Shop Your Own Closet – save money and create new outfits!

No need to go clothes shopping when you can shop right in your own closet! Follow these tips to save money and create new outfits to wear.

Two closets of clothing and one of shoes

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Confessions of a clothes hoarder

At first, I was going to write about how to build a capsule wardrobe. But in all honesty, I couldn’t do it without spilling the beans first.

That picture above? That’s only one wall of closets. The wall behind where I was standing is also a wall of closets. 

I’ll admit it. I am a clothes hoarder.

I have a capsule wardrobe alright. In about every base colour you can think of! (and then some)

It all started when I was a kid. I would get tons of awesome hand-me-downs from my two older cousins. We were all growing like weeds, and most of what they passed down to me was hardly worn. With all those options available to me, I became an elementary school fashionista.

When I was eleven years old, one of those cousins taught me how to sew and make my own clothes. (Thanks, Cuz!) Little did we know, she created a monster!

By high school, I was making an outfit every night to wear to school the next day. 

These days I am not making clothes every night. Instead, I teach others how to make their own clothes. I’ve also been doing some of my own designs – which means I make one for myself to test for wearability.

Another factor in my hoarding is the fact that I shop smart and don’t pay much for any item. (I’ll reveal my secrets in another post.) In fact, I only have one item in my closet that is what I call “expensive”. It’s a full length charcoal grey overcoat that I bought about 15 years ago. When I found it in the store and tried it on, it felt as if it was custom made for me! Get this – made in Italy and 100% cashmere. For $298. I Googled a similar coat before I went to the cash register, and that coat was selling for $1,400.

Now to keep things from getting out of hand, once a year I go through every item of clothing I own. I always end up finding things I sort of forgot about and/or new ways to pair up separates.

Even if you are not at the hoarding level, the next steps are a must-do.

Weeding – it’s not just for gardening

First, you are going to:

  1. determine what you have
  2. remove what doesn’t fit, needs repair, and stuff you hate
  3. make piles

Steps to shop your closet

Take a shower and style your hair

It may sound crazy, but this step is crucial. Doing your hair as you would normally wear it for work or going out is really going to make a difference in how you will judge your outfit. And how you will feel looking at yourself in the outfit.

Wear a good bra and underwear

Just like you would if you are going out. This is going to affect the fit of the clothes. You will also need to have a pair of pantyhose and trouser socks ready. Those can be crappy pairs that you will want to toss out anyway.

Other necessities

  • have a full length mirror available
  • you will need good lighting
  • shopping bags, boxes and/or large trash bags

Take a deep breath, because here it comes……

Take everything out of your closets and drawers

Every. Single. Thing.

Try on every single item

Yep. Everything. Depending on your clothes stash, you may have to spread this out over a few days.

When trying on pants, dresses and skirts, it will help if you slip on the shoes that you normally wear with them. I usually put on a black tank top, then go through all the pants, then all the skirts.

At this point, you just want to determine if the bottom item is a keeper or not.

As you try things on, don’t worry about what tops go with what bottoms just yet. That part will come later.

Make a DONATE pile

If you hate it or it doesn’t fit, put the item in a pile to donate.

I keep a clipboard with notebook paper and a pen handy to write down items as I put them in the Donate bag. If you have a lot of one type of item,just write “pants” and use hash marks to keep count of how many are going in the bag.

When you drop off your donation, be sure to get a receipt! You will need this at tax time, and the itemized list is always good to have as a backup.

Make a REPAIR pile

This pile is for clothes that you love, but they need a minor repair – like a button is missing or the hem is coming down.

Note I said minor. If it is a huge rip, needs a total alteration overhaul, or the zipper is broken, think about if you will really get the work done – and if it is worth the cost of the repair.

I hate doing alterations! I would rather take something apart and make a new item from the fabric before I would alter it. And putting in a new zipper isn’t worth the amount of time it takes me to rip out the old one and install a new one. Be realistic here.

The LOVE IT! pile

These are the clothes that you absolutely love. The colour looks good on you, it fits, the cut is appropriate, in style and compliments your figure.

TOSS it pile

For clothing that is beyond hope, throw it away! (Except for T-shirts. I have and easy craft project for you to do to recycle them!)

If you do a lot of gardening, yard work, painting, etc., you might want to keep a few items for chores.

Try on shoes too!

If they pinch or give you blisters, get rid of them! Put the ones that need minor repair in a pile to go to the shoemaker, and toss out the ones beyond hope.

While you are sorting through everything, you might as well try on belts too. Are they are too small? You know what to do! What about handbags? Scarves?

Is that everything?

  • socks
  • underwear
  • coats
  • boots
  • accessories?

Good! Now pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. You deserve it!

Go shopping IN your closet

Next, we will deal with what you have curated as your “keepers” and go shopping – right in your very own closet!

If you went through your closet as outlined above, you now have only the clothes that you really love, fit well, and look good on you. Let’s see what we can do with them!

Sort clothes into groups

Sort through what you have and group the pieces by

  1.   pants
  2.   skirts
  3.   tops
  4.   jackets
  5.   dresses

Now comes the fun part!

You will need

  • a full length mirror
  • good lighting
  • do your hair as if you were going out
  • have pantyhose and trouser socks ready
  • paper and pencil and/or a smartphone

Try it ALL on – systematically

Start with a pair of pants or skirt – whichever is your preference. Put that on, along with the shoes that you would normally wear with it.

Piece by piece, try on all your tops with that ONE skirt or pair of pants. Yep. ALL of them.

Experiment with different combinations

  • Try the top tucked in;
  • now over the pants/skirt and belted;
  • now without a belt.
  • With a tank top and a jacket or sweater.
  • Try to keep an open mind, and go out of your comfort zone with something a little different that what you would normally pair up. Of course, some will be totally disastrous combinations, but others…they might just surprise you!
  • Try a different pair of shoes or boots with those combinations.
  • Add a belt (even if it isn’t the right colour.)
  • a scarf
  • try on some jewelry.

Capture that combo

When you find a new combination that works, write it down or take a photo with your phone.

Something missing?

In that new combination, did you find that you might only need a new belt to make that whole thing really come together? Jot that item down on page 3 of this printable Shopping Checklist (click to download).

Move on to the next pair of pants or skirt, and repeat the process. Keep doing this until you have gone through every piece of clothing you own.

for dresses, try something different and put a sweater over the dress – so that it looks like a skirt and sweater. How does it looks?

How many new combinations did you discover as you shopped your own closet?

Did you find that your wardrobe needs a complete overhaul?

Or do you need to build a whole new wardrobe for a new career, lifestyle or because you gained or lost weight?

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