How I Built My Wardrobe | On the Daily EXPRESS


How I Built My Wardrobe

Right now, I feel like I have a good wardrobe base to work with and would consider myself past the wardrobe building stage and into the refining and enhancing stage. But I have a sister who is in that building process right now and since she reads my blog on occasion, she was curious about how I got my wardrobe to the point you see now. So I spent some time in memory lane thinking about how I got to where I am, and I have it narrowed down to five main steps.

Step One: Figure Out What You Want to Wear
The last time I was personally in a wardrobe building phase was around probably around 2010. At that time in my life, my kids were transitioning out of the baby/toddler phase and I was leaving behind all the diapers and daily messes that come with it. I finally had the option to wear clothes that were a little "nicer" again and I was excited about that. But I wasn't exactly sure what would make sense for my new lifestyle. I didn't want to dress like I was going to an office but I also didn't want to be in jeans, t-shirts and sneakers every day either. Coincidentally, 2010 is the same year Pinterest started and some fashion blogs were cropping up. I took to both immediately because it was so helpful for me to see complete outfit ideas, rather than just separate pieces of clothing as they hang in a store.  I started pinning away at outfits I liked and eventually I had a good sense of how I wanted to dress.

One of the first outfits I ever pinned (Source)

Step Two: Find Formulas and Make a Plan
Once my Pinterest boards were full of outfits, I combed through them to see what they had in common and if there was a pattern to my preferences. The four outfits below are all from my current Pinterest Board, and they represent the top two outfit types that I tend to pin the most:

These outfits follow two basic formulas:
  • Jacket + top + skinnies
  • Button down shirt + skinnies
I started keeping a list in my phone of some specific pieces I would need to buy to re-create a particular look (e.g. for outfit four above I would need a blue button down shirt, white skinny jeans and some kind of nude shoe) so I had it handy any time I was shopping online or in store. I focused on tracking those pieces down, one outfit at a time. I wish I had been smart enough to look for recurring pieces and get those first to leverage them in multiple outfits, but unfortunately my own planning wasn't quite that thorough. If I could go back and do it again, that's one thing I would change to get my wardrobe base built up sooner.

Step Three: Go Shopping
This sounds like the fun part of this process (yay, shopping!), but when I'm shopping for something specific with a great fit, it can take a lot of trial and error to find The One. It's often more frustrating than fun.
(This is usually not how I look when shopping) Image Source

In my post about Stacy London's top style tips (here), I came across a quote from her that clicked with me: "Decide what you need to create a cohesive closet and only shop for the items you need. Set a budget and limit the amount of stores." (Source) Her first sentences perfectly summarizes my first two wardrobe building steps. I added bold to her second sentence because it's relevant to how I shop and why this blog is so Express-centric .

Obviously most of my wardrobe now comes from Express, and the main reason I "limit the amount of stores" is that it just saves me time. During my last wardrobe transition, I tried on clothes at a lot of other stores, but I kept having the best luck with fit (especially in pants) at Express. It's easier for me to just check there first to see if they have what I want because I know there's a good chance it will fit me right. If they don't have it, then I branch out. Express might not be your go-to, but I do think it's worth putting in the time with a number of shopping trips and try-on sessions to find your main store(s) that work for you over and over again.

Step Four: Picture This
Before I started my own blog, I repeatedly read the suggestion on other blogs to take photos of your outfits because it changes the way you see things.  I was skeptical about this for a long time because I already had a full length mirror. How different could a picture be? just is. I think it's something you have to try to for yourself to know, so I highly recommend it if you haven't.
(From my secret file of pre-blog pictures. Different town, different house...evolving style)

Step Five: Revise and Refine
This step is something that a lot of my blog content revolves around now because it continues for me well beyond the wardrobe building phase. Sometimes I see the picture of my outfit and instantly know a certain detail needs to change. Sometimes it's just as simple as the outfit doesn't make me feel my best and I want something better.

For example, outfit two from my pre-blog days photo was one of the first outfits I ever tried to re-create, inspired by the pin I shared above:

There were so many details I didn't like about this look once I saw the pictures. None of the jewelry looked right, the shoe color didn't look right, and the ankle of the jeans needed to be skinnier. Now I feel like I've refined this general look a little better and I've shared it in several color variations on the blog with my go-to Portofino shirt.
Solid Portofino Shirts: Here / Striped Portofino Shirt: Here

I also tested out this Travel Outfit pin in this post. I found that my t-shirt was too short in the back for leggings, so when it came to wearing it for real-life travel (see this post) I swapped in black skinny jeans and a more fitted tee. Then I adjusted the outfit one more time when I needed more comfortable walking shoes:

Sometimes I can't fix an outfit with what I have on hand, so I go back to the Pinterest drawing board and search the specific name of whatever item I'm trying to style, whether it's a chambray shirt or sneakers or white skinny jeans. I always find new ideas, then go through the shopping and revising process again until ultimately I have built a wardrobe of outfits and not just clothes.

* * *

Truthfully, this topic was pretty daunting for me and if anyone besides a sibling had requested it, I probably would have passed! Other bloggers have done it very well (e.g. I really enjoyed posts on this topic by Carylee and Audrey and Adrienne) and I didn't have any unique ideas that I was dying to share with the world. But ultimately I decided to share my experience because sometimes it's not the originality of content that allows people to connect through blogs, it's the personal narrative. So I hope you connected with me on some of this and that it brings you back to visit me again soon!

Linking up with:
ErikaAndrea and Narci / Fashion FridayKatie / Rachelle & Charnele

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, Gina. You have some very helpful tips here. I think we all probably follow a method when building our wardrobe but it's much harder to put it down on paper. Thanks for taking the time to do this or thank your sister! ~Cynthia

  2. So interesting to read about how you built up a new wardrobe! I agree with point 4, I think taking pictures has really helped me! I was doing it for quite a while before I started the blog :)

    Limiting the stores is a good move too - I have one store I buy most of my stuff from and it's good to know the pants there always fit! :)

    Thank you for the link up.

    Away From The Blue

  3. Great post, Gina! Very informative! I'm still believe it or not in the building stages. I have a list of things I need than toss that list the second I see something else that I "need" lol. what I really need are basic items. Like cami's and t-shirts that way I can wear more of my jackets.

    Have a lovely Monday!

    Xo, Erica
    Casually Styled

  4. Great tips Gina - yes we have to have a definite plan in mind if we want to build a good one!!


  5. Great tips! I love them, especially #3 haha! I also like to picture the outfit as an outfit planning. I really enjoyed your helpful tips.
    We Shop in Heels

  6. I really need to be more organized and "aware" when it comes to my closet. I've gotten into the habit of just buying things that I think are cute when I'm out and about but always forget about getting the items that I actually NEED. I really like the idea of creating a shopping list in your phone. Such a great idea!

  7. I love this post! Great tips about limiting stores and taking photos. I know these two things have helped me a lot!! The camera doesn't lie...even though I'd like to think it did from time to time :) XO

  8. Love these tips! Building a wardrobe has been on my mind for a long time. I have a ton of clothes but little coherence!

  9. I enjoyed reading this so much and how fun are those old pics. I actually like the not too skinny jeans. I like to have a combination of both. I've wanted to do a post like that forever but it's so much work.


    1. I think the cut of the not-too-skinny was okay...I just didn't like it with those exact shoes. I would definitely love to read your take on this topic!!

  10. Awww! It was awesome to see the old school outfit pics! It's funny because one of my friends recently became a SAHM and she's wanting some basics to feel cute but relevant to being a mom. I put together a base for her as well but this post is also a great reference for her. I will pass it along!

    1. She may not feel that my current outfits are all that relevant to her still if she has younger kids (like 4 and under). I know I couldn't have worn a lot of things then that I do now like white jeans. Even wedge heels and stacked heels that are my staples now were not as common in my wardrobe when I was lifting and carrying kids everywhere. But hopefully she'll get something useful out if it!

  11. I really enjoyed this post! One of the reasons I started my blog was to help me put together a wardrobe that works instead of having a closet full of random pieces.These are all great tips! I loved seeing your secret pre-blogging photos!

    Doused In Pink

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post and the throwback pics, Jill! :) And yes, blogging is definitely a great way to push yourself to get the most out of your wardrobe!

  12. I agree about taking pictures, it really tells a different story than a mirror. Great tips Gina!


    Hope to see you Thursday for TBT Fashion link up.

  13. This is such an amazing post. and so useful to me as a college student! I have such limited closet space, I need to make sure every piece I bring works with multiple outfits. Great post, thanks for sharing your tips!
    xo Kiki

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Kiki. I am so glad you found some useful ideas here!

  14. These are such great tips!! Wow, I love the pictures. It's amazing what a difference taking photos really does make. I have learned so much about my style from blogging just because I SEE myself. I didn't expect that. Seeing your photos actually lets you see it in action.

    Amy Ann
    Now blogging at my new site Straight A Style

  15. Very helpful post Gina, especially for a person like me who sometimes goes a bit overboard with my spending/shopping! Great tips, never thought about the picture taking idea! Thanks girl!

  16. Wow, this is such a well written and thorough post and you hit many good points. I especially agree with the one about taking outfit shots, which is something I never did before blogging. You can really get a better view of the outfit or item of clothing versus just looking at a mirror. I'm now trying to do that before removing tags and throwing away receipts because it has changed my mind about certain items. Great post.

  17. So well said!! I totally agree that when you are looking for something specific it is SO hard to find it!

  18. Great tips and ideas Gina. I think shopping for items that are right for you and fine tuning until it's just right for you are so important in feeling good in what you are wearing. For me it's probably a mix of purchasing what works for me and a dash of spontanetiy of the moment depending of my mood of the day ( girly or edgy etc.) I think your sister will love this guide as well. You make those Portofino's look amazing. Happy new week. XOXO, Elif

    1. depending "on" haha morning haze continues in Pacific NW :-))

  19. I totally love this going to send it to my friends who ask about how to revamp their've managed to clearly explain all my thoughts <3

    I feel that blogging and photographing my outfits has helped my style SO much! It's helped me notice details I hadn't picked up before....I'd wonder why people in the j.crew catalogue would look so cute in Blazers and a button-down and yet I'd feel frumpy .... But after blogging I realized how much of it was in the details and the fit... The strategic tucking and the rolling of sleeves etc.

    I feel like over time I've built up a wardrobe of staples - which definitely helps me shop less!

    MY BLOG: ♥♥♥ Ella Pretty ♥♥♥    

    1. Thank you so much for the nice words! I am totally flattered that you would pass this post along to a friend, and glad that you agree with my steps.

      And yes...I SO agree with fit and details making an outfit look polished!

  20. I REALLy wish I was as organized as you when it comes to building my wardrobe. I recently started paying more attention to the items I buy and the items I already have but since I'm an emotional shopper I always have to put myself in check. The struggle... haha

    1. Ha, well, all this is not to say that I never make an impulsive purchase because I certainly do. But I think once I forced myself to be strict about purchases it built up my wardrobe base so that even an emotional purchase is easier to work with since I have the basics to build an outfit with it.

  21. I really love this post! Thanks for sharing. I love reading anyone's experience. I feel like I'm a little still in the building stage. I am finally 100% done with my work wardrobe, and I don't know if I'll ever have a set 'fun' wardrobe because I rarely wear fun clothes, and I'm still working out what I like fun-wise. I love the store specific thing, I used to shop all over the place, especially on ebay and almost 90% of the stuff I bought on ebay has gone back on ebay or to goodwill because i just didn't love them. i've also stopped shopping at F21 because the stuff never works for me. and the first time i took photos after i created the outfits on polyvore - mind blown, seriously. lifeless vs real life can be so different. even person to person. i also dig your pre blog pictures :)

  22. Wow! I am really impressed with this post. First, that you still had the older pictures and secondly that you were able to go back and recall where you were when you started. Your memory is really good! You have so many good points here. I totally agree with the picture taking. I have many outfits that I thought worked and then saw the pictures and no bueno! I will not wear any type of capris now because of this. It also helped me find the best color for my hair LOL! And I didn't realize I was being so smart when sticking to only a few stores (Old Navy, Limited, Express, Loft). As you said, this is very helpful when buying pants. All in all, you definitely found the formula that works for you because you always look so cute!

  23. This is a super informational post! I had to switch my wardrobe the last few years because my weight has changed a few times. I love the idea that taking pictures of yourself with a outfit. I did that for one year and I noticed my fashion sense is improving a lot.


  24. Loving this list, and of course my favorite part was go shopping! You always look fabulous, you're officially my pinspirstion

  25. This is great advice Gina! I didn't realize how good it is to take a picture before I started my blog. It's amazing how some things work great in your head, but not in real life. I hope your week is off to a great start!

    Nicole to the Nines

  26. I love the advice in this post. You definitely have the formula for a good outfit down!

  27. These are great step-by-step tips, Gina. I think people get really overwhelmed when they think about establishing personal style + building a wardrobe around it, but you break it down and make it simple. Plus, you always look super polished + chic, so they'd be wise to listen. :)

    Le Stylo Rouge

  28. Such a great post!! Sometimes it can be so hard to put together a wardrobe, but you've made it so easy with this step-by-step guide!

  29. I love this! I have been slowly trying to figure out my style, so it was nice to get a few extra tips :)

    1. Thanks Paige! I'm so glad you gleaned some good info here.


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