Start Building an Intentional Wardrobe

 

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
The three primary pieces you see here are all on my wardrobe checklist: drapey black cardigan, dark skinny jeans, and black rain boots.

This post could also be titled “Start Building a Wardrobe Instead of Hoarding a Bunch of Things in Your Closet.” With new styles coming out every season, it’s easy to get caught up in trends and start buying pieces. However, unless you have a pretty big bank account, buying individual pieces or outfits gets expensive fast. Instead, by shopping intentionally, you’ll find that the same budget will get you further.

After making my own wardrobe checklist, I’ve recently been focusing my search on sweaters for Seattle’s chilly days. As a petite, I find that “oversized” sweaters are often far too big on my body with comparatively tight arms. Unfortunately, I tried on far too many sweaters that were too thin, draped oddly, etc.. Finally, I stumbled upon this color-blocked drape-front cardigan at Eddie Bauer. I’m wearing an XS in the “Women’s Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater,” which is available in two other color combinations, including a rich merlot red called deep garnet. (It’s currently 25% off too!)

This style is more forgiving than other sweater shapes. Most importantly, I found that the sleeves were fitted without being too tight, and the grey color helps minimize the volume of fabric in the front. The fabric is substantial without being itchy, and the merino wool gives it some breathability. It’s also machine washable (yes!).

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
While a piece with as much fabric as this draped sweater won’t be the most slimming thing in the world, I like that the color block changes just below my natural waist, adding a little more definition.
Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with delicate, minimalist silver dot necklace from Silver Cup Studios on Etsy.
I see myself snuggling up in this sweater as things get chillier and tossing it on over my other wardrobe essentials.

I paired my black and grey acquisition with minimal silver jewelry, including my silver dot necklace from Etsy. As you can see below, I’m also wearing my black and silver (see a trend here?) Fossil Georgia watch, which nested nicely under the fitted but not too tight sleeves. I also have the sleeves cuffed slightly where there is a difference in texture, but someone with longer arms could leave them uncuffed.

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
This petite-friendly cardigan is going to take me into fall by adding a warm layer to my existing base layers.

Now, here’s how I’m building my intentional wardrobe and how you can too!

0. Put down the card.

With online shopping, snatching up new clothing now takes under thirty seconds. The first step is to stop buying individual pieces and focus on creating a cohesive wardrobe of items that work together.

I know I’m guilty of making “desperation purchases” (seizing the first thing you find when under a deadline), but these items rarely make it into my regular rotation. Instead, they often spend a lot of time in the back of my bottom drawer. That’s a waste of money! Right now, I’m pledging to myself to stop doing that. You should join me.

1. Figure out what you like.

Congratulations! If you’re here, you’re probably already reading blogs and following bloggers. I follow plenty of bloggers who have amazing style that just doesn’t line up with my own.  That’s okay. Focus on the bloggers who have style you could actually see yourself wearing. Classic looks are always in style, and you can modernize the basics with a trend here or there, such as adding a bell-sleeved sweater for this fall.

Also take into account what shapes you feel comfortable wearing — don’t bother adding pencil skirts if you’d never wear them. There are plenty of pieces I love on someone else that I wouldn’t on myself.

Pin your favorite outfits and figure out what the common elements are. Is there a common theme or color scheme? For example, I find myself drawn to outfits which consist primarily or entirely of neutrals: black, white, tan, grey, and denim blues. Check out my inspiration board here.

2. Make a list.

Of course, you’ll always have some pieces which don’t strictly fit into your new wardrobe scheme. That’s totally fine. I’m certainly not going to give up my burgundy skirt because it’s not in the neutral palette! You can also omit special occasion clothing (unless you get fancy on a regular basis) and workout gear (unless you’re going for an athleisure look). Remember to include work appropriate apparel if you need weekday outfits that meet a certain look or criteria.

That said, make a list of the core of your intentional wardrobe. I love blue ball point pens and lined paper for getting the creative juices flowing, but I then transferred the list over to a spreadsheet to move things around and organize a little more.

a. Figure out how much you’d like.

How many items and what should be on your list is really up to you. Jesica of Classic in Gray just did a great post on this. Think about how frequently you want to recycle the same looks and how often you do laundry. Those in hot and humid climates probably won’t get away with multiple wears of base layers the way someone in a cool climate might.

b. Figure out what your staples are.

Maybe you’ll happily rock the same great booties all season long. Maybe you’re happy wearing the same tops but like to mix it up with your bottoms. Personally, I’m happy with a few great bottoms that I mix up with a greater variety of tops. Bottoms can be reworn more frequently and are often more expensive, so this is a win-win in the laundry and budget departments.

Figure out what your staple items should be (hint: you’ve probably already got some of them in your closet) and build out from there. Pinterest is a great place to find lists that will help you determine what kinds of pieces work well together.  I like this “50 Classics for Your Closet” list for ideas, even if it’s not item-for-item my style.

c. Don’t forget underwear, outerwear, and accessories.

A great jacket can really define your wardrobe in cooler temps, so remember to add gear appropriate to your geography to your list. Similarly, undergarments are the foundation of a wardrobe. Therefore, add items like tanks, bras, and bralettes to your list, keeping in mind what would pair with your intended tops and dresses.

3. Check off what you already have.

If you don’t own any of the items on your wardrobe wishlist, that’s a red flag that your plan may not be realistic about what you’re comfortable wearing. You probably own multiple of your staple items, so that’s part of your focused wardrobe already available to you! You may also want to evaluate these items to determine whether they are in good condition and fit well or need to be replaced (holes happen, unfortunately).

4. Shop strategically and be patient.

If you don’t already have a monthly or similarly regular budget, make one first! Once you have an idea of what you can spend, think about your target price range per type of item. I’m willing to spend a little more per item for better quality. That said, I still have a price at which I’ll balk and walk away. I also tend to stick things in my bag or on my wishlist and wait until they go on sale. The great thing about being intentional is that you can better figure out where to splurge and where to save.

As a petite woman who doesn’t buy many overly trendy items, the items in my cart don’t usually sell out before going on sale. I also sign up for the lists for my favorite stores, so I can jump on sales when they happen. Also pay attention to your items after you buy them. I’ve gotten as much as $40 back after asking for a price adjustment on a big purchase that went even more on sale after I bought it.

5. Keep reevaluating.

You may never have everything crossed off your list, but it’s important to periodically reevaluate all the goals in your life, including this one.

 

What’s on your intentional wardrobe wishlist? What’s that one item on which your closet depends? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Best of luck, lovelies!

-Casey

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