At the start of this year (remember 3 weeks ago?), I resolved a few different things, and one of those things was to learn to be a better shopper. Way to challenge myself, huh?
It sounds dumb, right? Like a cop out. But really, I had a closet full of clothes, of which I wore about half of them. Another quarter needed to be tailored or thrown out, and the rest didn’t go together. My closet was bursting, and yet I had about six outfits that I wore and liked. And in any apartment, that’s just a waste of space.
So to get started on my sartorial goal, I bought a few hours with Tim Gunn in Kindle form and started studying. His book, Quality, Taste and Style was my study guide and I breezed through it in a week’s worth of bus rides, highlighting the things that resonated with me most.
Tim imparted his wisdom on me. He talked about flattering shapes and buying the best quality I could afford, and encouraged me to think about a uniform of sorts. Tim pointed out that each person’s uniform has to fit their lifestyle and taste, so for instance someone that walks the hills in San Francisco on a daily basis shouldn’t have a closet filled with platform heels unless breaking an ankle is on their to-do list. To figure out my uniform Tim asked if there was a certain look I felt most comfortable in — say jeans and blouses or black and white? Good, I should fill my closet with clothes to make that uniform, he said.
I started pinning my favorite looks.
The make-it-work stylist also told me I had to go through my closet and enter into a ruthless game of Keep, Tailor, Sell or Donate. Only the clothes in my “keep” pile went back in the closet.
The hardest part was getting rid of stuff I had bought recently that Tim pointed out wasn’t the best shape or didn’t fit with the variations of my uniform. Tim told me that the too-big skirt that had been hanging in my closet, unworn, for months either had to go to the tailor to be taken in or given away. No more letting it take up space! And he also told me that the skirt that rides up when I walk should be given away, because, though it fit and flattered, it was flawed. Clothes should not be annoying to wear, and that skirt was annoying.
He also covered shopping tips, and to piggyback on Tim’s advice, I consulted a popular DIY blogger’s Wardrobe Rehab post. Here are the 5 main tips I took away from my fashion advisers.
- Learn what you naturally gravitate to when shopping, for better or worse. Patterns, bright colors, and blousy tops for me. When you know what you tend to shop for against what you feel best in or what’s missing from your closet, you can steer yourself in the right direction.
- Decide on a “uniform” of sorts, based on the outfits you feel best in. I love dresses, above-the-waist skirts, ankle-length skinnies, and flats.
- Only buy a sale item if you would have bought it at its full price. This changed how I shop! If you buy sale items that you only sort of like, you’ll end up with a closet filled with clothes you feel neutral about. Instead buy things you love and that fit perfectly.
- Shop in a few colors (that go together). That way your whole wardrobe coordinates.
- Before you buy an item, evaluate if you can make 4 different outfits with it and the stuff you already own.
And with that advice, and the $70 I got from the clothes I sold at Crossroads, I went shopping. H&M was the Mecca for the basics I needed.
Would you believe that two shirts, a skirt, a pair of black pants, a grey cardigan and a pair of black tights completely changed my wardrobe?
With these items, I suddenly had the things I needed to pull together outfits from the stuff in my closet. Those red cords I bought for $20 at Gap’s after-Christmas sale now had a white t-shirt and grey cardigan to pair with my booties and gold necklace. Bam! Outfit! The same shirt could be tucked underneath my collection of colored skirts and worn with tights and boots in the winter and sandals and in the summer.
To some of you, the ones that know how to shop, this may sound basic, and it really is! I needed basic t-shirts, but it wasn’t until I really evaluated what I had against what I tend to shop for that I solved my sartorial situation. Somewhere in my mind spending $50 on basic shirts wasn’t as satisfying as buying the $40 statement skirt, so I never had the basics.
My wardrobe is by no means complete (read: I’m not done shopping), but I can’t tell you how much better it feels to wake up in the morning and be able to pull together a proper outfit in a matter of minutes and be out of the door feeling great in a variation of my uniform.
What I’m saying is that everyone deserves to look their best, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. For me, it wasn’t about making a transition from jeans and tees to uber fashionable. I’m not making the swap to fashion blogger, people! I just wanted to be able to look put together easily, and this little experiment helped me do just that.
In case you too are in need of a closet revamp, here are a few tips of my own that I picked up in the process:
- Make a shopping list and stick to it. I use a gmail draft and keep an up-to-date list of the things I’m searching for. I don’t buy things that aren’t on the list (so far.) Not sure what you need? Start with this printable shopping list of wardrobe essentials.
- Shop online. I think shopping online is genius at all times, but especially when you’re looking for something specific. Online you can search for “black wrap dress” or filter for coral flats under $75. In stores it’s harder to stay focused. Looking for t-shirts at Anthropologie I ended up trying on a cocktail dress! Aaaah!
- Shop in neutrals. I found that leaving pops of color to my accessories made it easier for me to build a wardrobe of clothes that go together effortlessly.
- Use Stylebook app. This is for the dedicated and uber organized only. I downloaded this $3 app to help me organize my closet. Basically, you take pictures of everything in your closet and file it under a category (tshirts, blouses, skirts, trousers, jeans, etc.) Then with a visible, pocket-sized inventory, you can build and save outfits to reference later. Truth: this app exists. Worse: I spent $3 on it. I’m gonna be honest: I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this up.
- Even the most stylish people in the world wear basic tanks and cardigans. It took me until 24 to figure this out. Basics go a long way, so just buy them, okay?