Creating an Intentional Wardrobe

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A peek into our closet

I read a great post on Wardrobe Oxygen this weekend about Honing Your Personal Style Through Closet Organization and it struck me that this is *exactly* how I taught myself to get dressed. I am an organization JUNKIE, and it was actually a closet organizing technique that spawned my desire to think more about my personal style.

A decade ago I loved having a closet FILLED TO THE BRIM with clothing. The more shiny, crappy, polyester clothing options I had the more abundant I felt. During a closet organizing whim one day years ago, I decided to try this little trick and I realized what I was REALLY wearing. I consistently wore clothes that were comfortable, well-fitting and were in similar colors and styles. I am no minimalist and I’m certainly not advocating owning one pair of well fitting jeans and fiver shirts in different colors, but when I did that exercise I realized that there was a method to my dressing madness, even when I thought there wasn’t.

Unsurprisingly, what was happening was that I was consistenly wearing the clothing that made me look and feel good, and ignoring the large majority of my shiny, glittery, “fun” wardrobe. It was clear that I was living in fantasy land when I shopped, but in reality when I got dressed. There was lots of lovely clothing (ok and some that wasn’t so lovely) but for one reason or another, the stuff I wasn’t wearing just wasn’t a fit — for my shape or for my lifestyle. And it was a wasteful disconnect that made me want to start building a more intentional wardrobe. (I say start becuase it is an on-going process.)

These days, even though I deal with a much smaller and more specific wardrobe, I feel much more abundant. Part of that on-going process is that every few months I clean out my closet to remove things I’m not wearing or just generally not digging, and then twice per year I do one BIG closet switcheroo based on the seasons. I try to only keep two seasons worth of clothing out at a time (Spring/Summer clothes and Fall/Winter clothes.)  Despite the fact that my closet can accommodate all of my clothing being out at once, the hanger exercise taught me that when my visible wardrobe is a little more tightly curated, I seem to feel more creative. (Strange, but true.)

Perhaps you like to look at all of your clothes at once, and that is okay too! But I thought we could talk about where one would start when they want to build an intentional wardrobe; which to me, is a wardrobe where the clothes that fill up your space are the clothes that you actually WANT to wear. Revolutionary, it is not. But despite its simplicity, it actually took me a while to get the hang of. In case I’m not the only person who learned this a bit late in life, I thought I’d share some of the steps I took to get there and some fun resources that might help:

1. Define YOUR Signature Style

As with anything important, there must first be a vision, right? Your clothing is reflection of who you are in your life, whether you are are making an effort at it or not. I want to look nice, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about it. It has been helpful to pick a mission statement for all of my clothes and stick to it. They must be classic and comfortable, but with a little bit of flair. For me that ends up being simple prints, bright colors or dramatic accessories. It helps me to have a checklist in my head to walk through so I can say “No Holly, despite the fact that you think it is beautiful, you don’t need this white lace dress with 900 buttons, even if you do have just the place to wear it!” (Uh, except I don’t. haha)

Related Reading: How To Find Your Personal Style

2. Determine Clothing Staples That Work For Your Body

I am attracted to so many different styles and types of clothing just because I think fashion is creative and artistic. But I don’t need the analysis paralysis that comes with buying an entire closet full of artsy clothes. I’ve learned through trial and error the silhouettes that do and don’t work for my body – and honestly, taking daily photos of what I’m wearing helped that immensely. Now that I know what works well and what to AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE, I try and keep things in that arena and buy variations of those. It may sound boring, but these days there are a million different pencil skirts out there, so knowing that this is a flattering cut on me doesn’t actually make my wardrobe boring it actually helps keep focused so I can seek out the most fun versions

Related Reading: Fashion 101: Proportions – How to Achieve the Appearance of a Well Proportioned Body

3. Start With a Capsule Wardrobe

I’m sure you have heard this advice a million times but if you are just beginning thinking about style I absolutely think a capsule wardrobe is a must. Of course you can expand on this idea once you get comfortable, but start with a small grouping of versatile, well-fitting items that you can mix and match and you will be amazed at how many outfits you have.

Related Reading: Wardrobe Oxygen is a gold mine of Capsule Wardrobe Ideas from realistic retailers

4. Buy Clothes That Fit You Well Regardless of Their Size

I currently have 4 different sizes in my closet and shockingly: THEY ALL FIT. Clothing Manufacturers have no regulation about sizing and sometimes the sizing within the same store can be weird based on the style of clothing or place the clothing was made (I’m looking at you, Old Navy. The store where I own clothing all the way from Medium to Extra Large — what???) As a consumer I will acknowledge that this is totally annoying, but being flexible an unattached to the size of your clothing often allows you to access to better fitting clothing. And more styles! I often hear people saying “Oh I just can’t wear skinny jeans, they don’t fit me.” Well they wouldn’t fit me right either if I bought my regular size. But sometimes if I go up a size (or two!) they end up looking AWESOME!

Related Reading: What Size Are You Really? The Truth Behind Vanity Sizing

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Hopefully that has given you a few ideas for creating a more intentional wardrobe. I’ve found it to be so helpful for getting dressed! You don’t have to have a huge budget, or an innate knack for what looks great. Also you don’t have to shop at a million stores. Find what you like, what looks good on you, and then (here’s the big secret) BUY THOSE THINGS! It will make shopping and dressing a more creative and satisfying experience. If you have any other awesome tips to share, please do so.

A Few More Fun Resources:

*The True Longevity of Timeless Items

*A handy dandy flowchart showing How to UnF**k Your Closet.

*A Guide on How To Set Your Wardrobe Budget

*The Truth About TJ Maxx

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7 comments to Creating an Intentional Wardrobe

  • Lauren
    March 20, 2013 at 5:18 am

    I’m also terribly guilty of buying things (dresses, sparkly shirts) just because they’re pretty, not because they fit into my daily wardrobe. I’m so overwhelmed right now that I’ve started wearing the same outfits over & over again, which is fun for no one. You inspired me to do some closet organizing and purging this weekend!

  • sizzle
    March 20, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I am guilty of buying clothes that it turns out I only WISH I could wear. Thankfully the buying of these things happens mostly at the thrift store. I just had a new closet built for me so I’m going to purge my wardrobe as I move all my stuff into it. I, too, wear mostly comfortable and well fitting clothes. About 3 years ago I decided I wanted to wear dresses and boots and went from wearing jeans and t-shirts with flats to mostly wearing dresses. Now I can’t seem to shake that style! I still like it but wonder if it needs updating. But it’s so easy, comfortable, and classic!

  • Moi Contre La Vie
    March 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Great post! I’m going to have to include this is my Spring Cleaning round-up! :)

  • Isla
    March 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Your closet is HUGE compared to mine! I am super organized since I can’t switch out seasons because Colorado weather is crazy with 70′s in January and snow in August sometimes. I’m going to try your tip on taking pictures of myself to see what really looks great on my body.

  • Mariah B
    March 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Ah, #4 is so hard!! It’s hard to get out of that mindset! I rarely shop, though, so if I cleaned out my closet it would be a reminder of how pathetically small my wardrobe is. ;)

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed
    March 21, 2013 at 5:21 am

    After doing the Whole30, I was forced to clean out my closet because so many things were too big :D I gave away a giant bag of clothing to a friend who is loving a lot of the pieces I gave her. I also got rid of a lot of my “kid” clothes aka I guess I’m over shopping in the juniors department… when did I become an adult?! Haha. The hanger trick was very enlightening when I did it.

  • Cami Sebern
    March 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    We had a closet cleaning/clothing swap at my office and it was awesome. Invite everyone to clean their closets of clothes/purses/shoes and accesories that are in good repair and still in style, bring them to the agreed location, (we used a meeting space in our office) then shop. Cost is perfect and we added appetizers and wine to the evening, it was so much fun. Different styles, sizes and free!! I got a great pair of boots and a wool skirt I love and would never have paid for.

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