Closet 101 Style

What I’d Tell Myself: Clothes Edition

Earlier I started a little series called “What I’d Tell Myself”: advice that I would give to a younger me, if I could share everything I learned about building a wardrobe over the years. My first post in the series was on shoes – today, I’ll be covering the biggest area of my closet: clothes!

via Huffpo

via Huffpo

1. Accept your climate. Personal translation for me? You live in California. Stop buying coats! I have so many beautiful coats and warm toppers in my closet that get no use. And, on the rare occasions that I do go somewhere cold – well I enough coats to cover a lifetime of trips to cold climates and for all different sorts of occasions. I’ll make one exception here, if the perfect leopard print coat ever appears.

2. If you find great evening wear on sale, get it. I never think that I’ll need gowns, which is why through the years I’ve inevitably ended up shopping last minute to find dresses for very formal events requiring long dresses. Each time I swear that I just saw some great gowns on sale, yet at the moment there are none to be found. Everything I do find ends up either being full price from some brand like J. Mendel and the cost of a small vehicle, or something that a 16 year old would be wearing to prom. So…when you see that beautiful Akris gown hanging in your size on the sale rack for 70% off? Just buy it. Eight months later, when your friend decides that instead of a casual wedding in Napa they’re going full black tie, you won’t have to panic!

 3. Buy nicer “lounge” wear, pronto. After a long day at work, as soon as I get home I have the exact same routine – take off shoes, drop off my bag near the door, and head straight to my closet to change into my lounge gear/pajamas. For the longest time, that meant my husband’s old ratty Penn t-shirt and a pair of probably ten year old Abercrombie track shorts. One day, I realized that I was spending all this money on new clothes that I wore briefly outside – yet the clothes that I wore sometimes all day, and almost every day, were in truly deplorable shape.

My advice to my earlier self – buy nicer “home” clothes! You wear them all the time, they’re pretty cheap even at full price (just go to Eberjey for some great sets) and you won’t have to be embarrassed when the UPS guy comes or when friends unexpectedly drop by.

4. Limit “passion purchases” to one per season, maximum. I say only one per season because even in an ideal world I think passion purchases should be allowed, even if you rarely wear them. Part of the fun of fashion is falling in love with beautiful items – even if you don’t have anywhere to wear them. I have a few items in my closet which rarely see the light of day but which still make me very happy just to look at. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s within reason! If you have a closet filled with sequinned, hot pink items you never wear then yeah…you may have a problem. But if you can just limit your “passion” purchases to say – just one per season? You’ll still get the thrill of spontaneous, fun items and your wallet won’t hurt too much.

What would you tell your younger self about clothes and the right items to add over the years?

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  • Sarah
    August 25, 2014 at 8:44 am

    All great points – and totally agree. I started buying really nice loungewear a few years ago and never been happier. Best money ever spend…would love to see more loungewear posts.

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Sarah! You seem like someone who would have fabulous loungewear!

  • a
    August 25, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I like Uniqlo and LL Bean fleece gowns the best. They even have pockets and sometimes zippers. Seasonal, only available in Fall/Winter.

    Yes… You must live outside of Western San Francisco. Though we live in the Bay Area, the climate varies widely even within a 40 mile radius. Where I live, it’s frequently cold, foggy, windy, and we don’t see the sun for eons sometimes. If I want to see the sun and blue skies, I’d have to go downtown. Still need a coat even during summer, especially since I’m a wus and feel cold frequently.

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      OMG a fleece gown sounds heavenly. I’m going to look at Uniqlo this winter!

  • Philip
    August 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    As always, a very well-written entry by the ever elegant Katherine. 🙂

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks Philip 🙂

  • Mica
    August 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    THANK YOU! This is exactly the concept I needed to articulate to myself. I spend so much time at home working around my new house or with my small children. My wake up call was when a pretty cute little infant at Daycare spit up on my new Helmut Lang coated jeans. Those Eberjay pajamas look great. Now I just need some great thicker sleeved shirts for day and some cute but well priced jeans!

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Have you looked at Target or Old Navy for jeans? I found some great ones there that I love, super comfy too and I don’t feel bad about them getting wrecked.

  • hera
    August 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    oh yes!! totally love the gowns on sale! I bought so many J mendels and oscar de la renta on sale, have them fitted first, and then whenever there are last minute events i don’t need to stress for one. big lesson for sure you will never find the gown for the event last minute for the price you want to pay! 🙂

    there are also passion purchases that i made too, just out of love, and they are in my closet forever and never see a day of light, yes you are right – LIMIT LIMIT and LIMIT!!

    happy shopping!

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      You have so many beautiful gowns, you are the queen of that! You are so smart to stock up!

  • Jane
    August 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    So true about the evening wear! I’ve been doing that for a while now because inevitably there’ll be a last minute event that I need to attend, and I won’t be able to find something at the last minute without paying an arm and a leg. Of course when I have no place to go, I end up seeing a Chanel evening gown at 70% off at a Saks Off 5th one day. I’m still kicking myself for letting that one go!

    • Katherine
      August 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Wow that gown sounds amazing! Don’t worry, another will appear I am sure 🙂

  • Maria
    August 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Great advice – #2 especially. Last Call is great for those but, yes, don’t wait. Buy it when you see it.

    And regarding #3, I never thanked you formally for a post you must have done 1-2 years ago. You recommended short beach dresses or cover-up tunics to wear about at home. Mostly too short to wear out (unless you’re actually going to the beach) but perfect to wear at home by themselves. And no embarrassment with the UPS guy here either. Bingo! I must have half a dozen now – and wear them almost exclusively on those “stay home” days. So thanks. 🙂

    • Katherine
      August 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Hi Maria, I’m so glad that you found it useful! I love wearing tunics at home, makes me feel a little snazzier, lol.

  • Anna
    August 25, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I’d like to add that once you’re done with an item, sell it! Don’t let value sit unused!

    • Katherine
      August 26, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Great point! Where do you usually sell?

      • Anna
        August 26, 2014 at 7:23 pm

        I usually sell things on eBay. This only works for designer/desired items (i.e. certain flagship items from a particular designer or popular item from J. Crew). I also dump things on The Real Real, which is a great place to purge your closet.

        Here’s an example: I bought a pair of UGGs way back when for $80 (yeah, WAY back when). I sold them 5-6 years later for $35.

        Total cost of use: $45. Not too shabby for well-loved boots!

  • tata
    August 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    what is your thought on neutral vs color/patterns… i struggle with this a lot. i love colors and patterns but always so hesistant to spend so much $$ on them since i feel like once you wear it a few times, it gets old and too repetitive. but i spend more on neutrals like black, white, gray cuz i feel that you get more wear… but then my closets starts to look so bland and boring…

    • Maria
      August 27, 2014 at 9:43 am

      I am so with you on what I consider “clean and classic” clothing! Every once in a while I will pick up something that’s louder or out of the box, but most of my clothes are pretty classic and versatile. I generally will jazz them up with accessories to suit my mood or the occasion =)

    • Katherine
      August 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I feel the same way! I do love certain brands over and over again for their patterns and will never hesitate to pick out an Etro or Hermes shawl. Do you have any designers that you are drawn to that do patterns?

  • guest
    August 27, 2014 at 6:13 am

    Love this – you are so sweet, friendly, and helpful, yet glamorous and a great writer.

    • Katherine
      August 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      What a kind comment, thank you so much!