Rebuilding Your Wardrobe

“Where do I start when rebuilding my wardrobe?” “How do I know what to keep or add?” Your questions help me to focus on the subjects in which you are most interested. It took me years to fine-tune my closet, so I will share the tips I wish I had always known.

1. Edit your closet to remove the things you never wear. Create three stacks: give away, throw away, and repair/alter/store. If you haven’t worn it for a year or if you put it on and then take it off, again and again, there must be a reason. Let it go. If you have sentimental items that you will never wear again, pack them away with your other keepsakes. Don’t let them take up valuable space in your closet.

2. Build your core around classics with simple lines. Focus on three neutral colors in all the basic shapes you like to wear. (Blue denim is considered neutral.) Having a light color, a dark color, and bright color increases the mixing and matching possibilities. These should be colors that you know look best on you. (For example, my colors are black, white, and shades of blue-gray. I use the colors found in my hair and eyes.) You can always add accent colors and more ornate items later, but you need these basics to start.

3. Your wardrobe should match your lifestyle. Think about events that cause you to stand in front of your closet in despair because you have nothing to wear. Make it your priority to fill that gap when you shop again.

Arrange the pieces you keep by color, category, and length. When you stand back and look at what remains, you will see your style and where you need to fill in some missing elements.

Again I will use my closet as an example. I like to wear jeans and blazers with tank tops or long sleeve tees. It is a priority for me to have jeans that look neat and fit well. I have light and dark blue washes, black and white jeans. Tank tops and tees in white, black, and silver/gray, and button-front blouses in these colors are always in my closet. Blazers and cardigans in black, white, and gray are also represented. If I have one of each of these items, I can be well dressed for any event in my daily life. Add a nice pair of dressy black pants and a fancy jacket or two, and I am covered for any evening event.

Accessories such as scarves and jewelry and good quality bags and shoes pull the looks together and add the pizzaz that keeps me from looking too plain.

We don’t need a lot of clothes. We need basics that can be mixed, matched, and worn casually or dressed up as you wish. Prints, patterns, and ruffles are memorable and limiting. If you can’t wear it with at least three other things in your closet, it might be a show pony rather than a workhorse. Make sure you have enough workhorses to get you through anything your lifestyle requires.

We were in the middle of a day-long photo shoot when we got the call to pick up the cases of fruit we had ordered to help out the High School Band. All I had to do was throw on a jean jacket and put on my sparkly brogues by Louise et Cie, grab my basic chain bag, and I was ready to go in two minutes. Life should always be this easy!

  1. HI Susan–can you tell us more about your metallic brogues? In some pictures they look black and in others thry look grey/pewter metallic. Are they still available?
    I love the look on others and wondering if I can pull it off.

  2. Hola Susan. Agradezco tus consejos y me gusta muchísimo el giro que le estás dando a tu apariencia, a mi modo de ver: más juvenil, más informal…, pero siempre impecable.

    Vivo en una zona del norte de España donde la elegancia es proverbial, lo último por aquí es combinar el zapato con la parte superior, ya sea en color o en estilo.
    Enhorabuena por la página web.
    Un abrazo,

  3. Susan, I have only been following your blog for about a year and have enjoyed your insights and travels. Sometimes in our owned challenges with fashion and our closets we look for solutions from everywhere. My awakening came when you said to purge what no longer serves me well. That small statement made a big impact and I’m hoping to use it to finally let go of alot of useless space hogs. Thank you for sharing your solutions.

  4. Great look & good advice on a starting point with closet, and then how to proceed. Very helpful as my closet is a walk in, but just barely! Beautiful bracelet, I’ve always liked the classic look of coin jewelry. Super post. Thanks Susan!

  5. Great post, Susan! And it’s a good reminder to start with the basics. Rebuilding means starting with the basics that you need. Once your wardrobe is built, then it’s time to add things you love that go with your basics. You reminded me that I should have more green in my wardrobe because my eyes have green. But my hazel eyes are green and brown. I never thought about the fact that I should also use brown as a basic in my wardrobe (I’ve always gravitated toward black, and my favorite color is blue-green). So this article was thought-provoking!

  6. This post reaffirms why you have so many loyal followers. Good common sense plays prominently into building and maintaining a wardrobe. You make it all look so effortless and chic (very French). As a former band mom, thanks for supporting the band!

  7. Hi Susan,
    This is great advice I wish I had followed..but I have a new opportunity I lost many clothes in our house flood in Houston. We just purchased a new house with a great closet and I am determined to organize with your rules and NOT fill it up! Less is more if it’s the right stuff. I discovered that having a limited wardrobe in a storage unit was a game hanger for me. I did lose all my scarfs, so I will be rebuilding those and looking at your site.
    Thanks for the timely support!
    Holly Rigby

  8. Very helpful. I do think a few printed tops add pizzaz, too, though, if the prints are “quiet.”
    Thank you for all of your helpful notes and ideas, Susan.

  9. Susan, I REALLY appreciate your balance and thoughts and willingness to share from your heart, as well as your journey in life. I find it amazing that you have done so well after such a hard time emotionally and physically back in 1997, and now you look AWESOME! I love your suggestions about so many things…however, I usually purchase too many of the same/similar thing (tops, jeans, shoes) and given my climate in the northeast (COLD), it’s hard to have “fun” things to wear. Often I have to wear things I don’t want (boots, turtlenecks and sweaters, corduroy’s) in order just to keep warm. I need to work on not shopping due to boredom. I find it hard to get rid of items that I once liked and wore in a different state and time, that I cannot wear now….. oh well, thanks for your encouragement to do so! Keep up the great posts, I’m trying! Blessings to you.

  10. Hi Susan, is your quilted purse that you are showing in this post the Black Quilted Vegan Chain Bag with Gunmetal Hardware?

  11. I really need to do this! Have a huge closet full of clothes I don’t wear. Always find myself wearing the same clothes over and over again especially since I’ve gained some weight. Very good advice. Thank you!

  12. Thank you for this article! I was reading your tips to my husband and he replied to tip #1 “that’s a really good idea”! Little does he know that I have been pulling a few pieces from his side of the closet every day this past week to make room. 🙂

  13. I think this topic is one of the best I’ve ever read and one of the best I’ve read on your blog. THANKS for unselfishly sharing your advice. It is excellent.

    I purchased a black purse through you that I just love. I also bought a red tunic top from Clara Sun Woo for an upcoming Christmas party. I love the fabric and the way it hangs on me. I also love the shade – a bit more bluish red (which looks better with my yellow skin tones) than orange red. Fabulous. Keep up the great work! You do a great job!

  14. I love how you dress. I will follow your style advice! I am just ready to donate some sweater dresses. It has been my rule: If I didn’t wear ‘it’ for a year; I donate that item. Thanks so much for your blog.

  15. Nice looking pants. I know you usually go for slimmer pants, but I’m partial to straight legs like that and I think they look nice.

  16. Always a great blog, this one was particularly helpful. I shared it on my two Facebook groups for my two businesses.

  17. Thank you for your outfit, make up tips. Turning 66 I have noticed my way needs to change. I have also been going thru my closet throwing out things I noticed I do not wear. Lucky for me my clothes have mostly been casual an colors that look nice. My heels need to more closer to the ground an feel an look great. I take pictures too to see what works
    On me. I am checking out colors that I have not worn before but now my gray hair is helping me to enjoy this changing time an embrace it. Again Thank you for your tips. Doris

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.