I absolutely love having a focused wardrobe based on my signature style. But one day, after a friend’s uploading and tagging frenzy on Facebook, I realized (read: was mortified) that I’m wearing the same dress in all the photos. It was like Where’s Waldo except instead of ski cap, stripe tee and glasses, it was a red chiffon dress: last year, at our friends’ rehearsal dinner; out with friends one night this summer; at the ballet, and so on. On one hand, I was glad I was really practicing less is more–but on the other hand, it really made me want to invest in another great dress.
Updating your wardrobe doesn’t mean you have to donate everything you have and get a fresh new set of clothes. The best way to freshen up your look while remaining true to your personal style is to think of each piece as an acquisition. It sounds grandiose, but this is when you get an investment piece with its own purpose in your closet, and not something random you picked up on an impulse. You want each piece to stay with you for several seasons while making you feel happy and beautiful each time you wear it. Here are my best tips to finding the right way to update your wardrobe.
1. Don’t pay attention to sales or reduced price.
This is a huge lesson I learned over the years. The mind set I absorbed growing up was that anything on sale that had a higher original price is more valuable than something not on sale with the same price. Say, a dress that’s now $50 but was $100 is more valuable than a dress that’s $50 at regular price, or even $90. But this is not the right way to calculate the value of your clothing! The true price of an item is what it costs divided by how much you’ll actually wear it. For instance, I bought my red chiffon dress in a cute LES boutique 4.5 years ago for $90. At the time I felt unsure about buying something not on sale, and without “shopping around.” It was the only thing I tried on at the store. But over the years I’ve worn it at least 15 times to various special occasions–so cost per wear is just $6. Think hard about how much you’ll actually wear something, and invest in something regardless of whether it’s marked down.
2. Model your new acquisition on your previous successes.
Your first impulse might be to try something different. I’ve felt this way too about trying to get something distinctly different, as if to say: “this is a *new* dress! You, my friends, haven’t seen this one before!!” But usually purchases like these tend to not get the most wear. This time, I looked for a dress that echoes my favorite red dress with texture (matte or shiny), material (chiffon, satin, lace, ponte…), silhouette (A-line, hourglass, empire, sheath, shift…), length, and structure (flowy, form-fitting, or sculptural). Based on my old favorite, I really just needed a new dress that is chiffon, flowy, and reaches to mid-thigh, because I find it’s the best for my body type and honestly how comfortable I feel.
When in doubt about your “old favorite,” recall the outfit that got you a ton of compliments, or the one that you would wear to a hot date (meaning, this is the one you feel your best in!).
3. Spice things up with details and color.
#2 doesn’t mean you are going to end up buying the exact same dress. Feel free to mix things up with details–for example, a new neckline, a criss-cross or a plunging back, cut-outs, etc. Pick a different color from your signature palette and just go crazy! My new blush dress could be a sister of my old red one, just different enough to get me excited. (And it was the first and only dress I tried on this time too! Go figure).
4. Go at it one step at a time.
Trying to buy too many new things at once can be confusing and time-consuming–not to mention expensive. I remember every fall growing up, I’d buy a ton of cheap clothes because it was “Back to School” season–but you’re an adult and you don’t have to do that now! Buy one really satisfying piece and see how you feel after a few weeks. If you still need more updates, you can take care of them then. Create a mental wishlist for those items.
5. Shoes, bags, and accessories.
With subscription websites that deliver a new pair of shoes to your door every month, and others that send you couture bags for a few days’ borrowing privilege, it’s easy to feel that we need a lot of trendy new accessories to be well-dressed. But most of the time, these trendy pieces don’t fit well with the things you already have, because they’re designed to stand out, not to play a supporting role. Quality over quantity is paramount with accessories, even more so than with clothing. If you need a new update, go for investment pieces in classic form and color. Jewel tone shoes and bags look beautiful at the store, but will you really be wearing them with everything? Watch for the right heel height for you (mine- 4-4.5″) and check for your platform preference.
So how can you play with a new look? With accessories, the smaller it gets, the greater the freedom to play. For instance, your new carryall tote might not be the best thing to experiment with a brand new color for you. A scarf gets easier to manage. When it comes to little trinkets like earrings or a ring, feel free to let your adventurous side out. You might discover a new element to your signature style!
Do you have a favorite item in your wardrobe that needs an update? And what is on your wishlist lately?
Also see: How to Dress Like a Parisienne
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling