I wish I had read a book titled “buy less, choose better” when I was sixteen, that or any other introducing a concept of “less is more” in an approach to fashion and a personal style. Just to think how many mistakes and expenses I could have avoided, if only… Sufficient to say it did not happen and I came a long way before I finally discovered what this is all about being in my early thirties.
How to buy less, chose better, make good choices, select only those things that feel right and have the ability to make you happy? There is no quick fix or “one size fits all solution”, at least none that I heard of. If you feel that your closet is a selection of random pieces that do little to make you well dressed, comfortable and confident with your own look, it is about time to make some changes and build a real, conscious wardrobe that will be meaningful for you and support your lifestyle. Not an easy task, I admit, but here is a handful of advices and suggestions you may find useful.
Define your own style personality.
To create a wardrobe representing your esthetics and vision of yourself you are confident with, you first need to discover what your own style personality is. There are many ways to do it, I favor two: mood boards and lists.
Mood board is a selection of images and elements representing your concept of style – from colors, items, textures, silhouettes to pictures of complete outfits and pieces of fabrics. By creating a mood board you visualize how you want to look and what you want to wear. Some pieces and colors may become dominating motifs and create your favorite uniforms, defining your style in more tangible way.
List is a description of what is in (+) and what is in (-) when you try to verbalize and describe your own idea of style. For example, on my own list I would note: (+) silk, wool, white, black, grey, beige, navy blue, shirts, trench coat, French style, classic, minimalistic, Scandinavian, quality, … and on (-) polyester, acrylic, pink, green, orange, brown, boho, gothic, military, prints, etc.
When you know where you want to be, it is time to see what you already have and what you need to take you there. In other words – general closet detox with no sentiments and cold hearted honesty. Keep only what you like, what looks good on you, what is in prime condition and what resonates with your style personality. Let go of all that is worn out, not flattering, poor quality, in wrong size or any other way not suitable for your own vision of yourself. You have to be tough and do not give in to usual excuses – I paid a lot, it is brand new, it was a gift, I will loose weight… No, no, no. It won’t be easy, but I promise, once your closet starts to breath rather than suffocate and represent you and your style, you will feel much better. When all this is done you will (hopefully) own much less, but much better.
What to do with items that you debate with yourself and are in doubt about? My advice is simple, wear them. In most cases you will know where the impulse to say goodbye came from and why it doesn’t feel right any more. Trust your instincts and if in doubt, challenge yourself a little, worst case you feel uncomfortable for a day and be more confident next time you decide to let something go.
When big clean up is completed, you have a good picture of what you are missing, what should you replace and what you actually need to fit in with your style personality.
Make a list and define your needs.
It seems that “to need” became an ugly word people often try to avoid. Now we only want even if we do not need. How about buying less often and only what is necessary? Make a research, take your time, define criteria and be consistent. To avoid temptations, do not go to high street or malls, do not browse through online shops. Unless you look for something you plan to buy and have a clarity of what you are looking for, stay away. When you shop, be specific, you do not need “a shirt”, you look for a light blue oxford shirt, 100% cotton, classic cut, with a budget of 80 euro.
Of course occasional impulsive purchase is a minor crime, but it is best to get into a habit of shopping with an actual list (yes, I mean it) and with any unplanned purchases, question your own urge to buy, by asking yourself following:
- Do I need it?
- What will I wear it with?
- Does is suit my style personality?
- Do I already have something similar to it?
- How often will I wear it?
- Where will I store it?
- Is this of high quality?
- How will I pay for it? (important warning sign if your reply is “by credit card”).
If I think about a recent purchase of a classic black silk shirt, my train of thoughts would be: I need it, plan to wear it with classic trousers, formal dresses as well as with jeans, it fits well with my style, I do not have anything similar, I can wear it to the office and to casual events as often as I want, I have enough storage space in my closet, the quality is high although it needs to be dried cleaned, so I have to maintain it in a special way, and I plan to pay for it with my November shopping budget. Simple?
Quality not quantity.
Buy quality should become your guiding principle, but what does it actually mean and how can you assess the quality? This is a subject for a more comprehensible post, so here I mention only few comments.
We are often convinced that a high price or a renowned brand equals quality, in many cases it is so, but not always. Even with expensive garments, you should still check fabrics, cut, seams and take in an overall impression. I always look up “made in” label, if the price is 150 euro and it is made in China, it is very unlikely I say yes unless it is really flawless. The price is not justified and I do not wish to overspend on something that has a real value being a fraction of the retail price. To give you an example, I bought a white cotton shirt from a renowned brand, at purchase I assessed fabric, quality of buttons, seams, cut and fit, all satisfactory, even though it was “made in China”. The overall quality was good, except for finishing of button holes. This I realized too late, after the first washing. Button holes are badly finished and threads get loose, it is hard to button and un-button, threads and buttons get caught up together, pieces of loose cotton threads often stick out. Experiences like this made me cautions and proved that high price does not mean quality in all cases. I still wear that shirt, but I wouldn’t say this is the quality I expected and paid for, so overall I made a bad decision, but at least learned something in the process.