How to: Create a Wardrobe You Love
Let’s chat seasonal closet refreshes and the benefits of making a checklist
I have a dream of creating a closet that is filled with basics and truly things I love, similar to the idea of a closet capsule wardrobe. I’m not hung up on a specific number of items, but I am interested in creating a well-rounded closet that makes me feel like I am prepared for all of our adventures. I want a closet that sets me up for feeling good for everyday living as well as those rarer occasions when I feel like getting a tad dressier.
let’s create a wardrobe that we love and we feel good in.
This whole process actually started months back after we moved cross country. As I was unpacking I realized how many times I had packed and unpacked items that I never wore (one benefit of moving frequently: you really know what stuff you have and how often you use it). I was still holding onto items I used to love and wear all the time, but never reached for as of recent. Or items I could somehow just never find the “right time” to wear (spoiler: it’s not a timing issue, it’s a liking issue). Bodies change. Taste changes. Life changes. Wardrobes can change too.
At some point I questioned, where in the world did this stuff come from? Or why do I feel like I can never master my wardrobe? Why can I not part with some of these items that I never wear. I have outfits I like, but the collective bunch really wasn’t working for me. I realized I really needed to assess what in the world I had and why I still felt very limited in my everyday outfits. So I channeled my most inner Marie Kondo voice and went to work.
I’m going to break down the process in broad steps because truly each persons ideal closet (dare I say the closet of their dreams?) is unique. What sets my heart on fire, is something that is not vibing for another gal. Simpler terms: to each their own. Make this journey your own. I thought about the steps that could be taken to achieve any closet. You can choose to empty out every single part of your wardrobe (undies drawer included) or you can choose to go by season. You need to check in with what is bringing joy and what feels like a low-key energy drain.
Also before you get started, I’m giving you permission to truly get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. If someone gave you something, but it’s not vibing for you, that is okay. As Marie Kondo says, thank the item for its time and its service, and let it go. I often remind myself there is probably another human who would be thrilled to own the item that I am allowing to collect dust. If you are struggling to get rid of items, I encourage you to separate them from your wardrobe, and put them in a box. Put them somewhere in your house for a year. After that year is over check-in. Did you ever think about any of those items? Did you miss them? Most likely not, but this allows us to feel like we’ve really given thought on how to edit-down our wardrobe.
FEW HELPFUL TID BITS: Try and seek out fabrics that will serve you for the long haul and avoid textiles that are made of acrylic, etc. When you buy cotton t-shirts they will get better with each wash and age well, vs. getting some stretchy acrylic-cotton blend fabric that may start to pill and don’t handle aging well. Wool and cotton sweaters are made to wear better. Check care labels to make sure you are up for the care of the item(s). Is it dry clean only? Do you want to commit to that? Is made in USA important to you? Start to research. It’s important to stop our consumerism/buying cycles and start investing/supporting businesses/items that we love and believe in.
Also, please get rid of any “should” that may be bouncing around your head. I remember in college I saw a super cute crew of gals who looked so great in heels and jeans and overall dressed a bit more dressy. I thought, “I should be dressing like that.” But I cherish things that are casual and understated. So as I bought dressy pieces I was very uncomfortable and felt very far from who I am at my core. Those girls were living their truth and I am going to live mine. That’s the beauty in the world, we all like different things. Embrace your uniqueness and what makes you happy.
GUIDE TO EVALUATING YOUR CLOSET
FIRST// Look Inward
1.) gather your most treasured items
Go into your closet and reach for your absolute favorite pieces (This is very Marie Kondo. What sparks joy, baby). No question in your mind that you love these items. Maybe it’s the fit. Maybe it’s the way they make you feel. Maybe it’s a relaxed crew neck sweatshirt, or a pair of heels, or a pair of earrings, or a beloved pair of jeans. You get the picture. Gather them up and figure out why you love them.
2.) Figure out what’s not working for you
This may come easy, or this step may need to wait till later. If you can’t find anything in less than 2 minutes, post pone this step for later. For me, I immediately knew what wasn’t working for me in my closet. I had purchased so many dressier silk blouses that rarely ever matched my mood or my vibe. Or I thought I liked an item, but I realized I hated the fit/shape on me (I just don’t do well with drop shoulders and I need to learn that) I reached for pieces that did not fit me right and I hated the way my body felt in them. You know the ones, the clothes you put on and your like NOPE! Even if they used to be your most favorite item, but in this new season of life, these items aren’t serving you. That is okay. Let. It. Go.
3.) take note of your “why” for your likes and dislikes
Again, all we want to do is a get a sense of what’s working and what’s not. But knowing why something works or doesn’t work makes avoiding future missteps SO much easier. It also helps you avoid the dreaded shopping/returning/paralyzing indecision. Don’t sweat it. Even if you only know what you like and why you like it, that will take you VERY far. For example, I realized I really love items that are casual, and feel like they fit my body shape well. Few key areas to look: material, brand, and fit around shoulders, neck, waist, length, and back. I may love something from the front, but realize I hate the back.
4.) look at how you spend your time
Look at how you spend the majority of your time. Where do you need your wardrobe to be serving you the most? I am casual and laid back to my core. I need laid back pieces (that could be elevated with a few key items) to serve me for laid back dinners, coffee meet-ups and running errands around town. If have tons of dressier events or you work in a professional setting that requires a certain wardrobe, factor that in. Look at how you spend your time and use that to guide your list too. There is no one-sized fits all, you are creating a wardrobe to serve your life and the way you live it.
Second// Gather Inspo
1.) Gather inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram, Magazines, etc.
Head on over to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or wherever and start saving items or outfits that speak to you. I find social media to be a little more helpful than say a website because it’s typically real women really wearing the clothes. Bonus points if you do this for a while and keep editing to only include stuff you truly love.
You can also look up capsule wardrobes or search for key items (e.g. capsule wardrobes for office setting. Or Casual Capsule Wardrobe) Reference at least 3 to four lists and try to search for your ideal style in a few ways. Doing the research puts you in the driver seat and lets you figure out what information will serve you. If buying items that are made in America, if the company is a B-Corp, search it. I am telling you any question that is specific to you is most likely answered. (p.s. Two great companies are Patagonia and Athleta. Athleta is a certified B-Corp and Patagonia is an amazing company that has really high standards for how their business operates.)
2.) check-in with inspiration
Honestly, if I could repeat one thing over and over (to myself and to the world) it would be check-in, check-in, check-in with yourself. Envision getting ready and reaching for those outfits you’ve been pinning. A lot of times we’ve had similar items and we can predict how the future might look. Close your eyes if you need to. Check in with your gut. Remember you are figuring out things YOU love and you will feel good in, versus what Sally loves and feels good in. Really imagine what the fabric would feel like, what it would feel like moving it in and living your life wearing it. It sounds dramatic, but this has stopped me from lots of impulse purchases.
3.) analyze your ideal wardrobe & pick out patterns
Look over all the images of outfits you LOVE and would feel like you and start to look for patterns. Look for key pieces that are repeated over and over again. Look at colors. Look at fabrics. Look at key pieces that could really deliver on the look (maybe it’s just one basic black purse that could be used in a variety of ways, or a certain pair of shoes, etc.) Now compare it with your LOVES. What’s the stuff you already own and love? What are the fabrics and colors? Is there a theme with the stuff you love?
Three// Look at the Big Picture
1.) make a list//inventory
This is going to be the longest part. Looking at what you own and your ideal list, start coming up with a list of an ideal wardrobe. This is the spirit of a capsule wardrobe. You’re essentially creating foundational pieces that will build the base of your wardrobe (your very own capsule wardrobe.)
Think of the whole wardrobe in categories which will be bite sized pieces for the wardrobe as a whole. Don’t limit yourself here, but also don’t go wild and get distracted. Sure, I would love to have t-shirts in a whole variety of colors, but truly for me to feel like I have enough options I’d love to have a go-to white tee, black tee, gray tee, and striped tee. You can download the list here.
Note: Please be aware that you may not need or like everything on my list. Honestly, if you don’t like or ever wear blazers, for heaven-sakes don’t put it on your list. You are creating your own definition of your wardrobe. Build your list for how you live 90% of your life. If an occasion comes up and you don’t have something? That’s okay. I realized buying something or holding onto something for a “maybe one-day” occasion doesn’t help me out and it takes away from stuff that I could be using all the time.
Possible categories and items I CREATED:
PANTS: white jeans, black jeans, dark pair of denim, light pair of denim, overalls, and green
OTHER BOTTOMS: denim shorts, white shorts, chino/fabric shorts, statement skirt, and casual skirt
TOPS: gray//black//white//striped long-sleeved tee, black//white//gray//striped short-sleeved tee, black//white//gray tank top
SHIRTS: white button up, chambray button-up, black blouse/dressy shirt, and a striped blouse
SWEATERS//SWEATSHIRTS: gray cotton sweater, black wool sweater, turtleneck, cashmere crewneck, v-neck sweater, terry cloth sweatshirt
DRESSES: chambray, black, green, navy/casual, striped, tank, long
SHOES: sneakers, neutral mid-heel ankle, cognac ankle boots, loafer, summer sandals, classic black heel, casual nude/cognac heel, weather-proof boots, rain boots (e.g. Hunter)
JACKETS: black wool coat, tan/gray wool coat, puffer coat, casual green army jacket, jean jacket, rain jacket, leather coat, black blazer,
ACCESSORIES: cognac purse, black purse, clutch, large tote, tortoiseshell sunglasses, winter hat, baseball cap, seasonal brimmed hat (summer or winter) , weekender bag,
STATEMENT/FUN: this is totally by choice- these are pieces that might be seasonal in spirit, or just for trendy stuff that’s in that season. It’s a way to add a little extra fun to the basics
SPECIAL OCCASION: Dress, jumpsuit, earrings, etc. (or save yourself and rent something in the future like “Rent the Runway” or other retailers. I’ve done both and I loved it!)
2.) empty your closet & assess
Face the music. Set enough time aside for this when you can really go for it. I want you to empty your entire closet. Everything. Lay it all out on your bed or on your floor and just keep bringing each item out and grouping them in categories so you can easily address and see what you all have. This may feel overwhelming, but it’s a crucial step to see just how much stuff you have and really address your closet as a whole. You can choose to empty drawers and lounge clothes too. That’s up to you.
Pick out the items you love and set them aside. Let your instant joy and happiness for these items be your guiding light. Keep in touch with that feeling of ease and happiness, it will be so helpful when it’s harder to evaluate other items. Set aside your ‘yes’ pile in a way where you can see how it all starts to come together. I hung mine on hangers on my dresser so I could see how much of each item I was keeping.
Go through the whole dang pile. Keep going through everything. If it feels easier to pull out your no’s, go for it. Set them aside to donate//sell. For any of the items you are wishy-washy on ask yourself some questions. If you need to try it on and look at it from all angles. Really be critical of the item and your love for it. Do you see yourself reaching to wear this anytime soon?
How often do I wear this?
How do I feel when I wear this? Does it make me feel good?
How does this fit with my ideal closet?
3.) check in with your list
Look at what you have in your keep pile and look at your list. Start checking off items you already own out of your own capsule wardrobe. Look for gaps or areas that have nothing checked. I realized I had ZERO t-shirts I liked, yet it was a key foundational piece of my own wardrobe wishlist I made. My goal in shopping this season is to find these basic t-shirts and focus there.
Take this list with you when you go shopping or you are trying to replenish new items for the season. Personally, I like selling my name-brand items that aren’t sparking joy for me, but I know they will for someone else. It helps add to the fund of finding items that will spark joy for me. Win-win.
4.) be Patient
This one is hard for me— Be patient. You won’t be able to have your entire wishlist overnight. But, you will slowly make smarter choices by having done this research on what you own and what you want to own. You may have to hang on to some stuff you don’t love while you save up to replace them with items you do love. This isn’t an overnight change, but a slower process. And keep checking back in. Did you hold onto something and yet you still aren’t wearing it? You can still donate/sell it.
FOUR// What to do with what you don’t want:
Please don’t throw away all of your old clothes. You can either sell your goods yourself on FB Marketplace, or use companies that sell it for you like thredUP, Poshmark, Vinted for my UK pals, etc. Also, check out local consignment boutiques in your area or Plato’s closet (they are pretty limited with what they accept. If they don’t accept your goods, try somewhere else). You can also donate your items like non-profits like Goodwill, or Dress for Success, Schoola. Also, I totally get your clothes might not be in good enough shape to donate or sell. I love to use some of our old clothes as rags around the house. Here is what I found in 5 quick minutes of research:
Bustle’s article: How to Recycle Clothes & Shoes That Aren’t in Good Shape
Trash if For Tossers: How to Recycle Old Clothing (Even Ratty Ass Old Underwear)
And also, break the cycle. Stop buying stuff you don’t love or that you don’t like or won’t hold up to the wear of living your life. If you have a hard time stopping, make sure you keep tags on and truly take them for “test spins” around the house before you fully commit. This can save you time and hassle.
So I encourage you to make this process your own. This isn’t a cut and dry, copy and paste process. This is a check-in and an encouragement to figure out what makes you happy and go for it. Figure out what makes you feel good and feel your best. Figure out what makes you love your body and appreciate it exactly as it is right now. Because it’s hard. Our relationship with clothes can feel super complicated. I know, because I feel it too.
All we can do is keep trying to love ourselves exactly as we are and craft a life we love.