Building a wardrobe can be fun and yet daunting at the same time, especially when you're on a budget. If you are in a hurry, that only doubles the pressure. While I can’t promise you’ll have a new wardrobe within 24 hours, I can promise you will save money and achieve a look you will absolutely love. Whether you’re starting from scratch or rebuilding a wardrobe after a career change or promotion, these tips will help guide you through the process.
Time & Money Savers
Believe it or not, you're going to save a hell of a lot of time when you shop online. When you go to a physical location, you will end up browsing and talk to salespeople. However, if you’re on a deadline, run out to the mall and grab some items to tide you over. There are some rules you should follow when you shop online. And if you want to save money, read up.
Set aside a time to shop - I would suggest a couple hours at least. If you hate shopping, let Bombfell.com or Trunkclub.com do it for you. These two websites will make recommendations and ship the clothing to you for free. They do cost a bit more than DYI shopping but are a good alternative for the busy and active man.
Many websites will offer a discount if you sign up for their newsletter. I do this when shopping a new store just to get the one-time promotion, then I simply cancel to avoid the influx of spam.
Use coupons and discount codes. There are websites that offer these at no charge. Just Google “coupon codes” and you will get a page full of these sites.
Outlet stores offer huge discounts on fashionable apparel. Nordstromrack.com, factory.jcrew.com, and saksoff5th.com are just three examples and are my personal favorites. For one thing, Saks offers brands like Alexander McQueen and Hugo Boss at 50% off or more. The only negative thing I can say about these shops is, they have limited sizes. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve fallen in love with an item only to click on “size” and be disappointed.
eBay is another website I frequent. I rarely buy anything used these days. I have found steals on eBay that I couldn’t have found anywhere else. But then again, I shop for a living and have hours to do so. This wouldn't work if someone is a time cruncher - only bargain hunters.
I hate to plug these guys, but Amazon truly has everything you can imagine and usually at pretty decent prices. And Prime gets you free shipping on everything. You should look for free shipping anyway. Most websites require you make a minimum purchase to qualify for this extra benefit. If I’m close enough to the minimum, I’ll throw a cheap shirt in my cart to avoid shipping.
Sometimes the cookie crumbles. Turn them off before you shop because the price of items you are seeking can sometimes be marked up if browser cookies reveal you’ve previously searched the item. To help avoid this nasty pricing trick, shop for items in your browser’s private or incognito mode, which will make sure your shopping habits aren’t trackable while you are shopping online.
It's just a fact that Thursday is the best day to shop for clothing online. An example would be macys.com. Check them out on Tuesday and then again on Thursday to see the price difference because you will.
Why shop online and not get paid to do it when sites like ebates.com will give you cash to shop even more? If you’re not using a cashback website, you are literally throwing money away.
Retailers want your loyalty and your money. This is why many offers in-house credit and a rewards program. For example, at Nordstrom, you earn 2 points for every dollar you spend at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and HauteLook. For every 2,000 points, you'll get a $20 Nordstrom Note, plus you get early access to their anniversary sale and reimbursement on alterations.
At Bloomingdale's you get a $25 rewards card for every 5,000 points you earn and at Macy's you’ll save 20% off your purchase the day you sign up and the day after.
Now that you are armed with time and money saving tips, let’s start shopping, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I get butterflies and goose pimples when I set out on a shopping trip.
I wrote an entire article on this that you can refer to, but in a nutshell, before we begin, you need to determine your personal style and lifestyle needs. Are you ultra trendy, conservative or do you fall somewhere in between the two? What kind of work do you do? How often do you wear a tie? There’s no sense in buying things you will never wear or have no use for. I know this all too well because I’ve spent thousands of dollars on clothing that still has the tags attached, learn from my mistakes.
The second thing you'll need to decide upon is your color palette - what colors work with your skin tone and hair color? You might need to consult a colorist to determine this. Finally, decide what cut or silhouette works with your body - do not just guess. The way clothing fits the body is an important part of styling and since you are doing this minus a wardrobe consultant, you need to be extra mindful. You would probably benefit from a professional measurement to make sure you are selecting the proper fit even before you go shopping.
To be successful at shopping, you need to set your style goals. Determine what you want from your wardrobe. Are you trying for a promotion? Dress the part of the job you want. While I worked for Nordstrom, I had a co-worker who desperately wanted to move up. The problem was, he had no sense of style despite working for a company whose very existence was predicated on fashion. He would enter interviews in just a dress shirt and pants - no tie, no jacket. It had a predictable outcome every time he would get the call - sorry Charlie, we are going with a candidate who knows how to dress for an interview. Ok, they didn't say that, but mine as well have because he never moved up.
To the layman, clothing is just cover, but it says more than words ever can. It's this unspoken language that can mean the difference between a company car and the bus, trust me. Your choice in apparel is equally as important as your resume or skill set. Before you even interview for a position, set up your style goals. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make a good one. Pay attention to every detail no matter how unimportant you might think they are. You wouldn't do a half ass job on your job, why would you do it on what may very well get you that job?
Map Things Out
Mapping out your wardrobe needs is akin to taking a trip. Without a roadmap, you would be lost and without a plan for your wardrobe, you’re going to flail around like a fish out of water. Make a detailed list of everything you need right down to the shoelaces. When you are ready to shop, go by the guide you printed out so as to not overlook any items. I used to do this years ago. Now it’s more of a maintenance thing whereas I’ll add things as needed or wanted. That should be a part of your goal as well.
The easiest and most efficient way to find inspiration is to thumb through fashion magazines like GQ and Esquire. I read both, plus Maxim on a regular basis just to keep up with what’s new. While I don’t follow trends, I do stay current with periodic updates to my wardrobe. Example, the current trend of designer sneakers was one trend I liked and decided to follow. I turned to my bibles to teach me how to wear them without looking like a complete dork.
Don’t choose a trend that is super trendy if you’re not. You won’t feel comfortable and it will show when you wear it. Most times, it will end up hibernating in your closet before you ship it off to the Goodwill, trust me. Look for something that speaks to you - that you get excited about. You will know the look you want the minute you lay eyes on it.
Take an afternoon to go out to the local mall and just try things on. It is one of the only ways to get a feel for how things will look on you. You might have seen something you absolutely love online, but once you try it on you discover that it's just not you. Also, not everything is cut the same and you might need a different size in a certain brand.
Again, Bombfell and Trunk Club will ship clothing to your doorstep. You generally have a few days to try everything on and they won’t even charge you until you commit to something.
Throwing out clothing is harder than you might think. Clothes evoke emotions and memories. That acid washed jeans jacket might be just a coat to most people, but to you, it’s the jacket you wore to the 1989 KISS world tour. Regardless of how much sentimental value an article of clothing has unless you are currently wearing it, its time to toss it.
In fact, anything you haven’t worn in a year needs to go. Then cut it down to months. Chances are if an item has been deep in the back of your closet for more than 6 months, it ain't coming out.
The Basics & Budget
No matter what your style is, we need to start out with the basics or the foundation of your new wardrobe. I always recommend a navy blue suit because you can get 4 or 5 outfits out of these single pieces.
If you're on a budget, consider outlet malls and discount stores as you can generally get the same merchandise found in department stores for close to half off, if not more. It might take you a bit longer to build your wardrobe, but you will save a ton.
Now that we have the basics, start adding the fun pieces. This will include items such as ties, pocket squares, socks, belts, and accessories like rings, tie bars and cufflinks.
As I have stated in previous articles, accessories like bracelets, necklaces and even earrings should all compliment your outfit - not overpower it. Less is more - don't wear cuff links, a tie bar, a bracelet, three rings and a collar stay all at the same time. Rule of thumb is picked two and be done.
Belts should match your shoes - pocket squares should not match your tie. Socks are not an afterthought. Instead of choosing boring solids, try an argyle or a print. It will not go unnoticed, believe me. No novelty socks and anyone who thinks that white athletic socks are ok with a suit should be jailed.
Start building on your navy blue suit with tan or gray slacks. If you're fashion forward, go for trim or slim cut suits. Same thing applies for shirts and ties - go skinny. If you want to convey a classic look go with regular cut suits, shirts and wider ties - 3 1/2 inches is safe.
All the young and hip dudes should choose slim fit shirts with skinny ties because it's youthful. Only wear black shoes with black slacks. All other colors, including gray and blue, should only be worn with brown or chestnut colored shoes.
Feel free to start introducing plaids, checks and other patterns into your wardrobe by way of shirts, ties, pants, and blazers. While pattern mixing is acceptable unless you know what your doing, allow a wardrobe consultant to show you how to do it effectively.