Shop Your Closet

How to Shop In Your Own Closet

I have a lot of clothes. Like, a lot of clothes. So the current "shopping within your own closet" trend is not only easy for me, but necessary, now that I'm living the life of a freelance writer sans cash for frequent shopping jaunts.

But there are ways to work with what you have, as well as make the right choices for what to buy next time to keep you stylish through good times and bad.

I scored a shop-your-own-closet session with local style consultant Wendy Woods of The Refinery, who threw together a few outfit "modules" for me, but also allowed me to crib her tips for fellow Toronto fashion enthusiasts looking for some re-inspiration about what they already have and how to shop smarter in the future.

Shop Your Closet

1) Know your colours

Once you know what colours look good on you, you can stick to buying pieces in those shades. The best part? Those clothes should also look good together, since they're in the same colour family, thus forming a cohesive wardrobe that is easily mix-and-matchable, rather than a collection of disparate pieces, said Woods.

Shop Your Closet

2) Invest in basics and separates

If you're trying to stretch your fashion dollar, separates are your best investment. Dresses stand on their own, according to Woods, but a good pant or a well-cut blazer can be worked into ensembles again and again.

When Woods arrived, she asked what my favourite outfit was, and it was unsurprising that one of the key components was a vintage Armani Exchange grey-and-black striped skinny blazer with peaked shoulders. It always looks sharp and pulls together any outfit in a pinch.

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3) Use accessories to perk things up

Accessories are the best way to express your personality and add flair to your cost-effective basics. If you're only buying a few key pieces of clothing a season (or even a few last-a-lifetime pieces per year), it's jewelry, belts, scarves, and event hats that can transform an outfit.

I, for example, bought a Betsey Johnson necklace at Holt Renfrew that I love to death. It wasn't cheap (nor was it that expensive), but I wear it a lot, get tons of compliments on it, and it jazzes up a wide variety of clothes, whether it's a dress, bare skin, or t-shirt.

Shop Your Closet

4) Buy less for more--learn your CPW

Now, about that necklace and blazer--the concept of getting your money's worth is thought in fashion terms as cost-per-wear, a term that is getting more mainstream as people want to shop more savvily. Basically, it means buyer a smaller number of more high-quality pieces to build a solid foundation.

Instead of purchasing the same item over and over or endless bags of poorly made mass retailer merchandise, splurge a little on pieces that have great lines, high-quality fabric, and can be used for a variety of purposes (and, ideally, come from independent designers). Then, save your pennies for eye-catching accessories and a few show-stopping statement pieces.

For example, I buy a lot of vintage jewelry, but once a year, I'll splurge on a few things, such as a silk Surface 2 Air t-shirt dress: it can be worn as a tunic with leggings, belted over jeans, or as a dress over tights, and it can be dressed up or down. It was a little pricy, but I've brought the CPW by wearing it plenty, and in many different ways.

Shop Your Closet

5) Buy what looks good on you

This may sound like a no-brainer, but even I fell into this trap--I asked her to style a few pairs of black wool Banana Republic pants that I want to wear more (since I tend to wear dresses or jeans with a cute top), and she let me know--gently!--that the wide band of the pant and big waist buttons drew attention to my less-than-trim midriff. A better style for me was the other pair without the wide waistband, which could also be taken in to sit higher and more flatteringly.

I was also worried about a full vintage Louis Feraud skirt, which she said did indeed look a little matronly with its mid-calf length, but could be made sexier by shortening it some and wearing it with a tight top to balance out the volume.

And those Club Monaco shorts? They look great on, but, for future reference, I should seek out cuts that curve more to accommodate my ass.

Shop Your Closet

Smart buying is about finding what looks good on you and building your own set of rules. Sure, we've been told, for example, that we should all own a few white dress shirts, but if you've got boobs, you'll never look as polished as Carolina Herrera in her crisp cotton numbers, no matter how many button-downs you buy. Instead, you should learn how to either adapt the rules (choose a blouse in a more flowing fabric), or toss 'em altogether and buy what that looks great on you.

Where to Buy Great Last-a-Lifetime Pieces in Toronto

Briony says:

Fawn: chic, neutral separates
Badlands: wallet-friendly vintage accessories and clothes
Chasse GardĂŠe: shoes and versatile basics

Woods Says:

Shopgirls: all Canadian designers
Preloved: sustainable design
Girl Friday: wide variety of designers

Shop Your Closet

Photos by Jennifer Kavanagh.

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