How to shop your own closet and maximize your wardrobe

How to shop your own closet and maximize your wardrobe
Dress by Who What Wear, Cat Shoes by ASOS, High-tops by Guess, Poe tote by Out of Print
OTK socks by Sock Dreams, Boots by Madden Girl, Striped sweater from Target

In my semi-recent past, I lost enough weight that I had to get what amounted to a new wardrobe. Whoo hoo, right? Yep, it was very fun to re-style the entire closet, but it was definitely an exercise in economy. There are a lot of $3 Forever 21 leggings in my closet now. I had to rebuild the wardrobe pretty slowly and work with not as many items overall.

So when you're starting over with your wardrobe or just trying to save a buck here and there, learning to work with what you already own is key. This applies doubly for when you're traveling. Re-styling an outfit = fewer items you'll need to pack overall. Here's how you can shop your own closet to save money and maximize your wardrobe…

Use your basics as a base

Use and re-use your favorite jeans, your basic leggings, and your staple skirts. Wear them often, take care of them, and let them do the grunt work of your wardrobe. Then your filler pieces are doing the work of making you look like you're wearing something totally new (when you're definitely not).

I have a "uniform" of black leggings or tights, a skater-style skirt, and whatever top makes sense that day. It could be a t-shirt/cardy, a cropped sweater, or a tucked-in blouse, but the uniform is basically the same. Fill in the schedule gaps with a few dresses, one or two pairs of jeans (ugh, my least favorite), and you've got your own uniform down.

How to shop your own closet and maximize your wardrobe
So many layers!

Mix up your layers

I love layers. Plus, I like covering up bits and bobs of myself I don't like — enter layering like a bandit. I'll wear a tank top with a cardigan, then the same tank with a tight, long-sleeved tee underneath, then again with no layers and a scarf. The same item, worn three ways, without having to change much to the outfit itself.

If you're traveling, you can reuse the cardy with a dress, the scarf with a basic tee, and the long-sleeved tee by itself. You're just rotating layers to look different each day.

Change the shape of a piece

The easiest way to change how something looks is to change its shape. Got a long tunic sweater that looks great with jeans? Belt it up with tights and boots and it's now a dress. A maxi skirt is a skirt one day, then hike it up over the boobs, belt it, and wear it as a short strapless dress. Take a short tunic dress and tuck it into some pants as a shirt.

Use the "first in/last out" methodology

This is the tip I need to work on the most. Instead of hitting up your usual pieces that are easy to grab, you wear an outfit, then put it towards the back of the closet, pushing other pieces forward. It's a system of rotation.

Make sure at least one item of clothing you're wearing is something you haven't worn in a while. If you keep trying one and keep putting it back without wearing it, it's time to donate it.

Use accessories to change up the look

Wearing your basic black leggings and white collared shirt uniform? Toss on a big statement necklace, scarf, big bag, or adorable Peter Pan cat collar, to make the look different.

Find inspiration online (and resist the urge to spend)

Look for style inspiration in your favorite haunts (Pinterest, lifestyle blogs, fave stores, etc.), but resist the urge to purchase what you're seeing. Think of it as research into styling tips only.

Take selfies, and don't feel guilty about it!

Assembled a rad look? Take a photo, store it somewhere for easy re-assembling, and never feel guilty about taking it. Selfies are useful for feeling good about yourself as well as organizing your good outfit assemblages. Plus, like Cher knows, you can't trust mirrors:

How to shop your own closet and maximize your wardrobe

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  1. So, this is awkward because this was a post about not having to buy new stuff, but PLEASE tell me where that galaxy dress is from, I need it

    2 agree
  2. Ooh, I'll have to play with this! I have a decent sized wardrobe but I feel like I'm tired of everything AND I've recently lost almost 40 lbs so I can finally start to downsize– yet I don't want to buy a bunch of new stuff because 1) wasteful and 2) expensive.

    One thing I've gotten really into recently is thrifting– you can find some great pieces (either outfits or staples/accents) at thrift or consignment (those are a little pricier) shops! Plus, it's super affordable (we have a couple here in Austin that have half off clothing Wednesdays and I got one of my favorite tops ever plus a maxi skirt for $1 total) and better for the environment than constantly buying new stuff.

  3. "Use the "first in/last out" methodology" YES!! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does this. I have been doing this for about five years now and I love it! Whenever I do my laundry I hang everything up in the back, then when I'm getting dressed I pull the first thing from the front and build an outfit around it. If the first piece is something I don't want to wear, I'll put it in the back again but if I notice I'm skipping the same pieces over and over they get donated. I mostly like this system because A. It makes me wear all my clothing and B. It takes like five minutes to put an outfit together instead of 20 or 30!
    I've been trying to encourage my husband to adopt a rotation method because he ends up wearing the exact same five shirts each week and he owns at least 25 shirts … he's been resistant.

    1 agrees

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