As someone who has always loved clothes and accessories, I didn’t expect that I would settle into a uniform the minute I got a full-time job and became an “adult.” If you looked at my closet when I was in high school, the words “flexible wardrobe” would not have come to mind… unless your idea of flexible meant that yes, I could be ready for school, work, the club or the circus at any given time.
Over the last two years since graduation, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve become more comfortable with my own idea of who I am.
That has made it easier for me to look at a piece of clothing in a store and know right away that it is or isn’t me. My friends can now pick up a piece of clothing and say to me, “This is totally you.”
Part of this has just been shaped by having more disposable income but wanting to hold myself back from that urge to shop until I drop. (I don’t think I’ll ever shake that urge!)
And part of it was shaped by traveling for work a lot, which made it easier for me to identify my go-to pieces that I wanted in my suitcase.
What a flexible wardrobe means, to me
First, I want to define “flexible wardrobe” for you, in my terms. I do not have a capsule wardrobe of only 20 pieces, and I do not wear the same shirt + pants combo every day in the same colors and styles.
I still have more clothing than I need, and I still shop for clothes. I am in no way a minimalist. If that’s the kind of conversation you want to have about clothes, you’re in the wrong place.
However, if you have always loved shopping but find yourself with a ton of clothing that doesn’t work with other pieces in your closet and often stare at your racks thinking you have nothing to wear… Let’s be friends.
To me, a versatile everyday wardrobe is a closet full of pieces you genuinely enjoy that make you feel good; it is clothing that is flexible across seasons and requirements; it is clothing that works with most of the other pieces in your closet; it doesn’t need special treatment like ironing or dry cleaning.
My everyday wardrobe rules
I have a few rules that every piece I look at and consider has to pass before I make a purchase.
Sometimes, I’m not so well-behaved in this arena, so I end up with clothing that needs to be returned when I get back into the right headspace. But when I stick to my rules, I bring home pieces I really love.
Try dresses on before you buy.
This rule really applies to everything I’m not positive will fit, but I especially force myself to put dresses ON. MY. BODY. because I am above average height (I’m not tall, just slightly taller than average), have long legs and have a long torso! Many dresses are too short for me or hang funny because of how my body is built – and that’s OK! I love how my body is built. But that makes it harder to find dresses.
My pro-tip with dresses if your proportions don’t line up with how most mass retailers make their dresses: Once you find one you like and is versatile, buy it in as many colors as they make it.
Don’t buy anything that won’t work with layers / would only be appropriate for one season.
If for any reason I can’t picture a t-shirt or tank top with a jacket or a cardigan or a dress with boots instead of sandals… It has no place in my closet. I have to be able to transition my wardrobe from season to season, because I hate seasonality.
My favorite pieces that I wear the most can be worn all year round, or at least two to three seasons out of the year. I learned this about myself when I left all of my winter clothes in a storage unit for more than a year – I didn’t even miss them.
Super trendy clothes should come from TJ Maxx or Shein, or other affordable locations.
I do not let myself buy trendy clothing at staple prices! If you can afford to buy high quality trendy clothes, more power to you, but it makes no sense for me to splurge on cut-out shoulders, button details or any other 2018 trends when I could grab more affordable alternatives from TJ Maxx, Marshall’s or Shein.
This is one of 100 reasons why I can’t be a fashion blogger.
Solids are better than prints.
How it has taken me 24 years to get to this point, I do not know, but finally, I am here.
I do not like printed clothing. Nine times out of ten, if I can choose between a solid and a print, I will choose the solid. Solid clothing is much more versatile and can be worn with a variety of accessories. Solid clothing matches with more. In every way, solid clothing is QUEEN.
My exceptions: Stripes, plaid, gingham. Very simple, classic patterns like these are OK and pass the closet test.
Do I have prints in my closet? SURE! But I rarely buy them anymore.
Stick to your go-to colors.
Look at your closet right now, or at the 10 shirts you just pulled out of the dryer. What colors are most dominant?
For me, those colors are…
- Olive green
- Carolina Blue
Easy! Now, I predominantly purchase clothing in these colors, or I buy clothing that I know will complement these colors. My closet is still a rainbow, but I have far less red, pink, yellow, orange or purple clothing now that I know I am not as fond of it as I used to be.
The basics are worth splurging a little extra for quality.
If your most-worn pieces in your closet are t-shirts and jeans, it makes perfect sense to spend a little more on t-shirts and jeans. I wear a lot of t-shirts and tunics with jeans and leggings, so I’ve started upgrading my collections of these items and spending more on them.
Do I spend $100 on jeans? No. But I also have stopped buying $3 Forever 21 leggings, so I call that a win.
If it looks cheap, it probably is cheap.
Oh, young Paige, how much you have learned about shopping at TJ Maxx and the like.
If you pick up something that is totally cute but the fabric looks too sheer, too cheap or too delicate, it probably is all of those things. Acknowledge that sometimes, cheap clothes aren’t a good deal – they’re just cheap.
Stick to what you know about what you wear.
I’m not sure if this is going to make sense to anyone, but stick to what you know about yourself and what you like. Don’t let your friends or trends talk you into things you know aren’t going to work with your lifestyle.
For example, tank tops – I hate tank tops! I have a few tops and two jumpsuits that have tank tops, but otherwise, no. They will not be in my closet.
Do I still get drawn in every time there’s a trendy fashion blogger wearing a cute tank top? Yes. What about a strappy sundress? Certainly. But I know myself and I will stick to myself, even if everyone else is doing it.
What are the staples in your wardrobe? Do you feel like you lean towards more trendy and fast fashion pieces or more classic styles?