Detailed Guide for Creating Chic Outfits that Last!
If you aren’t happy with your current wardrobe and don’t already know how to build a stylish wardrobe from scratch, you need this knowledge!
It will save you from worrying about what to wear, and bring you long-term financial savings as you switch from a haphazard approach to buying your clothes to a more planned system.
Now that fashion is such a large part of most women’s lives, the many different trends and fashion tribes are almost overwhelming whenever you step into a store.
And it can be very unsettling when you even have to decide which decade you want to reflect in your outfits!
Should you dress in seventies, eighties and nineties retro-fashions – or do you love true vintage garments?
I mean, what is the main fashion trend for the 2020’s?
There are more fashion styles on offer now than ever before in history!
And it’s so easy to get drawn into buying different trends and then find your clothes don’t look good together.
Avoid wardrobe stress
How long does it take you to put together an outfit for work every morning?
Do you ever leave the house late, because you’ve found it difficult to find matching garments?
And when you have a special evening-out planned, have you got the choice of several possible outfits you enjoy wearing?
Or do you spend a frantic hour trying on everything in your wardrobe, hoping to find something that fits, flatters your shape and is the right color for your skin and hair?
If you’re suffering from wardrobe stress because you’ve been impulse-buying different trends for years and never found your best personal style, this article is for you.
And if you’ve got various sizes and shapes in your wardrobe, because you can’t decide what your body shape is and how to dress it well, you’ve come to the right place!
The fact is that many women have enjoyed the fun of fast fashion, filled up their wardrobe space with tempting garments in a range of different colors and styles – and then found they don’t wear even half of what’s in there.
And when you realize how much money you’ve wasted on items you don’t want to wear, it can make you feel disappointed in yourself.
No-one can wipe-out our mistakes, but we can all learn how to do better in the future!
So if you’re ready to build a body-flattering wardrobe that will include over 40 different, stylish outfit options – let’s go!
How long does it take to build a stylish wardrobe from scratch?
The length of time is flexible and depends on how much time you put in learning what does and does not suit your body shape and color palette, and your fashion budget.
I always advise that you take at least 6 months in building a completely fresh wardrobe, because the emphasis is on learning what suits you as an individual.
And you need time to think about and experiment with your style identity.
So I don’t advise anyone to rush out and buy a set of the latest trends, because dressing well isn’t about being continuously trendy; it’s about dressing your figure well, in colors that suit you and your personality.
If you allow about a year to completely build up a stylish wardrobe, you’ll be able to buy seasonal items and a range of basic classic garments you can wear in more than one season!
What is the best approach to building a wardrobe from scratch?
a) Never buy garments on a whim
I’m sure many of us have used an impulse-buy to cheer ourselves up at times.
And who hasn’t been fatally tempted by a new trend suddenly appearing on Insta or in a shop window display!
These feelings that we must have something immediately are the enemy of the well-dressed woman and should be firmly resisted – if you want to achieve a well-matched, flattering wardrobe.
An impulse-buy that you hardly wear after the first thrill of buying, is like a drug that gives an instant high but leaves you feeling down-in-the-dumps afterwards.
Because when you realize that it doesn’t match with anything else in your closet, or doesn’t fit or look like you thought it did in the shop – you feel guilty about wasting your money.
And unfortunately, the guilt always lasts longer than the ‘high’!
b) Plan what you need to buy for successful shopping trips
As you learn what you need to build up a wardrobe with a stylish foundation, like which styles are good/bad for your body type and your color palette, you’ll be able to see which gaps in your current closet you need to fill.
And one of the main ideas behind building a stylish wardrobe from scratch, is that you avoid buying random, poor-quality, ‘fast fashion’ garments that only last a few months.
The best-dressed women of the world are not, by any means, the richest women around the globe.
Any woman can qualify for the best-dressed list if they buy classic, good-quality garments that suit them well and last.
So when you identify a new trend you want to wear, don’t immediately rush to buy the extreme version of it.
The more extreme the fashion, the faster it will be hanging forlornly in a local charity shop!
Choose a mild version of the trend that is closer to a classic style, and will still be wearable in several years’ time.
This will build up into a stylish, foundation wardrobe to which you can add one or two top-trendy pieces each season, but still have a practical, varied set of outfits you always look your best in!
c) Avoid shopping in the sales
So while you are dealing with any tendency you may have for impulse-buying, try to stay away from the sales.
Sales are designed to attract us into shopping centers and rush us into impulse-buys – and I have to say they work very well at doing that! J
Our brains get hyped up on dopamine, the brain’s pleasure-chemical, at the thought of getting low prices and our emotions override good sense.
Sales prime you to buy as much as you can in one narrow time-period and this won’t help you to build a stylish wardrobe from scratch.
However, when you have a list of items you actually need for your foundation wardrobe, you can go to a sale and see if any item on your list is on offer.
When you are young, and have even less money than today, your clothes shopping does tend to revolve around the sales – and that’s fine.
But if you’re not careful, that can become a life-long pattern, which works against you buying fewer, but better-quality things you really want.
Sometimes, it’s better to buy a high-quality coat, jacket or suit that will really elevate your wardrobe and last for years, than to come home with 5 sale items which don’t all fit you properly or fill a definite wardrobe need!
d) Don’t get lost in a maze of style inspiration
Keep your inspiration closely focused on yourself, and don’t lose your style identity because you love the way a particular ‘influencer’ or celebrity dresses.
Professional fashion icons do have big budgets for expensive clothing, and in many cases they have access to lots of free fashion items as they act as advertising ‘boards’ for designers.
In building our own stylish wardrobe from scratch, the aim is to get excellent value for money from a set of good-quality, classic items, accented by a few trendy pieces – which all flatter you!
These articles contain the information you need to get the basics into place for a lifetime of being well-dressed in attractive outfits!
And I guarantee that if you take the time to find out about yourself now, it will make a huge improvement in your whole life.
When you shop for classic styles that fit your individual body shape and color palette, you will never open your wardrobe with a sinking feeling and think, ‘All this stuff, but still nothing that looks good on me!’
That sad feeling only happens because we have so many different influences and designers clamoring for us to buy more stuff all the time.
And if you avoid focusing on women who spend half their daily life shaping their bodies in a gym and the other half posting images of themselves wearing new trends, you’ll find more time to focus on yourself.
Identify your individual style identity, body shape and best colors and you won’t even want to keep comparing yourself to other women.
You’ll have all the tools you need to create your own best personal style and be more relaxed and self-confident in every area of your life!
And I speak from my own, personal experience and for the many clients I’ve helped in my fashion styling career.
How do I build-up a chic but durable wardrobe that’s right for me?
Put aside some time to read my recent articles on Body Types, Seasonal Color Palettes and creating your personal style preferences.
That will save you a huge amount of time and money in the rest of your life, as you will be able to shop for clothes that suit you and stop making mistakes.
Next, follow these simple steps:
a) Ask yourself these questions before buying any new items:
- Is it made of a good-quality fabric you can expect to stay looking good for a long time?
- If it’s a fabric that wrinkles when you crush it in your hand, it will never make you look polished.
- Will it look shabby in a matter of weeks – see especially knitwear with acrylic fibers?
- Is it going to be easy to care for e.g. will it need a lot of ironing?
- Unless you are one of the people who finds ironing relaxing, this is an important consideration bearing on how often you will wear it.
- Is it a good staple item for my closet – according to the final checklist below?
- Is this how I want to present myself to the world?
- Is it comfortable and easy to move about in?
b) Focus on finding your own personal style
Think about who you are and how you want your life and career to develop and try to dress to suit your ‘best self’.
How you present yourself through your clothing and hairstyles is one of the main ways that people form that lasting first impression of you.
So make sure you project an image that genuinely reflects your personality and ambitions.
c) Buy the correct size
I know you know this is important – but I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who has bought something a little too big or a little too small in a sale, or because I loved the style and there was only one left!
So if you know you are a little overweight – because it’s just after a national holiday or your vacation – wait until you have gone back to your normal weight before you go shopping for your new wardrobe.
Wearing clothes that don’t fit properly is not only uncomfortable, but it takes all the fun out of putting on a new garment and gives a poor impression of you to others.
The size numbers are not consistent between stores and that makes them, at best, a guide.
Don’t hesitate to take two or three sizes into the Changing Rooms, so you can check which size fits your shape properly.
This happened to me recently and I chose to buy a larger size than all of my other jeans at home.
And when I got home and tried on my new jeans, I knew they looked more stylish and felt more comfortable, so I was pleased with my size switch.
I’ve been wearing skinny jeans for a long time, but now it’s time for me to wear slightly wider legs with a different fit.
If you’re currently working on losing weight or building-up muscle mass, it may be better to wait until you reach your target and hold it steady for a while, before you buy any expensive new clothes.
It’s better to wait than to buy the wrong size and you can still focus on building-up your shoe, bag, jewelry and hairstyle basics for now.
Your shoes and accessories are an integral part of building a stylish wardrobe from scratch, so you definitely won’t be wasting your time!
What colors do I need to create a stylish wardrobe from scratch?
Wearing colors that suit your skin, hair and eyes is one of the keys to creating attractive outfits and a perfect wardrobe.
So start assessing the colors you see most often in your closet and which you love to wear.
If you still aren’t sure which colors are best for you, use the image above as a guide.
Most women have a set of neutral colors they prefer as base colors, and like to add a couple of brighter colors and at least one ‘neutral’ print.
But if you take a close look at your photos and see what colors you have worn most over a period of years, it will show what colors you’ve always had a preference for.
- Popular neutral colors include – Grey, camel, tan, navy, white and black
- Brighter colors to experiment with – Blue, red, pink in well-saturated shades – not pastels
- Neutral prints – Plaid, stripes and leopard-print
Use this color-chart to get you on the way to a flattering color-palette to guide your clothes’ shopping.
Your own skin undertones – cool, warm or neutral are the main clue to which colors will suit you.
How do I confirm which shades of each color I should wear?
And although you may already know which colors suit you, doing my Detailed Seasonal Color Analysis Test will show you which shades of each color will really enhance your complexion!
Try clothes on in front of a full-length mirror and you’ll soon see which ‘looks’ appeal to you and which ones drain color from your face, emphasize redness or clash with your hair color.
And if you really can’t decide on your own, try these tips on how to identify colors that flatter you:
- Get feedback from someone you trust to take it seriously and be helpful and honest.
- Look at photos from the past that show you in different colors and decide which look best.
- Take photos of yourself in some of your current outfits, especially in colors you’re not sure about.
- For some reason, looking at a photo or video can help you to assess whether a particular color or style looks good/bad on you, more than just looking in a full-length mirror.
- Take the snap in good lighting conditions and wait until later in the day to evaluate it.
Garments you need to build a stylish wardrobe from scratch:
1. Crew-neck sweater
This is a long-term fashion basic you will find easy to combine with skirts, trousers or some dresses.
This sweater style keeps you warm in cool weather and can be easily layered over a shirt/blouse in cold winter conditions.
Try to buy a sweater containing at least some wool, which isn’t always easy these days.
Avoid anything with acrylic fibers as it will have extensive pilling from the first day of wear.
If possible, invest in a 100% wool sweater from an online store like Woolover.com and wash it carefully in cool water.
Real wool is very durable and keeps its new appearance for years.
2. Knitted cardigan
Some people still sneer about cardigans, but I love wearing my 100% wool cardi from Woolover.com, which always brings me compliments!
I think the key to cardigans is to find a style that flatters your figure, in a color that matches most of your outfits – and avoid buying anything with acrylic fibers in the blend.
My cardigan has a lovely pattern in the medium–fine gauge knit and it’s had a well-earned place in my capsule wardrobe for five years now and won’t go out of fashion anytime soon!
There’s a huge range of contemporary cardigans to choose from including long, short, open and button-up styles, so you’re bound to find one that suits your style.
They are versatile and comfortable additions to any stylish wardrobe, serving you over several different seasons!
Choose a nice, white shirt in a plain buttoned style that suits your figure and you’ll get years of wear out of it.
This is one of the most classic garments you can have in your wardrobe!
4. Turtleneck fine-gauge knitted top
Turtleneck tops are incredibly popular with well-dressed men and women, for their chic style and versatility.
They may be simple, but they are always classy and can be worn alone or as part of a natty, layered outfit!
5. Fitted T-shirts
Choose one of each or, if you don’t like one of the colors, just miss it out.
I avoid wearing black next to my face, so I always wear white t-shirts.
T-shirts are excellent foundations for a range of outfits and give excellent value for money. Choose the best neckline for your body shape and if you can’t decide, you’ll find that crew-necks are very versatile.
6. Denim or blue chambray shirt
A denim shirt that fits you well is always an attractive garment to wear and they never go out of fashion.
And there’s no reason not to wear a denim shirt with your blue jeans, either.
Double denim can look really cool!
7. Oversized white tee-shirt
I only recommend this to women who can wear oversized tops successfully.
But if you are the correct shape for oversized tees, you’ll find this a useful, stylish wardrobe staple, which you can wear in lots of different ways to make outfits with a Parisian fashion vibe.
As a petite woman, I found out the hard way that oversized tee-shirts are the worst style for me!
8. Graphic tee-shirts
There are lots of different styles of graphic tees, so you can select one that reflects your personal preference.
It’s a short-cut to giving any simple outfit lots of personality, and whether you go for a retro rock-band theme or a famous art-work, this will certainly be a stylish addition you can wear often!
Mickey-mouse and cartoon t-shirts are fun, but you can’t wear them for as many occasions as more ‘grown-up’ graphics.
So I wouldn’t advise you to include this type in your stylish, foundation wardrobe budget.
A stylish blouse is always an essential part of an attractive wardrobe.
You should choose either a feminine blouse or a plainer, boxy version, depending on your body type and favorite look.
10. Skirts – jeans – trousers
You will make the final decision on the jeans style you feel most comfortable wearing, so treat this as a guideline to help you build your wardrobe:
Straight-leg jeans – Straight-legs are currently a strong trend, which experts believe will be the most popular of the new, wider-leg styles and last for years, as they flatter a wide range of body shapes.
High-waisted ‘Mom jeans’ – This is another popular style that suits plenty of body shapes and is comfortable to wear.
High-waists are going to be in fashion for a number of years, too, and they are a trendy and practical addition to your new wardrobe.
Skinny-leg black jeans – Skinny jeans are on their way out, although I and a lot of other women still enjoy wearing the ones we already own.
I can’t wear wide-leg trousers because they swamp my petite frame, but I’m slowly switching to slim-fit, straighter styles.
So if you want to continue wearing your black, skinny jeans, which are a classic style – go ahead!
Silk skirt – A silk and a silky-fabric skirt can be perfect for several chic outfits and feel so light and comfy.
As a natural fiber, silk is very versatile and can be the perfect garment for evening wear or casual wear with a tank top and low-top sneakers!
Denim skirt – A classic denim skirt will always give you durable wear and good value for money, whilst never going out of fashion. Depending on your style and body type, choose a mini-, midi- or maxi-denim skirt, so it flatters your figure well.
Wide leg trousers – Wide-leg trousers do not work with every body shape, and although some ‘fashion experts’ claim they do, I can’t agree.
If you are tall and have long legs and a slim body, you will find you look good in wide-leg trousers. They can look highly stylish and are a great choice for professional and casual office workwear.
On the other hand, if you are of shorter stature, or have a wide skeletal structure, or are carrying extra weight, this trend may be one you should skip. Stick to straight-legs styles and you can’t go wrong!
Leggings – This comfortable and relatively cheap item is always useful and can be worn at home as leisure-wear, for exercise classes and dressed up with a jacket.
So if you don’t want to lose this versatile item from your wardrobe just yet, stick with it and make an effort to style your leggings in new ways.
11. Coats & jackets
- Trench coat – a rain-proof, trench coat is always useful as a lightweight, fashionable outerwear you can wear in several different seasons.
- Camel coat – this lovely classic item always elevates your look and they are never out of fashion.
- Faux-leather jacket – this is a versatile piece you can layer over many different outfits, so choose a style and color that fits well with your overall image and you’ll get lots of wear out of it.
- Blazer jacket – choose between an oversized blazer, a fitted blazer or a boxy style, depending on your body type and it will dress-up any outfit. Above all, select a blazer that is the correct style and length to flatter your body type and always try it on before buying.
- Denim jacket – I own one blue-denim jacket and one camel-denim jacket right now, and love wearing both of them. Choose yours depending on which colors you wear most frequently, so you can throw it on over lots of different ensembles for a casual vibe.
- Parka – The classic parka is an essential outer garment for anyone who experiences cold winter weather and needs reliable warmth and protection from wind, rain and snow.
This is a good investment for staying warm and stylish in the worst weather, which can last you for many years.
12. Essential dresses for a stylish new wardrobe
The actual style you choose should be closely based on which body type you have.
And a quick way to identify your best styles is to leaf through your old photos and see which dresses flattered your shape, and any that did not!
Knitted sweater dress – the knitted dress has become a basic wardrobe item during the last few years and is set to continue into the future.
It’s a comfortable and warm choice you can wear in various seasons and for daytime or evening wear.
Always check that the knit is a blend that includes nylon to get better wear out of the fabric and never buy any fabric that includes acrylic fibers.
Not all knitted dresses are figure hugging, so if a fitted dress isn’t suitable for you, look out for the looser knit dresses.
Little black dress – this became the staple for cocktail parties and nightclub wear in the 50’s and 60’s, after Audrey Hepburn made it so popular in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
It’s still a much-loved, wardrobe staple and if you can find one that fits your style and figure, invest in it and you’ll be able to enjoy wearing it for years.
A-line dress – this style suits many different body shapes and should be a basic in your new wardrobe.
You’ll find it an easy and comfortable summer dress, in plain or floral fabric.
And it can be worn with a cardigan draped over your shoulders for a casual look, or under a blazer to dress it up.
Shirt dress – this is another classic that first burst onto the fashion scene in the 60’s.
It’s an easy style to wear and can be complemented by a cardigan or jacket for professional wear.
The semi-formal shirt-dress is always a polished look.
Slip dress – silky slip dresses are cut on the bias in a way that flatters lots of different body shapes.
They have a versatile style that looks expensive with heels in the evening, or can be a casual look with sneakers or sandals during a warm day.
13. Best shoes for a stylish wardrobe
Heeled boots – as long as they are comfortable for walking – ankle boots are a sound investment as you can usually wear them more often than knee-highs.
Knee-high boots – very fashionable and always good to give any outfit lots of extra style.
Neutral pumps/court shoes – you need at least one pair of this basic style, which will give you great versatility and value for money over a period of time.
Classic flat shoes – whether you like a classic pair of brogues or dainty, pointed-toe shoes, you can’t beat a comfortable pair of flat shoes for frequent daytime wear.
Classic sneakers – whenever I put on my classic sneakers, I know I’m going out to have some fun with friends!
Simple sandals – I’ve had my simple strap sandals for about eight years and worn them a lot.
As I invested in a pair made from good-quality real leather, they have been my summer-time day-to-day footwear all this time and are still in good condition – and fashionable!
Combat boots – combat boots are definitely a practical and classic style that gives great value for money, if they’re your type of footwear.
A good pair of combat boots can be worn any time of the year and during winter conditions will protect your feet from rain and snow, so you don’t need to buy more boots.
14. Essential wardrobe accessories
Whatever your style or body type, accessories are the best way to get some extra ‘body-balance’ and to add specific ‘styles’ to an outfit.
So invest in a few, good quality items that will reflect your favorite fashion trends or stick to minimalist classics.
And if your wardrobe is mainly classic garments, a trendy bag, watch or piece of jewelry can be used to uplift the look into contemporary fashion.
You will probably need to obtain a full collection of accessories, including scarves, belts, jewelry and bags over a number of years, but here’s what you need have to get started:
A pair of small hoop earrings – a classic pair of earrings is necessary to give all your outfits a little extra polish.
Cross-body bag – these are always contemporary and fashionable especially when you’re going out with only a few items to carry. Choose a simple shape in a neutral color and it will last for several years.
Leather tote: this is a durable alternative to buying a string of large capacity handbags, because if you invest in a chic, leather tote bag it will always look stylish and last for years.
A classic watch – choose a simple watch that harmonizes with your preferred style and wear it constantly.
I’ve been wearing the same one for many years and still love it, so it was a great buy.
The only thing I change from time to time is the color of the leather strap!
A classic pair of sunglasses – pick a pair with medium-sized, classic frames that suit your face-shape perfectly and they will be a wise, long-term investment.
Classic black ray-bans are always popular.
Wool Scarf – you can add so much style to your outfits in winter with a well-chosen warm, woollen scarf.
Choose a scarf that harmonizes with your outerwear style and colors.
Extra-long styles can be wound twice around the neck and hang down in a decorative way at the front.
CHECKLIST – How to build a stylish wardrobe from scratch!
Shirts, blouses & tops
- Blouse – your choice of style
- Camisole tank top
- Chunky knitted sweater
- Crew-neck jumper
- Denim/blue Chambray shirt
- Fitted T-shirt grey, black or white
- Graphic T-shirt
- Oversized T-shirt
- Short sleeve shirt
- Striped top
- White buttoned shirt
Jeans, trousers, skirts & shorts
- Black trousers – dressy
- Denim skirt
- Mom jeans
- Silk/silky slip skirt
- Skinny black jeans
- Straight-leg jeans
- Bermuda shorts
- Denim shorts
- White jeans
- Wide-leg jeans
- Wide leg cropped jeans
- Paper-bag waist jeans
Jackets & coats
- Blazer – fitted or boxy
- Camel wool coat
- Denim jacket
- Leather jacket
- Oversized blazer
- Trench coat
- Barn jacket
- Evening coat
- Military-style jacket
- Ankle boot with heel
- Classic low top sneakers
- Flat shoes – brogues or ballet slippers
- Knee-high boots
- Neutral pumps/court shoes
- Simple sandal with straps
- Gym shoes
- Chelsea boots
- Combat boots
- Neutral print flats
- Strappy sandals
- A-line dress
- Knitted dress
- Little black dress
- Shirt dress
- Silk/silky slip dress
- Cocktail dress
- Evening gown
- Floral dress
- T-shirt dress
- Wrap dress
- Classic sunglasses
- Classic watch
- Clutch bag
- Cross-body bag
- Leather/canvas tote bag
- Small hoop earrings
- Wool scarf
- Baseball cap
- Cat’s-eye sunglasses
- Evening bag
- Leather belt for jeans
- Narrow belt
- Silk scarf
- Stud earrings
This is as long-term project, so do not feel you have to rush out and buy lots of new items.
On the contrary, you can build up your durable, stylish and value for money wardrobe over a very long period of time.
The future of fashion is going to be focused on sustainable fabrics, classic styles and clever combinations of basic staples, accented by a few high-fashion touches!
And actually, that’s what the world’s best-dressed women have been doing for centuries!
Tell us what you think in the space below – your feedback is important to us:
- Has this article helped reduce your clothes shopping stress?
- Have you started putting together stylish outfits you enjoy wearing?
- Have you stopped buying poorly-made fast fashion garments that don’t last?
- Has it made your shopping trips more targeted and helped control impulse-buying?
- Have you recouped more storage space?
- Have you gained self-confidence?