Timeless and Sustainable Wardrobe on a Budget

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Even though the time frame started in May, you know I've been checking things off the 101 in 1001 list. It seems like a lot but those 1001 days go by quicker than you think! And I particularly wanted to make a game plan for some of the items that would take longer or potentially cost more money. Two that stuck out are to completely update my wardrobe and accessories. Needs change as you get older and I haven't updated my closet in years. At the same time, I don't want to go out and purchase all new items without a second thought, as it would be a waste of money and resources. I knew I needed a better game plan for choosing quality.

Because I don't want to wear things once and throw it away - I hate that I did that in my college years, what a waste those Forever 21 shirts were that fell apart after two nights out at a bar. I want quality, long lasting items. I want to be able to mix and match everything in my closet, everything should fit my daily lifestyle, and it should feel like 'me.' And every single item should bring me joy. I'm still working on acquiring everything I want to for my own closet, but at least I know what I'm looking out for. Here's my system, in case you want to build your own timeless and sustainable wardrobe on a budget:


Evaluate Your Wardrobe

You need a roadmap before making purchases so you have to start by evaluating what you currently own. Saving money means utilizing what you already own and then deciding what would best supplement these pieces, not the other way around. So think about your most worn pieces and determine why you reach for them so often. Is it the fit, the fabric, the color? Alternatively, why do you avoid certain other pieces? Poor quality or nothing to pair them with? Also take the time to consider what your daily lifestyle is like. You likely don't need corporate clothes if you stay home each day, or club attire when you'd rather see a hockey game. Based on this evaluation, determine what your wardrobe is missing. It could be basics to pair with your patterned pieces or a new pair of jeans to replace the worn out ones.

Create a List and Set a Budget

The best place to spend money is on the basic pieces that will last for years. Creating a list of these to collect as well as a budget for them will give you time to hunt down the right items at the right price. These are different for everyone, but basics often include:
  • Dark-Wash Jeans
  • Black Dress
  • Pencil Skirt
  • Solid Shirts, including a Tailored White Blouse
  • Pants, in light and dark neutral colors
Since my wardrobe is all dresses, my list of basics is a bit different. But I do always make sure I have a nice black dress and a summer-y yellow one (I look good in yellow.)

Build a Color Palette

If you want to have a cohesive wardrobe, color palette is key. It will ensure your items can all be mixed and matched. To get the best price per wear, choosing neutrals, especially for staple pieces, is the best bet. Personally, I don't follow this rule but that's because I only wear dresses. Each dress is a complete outfit. If I were pairing tops and bottoms, I would choose more neutral bottoms so they can match with a variety of tops and create more outfits. Neutral colors aren't just black and white, either. Beige, grey, navy, brown, and olive all work well as neutral options as well.

Shop Second-Hand

Shopping thrift stores is a great way to not only save money on these key pieces, but also ensure that you're living more sustainably by giving these clothes a second life. You can find quality pieces at a tiny fraction of the original price. But the trick is finding quality. There's no sense in buying fast fashion second hand. It's already a miracle it made it to a second hand shop, so it's only a matter of time before it's destined for the landfill. Your best bet is to find clothing made of cotton, linen, wool, denim, or high-quality synthetic materials, like modal. These tend to stand the test of time. It can be tempting to buy something that's inexpensive but don't purchase it just because it's a good deal - make sure it's something that was on your original list. If you can't see yourself wearing it for many years, skip it. Your ideal pieces are out there.

Choose Simple Accessories

Can't forget about shoes, purses, outerwear and jewelry. They finish the outfit, but when you keep them simple, they can finish more outfits. Some of the most common and useful simple accessories are:
  • Black and Nude Pumps
  • Neutral Ballet Flats
  • Solid Color Structured Handbag
  • Tan Trench Coat
  • Black Pea Coat
  • Simple Jewelry (pearls, stud earrings, dainty pendants, simple bangles and rings)

I realized quickly that I have a lot of items that already fit the bill, especially in terms of accessories. But I'm still working on a few key pieces before I can consider these goals checked off the list. Let me know if you'd be interested in seeing what I have so far or what I have at the end.

Have you ever thought about systematically building and investing in your cohesive wardrobe? What are some of your key pieces?