A survey done by Weight Watchers last year revealed that UK shoppers own about £10 billion worth of clothes that they don’t wear, which works out per person at about £200 worth of unworn clothes just sitting in our wardrobes.
I’ll hold my hand up to being one of these people. My wardrobe was bursting with clothes, yet every day I struggled to find something to wear. I knew I needed a sartorial streamline so here’s how I learnt how to make the most of what I had, buy less and still look stylish…
Step one: Get sorting
It’s reckoned that we wear 20% of what’s in our wardrobes 80% of the time, so how do you make the most of what you already have? The first step is get all Marie Kondo with your wardrobe. Yes, it takes time, but setting aside a morning or evening to do this will make you feel better. Bin anything you’ve not worn in six months (if you can’t bear to bin it, store it somewhere else and see if you miss it). Dump anything that doesn’t fit. If it’s too big you can have it taken in, but things that are too small and have been languishing in your wardrobe for months or years need to go. Store any stuff that has great sentimental value, but you don’t wear.
Once you’ve done the dumping, it’s time to get sorting. Organising your wardrobe has two major benefits. Firstly, you can actually see what you own. Secondly, you’ll probably realise – as I did – your addiction to stripey tees is out of control.
I organise my clothes by category – e.g. dresses, trousers, jumpers etc – but a friend of mine has a rainbow wardrobe, where everything is ordered by colour. Both have their merit – choose what works best for you.
Step two: Look at what you have
Reorganising things may make you see some outfit ideas you’d not noticed before, so you’re immediately getting more out of your ‘drobe without stepping into a shop. Bonus! Setting some time aside to try on some new combos is also a great idea for easy dressing in the morning. One of the reasons we always go for what we know is that it saves time, so create a few new favourite looks when you have the time to save reaching for the old favourites.
Really take a hard look at what you own. One of my pet hates is keeping ‘best for best’. Yes, you may have bought that gorgeous spot midi dress for a wedding but why not wear it at the weekend? Throw on a polo neck underneath and add some converse and you’ve got a lovely brunch-ready outfit. There are always many ways you can wear things so try, try and try again.
With everything organised, you can also see the gaps in your wardrobe. Like I said, my gaps were definitely not Breton tees or jeans – I have enough to open up a shop on both those accounts – but I only had one pair of trousers and no smart/casual blouses. Now I make sure I avoid the stripes and denim when I go shopping – however hard it is!
Finally, mend anything you really love. I will not be seen on Sewing Bee anytime soon but I have found someone locally who is a whizz with the sewing machine and has fixed zips and taken in clothes for me. I also created a fab midi dress from a maxi I no longer wore – small changes can make you fall in love with your clothes again.
Step three: Shopping
Right, it’s time to go shopping. However, if you don’t want a wardrobe bursting at the seams, keep the ‘one in, one out’ rule in mind. If you buy something new, you need to get rid of something you already have. Not only does this save you cash - you’ll think twice when you know you have to ditch something - but it also means your wardrobe won’t get to the overflow stage again!
When shopping for new stuff, keep the following in mind to ensure you don’t make unnecessary purchases…
Dress for the life you have: Yes, those red four-inch stiletto courts are practically waving at you from the shelves, but are they compatible with your life. Of course, we should all have those fun, frivolous purchases in the wardrobe, but they should realistically make up about 5-10% of what you own, not be the mainstay.
Buy for versatility: What will your new item of clothing go with that you already own? And can you wear it in different ways by adding accessories or other items of clothing? Tick those boxes and you’re onto a winner!
Create your own uniform: Style should be creative, but with busy lives it’s hard to do that, so create a ‘uniform’ that suits your personality and lifestyle. My go to is jeans, a tee and a blazer, which can be dressed up or dressed down. Obviously I do wear other things, but it’s a look I go back to time and time again, plus I can add trend-led items – such as a bright colour blazer or slogan tee - to change it up.
Choose quality over quantity: Do you need five black jumpers? Probably not – one quality jumper that will endure wear and tear is probably better. Don’t always think that expensive is better though. My most worn winter wardrobe essential is a black polo neck from Primark. I wear it all the time and five years later, it still looks good. The key to it lasting the distance is to look after it properly – I only wash it when it really needs it and then I make sure I use the gentlest washing and ironing settings.
Move around in it: Sounds obvious but it’s not something we necessarily do when we try on clothes. This is why I love online shopping. You can not only try items on with clothes you already own, but you can also really move around in it. Sit down, stand up, dance a bit. That skirt you thought you loved may not make it into your shopping bag when you realise the slit shows off too much leg when you sit down or walk a bit fast!
Take a selfie: It’s not one you need to share but sometimes seeing a photo of yourself in the item, can change how you feel about it. I’m not sure why this works but it does. You might notice it’s a bit transparent or that it actually makes your waist look amazing – things the mirror alone may not show.
Step 4: Invest in classic pieces
Yeah, it’s not as exciting as buying leopard print jeans, but these are the items that will help bring everything else together. However, classic doesn’t have to be mean boring, choose those with a twist.
Megan Markle knows the power of a crisp white shirt, but you don’t have to stick to a boring button down. Features such as ruffles and lace add a little bit of style to an ordinary blouse, which will look great with jeans, skirts, trousers or even under dresses.
A simple jumper or sweatshirt
This is your go to – wear it with jeans or a pleated skirt. It will literally take you from day to night with just a change of accessories. Choose neutral shades like navy, black or beige and go for something with a little bit of detail to stand out of the crowd.
A midi skirt
If you don’t want to worry about flashing your bum or showing off your thighs, stick to a midi length skirt. You don’t have to stick to basic black – if you want a pattern, choose a darker one so that it’s easier to mix and match. Or go for our favourite – leopard print – and team with colours such as black, navy and even mustard for a stylish look.
A stripe tee
Even if you’re pattern-phobic, stripes are a great go-with-everything. They look brilliant with jeans and an army jacket for the weekend or popped under a blazer and teamed with a pencil skirt. They even go with leopard print and florals – trust us, it does work!
A wear with everything jacket
Whether you go for a blazer or a biker jacket, this is the one item to spend a bit more on. Chuck it on over everything and look instantly polished!
Day to night jeans
Hands up if you hate jeans shopping? Us too, which is why we recommend you go into a store and try on every style. Then once you’ve found your dream style, stick to it! While skinnies are still very much around, the new straight leg is super flattering. Oh, and high waists are brilliant for sucking everything in!
A wrap dress
This is the one shape that pretty much suits everyone. The great thing with a style like this is you can dress it up or down. I wear a polo neck under mine in the winter to get extra style mileage out of it!