How To: Shop Your Own Wardrobe
When it comes to shopping, I think it's pretty safe to call it a hobby of mine. I look on it like a stamp collector would; it's an art form, building the 'perfect' closet.
But now we are planning our wedding, I'm having to curb this lovely little hobby of mine in favour of stashing the cash and saving up instead. I don't mind - the wedding is easily the most exciting thing I've ever saved up for (sorry flat!), and not being able to shop as often is presenting me with a whole new challenge: reworking my wardrobe to make my existing pieces feel fresh and exciting again, shopping from my own wardrobe, if you will.
How? Here's my top tips to help you on your way...
ASSESS WHAT YOU HAVE
First things first - take out everything you own. Everything. Set aside a whole afternoon if needs be, but the first step is to assess what you have already. At this stage, it's less about figuring out outfits, and more about taking the time to really look at the foundations of your wardrobe. It gives you an opportunity to hone in on what you have, and find potential in pieces that might have been stuffed at the back or forgotten about.
Try everything on, and make four piles: keep, sell, donate, throw. Keep everything that you love or that you think has potential or is a style staple. Sell anything that is in good condition and still has tags or is unworn, and likely won't be worn in future. Donate anything that is in good condition but you know you won't wear again. Throw away anything that is irrevocably marked, definitely doesn't fit or just doesn't make you feel good when you wear it.
We'll come back to the 'keep' pile after the next stage - but for now, it's just streamlining and making sure that you love everything in your closet. Remember, this goes for shoes and accessories too!
To shop from your wardrobe, treat your wardrobe like a shop. You wouldn't look twice at a rail in a store that was messy and disorganised, so keep your wardrobe in check.
I don't personally subscribe to the capsule wardrobe method (maximalist for life), but there are elements that are definitely useful when it comes to keeping your wardrobe uncluttered and shoppable. Pack away all those pieces that aren't seasonal so that they're not taking up valuable space when they won't be worn for months. Make sure that everything you're going to put back in the wardrobe inspires you in some way and is practical for the season that we're in.
And now my favourite part: organising the space! When I worked at H&M during my uni days, I learned a trick that I still use in my closet today: organise everything by garment type, and within that, sleeve length. It's a brilliant trick that means that nothing gets lost in your wardrobe; no strappy items cluttered between long-sleeved pieces, never to be seen again, no - now they get their time to shine.
Hang everything on appropriate hangers (I love the velvet-covered ones, which give good shape and keep everything on the hanger) and put back into your closet by sleeve length. And then figure out the best places to store your shoes and accessories - again, keeping the most seasonally relevant ones front and centre.
MAKE DO AND MEND
We all have items in our closets that we love, but don't wear because they're a) dry-clean only, b) broken in some way, c) unironed or d) not as flattering as you'd like. But when it comes to shopping your own closet, you need to get past those little niggles and do what's necessary to make those pieces wearable.
Anything that needs fixing: just fix it! Take some time out to sew on missing buttons or fix loose hems. Anything that's drastically wrong - you'll need to decide whether you love it enough to take it to a professional, or just wave goodbye.
Look up ways to wash dry-clean only items at home. Often, pieces are marked as dry-clean only by manufacturers as a precaution, not as an instruction, so depending on what it is, you can probably hand-wash it at home. I've hand-washed dry-clean only dresses and they've turned out fine, you just need to be careful. Invest in a good quality hand-wash detergent and use cool water, being gentle with your clothing and hanging them to dry. There are lots of blog posts and YouTube videos on the subject, so do your research, but it's worth it to suddenly gain access to pieces that, let's face it, you were never going to take to the dry-cleaners anyway.
Invest in a steamer to freshen up everything in your closet. They're used on shoots all the time because they instantly give a crispness that makes everything look brand-new, and it's so much quicker and simpler than ironing. I got mine for around £12 on Amazon and have never looked back.
We all have pieces in our closets that we love, but don't wear because of the fit. Perhaps it's a pair of trousers that are too long or a jacket that's a bit bulky, but whatever it is - if you love it, take it to a tailor and have them do what's required to make those pieces work for you. For the sake of £10 or £20 here or there, you now suddenly breathe new life into items taking up space in your wardrobe that you always write off - think of the outfits you could be creating!
TAKE INSPIRATIONS FROM THE EXPERTS
Once you have your seasonal wardrobe all worked out, it's time to do some research. Whatever the trends are, the actual shapes of garments don't often change too much, so you can apply new trends to old clothes to give your outfits a fresh twist.
Go to your favourite online stores, and specifically look for pieces like those that you already own. And then take a long, hard look at how the stylists for those brands have dressed those pieces - what are they pairing them with, have they added any unusual twists? Copy those styling tricks and incorporate them into your own outfits, it will help even the oldest pieces feel like something brand-new to you.
DOCUMENT YOUR OUTFITS
Now that you have your pieces, and you have your favourite styling tricks, it's time to try them on. Be brave and try out new combinations, putting pieces together that you haven't worn before. And whatever you think works, take a photo of it and save it on your phone, so that you have a gallery right there of great outfits, whenever you need them.