Curating Your Closet: 5 Tips for Elevating Your Personal Style with Leah Nalepa

April 27, 2021

“If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they will define your brand story for you.” – David Brier

Style is personal. It’s creative. It’s energetic. Most of all, it’s important. What we wear dictates to the world who we are, what we value, and how we expect to be treated. It helps us see the best in others, and in ourselves. It instills in us confidence to overcome some of our biggest fears and achieve even bigger dreams.

However, with fast fashion, seasonal runway shows, a plethora of Instagram and TikTok influencer “how to” videos and reels, style often comes off as complicated, unattainable, undesirable, expensive, or a mix of all four. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few guidelines and questions to ask to overcome self-doubt, complications, and expense when it comes to curating your closet and cultivating confidence through style.

Does your closet reflect who you are?

Understanding who we are is an important element of growing into the person we want to become. Our clothes should embody that. What do we value in ourselves that we want to show to others? It could be creativity, quirkiness, a “champagne taste,” or a logical approach to life. No matter what it is, if we dress aligned with who we are, we become an elevated, energetic, and more confident version of ourselves.

Consider the following scenario:

If you were to step into a room full of people without saying anything, and then walk out, what would people say about you based on your outfit alone? Would you feel confident that they would speak to your innate qualities or vision for life or would they assume you are lazy, exhausted, overwhelmed, or unintentional based off your clothes?

While our appearance is not everything, it should be a priority in our lives because it reflects our deepest, most beautiful self. Our style is a way to communicate with the outside world without having to say a word.

Examine your closet.

Most of us look at our closet, decide we have nothing to wear, and immediately jump to the conclusion that we must go shopping. To that I firmly say, PAUSE. Before you spend money that you haven’t budgeted for a shopping spree, take a deep and honest look at your closet. Chances are, there are clothes that you really love and some that don’t excite you. Get rid of the clothes you don’t like. There are plenty of places you can donate your clothes that support others (American Red Cross and Salvation Army, to name a couple).

On the other hand, keep the clothes that bring you joy. Try to match them with other items in your wardrobe to discover new outfits that you’re excited to wear. It is usually at this point that you can evaluate whether there are gaps in your closet that you can shop for. New items should match the other pieces in your closet so you can build a fuller, more joy-filled wardrobe over time.

Hint: Go through this process with a friend. It’s difficult to get rid of clothes and someone who doesn’t have an emotional attachment to your clothes can help you get rid of the right items.

Does it fit?

Fit is important because it shows awareness and intentionality for your unique body type, makes an outfit look more polished, and helps us feel good in our clothes.

Here’s the hard truth: if your clothes don’t fit, they shouldn’t be in your closet. At the risk of sounding cliché, our bodies don’t live in the past or the future and our closet should reflect that. All of us gain or lose weight overtime, but we should not have clothes sitting around that “once fit” or “will fit again” (an exception to this is pregnancy/postpartum).

Other times, it’s simply a matter of purchasing an item off the rack that was, quite literally, meant to fit an array of body types, but not specifically meant for you or anybody else. (Remember that size is but an arbitrary number!)

The good news is that most of our clothes can and should be tailored and we should evaluate sizing in a different light. You’re petite so most pants are too long? Hem them, it’s usually $10 or $12 dollars. You have a larger bust and struggle to find a blazer that fits appropriate? Sometimes we need to size up to fit our mid-section or bust better. You have wider hips and thighs but a tiny waist? Consider investing in high-waisted pants and get the waist tailored to fit your size so there aren’t awkward spacing gaps.

There are many great ways to overcome poorly fitted clothes! Don’t let the stores dictate your size, rather, find clothes that are close to your generic size and discover ways to help them fit your individual body better.

Build capsule wardrobe sets.

You have probably heard the term, “capsule wardrobe.” Unless you’re a minimalist and prefer to have a small wardrobe, that’s a limiting way to view your closet (what a relief for those who like big, beautiful wardrobes!). We are dynamic human beings with many different facets of life. As such, we should have appropriate items to fit each need and parts of our lifestyles.

Instead of forming one capsule wardrobe, create multiple capsule wardrobe sets. Sets are a small collection of pieces that harmonize and match each other. In essence, choose a color or several colors you’d like to coordinate. Then each “set” should contain two to three bottoms, three tops, and two layering pieces (jacket, cardigan, etc.). At the very basic level, a set could create 12 outfits. As you build out your wardrobe, you can mix and match sets to make numerous outfits based on some carefully curated items.

Get creative with where you shop.

Having an attractive, expensive-looking wardrobe doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, there are fun, name brand pieces that are absolutely worth saving for. However, the majority of the time we don’t have to break the bank and purchase brands we see celebrities and influencers wearing to look put together.

Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Vintage is all the rage. Find a pal and go shopping at gently used clothing or vintage boutiques, Salvation Army, and other thrift stores. You never know what sort of gems you may stumble upon. These stores typically are inexpensive and offer unique finds. (In college I found a gorgeous black and white Michael Kors houndstooth winter jacket for $80 in a Chicago clothing boutique that I wear daily in the cold months!)
  2. Off-price retailers including TJMaxx, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, and others. While these places carry cheap clothing, there are always quality discounted pieces and name brands hidden in the rough.
  3. Lower to mid-tier retailers like Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic , Loft, Ann Taylor, Target, Crew, Zara, Amazon, H&M, certain brands at Macy’s, and others. Again, be weary on the quality, but you can often find some good buys at these stores. Plus, keep an eye out for end of season sales (after stores re-opened after quarantine, the local Loft offered everything in-store for $30 and under).

Our style should be a mirror of our personal brand. It doesn’t have to be complicated. With a little help and some guidance along the way, anyone can level up to the person they were meant to become. And it starts with the clothes we put on every day.

This guest blog was written by Leah Nalepa Whetstone, founder of District Style. Learn more professional styling tips and tricks from Nalepa from our recent Facebook Live with her.

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