You and Your Wardrobe

by Nikki Willhite

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There are many articles written on how to save money on clothing. Nothing ever stays the same. There are always new things to be learned, new tips, and new strategies.

When it comes to fashion, this is especially true. The fashion world tries it's best to change styles and colors each year, hoping that you will buy the latest trends and part with more of your money.

As a general rule, I don't follow fashion. I just like to make it look like I do. I don't want to look like a Goodwill mannequin, so some effort has to be made in this area! Most people with limited budgets do not spend money on clothing. There are just too many ways to dress inexpensively. Garage sales, rummage sales, hand-me-downs, and thrift stores have been around for years. Now we have eBay, where you can pick up large lots of clothing for very little money.

We also have a new strategy for our wardrobes. Less is better! I was watching the Home and Garden channel the other day. I believe it was the show "Dream Builders". You would not believe the size of the closet the wife of the couple building the house insisted on having. It was larger than most rooms.

That closet was later shown with all her clothes in it. As I looked at the racks of suits and blouses, I certainly didn't feel any kind of envy. Who has time to wear all those clothes? Not even in a lifetime, assuming they stayed in fashion, which I'm sure was important to her. Most of them are going to end up in Goodwill in a few years. What a waste of money.

People with lots of clothing have to get frustrated because they don't have time to wear all of it. They may resort to changing her clothes several times a day, so as to be seen in all their different outfits.

I once knew a lady who did that. How superficial is that? By this time I'm sure she doesn't enjoy looking in the mirror, no matter what she is wearing! The purpose of our short existence on this earth is not to develop vanity. What a waste of time, especially as it makes us neglect the important things.

More clothes mean more laundry, more maintenance, more accessories, more decisions, and more items that you decide you don't want to wear. When you have that many clothes, you will not wear them all. Why should you? You are not going to like them all equally. You will still reach for your favorite outfits most of the time, and the others will stay on their hangers until you get rid of them.

Most people wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time. Much more enviable is the person who is able to wear 100% of their clothing 100% of the time. There are no orphan pieces. Everything is used, worn out, and then discarded.

So how do we achieve this goal? It is not hard. I have talked before about the black skirt I have in my closet. I've lost track of how many years I've had it.

It has a classic front, and elastic in the back. It has gone through many weight fluctuations. It is made from a year round fabric, and is worn in every season. That black skirt has been paired with everything from pink sweaters to beige blazers. It has sat on organ benches as I played at funerals. It's been to weddings. It's even been on vacation. If skirts could talk!

This is an illustration of one of the most important rules for buying clothing - versatility! The more versatile the piece, the more you will wear it. Versatility comes from color, style, and fabric.

Keep your clothes in classic lines and neutral colors on the bottom half of your body. Buy those basic black, gray, brown, or navy pants and skirts that you can wear with so many things. Put the color on the top half of your body to flatter your face.

Blouses and sweaters wear out quicker, and you can afford to be a little more trendy. I find this to be true with casual clothes also. Buy your relaxed knit pants in blacks, greys and browns. You can pair them with many colors of t-shirts and knit tops. This is one reason jeans are so popular. You can wear them with everything.

If you have an orphan piece in your closet, buy something to wear with it that will go with everything else in your closet when that orphan piece leaves your wardrobe.

Another equally important rule is lifestyle. Do not fill your closet up with clothes you only wear occasionally. Let the balance of your wardrobe be the clothes you wear every day.

This was one of the biggest obstacles I personally faced with my wardrobe. I am a lot more attracted to beautiful blouses than flannel shirts. However, I only wear blouses once a week. For 10 months out of the year, you will find me in a flannel shirt six days a week (This is Seattle!).

Once I started re-directing my clothing budget to the clothes I wear every day, I felt like I had a lot more clothes. I could barely remember what I wore to church a week ago, so the smaller selection of nicer clothing seemed very adequate.

That brings us to color. Color can be tricky. Some colors are fairly universal. Most women look good in aqua and pink. Some of the muted autumn colors are hard to wear; yet when they are fashionable you may want to buy them. If they don't look good on you, you won't wear them. If you really want to buy something, even if you are unsure of the color, just remember to buy it as a separate for the top half of your body.

You have to do your homework on this one. Figure out the colors that look good on you and you feel comfortable wearing, and stick to them as much as possible.

Finally, there is the comfort factor. The older I get, the more comfort I desire. Don't buy your clothes because of the size on the tag. No one knows what it says but you. If you are vain, get over it! Wool can be scratchy, turtlenecks can choke you, and buttons that come undone are an embarrassing nuisance.

Everyone wants to at feel comfortable in his or her own skin. It's hard to do that if you are self-conscious. Use your clothing budget wisely. Just as you should eat for nutrition, dress for practicality.

Avoid both recreational eating and recreational clothes buying. Take control of your wardrobe!

Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! Article first published at

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