Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the blog on 9/10/14, and it’s one of the more popular posts in the archives. It’s more than 4 years later, and although I’m older and more established these days (i.e., more disposable income for clothes and accessories) I still stick to these ‘rules’ when I’m shopping, and it’s completely changed the way I think about stocking my wardrobe.
I love looking back on these posts of ‘yore, and I hope you do, too!
Since the day I learned to dress myself, my style M.O. was to “look cute.” (I’m not saying it was always successful; there was a very unfortunate oversized JNCO jeans phase in my adolescence). Now that I’m getting older, that’s shifted to “look polished/sophisticated/put-together.”
A year ago, I purged my closet of all the bad shopping decisions of my twenties. It was one of many closet cleanouts; I’d spent years in a cycle of buy-wear-toss and couldn’t figure out why I was never satisfied with my stuff.
During that Labor Day 2013 Purge to End All Purges, I got the moment of clarity I so desperately needed: the trick wasn’t filling a wardrobe with a whole bunch of random inexpensive stuff; it was creating a well-edited collection of great stuff.
For so many years, I equated good style with having lots of options and never wearing the same outfit twice. So I bought as much as I could within my [limited] budget: I rummaged through clearance racks, shopped at outlet stores and fast fashion retailers, and gave zero damns about quality or fit. I wasn’t invested in my clothes because I tied their worth to their value; which wasn’t much.
After that last cathartic closet cleanse, I promised myself that going forward I would be much more mindful of what I purchased. And I have been. In the last 12 months I’ve completely changed the way I think about shopping and my style: I have a better grip on what works for my body, I’m not afraid to splurge on quality basics, and I understand the value of keeping things super simple.
Here are the self-imposed rules I’ve followed to create a closet that I really love on the same budget I’ve had for years: