Economy scaring you? Shop your closet

BlogHer Original Post

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the economy is bad, and it's only getting worse. But it's also November, which means that we're on the brink of Holiday Party Season, AND the weather is changing (finally) so it's time to bust out your brand new fall wardrobe.

Except that the economy is bad, so who can afford a new fall wardrobe? Or a new party dress? Or a new ANYTHING?!?


One of the very first posts I wrote for BlogHer was about shopping your closet. That was nearly two years ago but my advice is still the same: edit ruthlessly and keep only what fits and what you really love and wear. And then make a deal with yourself to buy ONLY what you really need.

The thing women fear about the tightly edited closet is boredom -- If I get rid of those faux-python pleather pants, I won't have anything fun to wear! Having a small wardrobe means you need to think harder about how you pair things; it also means that you need to consider accessories as an easy way to change your look. But mostly it means that you need to be honest about what you really wear every day, because chances are even in an overstuffed closet, you're always putting on the same things.

Recently, the super-smart Sarah James wrote a series at The Working Closet on making the edited closet work for you. Because she's helpful, she shopped her own closet for eight core pieces to get her through the season. She started with two basic steps: Pick your eight best pieces, and then lay them out and take a good look. And then she offered some very useful (and very reassuring) rules:

1. Remember, you are picking eight pieces as a basis for the upcoming season, not for the rest of your God-given life. Relax for crying out loud. (Do you hear that, self??)

2. When you decide on those eight pieces, don’t fret about the ones you’ve left out. Tim Gunn isn’t going to magically appear in your bedroom with plans to throw a black bag over your head and run off into the night with your remaining wardrobe items. (I think.)

3. There are no rules for what items of clothing you need to include. Everyone’s daily wardrobe situation is different. As a mom who works from home, my pieces might be far more casual than those who work from an office.

4. Don’t worry about accessories, shoes, outerwear, etc. Those will be added into the mix later. Focus on articles of clothing.

5. Just do it! It’s not as daunting as it might seem.

Sarah's rules point to an important truth about the well-edited closet: as much as we all love lists (ten basics for work! five must-haves for fall!) the most functional wardrobe is one composed of pieces you will wear and wear and wear in your real life. Having a number (eight!) and a focus (fall!) helps us to organize ourselves, but really, this is about deciding what your personal look is and making it work for you.

You can do it, I know you can.

This week, I challenge you to get in your closet and clean up your act. If you have the time, do a full closet clean out; if you don't, try Sarah's exercise of choosing eight pieces for fall. Either way, spend some time shopping in your existing closet; you'll be surprised at what you find.

Need more inspiration? Fashion and Style has a cheerful list of strategies for shopping your closet, while Real Simple's Michelle Madhok tells you how to organize your handbags (and no, piling them on the floor is NOT the same as organizing them). And on Tuesday, I'll show you my eight basics for fall.

Susan Wagner writes about style at ParentDish, and about everything else at Friday Playdate. Have a pressing style question? Email her at


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