How to Build a Wardrobe for Success: “Lusts” Vs “Musts”

How to Build a Wardrobe for Success:

“Lusts” Vs. “Musts” 

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One of my important missions as a Wardrobe Stylist is to help my clients curate a wardrobe that closely reflects their authentic style and lifestyle needs, and is equal parts effortless and chic. As a female entrepreneur and small business owner who lives in NYC (i.e. with limited closet space), I really appreciate the value of a well-balanced, versatile wardrobe that’s polished and ready for business and social needs – and has all the essentials without taking up too much space.

Over the years, I’ve been fine-tuning a formula to help my clients create a robust capsule wardrobe (which is a select number of pieces that all work together, creating a variety of looks). Check out my suggestions on how to create your own capsule wardrobe, including tips on what to consider when evaluating your big splurge options, what essentials to stock up on, and what finishing touches to add to your wardrobe to create cohesive outfits that are creative and polished.

BIG SPLURGES:

These may include: winter wool coat, rain coat, well-fitted blazer, power suit, leather jacket, classic handbag, winter leather boots, classic pumps, and timeless accessories – watch, bracelet, cocktail ring and necklace.

When you’re refreshing your wardrobe or building it from scratch, it’s best to invest in a few key pieces first. These will be your wardrobe staples for years to come, and will create the foundation for your outfits. Because they’ll be getting a lot of wear, I recommend you splurge on these select pieces as a way of “investing” in your wardrobe. One great concept to keep in mind when purchasing these big ticket items is estimating their “cost per wear”. This puts your purchases in perspective, and helps you think through whether you can wear them with multiple other things in your closet as a way to assess their versatility and therefore their “staying power” (in contrast to trendy items that risk turning into fads).

Additionally, I like to run the potential purchase through some check points to see if it passes as a viable “investment”. Here are a few criteria to evaluate the pricey pieces you’re considering purchasing:

Structure: This applies to the construction of the garment or accessory, as well as its design. Structured pieces have a sturdier, sometimes geometric look – so they appear more modern and have more longevity due to better craftsmanship.

Fabric: When it comes to coats and blazers, the “hand” of the fabric is important. This refers to whether it feels rough or soft, and whether it will feel good when you’re wearing it. Fiber content is also essential to determine both the durability of the piece and its clothing maintenance. Natural fibers and natural fiber blends breathe well and will last longer. Be sure to check the wash tag so you can properly factor in the cost of the item’s care – dry cleaning and upkeep will increase your item’s “cost-per-wear”.

Details: Linings made out of leather, canvas or other compressed and reinforced fabrics will be more expensive but will also last longer; and the seams of your garments should be sturdy. Other item details should also be durable and well-made, such as buttons, zippers and pockets. PRO-TIP: Patterns lining up right is a sign of good quality and is a detail to look out for!

Colors: If you’re shopping in the high-end category, look for colors that will complement your complexion or create an interesting contrast with your other wardrobe staples – you’ll get more wear out of those pieces. If you’re unsure about bold colors, neutrals are always safe – and never go out of style.

Classics: Typically, a classic is a piece that’s timeless, clean-cut and neutral. If you anticipate your big purchase will become a wardrobe classic, and you’ll be loving it for years to come, then go for it! Classics also create great foundations for your outfits so you can rely on to them to mix well with other pieces.

Trends: Fashion magazines, blogs, celebrity fashion and TV shows are great at embracing trends, which are exciting seasonal items carried by multiple stores. Some come and go, infrequently some become more accepted as classics and stand the test of time, or last a few seasons or years. While it’s fun to experiment with the latest seasonal updates, if you’re splurging, you should focus on the items that you can wear often. Trends are also tricky because they don’t always universally complement every body type. If you’re considering incorporating a trend into your wardrobe, it’s safer to do so with seasonal accessories and less expensive buys (more on that below).

24 Hour Cooling Period: I always try to purchase my splurge items at a store with a good return policy – I don’t want to be stricken with buyer’s remorse a week later and be stuck with the piece. Additionally, I always do the “do I still want it tomorrow” test whenever I’m not 100% certain at the time of purchase. In that case, I’ll put the item on hold and go home. If I keep thinking about it when I get home and the day after, I’ll return to the store and make the purchase.

Courtesy of Ralph Lauren:

ESSENTIALS:

These may include: silky blouse, A-line skirt, shift dress, sheath dress, pencil skirt, cropped blazer, booties, flats, dark skinny jeans, cowl neck sweater, classic or cropped pants.

What are the staple basics that should live in your closet to make it a well-rounded, polished wardrobe of a successful business lady? I’ve included some suggestions below, and keep in mind that while these aren’t your big splurge items, they will still be worn a lot, so good quality is a must. Another tip: this is the category where you can double-up and have multiple options of same/similar styles as they will become your outfit formula go-to’s.

Silky Blouse: Equally feminine and polished and pairs well with a suit for a meeting or interview, a pair of jeans for a night out, or tucked into a skirt for an office look. Also, this is a much more exciting option than the button down, which can oftentimes feel stiff and masculine. Invest in some good neutrals (off-white, crisp white, camel and gray) but also don’t be afraid to add a few colors and patterns into the mix.

A-Line or Pencil Skirt: Both silhouettes are timeless and should fit most figure types. A high-waisted option is perfect for elongating your legs and cinching your waist to bring attention to your narrowest part. 

Cropped Blazer: Another great way to add attention to your waist is through a shorter jacket that ends around your waist line, and pairs well with a silky blouse underneath for a casual/fun weekend look.

Booties: Choosing pairs that are slightly pointy rather than rounded will allow them to be more versatile and elegant, elongating your legs through the power of vertical line. They are also a great alternative to pumps – especially if you find ones with a block heel for more stability.

Courtesy of Stuart Weitzman

Courtesy of Rag&Bone

Flats: A nice pair of leather flats can polish off a cute yet casual outfit. They go great with skinny jeans, cropped pants or an A-Line skirt for when you want to give your feet a break.

Cropped Pants: A slightly shorter silhouette that tapers towards the ankles is very flattering and goes well with different types of shoes – from pumps to flats and booties. Choose colors that will wear well for a variety of looks: navy, gray, dark green and maroon are all good choices.

Sheath Dress: A super flattering shape that is both professional and glamorous. For a variety of looks, choose some with prints and interesting details (belt, seams, yokes) and some that are solid, one-color pieces.

Shift Dress: Less conforming than the sheath dress, this silhouette is ideal for camouflaging certain body parts (stomach area, for example) as it tends to be more straight-cut. This shape lends itself to a more casual feel – you can pair it with leggings and boots, or belt it to cinch at the waist for a more professional, polished outfit.

Dark Skinny Jeans: While it’s fun to have a variety of jeans in your wardrobe, dark denim always looks more polished and the skinny silhouette is timeless and ageless. I like to recommend premium denim to my clients as it will give you more wear for your money (and you can often find it on sale or at off-price retailers, like Saks Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack and Century 21).

Tank tops, stockings and foundation garments: These are your base-level necessities. They are great for layering, and will get a lot of wear, so they’ll need occasional replacements. It’s ok to spend less on these or get them on sale as they will be somewhat transitional. It is, however, important to get properly fitted for bras – as they can change the way your clothes fit, and a great bra can take an ok-fitting look to a fantastic-looking outfit.

FINISHING TOUCHES:

These may include: colorful scarves, fashion jewelry, makeup, gloves.

Courtesy of Club Monaco

I like to recommend updating this category every season to keep your wardrobe fresh and exciting. Once you’ve had your main splurges and staples figured out, these items will fill in the gaps and elevate your outfits, as well as add variety to your looks. This is a great place to experiment with some trends and add more color to your wardrobe.

If you have any specific questions about your wardrobe and how to create a more customized action plan for a refresh or building it from scratch, please don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule a one-on-one Style Development Session at my studio!

Dina Scherer

Dina Scherer is a Certified NYC Image & Wardrobe Stylist, Personal Shopper, and owner of Modnitsa Styling. Over the past 9 years she's been helping women define & polish their authentic style & build a wardrobe that makes them feel confident every day.

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