How to Get the Most From Your Wardrobe

Finance, Home & Family
on December 15, 2002

Women driven by sales, who seek the most clothes for the least amount of money, often end up with a lot of odds-and-ends they rarely wear.

“Women wear 20 percent of their wardrobes 80 percent of the time,” says Diana Pemberton-Sikes, an image and fashion consultant in Newark, Del., and author of Wardrobe Magic: Discover the Secret to Effortless Dressing.

Every woman can make fashion magic, however—no wands or spells required, Pemberton-Sikes says. And just as women’s lifestyles are different, so are their clothing needs. “For instance, a schoolteacher is going to need a completely different wardrobe than a PR person,” Pemberton-Sikes says. “You need to be focused on what’s practical for you.”

But some basic pieces, she says, help most women get the most wear out of their wardrobe—straight skirts, A-line skirts, slacks, jackets, and a variety of white blouses.

Buy pieces that mix and match to get the most for your money, she advises. But before you buy anything, “Hold it up and ask yourself if it will go with at least three other items in your wardrobe,” Pemberton-Sikes advises. The goal is to have fewer clothes but more outfit possibilities.

Avoid decals, funky decorations, unusual shoulders, and trendy cuts. For example, capri pants are classic, but bell-bottoms are trendy. “We all like to have a few fun pieces in our closet; I just tell my clients not to spend a lot of money on them,” she says.

Accessorize to add variety to your basics. This is where you can personalize, update, and differentiate your outfits.

“And just as you decorate a room with a certain color scheme, so, too, should you stick to a certain color scheme in your wardrobe, because you’ll have a lot more variety when you mix and match your separates,” she says.

Your coloring also should be taken into consideration when buying clothes. Most people have either yellow or blue skin undertones. The way to tell: pull your hair completely back and hold a piece of gold jewelry by your face. If the combination makes you look sallow, you likely have blue undertones. If your skin looks vibrant, you’re yellow-based.

Yellow undertones look best in yellow-based colors, such as browns, oranges, and greens. Those with blue undertones will be flattered by blue-based colors like reds, hunter greens, and shades of blue.

“Many women write me and say, ‘I didn’t realize it was this easy. I was just making it hard on myself,’” Pemberton-Sikes says. “You can get by with so much less. When you’re getting ready, you can just grab a couple things and everything fits nicely and you’re out the door.”