It will come as no surprize that most of us have far more clothes than we wear. In my experience with clients, it’s about 90 items and of those 90 or so items, around 51% are either seldom or never worn.
That’s a lot of money! If you want to calculate how much money you have in clothes and you wear to waste ratio use my calculator.
This time we continue our journey towards the creation of an inexhaustible AKA versatile wardrobe.
Building a wardrobe around the concept of clusters is an excellent way to ensure you’ll end up with a wardrobe filled with ready-to-go outfits for every occasion in your life.
Clusters are small groups of garments that mix and matched with each other to create many outfits. They can be clusters for work, your casual days or dressy occasions. By adding accessories into the cluster and you can at least double your outfits. Start by creating as many clusters as you can from your present wardrobe. The image below is an example of a professional female cluster. These items create 36 outfits and with every extra garment, on average another 12 outfits are created. Well, thought out accessories can add on average another 30 outfits.
- Five to eleven pieces per cluster e.g. three tops, three bottoms and one skirt or dress and several accessories.
- Each item should coordinate with all the other pieces.
- One piece should be a print or pattern.
- Use the colors in a print item piece as the coordinating anchor for the other clothing items.
- If you strive to create a cluster where no two pieces are the same style you’ll increase the flexibility in the number of different looking outfits you can create.
- If you are starting your first cluster go with pieces that are simple in style, line, and shape i.e. classic.
- Each piece in your cluster should work in combination with at least two other pieces.
- Add items to expand your cluster
- Once you have completed a cluster start another and look for cross-over pieces i.e. items from other clusters that work in other clusters.
Establish a Budget
Figure out how much you want to spend on building your wardrobe. The smaller the budget, the more selective and aware of spending you’ll have to be. If your budget is $1000 you certainly won’t want to splurge on a $900 coat if you’re trying to build a wardrobe.
For some women, a cluttered wardrobe is the expression of a carefree approach to buying clothes.
Setting yourself a budget allows you to decide what items you need to expand your wardrobe options both with investment pieces and seasonal trend items. Sticking to a budget and a plan will keep you from overspending and suffering from retail regret.
I often get asked what a professional woman should spend on her professional wardrobe and in reply I suggest the equivalent of 4-5 weeks of the wage you’ll be getting to set it up and 2-3 weeks wages per year replenishing and maintaining your wardrobe. Of that 30% of that should go toward accessories as they have the most power to expand your looks.
Embrace the Classics
There’s a reason they’re called classics–they never go out of style! They are garments and accessories with pure shapes and clean styling which tend to be flattering on most women. To be truly timeless they will also need to be in a neutral color or reoccurring print e.g. leopard. Some classic garments items:
- Man-style white shirts
- Straight and pencil skirts
- Classic straight pants
- Sheath and wrap dresses
- Closed toe pumps and flat slip-ons
- Trench coats
- Pearls, gold and silver chains
- Handbags and Totes
If you feel like a splurge keep 70/30 in mind: 70% of your wardrobe should be classic items and 30% trendy.
Alter for Excellence
Few women can wear clothes straight off the rack and look fabulous. Alterations can make an enormous difference to the way you look and can even make an inexpensive item look couture.
The price you pay for alterations will depend on; what fabric/material it is in, the complexity of the job and how long it will take. The original price paid or your love for the item will determine if it cost is worth it. Most alterations are very affordable and will make a world of difference to how the garment will look in you.
Alterations can take a dress from ho-hum to OMG by raising or lowering a hem, nipping in the waist or adding a darts for a better fit. In essence, you will have changed a ready to wear item to a couture item because now it has been totally altered for you. And I’ve seen plenty of high-end labels look very ordinary on women because of poor fit and plenty of women wearing everyday labels looking ten times better than wealthier sisters.
Document and Log
By keeping a lookbook, written or photographed log of all the possible outfit combinations in your wardrobe you’ll save hours every week wondering what you’ll wear today. I’ve had days where I’ve discovered a killer combination worn it and then several weeks later have struggled to remember what it was I put together, maybe that’s just my post-menopausal brain. There are also apps like Stylebook that allow you to store a record of your closet.
For important meetings, you can date you log to keep track of the things you’ve recently worn to be sure not to repeat any obvious items.
Update with Trends
It’s important, no matter your age to keep your look current, and the best way to do this is to update your look each season. You only really need a few key trendy pieces and don’t spend too much on them. Splurge on classics and basic items and save on trends. Consider trend items as disposable or fast fashion because it’s likely you won’t want to wear them after a few months.
Shop to Enhance & Expand
Finally, when shopping think about what else the item you want to buy will go with. When you can identify at least three items in your closet it will coordinate with and you can dress the item up or down with accessories you’re onto a winner. Your shopping process should always be about enhancing and expanding the clusters in your wardrobe.
The amount you spend on any item should reflect how often you intend to wear it. High priced items you wear only a few times are not good purchases. Use my Cost Per Wearing Calculator to calculate if the item you’re about to buy is worth the price.