The Shopping Guide: Comfortably Dressy Style

Should I buy this shirt? Click here to see the full size or to print.

I’ve written a lot of words about putting together a wardrobe that functions with fewer, but better, clothes.

I’ve come a long way from back when I had a closet with four different sizes but nothing to wear and a bikini older than most sixth graders.

I gradually reduced my wardrobe and identified why some clothes didn’t work for me so I could avoid purchasing mistakes.

I talked about how to put together outfits with the 3-piece rule: if you wear a two-piece outfit (a shirt and pants), add a third piece (try a scarf, cardigan, or jacket) to complete your outfit for a more cohesive look.

I simplified my style by wearing less casual clothing and making a “comfortably dressy” style that works for me.

One question I hear repeatedly is, “Where do you shop?” I don’t have one specific store that could be my style secret. It’s mostly about how I shop. This might be the lengthiest post I’ve written, but I want it to be a useful resource.

The first lesson I ever learned about shopping for clothes was to know your colors from the book Color Me Beautiful. It’s from the 80′s, but the color guides are still relevant as a starting point. Are you an Autumn who looks best in warm shades of rust, brown, and sage green? A Winter who looks vibrant in jewel tones? A Summer like me who practically lives in soft blues and grays? Or perhaps a Spring who looks best in fresh coral, cream, and camel? That’s just a start, but knowing which colors work best is what helps to narrow down clothing choices.

I only go shopping for clothes a couple of times a year, and I always look for something very specific.

What I spend money on: shoes, pants, undergarments

What I don’t spend much money on: shirts, scarves

How to avoid spending even more money:

1. Avoid stocking up for clothing insurance. For some reason we act like we’re going to run out of clothes. When I find something really great, I’ll wonder if I should get two. Most of the time one is enough.

2. Make a “What Not to Buy” list. (Know your weaknesses.) I know I’m always tempted to buy another white shirt in the summer or another gray sweater in the winter even though I really don’t need any more.

3. Use retailmenot.com for discounts on online purchases, or at least free shipping. The format is clean and easy to use to find coupon codes.

4. Keep track of your sizes. I keep notes in my address book about the stores I shop at regularly, and I always keep a note of what size I wear at that store. This helps me to remember when I wear a different size top or bottom than usual, and it saves time when I’m shopping online and can’t try things on.

Shoes

I grew up wearing shoes from Payless and other inexpensive stores. Honestly, I didn’t understand why anyone would buy more expensive shoes when you could get cheaper shoes for so much less. I probably wore out my shoes every four months, and then I would go get a new pair. My upper limit for spending on shoes was about $40.

But then…one season I needed to replace my shoes again. We were about to go to Europe, and I was pregnant, and I desperately needed good shoes for my feet. I couldn’t find any cheaper shoes, so I decided to buy a pair of Cole Haan boots for $100. At the time it was the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever bought. I took them with me on the trip (they were the only pair of shoes I took since I like to travel light), and I wore them all the time when I got back. I wore them almost every day (except during summers) for the next five years. Those $100 shoes cost me $20 per year. Because they lasted so long, the most expensive shoes I had ever owned became the least expensive, and  I saved a lot of time by not having to replace them each season.

Once you upgrade to better quality footwear, it’s hard to go back to wearing cheap shoes, or maybe it’s my age.

I only wear shoes that are both cute and comfortable. I always feel sorry when I see someone hobbling around in heels that are obviously killing her.

I’m partial to Clarks for sandals, you saw my red Spring Step shoes the other day, I have a pair of Naot shoes that are a little more dressy, and my boots are Lucchese which are made in El Paso, Texas.

You’ve heard that some women don’t realize they’re wearing the wrong bra size? I was wearing the wrong shoe size for a while. My feet actually shrank two sizes when I went gluten-free. If you’re having a hard time finding shoes with the right fit, be sure to get measured at a shoe store to see if your feet have changed.

Denim

When you buy jeans, it’s not about buying the right brand, it’s all about finding the right fit. When I shop for jeans, I always plan to add about $10 to the price to get them hemmed to the right length. Most people can’t find the perfect fit straight off the rack. Find a pair that fit perfectly through the waist and hips and then tailor the length. Jeans should feel snug when you first try them on, and they’ll loosen up as you wear them throughout the day. If they’re already loose when you first put them on, they’ll be saggy later.

Most people have too many pairs of jeans. If you can wear them a couple of times before washing them, and you do laundry once a week, you can make do with two pairs of jeans, or three at the most. I would rather spend money on two perfect pairs of denim than keep seven hanging in my closet that I sort-of like.

A darker rinse looks more dressy so you can wear them more places, and they don’t show spots.

Shirts

It’s so easy to find shirts on sale that I don’t like to spend very much.

When I shop for shirts I look for washable knits that don’t require ironing or much maintenance. I like them to have some detail at the collar and a tailored fit. I usually ask myself, “Does this look more like a blouse or a t-shirt?” and since my style is comfortably dressy, I opt for the one that looks more like a blouse (but still feels like a t-shirt).

The shirt I’m wearing now (and in the next photo) is from Banana Republic, and it’s a soft knit, but it has a ruffled neckline that keeps it from looking like a plain long-sleeve t-shirt. It’s a winter shirt, but I bought it in early spring at an end-of-season clearance sale knowing I would want to replace a long-sleeve shirt this winter. When you only have a few clothes, it’s easy to identify what you need.

I’m at the point that when I clean out my closet, I’m cleaning out clothes that are worn out because I wore them so often, instead of giving away clothes that I never wore. My shopping list each season is based on what I need to replace. (This fall it’s a pair of jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, and socks.) Now that I’ve reduced my wardrobe to clothes I wear regularly, it’s less tempting to bring home a random shirt that I found on sale, or to even go shopping in the first place.

Where to Shop?

Remember that Friends episode when Rachel buys all her furniture from Pottery Barn, but Phoebe hates Pottery Barn? At the end of the episode their apartment looks “like page 72 of the catalogue. Oh look at that! The ornamental bird cage! Large!”

Just like you wouldn’t buy all of your home furnishings from one store, you shouldn’t buy your wardrobe from one store. You have to build your collection of clothes from a variety of sources, layering different pieces.

So where to go? Here is my experience and a few unapologetic opinions:

Banana Republic – I like to shop the sales racks for blouses, sweaters, and pants, but the clothes sometimes look better on the hangers, so I always try them on before buying. There’s no reason to pay full price because sales happen so often.

Gap – A great source for basic shirts (from the sales racks), but the dresses and pants never fit me. It’s an example of saving yourself time by knowing how the brand typically fits your body.

Ann Taylor & Loft – I’ve bought a few dresses from the clearance racks.

JCrew – When there is an amazing sale, it’s a happy day because the clothes I’ve bought there have been good quality. The clothes are so collection-centric though that I either find several things I like or nothing I want.

Lands’ End Canvas – I’ve bought a few things here, tank tops for instance, and now is the right time of year to hit up their bathing suit sale for next summer. Good tote bags from Lands’ End.

Discount stores like Marshall’s and TJMaxx – lots of blouses to bring flair to your basics

Department stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s – I don’t shop these much because I find them overwhelming, but here is where you get cashmere sweaters during the after-Christmas sales (which I guess now start four weeks before Christmas).

L.L.Bean – I guess I’d call this a source for sensible clothes for winter? I don’t experience much cold weather here in Texas, but my house shoes and tote bag came from here, and the quality is consistent.

White House, Black Market – the clothes fit me perfectly, but the boutique prices mean I only have a couple of pieces.

Zappos.com – I love all the reviews for shoes. I usually buy my shoes online, but I always do a quick price check first to compare other sites such as Piperlime and Planet Shoes.

The stores I don’t favor:

Old Navy – I don’t know, it’s hit or miss. I had one favorite shirt that I bought there, but other clothes are lesser quality. The colors are more prone to fading than their Gap counterparts, and it’s definitely more casual.

Benetton – I love the look of the preppy, colorful styles and the sales are tempting; I just don’t like the fabrics. Many of the clothes have dry clean labels because if they go through the washer they’ll shrink two sizes and never be the same again.

Anthropologie – Inspirational, but the quality is just not there to justify the high prices.

H&M – the clothes look great from far away, but are not as impressive when you get up close and check the quality.

Thoughts on Thrift Stores

I love the idea of vintage, and I shopped at thrift stores often when I was in high school and college. I especially love vintage housewares, and most of our furniture is second-hand with charming imperfection. I don’t shop for second-hand clothes very much anymore, though.

When I used to shop at thrift stores, I ended up with a variety of clothes that were “almost-right” or “good enough.” Now I keep a small wardrobe with just a few carefully-chosen items, and I want them to be exactly right.

To me it’s worth spending a few dollars more to buy exactly what I’m looking for instead of hunting for the hidden gems. In my area, the thrift store prices aren’t that low compared to the price of a new garment at an end-of-season sale. Your results will be better than mine depending on your local thrift stores, if having more variety suits your style, and you don’t mind stopping by regularly to check for new finds.

Maternity Style

It’s hard to buy new clothes that you’ll only wear for a couple of months, especially when maternity clothes are priced higher. Read this post at AlphaMom:

MacGuyver Maternity: Five Steps To Extending Your Non-Maternity Wardrobe Throughout Your Pregnancy

My 7 Must-Have’s for Comfortably Dressy Style:

  • dark denim
  • big sunglasses
  • scarves
  • tote
  • washable knit layers
  • boots
  • dresses

Whew, that was a lot. Where do you like to shop?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Great flow chart!

    I swear by Express for jeans. One pair runs about $60-70, which is only slightly pricier than some other brands I’ve worn, but they last forever. I purchased a pair four years ago, and I’ve worn them constantly since then…but they’re still holding up great. They’re not stretched out, the hems are intact, the color has lasted, and the knees are a little faded but that’s all. I plan to buy a couple more pairs after I’m no longer pregnant, because my other brands of jeans are wearing out and I know I’ll get so much use out of the ones from Express.

    I must admit that I’m really perplexed by the Color Me Beautiful stuff. I’m a redhead with green eyes and very fair skin with a pink undertone. I look best in jewel tones AND warm colors like brown, sage green, etc. Is it possible for me to be in-between colorings? So confusing.
    Cate´s last post…What Simone’s Reading

    • Yes, I believe you can be in-between, which is why the 4-season chart is just a starting point for you to find YOUR best colors. My close friend has coloring like yours. She looks great in emerald green, camel, coral. It makes sense to me that you look best in colors that are clear like jewel tones but still warm. When you find a winning color, look for colors that go well with that so you can build a trustworthy color palette.

    • Read that book religiously when I was a kid. . would hazard a guess that you are a spring since they look good in really bright colors. But I think it is true you can look good in different seasons. .most likely you are Spring/Fall. Jewel tones are usually Winter but since you are a redhead you can probably wear those colors (but true Jewel Tones have blue undertones).

    • Hi Cate
      I have the same colouring as you except grey/blue eyes. I wear the same colours you listed too! I read somewhere that it is your skin tone that is important as well as hair/eyes.
      I find I can wear most colours if they are a strong/rich tone (so not pastels.

  2. I have seriously been waiting with anticipation for this post since your last! I loooove pairing down my closet and house, and I have been in the mood to lately. But, this time I have been putting it off because I wanted to see what you had to say. These are great tips. I think I’m going to print it out and keep it in my purse for shopping. A another thing I know I would love (because I am sure you have so much time…) Questions to ask yourself when getting rid of clothing :) Thanks so much. This is an awesome resource!

    Jenna
    callherhappy.com
    Jenna@CallHerHappy´s last post…October Giveaway: Custom Letterheads!

  3. It’s a little scary how similar we both are. I too have found the joy of wearing three pieces, I always feel so much more put together than when I just wear two, even if the third is just a necklace. Huge sunglasses are also a must for me, they make me feel very Jackie O or Hollie Golightly, and I love that. The only thing I don’t do, yet, is buy from all the mall stores. Most of my stuff tends to come from Target or thrift stores but I’m not very happy with most of the quality from Target, and the thrift stores around me are the same, I just feel like the price isn’t worth something second hand. My biggest issue is see through shirts. I don’t think you should ever have to buy a shirt to wear under a shirt you want to buy. I think I may have to trek out to the mall for my next clothing excursion and see what kinds of deals I can find. And on the shoe front I am definetly coming around to your way of thinking. I bought two pairs of shoes for $40 and they seemed to fit fine in the store but the second I got them home it was issue central, one hurt to wear and the other kept falling off my feet. My sister turned me on to Keen’s and I love them. I think I really need to start trading my old outdated shoes for new comfy last for years shoes. Thanks for the tips!
    Amanda´s last post…Trying to juggle

    • Whenever I’ve tried to buy something from Target, it doesn’t pass the next closet clean-out. (Except for one skirt that I use as our Christmas tree skirt during the holidays.) I don’t even try to shop at Target anymore.

      I have a few tank tops to use for layering under other shirts and sweaters. I used to feel the same way about see-through shirts, but I gave in.

      • I love your wardrobe-pruning tips!

        One thing that I’ve found Target to be good for is maternity and nursing basics. I had a couple of decent dresses from the Liz Lange range that I wore throughout my pregnancy. That’s the one time that their oddly large sizing is less of an issue. And the nursing camis/bras are cheap enough to ditch at the end of a year of nursing.

    • I would have to agree on the shoes Amanda. I used to buy cheaper shoes, but my poor feet won’t allow it anymore! I’ve had stress fractures in both feet and also have plantar fascitis (sp?) so now I buy good shoes. My most recent splurge was a pair of brown leather Born loafers. I paid $80 in Feb, wore them til summer and will wear them all winter again. And they barely look worn (other than a few toothmarks from a teething puppy!)
      I do some cheaper flip flops in the summer, but not something I can wear and walk in all day.
      Bernice
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…I’m not depressed, it’s just stress

  4. Thank you! I hate shopping and often go just because I need something. I buy what is on sale and sometimes it lasts – sometimes it doesn’t. I am actually looking forward to my next shopping trip now and I am going to get something I love and that will last.

    Favorite places are Land’s End and Dress Barn.
    candydawn´s last post…Scripture Memory…… You Can Do It!

  5. I am working on this right now. I have given away so many clothing items that didn’t fit right or I didn’t have anything to go with. Now I don’t purchase any items that I don’t have the accompanying articles to wear with it. I recently got rid of a skirt I loved but I never had the right top or shoes to wear with it. What a waste of money. I made some lists this weekend based on your suggestions and started prelim browsing online. By the way, I love your regular glasses. I’m updating my glasses as well and am always on the lookout for a great pair!

  6. I will admit that I LOVE Anthropologie. I was introduced to the store a little over a year ago. I have purchased several things, but always on major sale. So, my total right now, for my favorite pants, my favorite shirt, wedding gifts for friends (shh!), cards, and a couple other things has yet to read $80. I love it. However, I don’t shop their full-price racks usually.

    I’m wearing my JCrew shirt at the moment, but its color ran in places early on, so I have to be careful when I wear it. (Who is going to see me?) It was striped. Now it has blotches amid the stripes.

    I am enjoying this series! Thank you, Rachel!
    Eliz. K´s last post…[october]

  7. Oh my gosh, that flow chart caused both the hubby and I to laugh! Great stuff! I agree with all of this, especially paying more for quality shoes that will last longer. I tend to shop at Talbot’s – although I’ve found that their quality isn’t quite as good as it once was and their sales are iffy at best. I’m a L.L. Bean junkie – those Wicked Good houseshoes are THE BEST. In the end, I don’t mind paying for for quality – which is why I have sweaters that are almost 20 years old. I also pick up things like t-shirts at Kohl’s, but they’ve held up really well through lots of washings and during the summer I wear them almost daily, so two thumbs up from me. I loved this post – thanks for sharing!
    Carrie @ Busy Nothings´s last post…Life Lessons From The Great Pumpkin

  8. Stores I shop:
    Christopher and Banks http://www.christopherandbanks.com/home/index.jsp
    They have frequent sales, their clothing is almost always modest, and if you avoid the cutesy embroidered kindergarten teacher look they sometimes stray toward, their styles are classy and put together.

    Hanna Andersson
    http://www.hannaandersson.com/
    In some seasons I really love their women’s line, but not so much this season. The quality is quite good.

    Lee Jeans
    http://www.lee.com/LEE_STORE_US/en_US/home.html
    I love, love, love their comfort waist jeans and slacks. They just fit my body the right way.

    Travelsmith
    http://www.travelsmith.com/
    Their Indespensable Travel Dress is a favorite of mine.

    Coldwater Creek
    http://www.coldwatercreek.com/
    I’ve gotten some “fun” items from them, and I always seem to get lots of compliments when I wear their things.
    Lori´s last post…Balancing Balance, Part IV: Personal Filters for Life Management

  9. Loved this post. I’ve been *starring* all your wardrobe posts to refer back to. Yours is the style I aspire to, but I am notorious for buying something because it’s a good deal, even if I don’t love it. Ouch.

    And a huge thank you for including the maternity post. I’m just transiting into maternity wear for the next 6+ months, so I will gratefully take that timely advice as well!
    carrie´s last post…Birthdays!

  10. I buy my clothing at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Steinmart. I stay with certain name brands that fit my body type such as DKNY, Anne Klein, Kennar and Max Studio. I stock up on jeans at the beginning of the season because that’s when TJ Maxx and Marshall’s has the best inventory. I just buy about 5 or 6 pair a year ~ I wear jeans every day. As for shoes, they have to be comfortable and made well, but I don’t pay too much. I just splurged on a pair of black riding boots that I paid $100 for and they are great. I just went through my closet because I’ve lost 21 pounds so far. Found 3 new pair of jeans recently, but I’m hesitant to buy more because in 3 more months or less, I’ll be down another 10 pounds :)
    Pam @ diy Design Fanatic´s last post…Must Haves For The DIYer

    • Congratulations on losing the 21 lbs! That is a huge accomplishment. How did you do it? I have lost 6lbs with GREAT effort and have another 10 to go. Any tips you have would be appreciated!

  11. Love your blog!
    Thanks so much for all of your advice and perspective on things.
    This is a great post and I am really excited to be whittling down my clothes to ones I actually wear and feel good in. Makes it so much better when you forgo the fashion of the moment and stick with lasting style.

  12. Super post! I think the same way. I buy quality and get so much use out of the items. Cheaply made things do not last, and I’m rarely satisfied with the fit.

  13. What a wonderful and helpful article! I have really enjoyed all of your posts about simplifying clothing, and this one with real, practical help is probably my favorite.

    I remember my mom doing the Color Me Beautiful thing in the 80′s, and it really helped her out a lot with her wardrobe. I recently discovered my own best colors and I think it really does simplify things so much. I now know what colors aren’t the greatest on me and I can avoid them (which simplifies shopping!).

    I’m definitely going to follow your advice as I go through my closet soon. Thanks so much! :)
    Joy @ Artful Homemaking´s last post…Homestead Blessings DVD Giveaway!

  14. Brilliant post. I’ve learnt the hard way with buying shirts but my favourite buys have now lasted for years and years even though some were budget buys. They are quite different in style and have these two features in common. They’re not white (too prone to laundry accidents!) and are soft feeling natural fibres with a little bit of lycra. I freshen up their colour every so often using laundry dye as they’re worn frequently and fade a bit in the wash.
    lovelygrey´s last post…The Alphabetical Tourist: Andorra

  15. Such a great post – packed with resources… and your flow chart is super cool!!! Hard work to write and fun to read!!! Really this is the go-to-post for closet shopping!!! Well done!!!
    se7en´s last post…Saturday Spot: Nucleus Toys and How to Pick a Great Toy Store…

  16. Thank you so much! I’m hopeless when it comes to clothes shopping, so I’ve ended up with a WAHM wardrobe that’s really much too simple for my tastes. I’m pregnant now and trying to get by with buying as little new clothing as possible (your post justifies my decision to buy just two pairs of jeans *and* have them hemmed, btw), but after the baby comes, I want to overhaul my wardrobe bit by bit. This guide is so helpful!
    Rachael´s last post…On My Mind: 10.17.11

  17. Believe it or not, my favorite place for clothes shopping is Goodwill! All Goodwill stores are are different – believe me, I’ve been in some junky ones – but there’s one just 20 min. from my house that is surrounded by upscale suburbs, so they get fantastic donations. I have clothes from J Crew, Ann Taylor Loft, Coldwater Creek, The Gap, Geoffrey Beene – just to name a few. Have gotten my hubby lovely shirts by Izod and Polo. Last week, I got the most gorgeous cardigan by AVA – paid $4.99 for it and they retail for $150 – $200!

  18. Great post Rachel!! Now if I could just have you do all my shopping for me too, I’d be all set. :)
    Kat´s last post…The Secret To Being Perfectly Confident At Any Social Event

  19. Wow, this was a really great post, and I enjoyed reading (and relating) to all the comments, too. I’ve been in the space of paring down my closet for a while, but am having to work on those darn impulse buys that seem great at the time and then later realizing I picked exactly opposite of what I was going for.
    Thanks for the advice, especially the 3 piece outfit idea!
    Blessings!

  20. Great post. Love the “should I buy this shirt” chart!

    I’ve recently come around to expensive shoes, too, though it still pains me to pay so much!

    But almost everything else comes from a thrift store. I do it partly for price (just bought a Lands’ End cashmere sweater this weekend for $8), but mostly for the lesser environmental impact. Now that I’ve done it for a while, it’s really hard for me to justify buying new (with some exceptions, like undies and socks).

  21. Great post, Rachel – thank you for sharing more great tips.
    I, too, tried Color Me Beautiful, and am unsure still of which season I am.
    But after wearing primarily black, brown and dark grey for years, I finally figured out that I look really good in pink and white! I always noticed that a crisp white next to my face made me “glow” – a reflected light effect. So I wear a lot of white blouses/tops now. Just accidentally I discovered that a pretty shell pink had the me effect on my complexion. And then I noticed soft baby blue did too. So I tend to gravitate now go white, pink and blue in the warmer months, and to cream and chocolate brown in the fall/winter. I have a lot of brown. And all of these colors coordinate well – which makes accessory shopping easier.
    Still trying to figure out how to dress for the heat and humidity of my area and still do so modestly. It is not easy to cover arms and stick to the 3 piece rule in the summertime here!

    • I think you’re a Summer for color.

      In the summer I switch to the 1-piece rule and wear a dress.

      • Thank you, Rachel!
        The dress idea – love it. So comfortable and cool – I had forgotten your post about that very idea.
        Also meant to tell you I really appreciated your tips about taking note of sizes at different stores. This really is a big timesaver.

  22. Absolutely love the flow chart! Another way to narrow down the wardrobe is looking into the ethics of the company. Did a post on it about a week ago and found out a lot! http://www.imperfectpeople.net/post/2011/10/06/The-story-behind-the-barcode.aspx
    Katie @ imperfect people´s last post…Redeeming Halloween

    • Thanks for that post Katie! That will be really useful. I also tend to filter clothing decisions through an ethical lens – for clothes, I try to buy from local designers/manufacturers first of all, which can get pricey so I tend to wait for sales and then buy from a favourite store that sells clothes designed and made in Toronto. I do this especially for pants, skirts, and jackets since those can last a long time if you buy quality and you only need a few pieces. I also ask myself, how long will this last? I would rather pay a bit more upfront and avoid waste by buying something that will last longer – it means less shopping time for me, and if there are unethical labour practices involved, as least I know I only paid one unethical company for one shirt, rather than for four (this is twisted logic, but it’s the best I can do when it is hard to know exactly where your clothes are coming from). I will also just start out with a Google search like “sheepskin slippers made in USA” just to see what I can find! (I found Shepherd’s Flock sheepskin slippers, handmade to fit your foot tracings , made in Vermont for the same price as the LL Bean “wicked good” ones). One of my other simplifying tips that I’ve learned is not to reinvent the wheel – after a bit of trial and error I’ve discovered that Sternlein makes good 100% wool tights that last a long time and fit well, so I buy only those, and similarly I buy JCrew dress shirts, in petite size 8, since they fit right and last a good long time. I don’t need to go looking for other dress shirts – I just buy those ones when they are on sale!

      • Hi Bronwen,

        I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but if you do, what is the store in Toronto that you like to shop at?

        Thanks!

  23. fantastic. I agree wholly on everything. In fact, I am visiting the states right now from the Netherlands, and today I went shopping for all of the family. I hit many of the stores on your list for me and husband.

    I have started to feel about clothes the way I do about food: if it’s not perfect, it won’t satisfy. If it doesn’t satisfy, it is definitely not worth the money (or calories).

    Thanks for breaking it down.
    Tracey´s last post…Day 17: Adventures in Home Made

  24. Janice Giordano says:

    Thanks so much for posting all this useful information. I, like many others here, have been anxiously awaiting your useful tips. I have a traditional style and have been a loyal Talbots shopper for over 20 years. Yes, I’m over 50. I have been disappointed in their selection and quality and have branched out to Banana Republic and resorted to the mall. I have tried to go to one large department store and just look at Ralph Lauren and Jones of New York and have found a couple of pieces from each. They seem to be simple and classic. I have been working on whittling down my wardrobe and just gave many pieces to Goodwill this past week. I am not having much luck with finding comfortable dressy tops, but will keep looking. I have found some washable slightly dressier than t-shirt tops from Garnet Hill online and check their website on a regular basis. I am a khaki slacks/white shirt kind of person and don’t really enjoy wearing jeans. I totally agree with your take on comfortable shoes. I spend more on each pair, but they last much longer and I have just what I need for every occasion. Thanks for all the great information!

  25. I LOVE your chart! What a handy guide. When I have asked myself all these questions before making a purchase, I have never regretted buying a piece. When I’ve not paid attention to one of the “No” responses and bought a piece anyway, I’ve always regretted the purchase.

    Now if I could just find more organic, fair trade purveyors of stylish plus-size clothing, I’d be much happier.
    Kathryn Grace´s last post…Good News Friday: U.S. gasoline consumption drops 5 percent

  26. I have been waiting all week for this post!! I aspire to be someone who is willing to pay more for great quality b/c I really do end up wearing the same outfits over and over – and they are always the ones I feel the most comfortable in. I am huge fan of the clearance racks at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
    jL´s last post…13 Months of Awesome

  27. I would do just about anything to have you come help me go through my closet and then take me shopping. I struggle with finding my ‘style’ and then consistently buying clothes that fit my style. I have a closet full of clothes I got a great deal on but only wear the same few things over and over.
    Dawn´s last post…Monday Meal Plan

  28. Color Me Beautiful! I remember it well…my mom used it to stake her claim that I was definitely an autumn. :) Ha. So it was olives and mustards for me for a long while, with brown and coppery eye shadows…now I’m wearing black, blue-reds, purple, burgundy, and blues, along with silvery-blue eyeshadow and shiny pink lipgloss, and I love myself in pictures a lot better. Who knew I was a winter all along? :)

    • I think I have the same story. My mom always told me my hair was auburn because of the red highlights, and since my eyes are brown I thought “autumn” for a long time. But my complexion is really fair, my brown eyes are almost black, and my hair is really dark brown. I’m a winter, I think now, and look best in black, navy, some grays, bright white (not cream), hot pink, plum, and blue-reds. I keep my underlying basics black and gray (with some navy and dark chocolate brown to match my eyes), and brighten up those with the pinks and reds and some blue. It works and I, too, like myself better in photos and get lots of compliments.

      • Rebecca C says:

        Yeah, my brown-haired, brown-eyed sister is a summer, while I, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired gal am an autumn!

        The only frustrating thing is that I really can’t wear black or white, and it can be hard for me to find stuff that isn’t black, white or some shade of gray. I DO wear black and sometimes white, because I own shirts that I’m not willing to get rid of yet, but I know those colors wash me out.

  29. I LOVE the flow chart–so cute, and so true!

    I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to thrift stores, though I find that I still buy new the things from your “spend more” list (pants, undergarments, shoes).

    And I keep hearing that expensive shoes are worth the investment, but for me the idea is terrifying: I wear a prosthetic on my left foot and shoe shopping has always been an ordeal. Shoes that seem fine in the store seem bothersome a week later, and right now isn’t the season of our lives for me to spend money on shoes I won’t like anyway. It’s a pretty pessimistic view, but it seems to be the place I’m stuck in for now…

    In happy news, I found some fake pearls at a Mennonite thrift store today–25 cents as it’s half-off day! :D
    MK Jorgenson´s last post…A Platform to Meet in the Middle

    • Oh, I can relate about the difficulty finding good shoes. I have custom orthotic inserts to try and help my chronic foot issues and finding shoes that work well for me (after even just a little while in them) is tough! I have to ‘second’ Rachel’s opinion of Naot. Their removable footbeds have made a big difference for me (not sure if that feature would be helpful for you). And I swear I’ve never been able to wear a pair of shoes longer than I have those (both in terms of hours-in-a-day and year-after-year). It’s tough to spend the time and money figuring out what works for you, but ALWAYS take advantage of return policies :-)

  30. I love Land’s End swim wear!
    I love shoes but hate shopping for them. My feet are narrow and I now have to wear orthotics! I feel like I have spent a life time of wearing granny shoes.

    I usually only have two pair of jeans. Pants are the easiest thing for me to shop for.

    Anyone our there short and chesty? I’m 5’4″ and wear a 38 DD. I hate shirt shopping! My shoulders are narrow. Anyone have a place they like to shop for shirts to fit curvy, short, “pink and fluffy” (overweight) women? I’m a large to XL.

  31. Mrs. Biscuit says:

    I think this is my favorite piece you’ve ever written. And I star a lot of your posts!!
    Perfect!

    I completely agree with you about shoes. I wear Dansko’s 80% of the time in the winter. Love them.

    An off the beaten track suggestion for clothes and shoes….REI. Obviously a lot of their clothes are sporty but they also have some cute stuff (the other day I found a great dress). It can be pricey but worth it for good quality. I tend to buy my shoes there when they have the members 20% off sale.

    And I keep trying to like Old Navy…but the quality is awful!

    Thanks once again for a great series!

  32. You are so smart! This is exactly where I am right now and this post is so thoughtful. I love Nordstrom. I call ahead of time to utilize their personal shopping service. I tell them I’m a sahm looking for fresh basics that are washable. They stock the room full of fun stuff and I usually walk away with 1-2 things in 20 minutes–done and done. ( shopping is such a waste of time especially with kids) I’ve nixed target as they don’t pass the weed out test either. I like anthropologie, made-well, and jcrew. Now I shop for replacement pieces as well and I’m not afraid to wear my cashmere cardigan to the playground anymore.

    • I hadn’t thought about using Nordstrom’s service — not a bad idea to have them help you pull together the basics! Thanks for the tips.

    • brilliant idea to use the Nordstrom service… I’m going to steal your idea!

  33. Rainya Mosher says:

    I’ve been having such a tough time finding shoes that fit correctly. My once solid 9.5 medium width size is hit or miss at best. It never occurred to me that my feet may have changed when I went gluten free due to Celiac a year and a half ago! The rest of me changed with the eating shift (for the better!) so why not my feet? I believe a stop by a good shoe place for a sizing is in my near future. Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

  34. Rita @ the busy minimalist says:

    Great post Rachel! I have a similar method to approach my shopping…

    I also downsized my wardrobe and got rid of many, many, MANY clothes, some because they were not the right colour (I’m a winter and look my best in black, white, greys and dark blues), some because they didn’t fit me right. I also downsized my shoe collection (I got rid of 40% of my shoes and I’m planning on getting rid of some more).

    I used to be a shopaholic, but now that I’ve embraced a moderate minimalist lifestyle, I only buy what I need and I keep a shopping list in my closet. I also love scarves!! I’m european (from Portugal) and yes, it’s true, we do wear scarves a lot, not only in Italy… We can find them everywhere, from couture shops to the farmers’ market.
    I wish a lovely week ahead!
    Rita

    • Eve de Rooy says:

      Hello Rita,

      I just love your phrase : moderate minimalist lifestyle!I am a European organizer working in Holland. To me organizing means looking at and defining how you relate to your living environment,( and your clothes!). I am and have been a fashion concious woman, and I have a small closet…all of 3.2 meters, with 2 hanging sections and 4 shelves. But they are neat and easy to use, and because of that I have a list in my head, like you have one in your closet of the things that can be bought. I also have a list of must have fashion items for the season…slide those 2 lists together and you get a comprehensive list of what you can buy, and have fun doing it. Because all to often when I go through wardrobes of clients I find, apart from clothes that are not quite right in terms of size, style or condition- a lot of repeats. When I had to organise an old ladies closet I found over 40 white blouses! Even if you wear one everyday, you certainly don’t need that many. Tying into the “buying what you need creed!

      Ps I am going to find you on Twitter!

  35. Thank you for this great post! I just love your series on clothing. My closet is pretty minimal already, but after reading through your series, I donated still more stuff. And now I am NOT going to shop for more, but trying to combine what I have in different ways. I have to do laundry more often, though…
    I have two pairs of great jeans. I also invest in really good shoes which last at leat five years with me. Where I shop might not be useful to you as I live in Europe, but I liked reading your suggestions and will visit those stores online for inspiration.
    Again, thanks! Martina

  36. I have been loving these posts on your wardrobe and I have been trying to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. I, too, have read Color Me Beautiful, but like some others that have commented, I am not sure what season I am! I look good in blacks AND browns and mostly dark colors with the exception of white.

    I started out the year with the goal of not buying any new clothes, but when summer came I needed some new things.

    I really like those charts that have “make 30 outfits out of 12 pieces of clothes” but I just can’t seem to do that!

    I hope I can take your advice and start paring down my wardrobe and sticking with quality over quantity AND feel good about it.

    • dark colors but not white? I’m guessing Autumn.

      • Dark colors as well as white, but no other light colors. After looking at the 12 seasons I found online it seems like I would be a deep autumn – sharing some of winter’s colors.

        It’s a great idea to get in the habit of choosing clothes based on quality and what really “goes” together. It helps for finding clothes for your little ones as well!!!

        • I was going to say winter, because that’s what I am and I go for those same colors…dark brown hair, dark almost black-brown eyes, fair skin. My brown clothes have to be dark, chocolate brown though. If you can do lighter browns, deep autumn might be right.

  37. Can you share with us how you manage your hair. my hair is similar to yours but it always ends up frizzy on the top layers. Doesn’t make for a pretty mom!

  38. Hi Rachel,

    Great post about clothing shopping.

    I can’t agree with you more when it comes to shoes. Buying high quality, classically styled shoes is so important – and you will be grateful when you are older as your feet will be in better condition than those who wear cheap shoes. Also, finding a good shoe maker to repair shoes and refurbish them over time is key. I have Italian leather shoes from the 1980s that I still wear!

    For jeans, I love the “These Are Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” because they are especially great for older women. And yes, LLBean has some great classic clothing of high quality. And their tote bags are excellent – and still made in the USA. I think their bags are of a higher quality than those offered by Land’s End.

    Some stores to find nice, classically styled clothes are Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, and especially Talbots.

    I am in my 50′s and there are a few things I have learned about fashion for “woman of a certain age”! LOL!!! These are:

    Never wear your skirt above you knees.

    Wear your hair no longer than your collar bone.

    Go easy with make-up and do not wear mascara on your lower lashes.

    Buy the best undergarments.

    When it comes to shoes buy the best and with no more than a two inch heel.

    And finally…if you’re old enough to remember a style of clothing the first time it was in fashion, you shouldn’t be wearing it now. LOL! As a product of the 1960s, I won’t be wearing hip-huggers and platform shoes anytime soon. :-)

    Have a great week.

    Love,

    Mary
    PS – When will you be sharing some pictures of your new home? I am so looking forward to seeing your house makeover. :-)
    Mary´s last post…Quick Tip: Is Fresh Really Fresh?

  39. One thing I have learned over the years is to JUDICIOUSLY shop proactively — to try to never be in a situation where I HAVE to buy something right now. (Unrestrained, this turns into a stuffed closet of overkill!) I am giving myself the luxury of time — time to find a good price, time to find the style I really love, time to think. Why?
    1. Replacement of wardrobe basics: I KNOW I am always going to want a classy button-up white blouse. When my current model starts to age, I am on the look-out for a new one.
    2. Because I don’t like to be a slave to fashion. The styles, colors, and fit I love may or may not be the current trend. When I see my preferences heading “out,” I have been known to buy a bit more than I might have otherwise so as to ride out the new trend until “my” style returns. (And it WILL return — it cracks me up to see teens/early twenties acting like they invented whatever is hot at the moment.)
    Lori´s last post…Balancing Balance, Part IV: Personal Filters for Life Management

  40. I am really enjoying and appreciating these wardrobe posts. Thank you.

    I like Eddie Bauer but never buy anything first out there, because I know it will go on sale eventually. I have pretty good luck on the clearance racks there.

    I do buy some things at Target, but mostly it’s undergarments, workout pants, nightgowns, and kids clothes. Like you, I found that Target and Old Navy purchases don’t last.
    wesleyjeanne´s last post…#263

  41. What a great post – so very helpful! I like your idea of paring down the wardrobe. I’m in the mood to simplify. :)

  42. I agree with your whole post. I figured out by the end of high school that cheap shoes hurt/never fit right, so I quit buying them. Now I’m extremely picky about shoes; basically, if they don’t fit, then I don’t buy. Now a few years after college, I’m finding that quality over quantity is better for my wardrobe as a whole. I like the Gap and Eddie Bauer for jeans. Gap, Banana Republic, and Eddie Bauer for shirts and sweaters. Dresses come from where ever…they just need to fit well around my tiny rib cage. Great post too, btw. Love reading all of the comments. :)

  43. Such great tips! I am working toward a smaller, more versatile wardrobe, but I’m still in a postpartum transition, so I really appreciate the link to the article about maternity clothes.

    Pregnancy really does make it tough to stick to the wardrobe you want. At least this time I know what to expect. With my first, I expected to be back in my old clothes right away. I was super discouraged to not only have gone up a pant size, but to not fit into many of my old blouses, thanks to my much bigger nursing chest size. I tried to remedy the situation by going out and buying several cheap pieces. Now that it’s been a couple years, I kind of regret that, because some of the clothes have shrunk a lot or already falling apart. Now I know a little better. But it’s still hard to spend good money on sizes that (I hope) will be temporary.
    Amy´s last post…Necessity is the mother of invention

  44. Lots of great, and useful, advice; well done! My favorite stores are Orvis and J. Peterman; Orvis for classics and J. Peterman for dressy events/partys.
    If there’s a poor foundation, the structure, over time, will eventually break down and this holds true for shoes, feet and the body as well as buildings. I buy absolutely the best shoes I can afford and wear them for years, decades even. Favorite brands include Merrell, Mephisto and Born.
    I swear by scarves, belts, hats and jewelery and, when traveling, can get 3 weeks of clothes in one carry one simply because I use scarves, belts and costume jewelery I’ve made to enhance the 4 or 5 pieces of clothing I’m carrying. When traveling, I take only one hat.
    My three clothing rules…always buy on sale and never buy colors that don’t look great on me. I know my color style and stay w/in those colors. If buying clothes for home, I buy only natural fibers; if for travel, I’ll throw in man made fabrics that are easy to wash/dry on the road.
    Sandra´s last post…Sabbath Keeping

  45. Great post and great comment discussion. I learned a lot today. I shop at Lands End, Eddie Bauer, LLBean and Kohls. I’m trying to balance a wardrobe for two different functions – my office days (3/week)- business casual and my home days. I feel strangely overdressed if I wear office clothes at home – that and the chance of wrecking them while doing mom stuff, but I don’t like managing two sets of clothes. Love to hear what you all think.

    • I work at an office and feel as though I also have two sets of clothes. As soon as I get home at night, I end up throwing on sweats and a T-shirt. I used to dress down on weekends too and still do sometimes. However, I have many favorite pieces that hang in my closet for years because I’m afraid I’ll spill something on them, so I don’t wear them. I’ve been trying to wear them more because they can be 1) cleaned, and 2) replaced. I often look a bit overdressed for a family dinner or going out with friends, but in the end it makes me feel good and that’s just the way I am.

      Probably no useful advice here, but I do understand where you’re coming from.

      • I work at an office as well, and used to have “work clothes” and “weekend clothes” which were basically yoga pants. I found it was a huge help to invest in a good pair of jeans I love, so that when I got home from work, I could switch to those. They were super comfortable (buy jeans with lots of stretch!), but still went with my nice work tops. Then, I also tried to blur the line with the tops I bought, thinking, would I want to wear this on my day off? Now I buy a lot of sweaters and soft button-ups, or pretty knit shirts that work for both work and home. I made sure anything I got was super comoftable so I would WANT to wear it on the weekend. I hope this helps you!

  46. Celeste in Dallas says:

    Amazing post, incredibly helpful. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the link to “Color Me Beautiful” isn’t working…

    I really don’t know what my problem is when it comes to shopping other than impatience and lack of planning. I shop to shop and end up with random pieces of clothes that don’t go well together.

    I had never really thought about what my colors are, very interested to find out!

    Thank you for this!

    • Thanks, I fixed it. Keep in mind that the book I linked to is old, you might find more resources as well or a friend to help.

  47. Love this series! I have been building my own simple wardrobe since my second child was born, according to my color match and a fashion service (MissusSmartyPants- she also did my color season ID because I am hopeless at it!). I have a harder time finding petite quality clothing- LE is hit or miss, but I love LLbean! But most of all i have gotten good at scarves, one almost every day, and making my own brooches to wear in the spring/summer! As a stay at home mom, those scarves are not only fashionable but good for playing peek-a-boo!. Yes, even a scarf to the lumber store- why not?? I also feel a little overdressed at home but it think it improves my overall attitude and makes me smile. I second the shoes idea as well! Love my Orthaheels- i have three pairs of shoes (heeled sandals, flat sandals, and mules- good for Florida, and that’s all i need!)

  48. I think I may use a slightly different shopping/dressing approach than many of the commenters here (and perhaps even the author). While colors are important to me in terms of flattering my skin tone and hair color, the fit and cut of the garment trumps anything its color might do for me. In other words, a sweater in one of my preferred colors that doesn’t fit my body well does not get purchased–period. If the item doesn’t flatter my body, then the color is irrelevant. I suspect that when women say that they feel “frumpy” in a certain garment, it’s primarily because of the cut, and possibly color is the secondary issue. In my view, it tends to be the *cut*, shape, and fit of garments that mark them as being unflattering or outdated–not their color.

    Really grasping what cuts and silhouettes work on me, with an hourglass figure and quite wide hips, has simplified my shopping decisions. A beautifully-colored yet boxy top may be visually tempting, but I know it’s not going to flatter my shape, even though its color may flatter my skin tone. So I keep searching for a garment that will do both.

    • I wholeheartedly agree! I don’t know what my color season is, and I have no interest in finding out because I like a wide variety of colors and would feel drab wearing just a few shades. For me too it is definitely the fit and the feel of the article of clothing rather than the color.

    • The fit is important for whether a garment is flattering or frumpy, but I focus on color first because when I’m looking at a sales rack full of clothes, it helps me to quickly narrow them down. Then I can look at a few selected ones to determine if I like the fit or try them on. To me they have to have everything: quality, color, style, and fit.

    • For me both color and fit are very important. I’ve seen way too many women buy tons of clothes and much of it looks bad because the color is just blah on them. The same with fit. I have an hourglass shape, too, and have started to focus on not only the shape but the hemline also. It all makes me feel great. And with “color me beautiful” or other systems (are there others?), you generally have a lot of colors to choose from so it’s not boring. I do like to keep my wardrobe fairly simple, like Rachel, but you wouldn’t have to. You just focus on making sure the colors flatter your coloring, instead of detract from it.

  49. My mom and I had our colors done by a consultant when I was in high school. It is one of the single best things we ever did. She is very much a Winter; I am a Spring. We like different colors, and knowing which colors we look good in helps us when we shop. I can pare down my choices more quickly by focusing on the colors that look good on me (warm tomato red is my absolute best color!)

    Something to keep in mind is that everyone can wear every color – you’ll either look better in a cooler version of it or a warmer version. Turquoise and denim blues look good on me, for example. Navy blue sucks all the color out of my face and makes me look like I’m dead. Finding the right shades, as well as the right colors, makes such a difference when putting a wardrobe together.
    Tanya´s last post…Let nature provide budget-friendly seasonal decorations

  50. I used to buy for the Seasons and then rotate clothes from the active closet to the inactive closet. Same with shoes and other items I was “taught” not to wear after or before a certain date.

    Now, I buy whatever catches my eye at whatever store my eyes happen to be looking at. Doesn’t matter. Cotton, white, patent leather, peep-toe shoes, etc. Year round. It all gets the same audition. Does it look ok (not cheaply made) and does it fit? And I will wear them when I feel like it. No Fashion Police on patrol here.
    Donna´s last post…Crystal Is Having A Jewelry Challenge, FREE BEADS

  51. Thanks for this post! I really enjoy it. I have also been searching for some new shoes and looking at some similar to your red Spring Step shoes. I live in Minnesota and will be needing to wear socks for the next 6 months. Question: Would you wear socks with your Spring Step shoes? (Obviously not white sweat socks! But dressier socks?) Love the blog!

    • I think they look a little better without socks, but here if it’s cold enough for me to wear socks, then I usually wear boots.

      • Thanks! My one problem is I get tired of boots all the time and strive for fun shoes AND warmth. Can be hard sometimes…

  52. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  53. I love that chart! I used to buy random stuff on sale that would never get worn and I finally got to the point where I wouldn’t buy a piece of clothing unless it fit and flattered. Period. Right now, shopping is not an option, but when it is, I hope to hold fast to that rule (and some of your great tips from this post).

  54. I’m over 50 too, I shop mostly Eddie Bauer and Macy’s….I have certain basic pieces I build around, and I’ve been adding quality accessory pieces to spice up the basics…and I don’t buy anything that I can’t wear for at least 5 years….I spend more on individual pieces, but only shop 2-3 times a year, and since I know my best colors, everything honestly co ordinates with about everything else!

  55. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I am getting ready to move in a couple of weeks and am in a MAJOR declutter mode. But I have yet to tackle my monster of a walk-in closet. Can’t wait to apply these tips to my soon-to-be pared down wardrobe.

    Oh, and I just learned I’m a spring. Who knew?

  56. I just have to chime in to make my own comment and say thank you! I LOVE your style, and your style guide posts.

  57. I just wanted to say that for some sizes (like short and petite) it is so hard to find perfectly fitting garments, especially pants, that when I do find something that is fantastic, I do buy 2 of them!

    I love your dressing principles, really and truly I do – but there are days when I do not leave the house or see any living souls other than my spouse and kids – and on those days I do not feel like wearing “nice” clothes, as they will then need to be washed that one unnecessary time, thereby reducing its lifespan by a smidgen. So I keep my “nice” clothes (which is akin to your everyday wardrobe) for when I go out and someone will see me.

    Also, I was wondering – don’t you get bored of wearing the same clothes year round? How do you make the outfits look and feel different? For yourself and those you meet?

    • I feel like I’m always wearing my favorite clothes, so I don’t get bored, but some of it is my personality. Some people who have more clothes than me only wear their favorites anyway. I use scarves and vary the colors. I don’t think other people notice when they see a repeat outfit. They’re not really paying attention to my clothes, but they see that I look nice.

  58. Awesome post and what a great resource your flow chart is! I am going to have to come back and read all the comments, I love what your readers have to add to your posts!
    Bernice
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center´s last post…10 guilty pleasures for moms

  59. It seems like in one of your other posts you might have listed about how many of each item you have, but just as a rule of thumb, about how often should an outfit be seen in any one place — for example, if you attend 3 more formal church events per week and 2 more informal, how many outfits would one need, do you think? This is a great series of posts. My daughters and I are getting a lot from them. Thank you so much.

    • I’m not sure how to answer that question because there are so many ways to vary an outfit in small ways. I think it comes down to your personal comfort level. I know that I use to feel like I needed more variety, now, not so much, so there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

      • Yes, like you were saying about people noticing that you looked nice, but not necessarily noticing that you’re wearing the same outfit. That makes sense.

  60. Thank you! I love all of the suggestions!

  61. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m printing off your diagram and keeping it in my purse. These are great suggestions. I’ve found that I’m happier if I spend just a bit more money on an item that will last longer.
    Sage´s last post…You’re Not Fooling Anyone

  62. I really appreciate this post and that graphic is a keeper! I have a “uniform” of sorts and have gotten away from it. When I get too far astray it’s good to come back to the basics. I haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments yet (your website has the most helpful commenters/readers!) – but I’m a bigger gal. So I get a lot of my separates at J.Jill. Their wearever black pants are a staple (in all lengths). My uniform consists of black pants, white shirt, colorful cardigan or scarf or clunky jewelry with colorful flats and/or purse.
    As for the colors – I’m a solid winter (yay) black, white, gray and icy pastels. I have fond memories of my mom and all my girl relatives doing our colors when that book was around in the 80s :)
    Melanie´s last post…This & That: Book Giveaway Winner & the Paper Pear

  63. You’re so right, Rachel, it’s good to get things that will last, but due to limited resources after being laid off I didn’t buy much (I didn’t like to shop even before that.) When I did purchase I would go to Target and buy their basics, which I think you can blend their T-shirts with more expensive things & no one would notice.

    Now I’ve started shopping at Lands End & I like some of LL Beans things, but I haven’t bought anything there yet. However, I would like to shop at Ann Taylor, Talbots, J Crew, J Jill — places like that.

    For shoes I used to get my shoes at Mervyns before they went out, but now I’m purchasing PayLess (They have improved their stock on things like tennies.) I need to buy more expensive shoes for comfort and style, and I had been drawn to Clarks before I knew you even wore them (their shoes look well made and stylish).

    That flow chart of yours is funny — that’s just the way I feel when I have to go shopping for something for a special occasion — ideas running through my mind — so I keep from doing that if I can.

    I knew I needed to buy more expensive shoes and clothing, So you have inspired me to invest in better pieces for my wardrobe as my resources start to improve.

    But I have one question that I’ve been wanting to ask — Do you really clean the house with a necklace on as you did in the Italy picture?

    • Sure, that wasn’t a staged picture. That was the day I decided to clean the rugs. I just do some housekeeping upkeep here and there and I don’t bother to change clothes first.

      • Well good — you’re not a poseur.

        The first thing I take off when I come home is my watch, ring, etc. (except earrings, but I don’t sleep in them) — it helps me unwind. I do like a simple elegant necklaces like the one you’re wearing as long as it’s not metal (it’s too cold in winter), but probably cooling in summer.

        I don’t have many necklaces, but I would like to top off an outfit on a occasion. I’m a bit more casual than you at home, but I do like the idea of being ready to go at a moments notice.

    • Oh, & thanks for the RetailMeNot link. I didn’t know about that or maybe I heard about it and forgot. Those are good questions to think about before buying a top on your chart. And as I think about it — a top or t-shirt is framing the face, so it should reflect who we are. Bravo!

  64. This is pretty much AMAZING. I’m even going to stumble it – and I barely know how to use Stumble Upon. It’s such good information and so concisely and neatly shared!

    I agree with you on where to buy. I love Banana and Gap, but only buy on sale there. I have things in my closet from those places from YEARS ago and I still love them. Did you ever shop at Harold’s? They had the BEST warehouse sales in Dallas.

    I quit buying from Target years ago. I don’t get why so many people love clothes from there. I usually hate the fit and it’s very shoddy quality.

    Old Navy has stepped up the denim game, I think. My favorite dark trouser jeans from there are fantastic and a recent buy!

    Oh – YES on the shoes! I think for me, it’s just a matter of getting older. My feet can’t handle the cheap shoes anymore. Clark sandals – live in them. I am on the lookout for a good pair of boots right now. SUCH an investment, but like you said, one that will pay off through the years.

    Last thing – in terms of thrift stores, I’ve decided for myself I’m staying away from (most) modern era clothes there. (Open to exceptions, of course.) I took a little time to research and now I know what to look for in true retro/vintage pieces, and that’s all I look for while thrifting now. It makes it more fun and keeps me from spending too much!

    Fantastic article, friend. You are BEAUTIFUL!!!
    Megan at SortaCrunchy´s last post…giggles and squeals and Rebekka Seale

  65. This is great, Rachel! Really enjoyed reading! :)

    I like the *idea* of having a great wardrobe, but I get easily overwhelmed when I actually get the time AND money needed to add a few things. You want to get the most for your money, but you want something that will last too. There are SO many choices (especially within shopping malls) that sometimes I shut down before even finding anything.

    While I have not read the book about color you mentioned, I start to take more of a mental note when people would compliment me on my appearance in one outfit or other and I began to realize that it largely came about when I was wearing a particular color (for me it’s the blues/greens). That information alone helped me to block out a HUGE amount of choices while out shopping.

    Your drawing is too cute!

    • Sometimes removing things from your closet is a more effective way to improve your wardrobe than adding things, so I always start there.

  66. Thanks for this post! I really enjoy it. :)

  67. Nice post!
    I disagree about Benetton though: I own many items from B and its “twin” brand Sisley since in Italy they’re everywhere, the cotton/viscose stuff is good and last long. Benetton Undercolors is also good, I’m still wearing pjs I bought 10 years ago.

    PS – you HAVE to submit your chart to http://ilovecharts.tumblr.com/ :)

  68. I only shop at Target (with carts to put the kids in)- but I would rather shop on-line at a few good stores—- but that would mean getting out the tape measure….

  69. Wonderful post! I also love the 3 items of clothing rule, or the just a dress rule. My favorite place to get dresses is the Garnet Hill catalog. All my other favorites are the same as yours, so you may love GH too!

    No idea what season I am. I have light brown hair, hazel eyes and my skin is fair/rosy in the winter but I do tan (not on purpose!) in the summer months because I have olive undertones. I think my best color is navy, but I don’t know what season that makes me. Any idea?
    robin´s last post…A Very Merry Unbirthday

    • Almost any season can wear navy, but even if you don’t identify a label for your season, it sounds like you know what to look for in the colors for you.

  70. I love Boden for dresses and tunics. I find their shirts to be a bit too short which is a shame. I also love to get a couple of pieces from their mini line for the kids.

  71. And this post is why people love you! Good, good info.

    Me?

    I’m a TJ Maxer, Target, Banana Republic (guilty pleasure, only), and my new fave Athleta (sigh, $$), but in reality, I shop very little.

    Good statement about the boots.
    Amy Sullivan´s last post…Writing Your Heart Out

  72. One rule that I made for myself that’s worked really well is to limit the number of colors I allow myself to buy. That cuts down on the number of accessories I “need” to buy – I don’t need any brown shoes, belts, or bags if black and gray are my staple neutrals. For colors, I limit myself to a specific shade of teal/green, a purple, and a pinky-cherry red. This ensures that anything can be worn with almost anything else, creating many more outfits.
    Little Miss Moneybags´s last post…Insurance Drama

  73. Wow–such an awesome post! And I LOVE the graphic too! I’m trying to rework my wardrobe, but its hard only having a baby 3 months ago and trying to get back to the pre-baby weight! I don’t want to spend a lot on clothes I won’t fit in 5 months…I’m just trying to find the middle ground. And when do feet stay how they’re going to be? Because I can’t fit any of my shoes and people keep saying to wait before buying shoes because they’ll change again…its winter, people, and my toes will be cold in flip flops!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Tatum’s Eleventh Week and TLC’s Biased Baby Story

  74. I don’t shop at all anymore…from 50 items a week to nothing. I suppose on day I will ned to shop again, but for now, I have everything I need. Hopefully when that time comes, I will choose quality over quantity xxx Love this post.
    Tasmanian Minimalist´s last post…Spending Money To Save Money & The Bloody Gym Membership !

  75. Love this post! My mom was a Color Me Beautiful Consultant back in the days – I was just a young girl, yet we have always applied the principles. We always wear OUR colors =)
    Karisa Rivera´s last post…Entrenando Hijas: Servicio en las Habilidades Domésticas y Relaciones Interpersonales

  76. Thank you Rachel for this post! Actually your whole blog, I am in serious need of simplifying! I am going to start with my closet. I have long been a buyer of good shoes! My go to shoes have been Dansko clogs, I have had them for almost 10 years and they still look new. Need to get away from the oh it is on sale at target mentality. Some of the garments I have bought look god for the first season and then they just look worn out…
    thanks again. Also I am working through your ebook Simple Blogging, great ideas!
    Cindy

  77. This so great. I was looking for some fake pearls and I found this comment on Amazon. I thought of you. I thought it was cute that she wore them even when working out.

    Jessica

    This review is from: 1928 Bridal Classic 18″ Faux Pearl Necklace (Jewelry)
    Since I am a fanatic about my real cultured pearls, I wondered if these would look nice enough to wear to work and yet survive the punishment during my triathlon training – sweat, heat and pool chemicals. I have had them about a month and so far I am pleased; they don’t look “plastic-ey” and I still have my “signature” look while I am training…PERFECT!! (Of course I get teased about this often; who else works out in pearls????) I will update after 6 months of punishment to let you know how they have held up; but for the relative inexpensive price, I would buy them again.

  78. Loved this post! Lots of things to think about. I love J. Crew’s clothes. I should monitor the sales more. For pants, I love The Limited. I wear them to death, and I’ve even found some that are not dry clean only (heaven!). I did have a couple of questions:

    I had a baby a year ago and clothes fit weird now. For example, I can’t sit down on the floor (a necessity with a toddler) without showing a part of my anatomy I would like to keep to myself (and this is with pants from many different brands). Any suggestions?

    Also, with cashmere sweaters, I love the feel of the wool, but they fit somewhat frumpy. Can you get cashmere sweaters that emphasize a waist? Is that possible?

    • Long tank tops can be useful to layer with as your body changes. You can belt a cashmere sweater, but they come in all different styles.

  79. Another great post. I wish I read it before I hit the “buy” button on a blue sweater from Land’s End. I love blue but I’m not quite sure it’s my color! I also loved your tip about dressy t-shirts. I bought 2 dressier t-shirts from the Gap and love them. I always feel dressy enough yet feel so comfortable. I just discovered your blog and really love it.
    oilandgarlic´s last post…October 19: Learn A Few Recipes Really, Really Well

  80. Thank you for all these helpful posts about how to keep clothing simple. They teach me how to think about what’s in my closet, not what to think, which in my limited space has been very, very helpful. :)

    (One thought on Color Me Beautiful – my mother tried to follow it, but I discovered the advice isn’t quite on-key for women with yellow skin tones. It’s a good starting point for consideration, but I think as with anything, it’s always best to trust your gut!)

  81. I have to add that Old Navy maternity cotton items (dresses, tops) were really disappointing…things that I only wore for a month looked years old! In contrast, the Gap stuff I bought still looks brand new (after weekly washings the last 4 months) and will hold up for baby #2! Next time I wont waste money on Old Navy other than jeans!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Tatum’s Eleventh Week and TLC’s Biased Baby Story

    • I agree, and I bought a couple of Gap long-sleeve t-shirts for that post-partum transition. I find the same results for kids’ clothes. I love the Gap t-shirts for kids.

  82. I prefer stocking up if I find clothes that fit well and is a good price. It is very difficult to find clothes to fit me since I’m 5ft 1 inch and 100-105lbs along with vanity sizing. Hence, your rule isn’t applicable in my case.

  83. For me it’s Eddie Bauer. Good solid sweaters and pants that really last. Though I always wait for sales. I gravitate towards the same colours and found my clothes all go together well, which is nice. I’ve gotten t-shirts at Kohls that last me quite a few years. I’ve given up on Gap jeans, I think they make them for ostriches now…legs too skinny, and waist too big! But J.Jill has jeans that I just love and that keep their size after lots of washing. LL Bean is my go to for warm jackets and fleece. I know when I get one there it will be with me for years. Love walking around in Anthropologie, but only buy little things on sale. The clothes feel cheap for their price. Old Navy has been ok for some things at times, but I’m careful about what I get there.
    Oh, and my big rule…It’s got to be cotton! Cotton sweaters, shirts, etc. Because wool won’t get to the drycleaner and it itches, acrylic won’t last, and everything else doesn’t breath!

    Thanks so much for your blog it’s great!

  84. Nice article, the flow chart is great.
    I am a designer, and am interested in color and color theory in general, and a few years ago, found a link on another website to the site below, which expands on the Color me Beautiful concept. Based not just on color seasons, but on intensity and depth of color as well.

  85. Great and inspiring post. I am pregnant right now with my first, so have had to move a lot of my non-maternity clothes out of my closet to fit the maternity clothes. It’s made me realize how much I have that I don’t wear – or shouldn’t wear – and how much I could really get rid of. Once I’m back to my normal size I’ll definitely be doing a closet cleanse and keep your philosophies in mind.
    Alison´s last post…31 weeks

  86. This was an excellent post; I’ll have to go thru all the comments, because they are almost just as informative, it seems! I had already begun to do this–get rid of unnecessary clothing, and get only those pieces which are well made, good quality, and flattering. As simple as that concept seems, most of us do not naturally do this. But I still learned A TON from your post; who knew that going gluten free would cause you to drop 2 shoe sizes?!!

    My fave places to shop are Chico’s and Coldwater Creek during their end-of-the-season clearance sales at the outlets. I get tops (shirts, jackets, etc) and sometimes skirts from these stores. Excellent quality. Because their pants don’t fit me, I also go to Christopher & Banks, Jones New York, and Kasper for my bottoms–again, end-of-the-season, clearance, outlet, etc! I have worn a pair of Jones jeans for no less than 5 years, with no fading, wear, etc. It is worth it.

    Thanks for this post!

  87. It’s called fresh collective! There’s one on queen west and one on roncesvalles or sometimes I go to meg on queen west.

  88. This is my style exactly! Though my necklace is a gold, and I can’t stand scarves around my neck…

    I used to wear all target and walmart clothes – they were cheap, and I couldn’t find anything that fit me anywhere else (VERY large bust, small shoulders, small waist, short torso).

    I saw a lands end tees on sale online, and got a couple for about $10 each – oh my gosh. They fit. Generous at the bust, nipped in at the waist, flattering scoop necks, and gorgeous colors! Over the next few months, I ordered seven more. :D

    Now they’re pretty much my entire wardrobe – I have a few JC penny blouses, and the odd long sleeve shirt from target that fits decently. I figure, boring and flattering is better than exciting and frumpy, right?

    I’m also in the process of overturning my shoe wardrobe – I was another payless fan, but this spring bought my first pair of nice shoes (naturalizer sandals) and am a total convert.

    Sadly, I’m pregnant, just when I was getting my wardrobe to work! Last week I got a real basic maternity wardrobe (3 tees, 2 blouses, 2 skirts, 1 dress, 1 killer pair of jeans that are my most flattering ever!), and now I’m trying to figure out what my nursing wardrobe will be…
    Gringogarcia´s last post…Maternity Clothes!

  89. Goldberry Long says:

    I love this chart. Love it!