I used to buy whatever struck my fancy and fell beneath a certain price point, but that left me with a collection of items that were impractical and didn’t necessarily work with one another. It was an exciting wardrobe - until I had to put together an outfit. Then, I’d spend hours trying to find combinations that were work-appropriate, but still conveyed my aesthetic. I seem to have less and less time every year to shop and then dress myself, so I evolved a few rules to make shopping, and thus dressing, less complex.
1. Limited color palette
2. Patterns for interest
3. Natural fibers
4. Comfortable shoes
5. Mental wishlist
A year ago, If you had asked me my favorite color, I would have told you, “rainbow.” I was always on the hunt for accessories in EVERY color to match my wardrobe. (Charming Charlie was a lifesaver.) After a few years of this shopping strategy, It looked like a rainbow threw up in my closet. While this was great for holiday and theme dressing, I started to crave a quieter, more sophisticated look.
After packing a few capsule wardrobes, I realized that I was beginning to gravitate towards a palette of neutrals, red, turquoise, and olive for mix-and-match options. I loved how easy it was to create outfits from my suitcase and didn’t miss my yellow jacket or orange shoes a bit. For the past 6 months, I’ve restricted wardrobe purchases to: neutrals (black, brown, gray, white, navy), red, turquoise, olive, and denim. I’ve purged a few of the brightly colored items, but there are still leftovers hanging in my closet. The beauty of my new palette is that the rainbow remnants are perfect accents to the more sober colored additions.
Rainbow Kasmira and Sober(er) Kasmira
A restricted color palette is the perfect starting point to go WILD with pattern mixing. Instead of using bright colors for interest, I use contrasting patterns. Leopard, black and white stripes, and red plaid all play nicely together. I get the “fun” I need from my wardrobe with patterns, instead of rainbow colors. When browsing the rails, I head towards the patterns in my palette first. Then, I check the fiber content.
Patterns keep a limited color palette interesting.
I won’t bore you with another treatise on my hatred of polyester. To sum up my feelings: it looks cheap, it feels cheap, and it is unbearable to wear in temperatures greater than 75 degrees. When shopping, I reject anything not made of cotton, linen, silk, wool, or leather. I do tolerate rayon and new-to-me lyocell. Polyester blended with cotton is acceptable for wrinkle-free fabrics and spandex blended with natural materials adds stretch and memory. My “no polyester” rule eliminates almost everything at the mall. No matter if I’m shopping at Forever 21 or Nordstrom, polyester dominates and I hate the stuff. Shopping is so much simpler when I skip the man-made fibers.
I miss the days of commuting to work in galoshes or flip flops (depending on the season), and then putting on my hooker heels for 8 hours of sitting at my desk. I looked so good in my office chair. My current role requires walkable footwear. I can’t tell you how angry I’ve been with myself when limping to a 4 p.m. appointment in 100 degree heat with my swollen feet threatening to burst my darling stiletto sandals. I’ve actually had to reschedule meetings when I couldn’t find parking within my acceptable walking radius. Shopping just the old lady brands makes the shoe selection process much less complex. I went to DSW recently and deselected every shoe in the store for either being uncomfortable, too casual, or just ugly.
Those heels tried to kill me. I could walk miles in my flats.
Suppose I walk into a store full of natural-fiber clothing in my favorite colors, but fun patterns, and also featuring comfy shoes. How do I deal with such bounty? I remember items on my wishlist. Currently, I’m looking for a red circle skirt and dressy, flat, black, knee-high boots. I’d also like to add another denim skirt to my collection. And I’m always looking for interesting leggings. A mental wishlist keeps me focused when faced with abundant choice.
Rather than finding my wardrobe rules constricting, I find them freeing. My shopping decisions are simpler and dressing is even easier. I’d rather free up my brain power for better use, like writing my next Toastmasters speech, looking for photo opportunities or plotting next year’s bucket list. As a bonus, I look pulled together while going about my adventures.
Over to you. I’d love to hear your wardrobe rules!