A guide to buying less, shopping better and transforming your look in the process
The past two years have proven to be a very unique period of time for everybody. Much of our lives – from where we work and how we holiday to who we can see and what we're permitted to do – has changed enormously. Within this, less importantly but just as drastically, our approach to what we wear each day has also faced a transformation.
Whether you've been living in your loungewear or have been online shopping more than ever before, there have been plenty of changes in our approach to fashion this year. But, one positive of having more time at home on our hands is that we have had an opportunity to evaluate what we really need in our wardrobes – and a new year is the perfect time to figure out what should stay, and what should go.
From holding on to old clothes that never get worn to panic-buying pieces that won't have more than one outing, we are all guilty of making less than sensible decisions when it comes to our wardrobes. But, it doesn't have to be that way.
1. Don’t buy something for just one occasion
We’re all guilty of it. A wedding, a birthday party, a Friday night reunion dinner with your friends. Heading somewhere exciting means we inevitably feel like we need something special – and therefore something new – to wear. However, more often than not, as much as we like the piece that we buy, it rarely gets more than one outing.
Instead of purchasing something specific for certain events, try to have a few dressier pieces in your wardrobe that are more versatile. If you go for something simple and more classic, rather than trend-led, you’ll be able to wear it again and again. Accessorised cleverly, it will never feel like the same look.
2. Don’t buy or keep something that doesn’t fit
It’s not uncommon to hold on to items that no longer fit you in the hope that they will again one day. It’s also not uncommon to buy something in a size too small as an incentive to lose weight or because it’s in the sale and they don’t have your usual size. However, holding on to these items – that you can’t physically wear – is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to reduce the size of your wardrobe. Be realistic and honest with yourself. If it doesn’t fit you, it's time to sell or donate it.
3. Don’t buy or keep something that doesn’t suit you
As well as holding onto things that don’t fit, many of us keep pieces that we know don’t suit us. Often we’ve bought something on a whim because it’s a big trend or because we saw someone else wearing it and thought they looked amazing – but because it just doesn't suit us, we've never actually taken it out of the cupboard. If a piece of clothing doesn’t make you feel confident and comfortable, it has no place in your life.
4. Don’t buy something just because it’s a bargain
It’s easy to be won over by a big discount, and you should make the most of huge markdowns – especially when it comes to investment designer pieces – but only if that piece is something that you really need to add to your arsenal. Never buy something just because it’s a great deal. No matter how affordable it was, if you never wear it, it’s a complete waste of money.
5. When you buy something, get rid of something else
An excellent way to keep your wardrobe at a sensible size is to adopt the one-in, one-out policy: every time you add something new, take a piece out (and sell it or donate it to charity). Not only will it keep your rails and shelves from overflowing, it also means you have to be much more confident about what you are purchasing. You’ll never buy something unless you completely love it, knowing that you are going to have to lose something special from your wardrobe.
6. Clothes swap with your most stylish friends
One great way of keeping your wardrobe feeling fresh is to swap pieces with friends. Operate your one-in, one-out policy by getting rid of something that you haven't worn in months and trading it for a piece your friend has got bored of wearing (but you have always had an eye on). Whether you host clothes-swap parties with a big group or just have a deal with one friend, trading clothes is a great way of having an exciting wardrobe without spending any money or doing any further damage to the environment.
7. Don’t go on extravagant shopping sprees
Often we get stuck in style ruts, feel like we hate everything in our wardrobes and have nothing to wear. When this happens, more often than not, we go on a big shopping spree and end up spending huge amounts of money on exactly these trend-led items that end up sitting in our wardrobes forever, never being worn. Don’t let it get to this point. Instead, keep an eye out all-year round for pieces that you love and make a note of the things that you are lacking when you realise it. Think of it as a constant and evolving process, rather than going back to square one every few months. Allowing yourself to buy one really nice piece every month, rather than having two huge shopping sprees a year will likely result in much better thought-out decisions and, as a result, a far more stylish wardrobe.
8. Make an effort to discover new brands
Another reason we get stuck into style ruts is because we get attached to and comfortable with certain shops. It’s great to have your core favourites who you trust and you know last well, but there are always so many new, amazing brands hitting the market that are waiting to be discovered. From high-end designer labels to more affordable mid-range brands, keep exploring all year round. You’ll end up with some truly special, stylish finds (that – bonus – nobody else has).
9. Make some tough decisions
Nobody likes throwing things away. To part with a piece of clothing sometimes means letting go of memories, which can be really tough to do. However, there’s no need to hold on to everything you’ve ever loved, especially if it’s something you haven’t worn for decades. If you really can’t bear to part with something, put it on trial and see how many times you wear it in the next six months. If it doesn’t see an outing, it's officially time for it to go.
10. Create a uniform
One of the big misconceptions about being stylish is that you should never buy something similar to what you already own. Of course, nobody aims to have an entire wardrobe consisting only of 15 navy blue jumpers and 10 identical pairs of black skinny jeans. However, don’t be afraid to make the most of the knowledge of what suits you. All of the most stylish women in the world have their own uniform – they keep it simple, they know what they look good in and they stick to this formula when they’re choosing new pieces.
11. Know your wardrobe inside out
It sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget what's sitting in our wardrobes – and, for many of us, there will be great pieces hidden away that haven't seen the light of day for years, or that will have been forgotten about during lockdown. So, before you go ahead and buy something new, make sure that you have a very clear idea of what is in your wardrobe already. If you have a clear-out and declutter, you will know what's in there and this will prevent you from accidentally buy things you don't need.
12. Invest in what you already own
So many of us are guilty of throwing pieces away as soon as they are damaged, but just because something is a little worn does not mean it needs to be discarded. Invest in the pieces that you already have in your wardrobe by knowing where to get things fixed in your local area, from a great seamstress to shoe and handbag restoration companies. It is worth spending a little bit of money to get things fixed rather than re-buying the same thing time and time again.
13. Embrace rental fashion
Thanks to a growth in awareness about sustainability, it has never been easier to rent clothes, with huge growth in the number of fashion-rental companies available. Renting instead of buying is a great way of getting yourself a more stylish wardrobe for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can frequently feel that you are wearing something new, which is great for those special occasions, like weddings or parties, where you may previously have bought a one-occasion outfit. Another advantage is that you can be a little more adventurous with what you try – you may step out of your style comfort zone and find great pieces that would have been too afraid to buy.
14. If you're not sure about a piece's wearability, try the hanger trick
At the beginning of the season, place all your hangers in the same direction. Each time you wear a piece, turn the hanger the other way. Very quickly within the season you will see what you wear and what you don't. Women usually only wear 40 to 60 per cent of their wardrobe, according to Vestiaire Collective co-founder Fanny Moizant, who swears by this hanger trick – see more of her wardrobe detox tips here.
15. Don't underestimate the power of a capsule wardrobe
To be truly stylish does not take a huge budget or three walk-in wardrobes worth of designer clothes – you don't need a lot to look good. What you do need though, is to make good, sensible decisions. Buy what you need, buy what makes you feel great and hold on to nothing more. And look after your clothes. You can do it in just 15 pieces. Don't believe us? See how to build a capsule wardrobe below.
Just think of the space you'll save.