building your perfect wardrobe
Contrary to what our favorite fashion makeover shows tell us, a great wardrobe isn’t built in a day. While you can totally re-build your wardrobe in a pinch if it’s super outdated, a great wardrobe takes time to accumulate and tweak to fit your personal style.
Now, we already dove deep into finding your personal style with these 10 questions, but once you’ve really defined you style, your closet is probably going to need a little — or a lot — of work to reflect that. You might be right there with me in that mid-20’s limbo where our college looks are beginning to feel a little like we’ve outgrown them, but we aren’t totally sure how to build a big-girl wardrobe that doesn’t feel, well, too old.
Today we’re diving into how to transition your wardrobe through your 20’s — from your college years to your 30’s and beyond by doing a little planning and purging. However, I do want to make one important distinction first.
Is your wardrobe the same as your closet?
I say no.
Your closet is the place where your clothes live. It’s also the place we store a lot more than that: memories in the form of clothes that no longer fit, hopes and dreams in the form of clothes that we got on sale (which were just a little too small) that we say we’ll use as motivation to get into better shape.
Those close you haven’t worn in years? Not part of your wardrobe. Those pieces you’re keeping for sentimental reasons or because they were expensive but never touch? Also not part of your wardrobe. Here’s my definition of wardrobe and why it’s different:
ˈwôrˌdrōb/ noun, a functional collection of pieces that fit and fit your personal style
So, to really build a wardrobe, you will start with both what you have in your closet and your sense of personal style and add and subtract from there to build out a wardrobe that is fully functional. Ideally, your wardrobe and your closet would be the same — you’d have only the pieces that fit you well (not to big or too small) and none of those pieces that you’ve outgrown style wise.
I think this is one of the reasons people are really into capsul wardrobes – because they make you niche down to pieces that fit well, are your style, and work together and get rid of all the stress and upkeep of a big closet. While I’m definitely not there yet, I do think that combo of good fit + your style + work well together is a great place to start.
Now, time to dive into the step-by-step for building (or re-building) your wardrobe and then cover some classic pieces every girl needs.
5 steps to building your wardrobe
Step 01 Define your personal style
Your closet might feel all over the place because you don’t have a strong sense of your personal style. Before you even start trying to decide what to keep or toss, it’s so essential to spend a little time defining your own style. This will help you purge your closet to de-clutter as well as serve as your guide for choosing new pieces when you’re out shopping. You can use these 10 questions to help you get it all figured out.
Step 02 Take inventory
Time to really look through your closet to take note not only of what you have, but also see how much of it you’re not wearing. Flip through your closet briefly to see what you’ve got as well as how balanced it is — i.e. do you have a TON of t-shirts but no where near enough dresses or are you fully stocked on every pair of jeans imaginable but don’t have pants that give you variety and range?
This quick look will help you get an idea on what you need to focus on in terms of which types of things to get rid of (that 10th event tee) and where you might have gaps that you need to fill with new pieces.
Step 03 The Purge
Time to flip through piece by piece and decide what to say goodbye too. This is usually best done in categories – do all your dresses at once, all your skirts at once, etc. So that you can see how all the pieces work together and make sure you’re getting rid of pieces that don’t fit, aren’t your style, or that you have duplicate of in a very similar style (like 8 pairs of light brown booties ?). This will clear space for other pieces that are different and give you more options.
A note on saying goodbye
I’ve been there, held that pair of size 2 jeans and remembered back to when I was that size, wishing I could be back there again. But here’s the deal. You aren’t the same person you were when you were that size. You’ve changed and grown and evolved, you’re a better and smarter person today than the person who fit into whatever piece it is — so don’t hold on to the size you were then. Take the walk down memory lane, then say goodbye because that piece just isn’t a fit for your new amazing wardrobe.
Step 04 Re-organize
Time to organize all the pieces that made the cut. Your closet is probably feeling a little more roomy, so have fun with all your new space! If you’re not an organizer, this might feel like work but just remember that you’ll get to go shopping later to fill in the gaps and flesh out your new wardrobe.
Step 05 Go shopping and refresh
Time to add some new pieces! With your clearly-defined personal style and inventory of what you already have that’s working in hand, hit the mall to rebuild your closet. This doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, it might be a process and here’s the order I recommend.
01. Start with the basics
Are you lacking in any of the essentials like denim, simple tops that you can layer or mix & match, classic styles of shoes, etc? Start with these basic pieces since they create a simple palette you can use to build looks from. When it comes to basic pieces, this is your time to splurge. Don’t be afraid to grab some timeless investment pieces that will last you a long time – pencil skirts, classic cut dresses, etc. If you’re building your post-college wardrobe, this might be the time to invest in more “grown-up” classic pieces as well.
02. Add some personality and interest
Unless you’re really embracing minimalism or the simple classic look, you’re going to want to find some pieces that are unique and totally “you.” They don’t have to be attention-grabbing or crazy – although if you want to go for a bold pattern or sassy print you know I’m all about that and will 100% support you.
Pick pieces that you feel truly capture your sense of style and can be easily combined with those classics to create a look that is chic but shows personality and interest.
03. Supplement with trends
When it comes to trends, try them! If you think something is a fit for your style, go ahead. But my tip for building a wardrobe that lasts is not to go all out with trends. Use them as a bonus to supplement the stylish wardrobe you’re curating, but don’t rely on them as the sole source of your sense of style. Not only does it get expensive trying to swap out each and every trend as it comes along, you won’t really get a chance to let your own style shine thorough if you’re only wearing what’s hot in the moment.
Classic pieces that every girl needs
These totally depend on your personal style and might not be applicable if you’re going the capsule wardrobe route and keeping it very limited and functional, but here are just a few essentials I think every girl should include in her gorgeously curated wardrobe:
tops & knits
- Striped top – Classic and layer-able, a simple patterned top is super versatile, opt for 3/4 sleeve or a scoop neck tee
- Patterned button up – Whether its a polka dot top or a floral one, a patterned button-up is perfect to spice up some jeans or pair with some colored pants for a bold look.
- Denim Chambray Shirt – A casual look with some color and texture, this super versatile top can be paired with white pants/shorts, a skirt, or even layered over a dress
- Simple Tanks & Tees – Perfect for layering and creating clean and simple looks
- Dark + Light wash denim skinny jeans – An obvious classic, dress them up with some pumps and a silk blouse or slip-on sneakers and a light top for errands.
- White skinny jeans – Perfect for spring and fall transition looks or pairing with a chunky sweater for winter wear
- Boyfriend jeans / Distressed denim – A comfy casual staple and perfect for a casual chic look
- Fun colored denim/pants – My go-to for a bold outfit pair with a simple tee to let them make a statement or add a fun print for a more playful or bold look
- Distressed denim shorts – perfect for a casual summer look, a beach outing, or tailgating at the beginning of football season
- Dressy High-waisted shorts – The best way to dress up shorts is to opt for a high-waisted version in a classic print or solid color. Pair with wedges or pumps to elevate the look even more.
- White shorts – great for making fun summer colors pop or creating a clean summer look with neutrals
- Patterned shorts – Stripes, polka dots or floral shorts keep it fun and make a statement. They are the perfect combo for a plain white tee.
- Pencil skirt – You have endless options and looks just based on the top / layers you choose to pair with this classic
- Patterned flowy skirt – Every girl needs a fun comfy skirt that is flowy and has a chic pattern
- Pleated skirt – snag a neutral or classic print for endless workwear or casual chic looks
- Floral Maxi dress – The perfect look for a casual brunch or a shopping date at the mall
- A-line Cocktail dress – A universally flattering cut, an a-line dress works for a date night, evening out, or even workwear.
- Classic cardigan – Pick a color or print that fits your style to warm up any outfit
- Chunky knit sweater – A cozy knit sweater for fall or winter is a must. Opt for a neutral and spice it up with a fun scarf or colorful pants
jackets & coats
- Casual blazer – the perfect add for a business casual look, choose a neutral blazer with texture or pick a pop of color like maroon or royal blue for a more bold look
- Peacoat – A perfect structured jacket to keep you warm without the bulk. Choose a neutral trench coat style to keep it versatile or opt for a fun pop of color like yellow or red.
- Leather Jacket – Every girl needs the optionality of a leather jacket. It spices up your look, adds texture and structure and makes you feel a little badass
- Flats – Even though I’m a fan of heels, a solid pair of flats can go a long way for a chic look that is still super comfy
- Sneakers – Pair of Casual (like keds or vans) & Pair of Athletic (Nike or fun colored)
- Sandals – Opt for a super versatile neutral as well as a fun pair with some color or texture like tassels
- Booties – Black and brown are the basics, but you can step up your bootie game with a pair of red, white or even velvet booties.
- Wedges – My essentials are a neutral pair & fun pair with (of course) a print or color
- Pumps – If you’re a heel girl, a pair in black and a neutral are a must, plus a couple fun pairs like sassy bright red, leopard, or floral
- Boots – These totally depend on your style, opt for a classic calf-height silhouette or go bolder with some OTK boots
- Pearl Necklace – A perfect classic for adding a little elegance and interest without too much sparkle. I was lucky enough to inherit my grandma’s pearls, but even a faux strand can be a great add to your look
- Plaid Scarf – Layer over a sweater, chambray dress, or solid colored top for a classic and warm cold weather look. I’m in love with my Burberry plaid with hearts print, but it doesn’t have to be designer to look chic
- Versatile Handbag – A neutral color and the perfect size makes the ideal versatile handbag. You can spice it up to coordinate your look by adding a neckscarf to the handle for pop of color or elegant pattern. It could be your designer bag, or the one you snagged at Target.
- Simple gold necklace – Whether a monogram, a geometric shape, or some other style, a simple gold necklace with a medium length strand is a super versatile accessory
- Statement earrings – I LOVE statement earrings because they are so easy to coordinate with your look and are easily noticed. Some great earrings and some red lipstick can fix any bad (or just lazy) hair day
photography by jenna sparks
Have some tips for building a wardrobe? Any advice for must-have pieces? Leave a comment below, or use #NeverSkipBrunch
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