fall outfits styling tips

how to shop more productively

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top: thrifted Urban Outfitters (similar) // skirt: Old Navy (similar) // shoes: Old Navy // bag: vintage Coach via Prototype Vintage // necklace: Old Navy (similar)
I’ve been thinking lately about how my approach to shopping has changed over the years. I remember walking into Target or Old Navy as a college freshman, dropping $100, and not even really knowing what I walked out with. A pile of jewel-toned v-necks, a striped skirt, a plaid button down — there wasn’t any method to my purchases, either in how they related to one another or the rest of my closet. I grew up with my mom only taking us shopping twice a year: Chanukah and our birthdays. This newfound freedom to walk into any store I wanted and buy whatever I wanted was liberating, sure, but it was far from productive in building a cohesive or wearable closet.
When I talk to my friends about their shopping woes, I get the impression they’re taking a similar approach. “I liked the color of the top” or “It looked cute on the mannequin” are about as good a reason as they can give me for why they bought something. Those are two great reasons to try something on, but more involved thinking will keep that purchase from ending up in next month’s closet purge.
All three of the items I’m wearing here were technically impulse buys. By that I mean that they weren’t things I was actively shopping for, nor were they on a long-running wishlist. The top was something I tried on in a thrift store while a friend was in town, the skirt was a duplicate of another item I was already buying (my black skirt — seen here), and the shoes were a giddy last minute decision as I walked to the checkout line.

So what magic has caused all three to be in constant rotation?

1. Consider color. One of the more basic tips for creating a cohesive closet is to have a color palette you stick to. Take a look in your closet and see if there are any trends in the colors you’re drawn to. Then check out this incredibly useful post on choosing a color palette based on the shades you already own. Now, when you go shopping, you have a sense of what colors will work well in your wardrobe. If there’s a blouse in a style you like, choosing a color in your palette with help you be able to style it with complementing colors in your closet. When you have a wardrobe full of outlying colors, it’s harder to make outfits. Relying on your palette can also help make a single item more versatile throughout However! If there’s something you really love that doesn’t fit your usual palette, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it! The next two tips may help you justify making the purchase. 
2. What else does it go with? So, the item in question (hopefully) fits into your color palette. Now what? You have have heard of the rule of three. No, not the rule of thirds — that’s an art thing. The rule of three is that you can envision three different outfits with the item, or in the store it stays. For instance, I could wear this top tucked into the skirt in this post with the olive flats I’m wearing, with jeans and booties, or layered under my LBD with loafers. On the other hand, I left this top in the dressing room the other day because it really could only be worn with jeans. Yeah, I could layer a vest or jacket over it, but it wasn’t versatile enough for me to prioritize in adding to my closet.
3. Location, location, location. Probably the place where most people get stuck with style is that they don’t consider where they’re actually going to wear the item. Even if they come up with a few ways to wear it, the purchase might hang in their closet forever because it doesn’t actually fit into an occasion or venue they encounter. I have a friend, for instance, who frequently buys dresses, but doesn’t wear them because they feel too dressy for her day to day at work. Her shopping would be made more productive if she focused on buying dresses with a more casual style or on pieces that could dress down a dress that’s on the less-casual side (perhaps a nice denim jacket/chambray blazer and a pair of booties).

Before buying something that fits your color palette and goes with other clothes in your closet, do you actually have a place to wear it? Of course, there are special occasion dresses or shoes that you buy because eventually you’ll have somewhere to wear them. But, much as I love the idea of this top, I have no where in my real life to wear it. An example from my own closet? I’ve had a lot of buyer’s remorse over this skirt. It fits my color palette and I’ve been able to come up with some really cute outfits for it (also worn here), but it just doesn’t make sense for my life of coffee dates, pop-up events, and working from home.

Thanks to these three tips, it’s super rare that anything in my closet goes unworn! I’m curious, do you any of these thoughts go through your mind before swiping your card or confirming your online order?

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