Within the next couple of weeks, the cool weather season is going to start for me. I know that many of you have been pulling out your warmer clothes for weeks now, but the seasons are a bit “off” where I live. Our summers don’t typically start until sometime in July and they generally last until late October or early November. As such, I don’t even think much about my cool weather wardrobe until right about now. I say “cool” instead of cold because anyone who has ever been to San Diego knows that the temperatures never really drop that low here…
In today’s post, I’m going to share the process I’ve outlined for reviewing my cool weather wardrobe and planning for any updates I need (this process can be used for any season). In between today’s post and my next post, I will follow this process and report back on my findings. I’m going to “walk my talk” and put my method to the test. I hope that perhaps a few of you will do so as well so we’ll have more input on how well this works. I’m definitely open to changes to make things easier and more successful, so your suggestions are welcomed as well.
Even if you’ve already started to wear your warmer clothing, I hope you’ll still find this post interesting and helpful. Also, if you live in the southern hemisphere, as I know many readers do, you can easily adapt my process for your warm weather clothing, as it’s the concepts that matter most, not the specifics. Those who have already done their seasonal review and switchover process can save this post for the next time the seasons change, which could be within a matter of weeks for those in four-season climates.
As I covered in my last post, I did quite a bit of shopping over the past few months and don’t have much shopping budget left for the remainder of 2015. Consequently, some of the items I’d like to buy for the cool weather season will have to be purchased in the early part of next year. That’s okay, as the cooler weather usually lasts through June (we have “May Grey” and “June Gloom” here) and I’ll have plenty of time to wear any new pieces that I pick up. In addition, analyzing and planning for the coming season now will allow me to sit with what I outline for a while, review it a few times, and make any necessary changes before I end up buying too much.
Step One – Review Your Closet
In planning for an upcoming season, the best thing to do first is review your existing wardrobe. If you store your out-of-season items away, take them all out and go through them. Ideally, try things on to make sure they still fit you well and suit your lifestyle and desired style aesthetic. Set aside anything that doesn’t fit your current body or doesn’t “spark joy” (see this post for more on that concept), as well as items that need to be tailored in any way.
For items that don’t fit, think about whether they will ever realistically fit you again. If you have gained or lost weight recently but think your size may shift again soon, hold on to your favorite pieces but move them to an alternate location for the time-being (i.e. another closet or an under-the-bed box). You only want to store things that fit your current body in your main closet.
Pieces that don’t “spark joy” should be passed on to someone else. Perhaps you have a friend or relative who might appreciate these items, or you can opt to consign them and earn a little cash in the process. Alternatively, there are many charities to which you can donate the items that no longer serve you. For more suggestions about dealing with your closet cast-offs, see this post from the archives.
Lastly, anything that needs to be tailored (or dry-cleaned, if that applies to you) should be dealt with as soon as possible. Many people have “to be tailored” piles that gather dust for months or even years before they ever make their way out of their houses. I suggest that you plan a day within the next week when you will make your trip to the tailor. But before you do, I encourage you to make sure you’re not falling victim to “the dark side of alterations,” where you’re trying to make things work that should really be passed on to their next home. I have spent too much time on this “dark side” myself and have tried to virtually re-make many of my garments, often against the wise advice of my tailor. In some cases, the best path is to follow that over-played song from the movie “Frozen” and “let it go”!
After you have reviewed your wardrobe as outlined above, integrate the next season’s items into your closet. If your closet is small, you may need to do a full switch-out and store pieces for the season that is ending somewhere else. However, you may want to keep a portion of those items in your main closet to cover the “cusp season” when you may need garments for both cooler and warmer weather.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to fit everything in one closet like I am, you may decide to move things around and put your wardrobe for the incoming season front and center so it’s easier for you to access. I currently have all of my warm weather items on the left side of my closet, but I may opt to move them to the right side and then place my cool weather clothing at the left for easier access.
Step Two – Ask Powerful Questions
After you have gone through all of your clothes, shoes, and accessories, take some time to answer the following questions:
- What wardrobe gaps, if any, did I notice?
This can sometimes be a bit tricky, especially since it’s usually been months since you wore that season’s items. Ideally, you’ll want to make some notes about this at the close of each season (so do that now for the season that is ending) and review and revise those notes during your pre-season wardrobe review. If you are keeping an outfit journal like I am, you’ll likely have made notes of the pieces you find yourself wishing you had. What I’ve started doing is keeping a running list at the back of my outfit journal so I don’t have read back through all of the entries to see what I have been wanting along the way.
- What items in my closet need to be replaced soon?
This question should be a bit easier to answer. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your favorite sweater has become threadbare or has developed excessive pilling. Maybe a much-loved pair of shoes has lost its luster, become overly scuffed, or the heels have worn down. In some cases, pieces may still be in good shape but are looking somewhat dated and you’d like to replace them with a more updated style (more on this below). But before you immediately opt to replace something, ask yourself if you still love the item. Would you still want to wear it if it were in good physical shape or in a more modern style? Sometimes we may have moved beyond a particular item and can easily pass it on without needing to replace it. Give this some thought before immediately adding something to your replacement list.
- What new trends have I seen that I would like to participate in or in what ways do I want to update or modernize my wardrobe?
Most of us receive catalogs and magazines or read blogs that cue us in to the upcoming seasonal trends. There are usually far too many to participate in them all, but perhaps a few have “called” to you. If you’re lucky, you may already have the requisite pieces in your closet, which is often the case with color or pattern trends. For instance, burgundy is a really hot color for fall and I already own a decent number of garments in this hue. In some cases, however, we may need to shop in order to adopt certain trends. I recommend selecting no more than 3-5 trends to take on, as trends move quickly and you don’t want to buy too many items and rarely end up wearing them. A little can go a long way with trends, so select your favorites and leave the rest for others who are more passionate about them.
Some of you may not be all that interested in trends. You may pay little attention to them and not worry at all about following them. However, you may feel the desire to update or modernize your wardrobe in some ways. Perhaps you’re tired of wearing certain styles or silhouettes and have been thinking about moving in a different direction. For example, you may have been wearing skinny jeans for the past few years, but now you’re thinking of adding some boot-cut or wide-leg jeans to your closet. Or maybe you’ve been wearing mostly blazers but would like to add a long-line vest and/or a duster cardigan to your assortment of toppers. Make note of any pieces you want to add to your closet to inject new life into your wardrobe and keep your style moving forward. Sometimes just a piece or two can go a long way toward having you feel more current and can give you some additional variety for your outfits.
Step Three – Construct Your Shopping List
Use your answers to the questions above to put together your seasonal shopping list. Don’t worry about the order or number of items just yet. We’ll cover that in the next step. Just write down the items you’ve identified as wardrobe gaps, your replacement needs, and any trendy or update pieces you wish to buy. Get them all down on paper (or screen) in no particular order.
Take a minute to review your list to make sure you’ve captured everything, and then see if there are any edits you wish to make. Perhaps let your list sit overnight and come back to it the next morning. Sometimes when we review things a second time, we are viewing them with new eyes and are easily able to see changes we’d like to make.
Step Four – Prioritize
Once you have your list pretty well sorted out, it’s time to set some priorities. Most of us won’t be able to buy everything all at once and we may have designated too many items to buy for just one season. You may need to push some of your items out to next year if you have more on your list than your budget will allow. Even if you have a large clothing budget, there will probably still be items you need sooner than others, especially in the category of closet replacements. If the boots you wear every other day are on their last legs, they should probably be at the top of your list and one of the first things you focus on when you go shopping.
It may be helpful to prioritize your list items either numerically or by month. For example, if you have ten items on your list, you may opt to purchase the first four in November, the next three in December, and the final three in January. Of course, you may be limited by what you’re able to find in the shops or online, but it’s helpful to have some sort of roadmap so you won’t be as easily distracted by what you see when you start your shopping process. If you have a large budget, it’s still a good idea to designate what you want to focus on first so you stay on target when you begin shopping. I know from personal experience how easy it is to blow a large sum of money on “nice to have” items that don’t really serve my needs while running out of budget for the things that would really make the biggest difference in my closet. I’ve done that more times than I can count…
Step Five – Shop
After you have prioritized, it’s time to shop, provided that you have the money to do it now. Some of us will have to wait a little while before we buy anything, but it’s still a good idea to do the planning now so we’ll be prepared when the time comes. If, like me, you don’t have much more money available to you for 2015, you’ll have to really consider what you need most right off the bat for the coming season. I may only be able to purchase a few items from my cool weather list this year, so I’d better be sure they are the ones that will benefit me the most once the new season gets under way.
When you shop, make sure to take your shopping list with you. It may also be a good idea to decide how much you want to spend on each individual item, as well as on each given shopping trip as a whole. You may not know how much certain things will cost, but it’s helpful to designate a range so you keep on track. Even if you usually shop at brick-and-mortar stores, it may serve you to do some online research first to get a sense of what’s out there, which stores you want to visit, and how much the items on your list might cost.
Mette from “The Yogastic Shopping Planner” (who shared her recovery story here last year) uses a shopping calendar that itemizes which things she’s going to buy each month. Since she knows what she’s going to buy, she creates a monthly Pinterest board on which she “pins” potential purchases. This helps her to get a sense of the possibilities, and seeing them all next to each other, she’s better able to narrow things down and see what will work best for her. She seems to have a very good track record with her purchases, as she has been reviewing what she bought a year ago (see her last review here) and has had far more hits than misses. I may decide to follow at least part of her process simply because it works! I mention it here in case some of you may also wish to do the same and/or follow Mette’s wonderful blog.
Step Six – Review Your New Purchases
You may think that shopping is the last step in the process, but it’s really not. When you get your new purchases home, you should try them on again as soon as possible to make sure you still like them. Many times, the way we feel about items shifts once we see them in our own mirrors, with our home lighting, and paired with our existing pieces. Don’t just try the new pieces on; put together at least one outfit with them and preferably three or more.
Ask yourself if your new acquisitions are at least an “8” on a scale of 1-10 and if they will truly serve the closet needs for which they are intended. Don’t settle for less! Often, if we settle, we’ll continue to look for a list item even after we have already ostensibly fulfilled it. We only want to buy a list item once, so if you find yourself continuing to browse and check out other options, do yourself a favor and return what you bought, as it’s not really going to work for you.
The at-home review is a very important part of the process, so don’t skip it. Usually, we just take things out of the bags and hang them up in our closets. Don’t do that, and especially don’t cut the tags off your new pieces until you’ve tried them on and ensured that they will work for you. Do the at-home review as soon as possible and return anything that doesn’t pass muster. Some stores have very short return windows. You don’t want to have to keep something sub-standard simply because you didn’t take the time to do a return. Take care of it as soon as possible and ease your mind – and your wallet.
I know that many of you don’t have a lot of time to shop, but if you keep things that aren’t going to work for you, it’s like throwing money down the toilet. None of us want to do that! It’s better to take longer to find what will really serve our needs, even if that means we have to make do with what we have in the meantime. Most of us have plenty of clothes anyway, so it won’t hurt us to take the time to find what will really make us smile. Remember, the enemy of the best is the good! We need to keep our standards high when we shop and aim to buy things that are as close to “10”s as possible.
So there you have it… the seasonal review and shopping process I just came up with this week. Now it’s time for me to put it to the test with my own wardrobe. Before my next post, I’m going to go through steps one through four with my cool weather wardrobe. I will share what I come up with later this week. In future posts in the coming months, I will update you on steps five and six.
I hope my process will also be helpful to at least some of you. If you use it, I’d love to hear how it works for you. If you use any alternate method, please share that, too. No one system will work for everyone, so the more ideas we put out on the table, the better. I’m not wedded to my own ideas and I’m definitely open to suggestions. I’m figuring things out as I go along and course-correcting as necessary. I don’t have all of the answers, not by a long-shot. But part of what I’m doing here is sharing my process and what I learn along the way.
We’re here to help each other shop more consciously and make fewer mistakes. We’re all trying to cultivate more workable wardrobes and become happier with what we’re wearing. However we can help each other is a wonderful thing. I learn at least as much from you as you do from me, if not more. So share away… I still try to respond to all comments, but I won’t always be able to do so. But no matter what, please know that I read and appreciate what you have to say and I value my readers very much. I hope that whatever season you are currently in, your wardrobe is serving you and supporting your life, as that’s really what it’s all about.