keys to an intentional wardrobe, part two

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Today I’d like to continue the conversation about building an intentional wardrobe by sharing something that often causes the frustrations we feel with our wardrobes.


Anticipate and respond actively to life transitions.


Often, major life transitions or mental shifts (style preferences, new relationship status, income shifts, personal growth) are the reason that a once fulfilling closet may become a place of anxiety.

Really, it makes perfect sense. Life transitions like college to career, career to pregnancy, corporate career to self-employed, moves to different communities, and home to career, all bring different clothing needs. If we haven’t taken the time to really anticipate those shifts or adjust accordingly, we may find that we have all the stretchy pants and sweatshirts necessary to show up to class, but only a few work appropriate pieces to wear to our first jobs.

When it comes to transitions like these, it is tempting to say, “start thinking ahead and anticipating what you will need and purchase those new items ahead of time.” In fact, that can often be great advice.

Yet when I really take a moment to pause and consider, I believe proactivity is a wise action for an initial ‘starter’ wardrobe of a few essentials. However, the bulk of the purchase and shifts are best made once in the new phase of life. 

For example, if I was pregnant (I’m not) I can totally imagine my type-A personality wanting to go out right away and purchase my new preggers wardrobe (and decorate that baby nursery) within the first four weeks. But the reality is, I have no idea how my body will actually react to the pregnancy in order to understand what my needs and desires will be. Which means I could end up purchasing items that are too small or large for me, or I may select styles that I later detest once I can wear them.

This also holds true for those making shifts to a new career. Though some careers might have rather cut and dry dress codes that make it easy to pre-shop, the majority of careers today have a much subtler, more nuanced dress code that is largely felt after working there for a period of time. Additionally, the work environment itself could cause a shift in desired styles overall even within a category like “corporate casual.”

So all in all, when approaching transitions, I think a little proactivity with a few key pieces can start the ball rolling. Then, once in the new situation, being active about adding and evolving to the wardrobe would be the wisest way to spend the wardrobe budget.

For those, like myself, who are super eager to start making progress months ahead of time, consider saving money for the wardrobe budget early and asking for gift cards during the holidays. The best thing to do might just be to save for the wardrobe budget you will want later.

The worst case scenario is the reactive response to a transition. Which is to live with the old wardrobe in its entirety without evolving it in a meaningful way to reflect the current lifestyle.

I found myself in that situation after binge eating candy bars and gaining 15 pounds in a semester during a very difficult phase of my junior year in college.

I went from having a great wardrobe that I loved, to a wardrobe that later made me feel bad about my body. I stuck with the whole wardrobe for a while, each day frustrated when I pulled items off the hangers. The whole closet became a stressful place for me. Rather than, “what do I want to wear?” I was stuck asking the question, “what will fit me okay today?”

After a month or two with this closet of anxiety, I finally went through and decided to donate or give away the clothes that didn’t fit me and though the resulting wardrobe was smaller, it was overall much more positive. I felt like the closet was on my side, rather than against me, once more.

So if you happen to find yourself getting near a transition, at the beginning of one, or if you’ve found that you never refreshed the closet after a transition long ago, I cannot encourage you enough to create a vision, try a little proactivity, and remain active during the switch as much as possible.

The next key I’ll be sharing is: monitoring shopping and exfoliation habits.


Part One: Creating a clear vision is essential.

Part Two: Anticipate and respond actively to life transitions.

Part Three: Monitor Exfoliation Habits to Make Wiser Purchases & Shop Sales Intentionally.


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  1. Thanks for this, Jess. It was a message that I especially needed to hear today… I’m starting a new job next week and I just started anticipating that itchy “Oh god, I have nothing I can wear!” feeling and I look around at my closet and realize that most of the items that had been wearing to work in the past no longer fit.

    1. It’s great to hear that this post helped you, Nikkiana! I hope that you are able to evolve the wardrobe in a way that helps you feel great about going into it each day. I’ve totally been there!

  2. My closet clean-out was definitely reactive when I moved from Chicago to California. My old neutral colored clothes and structured suits no longer made sense. I got rid of a ton of clothes that didn’t match the “sunshiny” casual vibe of my new neighborhood.

    1. Such a great point. Moves to different places can mean a new set of clothes. My cousin felt that way moving from Phoenix to Chicago, too.

  3. stef

    Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. As I read this, I realized in horror that I STILL have my professional wardrobe from a job a left more than a year ago. I went from working in the Marketing Department of a law firm (so, exclusively business casual, if not strict business attire) to owning a powersports (ATVs & Snowmobiles) shop with my husband. Every day I flip through my overflowing closet and have more black pants than I know what to do with, but lack casual hard wearing shirts and jeans.

    Obviously I should have dealt with this awhile ago, but I think I see the work clothes as “worth” more than jeans and tees, so I’m reluctant to let them go. I cannot imagine a day when I will ever show up to my powersports shop in a suit. It’s time to donate stuff.

    1. I totally get what you mean. It feels like because something cost more/”is nicer” that it’s harder to get rid of although it is now unnecessary (another example: bridesmaids dresses).

      Maybe you could try editing your closet to just the clothes you need *now* and put the rest of the wardrobe away somewhere in storage – a box or something – and see if you miss or enjoy having the edited closet.

      If in the future you ever did need those items, chances are the styling or fit may not be as ideal as well (this happened to me when I bought a pair of jeans that were too small and now that I *finally* fit into them, I don’t like the cut and never wear them).

  4. Rae

    I’ve been going through this a lot lately! I had the same experience with gaining weight and not wanting to get rid of the clothes I “loved” that didn’t fit anymore. (More recently, I’ve started losing weight, and am having the opposite issue!) Now I am about to move to Taiwan to teach English, so I am stocking up on nylon cargo pants and getting rid of my high heels and fitted skirts. But you’re right; I should wait til I get there (and maybe even lose a few more pounds) before I start stocking up.

    1. Congrats on all the awesome changes with teaching and losing the weight. That’s awesome! Yes, a little stocking up and a ‘wait and see’ approach in tandem might suit your situation quite well. : )

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