Building a Wardrobe :: The Sizzle Pieces

This post is part of a series I'm currently exploring - how to build a wardrobe. I'm slowly learning how to curate the perfect closet to transition from my 20s to 30s and taking you guys on the journey with me. You can catch up here.

So, you've got the basics down. There's plenty in your closet to build a clean palette for almost any outfit. If you were to stop there, you'd be considered a minimalist. Some people look seriously chic in nothing but basics, but what about those of us who want to inject a little more personality into our wardrobes? That's where the sizzle pieces come in.

I wish I had a better word for this. Statement pieces? Personality pieces? Fun stuff?? My biggest problem in the past was buying too many sizzles and not enough basics, so I ended up with an eclectic but ultimately unwearable closet. One can only accumulate so many tribal printed mini skirts before she realizes her current system isn't working.

So today we'll be going over not only what a sizzle piece is, but how to choose and buy them, and how to fit them into your current wardrobe.

When you first start building a wardrobe, it's important that you focus on more timeless, classic pieces and rely on accessories to put personality into your outfits. It's tempting to blow half a month's rent on a Rachel Zoe fur vest just because everyone and their mom is wearing one this fall, but that ties up funds that you probably needed for classic pumps or pants for work. Once you've established a great base to start with, you can start focusing on the fun.

What's a sizzle piece?

I define it as anything that you couldn't wear every day without someone noticing. Some of my recent purchases include my bright red midi skirt or my pink tweed moto jacket. They're both amazing, but I'd never wear them two days in a row. Black pants, on the other hand, I could wear for an entire week and I doubt anyone would bat an eye. Sizzle pieces are the personality of your wardrobe. They're a great way to play with your look and define your style. If you're a jacket person (I definitely am!), you could add bright layers with interesting details as your sizzle pieces. If you love shoes, you could collect unique styles to add a some zing to neutral outfits. Using your wardrobe basics, you can construct an outfit around a stand-out piece fairly easily; the main thing you want to avoid is wearing all of your sizzles together. That's a look that's less chic and more bag lady for 99% of us. I'm not saying it's un-doable, but for the average gal like me and you that doesn't want to look like a crazy person, it's advisable to wear them sparingly.

How do you pick them?

Here's how I choose my sizzle pieces. I wait for things that get my heart racing. Much like buying basics, you have to wait for the right deal and the right piece rather than impulse buying. I mull over my purchases very carefully now, as long as there's no champagne in my system. Just tonight, I kept re-adding a purse into my cart on Gilt to reserve it (probably at least 20 times) while I researched the crap out of it to make up my mind. If you're as discerning with your fun half of your wardrobe as you have been with the basics, you'll curate an enviable closet in no time.

Sizzle pieces don't have to last forever. In fact, it's almost better if your closet is a constant revolving door. Sell or donate things as you grow tired of them to make room for new pieces. This part of your closet can be full of trendy items, bright colors, crazy patterns, and unique shapes. This is also where you'll want to reflect a bit of your style personality. Feeling girly? Put a bow on it. If you want to play with edgier styles, consider adding something studded to your collection. To me, the sizzle is all about having fun with your fashion.

How much should you spend on sizzle pieces?

This depends entirely on A) Your budget and B) How you long you plan on keeping things. Super trendy pieces (currently, things like crop tops, fringe vests, and graphic tees) should be bought on the cheap if possible. I never mind donating a piece from Forever 21 after a year or two of wear once I get tired of it, but if I'd spent a small fortune I'd be hesitant to sell or give away. That's how you end up with a closet stuffed full of stuff you don't even wear! If a trendy or bold piece seems like it'll play out fairly quickly, go cheap. If it's something more timeless (I'd claim my midi skirt applies), it's okay to spend a little and keep it for years to come. You can also spend on bold designer pieces if you have in mind you'll sell them after you start to grow tired of them. Don't go TOO cheap though. Certain fabrics just have a cheap look about them, so choose wisely.

Now add them to your basics.

This should be the easy part. Let's say you just bought the most amazing floral print blazer. Ideally, it would go with most of the bottoms in your closet. Black pants, pencil skirt, dark jeans, or over a simple shift. Next, you pick up some adorable blue and green polka dot pants. Great news! It goes with your classic white button up, looks great with a chic blazer, and works weekends with a slouchy grey tee. You see where I'm going with this? I like to build my outfits around the fun piece 95% of the time. Start with the piece that's hardest to pair and add your basics around it.

Looking at the photo above, every outfit is not only ultra-wearable, but fun. If you already have a closet full of basics you love, adding a piece with a little personality on top should be a piece of cake...with frosting and sprinkles, of course. You just have to do the grown up stuff first before you can have all the fun.

The series continues in a couple of weeks! Next up: lifestyle changes. It's the biggest blow your wardrobe can take, and we're gonna tackle it together.