Building a Workable Wardrobe – Part Two

The following is a guest post from Dottie, a regular reader of this blog, who is sharing some strategies for building a workable wardrobe.  This is the second part of a two-part series (read part one here). Part One covered essentials like body type, color palette, personal style, and so forth. This section focuses on a further strategy for building a workable wardrobe. Dottie welcomes feedback from “Recovering Shopaholic” readers, especially those of you who have additional strategies that you’ve used for creating your own wardrobe.

How to Build a Wardrobe Using a Color Palette

Years ago, I had a color analysis, which helped me identify the ideal colors that I should wear. My palette consists of:  black, charcoal gray, medium gray, light gray, white, navy blue, medium blue, red (blue-red), burgundy, dark violet, icy violet, icy blue, icy pink, and a blue teal.  The colors you wear near your face should be the most flattering colors for your hair color, skin tone, and eye color.

Having a limited range of colors was a great starting point for me. It helped me focus when I shopped and allowed me the ability to update my old wardrobe with new colors as my budget allowed. For example, I donated the peach blouse I used to wear with my camel suit and replaced it with a navy foulard print blouse. Eventually, I donated the camel suit when I could afford to buy a navy replacement suit. I still use a similar strategy for working with colors that aren’t in my palette. For example, I have a gorgeous pair of dark chocolate brown trousers (sadly, not one of my colors) that I wear with the grays, white, icy colors, and some blue from my palette. This works well for me.

Prioritizing the Colors within Your Palette

To maximize my wardrobe budget (it’s always been pretty small) and the wearability of my clothing, I identified the colors in my palette (from – you can see the other seasonal palettes there as well) that are my “basic” or “core” colors: black, charcoal gray, medium gray red, navy, and white. Most of my clothes are in these colors.

Winter Color Palette

I use my seasonal color palette to guide my wardrobe choices.

I limit “accent colors” like icy blue (the palest blue), icy pink (the palest pink), light gray, etc., to blouses, tops, or sweaters. I also have some clothing in purple and teal, but these are pretty hard colors to mix and match really well.

I also eliminated some colors so that I could have a wardrobe of manageable size – I really didn’t need 40 different colors of clothing in my tiny closet. Out went some of the blues and all the pinks (why so many, anyway?) except icy pink. Also, no taupe and no yellows or greens.

Developing a 3-Tier Wardrobe

This is how I’ve tackled building a wardrobe. I built my wardrobe over years (decades), but this strategy could also be adapted for people creating their first post-college wardrobe and so forth.

3 Tiers of Clothing

I use these three tiers of clothing to guide my purchases.

Tier 1 – “Big Ticket” Items

Tier 1 is composed of “big ticket” or heavily worn items like outerwear, suits, skirts, pants, jackets, and cashmere sweaters. These are the essential building blocks of a wardrobe. My goal has been to acquire quality “timeless” clothes within a limited color palette so that I can mix and match. I’ve spent most of my budget buying Tier 1 clothing. I am willing to pay a little more for quality – a 100% wool coat with a sturdy lining and thick cashmere sweaters – and I will pay for a limited number of alterations (hemming pants, etc.) for Tier 1 items.

I tend to limit the color for Tier 1 clothing to solid colors — black, charcoal gray, medium gray, red, and navy blue – so that I can wear a lot of different colors with each item. I’ve made a few exceptions to this rule, such as my gorgeous “non-palette” dark chocolate brown wool trousers that work with a large number of my tops, particularly my icy blue silk blouse. The key is to ensure that “my” colors are near my face when wearing dark brown.  The pants were $10 at a discount retailer and amazingly they work very well as an alternative to black or charcoal gray.

Note that if you wear a non-palette color near your face, a scarf or statement necklace in “your” colors can “subdue” that color.

Tier 2 – “Go Withs”

The next tier, Tier 2, is composed of blouses, cotton and merino wool sweaters, cotton casual tops, a few additional jackets, and the like. These are the “go-withs” for Tier 1. This tier includes more casual pants (jeans, capris, shorts) and short-sleeve t-shirts. Again, I rely on my target colors (black, navy, gray, red, etc.) for pants, skirts, dresses, and shorts.

I’ve added my additional palette colors here: white, medium blue, icy blue, icy pink, burgundy, cranberry, purple, icy violet, and blue teal. These colors are found mostly in tops – sweaters, blouses, and long-sleeved t-shirts. A few of the classic silk blouses in this category have been on the expensive side, but a lot of the clothes in this tier were very affordable and often bought at a deep discount. I try to buy only quality pieces, so the clothes in this tier also have to last, too. However, I don’t expect a $20 t-shirt to last as long as an expensive 100% wool coat.

My Tier 2 clothing can seem repetitious. For example, I have an icy pink long-sleeved silk blouse and an icy pink short-sleeved scoop neck cotton T-shirt, as well as an icy blue silk blouse and an icy blue long-sleeved cotton V-neck t-shirt. In the cooler months, I wear the icy blue blouse with navy pants or a navy suit. In warmer months, I wear the icy blue t-shirt with dark wash jeans or navy cotton trousers or shorts.

Tier 3 – Accessories and Accents

Tier 3 is my accessories/accents tier. This includes shoes, handbags, scarves, hats, belts, gloves, jewelry, hosiery, and lingerie. My shoes are red, black, gray (one pair), navy (one pair); sandals are black or red with one pair of leopard slides for fun. Black boots are also included, of course. My purses are red, gray, pewter, or black. My scarves mostly feature the colors black, red, navy, gray, white, or icy blue – and I try to avoid or limit colors like yellow or gold that are not “my” colors. (As I mentioned, one benefit of knowing your color palette is avoiding unflattering colors near your face.)

I also limit the range of color in my accessories but these, in general, are very colorful. My “good” jewelry is sterling silver or black pearls, and most of my inexpensive jewelry is white, black, and/or red. This includes a red wooden cuff I’ve had for decades, a new black acrylic cuff, a white “ivory” cuff, etc. I look for quality in this tier and have some amazing finds from flea markets, church rummage sales, and antique stores. I try to wear everything I own at least twice a year, and some pieces get a lot of wear – weekly if not daily.

I have found that accessories really help to lift, say, the icy blue/navy clothing combination or the red/white/black combination out of the ordinary. And I try to keep up-to-date with fashion trends in accessories as an affordable strategy to wear my wardrobe in a new and fresh way.

A Bottom-Up Approach to Wardrobe Planning

Here’s another view on building a wardrobe in layers, starting with undergarments and working up to outerwear. This is a fascinating approach to wardrobe planning! The following blogger has lots of good info on wardrobe planning and lots of thumbnail illustrations:

There are several blogs that discuss how to build a wardrobe. I particularly like The Vivienne Files for all its good sense about clothing and MaiTai’s Picture Book for her focus on spicing up her mostly solid color capsule wardrobe with accessories and lovely Hermès scarves tied in a thousand interesting ways.

This link to MaiTai’s capsule wardrobe is a primer on how to build – and continue to update – a basic, classic wardrobe (if ever lovely French clothing can ever be considered “basic”).

Here’s yet another blogger’s approach to wardrobe planning:

Limiting Pattern

Most of my “big ticket” clothing is devoid of pattern, but not entirely. I have a black suit with a faint red “chalk” stripe (looks fabulous with a red silk blouse, red silk tee, white shirt, or icy blue blouse) and a medium gray suit with a muted light gray/light blue window plaid (especially nice with the icy blue blouse but also very pretty with a navy top). I try to find “dressmaker” details in blouses, sweaters, and other tops that I wear with these items.  I try to add texture wherever possible – such as my red faux lizard handbag, “hairy” faux leopard belt, etc.

Patterned clothes present their own limitations, but an all-solid color wardrobe can be so b-o-r-i-n-g. I try to find clothes with woven patterns (like stripes or checks) vs. printed-on patterns that can fade with washing. I have several black and white tops, a navy floral blouse, a navy and blue striped shirt, and a burgundy paisley blouse that have worked very successfully in my wardrobe. There are some patterns that are timeless – polka dots, for example. Generally speaking, I spend less money on patterned clothing than my solid color clothing but I still look for quality. And of course, the patterns must match at the seams, etc.

Be Prepared to Adapt “Wardrobe Basics” Lists

Generally, I don’t mind lists of wardrobe “must-haves” (e.g., white shirt, black pencil skirt) because many of these items are already in my wardrobe. But even I find most of these lists too prescriptive. The key is to review them with an eye for your lifestyle and personal fashion style. For example, Real Simple’s wardrobe basics checklist includes a lot of items I would never buy, such as a cashmere hoodie. If I’m dropping serious coin for a cashmere sweater, it had better be a classic style (v-neck, cardigan, etc.) so I can still wear the sweater for years to come. I’m sure that most people could go through this list and flag items that just would never be found in their closet.

But here’s one way to look at these lists – as purely advisory. The Real Simple list includes jeans, khaki pants, skinny jeans, dark wash jeans, gray flannel pants, wool trousers, capri pants, chinos, shorts, drawstring pants, and white jeans. If you live in the South, you probably don’t need wool trousers or gray flannel pants (or maybe you did this winter!). If you have a casual lifestyle, you may only need the jeans, shorts, capris, and other casual pants.

Shopping To Build a Workable Wardrobe

Before I go buy any clothes, I know a few things:

1.  I am only going to stores and/or departments within a store (or to on-line retailers) that offer “classically feminine” clothing for my personal style. I no longer shop at stores that don’t carry the clothing I’m interested in. Why bother when there are other retailers that have more of the stuff that appeals to me?

2.  I am only going to purchase items that fill gaps in my wardrobe or that replace a specific garment. I never buy a garment without knowing exactly how and where I will be wearing it. Every purchase has a purpose, even the ones that might be construed as “impulse” buys (meaning that I only considered the purchase for a day or two).

Don’t let sales guide your purchases!

My glen plaid blouse (see below) was an “impulse” buy, but even then I waited a few days to think it through before buying. It was on sale, so it was a risk to wait, but I did.

As a rule, I don’t troll the sales or clearance racks, and “one day special” signage doesn’t elicit a “FOMO” (fear of missing out) response. This UK blogger has an interesting take on sales.

3.  I am only going to look at clothes within my limited color palette. I don’t need to saunter among the yellow and orange clothes because I will never buy anything in these colors.  If a season features colors outside my palette – like those neon colors of a few seasons ago – I stay home or shop online at retailers that always have white tops or navy blue pants, if this is what I need.

4.   I am only going to buy garments that work well within my existing wardrobe. This may sound simplistic but it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed by a great sale price or fabulous fabric or perfect color and end up buying something that doesn’t work. Or would work if you also bought a new top or pants or sweater or camisole or shape wear to make it work. Nope. No add-ons. And the garment must work with LOTS of stuff I already have, not just one or two items.

5.  I am only going to buy what fits me now (a few minor alterations are OK). I don’t buy clothes for a body I don’t have or a lifestyle I wish I had. I try to limit alterations to hemming pants, taking in the waist, etc. Sometimes I move a button or add a snap. If a garment has to be altered in the shoulders or neckline, I pass as these are very tricky (and expensive) alterations to get done correctly.

6.  I am only going to buy items that I really love and that make me happy. I am done with buying “placeholders” – stuff that doesn’t quite work but might fill a void until the right garment comes along. I only take home clothing that I will keep; returning the unwanted consumes too much valuable time.

Before I Head to the Dressing Room

This is how I approach buying clothes – purpose, color, fabric, fabric content/care instructions, construction, and fit.

I start with a purpose (clothes for work, etc.). If I need a suit, I stay out of the jeans area and vice versa. I don’t wander around the store. It’s in, buy (or not), then out.

Then I focus on color. Limiting my field of vision to specific colors really saves time.

I then focus on fabric. I prefer cotton, wool, and silk over most man-made fabrics. I like cashmere or cotton sweaters. I don’t even look at acrylic sweaters. At this point, I choose by the “hand” or feel of the fabric.

I also look at fabric content/care instruction tags. I don’t mind dry cleaning clothes – say a black suit that can be worn a few times and brushed and aired after each wearing (think of what Mr. Bates does with Lord Grantham’s clothes on Downton Abbey) before it needs dry cleaning. A white blouse that needs dry cleaning after each wearing is another story; it has to be a fantastic blouse to overcome the cost of maintenance.

80 year old clothing brush

My clothing brush is at least 80 years old!

Next, I eyeball the garment, looking at its construction. This means hems, buttonholes, facings, seams, and so forth. Stuff that is clearly poorly made stays on the display rack. Other garments that look okay but may need more scrutiny might come with me into the dressing room for further inspection.

Now I am ready to try on the garment(s). At this point, fit is the deciding factor. I include here sleeve length, pant length, neckline, shoulders, torso, rise (in pants), waist, etc. If a blouse has darts, these should be placed just below the bust.  I check the placement of buttons on a blouse to ensure that there are no awkward gaps at the bust line. I also check that pockets lie flat, zippers stay zipped, hooks and eyes are present and work, and extra buttons are available. I do deep knee bends and other gyrations in the fitting room to ensure that the clothes allow for movement and don’t gap or sag (or tear) when I move

Five Easy Pieces and Why I Bought Them

Listed below are five garments that I bought on sale or at discount stores. I paid no more than $30 for any of them, except the cashmere sweater ($40-50 “new with tags” at a consignment shop). Here’s why I bought them and why they work with my wardrobe.

1. Red Jacket

This red jacket with black trim seems like the antithesis of my “solid color only” dictum for Tier 1 items like jackets, but this is actually a Tier 2 garment that gets lots of wear. I hesitated about purchasing this item, but I finally decided that the “dress-maker” detail of the black trim elevated this classic but basic 3-button knit jacket to a higher level. And it worked with my mostly black, white, red, and gray wardrobe.

Red jacket with black trim

I wouldn’t have bought this jacket had the trim been navy on red, for instance, although I do have some navy clothes (pants, print blouse, and a long-sleeved top). Nor would I have bought it if the jacket had been navy with white trim, because I don’t have enough navy items to make the purchase worthwhile – even if it’s a bargain (navy can be tricky to match). I like softer knit jackets that allow for better movement and are cozy to wear. This jacket cost $30 at a discount retailer. The seams are very nicely finished, and the jacket came with extra buttons and some matching thread for repairs. It also travels very well.

The reason this jacket works is because it can be worn to a business meeting or, paired with jeans, to a weekend brunch. It works with the following items already in my wardrobe: black pants, black pencil skirt, black and white skirt, charcoal gray pants, white tops, black tops, jeans, and a few red tops that color match exactly!

2. Black and White Glen Plaid Blouse

This black and white glen plaid blouse is a soft, drape-y knit (man-made and machine washable) fabric. The low bow tie is a neckline that flatters my face. Glen plaid is a classic design usually found in men’s suits but has made a dramatic appearance in women’s clothing from time to time. While a smaller scale glen plaid would have been more traditional (and maybe more predictable and boring), this slightly over-sized print adds pizzazz to my solid color wardrobe.

Glen Plaid Blouse

I get a lot of compliments when I wear this blouse – at work, out for dinner, etc.  I wasn’t crazy about the “faux Chanel” buttons but it would have cost more than I paid for the blouse ($20 on clearance) to replace them, so I have come to like them more and more (and I have a few extras—just in case).

Chanel Type Buttons

I have come to like the “faux Chanel” buttons on my blouse.

This blouse also travels really well and is very easy to care for. It feels great on, too. Because the fabric has a printed design, I wash the blouse inside out on “gentle” and with non-abrasive stuff (e.g. not jeans or stuff with zippers, heavy buttons, hooks and eyes, etc.) in an attempt to lengthen the “life” of the design.

This blouse works because it can be dressed up or down, depending on what it’s paired with, and it works with the following items already in my wardrobe: black pants, black pencil skirt, charcoal gray pants, red jacket, black suit, black jacket, etc.

3. Black and White Skirt

This black and white skirt is a heavy 58% cotton, 42% polyester jacquard weave, and it’s a great alternative to my black pencil skirt. It’s virtually wrinkle-free, too. The thick (but not stiff) “hand” of the material gives the skirt oomph and the pattern almost reads “black.”

I’ve worn this with various color blouses, tops, and sweaters, and the red and black jacket noted above. This skirt had a matching jacket that could have been purchased separately. I felt that that both pieces were way too much together – too pattern-y, too heavy, too-too. I prefer less structured jackets nowadays, so I opted for just the skirt, which I bought for about $20. Sweet! It’s dry clean only, but I expected that with a lined skirt.

Black and White Skirt Fabric

This skirt works (see fabric detail above) because it can be worn for work, dressy, and casual occasions.  And it works with the following items already in my wardrobe: black silk blouse (almost tunic length), white silk blouse, red silk blouse, medium gray silk blouse, red sweater, black sweater, gray sweater, wine sweater, medium blue cardigan, icy pink silk blouse, icy blue silk blouse, red jacket, black jacket, black cashmere cardigan sweater, black t-shirt, red t-shirt, white t-shirt, black and white polka dot blouse, etc.

4. Wine Color Sweater

Strictly speaking, my new wine color sweater (not pictured) isn’t really the burgundy or cranberry in “my” colors, but the color looks very good on me, so I wear it. Because this color was very popular this year, I decided to add one new item to my wardrobe. I’ve been waiting some time for this color to reappear, and I was able to score this sweater on sale for less than $10!  It has a scoop neck and is very flattering in style and color.

This sweater works because it is a classic flat merino knit that can be worn under jackets and on its own. It also works with the following items already in my wardrobe: black pants, black pencil skirt, black and white skirt, charcoal gray pants, navy pants, chocolate pants, medium gray suit, black suit, black jacket, jeans, etc.

5. Black Cashmere “Cardigan” Sweater

My single button black cashmere “cardigan” sweater was purchased at a consignment store for $40-$50 – I forget the exact price (it was new with tags). This is the thickest cashmere I’ve bought in years. I wasn’t sure this sweater would work as a Tier 1 basic building block because of the ¾ sleeves, but it does. It makes a very warm alternative to a structured jacket, and it works very well with my glen plaid blouse and other classically feminine tops. It’s sensational with my skirts (black and the black-and-white one shown above). I love it! (The photo just doesn’t do justice to the sweater.)

Black Cashmere Cardigan

This sweater works because it’s a classic cashmere and the ¾ sleeves makes it both dressy and casual, depending on what it’s paired with. It can be worn with the following items already in my wardrobe: black pants, black pencil skirt, black and white skirt, charcoal gray pants, navy pants, chocolate pants, jeans, and a whole array of black and white and solid color tops.

Planning Ahead

As you can see, I give a lot of thought to the clothing I buy, although I only buy a few items per year. Even a $10 sweater has to earn its livelihood in my closet by working with the clothing I already own. I keep a spreadsheet of all of my clothes by color and I organize the clothes in my closet by color, then sleeve length (or pant length) so I know what I have. I buy something – say, a new black short-sleeve v-neck t-shirt – knowing how it will fit into my wardrobe. But even with a less well-planned purchase, like the glen plaid blouse pictured above, I know what will fit in and what won’t. There’s very little guesswork in building my wardrobe.

I have found that by breaking down my clothing by tiers, limiting my color palette, and focusing on my personal style, I can put together a workable wardrobe for a small investment of time and money. Of course, I have been following these strategies for decades, so I own scarcely any clothes that don’t work well for me. I will break my own dictums if I find something I think is a worthwhile purchase – like my dark chocolate brown pants I bought for $10 – and which goes with other clothing I already have. Most importantly, I don’t buy clothes that require additional purchases – a camisole for a too-sheer blouse, etc. And, as always, quality is very, very important.

My clothes get worn – a lot! I don’t buy anything that I can’t, practically speaking, wear weekly or bi-weekly. I don’t have that many clothes (about 135 items for all 4 seasons), but EVERYTHING I have is cherished and worn with pleasure.

20 thoughts on “Building a Workable Wardrobe – Part Two

  1. Your clothing philosophy reflects mine very closely. As a matter of fact, the last paragraph sums it up nicely. Long gone are the days of an overstuffed closet full of things that I hardly if ever wore. I still regret the time I first set foot into one of those dreadful outlet malls. Today I am wearing a pair of expensive grey wool trousers that I have owned for at least five years. After some weight loss I had them altered to fit again and they still look as good as the day I bought them. I have long forgotten if I paid 250 or 350 for them but I always feel well dressed and I wear them once a week September through March. I do not ever shop consignment because it never appealed to me. The few times I do shop during the year, I want it to be a nice all around experience, and not sort through racks and racks of stuff. I readily admit though that I probably do not spend any less money now than I did when I shopped mindlessly, it is only that the cost per item has increased while the cost per wear has decreased.

  2. Cornelia: Those trouser sound divine. I have a few items of clothing (winter coat, suit, dress, pants, cashmere sweaters, and silk blouses) that were a bit pricey when I bought them but I am still wearing them years or decades later. When I have made a mistake in buying something its almost always been something on sale. However, because I work in retail, I can keep an eye on something that I need to round out my wardrobe or replace something I’ve worn out. Then I can pounce one it goes on sale. I’ve had modest success in consignment shops — a brand new pair of ankle booties for next to nothing, my black cashmere sweater, belt, and a new with tags black beret. I mostly visit consignment shops to recycle my own clothes, and the one I go to is set up like a boutique — very well organized and nicely merchandised. I too like a soothing atmosphere when I shop.

  3. Thank you so much for introducing me to MaiTai’s blog- bookmarked!! And I really enjoyed looking at your wardrobe examples!!! Your strategy is excellent- it’s all the best advice I’ve ever seen put together all in one. I’m not nearly as strict as you but I hope to get there. I also am thinking I should get my colors done!

  4. Both posts were very interesting Dottie. I think that I’m a cool winter. I have medium to dark hair, brown eyes, and a pale complexion with slight yellow undertones. I know I look terrible in any yellow, yellow-green, most oranges, and pastels. My neutrals are black, icy-medium-charcoal grey, taupe, and navy. For colors I wear red, purples, and deeps pinks mostly. I also have some deeper blues and a couple of brown things.
    For bottoms and sweaters I’m very neutral. I have only denim, black, and white bottoms. My sweaters are mostly grey,black, and taupe with only a bit of color and one with a slight print. For my tops I love prints. Most of them aren’t very loud-navy and white or black and white prints. I also love embroidery and patterns that remind me of block prints from India or Moroccan prints. I know that they aren’t as versatile, but it’s what I’m drawn to and wear most often.
    Since I tend to dress casually most of the time I have invested my money in jeans and capris that fit well, good quality cashmere and merino wood sweaters, and nice boots. The tops I buy tend to be peasant or blousy tops and I try to buy fewer of them now in a better quality than I used to. I have several black dresses that span all seasons when I need to dress up a bit more.
    The last 6 months to a year I have already started doing some of the things that you suggested so I’m glad to see that I’m on the right track!

  5. Love the tier system – that is a smart way of thinking about clothes. And Dottie your style posts are awesome, really sound advice and I really like your writing.

    I had my colors done about three years ago but I’ve grown a bit skeptical because I’m pretty neutral-toned and really between seasons (my warm eye color did not really match my cool palette – the color thing in general works best if you are a ‘textbook’ season). The good things I learned from it were that I might consider lighter colors and blues, and I also started thinking more about colors. The bad part was that the colors system seems to emphasize brights quite a bit so I ended with more bright-colored clothes than I actually need.

    But color analysis as a starting point is not a bad idea. Gradually, I’ve found a set of neutrals that I love to wear every day and I emphasize them with a tiny bit of accent colors. I’ve also abandoned the warm-cool division. I seem to have both warm and cool tones in my natural coloring and going with that seems to work better than sticking to a purely cool-toned palette. Because I’m fairly low-contrast, the texture of clothes is as important as color. In any case, if you have a consistent palette of colors that you stick to, your wardrobe will be a lot more coherent and you will be able to combine items really well.

    • Thanks, FrugalFashionista, for your comments. Getting the right color palette is critical — but that’s part of the battle. I am ALMOST a summer (brown hair with reddish tints, pale skin with blue undertones, light blue eyes) BUT I cannot wear off-white or cream or winter white nor grayed colors of the summer palette. So that threw me into the winter palette (arctic white, clear colors), but not all winter colors look good on me — black is too harsh without other colors to soften, fuschia is to bright, and lemon yellow is a non-starter. So I modified my winter palette further — and I am guessing that most people who have had their colors “done” have also edited their palette. I know that my “autumn” sister has — and she’s added black back into her wardrobe (including tops) because she loves black. Her accessories (and my sister always wears accessories) are from her autumn palette. I think she looks sensational — very well groomed and always appropriately attired (I hate her).

    • It is possible to end up with the wrong palette if you are not clearly one type or the other. And different color analysis systems have different methods and different palettes. But wandering around in the world (or the mall) not knowing at least some of your best colors seems to be a waste of time and money. Any system that helps to narrow down the choice of color on offer is a good investment. Finding exactly the right palette may take time and trial and error. The local charity shops where I live have been the benefactors of a lot of my pink garments over the years until I dropped all pink but icy pink from my closet. Sigh!

      • Full disclosure: I am writing this response in my fuschia jammies and hot pink slippers (ouch). Both were gifts and not consign-able. So I still wear less-than-favorable colors but not out of the house.

  6. Dottie, I think your three tier wardrobe concept sounds very streamlined compared to some of the other methods I’ve seen, and I’m going to test it on my own closet to see how things stack up.

    You write so knowledgeably, its clear that you have a great deal of experience in wardrobe analysis and retail. I’m impressed with how you presented the topic very logically!
    As for me, my boredom with the concept of shopping continues unabated. I can’t think of a single thing I want to add, although I have been subtracting–and surprisingly, some things I thought I would never part with because they are “classics”. But even classics get a little tired and need to sent on…

    Usually at the beginning of a season, I excited by the color offerings, but so far the stores have shown nothing that I find remotely interesting…

    • Deborah (Deby): Thanks for your comment! I’ll be interested to see how a 3-tier approach works with your wardrobe. Most of my experience in wardrobe analysis has been through my own trial-and-error process. I understand how you can get tired of looking at some colors, styles, etc. (So do I — and I’m in the store with them hours on end!) Actually, there is a lot of subtle changes that occur in retail — stock is constantly changing and being up dated while older stuff moves down the charts via sales and clearance racks. Knowing the colors I look best in really changed my approach to shopping and as a result I shop a lot less now than I did when I was younger (and could wear anything!).

  7. Packing to go to Australia for a month where I would have to attend two large dinners as well as cover the relative cool of Melbourne and the more intense heat of Queensland proved an excellent learning experience for me. I have recently had my colours done and was relieved to discover that most of my wardrobe was already within range. In pulling out the key items I wanted to take I discovered that navy, cream and oatmeal are my go to basics with green, pink and orange as my preferred add on colours. It took no time to put the packing together, everything went with everything else and it was so easy when I got here. When I get back I intend to pare down the already pared down wardrobe even more.

    • Gillie: Oh, the challenges of packing for a multi-purpose and multiple climate trip! I think I have mastered this (took decades)– but then again I haven’t had to deal with formal wear — just dressy clothes for the opera, etc. I am surprised that you can wear orange and pink and navy — these colors are usually in separate palettes. However, most people can wear ANY color if they keep their best colors near their face or add a scarf or jewelry in their colors to soften the impact of a non-palette color. My dark chocolate brown pants look fine with the light gray, white, black, and icy colors in my palette. (There is a black brown in my palette but I just ignore it.) I envy you that trip to Australia — on my bucket list.

      • Gillie: I had to laugh at myself after writing that last reply. The lemon yellow wide-leg polyester pants I wore in the 1970s with a min-floral navy top “fit” into my palette — I have a lemon yellow in there somewhere — and I kept my best color (navy) near my face. But in hindsight it was a dreadful outfit despite being “fashionable.” Way too much yellow and on the wrong end of the human frame! I was very slender and very fit but these pants looked huge with yards of yellow fabric. (I scarcely ever wore them.) I think it was around then that I decided to stick with “classic” tailoring and adapt from “fashion” only what worked for me. And I had a color analysis to help me with better choices. And I haven’t worn yellow in nearly 40 years.

    • Why, thank you, Chris. In my teens my neighbor and best friend (same coloring, height, and dress size) decided to “share” a wardrobe to get more clothes from our families’ limited clothing allowance. Not only did this mean shopping together (the fun part) but also thinking through what garments the blouse one of us wanted to buy went with two closets — hers and mine. Until I wrote this post, I had forgotten about all the pre-shopping planning we did and identifying what we wanted from the pages of Seventeen magazine. And we had to negotiate on what day of the week we each wore the corduroy jumper (she with the mini-floral blouse, me with a hound’s tooth check blouse) — and so on. This worked until we went off to separate colleges in different states and suddenly we both had half of a wardrobe!

  8. Thank you, Dottie, for a very good post. There is a LOT of different advice about wardrobe building out there but I think yours is some of the best and really fits with some of my earlier tendencies, like purchasing mostly neutral color bottoms and shoes. I have been studying color, line, and body shape for awhile now. It has been an interesting path of discovery. I am a Kibbe Soft Classic, so I like classically feminine clothing, too. I think I finally have the color analysis part figured out, as well – Soft Summer. I love these muted, grayish colors, but I have been struggling a little with putting the color plan into action, not really knowing which colors to hone in on as core basics and which to use as accents (and just how many of each to have). There are still a lot of colors available within one palette and it can be overwhelming. I want my wardrobe to be cohesive, with most everything easily mixing with everything else. I like to sew and knit, and am doing more of it since my retail purchases over the last few years have become less successful. You have presented a very good plan for setting clothing priorities with your 3 Tier concept. Just this winter, I was thinking that I would love to replace my 15 year old navy wool peacoat with a new winter coat but I had not really budgeted for purchasing the coating fabric. It is number one on the list for next year, though! Now I am off to streamline my color palette further and develop a sewing and knitting plan!

    • Grasshopper: Thanks for your kind words. Streamlining your color palette can be a bit tricky because the palettes are really for a wide range of skin and hair coloring. I had to learn the hard way — buying then donating to charity a series of fuschia and hot pink tops. There are some colors that are “good” for me (dark pine green) but just don’t excite me — and are trickier to mix and match. Good luck with finding lovely coating fabric — it seems that the wool that’s used in most coats is of a much lesser quality that 5 years ago never mind 15! I had forgotten all about David Kibbe until your response! I guess I’m a soft classic too or what I call classically feminine — soft, draping and not hard-edged.

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