Friday, February 10, 2012

Life & Style: building a wardrobe (of your dreams and reality!)

Way back in 2007, before I even graduated with a bachelor's of science, I landed an incredibly awesome job (in my humble opinion) working for a market research firm. My wardrobe was very lazy collegiate - sweatpants, pajama pants, tattered jeans, sweatshirts and the like. I actually am sort of cringing when remembering what I must've looked like each day in the office where I worked.

I would like to say my wardrobe improved vastly once I graduated but sadly, it really didn't. Sure, I had my moments, if I had a new top and I wanted to strut around in it. But over the years, I've found myself drawn back into a simple wardrobe of worn-in jeans, simple tops, sweatpants, flip flops, clogs, etc. This is partly because of the fact that also over the years, my position at work has slowly turned into an almost completely at-home position. I work in the office just one day a week now so I have few reasons to wear real clothes each day (and it isn't just me - ask any of my colleagues and they'll all tell you they work in their pj's too!).

I'm not sure it's actually possible
to have too many cardigans!
Once I evaluated my closet to discover what I had and what I would actually wear, I discovered I didn't have many clothes at all. So, last year, in 2011, as Jason and I were finalizing our budget for 2012, we decided a set, modest amount would go into an envelope each month solely earmarked for clothing. We also earmarked some money to spend on clothes that would come out of our paychecks at that time.

Because I wanted to be super smart about what I bought for myself (and I had yet to discover Pinterest - more on this later!), I consulted the internet for the pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe. What I found astounded me. I used this list here and heavily edited it to fit my own specifications of what I wanted. In fact, what I wanted went something like this:
  • Boxers (4 more pairs)
  • Sweatpants (2 more pairs)
  • V-neck sleep t-shirts (a LOT)
  • V-neck regular t-shirts (in all colors ever created)
  • Cardigans (in every color ever imagined)
  • Jeans (at least 2 more pairs)
  • A great pair of boots
  • A pair of slip-on shoes/clogs
  • A couple of printed shirts
  • Collared, button-down shirts (2)
You can buy accessories each season or year, or learn to
make some yourself. I learned how to make earrings a
couple years ago, and I also knit a couple of scarves.
My husband sews and has made shawls, pants,
and aprons. Making some of your wardrobe pieces yourself
can be fun and save some money at the same time!
What I discovered what that I was drawn to very basic, simple looks. I wanted to make/buy trendy or fun accessories, like scarves, earrings, a great handbag, etc., but my look was simple and would fit me well. I've found I love the way I feel and look in cardigans with a tank or printed top with a pair of dark jeans and flip flops. It's just so classic me. So, armed with my customized list of pieces I wanted, I headed out and promptly was able to check off several items I desired.

How do you build your own dream, but real wardrobe? First, go shopping in your closet and dresser. Yes, I know that everyone always says this. I would roll my eyes when I read that. But then I actually did it, and I discovered I had a lot of clothes to donate to Salvation Army. And I also discovered a terrific shirt I had bought at Old Navy (on clearance no less!), washed it, put it in the closet and never wore it, but then I wore it one day. And the angels sang! It is now one of my favorite shirts.

So, get off your behind and go shopping. Try on your clothes if you need to, but if you know you're done with a shirt, whether because you never liked it and didn't wear it or because it's worn out, put it in the "donate" pile. If you come across a lot of items you haven't worn at all or you haven't worn recently and you think you might, group them together in your closet. Give yourself a few months to wear the items. If you don't wear it, toss it at the end of three months. If you do wear it and you like it, keep it. If you wear it and don't like it, toss it. I just did this with a shirt last week on Thursday, and I hated it. The second I got home from work, it went straight into a bag for Salvation Army.

Once your closet is full of just clothes you love, figure out what it is you like about each piece. Write those things down. For instance, I loved that a lot of my clothes were made from just cotton or a very high cotton blend. I also liked that my clothes were mostly one color. I liked that I had a couple of items that had a nice print on it. I added the things I liked and didn't like to my list of items to look for while shopping so I would be able to smartly choose not only which pieces I needed, but which specific cardigan to buy out of the options available to me.

What do you see missing from your closet? This is where your shopping list will be created. I knew there had been specific occasions where I had wanted to match an item I didn't even own what I was wearing. I wrote down everything I could remember about what I had wanted to go with my current clothing options. I also consulted the list I mentioned above to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything I really did need/want that would fill out my wardrobe. I would just say to really take any list you find about what someone else thinks you "must have" in your closet as really someone who doesn't even know you saying what you need. I felt the list I found was kind of crazy, and I would never recommend you just take a list created by someone else and go buy the items on it.

A look I found and love on Pinterest
Creating a vision board will be wondrous for figuring out your style, what you like, outfit combinations, etc. Pinterest is fantastic for this. Using Pinterest, I can hone my look and keep a vision board of looks I like that will actually work for me. I can add whole outfit combinations, shoes, accessories, hair styles, make-up looks, nail colors, whatever I want. Someone once said to me that a shirt I admired wouldn't be good for my body type (I think it was that person's polite way of saying I'm fat). While you definitely want to wear clothes that flatter you, you also want to wear clothes that make you feel good. And these two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. In fact, I would say to never, ever listen to anyone but yourself. Maybe that's just selfish or foolish, but I've worn clothes that didn't necessarily make me skinnier or make me taller or make me look tan, but I'm not trying to be any of those things. I'm 5'0", I'm pale, and I'm not skinny! I've accepted my body for what it is, and I strongly recommend you do, too.

I've still got a long way to go with filling out my wardrobe, and really, it's probably something that will never be truly done. Clothes get worn out, your style may change slightly, your job situation could change - who knows? But my options are growing, and I love that. I don't know if the people I work with think I look better coming to work once a week, but I feel better about myself. That's what really counts.

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