After downsizing your wardrobe and living with what you have for a while, you will realize buying a new piece for your wardrobe just became a lot more difficult.
Ideally, you now appreciate what you have, know what suits you and what matches with the clothes you already have. Ideally, you know exactly what you like and aren’t influenced by current trends or brands. Ideally, you (for example) decide to buy a bag, know exactly what style and colour you need and have an unlimited budget to spend on exactly that one piece.
Ideally. Of course, the reality looks different for most of us.
Needs and Wants – First and far most you will only be able to maintain a small wardrobe if you can differentiate between what you actually need and what you want. You think you need a 3rd blazer because your colleague is wearing new blazers every week and you like the light blue with stripes version? This is clearly a want. Of course you can still decide to buy a new blazer, but going after your wants will eventually expand your wardrobe and will have you selling things again.
Worth investing in – Is really every item worth investing in or can I still buy my white shirts at Primark? Of course, this is completely up to you. Personally, I like investing mainly in key pieces like bags, shoes and coats. These are items I can see myself spending most time and money on. Over the years I’ve also come to appreciate high quality blouses, knits, shirts and dresses. On the other hand, I’m not a friend of branded jeans as I feel that you can get a nice pair for under 50 bucks with a little care. I still buy socks and tights at your average retailer. The whole investing process is highly dependent on two things: money and preference. If you have the means and wants to only buy from fair-fashion-high-quality brands, do it. If you’re on a budget, you’ll have to compromise.
What’s investing? – Investing doesn’t only mean spending a substantial amount of money on an item. It also means spending time on choosing the right item – skipping options you wouldn’t be 100% happy with to look for more alternatives – or to save more money for the item you really want. This can be tricky in the beginning. You may know you want a new pair of jeans in black, but you may not be sure what cut to go for, or what brand suits you and delivers the right quality at the same time as being within your budget. This means you will have to spend some time doing your research. Luckily, for most items you can do the biggest part online. Stroll around some online shops to see what you like, read through a few forums to find out about the quality and price. After that you’ll be ready to hit the stores with a clear target. Try on some models, feel the fabric and get a clearer picture of what you want.
Buy now or cry later – That seems to be the motto of most people when buying new clothes. I’m a firm believer in “sleeping over it”. Meaning that even if I feel like I found exactly the thing I want and it’s in my budget, I will not buy it right away. I like bargains, so I usually go home and google the model and size I want to see if I can get a better deal somewhere else or maybe even find the item second-hand (you’ll be surprised how many second-hand items I buy, that have barely been worn and save me humongous amounts of money). Sorry retail, but this means that I very rarely end up buying in a physical store. The “sleeping”-strategy however also saves you from impulse buys. The next morning those jeans might not be that appealing anymore and you’ll end up buying another pair instead – saving yourself an annoying store return or re-sale.
Second-hand – This is clearly my favourite category. You’d be surprised how much of my wardrobe is actually thrifted or bought on ebay and other online resellers. I have a few designer bags that have a price tag over 1000 bucks but I haven’t spent half of that on them. Of course, you should only buy used designer goods if you have enough knowledge on spotting an authentic item to protect yourself from fraud – I recommend using certified resellers like Vestiaire Collective, Trendsales, Hardly Ever Worn It or Vide Dressing and reading up on e.g. The PurseForum. Second hand is a really good way to get a great deal on a high quality item that can last you ages – and not having to splurge. And trust me – few things feel better than finding the thing you have wanted for weeks at a really nice price.
Input/Output – Eventually you will of course expand your wardrobe somehow by adding items that match your style better or that are suitable for your daily needs (job, kids, travel) so sooner or later you will have to get rid of some things again. I try to go through my clothes twice a year to make sure I don’t end up keeping stuff I don’t need. See my post on downsizing for help in this matter.
I hope this little guide helps you on your way to the perfect key wardrobe. Let me know, if you want me to right an extra guide on second-hand shopping and thrifting.