Whether it’s because you’ve had a baby, made a major geographical or career move, just accomplished a fitness goal, or simply just grown up, many people reach a point where they need to start completely over with their wardrobe.
I know plenty of people who have no problem making room or finding a way to live with clothes they don’t wear. For some people, giving away things is harder than keeping them. But I hate having a closet full of things I hate, that don’t fit, or that I don’t ever wear. So when I was done having kids and my body had (more or less) returned to normal, I began a closet makeover.
At first I was intimidated. I had never before had the opportunity to build my closet from the ground up in a way that made sense. It had always been a haphazard collection of things I found on sale that I thought I could put together in some way that made sense. But now, I didn’t have time to waste combing sales racks for a buried gem or searching for awesome deals.
First, I needed to know what staples I needed in my closet, and how much to buy of each item. Then, I needed to know where to spend money and where to skimp. Third, I needed some practicality. Several lists out there offer none, unless you’re a character on a soap opera or Sex in the City. One blogger offered a list of must-haves she bought after she got rid of everything she had—leaving her with only 78 items in her closet to build from. Oh, the horror!
Here are the bare bones that your wardrobe can be built on—but before you buy anything, you need to think about color. Pick one palette of four to five colors that all coordinate if you’re going to buy these items and nothing else. If this is your base, then choose your colors and begin to add patterns and prints based on your initial palette after you buy the basics.
- Soft sweater
- Oxford shirt
- Mini Skirt
- Pencil skirt
- Neutral tee
- Bold tee
- Striped long-sleeve tee
- Jean Jacket
- Leather jacket
- Bootcut jeans
- Skinny jeans
- Wrap dress
- Black dress
What you spend on any of these items can depend on many factors, such as if you work or stay home. These days, I get the most use out of my jeans, so I would be inclined to spend more money there to get a great pair that will look great and keep their shape. I also wear flats much more now, so I’d probably spend more money on those and less on the heels.
Climate also plays a big factor. When I lived in Texas, I probably wouldn’t have even invested in a peacoat—the jean and leather jackets would have gotten me through winter just fine. I would have also bought a cardigan instead of a cashmere sweater, since most days the sweater would be off by lunchtime. Now, a leather jacket and sweater would probably get the most use.
Adaptations aside, I think this is a very practical list. It’s a great place to start from, unlike the list I found in New York Magazine that included a silk blouse, five different kinds of purses, a ton of shoes, and three different shapes of sunglasses.
I’m sure those are all well and good when you are hoping to bump into HONY every day on your way to work, but in the Real World, I’ve got to stick to fabrics I can wash snot off of.
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who is trying to find time for fashion once again so she can teach her girls to put together proper outfits when they outgrow their love of monochromatic outfits, dressing like favorite cartoon characters and headbands with animal ears.