Closet Confessions :: Building a Wardrobe

Today's post is half budget, half closet related. Over the past year, I've been working on sorting my budget out (update :: I suck at budgets) and building a closet full of things I love, want to wear, and that will last for years to come. It's a coming of age story of sorts, and you can catch up here.

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Since my last post, I've done a lot of soul searching and ACTUAL searching (on Google) to try and discover what my style is. I thought the Uniform Concept was going to be the winner, but after a 30 for 30 challenge of nothing BUT a capsule wardrobe chock full of uniform potential, I've weeded that out as a contender. I crave far too much variety and excitement in my wardrobe to stick to a basic uniform concept. We tried, we failed. Moving on.

I did discover from the uniform concept that I love building outfits out of basics and adding the AJ touch with more interesting and exciting pieces. But I need the balance of the ultra-wearable basics to make the more "fun" pieces re-wearable. Because let's face it - fashion IS fun, but it has to be functional too (I know, I know. Boring). Plus, who wants to buy things that they only wear once? I'll never understand that - I want a closet full of favorites that I can't wait to wear over and over again. I've started taking notes on the pieces I grab the most often to try and determine what it is that makes a piece a "favorite". Is it fabric? Fit? Color? Once I can determine a pattern, I can edit my buying habits to reflect that.

So, I started searching for my next closet experiment fix. I just finished reading Lessons from Madame Chic, a charming little guide to life from a woman who spent a semester in Paris, which led me to start researching French wardrobe concepts. How do they always look so darn chic? Short of picking up the accent, I was going to find out. This is how I stumbled on the 5-Piece French Wardrobe Concept.

I'm unaware of who originated the idea, but the rules are fairly simple. Build a wardrobe of basics that are high quality, classic items, and then splurge each season (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter) on five pieces to inject some personality and style into your wardrobe. The concept is that you spend more time thoughtfully assessing what your wardrobe is missing, and make calculated purchases each season rather than just wandering the mall picking up random stuff.

The discipline it would require to only add five items (beyond basics, which are always allowed) to my wardrobe each season is something I'm not sure I even have in me, but using the bare bones of this idea, I'm going to construct my buying list and budget around this list.

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So rather than basing my budget on a monetary value this year (I do a lot of freelance work, so I rarely know how much or how little I'm going to make) I'm basing my budget on the items in my wardrobe that need replacing, upgrading, and the ones that are missing.

I turn 30 this year, so this is serving kind of as my list of what I think a grown up, sophisticated lady would need. Don't worry, I'm still going to have fun with my wardrobe and buy things that I love, but I think there's a lot of value in building a solid basic wardrobe that you can wear any day, every day, for years to come. I've adapted the original french wardrobe list to accommodate MY lifestyle needs (ie, added shorts) and I'll be keeping track this year of how far I get on this list. If I discover something on this list that won't be worn often or won't fit my wardrobe needs, out it goes! I'll also be continuing to purge old items as well. I plan on doing an update on that in the next month or so, but I'm feeling ruthless after recently discovering how much I appreciate higher quality items. Forever 21 is going to lose a lot of revenue from me. I used to go in there on payday and drop $150 on crap I hardly even wore! Wouldn't it be better to spend $150 on a blouse or two made from gorgeous material that made me feel amazing and beautiful every time I wore it? Duh.

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So in January and February, I've already made a bit of a dent in this list. I picked up a black suit from The Limited that I love, and the pants are doubling as my black trousers. Turns out, I adore wearing black ankle pants. They're chic, comfortable, and make almost any top look polished. I ordered sneakers from Kate Spade to replace my sad Converse, which arrived today. I had bought the perfect black skirt at Kate Spade in December that definitely will take my black skirt spot, and finally upgraded my leather jacket during a Dillard's clearance sale last week! I did a semester in Australia when I was in school, and I remember my mother let me borrow her leather jacket for the trip. It was absolutely one of my favorite (and most essential) items I brought on the trip, and I've always wanted to upgrade my many cheap faux jackets to a classic one I could wear for many years to come (I chose one from Kenneth Cole).

I plan on updating you on my latest purge soon, and will continue to run down what items from the list I've added each month, but what I would like to know from you is - are you interested in the monetary value of any items I've accumulated, or rather just what they are? I only ask because I've done budgeting blogging in the past and I DO appreciate the concept of bloggers being up-front with their spending so people don't think it's normal to excessively buy buy buy constantly. While I DO plan on buying higher quality, sometimes designer (and therefore - higher priced) items, I also plan on being smart about it and waiting for sales, coupon codes, and shopping around (or using ebates). So if this is something you guys are interested in (ie, what's the cost of building a wardrobe) I can certainly address that as well.

I really enjoy continuing to explore my style on this blog, and I've loved having you guys along for the ride. My hope is not only that I discover the wardrobe style that's right for me, but that I help other 20 and 30 somethings struggling with the transition from a scattered young adult into a sophisticated one.