The words intentional and shopping are not often used in the same sentence. This is the absolute last thing retailers want: to be rational and intentional when you shop. They greatly benefit when you shop with emotion, which is why they work so hard to create urgency in their marketing through tactics like discounts, FOMO, and "everyone will be wearing this in the Fall" type messaging. I've been in marketing and sales for 20 years, so believe me, I know exactly what they are doing.
But even as a seasoned marketer, these retailers still hook me from time to time. (OK, I'll admit: more than just from time to time!) And if you've ever found yourself feeling a bit (or a lot!) guilty after a shopping splurge or hiding packages as soon as they arrive on your doorstep so no one else will see them arrive, then you know the negative effects of the retailers efforts.
I'm here to tell you there is a better way. A way to feel more in control. A way that doesn't involve guilt or overspending or an over-stuffed closet or accidentally buying duplicates. (Tell me you haven't done this before!)
The way to get a handle on your shopping is to get intentional. And one really effective way to do this is by creating a seasonal wardrobe checklist. This is something I started doing for myself years ago, and now do with all of my 1:1 Style Transformation clients. The idea is to formulate a plan - based on what you already have in your closet - before you hit the stores or start shopping online. The checklist is meant to cover both needs and wants, and fill in the holes in your wardrobe. Ultimately, making it easier to build an intentional closet with pieces that you can mix and match, and that fit your personal style and lifestyle needs.
Did I lose you with "formulate a plan?" Believe me... even someone who isn't into planning or creating checklists can do this! I promise!
But before we get into exactly "what" a wardrobe checklist is, let's talk a little more about why you'd want to consider creating your own wardrobe checklist in the first place.
Here's some questions you may be asking yourself...
Q: Can’t I just google it?
A: Google doesn’t really know you.
Yes, you can Google "wardrobe checklist" and gets thousands of search results. But Google doesn't really know you. Although Google does a pretty good job of tracking our behaviors and actions online, they don't know things like your style needs, budget, personal style, or lifestyle needs (like if you just changed jobs or work environments, and now need a more casual work wardrobe). And in all honesty, what Google is best at doing is serving up more of what you just searched most recently… which keeps you stuck in a style rut buying the same things over and over.
Hear more about why I hate generic wardrobe checklists.
Q: Why do I need to write it down?
A: Writing things down makes it visible and conscious.
If you've ever done personal or career goal setting, what's one thing they all tell you to do? Write it down, and then tell someone about your goals. Why? Because the act of writing it down makes it visible and conscious, and more likely that you will hold yourself accountable to reaching the goal (or have someone help hold you accountable).
It's the same with creating a checklist of things you want to add to your wardrobe in any particular season - or for the year. Writing it down makes it conscious, you have to think about what you may need or want in advance, rather than falling prey to impulse buys. Without a plan, you may end up over-spending, buying duplicates you didn't realize you already owned, or feel guilty after making purchases. A list keeps you grounded.
Q: I like to be inspired by browsing online or shopping in the store. Doesn't a list limit my creativity?
A: A good list allows for flexibility and ultimately, avoids impulse buying.
I know creating a checklist sounds incredibly boring and may feel like all of the fun is being sucked out of shopping. To be clear, I'm not saying you have to stop having fun. I, too, love going into a store or shopping online and getting inspired by what I see! What a list will do is put parameters around what you are going to buy in order to avoid those icky feelings of hiding packages or credit card statements, or feeling overwhelmed when you get something into your closet only to find you have nothing to wear with it.
I like to think of my wardrobe checklist as guardrails. They are guidelines that create focus and control spending, but also allow for flexibility. It's not set in stone. For example, if you find something you absolutely fall in love with, but wasn't on your wardrobe checklist, no biggie. In that case, consider removing something else from your list, to balance out the purchase you just made. Or decide you can do without that other item. It's all about balance, especially if you wanted to stick within a certain budget.
Another thing to consider: If you only shop for what inspires or moves you in the moment, you're probably not thinking about what is needed to round out your wardrobe. For example, I find some women gravitate towards purchasing all fun, interesting, unique pieces. The problem is, without some solid basics, it an be hard to create outfits. Or as another example, they may purchase something but then when they get home find it goes with nothing else in their wardrobe, so it sits untouched. In both cases, there is a tendency to keep shopping for more, but never really solving the problem. So while buying a white tee or a great pair of black trousers may not sound like much fun, it certainly does make getting dressed easier and avoids that feeling of "I have no thing to wear."
Q: I'm not a list person or a planner. Why do I need this again?
A: Plain and simple... your long-term sanity!
Listen, I initially hated the thought of creating a list, too. If I find something I love and feel amazing in, to me, it's worth a buy. But I also hate the feeling of being out of control. I hate looking at my credit card bill when I know I've overspent. I hate thinking about having a open conversation with my spouse, because I know he will see the expense come through on our bank account. I hate going to my closet to put my beloved things away only to find there's no space for it. I hate buying something and then watch it sit in my closet without use because I actually had no use for it in my life. If you can identify with any of these feelings, then adopting this idea of list-making may be worth your time. And remember, when I say "checklist," it can be a literal put the pen to paper list, or it can be a Pinterest board or mood board for those who are more visual. Go with what works for you! But have a plan.
How do I create my wardrobe checklist?
Step 1 Detox:
The first step before we get to the checklist is to detox. Clean out your closet - even if it's just going through clothes and shoes you'll wear for that upcoming season. And this is an important step in getting more intentional with your shopping, because if we don't even know what's in our closets, how can we possibly know what to add? Get rid of anything you no longer love or wear, and then take stock of what you want or need going into a new season. After detoxing, you should be left with only things you intend to wear. After going through the detox, you should have a better idea of what may be missing in order to create outfits you love and outfits that work for your life.
(Need help with your detox? See my guide on what to keep and what to toss in a closet detox.)
Step 2: Note where you have holes.
This step is all about identifying where you have true needs. Did your favorite black turtleneck finally wear out? Do you have a hole in your favorite tee? Do you have an upcoming event where you will need a new dress? Did you change jobs and now instead of needing to get dressed for a formal work environment, you need clothes for biz casual? Do you have all fun, interesting, unique pieces, but no basics? Or do you have all basics, and no fun? Are you on Zoom calls exclusively and need to amp up your Zoom-worthy tops? Put all of this down on a sheet of paper with two columns: One column for NEEDS and one column for WANTS. (we'll get to wants next!) This is a place where my clients really value my expertise and service, since they don’t always know what they are missing or can't see how adding certain pieces to their wardrobe will make it easier to get dressed every day.
Step 3: Dream a little.
Once you've covered the true "need to have's," let yourself dream a little. What would you love? What would add to your personal style? Are there trends you saw and want to try? Is there anything you've always wanted to have, but never bought for yourself? Look at your "dream closet" Pinterest boards and allow yourself to let loose a little. Put all of these ideas - unfiltered and without judging - under the WANTS column of your paper.
After all, in the wise words of Audrey Hepburn...
“Life is a party. Dress like it.” - Audrey Hepburn
Step 4: Create a budget.
Here's the clincher: Set a budget! Yes, DO this step and don't skip it. A budget is essential if we want to avoid the guilt and lack of control! You can either set a monthly budget for the upcoming season or you can set a quarterly budget. Whatever works best for you and how you track your finances and spending. Honestly, I hate this part, but it does work. Here again, the idea of making it visible and conscious will serve you well, and is so much better than getting surprised at the end of the month in your credit card bill.
Setting a budget is a big piece of information I need to know when working with my clients, because it sets the tone for where I shop and where to invest.
Let give you an example of two types of shoppers...
You know you love having lots of clothes and options, and like following trends. If this is you, then you may want to shop at lower-end retailers where you can get more for your money, or seek out fast-fashion retailers who specialize in trendier items at affordable prices.
You love the idea of investing in a few key pieces that will last forever. You've always wanted to have a capsule wardrobe, and love the idea of mixing and matching in infinite ways. If this is you, then gravitate towards higher end brands and go for quality over quantity.
Or maybe you're somewhere. in the middle. either way, the key is to know what kind of shopper you are, then realistically plan for it!
Did this just overwhelm you?
If your mind is swirling with this information, or you just can't comprehend how you will have the tie for this checklist, much less shopping, I'd love to chat with you about how I can help. With my 1:1 Style Transformation clients, I help them detox (virtually!), weeding out anything they no longer love or works for their body, and create a year-round wardrobe checklist on their behalf. Plus, I help them do all the shopping and creation of outfit style boards! Schedule your free 30-minute style consult, at a time that works for you.
Want more styling goodness from me?
Or, sign up for my weekly style newsletter to be the first to get my style tips, outfit inspiration and ways to elevate your style.