Clean Beauty, Style

Want to Never Buy Anything You Won’t Wear Again? Check This List

Clothes had become the bane of my existence.

Funny coming from someone who STYLES. What a drama… This wasn’t even a new development, it had just been building momentum the less room I had in the apartment (see: literal broom closet), and the more I liked to experiment with wild looks. I wasn’t getting the feeling I wanted from something that’s supposed to be ALL about good feelings.

I wanted extraordinary, interesting — something I felt proud to put together (a lot like these word-y, type-y things I do). I wanted the same satisfaction, yet, when it came to my closet, it was getting much more difficult to obtain the same artistic payoff — especially in that “every day” way I was going for.

It was taking me foreverrr to get ready in the morning (WHY DOES NOTHING MATCH), I didn’t feel like *me* anymore, I felt unoriginal, drab (hand to forehead sigh), and my closet was a proverbial clusterfuck. It seemed like everything had been purchased separately (oh gee, that’s because it was) and was all bought with my preferred category of dress in mind: a night out (which coincidentally, I hardly did anymore). Not to mention the host of other effects I didn’t even realize existed. For example, the inordinate amount of space this topic was taking up in my mind, which was about as welcome as the clutter in my teeny tiny apartment. Sometimes, you don’t know how much something is affecting you until it’s gone; which I found out after a this habit reset.

Simple is better

— and this is coming from someone who enjoys pattern mixing and detailed outfits, but also blue/yellow leopard print and feather earrings. For the majority of the 26 years of Chelsea, I thought simple = boring — but the more I simplify, the more there’s room to make everything I put together that much more special.

So, I worked on making a list, a play by play.

Originally it was just for me to find what I call style focus, which is so easy to loose in this day and age of SALE, 24 HOURS ONLY, CYBER MONDAY — BUY NOW. Marketing is wild y’all. This list has been majorly useful in helping me axe the pressure I feel from marketing ploys. I know now, without a doubt, what’s going to add value to my life and what’s going to sit in my closet until that apocalypse thing I keep hearing about. I enjoy shopping again. No more stress! And clothes are a happy afterthought — right where they should be. I also have markedly fewer things, but love them all much much more. Oh yeah, I spend less too.

The method I worked up started making me a much happier little stylistically inclined bb, which a lot of you happen to be stylistically inclined, too.

So, I thought I’d do a share.

Apply this rundown to even your simplest pieces (think tees) and you’ll be a happy, no regerts, less scattered, camper.

The 10 Step Guide to Loving Everything You Have, and Having Nothing You Don’t

  • 80/20 rule – I’m going to introduce you to something I like to call the 80/20 rule. This is it. The 80% is your everyday wearables: Can you wear this to work? Would you be comfortable running errands in this, or anything else you’d do on your run-of-the-mill day? Be honest. Really. The 20% applies to those beautiful, sparkly, interesting, (and usually very covetable, fun to buy) pieces. When you’re about to buy something, determine (realistically) how much you’ll wear it. 80% everyday, 20% special occasion. Is half of your closet special occasion? (Me) Put down the sequin top.

  • Staples are key – Seriously. It seems like no fun, but, let’s be honest. A closet full of statement pieces means you’ll never have anything to wear – take this from the mega purveyor of statementhood. So, via this thought process, look for different shapes, fits, neutral shades, etc. So this means mom jeans, cutoffs, a wide leg, joggers, khaki, white, denim, and black. This makes them easily pair-able and simple, but by no means boring. Funnily enough, the more prevalent the simple pieces in your wardrobe, the wilder you can go. You’ll have more room to play with those (20%) statement pieces because you’ll have more to pair them with. Styling different and interesting silhouettes is a statement in and of itself (without the “this-only-matches-one-thing-in-my-closet side effect). So here it is again, that 80/20 rule – 80% match-able, everyday wear, 20% statement pieces. For most of us, we will be pushing it to only have 20% logo-ed, patterned, flashy buys. There are some of you, though, living in the basics, never to stray. If this is you, and you’re here to learn how to make a wardrobe that makes you smile, it’s time to make 20% the minimum and not the cap. Spice it up, girl. This is me giving you permission to buy a vinyl, pink, two-piece skirt set – now go.

  • Think about the occasion – When will you wear this? Can you think of three times this month you could possibly wear it? Is this one of those, “ah, fun, I’ll use this on some fantastic night, at some undefinable point in the future” outfit? Only fit for parties when you aren’t even invited to one? Only amazing for that special occasion that doesn’t even exist yet? Put it down.

  • Know your wardrobe – If you can’t think of three things you already own that will work with this, put it down. Consider apps like Snupps to catalog your wardrobe and never be left straining to remember what you own again. Nor will you have the opportunity to forget that tiny piece occupying an unfortunately difficult to see part of your closet (out of sight, out of mind, am I right?). I’ve recently started using this app to make sure I use everything I have, and have a method of easy-recall to double check before hitting the checkout line. 

  • Consider the weather – Get real: will the temperature everrrr be conducive to wearing this fresh little number where you live? Like, ever? I’ve lived in Iowa, Texas, and now San Francisco, where weather definitely dictates the sensibility of your wardrobe. I remember in Iowa, light jackets were just plain stupid. There was no point in the year when a nice, not extremely functional, jean jacket worked. You go straight from freezing your ass off to being a humid, sticky mess. Same with cute yet non-functional shoes. If you can’t wear them in ice or snow, they gotta go. Yet, overly functional shoes, namely warm boots, are absolutely ridiculous in Texas. Fur lined nothing please. San Francisco and skirts? Also a no. It’s the same temperature all year round (freezing) which means never can I imagine having bare legs for less than a very very special occasion. This is why the last time I was out and about and very tempted to snag a skirt/sweater set, I said oh no, Chels. I was brought to my senses by the fact that I’ve never once worn a skirt comfortably in the Bay and most likely won’t.

  • Death to the Sale – All of my most regrettable purchases (and probably yours) have been during a sale. “But it’s only X dollars…” you say “It’s worth XXXX”. That’s all fine, but what is it worth to you. Dropping some truth here, and step aside marketing madness. There are tens on tens of thousands of retailers anymore – there will always be a way, in your price range, to get what you want and need. Most likely, also, when you want it. There’s shopping hacks, coupons, apps like ShopStyle (an app where you use actual words – cropped jean jacket – to search thousands of shops via one app, and you can even sort them from most affordable to least) and even just moderately priced online stores are an option. Don’t fearfully buy super sale junk just because it’s cheap. You won’t even like it come the season it’s meant for anyway. You’re cheating yourself, also promoting money anxiety and ideas of lack. Reality tho – anything you buy “just because it’s cheap” probably wasn’t something you really wanted in the first place. Would you buy this full price? Put it back.

  • Quality over quantity – I used to think $40 t-shirts were abominable, now I know they’re the only way. I can’t tell you how many tees I’ve bought that have pilled, warped, never been worn, or been completely throw-away-able within a month, all because I bought them cheap and easy. Honestly, fuck that. Now I have three investment tees that I wear constantly. Plus, if we tallied all of the cheap, nothing tees that I’ve bought in my lifetime, (you know, that I didn’t even like or use or remember I had) they’d tally up to be much more anyway. In money, but also in the time I spent buying them, which is much more valuable anyway. Evolving into a solid, usable wardrobe means considering construction and fabric as well as aesthetic. Seems obvious, but with shops like F21 and UO out there, it’s worth saying. Make sure the fabric is weighty, the stitching solid, and the fit perfect – which brings us to:

  • Fit is everything – If an item is even the tiniesttt bit off, don’t do it. You won’t wear it. Please trust me and make this a non negotiable. I know it would be convenient if this thing that kind of resembles what you want and almost fits, worked — but I’m a firm believer that if something is meant for you, it will check all your boxes. If you have even the tiniest misgiving, put it down. If it isn’t a-m-a-z-i-n-g, don’t try to force it. You’ll get a verrrry particular feeling when functionality meets iloveit and you’ll know it when you do.

  • Convenience buys are a no from me – Similarly, if the color, quality, anything is off, don’t do it, especially out of convenience. Or, namely, never out of convenience. Convenience is your worst enemy in the quest for a solid wardrobe. If you don’t like the color, that’s it, it’s a no. If it’s close to being solid fabric, maybe a little bit see through, but it’s right here right in front of you, so easy – it’s still a no. If you have to pick up white shorts as part of a uniform to wear for an event, don’t get the cheapest thing on the rack, get something you might ever want to wear again. Aim to make everything you acquire mindful and useful, plus think longevity. Otherwise it’s just clutter and waiting for the next time white shorts are part of a uniform, (maybe never, but you know you won’t get rid of it, anyway) taking up space in your closet and weirdly (but truly), your mind.

  • Figure out your look – This could warrant an entire blog post. Don’t try to copy the fashion bloggers, bae. It’s a loosing battle. They don’t make mental and emotional investments like you do, and they get to rotate through every trend for free. Which is awesome, go them. What I’m saying is, know what works for you, know what you’ll wear. Spend a little time getting acquainted with what you like, what you like on you, what works for your life, and the aesthetic you’re going for. There are trillions of really cool things that look really cool on a lot of cool people, but I know they just don’t work for me. You probably know the feeling.  Defining your aesthetic (but not feeling confined to it) does oodles and loads for helping you cut through the noise of “sell-y sell-y, buy now” marketing emails and ads. I’m definitely not telling you to be opposed to risks or trying new things. What I am telling you is to have a solid foundation, and pepper it with your feisty self.

So, welcome to the Staple AF Club, where using more and buying less are the new black.

Ultimately, this is about getting clear, and the clearer you become about what you like, want, and need; the easier it will be to make the decisions you want to make.

Keeping up with the Jones’; Well, I think it’s dead. Let’s be boss-ass babes and gents with clothes we’ll actually wear, that buy into absolutely no one’s marketing schemes, that give us great feelings. The most fashionable people I know have sick staples, not an endless closet, and I’m aiming to join that club. Commit to a look, build it up, make it yours, all while choosing pieces that don’t stop giving.


Photoset by: @alexvalphoto

Skirt: Zara
Blazer: JustFab
Top: Victoria’s Secret
Kicks: Fila