Charleston Style

5 Steps to Building Your Dream Wardrobe

March 8, 2018

I struggled a bit with the title of this post because we’re aiming to cover quite a bit, similar to our “Beginner’s Guide to Collecting” post from last month.  I thought about calling it “Unlock the Value in your Own Closet” or “Unlock the Lessons of your Wardrobe.”  My goal is to set you on a journey to discover, refine and build your own personal “style” as well as to share with you my thoughts about clothing/collecting pieces.  The post was getting a bit too chatty and long, so I decided to break it up into steps… and discovered that I was really talking about getting your detective hat on and having a good snoop into your own closet!

Rate your wardrobe.   

The idea behind this exercise is to unlock the value in your own closet.  So much of the time, I gaze endlessly at pieces online that I would love to add to my collection instead of going through what I already have.   So, step one in this exercise is to “rate your wardrobe”, literally.  Take out each piece and rate it – say, on a 1 to 5 scale – based on how often you reach for it and, more importantly, on how much confidence it gives you when you do.  Once you have identified your key pieces, you can play around with new ways to wear them.

Step two is to identify why you love those pieces the most.  When I did this exercise, I was surprised to see that, for all my mantras of “I’m happiest in jeans and a white shirt,” my favorites were soft, flow-y dresses (some I’ve had since college), and cashmere sweaters.  Yes, the jeans and white shirts were there, but I realized that there’s a difference between my personal “style” and my typical “uniform.”  Looking at these favorite items more closely, I made notes on the elements that created their great and abiding “fit” – cut, style, material, length, etc. – all of which will be helpful for future purchases.  Now, I will look first for dresses that have sleeves and, for the most part, wear fitted clothing. 

Step three is to take the pieces that you do love and try to think of creative new ways to wear them.  Try a dress on with every pair of shoes, throw a sweater over it or maybe a blazer, a jean jacket, or even try a long sleeved T-shirt or sweater underneath.  These experiments will give you different ideas about how to wear your favorite pieces and expand your creative solutions so that you can pull efficiently from your closet when you are rushing to dress in the morning.


Only keep the pieces that bring you joy. 

This is my favorite principle from KonMari’s book, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” (which is such a great read if you haven’t already picked it up).  I read her book a few years ago and ended up giving away a huge chunk of my wardrobe — maybe 75%.  Although I had very little left, my clothes reflected a distinct color palette (light blue, lavender, white) and I ended up wearing everything regularly rather than searching for favorite pieces in a sea of lost causes. 

Find the colors and fabrics that make you the happiest. 

This goes hand in hand with the previous point but I think it’s a great exercise to try to identify the color palette that makes you feel most vibrant and the fabrics that you love to feel against your skin.  I wear a lot of white — even in winter –- because it makes me feel my best.  Of course, I also have days where I wear black but, for the most part, I lean toward lighter colors.  I am not a huge fan of busy patterns and don’t wear them unless they make my heart sing.  I also find that I am happiest in natural fibers, such as linen, cotton, denim, cashmere, wool, and silk.

Identify and stick to pieces that really suit your body type.  Why? Because they will make you feel the most confident and the most “yourself.” If you need help identifying the pieces that flatter you the most, enlist a friend or, better yet, hire a stylist for a wardrobe assessment.  I met a woman at an event in Charleston who offers help putting together outfits based on what you already have in your wardrobe.  Not only does this take the fear out of being pushed toward multiple new purchases but it’s also a great way to look at your wardrobe with new eyes. I bet spending a day with this consultant would teach me so much!

So, having isolated my favorite pieces, I’ve learned by studying them that, for my body type, I should stick with high-waisted jeans, dresses with sleeves (exceptions are made here), and mostly fitted tops.  I can’t pull off very boxy tops or dresses that are too shapeless, no matter how much I wish to!   Knowing this makes combing through the overwhelming amount of shopping out there a lot easier, as I can immediately eliminate so many styles.

Find inspiration and then search for similar pieces. 

Often, I go in search of a pair of shoes or a sweater that is similar to an iconic image or the hallmark of a particular designer.  I admire the pieces on Moda O’perandi, and love saving up for special purchases there, but I can also use the website’s inspiration to find items elsewhere that fit my budget.  Similarly, having gone through the exercises I just described, I’ve learned that I can also find inspiration from my favorite closet pieces and go in search of similar items that build on these flattering styles. 

I know it takes a bit of effort to learn what suits you best, but you have more instruction than you may realize in your own closet and, by discovering the gems among the choices you’ve already made, you are on your way to building a “timeless” expression of your own personal style. 

With all this in mind, I add to my collection pretty slowly.   Most of the time, I shop on Net-a-Porter, Moda O’perandi, Hampden, Club Monaco, J.Crew, and Matches.  I keep my eye in on my favorite brands:  Miguelina, Vilshenko, Brock Collection, LoveShackFancy, RIXO London, Figue, etc.  to see what I can’t miss!     I often find new brands on Moda and I find that if I click on a few items from the same brand on net, then I look at the entire collection to see what else I love.   I also love to find pieces on my travels and am planning to introduce them to the site soon.   Tomorrow I am going to do a post on everything I have my eye on right now and where to find similar pieces to those that are asked about most! xx

21 Comments

  • Reply Logan Dovel March 8, 2018 at 7:05 am

    This post has helped me so much! I’ve felt kinda overwhelmed trying to shop for my spring wardrobe but this is such a great formula to have when trying to decide! I always go over your older posts to see how you put things together and it never fails to inspire me. Thanks so much Lucy! xoxo

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Logan, so much more to come — I will see if I can break down how I put things together more clearly 🙂 I am very grateful for your interest! xx

  • Reply Sarah March 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I loved this post, Lucy! I’m really committing myself to actually doing a thorough closet clean-out this year, and I’m going to keep this post in mind as I begin!

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Ah, do it!! It really really helps Sarah!!!!!!! Thank you for reading xxx

  • Reply Sam March 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    This was such a helpful post, Lucy! I like to clean out my closet regularly (I sell a lot on Poshmark), but I’ve never thought to do the rating system. I’ll need to do that next time!

    xo Sam
    http://www.thecurrentclassic.com

  • Reply Marys March 8, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Love some closet analysis! I write down every piece of clothing I buy (with the price) and then evaluate everything at the end of the year. I make note of what I loved, what I ended up hating and where I’m spending most of my money for better or worse. It has made me a much more thoughtful shopper. Not only does it keep my budget on track, but prevents me from adding to the landfill. Even when you donate clothes to Goodwill, there’s a high chance they will end up as textile waste. I watched “The True Cost” documentary on Netflix and it opened my eyes to how quickly we are consuming and disposing clothes in comparison to the past decade.

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Ah that’s so interesting Mary I will definitely watch that — yes I agree, I love the idea of collecting less for longer 🙂 xx

  • Reply Sarah March 8, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Ahhh, Lucy…how do you do it?! Your posts have been so incredibly helpful and SO where I am at right now. Everything from photography 101 to collecting items for the home to now this post! I always say Marie Kondo is my “buddhist soul sister” because I LOVE her method of tidying up and only keeping things around that bring you joy. As far as the wardrobe, I have been slowly trying to build a wardrobe that has higher quality pieces but not too many of them (as I appreciate a closet that allows for air flow in between clothing :O) This post is fantastic and really helped me to think about what pieces I love and how I can add to those. I only wish it was longer! Keep ’em coming, Lucy!

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Sarah this is such a lovely comment which made my night! Really appreciate you taking the time to say something and glad that we’re the same about Marie!! Let me know if there’s anything in particular you would love to see on here. xxx

  • Reply angelica March 8, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Very helpful really enjoyed the post .

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you very much Angelica!!! xxx

  • Reply Paula O. Henry March 8, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    Loved this post Lucy! I have so much work to do…

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      HA! Yeah right Paula you’re my style ICON! xxxx

  • Reply Jen Kessler March 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    This is awesome, Lucy! I do love your style, although I’ve never been a dress wearer. I often wish I was but feel so out of place whenever I do unless it’s some kind of dress wearing event. I need to apply your tips to my closet but also my house since I find that sometimes I buy things because I really like them in the store but after awhile of being in my home and not going well with what I already have, I get bored with it and end up donating it.

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      Totally understand!! We’re all developing our eyes/styles and it’s par for the course that we buy things that we don’t end up loving — you’re not alone! I think it does take some getting used to re: dresses and if you are into them, then go for it!!!!! You can pair with clean white sneakers or laid back sandals to dress down <3 x xx

  • Reply Jessica March 8, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Such great ideas here! I’m pregnant now and mourning not being able to wear some favorite pieces but it’s also a good opportunity to see what I miss and what would really score a 5 out of 5 on my scale.

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Ah Jessica! I hope that you are enjoying your pregnancy and treating yourself to some new pieces. I lived in loose linen but am hoping to get some good dresses on rotation for next time — let me know if you need help xxx

  • Reply Rachel March 9, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Great post! Thank you, Lucy!

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you for saying so Rachel! xx

  • Reply Brooke at Beyond the Boxwoods March 10, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Lucy, this is great advice, and it is refreshingly not a regurgitation of the most of the “clean out your closet” posts that appear. Thank you for the time you put into your blog and your Instagram account; I enjoy both of them so much!

    • Reply Lucy Cuneo March 11, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you very much Brooke, I am glad to hear that and very much appreciate your taking the time to say so!!!! xxx

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