No Buy January: How To Shop Your Closet Instead

Maybe you’re on a shopping freeze post-holiday or you’re just sick of shopping and need a break – either way, shopping your closet is the key to literally making the most of what you have.

January is a month of resolutions. It’s a month full of big hopes and sometimes, disappointments. We’re conditioned to expect diet and exercise resolutions. In recent years, however, there have been movements to reset other excesses that come after the holidays as well. Most recently Dryanuary (aka dry January – starting the new year on a sober, clearer, more refreshed note) and No Buy January, where only essentials (groceries, medicine, household supplies) are purchased.

Those of us that use shopping as a vice (cough, cough) might find it a sizable challenge to go an entire month without purchasing clothing, home goods, or cosmetics. But just because it’s a challenge doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Taking a month-long break, especially after the shopping frenzy that can accompany the holidays, is a way to reset and establish new habits. 

A Closet Full of Clothes But Nothing to Wear

Do you know how many people I speak to that have a closet full of clothes but feel like they have nothing to wear? Even if you’re not participating in a no-buy January, mindfully spending time shopping your own closet before hitting the stores can give you a fresh perspective on that closet full of clothes.

Shop your closet is an exercise I do with EVERY SINGLE styling client. Because, we need to see what you have, and how it makes you feel before we go out and buy new things. The rational mind gets it, how can we know what you need, if we don’t have a sense of what you already have. The emotional mind, not as much, but that’s why I’m there to support.

That doesn’t mean I’m condemning all shopping. Far from it. What I encourage is intentional shopping – and shopping with intention can only come from taking stock of what you already have.

Ok, I’ll get off of my soapbox and give you the deets and the how-tos for shopping your own closet.

How to Shop Your Closet:

Shop Your Closet Tip #1 – BREAK UP THE OUTFIT

When it comes to outfits, I love them. They are easy one and done, garanimals for grownups. But from this day forward, I’m giving you permission to break that outfit up. An outfit is not a marriage and just because it was bought together does not mean it needs to be worn together until death do they part.  

Wear the top with a different bottom, and wear the bottoms with a different top. Voila…two new outfits right from the pieces you already own. Suits are great wardrobe building blocks. To reinvent the suit, wear the jacket as a blazer with a t-shirt and jeans. And wear the pants with a blouse or leather jacket to give it new life.

Outfit/Set/Suits that can be worn together OR broken up for more options

Shop Your Closet Tip #2 – THE TOP TO BOTTOMS RATIO

People often get hung up on having a wide variety of bottoms. But I recommend looking at your wardrobe from an equational standpoint. You should strive to have a 3 to 1, tops to bottoms ratio. Meaning for every one bottom there should be at least three tops that pair with it. Keeping these ratios in mind gives your closet the ultimate versatility. 

Honestly, no one is remembering the black pants you wore, in fact, you could repeat them multiple times a week. People remember the pieces closer to your face more than they remember the bottoms, so go ahead, repeat those bottoms again and again. And I’d also suggest, trying some of your tops with different bottoms to see if you can create some new combinations.

Tops that they’ll remember

Shop Your Closet Tip #3 – IT IS ALL ABOUT THE WAIST

 Proportions have changed quite a bit over the last few years. Bottoms are becoming higher waisted and wider legged, making the natural waist the main focus. Yes, skinny’s are still “in” but a straighter leg silhouette feels current and modern. Try tucking your tops in. If your pants are a mid or high-rise that could do the trick. That simple change might revitalize things. If not, the good news is that updating just 1-2 pairs of pants can make all of your existing tops feel fresh and new.

Higher waisted pants – the new proportions

Shop Your Closet Tip #4 – BELT IT

Along those same lines of the waist being a focal point, belts are relevant again. For many years, we weren’t wearing belts. I had my clients hold on to them (the good ones at least) and now, joyful, joyful, the belts are coming out to play! 

Yes, belts take an outfit up a notch when worn traditionally in the belt loops. But also try belting a blazer or sweater to give that item a new lease on life. 

Belts, belts, belts…

Shop Your Closet Tip #5 – USE YOUR ACCESSORIES

Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, scarves (and belts, but I gave them their own whole section above) are the POWER pieces of an outfit, and, honestly, they’re the MVPs of your wardrobe. Why? Because accessories can change up any outfit, at any time. Making a look dressy or casual in an instant. To use another one of my food analogies, accessories are the parsley on the dinner plate, making even a great outfit, that much more interesting and desirable.

Accessories – the frosting on the cake

Shopping your closet is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment and perseverance to look at what might feel stale, and see it with new eyes. The process often surprises people. They find out they have plenty of pieces that could be paired back to other pieces, creating new and interesting outfits. 

Shopping your closet this January  (or February, or March…) will not only make No Buy January easier but finding new ways to wear your existing pieces may lead to less buying for the rest of the year!

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Photo: Becky Cormell

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Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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