Closet Confessions :: Inventory Pt. 3

It's been a while since I updated my closet inventory for you guys - so I wanted to take a few minutes and do a quick update.

With my recent lifestyle change - I moved from working at home (casual wear) to in an office (business professional) - I definitely added several things to my closet in the transition. I also did another ruthless purge where I got rid of everything that wasn't my style any more. Here are some updated numbers:

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The part of my closet that showed the biggest improvement was dresses. I've always loved dresses, and I've always loved buying a new dress for special occasions...and then never wearing it again, because I'd already been photographed in it. I still held on to a lot of them though, because I remember looking so darn good in them. I finally came to terms with the fact that some dresses are really re-wearable and others are just...not. And thanks to the discovery of Rent the Runway, I can keep my closet free of special occasion dresses.

I also forgot to include skirts and shorts. There are less, though. I tossed anything too short, tween, too small or in a shape I didn't love.

Shoes remain in limbo, because I've always thought of them as a collection more than anything else, but I'm starting to list a few that are too small or too ridiculous for real life. I've been gravitating toward the same few pairs of shoes lately, so it won't hurt to clear out the flops. Plus, as a JustFab Brand Ambassador, they continue to gift me new pairs so I'll become overrun if I don't be a little choosy. Bags have also gotten a nice cut. I've sold a few impulse buys, given a few to friends, and listed a couple more. I pretty much only want to carry the nicer ones now, so there's no reason to hang on to the others if they'll just take up space.

It's weird, the biggest thing that's happening in my closet right now is that my taste has changed a lot. A lot of the pieces in my closet not only didn't fit my style any more, they didn't fit my lifestyle either. Could I be growing up?? No way. That's weird.

Moving forward, I'm going to try a one-in-one-out policy and toss something every time I pick up something new; even as I was counting tonight I found a sweater that I was like, "Whaa? How did this make it?!" I also see my closet now as more of a revolving door concept. Once I get tired of things, I think I'll donate or sell them to make way for new and better things. I tend to want to wear my newer items more often, so this makes sense for my closet in the future.

Miss a previous part of this journey? You can catch up with Inventory Pt 1 & 2 (along with the rest of my closet confessions) here.

Building a Wardrobe :: The Sizzle Pieces

This post is part of a series I'm currently exploring - how to build a wardrobe. I'm slowly learning how to curate the perfect closet to transition from my 20s to 30s and taking you guys on the journey with me. You can catch up here.

So, you've got the basics down. There's plenty in your closet to build a clean palette for almost any outfit. If you were to stop there, you'd be considered a minimalist. Some people look seriously chic in nothing but basics, but what about those of us who want to inject a little more personality into our wardrobes? That's where the sizzle pieces come in.

I wish I had a better word for this. Statement pieces? Personality pieces? Fun stuff?? My biggest problem in the past was buying too many sizzles and not enough basics, so I ended up with an eclectic but ultimately unwearable closet. One can only accumulate so many tribal printed mini skirts before she realizes her current system isn't working.

So today we'll be going over not only what a sizzle piece is, but how to choose and buy them, and how to fit them into your current wardrobe.

When you first start building a wardrobe, it's important that you focus on more timeless, classic pieces and rely on accessories to put personality into your outfits. It's tempting to blow half a month's rent on a Rachel Zoe fur vest just because everyone and their mom is wearing one this fall, but that ties up funds that you probably needed for classic pumps or pants for work. Once you've established a great base to start with, you can start focusing on the fun.

What's a sizzle piece?

I define it as anything that you couldn't wear every day without someone noticing. Some of my recent purchases include my bright red midi skirt or my pink tweed moto jacket. They're both amazing, but I'd never wear them two days in a row. Black pants, on the other hand, I could wear for an entire week and I doubt anyone would bat an eye. Sizzle pieces are the personality of your wardrobe. They're a great way to play with your look and define your style. If you're a jacket person (I definitely am!), you could add bright layers with interesting details as your sizzle pieces. If you love shoes, you could collect unique styles to add a some zing to neutral outfits. Using your wardrobe basics, you can construct an outfit around a stand-out piece fairly easily; the main thing you want to avoid is wearing all of your sizzles together. That's a look that's less chic and more bag lady for 99% of us. I'm not saying it's un-doable, but for the average gal like me and you that doesn't want to look like a crazy person, it's advisable to wear them sparingly.

How do you pick them?

Here's how I choose my sizzle pieces. I wait for things that get my heart racing. Much like buying basics, you have to wait for the right deal and the right piece rather than impulse buying. I mull over my purchases very carefully now, as long as there's no champagne in my system. Just tonight, I kept re-adding a purse into my cart on Gilt to reserve it (probably at least 20 times) while I researched the crap out of it to make up my mind. If you're as discerning with your fun half of your wardrobe as you have been with the basics, you'll curate an enviable closet in no time.

Sizzle pieces don't have to last forever. In fact, it's almost better if your closet is a constant revolving door. Sell or donate things as you grow tired of them to make room for new pieces. This part of your closet can be full of trendy items, bright colors, crazy patterns, and unique shapes. This is also where you'll want to reflect a bit of your style personality. Feeling girly? Put a bow on it. If you want to play with edgier styles, consider adding something studded to your collection. To me, the sizzle is all about having fun with your fashion.

How much should you spend on sizzle pieces?

This depends entirely on A) Your budget and B) How you long you plan on keeping things. Super trendy pieces (currently, things like crop tops, fringe vests, and graphic tees) should be bought on the cheap if possible. I never mind donating a piece from Forever 21 after a year or two of wear once I get tired of it, but if I'd spent a small fortune I'd be hesitant to sell or give away. That's how you end up with a closet stuffed full of stuff you don't even wear! If a trendy or bold piece seems like it'll play out fairly quickly, go cheap. If it's something more timeless (I'd claim my midi skirt applies), it's okay to spend a little and keep it for years to come. You can also spend on bold designer pieces if you have in mind you'll sell them after you start to grow tired of them. Don't go TOO cheap though. Certain fabrics just have a cheap look about them, so choose wisely.

Now add them to your basics.

This should be the easy part. Let's say you just bought the most amazing floral print blazer. Ideally, it would go with most of the bottoms in your closet. Black pants, pencil skirt, dark jeans, or over a simple shift. Next, you pick up some adorable blue and green polka dot pants. Great news! It goes with your classic white button up, looks great with a chic blazer, and works weekends with a slouchy grey tee. You see where I'm going with this? I like to build my outfits around the fun piece 95% of the time. Start with the piece that's hardest to pair and add your basics around it.

Looking at the photo above, every outfit is not only ultra-wearable, but fun. If you already have a closet full of basics you love, adding a piece with a little personality on top should be a piece of cake...with frosting and sprinkles, of course. You just have to do the grown up stuff first before you can have all the fun.

The series continues in a couple of weeks! Next up: lifestyle changes. It's the biggest blow your wardrobe can take, and we're gonna tackle it together.

Building a Wardrobe :: The Basics

This post is part of a series I'm currently exploring - how to build a wardrobe. I'm slowly learning how to curate the perfect closet to transition from my 20s to 30s and taking you guys on the journey with me. You can catch up here.

When I started my wardrobe journey, I was 21. Fresh out of college, starting my first job in a newsroom. My college wardrobe consisted mostly of sweatpants and things I'd collected throughout High School, none of which were appropriate for the "real world". So I started collecting my grown up wardrobe a few pieces at a time.

Most of my work wardrobe came from The Limited, and my weekend wear consisted mostly of Target items or things I'd fished out of a clearance box at Express. About a year into my career, I was promoted to an on-air position and suddenly felt the need to wear something different every single day. My producer and I began a weekly ritual of 2-hour lunch breaks at the mall accompanied by $100 shopping sprees at the newly added (and enormous) Forever 21. That's how I started building a wardrobe of complete and utter randomness. Whether it was something bright and exciting, or just too cheap to pass up, I was stuffing my closet full of whatever crap I could get my hands on.

I'll fast forward through the rest of this journey, but I also had two retail jobs during my early 20s - which meant even more random crap in my wardrobe. At one point, I was hanging items on my balcony of my apartment for extra space. And yet, with a closet full of all sorts of things, I still often found myself with nothing to wear.

So what's the deal? Why am I telling you this? It's all a background to share with you the most important part of wardrobe building - BASICS MATTER. I had to learn this the hard way, but now that I understand it, my buying process has changed.

As someone who loves flashy items, bright colors, and big trends, I amassed a collection of really cool clothes...that really didn't go together. I was frustrated with the fact that I could put on a skirt, wear it around my house in only a bra, give up, and just put on jeans and a t-shirt. None of these pieces WENT together. It was frustrating.

The concept of starting a wardrobe with basics is pretty simple, though - you'll have a closet full of things that go with everything. It's the same concept behind packing. You need to pack a lot of pieces that all go with each other, then sprinkle some fun pieces throughout to give your wardrobe interest.

Think about it. I used to find an amazing shirt, buy it, and then build an entire outfit around it. Not from my closet, but by buying other things until the outfit was complete. Thus, I had an entire closet full of "outfits", but not necessarily full of things that all went together. The first time my eyes were opened to this was my first 30 for 30 challenge. I realized I didn't know how to put clothes together AT ALL if I hadn't bought them in a complete set.

I've since learned a lot. One of the huge reasons I'm working on filling out my closet with basics (based on the Five Piece French Wardrobe) is so I can have fun with my clothes after I've finished. If I have the perfect black pants, skinny jeans, black skirt, and leather pants, I can buy an amazing statement jacket and know it'll go with any of those items.

So before you yell, "But AJ! Basics are boringgggg!", give me a second to rebuttal. A black tank can be basic but still have cool mesh cutouts at the neck. A simple blazer could have a cool detail like an asymmetrical zipper or a bow on the back. A grey tee might have a peplum instead of a slouchy V. The key to buying basics is to find things that YOU love, not that you think you're supposed to love. Of course I have a plain grey tank, a simple white button up, and plain black ankle pants in my closet. But I don't limit myself to just one of each item on the list - I also have a white lace peplum tee, a pair of ankle pants with a shiny tuxedo stripe, and a button up with an embellished collar. The key is to find pieces that go with a lot, but that still have interesting details and personality. That's what'll keep your wardrobe from feeling monotonous.

While I'm currently building a basics wardrobe, I'm still purchasing fun items at the same time. If you don't have the budget for this, you can certainly find ways to fit some of your statement pieces in your wardrobe with your new clean palate. Also try adding bold accessories, like a floral scarf or bright belt to liven things up. Once you've built a nice collection of basics, you'll be able to concentrate on filling it in with "sizzle" pieces.

A few other thoughts on basics : fit is key. Never accept anything less than "I look awesome and love this" when you see yourself in the dressing room mirror. Don't be afraid to consult with a tailor if you have a hard time finding what you want. The other thing you should keep in mind, of course, is quality. While you'll probably have to replace your basics from time to time, you want them to last for years, not just months.

Quality doesn't always mean expense, though. I found one of my favorite black silk tanks (From ABS Platinum!) for $5 at Marshall's. It was probably originally around $80, very well made, and hangs nicely - I just found it at an end of season clearance and got lucky. There will always be tons of options for basics, and you'll always be able to wait for a sale. Take your time and build something you'll be proud of. And don't get too caught up in labels, either. Stores like Everlane have well made blouses and tees for a fraction of the price of designer labels. I enjoy trying new brands and buying nice things, but I try not to make that the sole focus - ie, I only bought this because it was Prada. If it doesn't look good on you, who cares who made it? You won't wear it.

There are plenty of resources for basics every woman needs, but as I mentioned earlier, I like the French Wardrobe Basics as a good place to start. Modify any list you like to your needs and specifications, and have fun with it!

Next up in the series :: buying the sizzle pieces.