How to decide what types of clothes to buy

For me, one of the benefits of getting older has been that I have a stronger sense of who I am and what suits me. I know this isn’t the case for everyone though and lots of women come to see me precisely because they have lost sight of what their style is.  This can lead to random purchases that then go unworn. Having a style consultation is a good way to get back on track but taking stock of what you already have in your wardrobe and which items you find yourself reaching for is a good start. Follow these steps to start to build your ideal wardrobe:

What do I wear most, and why?

Before you make any new purchases, I recommend that you identify the items in your wardrobe that you wear most and that you feel your best in. These are mine:

Jumper dress worn with biker jacket and boots
  1. Leather biker jacket
  2. Cashmere jumpers
  3. Ivory jeans
  4. Short cord skirt
  5. Animal print shirt dress
  6. Jumper dress
  7. Nude wedges
  8. Brown suede boots

The next step is to work out what you like about each piece. In my case:

Leather Biker jacket

It’s versatile and can be worn with dresses, skirts and trousers. It gives dresses and skirts a bit of “edge” and adds interest to a basic jeans and top combo. I am susceptible to feeling cold so I like the fact that this is easy to throw-on over almost anything and wear year-round. The fact that it’s a butter-soft leather and comfortable too makes it worth every penny.

Cashmere jumpers

I have developed a rather expensive cashmere habit over the past 5 years! I mainly buy from Pure and Boden because their cropped styles work best for me. I love the sheer comfort and luxury of cashmere and would rather sacrifice quantity for quality any day.

Ivory jeans

These are my go-to for Spring-Summer and I always make sure have a couple of pairs. They go with just about any colour and can be worn with all sorts of tops and, of course, my biker. I have found my perfect ivory jeans at M&S and they cost just £19.50!

Short cord skirt

This was an £8  bargain from TK Maxx and is a lovely soft cord, fitted, but not constricting to wear. The proportions look good whether I am pottering around at home shoeless or wearing shoes or knee boots.

Print shirt dress

Print shirtdress and suede boots

I like it because it is a wear-anywhere dress that doesn’t need ironing and can be worn with a cardigan or biker jacket, sandals, boots or shoes. Is fitted on the top half but not constricting on the bottom. I like the print and the fact that it is feminine but not fussy.

Jumper dress

As with the shirt dress, it doesn’t need ironing. It’s merino wool so it’s cosy and easy to wear and can be dressed up with different belts and scarves. It also works well with my biker jacket and is a slim fit so suits my petite frame.

Nude Sandals

My trusty Dune wedges are so comfortable. The nude colour goes with absolutely everything and elongates my legs. I practically live in them throughout the Summer.

Brown suede boots

These are definitely the heroes of my wardrobe! I wear them endlessly and always aim to have two pairs – one to wear and a replacement pair for when they wear out. I am very  particular about my boots so I am prepared to pay top dollar, if necessary. Having said that, I was thrilled to get my latest pair for  just £69! Mind you, it took me nearly four years to find them!

What don’t I tend to wear, and why?

Whilst I genuinely like everything in my wardrobe, there are certainly items I haven’t worn much over the past couple of years, namely:

Midi wool pencil skirt – As I am quite short, I need heels to make this length work. Being very tailored it feels a bit formal these days

Very fitted dresses – They definitely suit me and I used to enjoy wearing them but, these days, they feel a bit formal.

Midi A-line denim skirt – the fabric is too stiff and I find the darkish denim doesn’t work well with the soft and warm colours in my palette.

Blouses – If I tuck them in, they feel a bit formal and, if I don’t, I look shapeless. Also, I generally don’t find them warm enough so I prefer wearing a cashmere jumper instead.

Blazer – This feels a little too structured for most occasions. I prefer my biker.

Green knee boots – These were a sale “bargain” (but still expensive!) which I bought when I despaired of ever finding a replacement for my brown suede ones.  Whilst I like them, my brown boots are much more versatile so I rarely wear them.

What do I take from this?

I am not a label snob but I do appreciate quality. My style is fairly pared back and unfussy which is why I am attracted to simple styles in great fabrics. I am also a bit lazy, so anything that doesn’t require ironing gets my vote! Comfort has become more important to me over the last couple of years (maybe that’s an age thing!) and my style of dressing is more relaxed, hence the shift from blazer to biker and fitted/structured dresses to jumper dresses.

I am prepared to spend more money on my most worn items. I only bought my first biker jacket about three years ago and, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I would wear it. Rather than plunging straight into a sizable investment in a leather one, therefore, I bought a faux suede one from New Look for about £40. Somewhat to my surprise, I found lots of occasions to wear it and felt really good in it. So, when I saw a beautiful green leather one, I bought that too, even though it was expensive. On a cost-per-wear basis it’s already been a good investment and it will serve me well for many years to come. The faux suede one has been passed on to my daughter. So long as I stick to the colours in my palette (neutrals or accents), I will never regret buying a cashmere jumper. I should always hold out for my perfect boots because I will never be entirely satisfied with a compromise pair.

Thinking abut what types of clothing you actually wear and trying to understand why can be a really useful exercise. As you develop more understanding of what works for you, you will stop making mistakes and every new purchase will earn its place in your wardrobe. This should give you the confidence to invest in quality items so that you buy less and wear more.

A Footnote

The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have changed our lives quite dramatically which is probably why more structured clothing feels “wrong”  for me just now. Even when life returns to normal, I suspect that, at least in the short term, the trend will be for a more relaxed form of dressing so I won’t be buying anything very structured over the coming months. However, whilst I’m packing away my fitted dresses for the time being, I’m not getting rid of them because, in another year or so, the world will have moved on and they might start to feel “right” again.