How amazing would it be to own the perfect wardrobe, one we could stand in front of each morning and be inspired by. Where every item flattered us and our outfit options were visible and unending.
Sigh, if only, right?
While perfection is rarely attainable a wardrobe of clothes that flatters our shape and age is in harmony with our personality, fulfills the needs of our lifestyle and provides lots of outfit options is attainable. The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that it takes knowledge, planning, time and a degree of dedication.
Nothing worth having comes easy…sigh
Let’s take this elephant and eat it step by step.
Find Your Flattering Styles
Discovering all the garments that suit your shape and age is possible and affordable with My Private Stylist. This is a program I developed some years ago which shows you exactly all the styles, garment elements, accessories and essential coordination guidelines you need to look your best and shop successfully. This can be accessed with a consultation with one of our image consultants (the best way), or purchased one online.
Be True to Your Style Personality
Feeling great about the way you look is not only dressing in flattering outfits but the outfits also need to be harmony with your personal style. This will be your unique mix of classic, natural, dramatic, feminine, creative, sexy or elegant. When garments and accessories reflect your innate style personality you’ll end up saying things like’ “This is so me!”
Once you know your personality it can be adapted to all the circumstances in your life; work, home, play and socializing.
If you don’t know your personality why use our free Style Personality profile to discover it. If you have a My Private Stylist program be sure to be logged when you do it.
Meets Your Lifestyle Needs
If the items in your closet are not appropriate for your lifestyle you’ll end up with nothing that feels right to wear.
The easiest way to work this out is to create a lifestyle pie and then compare it to what’s in your wardrobe.
First make a list of either the events you need specific clothes for such as gym, work, home, general errands, special occasions, dating etc. Or, the level of clothes you generally need such as gym, business casual, smart casual, dressy, evening.
Then draw a circle/pie drawing and add each as a slice of the total per week or month as you prefer. Your wardrobe should reflect the same percentages as your chart. One reason you can have lots in your closet and very little to wear is that it’s out of sync with your current lifestyle.
Once you understand your lifestyle needs to can better allocate the right funds towards the things you really need and you won’t be as tempted to buy outside of this.
To work out your own lifestyle and wardrobe pies click this link.
Money Spent Wisely
A common problem I witnessed when I was performing wardrobe audits with clients was they had spent their hard earned money on the wrong types of garments. Too often large amounts were spent on items such as dressy dresses that were worn only once of twice while the work horse classic staples were of a lesser quality than they deserved given how often they were worn.
To work through this issue you can use this cost per wearing formula:
Multiply the garment cost + upkeep like dry cleaning
by the number of expected wearings.
The number of expected wearings would be:
The number of likely wearings/week, multiplied by the number weeks in a month it would be worn, multiplied by the number of months in a year it is likely to be worn, multiplied by the number of years it’s likely to last. The answer is the total number of wearings.
Here’s some examples:
Cost: $575 plus dry cleaning ($7 x 5) $35 = $610
Wearings: 2/week x 4 weeks x 9 months x 5 years = 360
$610 ÷ 360 = $1.69 per wear
Cost: $650 plus dry cleaning ($15 x 2) $30 = $680
$680 ÷ 2 = $340 cost per wear
At that price, you would have been better off renting one from sites like rent the runway.
If you would like to work out if you are spending the right amount of clothes feel free to use my Cost Per Wear Calculator.
One final note about your budget – what ever amount your have to spend seriously consider allotting 30% to your accessories. They have the most power to transform your outfits.
Purge and Organize
Most of the time when you’re at a loss for what to wear, it’s not because you have no clothes; it’s because you have too much, all crammed in there together. When you streamline your wardrobe you set yourself up for style success.
This means you need to purge yourself of items you no longer wear, are in poor condition, not longer you or out of date. Store away items that are not of this season and organize what you have left in your closet into a system that will work for you.
Keep any basic and classic items which are trans seasonal such as your little black dress, essential tees, solid dark denim jeans, black fitted trousers, tailored blazers etc in your closet. These will go a long way in serving as the foundation of a lot of your looks.
Also, keep statement items that you absolutely love. While they may not be as much of a blank styling slate as the basics, the pieces that you love will speak to your true personality and sense of style.
Don’t forget to donate your best items to charities like Dress for Success.
Discover Every Outfit
Now to the fun stuff.
Budget conscious, style savvy women know how to buy items so they have the most mix and match, and dress levels possible out of the clothes and accessories they own.
Each piece in your closet has many styling possibilities that are as yet be unrealised. Each item needs to be scoped out in regard to all the layering and accessorizing options you currently have to create a different outfits/looks. Adding a belt to a long flowing maxi dress immediately makes it look and feel different. Layering a blazer to a breezy dress or a casual outfit instantly polishes it up as well.
Sure, you’ve got tried-and-tested old faithful ensembles that you like to use over and over again—and that’s perfectly okay. It’s good to have a style comfort zone, especially for those hectic days. But to realize and maximize the true style potential of your wardrobe, mix and matching is the key.
Lay each item on your bed and create as many outfits as you can using all the garments and accessories you have. If you like an outfit try it on to see if you like it when it’s on you and if you do take a full-length selfie or photograph the outfit on the bed. This way you’ll remember the combinations.
Get Your Colour Stories Sorted
Mix and match strategies are easy when you base them within a solid color story. While there are some women who are incredibly loyal to one colour or palette, it pays to play around with a few colour families to truly figure out what works best with your complexion. Or better still arrange to have a colour analysis.
Once you know your colours you can branch out into patterns that fit within the color story that you have chosen. While a monochromatic (gray, white, navy blue, black) may be a no-brainer for some, and incredible attractive on Meghan Markle, I’m a firm believer in bringing color into your life.
In the next few weeks I’ll be bringing you a feature dedicated to working out what colours go well together.
Create Clothing Capsules
Have you ever heard of a capsule wardrobe? If you haven’t, this might hold the key to unlocking your perfect mix and match wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a maximum of 30 items, typically a mix of classics in neutral colours and accent pieces to add personality and a touch of fashion which all coordinate seamlessly and together create lots of outfits.
His infographic from Classy Yet Trendy explains the concept very well. Read more…
Don’t let yourself become limited by style definitions. Something that is typically for evening like silver heels or a sequined skirt can be remixed into daytime and vise versa. The same rule applies to seasonal clothing, you can make summer pieces work for fall through layering and you can make fall pieces feel more appropriate for warm weather by pairing it with lighter weight fabrics. Read more…
Find the Versatility
Push your imagination into drive and get creative. How many ways can you wear that T-shirt, cardigan or dress?
If it’s a T-shirt you could try tucking it into a skirt or tying it into a knot and wearing it with a high-waisted midi. You can also use it to layer underneath a tailored blazer or patterned cardigan.
Get into the habit of looking for ways to remix every piece of clothing. Even something as simple as cuffing your jeans can make a huge difference in changing your look of the day.
If you get stuck this feature will help you…
Learn to Accessorize
Accessorizing is to me the magic that adds personality and uniqueness as well as a change of mood that no other styling technique can rival. I’m a plus size woman and this can limit my style choices but with the power of accessories, I can look as great an anyone. My radar is always on high alert for unique items that will add a touch of creativity to my classic items. More… and this…
Get Proportions & Patterns Right
Another key to successfully mixing and matching is keeping balance right which means ensuring that you are the center of attention, not what you’re wearing.
When it comes to prints and patterns you need to get the mix right. One way is to pair a smaller size print with a bolder and more graphic pattern. More info…
As for proportions, never wear two loose or over-sized pieces at the same time. Balance tailored pieces with more loose or drapey silhouettes for an easygoing feel.
It’s so easy to be lured in by sales but if the item does not contribute to your desired wardrobe then it’s often not going to be worth it’s price, no matter how much of a bargain it is.
The first rule if to be ever on the look out for great classics and staples. A great pair of black or beige pants or nude or black pumps will all have a long lifespan if you look after them and are worth paying extra dollars on.
The second rule is if the item is something other than a classic or staple they should be able to be teamed with at least two items in your current closet. If it dosesn’t resist the urge to buy, even if it’s on sale.
Trial and Error
Like with everything else, practice makes perfect. By experimenting with your style and working towards a mix and match wardrobe of clothes your style, confidence and wardrobe will improve.
Don’t get disheartened. Discovering your mix and match wardrobe is a process. Embrace it! Don’t be afraid to try new trends, and don’t be afraid to stick to what you know. Strike a balance between the old and the new to reveal a mix and match wardrobe that will become one of your strongest allies.
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Ann Reinten AICI CIP
Ann, this plan, step by step, genius! You put so much thought and work into organizing a workable wardrobe. Thank you, thank you! I can’t wait for future posts on how to incorporate more color into my daily life. I am a straight, petite and lots of horizontal breaks of color just don’t work for me. Dressing in a column of color, perfect, but somewhat limiting.
Thank you for sharing your life’s passion so freely and generously.
A faithful fan,
Thank you Pat
I have been attempting to create a capsule wardrobe for a while now and found this to be one of the most helpful things I have read. I believe that I can achieve that now and have a much better understanding of how, why and what to include. Thank you so much.