Chances are, unless you make your own clothes or have the money to spend on couture you are shopping at the same places as most other people. Historically there was more variety in clothing because items were hand made, but with importation and industrial changes most of the clothing we buy is now mass produced.
Sometimes this can be a good thing. I can look up a brand hashtag on Instagram or search Pinterest to see how someone has styled that same item. At other times I’ve wished I had a more unique closet with outfits no one had seen.
I’m not an expert stylist, but one thing I’ve can do well is curate a unique wardrobe. Over the last four or five years I’ve curated a closet that is both very me and very original. I haven’t had a huge budget, but keen eyes and some organically developed guidelines helped me to discover pieces and looks that are regularly complimented.
Before you build a wardrobe it is best you understand your personal style. This knowledge is the foundation to any savvy purchasing, otherwise you will end up with pieces that are unique but will not leave the closet. With that in mind here are eight tips on how to curate a unique wardrobe (without going couture).
1. Context is Everything
While specific pieces are important to a having a unique closet, the real trick comes in how pieces play with each other. I own a black slouchy blazer and wide leg pants that I purchased separately, but they have the same crepe texture. They work with plenty of other pieces in my closet individually, but when paired together they become an unexpected breezy suit.
Chances are you have several unique pieces in your closet already, you just need to find ways to style them. Try pairing different items one by one to find combinations you like. Combining clothes can provide pieces with fresh context for a unique look.
On a similar note, it is a good idea to purchase pieces that match at least three pieces in your closet. Wearing the same unique skirt and blouse combination because they are the only two things that match grows boring and predictable, even if the pieces are unique.
3. Purchase Classics +1
This is the most important rule of my wardrobe. Whenever I look for a piece that is considered staple (aka that piece everyone has in their wardrobe) I shop for a “classic +1”—a staple with a little something extra added on.
For example, I own several white blouses but each one is different. Whether it’s a ruffle trim, lace inserts, or unexpected texture or fabric they have their own unique feel. I use this same method when I try a trend. Rather than going for the trendy top everyone is wearing I go for a “gentler” version that still holds up as a classic. This way I can wear a trend past its prime and it feels more like a unique quirk of my wardrobe rather than dated style.
4. Go High & Low
When I shop I care about finding a quality piece that will work with my closet and my style. If that is high-end, that’s great. If it’s on the low-end, that’s fine too. In fact, most of my closet has been purchased for under $30, and the majority of that under $20, and a good chunk of that has been $10 and under. These pieces range from Anthropologie to Kohl’s.
I would buy higher-end more often if I had the money (i.e. ALL the white vintage lace dresses), but I have found that even with a small budget I’ve collected a variety of pieces I love that I can mix and match in unique combinations.
5. Try On The “Uglies”
Don’t judge a dress by how it looks on the rack. There are countless times I’ve purchased pieces and had someone compliment me saying, “It didn’t look that cute on the hanger!” I can’t tell you the number of gems snatched up by someone who took the whim to try on a piece that no one cared to try on.
Now if you really hate it, don’t buy it. But if you do love it, chances are you might be one of the few people wearing it out on a regular basis. A number of people shop sale/clearance because they need a new whatever and they don’t want to spend much. As a result I’ve seen numerous pieces purchased and end up on poshmark or thrift. But when you have a careful eye and are honest with your tastes you can find some great pieces that will become staples to your style.
If a piece has a detail I don’t like or something I wish it had, I try to take away or add to it. I’m not a seamstress, but I’ve altered a number of pieces in simple ways to make them work with my style. This is one major way I make an “ugly” piece work in my closet.
I have a pink satin romper that I adore, but it was manufactured wrong so it had to be brought in several inches around the chest. I made a few additional alterations (including removing some lace) and I love it. (I’m regularly checking the temperature outside for a warm day so I can wear it!)
7. Shop Vintage, Local, Small, and Thrift
Shopping vintage and thrift are simple ways to acquire pieces that aren’t around anymore. Shopping local businesses and boutiques (whether in person or online) can give you access to unique pieces, as well as pieces from other retail stores at less expensive prices.
I really can’t stress boutiques enough. While vintage and thrift stores can be great, I have dust and mold sensitivities and there are times a piece is too musty for me to wear. (It took me about a year to finally get the mustiness out of my vintage plaid coat in last Thursday’s post.) Boutiques can support small business owners, and you can get some incredible finds throughout the year.
Lastly, take the time to experiment and play, be it with the clothes you already own, or a new purchase. Keep your eyes open for something fun to add to your closet. You never know when you’ll find a new style you will love!