5 Questions to ask yourself before buying a new wardrobe item


Using a minimalist approach to build your wardrobe will simplify most wardrobe-related tasks (creating outfits, packing for trips, organising your closet), except for one - shopping for new stuff will suddenly become a lot more complicated. The trouble is that once you take the time to really define what you want your wardrobe to express and make more conscious decisions about what you want to spend your money on, the range of clothes that fit your criteria will shrink. Now, at the beginning you will probably feel a little frustrated about this, but eventually you will recognise that this shift is not at all a bad thing: Higher standards ensure that all those less-than-perfect items that used to fill up your closet get filtered out early in the process, which means you won’t have to deal with the various frustrations of bad buys later on and your wardrobe will only contain items that fit your style, body and lifestyle. In other words, the extra hassle will be worth it in the end ;)

Below you’ll find a list of five factors to think about while considering new wardrobe additions: visual aspects, fit/fabric, function, need and versatility. The first couple of questions are relatively broad (and I would say represent what the standard shopper would consider briefly and then stop there) and become increasingly more concerned with the unique structure of your wardrobe. For maximum benefit, try to go through them in the below order and aim to only buy items that tick all five boxes.

1. Does it fit my style concept? 

The overall look of an item is what will draw you to it initially when you see it on the rack or online and can definitely be used as a first filter to make sure the item is in line with the look you are going for. Inspect each piece carefully and compare its shape, colour, pattern, texture and details to your style concept for the current season. If you are aiming for a classic French-chic wardrobe for example, consider whether the item would support this look or distract from it. Think of your style concept like a painting - each item in your wardrobe should contain elements that match the concept but at the same time should not contain any that clash and would taint the overall look. Be as specific or general as you like - look for a theme or certain colours, patterns and details. Click here for more info on style concepts as a set of individual elements. If you feel your item would represent your style concept well, move on to the next question.

2. Do I like the fit and fabric?

Fit and fabric are the two big non-negotiables. An item that is an inch outside of your style concept is something you can work with, but if its fit does not suit your body or its fabric feels horrible on your skin, you will eventually just stop wearing it. To save you time in the future, it is a good idea to write yourself a little fit/fabric guide on which cuts and fabrics you love/hate, so you can focus your search on a smaller range of items from the start. Garments can often look very different on the rack than on the body, and it can also sometimes be difficult to judge whether you would be comfortable wearing a fabric just by touching it with your hands, so unless you have bought the same item before, you should always try on possible keepers, either at the store or at home (keep receipts!). While trying on items, make sure you move around in them, sit down, etc. As a last step, check the laundry requirements of each piece and, if it’s relatively high-maintenance, decide whether you would be able to commit to wash items by hand or take them to the dry cleaner regularly.

3. What place/function will it have in my wardrobe?

Before you buy an item you should at least have a vague idea of the role you want it to play in your wardrobe. Do you want it to be a part of your capsule wardrobe for the current season or even a part of your uniform? Will it be one of your key pieces or could it make a good basic to pair with bolder statement items? Do you plan on wearing it regularly for work or everyday stuff, or would you reserve it for special occasions? Every new addition should at least harmonise with your wardrobe's internal structure and your preferred outfit building methods. Even if an item fits your style concept perfectly, if you can’t assign it a function from the top of your head, chances are it would not work with the flow of your wardrobe and you would have to ‘work around’ it more than anything.

4.Will it fill a gap in my wardrobe or add to an already overrepresented area?

For this question you need to put your sensible hat on and consider whether you actually need this item and whether it would help you build a wardrobe that matches your lifestyle. Besides expressing your visual ideals, your wardrobe should also represent all of your activities, ideally in proportional frequencies. For example, if you spend most of your time wearing casual daytime clothes and only a few nights per month at venues that require evening wear, your daytime wardrobe section should be considerably larger than your stock of evening wear. Try to keep track of over- and underrepresented areas in your wardrobe just so you can make a more informed purchase decision should you suddenly find an amazing item. If it would add to an already jam-packed section of your wardrobe, you might want to reconsider whether you could not make better use of the money and closet space to stock an underrepresented area (and thereby make a greater marginal difference to the functionality of your wardrobe).

5. Can I think of at least 3 outfits to wear it with?

If your item made it through all of the above four questions, you might well have discovered a valuable addition to your wardrobe, congratulations :) But before you make a final decision, quickly double-check the versatility of your item by brainstorming a few possible outfits. A strong style concept and a coherent wardrobe structure should already do most of the work for you, but just to be sure, try to come up with three outfits using the potential new item and the rest of your wardrobe. If you can easily think of three or more outfits that you would happily wear, I’d say your item is a keeper!

How do you decide whether to buy an item or not? Do you prefer to buy spontaneously or mull over things before making a decision?

image via cosstores.com