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How to create your best wardrobe yet

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Having a cohesive, flexible, functional wardrobe that fills you with joy every time you get dressed is the dream, isn't it? But getting there can feel like a Herculean task. Which pieces do you need to form the core of that endlessly mix 'n' matchable wardrobe? How many tees, how many pairs of trousers? Which is why I want to talk you through my tried and tested technique for creating a wardrobe you love - because having a foundation wardrobe which fills you with joy is the core of true style confidence.

So where to start?

Know your palette

You knew this was going to come first, right? Even if you don't want to go for a full colour analysis, working through our Colour Quiz and using a single seasonal palette/tonal direction will help you to create a wardrobe which is cohesive, and mixes and matches endlessly, because all the colours within it harmonise with one another (and, ideally, with you too!).

Know your style

This is step two, and is just as important as knowing your colours. Discovering your style (our Style Quiz and Body Shape Quiz will help you drill down to the perfect styles for you) will mean that you don't add anything into your wardrobe which looks amazing on the model/your best friend/The Duchess of Cambridge, but has nothing to do with you or your personal style.

Know your lifestyle

This one feels obvious, but how many of us have a wardrobe with far too many going out tops and not enough every day tees, or, as was my case before my own style analysis, dozens of weekend outfits and not enough workwear? Or you might find it easiest to buy sports gear, or suits.

Whatever it is that you find 'easiest' to buy (for your body shape and style), I guarantee that's where you'll have too much in your wardrobe, and those areas you find hardest are more likely to be where your wardrobe gaps lie. When you come to the next few steps, I want you to really keep this one in mind.

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Spring

Declutter

This step can feel a little scary, but deal with it properly and everything else gets so much easier, I promise. Start by getting ALL your clothes out. I mean all of them. Boxes in the loft, the ones hanging in the wardrobe in the spare room, the coats from under the stairs. Lay them all out on the bed (spilling over onto other surfaces is more than acceptable!). First up, you want to divide what you have into the following categories:

  1. Everyday clothes (if your work and weekend wardrobes are dramatically different, you may want to sub-divide here, but for most of us it isn't necessary).
  2. Sports/hobby clothes
  3. Special occasion wear
  4. Loungewear
  5. Underwear/sleepwear
  6. Coats/outerwear
  7. Accessories
  8. Shoes

Dealing with one category at a time, begin to sort everything from that category into three piles - discard, (charity shop, if they're wearable, or textile recycling if they aren't), maybe keep (this might well end up as your largest pile), and definitely keep. If you have tons of clothes, try to be ruthless, and particularly keep in mind the colour, style and lifestyle factors discussed above. Don't worry too much about whether you have too much or too little of one particular thing here - we can deal with your over-abundance of velvet evening gowns in a moment.

Top tip: If dumping clothes straight away feels too scary, simply box it up for 6 months. If you haven't opened the box in six months (12 months for season specific clothes), just get rid of it without opening it. You don't need to debate all those clothes again.

Now, for the next step, I want you to forget about all but your everyday clothes category - so set aside the sportswear, loungewear, underwear etc etc (don't worry, I'll come back to these later).

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Summer

Create your core wardrobe

This is where the fun begins. From the clothes you have left, I want you to pull out one complete capsule wardrobe according to your version of the ratios I've listed below.

side note: your specific numbers might be slightly different. Obviously if you live a particularly formal life, or you especially love jeans, or you far prefer skirts to trousers, you're going to adjust the numbers below accordingly, but treat this as a starter guide to getting a wardrobe that works for you.

  1. 5 Bottom halves - a mixture of skirts and trousers/jeans.
  2. 4 Base layers and basics - I find a mixture of Camisoles and Silky Scoop/Silky Roll Necks useful here.
  3. 10 Tops and tees - a mixture of blouses, tees, breton stripes, whatever works for your personal colour palette and style.
  4. 5 Sweaters and blazers - these are top layer pieces that aren't coats, and might include anything from a Connie Sweater to a Chloe Jacket.
  5. 3 Dresses - dresses are inherently less versatile than top and bottom halves, but having a few in your wardrobe feels like such a change from the usual jeans and tees that they can completely refresh your look.
  6. Accessories - shoes, scarves and jewellery - your mileage may vary! You might find you want plenty of options here to maximise your outfit permutations, or you might prefer to have one or two necklaces and a favourite few pairs of boots and shoes.
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Autumn

If you can manage to pull out a full capsule wardrobe as per the list above, without any major wardrobe gaps, and you want more clothes to choose from, pull out a second complete capsule. Keep going until you either feel you have enough clothes, or you hit a wardrobe gap - somewhere you can't stick to the ratios above (for most of us, this will actually happen on the first 'pull', as we almost all have some wardrobe gaps).

Any gaps form the basis of your shopping list - creating a solid foundation for your wardrobe here will pay you dividends in the seasons to come.

And I'm going to take this chance to give you another reminder that I've focused above on the right numbers to create one small functional capsule wardrobe, but I don't for a minute want you to think you need to limit your wardrobe to a single capsule, or that it need be filled with minimalist styles and monochrome colours to work properly - this is about creating a wardrobe that you love, and whether that's three colours and 25 pieces or a full rainbow and a walk in wardrobe, the goal is to create a wardrobe that fills you with joy.

Also, consider that you might have an item of clothing or accessory that you absolutely love, that fills you with joy and excitement, but it doesn't fit in with your capsule. Please take this as permission to keep that item - there's an efficient wardrobe, and then there's just culling for the sake of it, and clothes that make you happier always have a place in your life.

Winter

Add extras each season

This is where you get to add the cherry on top to your capsule wardrobe cake! Each season, think about adding in a sprinkling of weather-appropriate clothing to your capsule. Again, your particular 'cherry on top' will vary depending on your personal style and lifestyle. In winter, for example, I would probably add a thermal base layer, a couple of cosier tops, and maybe some warmer knitwear, perhaps a maxi skirt, as well as adding to my seasonally appropriate shoes and accessories. Probably no more than half a dozen items each season.

And if you want to know exactly which items I've decided are indispensable this autumn/winter, look no further than last week's Wardrobe Update Heroes blog post!

Don't forget those other categories

Once you've sorted out your everyday clothes, you can repeat the feat for sportswear, loungewear, underwear, outerwear, and accessories - do this on separate days if you're exhausted. There is no rule that your entire wardrobe has to become perfect TODAY!

Rather than thinking in specific numbers with things like sportswear, think in terms of giving yourself enough of each category to get through, say, a fortnight of living with those clothes, and having enough to last that period of time (for instance, if you run five days a week, you're going to need a few full sets of running gear to allow for laundry. If you go to yoga once a week or a fortnight, one or two sets of yoga gear might be more than enough). And don't forget special occasions (e.g jewellery to wear with a black tie dress, or lightweight scarves for holidays) when you're decluttering.

And that's it! You should now be well on your way to a flexible, joyful wardrobe that makes you smile every time you get dressed.

Desiree on Sep 26, 2020 9:46 AM

Thank you so much Jo, this is so useful and I look forward to putting it into practice!