Ahh… impulse buys. Sale binges. Buyer’s remorse. A closet full of clothes with nothing to wear.
I’ve made a LOT of shopping mistakes in my day. And I bet you have, too.
In fact, you’ve probably heard the statistic that the average American wears just under 20% of what’s in their closet. If it makes you feel any better, Belgians wear only 12% according to a 2018 study. But they make up for it with the world’s best chocolate and waffles, don’t you agree? 😉
All jokes aside, with fast fashion, consumer waste, and environmental issues on the rise, it’s time to take a cold, hard look at our shopping habits and how to improve them.
Let’s look at a few simple rules – or guidelines, if you will – to help you shop confidently, choose quality over quantity, and start curating a closet you LOVE!
RULE #1 – STICK TO YOUR STYLE
When I worked at Saks Fifth Avenue years ago, before taking any image consulting courses, a colleague told me I was a style chameleon. She went on to emphasize that my look was totally different from one day to the next.
While I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment, I realized then that I needed to reel it in and figure out how I really wanted to portray myself to the world. It was time to define my own signature style.
How many times have you been tempted by the latest trends regardless of whether they work for your everyday life? Or tried to recreate a look that a style influencer or fashionable friend wore only to have it fall flat or feel totally uncomfortable on you? I guarantee these pieces are the first to start collecting dust on your shelves or to get buried in the back of your closet.
It’s so important to stay true to yourself and only add clothing and accessories into your wardrobe that bring out your best and suit your personal style.
And if you have no clue what your personal style is or if you think it could use some refinement, you’re going to want to hit pause on this article right now and head over to my FREE 5-Minute Personal Style Quiz to get the clarity you need!
RULE #2 – FLATTER YOUR FIGURE
I know, I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious! Of course, we all want to wear clothes that highlight our assets and minimize our insecurities.
But I can’t be the only one who’s slipped up for the sake of rocking the latest trend or picked up a frumpy frock thinking it would look great if I just added a belt here or some fashion tape there. Well, no more!
This mantra might seem rigid, but there’s simply NO room in your closet for pieces that don’t do you justice or require too much effort. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself…
- Does this piece of clothing work well on its own?
Save yourself the trouble and skip any items that require other items in order to look good! You should love each article in your closet for what it is. Allow yourself the simple pleasure of grabbing anything in the morning without too much effort to put it all together.
- Can I easily have this altered to fit me better?
An article of clothing might be just what you were looking for, but if the sleeves fall at an unflattering length or the waistline could be let out a touch, you REALLY need to consider whether you’re willing to make the necessary alterations. Before leaving the store or clicking the “add to cart” button, make an appointment in your calendar to break out the sewing machine or visit your local tailor. Some stores, like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, even offer on-site alterations – just ask!
- Does this item flatter my body’s shape and proportions?
Just because something might look cute on the mannequin or was featured in your favorite magazine, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. Try everything on and evaluate whether it accentuates the right curves and balances your proportions. Trust your own judgment on this. If you don’t absolutely LOVE how it looks, leave it. And before you order something online, make sure you can return it to a store or ship it back for a full refund or exchange.
- Do I feel my very best in this?
Taking the last question one step further, you should have complete confidence in how you look and feel before deciding to add a new piece to your closet. Are you sucking in here or tugging on the fabric over there? If you’re feeling squirmy or unsure about an item, it’s guaranteed to stay in your closet with the tags still on for eternity or end up in an unworn pile on your bedroom floor in the morning.
RULE #3 – BUY YOUR BEST COLORS
Anyone who knows me (or has been following my Instagram account for at least 24 hours) will tell you that my favorite aspect of image consulting is COLOR.
Buying hues that highlight your natural assets – think peachy cheeks, clear blue eyes, or warm chestnut hair – will take your closet and personal style to the next level.
The good news is that you probably have a good intuition of which colors work best for you. Stick with colors that brighten your complexion, boost your confidence, and mix and match with ease.
And if you find yourself getting confused about color or stuck in a rut with basic black, I’d be thrilled to create a Custom Color Palette just for you!
RULE #4 – NEEDS BEFORE WANTS
“A store can awaken a lust for things you never even knew you needed.”– Rebecca Bloomwood, Confessions of a Shopaholic
It’s not called “retail therapy” for nothing. Buying what you want is usually way more fun than getting what you need.
But if you’re tired of having a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear, it’s time to regroup and regain focus on what will make your closet more complete. That probably means more of the basics. But no need to be boring (see rule #5)!
Here are a few bonus tips to ensure your shopping excursions lead to a highly functional and fulfilling wardrobe…
STEP 1: Do Your Homework
We all have days when we can’t find the right piece to complete an outfit or feel we have nothing to wear to a particular occasion. When this feeling strikes, write down what you need so you don’t forget when the time comes to restock. You can add hash marks next to that item every time you find yourself wishing it was in your repertoire. That will help you set your priorities for step number two. Take as much time as you can to look at your existing wardrobe and evaluate the holes that need to be filled in.
STEP 2: Bring a Shopping List
It’s a well-known fact that we spend way more money at the grocery store when we go without a list, so why would we expect clothing shopping to be any different? Before your next shopping spree (in stores or online), prepare yourself with a list of what you need based on your determinations from step one. Your judgment is bound to get fuzzy once you start spotting beautiful distractions. But you have to stay focused and fill in the gaps first. Once your wardrobe is complete, you’ll have plenty of time to reward yourself with fabulous finds – necessary or not.
STEP 3: Map Out Your Route
When you get to your favorite store or shopping center, have a plan of attack in place. If you know that a new suit for the office is essential, then there’s really no reason to step foot inside the Coach store, is there? Save yourself the temptation and eliminate any non-essential stops until you have the extra cash to spend. Why not reward yourself on the next trip if you take care of your priorities this time?
STEP 4: Skip the Sales
No, you didn’t misread that. I said SKIP the sales. A good “deal” isn’t that if the item you pick up at a slashed rate doesn’t have a functional place in your wardrobe. I’m sure we’ve all bought something just because it was on sale, but is that reason enough to deviate from our needs?
Think about the cost per wear. A faux fur jacket on sale for $25 that you might reach for on two formal occasions in the winter will only warrant you $12.50 per wear. A full-priced, but practical peacoat for $200 that is worn four times a week throughout three months of winter will equal as little as $4 per wear.
Before you look at the price tag, ask yourself how much you’d be willing to spend on a particular item. If it happens to be on sale or is priced lower than you’d expect – that’s when you know you’ve found a good deal! Think about what you need and invest your money on that list before you dive into the dark depths of the sale racks!
RULE #5 – LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
How many times have you been unsure about whether something looks flattering or is the perfect color or will work for a specific occasion, yet somehow it still ends up in your pile at the register?
Maybe you feel like you need something and you’ll settle for whatever you can find to fill that void in your closet. But more often than not, that piece is the one you never reach for when you’re getting ready. Something is off, missing, or just not quite right.
Unless you can practically and reasonably alter the item in some way, there’s NO reason to clutter up your closet and your life with pieces that don’t truly WOW you.
I want you to love they way you look and what you’re wearing. Not in a conceited way, of course, but in a confident way.
I’m not just talking about what you put on to venture out in public either. There are 24 hours in a day and you deserve to enjoy every single moment of them. So if you want to feel sexy in the boudoir, why not go for the silky négligée? Or if comfort is more your speed, pick up the softest cotton pajama set you can get your hands on.
Create a pleasurable atmosphere within your wardrobe and I guarantee you’ll find yourself more enthused to get dressed and tackle the everyday tasks that define your life.
I hope these 5 shopping rules to live by help make your life and closet curation so much easier. It’s crucial for your budget, your sanity, and our planet to have a discerning eye when you shop. Whether it’s a super soft t-shirt for $10 or a pair of luxurious Christian Louboutin’s for $500 – there is no right or wrong. Only what’s perfect for you, your everyday life, and your happiness. Never settle. Love yourself and know that you are worth the very best.
Now, go! Shop! And invest wisely!