Thoughts On Building A Wardrobe

*me in my closet in 2007
Nearly every article I read that lists the "10 essential pieces you need for your wardrobe" (forever, or merely for this season depending on how often they want to hawk a brand) I just end up rolling my eyes. I went through a phase where I felt I needed to have the perfect black slacks everyone is always talking about or that essential white button-down, but those purchases never ended up in high rotation in my wardrobe. Even when I interviewed for positions during college as a secretary or teacher's assistant I ended up wearing vintage pencil skirts I found at thrift shops and blouses with prints or details that meant they couldn't be worn with "everything" but ended up being worn with all the pieces I owned more than anything basic white.
You see, when you're building a wardrobe it means you're still at the beginning of knowing your style. I started building my current wardrobe in college. I went from not much personal style to being very intentional with how I dressed when I got up every morning. I had to build largely from scratch since I had a previous aversion to skirts and dresses and that is essentially what I wear now. At that point in time I worked as a cashier in addition to being a student and my budget was tight. It was sometimes frustrating to have limited options, but I just bought when my budget allowed and tried to acquire pieces that would get worn and re-worn. I still routinely wear pieces that I bought back then--vintage dresses and shoes that have survived the intervening years. The reason my wardrobe is large today isn't because constant new acquisitions, but rather my holding on to certain pieces for a long time. And because I'm not prescient, there's a number of pieces I bought that didn't last in my closet. I bought dresses that I thought I'd want to wear everyday forever and discovered after a month I was absolutely sick of them. I bought shoes I thought I'd wear until they fell apart and then realized the color didn't suit anything in my closet and the heel was too high for me. I still end up buying things that I think will be perfect and learning only through a few wears that I'm a bit uncomfortable in them and they aren't something I see myself wearing in five years.
So, the biggest aspect of building your wardrobe is to understand it's largely a matter of time. Perhaps you have an exhaustive budget and can afford to purchase every "essential piece" you are advised to or personally feel driven to own. The odds still remain that some of those pieces won't become as essential as you believe them to be at the moment of purchase. Only time will test which ones get worn and which ones are relegated to the back of your closet. A more likely scenario is that your budget is limited and you can only invest in a few pieces, however instead of being limiting this style of slowly building your wardrobe is much more likely to mean you end up with pieces you'll like for multiple seasons and even years. It's the crux of every remix I post: acquiring pieces that get worn.
You might ultimately arrive at ten essential pieces that are the crux of your closet, but those ten pieces are very likely to be unique to you. They might be built around a silhouette that suits you or a favorite color or a specific era, but through whatever detail to them that makes them you they become your most-worn pieces. Anyway, I just wanted this to be a little piece of encouragement--if you admire someone else's closet suiting them so perfectly then you can realize it took time for that to become that way and if you're building your own closet from scratch then realize building takes time. The key is to think long-term and to not compare your wardrobe options to someone else's. Style isn't about trends or the latest pieces, but about clothes that suit you and express something within you--and style can't be acquired overnight but it will last forever.



  1. will keep this in mind, love you rebecca! <3

    Carla Cee

  2. excellent point! I've changed what my essentials are for different periods in my life and as my tastes evolved!

  3. Well said! And so much more fun to dress that way. :)

  4. From my experience it seems that the pieces that I thought about for weeks proved to be not so useful as ones I bought quickly, on the spur of the moment. I agree that only time can tell if the purchase was good or not. Thankfully we have many places to sell used clothes from our closet :) Eve

  5. I am so tired of the "essential" lists -- I don't have enough money for a cashmere sweater, and I'd probably never wear it anyway.
    xx Abby | a geek tragedy

  6. thanks!!! so nicely written. I am starting to see it in my closet. There are very universal pieces that I don't wear much and vice versa. Building a wardrobe and creating my style is fun :)

  7. This is so true! I also NEVER wore dresses until, well the past couple of years. So it was annoying to want to only wear dresses but have a closet full of pants! I think the "essential" lists are great for people who just don't care as much about personal style. But not helpful for someone who's really into developing a unique personal style

  8. "Wardrobe essentials" and "beauty essentials" are both pretty common posts I've seen. And I always think, "yea, I could definitely be okay without any of those things!" Maybe it's just the word "essential" that drives me nuts. Maybe I'm too stuck on the textbook definition of essential.

    Anyway, I definitely agree it's a process! I think something else that people need to keep in mind is you need to let go of items as you bring in "new" pieces. Otherwise you just end up with a weird mish-mash of styles! Selling unworn clothing back on eBay is a great way to use your current wardrobe to finance your "dream" wardrobe without being wasteful.

  9. I agree with you so much! Every time I read those, I'm left thinking "well, for these people I just don't qualify", but the truth is that what works for others may not work for us.

    I wouldn't say I'm building my wardrobe from scratch because I already have so many clothes, but yeah I've gotten rid of things I hadn't worn not even twice and didn't truly reflect my personality. Now I pick up clothes wisely, wondering if I'm going to wear them or not.

  10. So this is actually pretty timely since before I jumped to your blog, I was on a different blog covering the exact same topic. I won't put the blog on blast, since I still like the website besides the list they published. The "essentials" list included things like Chloe studded booties and PS1 bags which of course are great, but out of reach for many pricewise. I just think that there is a difference between staples like a striped shirt or an "essential" which according to their perspective it seemed was forever stylish investment pieces. I think you know your personality and lifestyle so what's good for you might be underutilized by someone else. Kudos for touching on this and great points to ponder.

  11. It's took me a while to comment on this post, but then again maybe thats also because you blog so regularly! I just wanted to say that I'd noticed you seem to have been writing a lot more about your own thoughts on wardrobes/personal style/the commentary of others on your clothes and hair...maybe you were doing this before and I hadn't realised, but either way I've really enjoyed reading these posts! Nice opinion pieces that get me thinking, which I appreciate.
    And on your hair, its amazing both blue-green and ginger, and any other colour you wish it to be!


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