Wardrobe From Scratch, Part 1: Defining Your Style & Lifestyle Needs

Today begins a new series, Wardrobe From Scratch!  
I’ve received emails from many of you asking for advice as you do closet overhauls or rebuild your wardrobe completely from scratch.  Often times the questions felt so big to me that pointing you all to this wardrobe overhaul post or to the list of my personal closet staples didn’t seem like enough.  There were still questions asking for even more basic step-by-steps and how-tos on building a wardrobe.  My hope with Wardrobe From Scratch is to give you a starting place so that you feel like you have some tools to do this on your own.  
Case Studies
A couple of weeks ago I invited you all to volunteer as a case study to be live examples of all of this content.  Big, big, big round of applause and thanks for all of the women who bravely took pictures of themselves and volunteered to open themselves up to us.  Thanks to these women we’ll be able to see a wider variety of style plans tailored for women of different body types and lifestyles.

The Plan

Here’s an outline of what this Wardrobe From Scratch series will cover:
  • Defining your style & lifestyle needs
  • How to choose wardrobe colors
  • Rules of fit (a very, very general fit guide)
  • Creating a basic shopping list
  • Tailored shopping lists for different body shapes and lifestyles via Case Studies
  • Some methods to the madness – a few basic tips on where to start with putting together outfits
If there are other things you have questions regarding overhauling or building a wardrobe, please email me ASAP so that I can try to work it in.

So, onto Part 1 of Wardrobe From Scratch – defining your lifestyle needs and your style!


building a wardrobe from scratch
Find Your Focus: Define Your Lifestyle Needs and Your Style

Before we can do or buy anything, we need to find a focus.  There are a million ways you can dress and a million different pieces you can buy, so we have to narrow it all down and hone in on what will work for you.  The two main things we need to do are: 1) identify your lifestyle needs and 2) define a style that you’re aiming for.  Determining these things will provide focus with what kind of pieces you’ll look for and hopefully make shopping a little less overwhelming.

1.  Identifying Your Lifestyle Needs
Obviously, we want your wardrobe to be functional for your lifestyle rather than being a generalized list “closet staples” that don’t actually work for your day to day activities.  It’s important that we identify what kinds of ways your clothes need to serve you.

Here are some questions to figure out where to start:

  • What are your typical day to day activities?  Maybe you’re a working professional, or maybe your a stay at home mom.  Maybe you’re a working professional AND a mom of young kids. Maybe you’re a teacher who has to bend down and work with little kids all day, or maybe you are a marketer in a business-casual office who sits in meetings with clients.  
  • What are your typical weekend functions?  Movies and errands with the family?  Girl’s nights out on the regular?  Or maybe you have baby showers and weddings up the wazoo like I do.  (Thirteen couples around us are having babies–and that’s just in the spring.  And we were invited to 11+ weddings each year for the last 3 years!  Aggghhh!)
  • Other special events that you need to dress for pretty regularly?  Work mixers, date nights, lots of birthday parties or brunches?  (Baby showers and weddings can fall in this category too.)

I’ve said before that I don’t like telling women stuff like “The 10 Closet Essentials Every Woman Needs!” because I really believe everyone’s lifestyle needs are different.  Defining your lifestyle will totally direct what kinds of pieces you need for your life.  If you’re a stay at home mom living a very casual lifestyle, you probably don’t need a lot of power suits or trousers.  If you have lots and lots of weddings to go to, you should probably invest in some versatile dresses that can be dressed up or worn casually.  But don’t worry about that–we’ll get to that later in the case studies.

2.  Defining Your Style Preferences
Besides identifying your lifestyle needs, it’s helpful to define your style.  Now, you may be saying, “I *have no* style, that’s why I’m in this boat!”  Don’t worry!  All you need to do to start is do a little research and create a style board.  That’s all.  No one’s asking you to wear the outfits or to buy all those pieces yet.  Just create the board.

Either flip through People Style Watch or InStyle or Lucky Magazine or research celebrity style online and find 1-2 celebrities or bloggers whose style you identify with.  Or if you are on Pinterest or Go Chic or Go Home, pin outfits you like.  If you have a Pinterest style board, make sure it’s pretty filled out.  If it’s already robust, then you’re ahead of the game.

Next, analyze your board for common themes.  One place I find myself getting stuck with Pinterest boards is that I’ll pin an outfit and get so fixated on one outfit and trying to get the exact items to put together that exact look.  This can end up in a lot of shopping mistakes.  Instead of looking at the outfits as individuals, broaden your scope to look for general commonalities or themes from the photos you’ve collected.


Do you see a lot of jeans?  A lot of pencil skirts?  A lot of pastels?  A lot of bold colors?  A lot of neutrals?  A lot of cardigans, or a lot of blazers, or both?  Are stripes your thing?  Polka dots?  Florals?  Are there tons of scarves on your board?  Boots?  Colorful heels?  Jersey knit dresses, or fancy schmancy dresses?

For example, when I look at my own Pinterest board the patterns I see are:

  • blazers
  • striped tops
  • solid, flowy, a-line skirts
  • pops of colors among neutrals in the rest of the outfit
  • more saturated hues, not so many pastels
  • flowy button-up shirts



Now it’s your turn!

  1. What kind of activities do you need to dress for? Figure out your lifestyle needs by answering the questions in the first section.
  2. What patterns can you identify from your own style board?  Create your own style board and identify the themes and patterns you notice.

**For all 6 parts of the Wardrobe From Scratch Series, click HERE.



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