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Wardrobe Crisis? Solution - build a wardrobe around your regular activities

Updated on March 6, 2011

I work in a busy women’s clothing store and many women I meet seem to be suffering in some shape or form from a condition I like to call a wardrobe crisis.

At one end of the scale is the woman who has left it to the last minute to shop for an outfit for an event such as a wedding or job interview.

At the other end are those who say they have a wardrobe full of clothes but frequently have nothing to wear.

And lastly, the woman who has lost or put on a lot of weight and has nothing to wear as her clothes no longer fit.

If you identify with either of the above situations and would like to solve your own wardrobe malfunction, follow my six easy steps.

1 – Preparation

Gather together a pen, a few sheets of paper, and set aside a couple of hours.

2 - Think about and list your current lifestyle activities

The key to having a wardrobe that works for you is to build it around your current lifestyle. Spend some time thinking about your current lifestyle and activites and list them. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Daily – Being at home, Sleeping.
  • Weekly - Work, Housework, Errands, Gardening, Church, Dining out, Dating, Exercise, Hobbies.
  • Monthly – Visiting family, Lunch with friends, Dinner parties, Voluntary work, Cinema, Go to the pub, Parties, Nightclubs.
  • Seasonal Activities - Spring / Summer - Holidays (Beach Holiday, City Break, Camping) Music Festivals, Concerts, Go to the Ballet or Opera, Summer BBQ, Home Decorating & DIY, Valentine’s Day / Wedding Anniversary Dinner.
  • Seasonal Activities - Autumn / Winter - Winter Holidays / Skiing, Christmas Day and New Year Lunch & Parties.
  • Occasional Activities - This is the area where a lot of women get caught out. Add all of these to your list because they are all likely to crop up at some point in the future. Funeral, Job Interview, Summer Wedding/Christening, Party, Black Tie Dinner, Ball.

3. Work out how many outfits you need for each activity.

The second most important key point is to make sure you have enough outfits for each activity. For example, if you work in an office five days a week, you will need five outfits. If you normally attend one wedding a year, you only need one outfit. Be honest and put down a realistic quantity. Having too few in any one area leads to frustration and lots of last minute laundering or shopping. Having too many clothes is a waste of money and time spent shopping.

4. Sort your clothes into activity piles.

Now head to your wardrobe to start sorting your clothes into activity piles.

  1. Remove any clothing, footwear and accessories that are not suitable for the current season, either Autunm/Winter or Spring/Summer and if possible, store these elsewhere, for example in a suitcase under the bed. For the moment, we will only be working with the clothes that you have that are suitable for the current season.
  2. Remove any items that no longer fit, need repairing, need drycleaning, are styles and colours you no longer like or belong to a previous lifestyle, for example you have several office suits but are now retired or a stay at home mum. Put these all together and to one side for the moment.
  3. Make sure all your remaining clothes are on hangers and hanging on the rail. You are now going to start to group them into activity groups. Alternatively, you may wish to remove all your clothes from the wardrobe, giving you the chance for a good clean out, and then create separate piles of clothes for each activity on your bedroom floor.
  4. Using your list, start to group your clothes together into your separate activities. Try to place your better quality clothes, if suitable, into the more formal activity groups such as officewear, funerals or parties, and your more worn out clothes in groups such as housework, gardening or decorating.
  5. You will probably find that most of your clothes fit naturally into one group, whilst others may fit into two or more. Put these more flexible items to one side for the moment.

  6. Add your shoes, accessories and jewellry to the relevent groups.

Step 5. Make sure you have enough outfits for each activity.

Now comes the fun part!

  1. Take one activiity group pile at a time, and try to create enough separate outfits for what you need. Try to base your outfits around items that are good quality, in classic styles and neutral colours. Use colourful or printed items to liven them up. When you are satisfied with the ouitfits you have created, hang them all together back in the wardrobe with their related shoes and accesories underneath. If you have any surplus clothes, add these to the other piles, but only if they fit in. If not, put them in a pile to donate.
  2. However, if you are struggling to create outfits, have a look at the items in your cleaning and repairs pile and see if there is anything suitable there. If so use it, but first create a repairs/cleaning list and add it to it. Add it back into your wardrobe.
  3. If you still have gaps, make a list of what you need. It could be an item of clothing, some shoes, underwear, hosiery, accessories, even a complete outfit. This list is the start of your shopping list.
  4. Repeat the process for all the other piles.
  5. If you have items left over, either a surplus or items that need cleaning or repairing, put them in a pile to donate to charity.

Step 6. Prioritise your shopping list and go shopping.

  1. Review your shopping list and have a look through your closet. Are there any items in one activity group that could temporarily fill in for a gap in another activity group?. For example, could you wear one of your dark work skirts with a silky top you already own to make up the evening outfit that you have identified as a gap? Would your dark suit be suitable for a funeral? Is there a substitute in the items you are getting dry-cleaned or repaired? If you have found a temporary substitute for something on your list, write TS next to it.
  2. Prioritise your shopping list. At the top, put the urgent items, the ones that you need to buy now, perhaps because you have an event coming up such as a wedding, or you don't have enough clothes for a particular activity such as work and it is making life difficult. Then put the items that are not so urgent and can wait a while. Finally, add the TS items, where you have a temporary substitute.
  3. With your list of what you need, together with the clothes that need altering, repairing or cleaning, go shopping. Your priority is first to visit the tailors/drycleaners and then to go shopping for the urgent items on your list.

You need to repeat the steps each season, but it will be easier next time, as you have already done the hard work of identifying your lifestyle activities and the outfits that you need. All you need to do next season is create outfits again and then shop to fill in the gaps.

You now have a well organised wardrobe with items grouped by activity. As you repeat these steps each season, you should gradually find that you spend less time on them, and less time and money as you gradually fill in the gaps.


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    • rontlog profile image

      rontlog 5 years ago from England

      Diana, that is a great idea to photograph the outfits. Thank you.

      Monika, thank you for your comment - I have a simple, dark grey wool coat, that is as versatile as your black trench. I think the reason both our coats work well is because they are simple in style, neutral in colour and smart but most importantly hard wearing.

      My other clothes aren't as hardwearing and so I keep them separate. For example, I have a smart, simple black cardigan that I wear just for funerals. Yes it looks great with my jeans too, but if I started to wear it regularly as part of my casual wardrobe, it would soon look worn out. Then if I needed to attend a funeral I would need to go out and buy a replacement, which takes up time and money.

    • profile image

      Monika 5 years ago

      I don't think this makes sense as one piece of clothing can be suitable for more than one 'activity'.

      I have a black trench coat, it is suitable for fall as well as spring, casual wear, office, uni, funeral etc and so does many of my clothes (white shirt, black heels)

      Trying to put everything ino separate category would make it much harder for me, but I guess it may work for other people :)

    • profile image

      Diana 6 years ago

      This is great information...i would only make one suggestion based on the book "Nothing to Wear" ... photograph each outfit you created and label by lifestyle activity and put in album for quick reference.