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Stop wasting your money on clothes

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

5 Ways to Build a Smart Wardrobe That You Actually Love and Wear.

It is estimated that the average woman (with a life expectancy of 80 years of age) will spend approximately $125,000 in her lifetime on clothing and accessories. This will equate to just over 3,100 different items and include 145 handbags, 185 dresses and yes you’ve guessed it, over 270 pairs of shoes. (1)

On a monthly basis, women on average will spend somewhere between $150 - $400 on clothing, equaling approximately $1,800 to $4,800 per year.

And even after all this spending and hundreds of items of clothing, three in five women complain on a daily basis that they can’t find anything suitable to wear in their wardrobe. Furthermore, it's known that most women wear 20% of the items in their closet 80% of the time. Talk about waste!

I'm confident that many of you reading this right now are nodding your heads, knowing all too well this feeling of spending, spending, spending only to have a continual nagging feeling of nothing to wear.

What is behind this phenomenon anyway?

After working one-on-one with many women and their wardrobes, I know a few things to be true about spending habits related to clothing and what it takes to create a happy closet (and a happy woman). Believe me, spending more or filling up your closet more is NOT the answer. But how do you actually create the closet of your dreams?

Here's 5 ways to create a smart wardrobe that you love and wear on repeat.

#1 Way to a Smarter Wardrobe: Get clear about your personal style.

There's a reason that I ask every single one of my clients to spend time up front defining their style. (And yes, even women who don't believe they have a style find theirs!) When I don't have a good understanding of who they want to be and how they want to show up in this world, I have zero guidance on how to build a closet of their dreams.

On the flip side, when you have a clear sense of your personal style, your life will be so much easier. Women who know what their style is - and isn't - find it so much easier to let go of things in their closet they don't love or wear, to pass things by in stores that don't feel like them, and conversely, buy things that they know are 100% their style without hesitation. Zero regrets. No guilty feeling. Just pure joy. I know we've reached a place of style clarity when I see something in a store and immediately think, "That's so Staci!" That's where you want to be.

So how does this relate to a smarter closet? When you are certain of what your style is - and is not - your closet will be full of things you really LOVE and that feel like YOU. Imagine that! No more of your precious closet spaced filled up with things you never touch, or intend to touch. No more clothes with tags on them, or items you've kept out of guilt or regret. No more clothes you keep because you dream of being a different size. No more wasting money on something you think you'll wear, but never do. Only a closet full of goodness that is unapologetically a reflection of you.

Don't know your personal style? Get your wheels turning with this exercise I use with all my clients.

#2 Way to a Smarter Wardrobe: Trust your gut.

A couple of Summers ago I was searching for a wedding guest dress that was going to be on the beach. I ordered three dresses, and had to make a decision about which one to keep. I polled my fans to help me pick a dress that was best. The dress that I picked was one I liked and fit me well, but the truth is, I loved another dress more. (This dress is what I really had my heart set on.)

In all honesty, I didn't need to poll a single person about which dress to pick. I already knew the one that was meant for me. But in that moment, I let my head take over with the decision-making, instead of letting my gut and my heart take the lead.

My practical, logical brain had all sorts of objections to sway me from keeping this dress...

  • Will I be able to wear this again?

  • This isn’t what I normally wear.

  • Is it right for a beach wedding?

  • It requires steaming and I’m traveling by plane for this wedding.

  • Is it too short for my long legs?

And on and on.

Eventually, my questioning got too loud, it swayed me, and I went another direction. But my heart was still on this dress. And here - two years later - when the dress pops up as a memory on my feed, my heart sinks. I knew I made the wrong decision! I didn't trust my gut.

This story isn't an uncommon one for many women. All too often, we let our practical minds take over, instead of sticking with our heart's guidance. And when we get too focused on the practical, logical brain when it comes to your wardrobe or style, it keeps us from being who our heart really wants us to be!

In fact, yet anther example of doubting our gut came up this very week. She wanted my advice on what to wear to a wedding that she would be officiating.

  • "Should I wear something neutral?"

  • "Should I try to blend in?"

  • "Wear the brides colors?"

And my advice to her?

Wear what you love and you feel 100% most YOU in. Do that and you can never go wrong. Later on she posted a picture of herself in a dress that she planned to wear, in her favorite signature color, looking radiant and adorning a huge smile! She admitted she would have never taken this leap without my guidance. Now imagine if she had let her practical brain take the lead: She would have ended up in a color or style that made her blend in, and feel less than, instead of showing up as her radiant, confident self. Believe me, even the bride wants that for her!

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to build a smart wardrobe that you love and want to wear is to stick with your gut. If you pay attention, the instant you put something on, your gut is talking and giving you guidance. What is it saying? Are you listening to it, or shoving it aside? Trust it. It rarely steers you in the wrong direction.

#3 Way to a Smarter Wardrobe: Edit edit edit.

Ladies, I'm here to tell you that a full closet doesn't make a happy life, just a more confused and cluttered one. If you want a smarter wardrobe, you've got to commit to editing it down to only the things you love and will wear. No more holding onto things because of guilt, regret or sentimental reasons. No more keeping things until you reach a certain goal weight. Only allow things in your closet you love to wear, makes you feel amazing, and that fits you now. Everything else has got to go!

Sound a bit harsh or idealistic?

I know from experience and watching clients go through this process that you'll be amazed at the weight lifted off your shoulders when you detox. (And there's also the benefit of physical space opening up, too! I'm a firm believer of clear space = clear mind.) The old saying that "less is more" is legit! Every single client of mine is required to do their own closet detox before we start together, because I trust that every woman knows she has things in her closet that don't belong there. Most of the time, they just haven't taken the time to do it.

The other amazing thing that happens when you clean out your closet is that you actually know what's in there, helping you be more informed when you go to add things to your closet, instead of buying something only to realize you have the exact same thing hidden in the back or buried under a neglected pile. (Be honest, we've all been there!) So edit, edit edit.... and don't look back.

Just a hint that tips #1 (knowing your style) and #2 (trusting your gut) will make this process even easier!

#4 Way to a Smarter Wardrobe: Know that great style doesn't have to be expensive.

It's a common misconception that you have to have a lot of money to have great style. This, my friends, is where you are horribly wrong. I have spent my entire life creating my personal style on a budget. As a young woman, building my career and then building my family, I didn't have enormous amounts of money to spend on clothes. Easily less than $200 a month. So I had to be frugal, I had to set a budget, and I had to find the best quality clothes at the best prices. Now that I'm older and have more money to spend, I don't necessarily go all out on designer brands. And I still shop at lower-cost retailers and hunt down sales. And I don't think this.will ever change no matter how much I make moving forward. Why? Because I believe style isn't tied to a brand or a dollar amount. I find equally amazing and stylish things at retailers like Target or Zara, as I do at high-end brands.

What I want you to take away is that spending more money isn't always better. When I do spend more money on an item of clothing, shoe or accessory, it's because I know I love it enough to wear for years to come, or the cost per wear is justifiable. For example, I recently splurged on a pair of Agolde jeans. Spending $198 on a pair of jeans, even today, felt like an investment, and was the most I had ever spent to date on denim. So why did I decide to do it?

A few reasons...

In my younger years, I would only buy $30-$40 pairs of jeans, because I didn't believe I could afford more in my budget at the time. The reality was that I hated these cheap jeans. They were poor quality, would stretch and bag out within hours, and I would wash them constantly to shrink them back to size. It was a ridiculous and frustrating process. Plus, I never felt good wearing them. (I mean, no one looks good with saggy bottoms and knees!) I easily owned 20 pairs of these cheap, low-quality jeans. I just kept buying them thinking that it would be different or better with the next pair. Nope. I was definitely wrong about that.

About ten years ago, out of desperation and frustration with these cheap jeans, I splurged on a designer pair of jeans. At the time, dropping $150 on a pair of jeans felt insane! What I didn't know is that this one pair of jeans was about to change my world - and my entire perspective on investing in good jeans. I suddenly realized that even though spending more felt out of my comfort zone, it was well worth the investment. No more tugging or sagging or washing after every wear. I just felt good in this pair of jeans every single time I wore them. Had I changed my mindset about these "expensive" jeans years ago, I could have saved myself so much more money!

Let's do the math to compare...

Cheap jeans:

Average of $30 per pair x 20 pairs = $600 (I hated every time I wore them, and most just sat untouched in my closet)

"Expensive" jeans:

Average of $150 per pair x 4 pair = $600 (I loved every time I wore them, and they lasted me for years)

I could have easily owned 4 expensive pairs that I loved wearing or even two pairs for half the cost, instead of wasting money on 20 pairs I hated. You do the math. Fast forward to today, spending $198 on a pair of jeans that I know I will love and wear on repeat is a no brainer.

#5 Way to a Smarter Wardrobe: Ask for help.

Is it hard for you to ask for help? I have gotten better over the years, but I still struggle to reach out when I need it. One of the most common things I hear from my clients when I ask why they are interested in working with a stylist is that they just don't have the time or energy to do it themselves. "I know I need to up my game," they'll say, "but I just don't have the time or expertise to pull it all together. I know I can be getting more out of my closet and looking better every day, with a lot less stress."

And when you think about it, isn't this why we hire specialists in other fields, anyway? I am an excellent house cleaner, but once my kids came along, I no longer had the time (or wanted to spend the time) cleaning my house. So I hire it out with zero guilt or shame.

Or think about a financial planner. With a little research and some time investment, we could all figure out what to do with our money and where to invest it. But this may not be how we want to spend our time, or we may just want an expert's opinion instead of figuring it all out ourselves.

The same is true with a stylist. Even if you feel like you have excellent fashion sense, and you have no trouble buying clothes, having an expert to help you hone in on your unique style, omit everything else, and put it all together into a cohesive wardrobe is a lifesaver (and a time saver and money saver!).

I have a client with a really fun, unique style. She always felt like she had to tone her style down in business settings to fit in, or she felt like her style was too "out there." Working with me, she got permission to fully own who she is, learned how to create the style of her dreams, and shows up as her authentic, fun, colorful self every day without apology.

As a styling professional, I help you get more strategic about putting things in your closet you will actually wear and love for years to come. If you want to finally stop stressing over your closet, and stop wasting your money, it's time to ask for professional help. You can schedule a 30-minute style consult with me here (it's free!) - to see if a style transformation is right for you.

So which of these tips to build a smarter closet did you love the most? Which are you committing to this week? I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a note in the comments, or just say hello.

About Me

Hi, I'm so glad you're here! I'm a Personal Virtual Stylist and owner of Style Decoded. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brand online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and client service is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style.

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