Saturday, September 26, 2015

A reader asks for my thoughts on creating a basic Wardrobe.

I am flattered a reader asked for my thoughts on creating a small and workable wardrobe.
But I'm not sure that I am up to the task!

Anne I hope that this post will help get you started.
By asking yourself the right questions you might get some direction...
I appreciate you having faith in me...and I hope that I do not disappoint you!

Do some homework before going shopping.
On the internet is so quick and easy...
so many fashion savvy bloggers are online I have learned a lot by reading their posts.

Pinterest is another great place to find inspiring fashions..."Parisian Chic" is one of my favourites.

Window shopping and browsing magazines will give you some new ideas.

Observing the way that garments are put together and styled in the fashion magazines inspires me to "make the effort" to keep my wardrobe fresh and feeling current.
Books on the subject can be found in stores and your local library...
Jennifer L. Scott has written several books on this subject and has many videos on You Tube, she's well known for her 10 piece basic wardrobe.

Every Fall and Spring I go through my closet and look carefully at the clothes that I am putting away in storage until next year.
I mend and launder any garments needing attention before hanging them downstairs in the "out of season" closet.
Then proceed to retire and donate anything that is worn or no longer thrills me.

When bringing out the current seasonal wardrobe I look at each piece with a discerning eye, try them on and decide if they are still in good nick or if they need to be replaced.

I'll ask myself how can I wear these garments in a variety of ways so that I get more mileage out of them.

I go through my accessories and look at the scarves, belts, shoes and boots.
Are they looking tired or worn, do the heels need to be replaced at the cobblers?

Can I update an outfit by simply adding a brooch, necklace or pairing it with tights and boots?

Do I have all the basics covered?

Lifestyle factors big in this...I am retired and lead a fairly quiet life.
I need clothes for walking, playing with the grandchildren, playing bridge and MahJongg at the seniors centre, for dinners and lunches out, the theatre, and casual get together's with friends.
(No gala balls or red carpet events!)

Next I make a list of things that I "need" to purchase...
and I make a small list of things that "might be nice to add."

Remembering that I have a tiny closet helps me rein in my tendency to buy too many pieces.

When I am out shopping I consider...

Does the garment fit well?
Is it flattering?
Can it be worn with other things that I currently own?
Is it good value for the price?
Will I love it for the next few years?
Is it easy care? (I rarely buy "dry clean only" garments)
Does the fabric feel nice against the skin?
Are the details like buttons, darts and seams neat and tidy?

Look in a 3 way mirror and be honest...
if the item matches with your criteria it's probably a good choice.
Ask about the store's return policy in case you have second thoughts when you get it home.

If like me, you enjoy shopping in charity and thrift shops you will not be able to return it if you change your mind so be sure...usually the garments are priced reasonably and therefore if you make a mistake you will not be out of pocket too much money.

Consignment shops are a different kettle of fish...each store has it's own policy on returns and you may be able to take it home "on approval" or put it on hold and bring a friend who will give you an honest opinion. Consignment stores are generally more expensive than thrift or charity shops because they carry "higher end labels" and often designer goods.

Another factor to consider is your budget...
Overspending is not advisable...
if you are living within limited means you'll need to mindful of quieting "the wants."
I mix higher end clothing with less expensive brands...
my g21 skinny jeans from Walmart are a prime example.
I regularly wear my Hermes scarves with inexpensive white tees and jeans.

Start with the basics in a neutral colour.
They need to mix and match so that you get more mileage out of them, making many different combinations possible with the same core pieces. CPW...cost per wearing wins here.

Consider your lifestyle.
Opt for simple classics with clean lines...they allow for accessories where you can add a personal touch.

My core basics would be in black with some grey pieces all in solid shades (no patterns) and include:
 a classic LBD, skirt, pants, jeans, a cashmere sweater, several tops and Tees, tank tops for layering, and a dressy jacket, and a white shirt. You'll need outer wear and depending on your climate you might need several options.

Once you have your core wardrobe you can add more depending on your budget.

If you are looking to personalize your wardrobe with accessories...
shop in ethnic, museum and gift and craft fairs.
Antique malls and charity shops often have unusual pieces of jewelry and scarves.
You will find some fabulous items on ebay and etsy too.

Thank you Anne, for asking for my thoughts on this subject...I like a challenge.

I hope this has given you some ideas and that you have fun searching for those perfect garments!
Please email me and let me know how you are doing with this project.

Readers please share your ideas and perhaps list the fashion blogs you enjoy and follow.
Leave a comment about how you approach putting together a wardrobe and addressing the various challenges that we come up against when starting from scratch. We are all in this together.

Thank you,


  1. Excellent advice, Leslie!

    What about what used to be called "foundations" or undergarments? This is very important to one's overall look. First, one should be fitted professionally for a brassiere so that one is knowledgeable about selecting the correct band and cup size. Secondly, one should select a well-constructed brassiere with seams to provide the proper support for the bosoms. The French bra manufacturers--such as Aubade, Cadolle, Chantelle, Lise Charmel, Carine Gilson, Simone Perelle, Chantal Thomas, etc.--provide good quality bras that are very feminine in character, with lots of lace, but provide good, solid support. Wearing the correct size bra makes a huge difference in one's overall appearance and often provides a (literal) lift!

    1. Luanna....I'd love it if you'd consider writing a lingerie post for me!
      You have the inside knowledge and I'd be more than happy to share it with my readers.

  2. The black/white/grey basic wardrobe is so versatile. I find that I can put on my white and black polka dot blouse or my Breton top with jeans and I can go about most of my "retired life" activities with confidence. This year, I really need nothing and I still have "left-overs" from my working days and my "pre-grey" days. I was really interested in Janice Riggs' weekly wardrobe posts last year. The Eileen Fisher "skirt leggings" and her black/ white dress appealed to me but I don't get dressed up very often during the week so the CPW is probably too high. I still would like the EF black and white slouchy pants but I can probably find something similar (Cutloose or Chalet or Tribal) for less. It seems to me that knowing when to splurge and when to wear Monoprix or Reitman's is critical in retirement.

    1. I'd love to be able to shop in Monoprix again...I really liked their stock and in The Marais there was a shop called COS which I loved and bought a striped top there...I understand is a swedish company linked to H&M and they have just opened in Toronto.

  3. Your advice here is spot-on, and so timely. My wardrobe has been in doldrums for absolutely ever and I'm looking to work on building a proper one. I can use this! And goodness, that grey/black gored skirt is beautiful! jen.

    1. I should have mentioned sewing ones own bespoke clothes when I was writing this are so clever to be able to make your own garments!

    2. Why, thank you! It's a challenge, to be sure, one I don't always feel up for. But I'll get there. And your advice certainly is pertinent in my situation, too, there is sooo much planning involved. (just read my own comment - "...looking to work..."?? What does that mean? haha!

  4. Oh you are SO qualified! Many women would love to dress à l'Hostess. I think the only thing you have left out is how you choose your pieces to suit your particular silhouette. What pants, what tops, what length and proportions etc. And did you make any changes when you lost the weight?

  5. Thank you for mentioning these points I will elaborate a bit here...
    I am very short so I buy petites as often as possible. Nothing too full or fussy...I keep the lines clean and uncluttered. I have an ample bust so I look for V necks and U turtle necks or crew necks as they just emphasize the bulk!
    I like skinny or lean looking cuts in pants and jeans, simple sheaths and wrap dresses are particularly good for me.
    When I lost the weight I had to consign and donate every piece of clothing other than my Burberry quilted jacket that was too small before I lost the weight...I had to rebuild my wardrobe completely and on a budget...30 pounds weight loss means you end up several sizes smaller, which is great but can be hard on the budget! I gave up wearing tent type tunic tops and went for things a bit more fitted...things that skim and don't swamp a smaller frame.
    My wardrobe is much smaller but it works much better than I could ever have imagined.
    Thanks again's always nice to see your comments.

  6. Thank you for this timely post. Autumn has arrived here and time to sort the wardrobe now I have more or less sorted the garden. The new plants are in, most of the tidying has been done so now to hit the clothes. I need to bite the bullet and make decisions about some of my jackets. Luckily I have a daughter who will happily take those I no longer wear in my retired status! I no longer need to be suited and booted for the office! I will keep your suggestions in my mind as I declutter.

    1. Enjoy this new phase...I'll be interested if you feel free like I did when de-cluttering my home and closet.

  7. Wonderful advice; you touched on everything; great suggestions and I must go and try to find some of those jeans you have mentioned so a persons wardrobe changes when we retire..I cannot believe it!..good choices all the way around..

  8. Your advice for Anne and all of us was very good and very timely for me since I'm getting ready to go through my own wardrobe. Madame Là-bas mentioned Janice's blog posts. Her sample wardrobes are good for getting an idea of how much one can do with a core wardrobe since she shows all the combinations you can make with just a few pieces. Her blog is called The Vivienne Files and is at

    1. I read The Vivienne Files too....Janice has a great eye.

  9. What a wonderfully comprehensive, yet succinct post on creating a basic wardrobe. You've done a great job, as always. Thank you!

  10. Excellent post Leslie! I've read many articles on this topic and yours was definitely one of the best!

    1. Rosie you are such a great supporter...commenter and a wonderful blog follower.
      I appreciate you!

  11. Great tour of the key principles. Even following those, I have at times ended up with too many clothes. So another useful guideline for me is, "If I buy this, what is languishing unworn in my closet", meaning, "that I would be wearing instead?" (For example, I once owned at least 9 pairs of black pants.)

    1. I can understand why a woman would own 9 pairs of black pants...really I can!
      I have 3 pairs of black pants and if a perfect pair would pop up on my radar...I'd have 4!

  12. Fabulous advice! You've got a perfectly chic wardrobe that expresses you, as you want to be seen. It fits your body and your lifestyle perfectly. Bravo!!

    1. Thank you...Jennifer.
      I've learned a lot from fashion professionals like yourself...

  13. Great post. I have been watching a lot of Project 333 and KonMari videos trying to get some perspective on how I want to revamp my wardrobe in terms of size and focus. I want things that I love (spark joy) and a smaller grouping of clothes that really work for me. They have been incredibly helpful. I am finding my style and focus is changing as I enter my 50s. After traveling internationally a lot last year for work (and adding a few days of sight seeing on the end), I have learned that I can live on a lot less and be very happy. I think the key is to actually pull out your clothes and make outfits and see what goes with what just like when you pack for a trip. My closet is huge but no longer do I consider filling it up as a sign of success or happiness. Now I want what I will love and wear regularly. When I cleaned out my closet recently, I was horrified at how many things I "saved" because I was scared to wear them and possible "use them up" only to find that now they no longer fit or the style is no longer appropriate for me!

    Here's to all of us looking great with the key pieces that make us feel like a million bucks without breaking the bank. ;)

    1. Sounds like we are in the same frame of mind when it comes to clothing and closets...

  14. Thanks for visiting me at Delights of the Heart. I love fashion, but don't usually read fashion blogs. If you visit Lorrie's blog you will see I was a patternmaker for 25 years for such companies as Jantzen Swimwear and Nike. Loved your tips.

    1. My blog is more of a lifestyle's a mish mash of things not exclusively fashion posts. Designing swimsuits would be an amazing challenge! Hope you had fun in Victoria when you were here...

  15. I just found your blog... I love it!!!

  16. Great post -- I have been working on this for several years, and still make mistakes, but I'm getting there. You're right about losing 30 pounds and needing a new wardrobe. I still have very little because I'm going slow replacing things, partly because I can't afford everything at once, and partly because I'm re-thinking some of my style choices. You have yours down -- it looks great. I love the idea of classics with interesting and unique jewelry.