How to Cultivate Your Wardrobe in Each Life Stage
Are you a planner? Do you think through major endeavors before you start them to figure out goals, timelines and ideal results? Most people do this for their highest priorities – big work projects, buying a house, investing for retirement, etc. But have you ever thought about planning how to build your wardrobe? Yes, you should definitely have goals and a budget whenever you shop for clothes, but there are also strategies that you can employ as you develop a wardrobe throughout your life. I like to think of it as cultivating vs. collecting.
Collecting a wardrobe is what most people do – buying pieces that work at the moment, without much thought as to how they’ll coordinate with what’s already in your closet or how they’ll stand the test of time. But cultivating a wardrobe is another thing – it takes a few things into consideration:
- Knowing your style – what you like, what works on your body and what makes you feel good.
- Anything you buy should work with 3 things already in your closet – otherwise, you’ll need to buy something new to go with the first thing, and then another new thing – and that’s a dangerous shopping rabbit hole.
- 75% of your wardrobe should be your ‘basics’ – versatile, multi-functional styles that you can wear in a myriad of ways.
- 25% of your wardrobe can be your ‘fun’ pieces – items that are distinct, special, but may be a little harder to outfit (these are sometimes infinitely more memorable, so you may not wear them as often).
So how can you cultivate a wardrobe as you go through your 20’s, all the way to retirement?
25-35: EXPERIMENT, INVEST SELECTIVELY & DISCOVER WHAT YOU REALLY LIKE
For many people, when you’re in your late 20’s and early 30’s, you’re figuring out your career path, dating and enjoying a variety of people and pursuits. And that’s exactly what you can be doing with your wardrobe.
EXPERIMENT: This is the best time to try new things! So go ahead and try them – it’s an easy way to discover what you like and (often more importantly) what you don’t like. Did that ruffled blouse feel decent in the fitting room, but when you got home, it didn’t work with any of your favorite jackets? Then perhaps you’re not a ruffly person. But what about that bright striped top that you bought on a whim, that got so many compliments and adds spice to a bunch of outfits? That’s a definite win.
INVEST SELECTIVELY: You should always invest in your wardrobe wisely and selectively, but at this age, it’s probably prudent to invest in only the most versatile pieces. A well cut black leather jacket = great investment. A pink tulle skirt to wear to your friend’s birthday party = not a great investment.
DISCOVER WHAT YOU REALLY LIKE: The main purpose of experimenting is to figure out what you really like, what totally vibes with your style and what makes you feel amazing. And conversely, you’ll also find colors/prints/shapes/styles that you thought would be great, that just don’t seem to work.
35-50: OWN YOUR STYLE & MAKE LONG TERM INVESTMENTS
At this age, you’re most likely settled in a career (or on a clear path), possibly settled in a relationship, and hopefully enjoying your favorite things in life. You know who you are, what you want and are working to get it.
OWN YOUR STYLE: When you know what you like and what works for your lifestyle, body type and budget, making wardrobe decisions is so much easier. You no longer fall into the trap of shopping for the life you don’t have or dressing based on what other people think. I’m not saying that you need to have everything 100% figured out, but if you’ve done some homework, you have a clear idea on how you want to express yourself and the impression you want to make – so use these as a filter when shopping for new things, culling through your wardrobe, or just getting dressed in the morning.
MAKE LONG TERM INVESTMENTS: Clothing that you buy at this age can last the majority of your working life, so it pays to invest in timeless styles of good quality. And whenever you invest, think through cost per wear as a deciding factor. That $200 blouse that you’ll wear maybe 2-3 times a year? Probably not a good investment. The $600 blazer that you may grab 2-3 times a month? Probably a good investment. And be sure to consider quality over quantity – I’ve been in over 200 closets and I encounter many people that don’t think twice about buying five $50 tops, but balk at spending $250 on any one item.
50-65: DECIDE YOUR PRIORITIES & IGNORE OTHER PEOPLE’S RULES
As you get older, what’s important to you may become more evident. And it pays to reflect this in your wardrobe.
DECIDE YOUR PRIORITIES: Is comfort key in making you feel good? Then use that as a filter when you bring styles into your closet. Is being stylish a priority for you? Then buy what channels your inner fashionista. Is travel something you long to do more? Then find clothes that pack well and work in various environments.
IGNORE OTHER PEOPLE’S RULES: It’s true – as you get older, you care less about what other people think. I’m not saying to ignore the rules of appropriateness (no yoga pants at a cocktail party!), but don’t get caught up in what other people say you should/shouldn’t wear at your age.
And no matter how old you are, there are things that you should always do in regard to your style:
BUY THE BEST QUALITY YOU CAN AFFORD: This is a forever fashion guideline when you’re making investments in your wardrobe, no matter if the top of your budget for a jacket is $75 or $750.
TRY SOMETHING NEW ONCE A SEASON: Notice that I didn’t say, “buy something new” – because trying something new doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go shopping. You can wear a color combination that you’ve never worn (click here for 10 color combos that always work). You can pair prints or combine pieces from your closet in new and different ways (read this for a few ideas). Or you can layer necklaces and bracelets like you’ve never layered before.
DRESS TO PLEASE YOURSELF: This often gets easier as you get older, but the most important person you have to please is YOU. You need to like your reflection when you look in the mirror, because that’s the best way to start your day. And don’t you want to start your day in an amazing way?
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