I admit, this post is mostly for the ladies. Unless, of course, a man wants to use it to point out something to his wife.
Most women love to shop, have a closet full of clothes and yet the frequent complaint is that they have nothing to wear. This is baffling to men but it really does make sense. Without good wardrobe planning you can end up with a closet full of mismatched, don't fit, don't look good on me, and why did I buy this thing clothes. Some may still even have the price tag on them. This is expensive and ultimately unsatisfying. And, an opportunity.
When I was in banking I had a friend who was a fashion consultant at Nordstroms, the leading store in the Seattle area. Spending an afternoon with her was more educational and ultimately saved more money than anything I could have done. If you are In The Trenches, before you spend another dollar on clothing it's time to stop and make a wardrobe plan.
The first step is to know your colors. What colors look good on you and which ones don't. Maybe that blouse you never wear in you closet is telling you something. When you put it on it just doesn't look right but you are not sure why. It may be that it would look great on someone else but when you put it on you look like you have had the one-week flu. This is not your imagination. It is not your color. Colors are divided into the four categories of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Do you know which category you fit into?
Consider your lifestyle. If you love casual clothes but work in an office you have to find something that meets your needs and is appropriate to the environment. Otherwise you will spend on items that you don't need or worse yet end up on What Not to Wear. I love this show. If you have not seen it you might want to check it out.
What looks good on you? There really is a science to this based on body type but often we can get clues from those around us. Is there something you wear that you get compliments on every time? Or, when you look in the mirror you just know that you look good? Or something else that when you put it on look in the mirror, feel fat, and throw it aside? You know what I mean here. We all do it.
Being able to answer these questions correctly will probably enable you to get rid of half of the stuff in your closet. If you have not done wardrobe planning before you may have to do more research before making these decisions but this can be really fun. Almost even more fun than shopping.
Here is a suggestion of a basic wardrobe for an office job:
1. Pick a basic neutral color to start with. In the fall and winter this could be black, navy, brown, gray, or olive green depending on which color works for you.
2. Select a basic three-piece suit of jacket, slacks, and skirt. These should be a solid color so you can easily mix and match. Even if you don't wear shirts often it is good to have at least one for the times you will need one. Note: stores often organize their clothing in this manner to make it easy to shop for coordinates.
3. Select two more slacks or skirts that may be solids or prints that will go with the three-piece suit.
4. Select an additional jacket that also coordinates with the three-piece suit.
5. Select 5 blouses that go with the above and add some color, texture, and imagination to the outfits.
6. If you like dresses one or two can be added to the wardrobe but make sure they go well with the jackets and shoes so you can dress them up and make them more professional or dressy depending on the occasion.
7. Shoes and accessories. Two or three pairs of shoes would be ideal for this wardrobe. One pair should be a plain solid and the other pair can have more character. (Having only one pair of shoes will wear out too quickly and you will be replacing them often so you might as well have two pair at the beginning. A purse should be basic enough to go with all of the above. Accessories such as jewelry or scarves can add some bling and variety to the wardrobe.
The basic wardrobe is 12 to 15 pieces of quality, well-chosen items. When you are In The Trenches you will want to make sure they are all machine washable. When you are saving money you don't want to have a closet full of dry cleanable clothing. If you are in an environment where the quality level must be higher, than at least try to have as many washable items as you can such as the blouses.
Now wait. Before you grab you purse and go on a shopping spree there is much more to do.
1. Do your research. I was browsing Amazon.com this morning and there are a number of books on wardrobe planning. Check them out and see what you can find by requesting them at the library. These will help you to know your colors, body type, and lifestyle needs. I have also listed a very good link at the bottom of this post.
2. Go though your own closet first. Once you have a good plan go through you closet and find which pieces you now have that work and which pieces you just don't need. This can be a really fun activity if you invite a friend, share your goals, and even do some trying on and modeling.
3. Keep the pieces that work in the new wardrobe and make a list of the missing pieces. Such as this is a great pair of slacks but it doesn't have anything to go with it.
3. Take all the pieces that you find no longer work into the plan and take them to a consignment shop. This is the money you will use to buy any replacement pieces you find that you need. This is a very important step to the process because you don't want to have to spend more money or go into debt to achieve this goal.
4. If the pieces you no longer need are not of the quality needed for the consignment shop you could sell them at a garage sale. Remember you will get far less money if you go this route.
5. Or, you could start a pass around bag as recommended in In The Trenches.
This whole process is not something you will do in a day. This will take a period of weeks or months to complete but it can be great fun and will keep you out of the mall in the meantime.
Last night I came across this great link that explains most of these principles in further detail including color charts, book lists for additional reading, and personality types. http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2228.htm
Have a great time!