"I have nothing to wear!" Who hasn't said these words in front of their more or less overflowing wardrobe? Still, buying new clothes is not the answer in a world where Westernised over-consumption of garments is an environmental disaster and a symptom of misplaced emotion. We have to buy less clothing. For a start, I think having nothing to wear from a full wardrobe is a misinterpretation of the problem. It is not that we have nothing but that we don't know how to wear the garments we already own—more a question of perspective than belongings. And for me, it comes down to a simple solution: if you don't want to feel like you have nothing to wear, shop your wardrobe. Style your closet.
How to style your closet and find yourself
So how do we start? There is this trend of late, initiated by Vogue magazine in 2020, to present a personality and their seven outfits of the week. This series is sometimes inspiring, but what happens with celebrities is that they usually live in another reality with a loaded bank account, unlike the average person in need of inspiration like us. I am fond of how pro-stylist Allison Bornstein has taken over the challenge for real-life inspiration. I decided to do something similar for this piece and show you how to style your closet, from 10 garments into seven outfits.
What are my credentials, though? In my inner circle, I've always been praised for the way I dress. I regularly receive compliments about what I wear from friends, coworkers, relatives, and even strangers. So, if my experience could help someone else feel inspired and put together some cool outfits, why not? Here I am mixing second-hand clothes with only a handful of "bought-new" pieces to demonstrate that you don't need an overthrowing wardrobe filled with new stuff to dress with style.
Styling your closet is not rocket science, but it always helps to have a solid foundation of timeless, classic pieces in which you feel good and comfortable. I recommend having these as classics, of good quality, vintage or from your local designers. And if, like me, you are not hoarding gold bullion in the bank, sourcing from second-hand shops makes the best of both worlds. Quality garments always stand out.
On finding a personal style, start by asking yourself what you are drawn to from your wardrobe in the first place. And what do you have that you wear regularly? Also, think about the people you admire, the ones you like the style and try to adapt to your taste and features. To narrow the search, Allison recommends finding three words (as did Atelier Doré a few years back) that define the style you would like to wear. I haven't given much thought to this, but I agree that providing boundaries on what clothing style we can look for fosters the creative process. However, style is something that is constantly evolving and depends on your mood, the season, location, and more. So your words will change with you. I like the idea that they are unique to you.
I'm still unsure of my three words, to be honest, but in the heat of the moment, I would say:
- 90's—though I like a good 80's vibe, jeans+crop top and also keen on those 70s corduroy jackets and oversized sunglasses + haircut with fringe.
- Minimalist—but I also love overloaded colourful patterns!
- Bright—yet a lot of my clothes come in neutral tones.
We all have our contradictions. What do you think are your three words?
For this first autumn iteration, I chose to style my outfits with garments that most of us would have in our wardrobe, like an oversized shirt, jeans or trousers, a sweater and boots. I kept the colour palette neutral, with a dominance of pale tones like beige and some "passe-partout" [all-purpose] colours like blue or black as it is easier to rotate and avoid "faux-pas". I don't think there are rights or wrongs in fashion, but let's say that sometimes an outfit doesn't feel right, and that is what I want to avoid here. It is a subjective notion, but I still think a neutral colour palette makes it easier to style your closet, at least when we are on a learning curve.
7 simple but stylish outfits with 10 garments from my closet
Alright, now the meat of it. I don't know for you, but I tend to associate feelings or ideas with a particular day of the week. It's not always like that—but generally, that is how my mind wanders. It gives constraints, helping me get inspired for my outfits and style my closet.e
It is the first day of the week, and I want to feel fresh and motivated for what is coming ahead, so I like to wear a grounded, power-vibe outfit with a classic silhouette. Here I wear a man's shirt tucked in high-waisted jeans, my favourite statement blazer and boots with personality. I forgot the belt when we shot this, but I would have one if I wore this outfit.
For Tuesday, the workload is building up. I want to feel energised and comfortable. I kept the blazer but this time paired it with a white t-shirt, my high-waisted beige baggy pants with a belt and some white-ish sneakers.
We are halfway through the working (office) week. I like a relaxed vibe, yet elevated with accessories like specific shoes. The jeans are back, as well as the shirt, worn below a statement sweater with my chic brown loafers for an elegant touch. I remembered the belt this time!
Thursday is often a full-on day, so I want to wear something uncomplicated and classic, playing with colours and textures. Again, I wear a blazer paired with black trousers, a white T-shirt and my suede boots.
We made it through the work week; it's the last day in the office! Friday is when I can loosen it a bit, and so my outfit reflects this feeling. I like to wear a simple black dress, with a white T-shirt underneath for texture and sneakers for an additional relaxed vibe.
Social events, catch-up with friends etc. occupy the first day of the weekend, so I'll put together something polished. I wear baggy pants with a belt, a man's shirt and my trench coat, finished with loafers.
The last day of the week is when I like to feel and look relaxed. I enjoy spending my day in a tracksuit at home, but I will wear my super comfy black dress with the man's shirt over if I have to get out. If the weather is a bit chilly, I would layer the white T-shirt below the dress and throw on my trench coat for outside.
Tips for styling your closet
Altogether, we went through 7 outfits, using a handful of garments. To resume, we had a blazer, a man's shirt, a white t-shirt and a sweater. For the bottom, a pair of jeans, beige baggy pants, black trousers and a belt. I also had a black dress and a trench coat. I selected three types of shoes, some camel suede boots, white sneakers and brown loafers. For accessories, I like to add a simple handbag and sunglasses. With all these, I could play with textures, patterns and colours.
It is also simple to switch all these garments to something else. You can swap the man's shirt with a denim or white shirt. You can change the blazer with a grey blazer or a suede jacket; the trench with a long cardigan; the sweater with a knitted pullover; the black dress with a long silk skirt or black fluid pants, and the baggy pants with corduroy trousers. Autumn is a season that can be unstable weatherlike, some days hot, some cold. If it's a bit chilly, I will add a Merino top underneath whatever top I wear on the day to add warmth to my outfit. I'll drop the blazer or sweater if it is a hot day. Styling your closet is a game of options.
Last tip—there are SO MANY sources of inspiration, on and offline, to look for ideas on how to dress cool with a handful of frocks. As I said earlier, magazines, TV shows or movies are one. I also like following street-style photographers like The Sartorialist or other tasteful influencers like Allison Bornstein (we will ignore those promoting SHEIN). I also check out what my favourite designers share of "real-life" people wearing their clothes. But I found that one of the best inspirations is the street. I love sitting somewhere, on the bus, and simply watching people go by and how they dress. Many cool people dress amazingly wherever you are.
I will try to make this "Style your close: 7 outfits with 10 garments" piece a seasonal one as, unlike those living in all-year warm regions, we get exposed to temperature variations here and elsewhere. Let us know what you think and if this piece was helpful to you!
Trace shot this series on Kodak Portra 160 film. Scanned and developed by Splendid Photo, socials @thefilmlab.nz