8 Tips to Successfully Shop for Your Capsule Wardrobe

Shopping can Be frustrating and painful without these tips

Shopping - Love it or hate it?

My maternal grandmother loved beautiful clothes and shopping. My mother also loves beautiful clothes, but she hates shopping and always has. Honestly, she would rather take a hot poker to the eye than go to the mall.

Despite the stereotype that all women love to shop, the truth is, many women hate it. For them, the frustration of not finding what they need, the overwhelm of endless options, the time it takes, going from store to store, sifting through racks, dodging sales associates, working the promotions, and trying things on must be what the seventh level of hell is like.

Whether you hate to shop or you could compete if shopping were an Olympic sport, there are tips to have a successful shopping trip so you come home with what you want and need, not more frustration.

Set a Budget

Creating a budget for your wardrobe means you can shop guilt-free. Never, never, ever go in debt over clothes and shoes. Nothing the retail world has to offer is worth sacrificing your financial security and the burden of bills you can’t pay. Set a personal clothing budget and stick to it.

Spending and finances is a common source of contention in relationships, and if you have your own clothing budget, you know what you can spend, you can save up for splurge items, and you don’t get the side-eye from your partner when you buy something new. It’s so freeing to know what you can spend and removes a major stress point from shopping.

If you fall in love with something that doesn’t fit your finances, save up for it and enjoy the anticipation of wanting something. If you can’t bring yourself to save for it, you didn’t love it that much anyway, and it definitely isn’t worth it.

How to Successfully Shop for Your Wardrobe - Setting a budget

Shop from a List

How many times have you gone shopping and come home with more things, but still struggle to put together outfits? Those receipts didn’t add up to a solution, they added up to more frustration – you still have nothing to wear. Or it may have patched your problem temporarily, but you still can’t put together outfits you love, despite your packed closet racks.

It’s common to go shopping and grab whatever seems fine, or even makes you go all heart-eyes, and still have nothing to wear because it’s not what you actually need, and none of it goes together. Impulse shopping without a plan is a big reason why so many women have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

By making a list of things you actually need, you can get items that actually help you build a wardrobe you love and can wear.

Eyes on the Prize

Now that you have a shopping list, it’s easier to stay focused. I know the reversible silver metallic shearling coat is SO. AWESOME. But is it on your list? Will it help you create outfits? Does if fill a gap in your wardrobe? Does it suit your style? Does it even get cold enough to wear something like that? I actually passed up this gem myself, and it was hard, but the right decision.

Bright shiny things can easily distract us, but if they don’t fill a need and fit into your wardrobe, your wardrobe will be no more functional than it was before. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy anything that’s not on the list, but it does mean you need to stay focused on what will make your wardrobe more complete and wearable.

Keeping a list on my phone saves me time, and I don’t have to dig through all the racks in every store. Any time I’m out shopping, I look for and ask for specifically what is on my list. If they don’t have it, I can move on quickly.

How to Successfully Shop for Your Wardrobe - Eyes on the prize

Avoid the Good Deal Gremlins

No one loves a good deal more than I do, and they feel like a gift from the shopping fairies. We must not refuse their offerings lest we not be offered more! But if the steal of a deal in question doesn’t actually meet my criteria, it’s not from the shopping fairies, it’s from the good deal gremlins.

They like to trick us into spending our money on things we don’t love, want, or need by whispering in our ears what a shame it would be to pass up such a bargain. Disrespectful and ungrateful to leave it behind, they convince us.

Avoid their traps by checking your list and staying focused on your goal. If you’re shopping for pants, have a casual lifestyle, and it rains more than half the year, those red suede 4-inch heels – fabulous though they may be! – really aren’t going to work for you.

Don’t be fooled by his hat. This Good Deal Gremlin isn’t your friend!

Photo credit

Look for quality

The frustration of spending the time to buy something new only to have it shrink, fade, pill, or come apart at the seams after just a few wears is why shopping for quality items is worth the extra time and expense. Spend your time and dollars on things that will last, so you don’t have to replace them so often.

What does quality mean? It doesn’t have to mean it’s expensive. You can find very expensive, high-end label items that are poor quality, and inexpensive, no-name brands of good quality. I almost bought a bag from a high-end designer that had such a sticky locking mechanism the store associate had to force it open after I had put my things in it to try out the size. I wouldn’t take a free bag with that issue, much less pay hundreds for it.

I’ve heard Target has great jeans, and I pick up t-shirts there. Inexpensive, but they are great. Not everything is worth getting the best quality you can afford. White t-shirts stain, get dingey, and look drab after a few seasons. I don’t spend a lot on those.

Moral of the story? Don’t assume quality based on a brand. You can find great things at Target and terrible things at designer stores, and vice versa.

Quality doesn’t just mean fabric and construction, either. Making sure it is right for you, your style, your lifestyle, and your wardrobe is part of the quality equation.

How to Successfully Shop for Your Wardrobe - Look for quality

Shop high end stores

If you want to be able to recognize quality when you see it, shop at high-end stores. I didn’t say BUY at high-end stores, but go in, take a look around, feel the fabrics, try things on, see how they fit.

Once you know what quality looks like, you can recognize it anywhere from big box stores to thrift shops. 

How to Successfully Shop for Your Wardrobe - Shop high end stores

Be Willing to Walk Away Empty-Handed

Leaving empty-handed after spending time going from store to store can feel like a failure, and it’s tempting to buy something – anything – to feel like you achieved something. But the truth is, walking away when you don’t find what you want is a success, and coming home with things you don’t love or need is the true failure.

Be picky! That’s become a dirty word, but you have every right to be choosy and selective about how you spend your money, what you put on your body, and what comes home with you. Frame it any way you need to, but it’s a strength, not a shortcoming, to be particular about what you buy and wear.

Being conscientious about how you spend your money and what you choose to wear is thoughtful and smart. If nothing in those stores meets your needs, you’re not actually leaving empty-handed, you’re leaving with your money in your wallet, and you didn’t trade it for something you don’t love.

Don’t Let the Stores or Trends Dictate Your Style

When you walk into store after store and see rack after rack of things you would never wear, it’s easy to doubt yourself. The trip starts with thoughts of, “I would NEVER wear that,” and with enough exposure moves onto, “Do I need that? Am I the only person who doesn’t have that?” And can end with “I need one. Is one enough? Maybe I need 10.”

Incorporating the right trends into your wardrobe is what keeps your classic style feeling fresh and modern. We talked a lot this summer about defining your style, your own style rules, and being selective about which trends you adopt. Having a clear definition of what those are and the confidence to stick to what you truly love will help you avoid the trend trap.

I have a free masterclass called 5 Steps to Find the Right Clothes for You that will help you start to define what you do and don’t love in your wardrobe so you can shop more confidently. It comes with a free workbook to help you work through the five steps at your own pace. You can sign up for the masterclass at stunningstyle.com/masterclass.

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7 thoughts on “8 Tips to Successfully Shop for Your Capsule Wardrobe”

  1. Oh my gosh, thank you for this post! I always thought that I was the ONLY woman that hates shopping. My best shopping experiences include knowing what I want to buy, finding it quickly, paying for it and leaving the store. 30 minutes maximum. 🙂

    1. Oh you are definitely no alone! Even though I love it, my best experiences are like yours. I hate wasting time! I want to get what I came for and leave. I hope these tips help!

  2. I deplore shopping. I come away empty handed usually. Health reasons have made this even more distasteful. I love beautiful clothes and always receive compliments. I know what I want and difficult finding that item. I am a true classic. My clothes seem to always be pulled together without many pieces. Accessories are a friend of mine.

    I live in the mountains of ARIZONA… MILE HIGH. WINTER CLOTHES ARE MY FAVORITE.

    Dessa

  3. Anne Marie Kirby

    Hi April,
    I would like to hear more about how the style of jeans (boot cut vs skinny) impacts the other elements in an outfit.

    thank you

    anne marie

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