I frowned at my husband and measured again.
'I'm sorry darling, this has to be the smallest one I've ever seen,' I told him.
He tried to reassure me but the truth was plain to see: our closet was very small. (What did you think I was talking about?)
We'd just moved house (again) and our new army-allocated home boasted the smallest closet in the world. A walk-in closet...but only if you're a particularly small hobbit.
And after years of shopping too much, I had a lot of clothes. But I took the small (nay, tiny) closet as a sign that it was time for me to stop shopping and start decluttering.
Along my closet decluttering journey, I learnt some stylish lessons.
So, whether you want to stop blowing your children's college fund on clothes or just want to reduce closet clutter, this post will help you get the most out of the clothes you already have.
1 | Find your signature style
This is my best tip for being the best dressed mommy.
Boho, preppy, chic, edgy, biker chick, Park Avenue Princess…whatever your style, I highly encourage you to get to know it. Find your style muses, people whose style you admire and who give you style inspiration.
Once you know what your style is, you can avoid buying anything that doesn't fit that style. Better still, you can declutter your closet and donate all your clothes that do not fit this style definition.
2 | Audit what you have
Did you ever go through your wardrobe and think 'hey, I forgot I had that'?
If you don't even remember what you have in your wardrobe, you can't use it to build cute outfits. You could do this in a variety of ways, but of course there's an app for that.
Let me introduce you to my little friend: Stylebook. Jen over at Iheartorganizing wrote an amazing post about Stylebook. Click HERE to read her helpful post.
3 | Work your clothes hard
One of the million reasons I love our Duchess Kate Cambridge is that she works her clothes hard. She is famed for her style and for recycling her clothes. Check out photos of Kate and pick out her signature nude pumps, navy wedges, slim fit blue trousers, navy blazer. Bravo, Kate!
If you want to upgrade your closet, please do not buy an item unless you can wear it with at least five other things already in your wardrobe.
Think it can’t be done?
Take a look at Cassie over at Hi Sugarplum. She's an expert at getting the most style for your dollar. Click here to enjoy her Five Ways: White Jeans in Winter. Don't wear white after Labor Day? She has plenty of '5 ways' features and they're all so inspiring they might just make your brain explode all over your keyboard.
4 | Don’t categorize clothes
We usually like to label clothes by season, or by how formal they are, or whether they are for the office or not. But if you want to squeeze every last drop of versatility out of your closet, I encourage you not to categorize clothes.
That doesn't mean wearing a suit to do your supermarket shop. But maybe you could wear your blazer with jeans and a basic white t.shirt.
You can find so many ways to dress up or dress down your clothes that here's really no reason to leave anything languishing in your closet.
Pro Tip: If ever you're stuck for inspiration, do a very specific search on Pinterest, For example if you want to see how people are dressing down their cute blazers, search on Pinterest for 'dress down blazer'.
5 | Swap with a friend
Are you lusting after your best friend's leather jacket? Trade it temporarily for your gorgeous clutch. Just remember to agree a return date, clean the garment before returning it and pay for any damage. Hell hath no fury like the owner of a ripped leather jacket.
6 | Beware of thrift stores
Ok, I’m hesitating here. I don’t want to discourage thrift store shopping because that’s money going to really good causes. But, those teeny tiny prices have a way of tempting us into a whole load of purchases we don’t always have room for.
Before buying something from a thrift store see if you can answer yes to ALL these four questions:
- Would I buy this if it was full price?
- Is this garment great quality?
- Can I wear this in at least five different ways?
- Would this be a completely unique item in my closet?
Instead of buying something, perhaps making a donation to the cause would be better.
Oh and by the way, these tips also apply to sales shopping.
7 | Hire clothes
There are so many websites that all you to borrow clothes for a short period. This is a great way to get your hands on beautiful clothes without a huge financial commitment.
And not just clothes: Rocksbox is a jewelry subscription service that lets you rent 3 pieces of jewelry at a time. When you're done wearing the pieces, you simply return and get 3 more sent to you. If can't bear to return a piece of jewelry, you can purchase it. How easy is that? Click HERE to take a peek.
**This is NOT an affiliate link or sponsored post, I'm just straight-up drooling over this jewelery**
With names like Kendra Scott, Gorjana and Kate Spade, I'm hoping Rocksbox start shipping to the UK real soon. At the moment they only ship to the US which leaves me like a kid with her nose pressed to the window of a sweet shop. Come on, Rocksbox, start shipping your treasures internationally. Pretty please.
8 | Only buy quality items
There’s a saying here ’you buy cheap, you buy twice’.
Buying quality items that you’ll wear again and again is cheaper than buying that cheap sweater that’s going to disintegrate first time you wash it.
So I highly encourage you to think about cost per wear, rather than initial financial investment.
Be prepared to buy 50% fewer clothes but pay 50% more for certain items: Decide which of your clothes need to be the very best quality. For example, you might prefer to buy some cheaper t-shirts and invest in great quality jeans.
Here are some tips to help you decide if a garment is really worth the investment:
- Buttons: are they securely stitched on? If they are fabric covered, is that fabric secure? Quality garments always come with spare buttons. Do the button holes themselves look well stitched and secure? Any loose threads?
- Hems: are the hems stitched securely?
- Lining: not everything needs to be lined but skirts and trousers that are made of lighter/potentially see-through material definitely need to be lined;
- Labels: do they itch when you wear the garment?
- Skirts: go for a walk, do they ride up your legs as you move?;
- Patterns: does the pattern line up at the seams? Quality garments have patterns that match at the seams.
- Fabric: does it feel nice on your skin? Does it itch? Will it make you sweat? (certain man-made fabrics, I’m looking at you!) Also beware that cheaper fabrics can be very thin, verging on transparent. Be sure to hold the garment up to the light and check that you won't be showcasing more than you bargained for.
- Zippers: Metal zippers beat plastic zippers every day of the week. Quality garments have zippers that are concealed by little flaps of fabric whereas cheaper garments come with exposed zippers - unless an exposed zipper is a design choice, of course.
Two final bonus shopping tip regarding quality:
- I encourage you never to buy anything you can’t return, especially if you can't inspect it first, for example from EBay or Etsy;
- Go vintage shopping to find well made garments. There's a reason those garments survived all those years.
9 | Look after your clothes…
…and they’ll look after you.
Buying beautiful clothes and then failing to look after them is like putting cooking oil in the tank of a Maserati. Practically criminal.
Top tips for taking care of your clothes:
- Read the washing instructions and obey them;
- Fold jeans, sweaters and t.shirts; (folding jeans is great for saving space too)
- Hang pants and blouses;
- Hang necklaces to stop them getting knotted up;
- Don’t squash clothes into your wardrobe, space out your hangers and let your clothes breathe;
- Don’t put clothes away until they’re completely dry;
- Use boot inserts while you aren't wearing them to help them keep their shape (rolled up magazines or wine bottles are good DIY options);
- Iron clothes if they are wrinkled. Need I say more?
Of course, you be the judge of what works best in your closet. If you prefer to hang your jeans, I wouldn't begin to try to stop you.
10 | Get your clothes tailored
Yes, it seems a bit decadent but well-fitting clothes are the key to looking chic, polished and fabulously well-dressed.
Remember that mass produced items are made to fit everybody and therefore don’t necessarily fit anyone perfectly. If your skirt fits like a second skin, great. If not, find a tailor and give that skirt a little nip and tuck.
11 | DIY
Don’t panic. I know that any hint of making your own clothes can be intimidating.
There are some incredibly talented people online who create beginner-friendly tutorials, videos and cheat sheets. Really, what's the worst that could happen?
But if the thought of making something from nothing really doesn't appeal to you, why not try customizing or up-cycling something you already have? You’re guaranteed to have something true to your style and original.
And you don’t have to make huge changes.
A dear friend of mine always cuts off the buttons from her store bought clothes and sews on beautiful vintage buttons. She takes an item from luke-warm to luscious, from boring to beautiful, with barely any effort. Etsy is a great place to find buttons so why not give it a try?
How about making your own accessories? Head over to Pinterest for gallons on inspiration and help.
12 | Be more discerning when you shop.
AKA Respect your money.
Ask yourself these questions before you buy anything:
- Do I already have something similar? Do I really need this one?
- Is this item the best quality I can afford?
- Does it pass the quality control test? (see point 8 above)
- Does it fit or could I get it altered to fit perfectly?
- Does it make me feel confident?
- Can I wear this item with at least five different things I already own?
- Does it compliment my skin tone, eyes and complexion ?
- Is this practical for my season of life?
13| Plan your outfits
I find it really helpful take 15 minutes at the start of the week to set out my outfits for the week.
Having an outfit ready to put on in the morning not only makes your mornings run more smoothly, it also means you are less likely to default into wearing sweatpants and an old t.shirt.
I'm not judging; we've all been in seasons of motherhood where sweatpants and a comfy t.shirt was all we could manage. If you're currently in one of those seasons, please remember, 'this too shall pass', and until it does, wear those sweatpants with pride.
14 | It's not just about the clothes
As any French woman knows, clothes are not the whole story: looking good means looking after your hair, make up, exercise and attitude. These are all areas I've struggled with at one time or another and if you're struggling too, I highly encourage you to check out this post by Megan over at Honey We're Home, click here to read How to Get Out of Schlumpadinkaville
Her post is encouraging, helpful and if you don't think she's the cutest mamma you ever saw, frankly, there must be something wrong with you.
There you have it. My top tips for being a well-dressed mommy without blowing the food budget on clothes.
I can't promise you'll be the next Audrey Hepburn but you'll certainly upgrade your style and save money.
What about you?: Do you have an overstuffed closet or are you currently on a clothes buying freeze? Tell me, tell me, tell me in the comments box below. I can't wait to hear from you.