Refine your style and upgrade your wardrobe: 20 quick-fix ideas

(main) Refine your style and upgrade your wardrobe: 20 quick-fix ideas

Ever had a “bad wardrobe day”? When the contents of your closet just make you yawn and nothing you put on looks right? If you have had this feeling for a while, your wardrobe is a good candidate for a deep treatment (click here to read my 10 Step Wardrobe Revamp post). But if your wardrobe funk is a relatively recent development all you might need to do is to recalibrate and reassess your style and lifestyle.

This post is a collection of 20 quick ideas for getting you and your wardrobe back in touch. Most of them are little assignments that can be completed in less than 15 minutes (instant gratification). They were designed to help you refine your aesthetic ideals, get creative with your current wardrobe or improve its internal structure, and just generally get you thinking about your personal style.

Start from the top or pick a number between 1 and 20
…ready…set…go!

1. Find direct inspiration
It’s way too easy to fill up your pinterest boards with super bold and bright outfits that might speak to you on an abstract level, but that you wouldn’t actually wear in real life. Inspiration is good, but rather than pinning a ton of pretty high-fashion pictures, try to look for images that can help you shape a wardrobe that is right for your own lifestyle. Find 10 outfits on pinterest, your favourite style blogs or lookbook.nu, that you would wear exactly as pictured.

3. Imagine yourself as a cartoon character
As a cartoon character you only get one outfit, but that single outfit perfectly represents the essence of you and your unique style. In a cartoon-version of your life, what would your exact look be from head to toe? Think clothes, hair, make up, jewellery and so on.

5. Write a style concept
Although visual inspiration is extremely helpful for becoming aware of your aesthetic ideals, actually writing out a list of your preferences will force you to spell out the specifics, rather than lingering on a general idea. Make a long list of all the elements that you want in your wardrobe, think colours, textures, patterns, shapes, details, specific items and combinations. Then narrow your list down to 30 elements. Pick three that are not yet represented in your current wardrobe and figure out a way to incorporate them asap.

7. Accessories challenge
This assignment is about flexing your styling muscles and getting creative with your accessories. Pick a simple outfit, something like dark-wash jeans + a white t-shirt, and challenge yourself to create 5 completely different looks using only accessories, hair and make up.

9. Mini detox
In an ideal world, your closet would only contain pieces that you love and wear regularly. Instead of waiting for the perfect day to clean out your closet from top to bottom, start with baby steps, but do it right now. Go through your wardrobe for five minutes and choose one item to throw out, one to give to a friend, one to donate to charity and one to replace.

11. Write a style evolution
Our aesthetic preferences often form during our childhood. Write a short style evolution from your childhood years up until now. What were your favourite outfits and why? How much did your personal style change over the years?

13. Consider your lifestyle
The perfect wardrobe should not only represent your vision of style but also be tailored to your lifestyle. Think of an average week in your life and write down how many times you need an outfit for your main activities, for example work, daytime, parties, lounging, special occasions, gym and so on. Next, decide during which time period you would prefer not to wear the same exact outfit twice (3 weeks for example). Now multiply that number with the number of outfits you need for each activity category per week and you have figured out how many different outfits you need to be able to create with your wardrobe. Is your current wardrobe versatile enough? Are certain activity categories over- or underrepresented?

15. Figure out your essentials
Sometimes it is easier to be creative when you can start from scratch. Image all of your clothes were lost in a fire. Which 15 items would you buy?

17. Create a colour scheme
Our preferences for colour usually not only influence our wardrobe choices. Analyze the colours of your favourite pieces of art, photography or objects in your house. If you can spot a pattern create a colour scheme using crayons, pieces of fabric, photoshop, scraps of paper or small objects like leaves. How well does it match the colours in your wardrobe?

19. 20 outfits with 20 items challenge
Pick 20 pieces from your wardrobe and try to create 20 different outfits (include shoes but no other accessories). The key here is to choose versatile pieces in complementing colours, styles and textures. Imagine a couple of different occasions, style your outfits and snap a few pics for reference!

2. Write a fit guide for your body
No matter how well-made an item is, or how perfectly it matches your vision of style, if it doesn’t suit your body type it does not deserve a spot in your wardrobe. But instead of relying on generic apple/pear body shape guides, go ahead and create your own rules. Try on different fits from your closet or borrow a few clothes from friends, take pictures, examine them honestly and then write a list of dos and don’ts for yourself.

4. Condense your mood board
To develop a refined, coherent vision of style you need to train your eye and and take your time to figure out a which visual elements you want your style to be based on. Create a big mood board with at least 50 images that inspire you in some way: Remove the one picture that speaks to you the least every day. In the end, you should have a better idea of which elements are essential to your personal style and which aren’t.

6. Create a signature style
Deciding on a signature style or a uniform requires you to distill the essence of your style into one specific combination of items that you can see yourself wearing in lots of different variations. Many of the biggest style icons have a clearly defined signature style, just think of Audrey Hepburn, Emmanuelle Alt or Marlene Dittrich. To see if uniform dressing is for you, pick a combination of items (for example slim-fitting jeans, a loose-cut blazer, ankle boots and a simple tank top), that you own in at least three versions (different colours or fabrics for example). Try out different combinations and play with accessories to switch up your look.

8. Streamline your underwear drawer
Don’t forget about your undies! Go through each item in your underwear drawer and throw out anything that is broken or worn out. Also, don’t “collect” underwear. You don’t really need more than 10 bras and 20 panties.

10. Think rich
Which five items would you buy if you had an unlimited budget? Even if it’s just for a thought experiment, the assumption of no monetary restrictions might kindle your creativity and help you image your ideal wardrobe contents.

12. Calculate prices per wear
Would you rather buy a handful of bargains or a single high-quality item? Calculating the price per wear for things can highlight that in the long run it is oftentimes cheaper to go for more durable, pricier pieces. To check whether your current shopping strategy is working for or against you, list your last 5 – 10 purchases and what you spent on them. Now estimate how many times you have worn each item so far and divide their price by that number.

14. Create a ‘maybe’ box
During a closet clean out, most people will keep items they aren’t sure about, “just in case”. To circumvent that all-or-nothing feeling, it helps to create a separate storage place for those items to stay during a trial separation. This way clothes that you don’t wear anymore but can’t quite part with yet don’t take up space in your wardrobe and most likely you will forget about them in a couple of months. Pick out five items for your “maybe” box now.

16. Do a seasonal turnover
Aim to only store clothes that you are currently wearing in your wardrobe. If winter has passed in your country, remove all wintery items, such as chunky knits, gloves, scarfs and extra layers, and move your key pieces for the current season to the front.

18. Prioritize
Imagine you were going on a two-week long trip to a country with a similar climate as yours and could only take a carry-on with you. What would you pack?

20. Establish fabric preferences
Besides durability and a well-crafted design, another factor to consider when judging the quality of a piece is its fabric. Although most people would choose natural fibres over synthetic ones, you might prefer a little more stretch in your clothes or thicker materials over lightweight ones. Note down the fabric composition of your favourite and most comfortable pieces, for both hot and cold weather.

14 thoughts on “Refine your style and upgrade your wardrobe: 20 quick-fix ideas

  1. I really like 15 – sounds like a fun game to play using Polyvore! I also like the idea of thinking about your clothes in childhood, I always used to own a denim shirt dress and I’ve been thinking lately that I need to revisit this. My boyfriend and I sometimes look at each other’s Pinterest style boards and choose 3 images that best summarise the other person’s style, then explain why. It’s a really interesting to get a fresh perspective on what you wear. We also do this for shopping – I ask him to use my Pinterest board to choose 3 items to update my wardrobe with. We’re by no means very stylish but it usually works – for spring he suggested a denim shirt, chinos and white converse.

    Great ideas!

    • Those are both really good ideas as well, getting another person to visually describe your style allows you to examine it from a different perspective, much like taking pictures of your looks instead of just looking in the mirror. And how cool that your boyfriend likes that kind of stuff, I like his choices for updating your spring wardrobe :)

  2. Ever since I have started adopting your capsule wardrobe system I am much happier with what I wear. thank you so much for inspiring me and for all the great ideas for improving my wardrobe further! I also definitely agree with you on buying only high quality garments – they last so much longer and it’s worth it in the long run.

    • sure, any of the techniques relating to creating an overall concept (no 1, 3, 4, 5, 17 and even 11) could easily be adapted to strengthening a brand’s visual representation. Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Man, this post has given me a lot to think about. I think I will attempt to do all twenty in a row and write everything down. Great post :)

  4. Oooh I love this, especially the tip about figuring out your favorite fabrics and also the style evolution one. Your posts are always so unique, keep it up!

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