your tips are wise and true - I've been thinking more carefully about my wardrobe and now will only buy thrift unless I really truly loves something enough to buy at full price, which is rare. I find when I buy secondhand, I think more about my purchases even though I'm spending less money and I end up wearing the clothes more. It's strange!

Danielle and Clint May 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM  

You know, I have adopted a lot of yours ways once I started owning my own home. I had to set a budget and stick to it. Clothes were the first thing to go! So now, I keep the basics handy and have found a new love for Old Navy. lol.

hiphousegirl May 10, 2010 at 3:05 PM  

Great post! I have been working on this too. Oddly enough, most of my impulse buys are at secondhand stores. It's hard to say no when things are cute and "sooooo cheap"! But after a while, even secondhand clothes start to add up when you buy too many of them that you don't really wear. I'm going to check out those articles and blogs. Thanks! May 10, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

Great post Kristi! It's great you've figured this out while you're young.I sent some of those fashion blogs to my daughter. Thanks!


Amanda @ Little House on the Corner May 11, 2010 at 7:59 PM  

Great post! I could really benefit from some of these tips. That Polyvore site sounds awesome!

Sara @ Russet Street Reno May 11, 2010 at 8:50 PM  

This is a very interesting post, I wish I was 'there' but unfortunately, I'm not. I still buy too many clothes and frankly, I would be very sad with a limited wardrobe. I love my bright clothes and big selection! But I really wish I didn't, my life would be so much easier if I thought like you. You are a smart chick!

Bridget December 21, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

Thanks for the informative post! It's really ideal to control one's closet, hence wardrobe purchases. There are affordable clothes and accessories with quality not being taken for granted, I must say. My sister taught me this philosophy knowing that she's obsessed with collecting products made of gold, silver and copper. It's an expensive hobby, right? But she was able to handle it well. That's why she always visits jewelry stores (Indianapolis) area to find the items she likes.

corner wardrobe April 25, 2012 at 6:36 AM  

just found your lovely blog :) i like-y what i see!

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