Coming off a season when your paycheck was spent faster than you can say "peppermint latte, please," you might have the urge to self-impose a shopping ban until, say, Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, though, retailers are sneaky jerks and saw your move coming about two turns back. Hence all those flashy yellow and red signs in display windows shouting "Sale! Who Needs Savings When You Can Have Suede Shoes?! 90 Percent Off!!!" Totally tempting. But if you feel like this year is the year you're steering clear of mall parking lots and midnight online splurges, then I have a couple of survivalist tips that will help you stay on track. The trick is to learn how to shop your own closet so you can curb your cravings and spend less.
Get high on your own supply (of clothes and makeup!)
Say you're at the department store and you see a beautiful tube of red lipstick you just have to get your hands on. Rather than shelling out a cool 20 for a new shade, go home and put on a red lipstick you already own to satisfy your itch. Shop your stash! Or perhaps you're itching to buy a cashmere turtleneck ($$$)…walk away fast and dig through your closet to create outfits around the turtlenecks you already own. Make it a whole week of wearing turtlenecks, pairing them with skirts and suits and jeans until you've had your fill of them. Afterwards, you'll hopefully see that the pieces you already own will do, and your craving will be gone.
Crack the code with your tricky pieces
We all have those items in our closets that get one or two moments of air-time throughout the year, despite our better efforts. Instead of adding more items to your closet by going out shopping, buckle down and figure out interesting ways to style those tricky piece. For example, my struggle is with a faux fur vest I bought and wore a grand total of three times in as many years. Instead of buying more cardigans and jackets I can layer with, I should instead go on Pinterest, Instagram, or search through magazines to see if I can find a couple of ways to style it that will fit my aesthetic. Maybe the reason I wasn't jiving with it was because I was trying to style it in a way that was outside of my comfort zone—committing to working it into my current style will give me a new piece to play with.
Alter pieces you're bored with
Instead of tossing items that feel dated and replacing them with new ones, try altering the pieces that no longer make your heart tap dance. You can either do this with a needle and thread, or clever layering. For instance, you can turn a thin sweater or turtleneck into a crop top knit just by hemming it up. You can then wear it over dresses or with skirts or high waist pants. If you no longer love a dress, try turning it into a blouse by either cutting it or simply putting a skirt over it. If you're bored with the top of a particular frock, pop a knit over it to turn it into a skirt. Play around with your pieces and see if you can transform them with a few choice moves.
Rethink your staples
Don't just push yourself to make those tricky pieces work. Make the trusty everyday pieces in your closet feel fresh again by researching unexpected ways to style these tried-and-true staples. Look up examples online and see if you can learn new formulas. For example, your striped T-shirt looks radically different when paired with a leather skirt than when matched with overalls. Or instead of wearing your flannel buttoned up, try tying it around your waist and adding a leather jacket.
Become a remix master
If rethinking your staples was successful, fully commit and challenge yourself with a remix challenge. Take an evening and play with your wardrobe. For instance, pick a well-used item in your closet, say, a red plaid shirt you often wear with your favorite pair of jeans and flat booties, and spend an hour finding new ways to style it that are outside of your usual formulas. Will it look fun underneath your tweed blazer, or how about paired with that tulle skirt? Does it take on an urban edge with your leather jacket and beanie, or does it look prim with cigarette pants and Chelsea boots? Take pictures of your favorite combos along the way, and you'll have yourself a set of new looks you can recreate throughout the month. If you do this weekly with other choice items, you'll have more new looks than you can count!
Create your own shopping experience
Sometimes the problem isn't your clothes, but the experience of picking out your clothes. If you feel like you've been impulse buying more than usual, try steering that energy not into your wardrobe, but your actual closet. Organize it and make it pretty: DIY or buy racks for your shoes, create shelves for your purses, use hangers for your scarves and belts. Make it so when you open your closet doors you not only see what you own but feel like you're in your favorite boutique when thumbing through your clothes. Sometimes that small change can make a difference.
Organize your closet in a new way
You might be in a rut with your wardrobe not because of what you actually own, but because your closet got you there. If you know exactly where all your items are, sometimes reaching for them can be like muscle memory and you'll fail to see the interesting new outfits you can. So shake things up. Organize your pieces in fresh new ways to help you see their mix and match potential. You can try grouping pieces by print, layering duties or texture (all chunky knits in one spot, all lace in another). For example, I organize all like items together (sleeveless tops, crop tops, turtlenecks, collared shirts…all hanging out with their kind) so I can see in a pinch what can go under or over a tired sweater or dress.