How to Build a Wardrobe From Scratch

April 29, 2015 1 Comment

Even if you don’t consider yourself a budding fashionista, sometimes rebuilding your wardrobe from scratch is a necessary process. Most often, your wardrobe will evolve naturally as your life changes. Clothes don’t last forever, and replacing old pieces often opens an opportunity to update your look.

Replacing old pieces with potentially new favorites keeps your style and look from growing dated and stale. It’s also the basis of developing a sense of style. If your closet is immune to evolving naturally, or you have a knack for clinging to things long after they’ve expired, you might have to set aside a time and make the effort to update your look.

Is It Time to Update Your Clothes & Style?

Think about what’s in your closet right now. Is your wardrobe composed of:

    • Clothes more than five years old?
    • Gifts from family and friends?
    • Pieces with the tags still on?
    • Items that no longer fit?
    • Outdated styles of clothing?
    • Clothes that look the same as what you wore in high school or college?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, your wardrobe needs an update to fit your life, and your style.

What Is Style – and Why Is it Important?

Style is the simple concept that your look is deliberate. It means building a wardrobe that speaks to your personality and interests. Ever walked into a store and noticed a top that reminds you of someone? Or come across a hat that immediately makes you think of someone who’d love it? Then you can recognize other’s sense of style. It’s just a matter of finding the style that best fits you.

While there might not be anything wrong with your clothes, they should at least help channel who you are as a person. Your clothes should complement your lifestyle and hobbies. If you look inside your closet and get one big, “Blah!” it’s time to get to work.

When Should You Consider a New Wardrobe?

Building a great wardrobe doesn’t often happen overnight. However, anytime there are big changes in your life, you should consider changing or updating your wardrobe essentials. If a scenario like the ones below comes up, you might have to update your wardrobe with a little less warning.

When to Consider A New Style & Clothing

New Life

You’re fresh out of college or started a new job. Your life has changed and your wardrobe needs to reflect that. If you’ve gone from an environment where t-shirts and jeans were acceptable to one where tailored pants are the only way to go, then your look needs an update, pronto.

New Demands

They say you should dress for the job you want, and for good reason. No one wants to take instruction from a person who looks like they just rolled out of bed or is wearing their younger sister’s clothes. If your life has suddenly thrust you under the spotlight or there’s a new boss to impress, make sure your look isn’t a distraction or worse, a detriment.

New Environment

You’ve gone from skiing in Vermont to sunbathing in California, or you’ve gone from working on the sales floor to sitting behind a desk. If you’ve moved recently and you want to blend in with the natives or have a new job in a different environment, the first step is to update the essential clothing items in your closet. It will help you look like you belong.

New Body

This happens to everyone at varying points in life. If you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight, dress for the body you have, not the one you want. Ill-fitting clothing will draw unwanted attention to your look, and it can be especially damaging to your self-esteem if you’re in transition. Be honest with yourself. If your weight changes, have a set wardrobe of basics that will flatter your body now. If it changes again, update your closet again and tailor clothing if possible.

New Hair

This may seem a little odd, but a big change in hair color or length can help change your look completely. Have you gone from extremely long to pixie short? If so, adding some essential wardrobe pieces might help shift your style from dreamy and romantic to sporty and outdoorsy. Changed your color from brunette to platinum blonde? You will realize that a change in hair color will inspire a change in look, and most often require a shift in the colors of your clothes to complement your new hair.

These are only a few examples, but if you’re able to recognize them as opportunities, you’ll be at an advantage. Having a sense of style and knowing what works for you will make the process all the more enjoyable and exciting.

When Basic Isn’t Basic

When referring to essential closet basics, it doesn’t mean that the clothes themselves are basic and boring.

Building a closet full of the basic, staple pieces that are part of a great wardrobe can be a fun process. You have the opportunity to play with color, textures and era-inspired looks. A dress alone can come in varying cuts, styles, colors and lengths. Skirts can be pleated, A-line, mermaid, mini, bubble or high-waisted, just to name a few.

Out of all of these options, you should be able to pick pieces that best work for you, and wear them interchangeably. A closet of style essentials will allow you to mix-and-match looks, update your look for a night out, or dress down a look for a casual coffee date.

What to Look For

As you’re revving up to choose basic clothing essentials, here’s what to consider:


The best way to tell if something fits correctly is to try it on. Once you’re wearing it, look at where the waistline, shoulder and hemline fall on your body. Are they all falling at the right places? If you’re trying on a top, can you move your arms freely? Does it fit your chest correctly? If it’s a skirt, does the hemline land at a flattering spot? Consider all these aspect when trying on a new item. If you really love it but there’s need for some adjustment, consider going a size up and tailoring it down.


If you’re short or tall, paying particular attention to length is important. If you’re short, make sure it’s an item that is worth the price of having it hemmed, and that the alterations won’t ruin the look. If you’re tall, make sure the length can be dropped, or added to. This is a great option with skirts and dresses; pieces you can add a colorful or lacy hem to will add length and a little interesting detail that speaks to you.


Look for the most flattering cuts for your shape. If you’re tall and slim, an A-line cut dress or slim cut trousers might look best to accentuate your shape. If you’re looking to create curves, full skirts and pleated bottoms will add those curves for you. If you’re full figured, let the clothes flatter your shape instead of overwhelming it with too much fabric. Look for clothes with flattering structure and weight so your body doesn’t have to do all the work.


Clothes should always feel comfortable. When updating your look, make sure you feel great in the clothes too, otherwise you’re more likely to avoid them. This is particularly important with shoes. While you may be drawn to a particular pair of stiletto heels, if you’re not comfortable wearing them, can’t walk in them or they don’t go with your look, you’re less likely to wear them. It’s much better to buy pieces that you know you’ll wear than fashionable items to keep just in case. Spend your money on things you’ll wear now and shop for special occasions when the time comes.


When picking out your essentials, make sure they come in colors that are interchangeable. If you’re a fan of bright, bold colors, make sure they’re colors that match well. If you prefer to stick to a neutral palate and highlight it with pops of color, make sure they’re colors that complement each other.

The Staples of a Great Wardrobe

What are the basic components of a great wardrobe? Start with these:


Three Essential Dresses Every Closet Needs

Dresses are the best because they don’t need much to look good. You could easily build a look entirely of dresses, but when building a wardrobe of essentials, consider at least three: a little black dress, a great color dress and a summer dress. These will work for many different situations and will transition well between work, night and play.

A Blazer

A boyfriend cut blazer is a great way to easily dress up a look. Make sure the sleeve length and the cut works for your body type. If your life requires more of a tailored approach, consider getting a suit with a great blazer you can wear separately.


With jeans, a dark wash is preferred as a closet staple. Choose whatever cut flatters you most: skinny, boot or flared.


A basic black pencil skirt is a must have. You should also consider a print skirt for a more fun look, a short skirt to your liking, or a long one if that’s your style.


Every closet needs at least one pair of black trousers. After you have that down, consider playing with pants that are different bold colors or patterns.


Layering different tops is the easiest way to change up a look. You should consider a variety, including a few colored camis, a white button down and a blouse. Leave room for a sexy top that will go great with either pants or a skirt.

Cardigan or Throw Over

This piece is a great way to add color and stay warm. Consider neutral grays and blacks, but if you’re looking to play with color, this is an easy way to add a statement pop.

Pair of Pumps

These should be comfortable heels that are appropriate when needed. If you’re a fan of the stiletto and can wear them anytime, then great. But if you’re not and still need a lift, invest in a part of pumps that can go with varying styles and feel good to wear.

Pair of Flats

Opt for flats when you want to take the heels off. These might be your daily go to, or a backup for when you’re dressed up. Pick up a fun pair and match them with different looks. Or keep them in your bag and swap out your heels for them when your feet get tired.


Sandals are a great alternative to flip-flops. Consider neutral colors that will work interchangeably with skirts, jeans or dresses.


More utilitarian but still necessary, make sure you invest in a pair of boots that will withstand harsh weather. Get a pair of cute rain boots or all weather boots. When the weather changes, you’ll be glad to have them.


Wedges provide height without the risk. They’re great because they give you the height without the added pressure of a heel. They’re comfortable, go great with jeans, and can be dressed up for night.


Have at least two handbags : a neutral carry all and a clutch. You need to keep your stuff somewhere, so investing in a great handbag is the first step. Get a large one for day to day. For going out, ditch it for a cuter clutch that will look great with your outfit.



Updating a look can be as easy as getting the right accessories. Shop for the right accessories to your heart’s content including necklaces, bracelets and earrings. You can keep them forever and you won’t have to worry about fit as much as your clothes.

Once you have your essentials, the magic will be in mixing-and-matching them for different activities or occasions.

Example #1: Date Night

Pair a great color dress with a cardigan and a pair of pumps. Dress it up with bold accessories that complement the color and look, like a statement bracelet or earrings. Casual date night? Dress it down with a pair of flats and a buttoned up cardigan. You’ll still get to wear the great dress and look appropriate.

Example #2: Job Interview

Couple a great pair of trousers with a blouse layered over a colored cami and your flats. If it’s a much more formal interview, top it off with your blazer and a pair of pumps. You could also switch out those trousers for an A-line skirt. Don’t forget your accessories.

Example #3: Night out with Friends

Wear your dark wash jeans and your favorite top under your blazer. If you feel like dressing the look up more, consider wearing your pumps or wedges. If you feel like simplifying the look, swap the pants and top for a dress.

Example #4: From Work to Play

You have plans after work but don’t have time to change. Consider wearing your little black dress under a cardigan that will come off later, or your dark wash jeans with a sexy top. A great statement necklace will help complete the look.

Example #5: Meeting the Parents

You have someone to impress but don’t want to look forced. If it’s a casual encounter, consider pairing a sundress with a cardigan and your flats or wedges. And bring a pie; it’s not necessary, but it couldn’t hurt. Remember that your best accessory is your smile.

Where to Start

Now that you have an idea of what makes a great wardrobe, why don’t you start? Shop at Dainty Hooligan or sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll be on your way to creating a look fitted to you.

1 Response

Vivian sasson
Vivian sasson

March 22, 2017

Great advice!

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