Wardrobe Upgrade – How to Clean Out Your Closet and Build Your Wardrobe

Hey, everyone!

If you’re just joining us, you’ll want to go back to this post and start from there.  If you just jump in the middle here you’re going to be all sorts of behind.

It’s the middle of September and so far we’ve talked about why it is important to wear clothes for yourself, what your clothes say about you, and how to figure out what sort of clothes you want to wear.

Hopefully by now your Pinterest board is in tiptop shape and you have some things defined for yourself.

When I say defined, I mean that you have figured out elements of clothing that you like and do not like.  Here is my list of elements that I like:

  1. The colors blue, brown, olive, grey and cream.
  2. Textures – lace, crochet, wool, felt, canvas
  3. Natural materials – Leather, wool, cotton
  4. Tight on bottom, loose on top
  5. Combat boots, flats, Adidas
  6. Simple jewelry
  7. Cross-body bag or no bag, large totes
  8. Long Cardigans
  9. Skinny jeans
  10. Thick belts
  11. Cozy sweaters
  12. Solid colors

Here is my list of elements that I do not like:

  1. Sparkly or sequined clothes
  2. Neon colors, pastel colors, black
  3. High heels
  4. Skinny belts
  5. Polka dots and stripes – patterns in general
  6. Anything seen as cute or ‘twee’ (Think Jessica Day in New Girl)
  7. Leggings
  8. Turtlenecks

Just keep in mind that these lists can change.  There might be a day in the future when I decide that yeah, it’s time to start wearing high heels and neon colors.  If that’s the direction I want to go with my wardrobe, that is completely up to me.  Maybe in five years my life will be completely different.  Maybe I’ll be doing new things and those things will mean I’m becoming a different person.  I don’t know.  When I write these lists I write them with the understanding that this is who I am right now and it’s okay if they change over time.

These lists are the key to the next two steps: Cleaning out your Closet and Going Shopping!

The first thing to do is get your closet ready.  Find a long stretch of time that you can have to yourself.  Turn on some good music and start pulling things out of your closet.  If you have a massive amount of clothes this might take awhile.

The goal here is to get rid of clothing that you can no longer wear or no longer like.  How do you choose?

If the clothing has any sort of tear, stain, hole or other issue, it needs to be thrown away.  Don’t donate clothing that is ruined.  No one is going to buy/wear it.  Just throw it away.  It has seen its better days.  Don’t tell yourself that you’re going to sew that button back on or somehow patch that rip.  If you haven’t yet, you probably never will.  Just get rid of it.  Clearly you didn’t like it enough anyways.

(Hopefully it should go without saying that you should not wear stained or ruined clothes.  These items just tear down your confidence because you’re worried about what people are looking at when they talk to you.  Why would you want that?)

If the item no longer fits appropriately (skirts are too large, shirts are too short, pants too tight) and you haven’t been able to wear them in awhile, donate them.  I know it is easy to say that you’ll be able to fit back into them some day but are you really working towards that goal?  Is that something that you’re actually focussing on?  If not, is it really a priority for you?  Some people will be able to honestly answer yes to those questions.  If so, go ahead and keep those too small items as long as you are legitimately focussing on getting back into them.  If, however, you are not focussing on that and you’re just keeping them out of nostalgia for someone you once were, donate them.  Get them out of your closet.

(Quick caveat here: If you have a sentimental item – shirts from a race, letterman jacket, shoes from your mom, pearls from grandma, keep those items.  I’m not trying to convince you to get rid of everything.  There will definitely be some items that are more important for what they represent than for actual wardrobe purposes.)

If an item fits the criteria on your list of things you do not like, donate it.  When I was going through this process I found several sequined tank tops that I had purchased awhile back and never, ever wore.  They were scratchy and tight and I’d folded them and left them.  I never wore them because I really had no place to do so (except maybe a 4th of July parade).  I just donated them all because I realized I actually didn’t really like them, I just liked the concept of them.  I also got rid of my black skinny jeans, the majority of my black shirts and all of my black shoes with the exception of some black sandals.  After working on my Pinterest board I realized that I simply do not like wearing the color black.

Donate anything that is no longer in style.  There might be some things in your closet that you purchased because that’s just what everyone was wearing in the Fall of 2015 and you wanted to jump on board.  If something looks incredibly dated (and I don’t mean vintage, there’s a place for that) and you really can’t see yourself wearing it again, why keep it?

There are some categories that don’t really fit into this purge: Sleep wear and exercise gear.  Feel free to keep all of those things if you have the room.  Also, if you are required to wear a uniform or have a dress code at work, obviously keep those things.  They might not fit into your style and that’s okay.  Being an adult means following the rules at your workplace so that you can keep your job.

Some of you are probably thinking but if I do this, I’ll have nothing left in my closet!  If you’ve discovered that you really honestly don’t like any of your clothes, you’ll definitely need to keep some, if not most, of your items as a placeholder until you can replace them.  Fortunately, most people will have at least a few items in their wardrobe that fit into their newly discovered style because you’ll probably have purchased some things that you legitimately like wearing and feel confident in.

Once you have pared down your closet to all of the clothes you feel most comfortable in (or at least the placeholders you’re going to wear until you build your wardrobe back up) take a step back and feel happy.  You are one step closer to showing people exactly who you are through your clothing.  You’ve removed all of the things that misrepresent you and make you look sloppy.

So…now what?

As you go about shopping to build up your new wardrobe, keep the following in mind:

  1. You’re trying to build a cohesive wardrobe where everything can most likely go with everything else.  You want to get to the point where you can grab a top, a bottom, a layer and some shoes and everything pretty much immediately works together.  This is most easily accomplished by keeping your colors limited to one or two neutral colors (brown, white, blue, black) and three or four accent colors (red, green, purple, orange, etc).  If all of your clothing is one of your accent or neutral colors, everything is gong to work together.  If you have an oddball piece that is just wildly out of your color selection, you’re going to have a hard time fitting it into your wardrobe.
  2. You want to really, truly love all of your clothing.  When I’m shopping I make a rule that if I don’t absolutely love something, I will not buy it.  There are some pieces you’ll try on and you’ll think “eh, it’s okay”.  Don’t buy it.  If you don’t absolutely love it, why spend money on it?  You’ll know when you love something.  You’ll try it on and you’ll feel awesome in it and it will absolutely have to come home with you.  It will feel nice, it will fit properly and you’ll feel like $1,000,000.  You want your entire wardrobe to feel like that.
  3. Shopping takes time.  It’s more of a hunt than a killing spree.  You most likely will only find one or maybe two good pieces each time you go shopping and that’s only if you spend your time really browsing.  The worst purchases I ever made were impulse buys that I ended up hating and getting rid of.  The sales pieces where I could get three shirts for $20 or whatever.  Give yourself a couple of hours to look around at stores.  Malls are great for this.  Try things on.  Figure out if you actually like how they look on you.  Examine the quality of the material and the construction.  Sit down in things.  Does it ride up?  Does it suffocate you?  Does it fall nicely around your waist?  If it doesn’t, don’t feel bad about putting it back.  During this process you might realize that something you liked on Pinterest is not something that works for you in real life.  That’s fine!  You’ve learned something about yourself and that’s great!
  4. Under no circumstances should you feel obligated to buy something.  If you don’t want it, just put it back on the hanger, put the item back where you found it and leave the store guilt free.  You do not owe the company or the sales person anything.  Don’t be a jerk, obviously, but at the same time, don’t send your hard earned money on something you aren’t going to use.
  5. Buy the best quality items that you can afford.  I’m not saying to spend as much money as possible because some stores can sell some very expensive crap.  I’m saying, figure out what good clothing looks and feels like, and buy the best quality you can.  Do some research into the marks of quality clothing (hint, it has to do with seams, edges, and how the material feels and drapes) and check your clothes before you buy them.  There is no point in spending money on things that are going to fall apart after two washes.
  6. Don’t rush this.  Enjoy the journey.  Enjoy the search for something that is going to be perfect for you.  Enjoy looking for the things that you love.  This should not stress you out!  This should actually be a fun experience!

If you are having trouble with finding things that fit properly or that work together in the way you want them to, you might be interested in trying out a personal shopper.  Nordstrom offers these services for free and you can sign up online.  You just book an appointment with someone and tell them what you’re trying to do and what you’re looking for and they’ll help you out.  I last did this when I needed new jeans and the experience was wonderful.  I never felt pressured and my personal shopper listened to my feedback and brought me exactly what I was looking for.  You could also bring an iPad with you to show your shopper your wardrobe board so that they have a better idea of what you’re looking to do.  You should probably be prepared to purchase at least one item if you’re going to do this, but you aren’t obligated to do so and Nordstrom makes that very clear.  The benefit of working with a shopper (especially one at Nordstrom) is that they’re going to know how clothing is supposed to fit, how it works together and Nordstrom has good quality clothing so you know you’ll be getting a good product.

(I was not paid by Nordstrom to advertise these services or anything.  I just honestly, genuinely like going there and utilizing the personal shopper.  I’ve never had a bad experience.  I even took my fiancé there when he was looking to buy a suit and he had a great time.)

Building a wardrobe is a lifelong process, just like personal development.  You will change, your clothing will change.  Something you love today might turn into something you’re embarrassed about in two years.  That’s okay!!  You won’t learn if you don’t try and if you make mistakes that only means you’re trying.

I hope this helped!  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer them in next week’s post as I wrap everything up from September and set things up for October.  I have a few more things to say about building a wardrobe (actually I have a lot, but I’ll show restraint.)

Have a great week!!


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