• Brooke Callan

How to Build an Intentional Wardrobe

In January I very casually announced that I was going to be challenging myself to buy only 12 articles of clothing for the year (oh! and they have to be secondhand or sustainably made.) That's just one top, pair of pants, dress, etc. per month. Up until this point, I've kept quiet about it because I was worried I wouldn't be able to follow through, but even with the temptation of online quarantine shopping I've stayed on par.

Here are the five things I did to get started - and how I'm staying grounded.

Take Inventory: The first thing I recommend to anyone wanting to build a more intentional wardrobe is to assess what you already have. Pull everything out of your closet Marie Kondo style and take a good hard look at what you wear, what you don't, and WHY. Did you like something on the rack but later realize it wasn't actually your style? Do you feel more or less confident in certain cuts? Do you gravitate towards a particular print or color palette?

Really analyze your most worn and least worn items and figure out if there are any common denominators in each category. Take note.

Define Your Style: I've found that it's helpful to define your ideal wardrobe and have a style board full of things that fit that image. Chances are you already have a Pinterest board full of outfits you like; Whittle that down to just your favorites and things you would actually wear. Once you've narrowed it down, come up with a few words or short phrases that outlines the overall feel or commonalities in what you see.

I typically describe my style as classic, laid back, earthy with pops of color, ultra femme textures, and relaxed shapes inspired by menswear. My style board is a lot of oversized button downs, flowy dresses, silk and linen, neutral patterns, and boxier silhouettes - a pretty accurate visual representation of how I defined my style.

Taking inventory and pinpointing my style has been KEY in preventing frivolous purchases and ensures that every piece in my closet will be well loved.

Don't get sucked into trends: Trends cycle through pretty quickly, but your personal style should evolve at a slower, more consistent rate. For a curated closet, consider investing in the colors, cuts, patterns, and textures that were in your "keep," "frequently worn," or "most loved" pile.

Remember, the long term goal is to be stylish - not trendy. When you have a solid grasp on your style and are confident in your clothing, it doesn't really matter if you're wearing what's new.

It may feel restricting at first, but based on my experience, the only time I regret a purchase is when I stray too far from my preferred style.

Ask Questions: If you want to build a more intentional wardrobe, you have to be selective when shopping. Consider versatility and how many other pieces in your closet an item will pair with. Think about quality and whether that top will hold up after a few rounds in the dryer. Is it practical? Does it fit perfectly or just okay? Does it require special care? Would you buy it at full price or are you getting suckered by a sale? Is it likely that you will still love it in a few months?

Slow down, think about it, and be meticulous.

There's a reason "buyers remorse" and "impulse purchases" are a thing.

Work With What You've Got: If you're suddenly regretting nearly every clothing purchase you've ever made - don't panic. You don't have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. In fact, I encourage you not to. Start with what you already have.

  • Rearrange your closet so that infrequently worn items become a focal point.

  • Spend an afternoon experimenting with new outfit combinations so you aren't always reaching for "the usual."

  • If you're holding onto something that doesn't quite fit or needs a minor repair, take it to a seamstress.

This is also a great way to better evaluate what's worth the effort for you, what pieces just don't work with the rest of your clothes, and what you inadvertently reach for on the regular.

In similar regard, it's worth noting that reworking your closet doesn't have to be expensive. My most complimented pieces are often things I found at Goodwill.

Having said all of that, I won't challenge you to buy only twelve pieces of clothing a year or put strict restrictions on your spending. I do, however, encourage you to be intentional with your purchases and to shop for the most ideal and authentic version of yourself - always.




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