Pls help with my long awaited wardrobe makeover!
July 2, 2022 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I've been waiting and fantasizing for this for years...when I'll finally let myself start the 'buy new stuff' part of my wardrobe makeover! Please help :-)

So the last few years I've been pregnant and nursing and stuff (two todds are now 1 and 2!). I just finished nursing a month ago. And before that I wasn't doing a good job making money (entrepreneurial - now I'm doing well) - so I wasn't buying much except for what felt super essential (mostly dresses for work stuff). So it's been a long time since I've felt like I've invested in my wardrobe. I did let myself buy a bunch of nursing clothes since I nursed for so long but that phase of life is finally over and I'm so ready for this next phase.

I have been getting ready for this mentally for a long time. And I have been prepping my wardrobe by Marie Kondo-ing it down dramatically. I've taken a couple of baby steps - following interesting brands on Instagram which I joined just for this purpose. I started the buying stuff stage of this plan a couple weeks ago. Like, I bought an occasional thing before - but this is with greater permission and mindfulness about the mission at hand.

I'm having trouble coming up with brands to look at, so here is a bunch of info that I hope you could use to make some store suggestions for me.

Materials: I love natural fabrics - cotton, linen, wool, leather, silk, cashmere, alpaca (the latter 3 not very often probably bc of price/availability)... I am willing to do manmade materials in blends but almost always walk away from something I love if it's more than 50% manmade fabric. I am, with some guilt, not very conscious of whether it's organic or fair trade, mostly because it would limit me too much and plus I tend to not spend that kind of money on my clothes. But I do buy some stuff like this and it is nice to have :-)

Budget: I tend to buy nicer stuff on sale with shirts that are around $15-30 and around $30-$50 for dresses/pants...but could splurge at under $100, for instance. I can see myself splurging at $100-200 on occasion, especially if something takes my breath away. These splurges don't come up often, when they do, they're usually dresses and important pieces.

Physique: I am short. I have a huge stomach and super skinny legs. Because of this, things that are loose around my stomach, but not loose around my legs look better on me. So a pencil skirt surprisingly looks better on me than an A-line, for instance. I wear a lot of dresses. I just discovered short rompers suit me a lot. Short skirts and shorts also look great. Crop tops and looser jeans do not. I have black hair, skin the color of tea with lots of cream (I'm not white), and brown eyes. Bigger chest. I am in my late 30's.

Weight considerations: I was hoping to have lost some weight post pregnancy, but haven't. I hope to now that my body just finished with a lot of the hormonal a result I like buying things that are looser fit sized mediums, because they look good now and will still fit if I lose the weight (30 pounds or so on a short frame). I'm not even thinking about "numbered clothing" yet.

Brands I do like to like to help you think of others I might like: I like the funkiness/quality/colorfulness in small doses of Anthropologie, especially if on sale. I was surprised that I like some of the cotton staples at H&M, because cheap and cotton and good enough for basics. I was also surprised to like J Crew/Banana Republic a lot, for their better quality natural fabric basics. Surprised because I consider J Crew/Banana Republic to be preppy/white, neither of which I am. I love All Saints (usually when on sale)- beautiful materials, elegant cuts with some funkiness.

Examples of brands I don't like: Lilly Pulitzer, Patagonia (why does everyone around me who can spend money on their clothes seem to have one of these for every member of their family - like if you want to spend more money, can't you do it more creatively? I'm not saying this sentiment is right, I'm sharing it to give you an idea of my personal preferences), Kate Spade, anything that has the name brand written across it.

Adjectives to describe my ideal style: Elegant, comfortable, a little funky and colorful. I would rather buy pieces I'll still feel great wearing years from now, in respect to style.

I am so proud of myself just for being able to spell out this many preferences and thoughts about clothing. I have a deep sense of self-neglect I've been working on for a long time, and it feels good just to write this post. Thank you so much if you've read this far.

If not clear, my question: What stores do you recommend that I shop at?

Bonus: What other steps can I take to redo my wardrobe/personal style?
posted by cacao to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I'd get a color analysis first thing, if you've never had one. I speak from experience: The benefits are dramatic.

You might like Lands End, which I find very colorful.
posted by jgirl at 3:11 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]

Nordstrom is starting their Anniversary sale next week, with access to cardholders begining 7/9 and non card holders beginning 7/15. They have just published the catalog and you can add things to a wishlist right now for quick shopping once the sale opens. Free shipping/returns if there's no store close to you. There are AllSaints options in the sale. There's also a midi pencil skirt, this year's variation that was a hit for a lot of people in past years (sadly didn't work for me).

Since you mentioned being short, on thing I've found helpful is to the figure out the brands where I do better in petite than regular sizes and vice versa (I'm 5'2" and curvy, esp post children), and what styles suit me better than others. (I do better with more body conscious styles than flowy things that tend to overwhelm me and make me feel frumpy) The petite section of the NAS is pathetic, but that's kind of common most places these days (sidebar: I noticed recently that white house black market is offering petites with free shipping/returns from their website, I haven't tried them but will keep them on my list for future reference).

If you google the NAS you'll find plenty of bloggers giving their opinions etc. in the coming days of what's worth purchasing.

I got a cute fun romper at Boden last year, although I had to have the vneck altered a bit to be less revealing. So that might be another brand option for you.

What other steps can I take to redo my wardrobe/personal style?
For me I found a fashion blogger/online community online community that resonated with me. These days I'm sure there are even more places online to find inspiration.

Lastly - now's a great time to make sure you're wearing the right size bra, it'll change everything. Lots of advice here in previous questions about how to go about doing that.

Have fun!
posted by snowymorninblues at 3:12 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]

Right now, surprisingly, Old Navy has a lot of summer stuff that would probably look great on you- look at their rompers and gauzy blouses and linen pants. I would suggest you do a big order and get things in 2 sizes to try on at home, and mail back the ones you don't want or return to the mall. And remember that Old Navy runs large so you may be a number size down from your usual - ie, if you usually wear a 14, an Old Navy 12 may fit.

I also suggest you consider your splurges by cost-per-wear. Spending $200 on a dress you wear twice means the dress cost $100 per wear. On the other hand, spending $400 on a pair of jeans that you wear twice a week for 2 years means the jeans only cost $2 per wear. So, I suggest you consider splurging on the everyday stuff - jeans, jacket, purse, statement necklace, glasses frames!!!, and your everyday comfy shoes. You can actually cheap-out more or go thrifting for formal wear and everyday tops like button up shirts - items where you only wear them every few weeks, and where having a really flattering colour is often enough to make the item work, even if the cut or fabric isn't perfect.

And think about a colour palette - do you look best in:
warm soft colours (brown, rust, peach with your neutral as brown),
or cool soft colours (baby blue, light pink, with your neutral as light grey),
or jewel tones (red, emerald, cobaly, with your neutral as black)
If you choose a general palette that you really like and stick to it, your clothes will coordinate more and it can be easier to create outfits.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:37 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]

You might find The Orange Swan Guide to Wardrobe Planning to be of some interest.
posted by orange swan at 4:09 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]

Universal Standard does elegant, colorful, sort of minimalist basics with nice quality fabrics. Most of their stuff is in your range when they have a sale.

They have really inclusive sizing and styling which I think makes them pretty unique.
posted by forkisbetter at 4:45 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]

One thing that helped me when I needed to come up with a more professional wardrobe was to use a clothing subscription service. Here is a recent article with a bunch of options. The one that worked best for me was Gwynnie Bee because it has plus sizes. The service allowed me to identify brands that I didn't know about- one that I specifically loved is Effie's Heart- they have a lot of fun patterns and dresses in cuts that fit me, and you might like them too. I think Boden is also a great brand for you- lots of fun prints and quality clothes, but best to buy on sale or with coupons- expensive if you do not. Some other brands: Made Well, Unique Boutique, and Modcloth- the last too have some hits and misses, but lots of cute, fun items like you said you like. Another option is to shop on Ebay and Posh Mark for used clothing of brands you don't want to pay full price for- like Anthropoligie.
posted by momochan at 5:13 PM on July 2

Oh and this video by Alexandra’s Girly Talk is amazing for thinking about the colours that suit you. With the way I’m picturing your colouring, you will likely look amazing in a bright medium blue and a bright vivid mauve or purple. Most people with tan skin and dark hair look incredible in those two colours, as you can see by the model choices the manufacturers chose. I’m not suggesting you buy this specific top as it’s mega synthetic, but you might find the colour and shape flattering.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:05 PM on July 2

Red Drummond has a similar body type and wears a lot of beautiful blousy boho tops In bright colours and longer lengths, and skinny jeans with boots. Often with contrasting jewellery, She shops at Soft Surroundings and Nanette Lepore. She has a line of walmart clothes, they aren’t as cute as her real clothes!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:12 PM on July 2

+1 to getting a bra fitting. Since you have just finished breast feeding you can now wear things that don’t need to account for another person’s head gaining access to your chest. In the past few years there has been a bit of an explosion of wire free bras that are still supportive, and other variations that may be important to you. A well fitted bra is the most important thing for wearing dresses and not looking frumpy, no matter the cut. They can also really help balance out a large stomach (trust me on this).

For closet staples and organic cotton, check out pact.
posted by Mizu at 6:14 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]

JJill doesn't skew young, but natural fabrics, and sizing that you'd like. You can get some nice items that fill gaps. I happened to hit a sale one time and got great tshirts with slightly interesting cut, nice pants, and it totally gave my wardrobe a lift. Their clothes are made well and have lasted, except I gained weight.

Try on everything you have, get rid of anything shabby, stained, torn. Make outfits, try to think about what you'd need to extend what you have. Add at least 2 outfits you love, get rid of the clunkers, and go from there.
posted by theora55 at 6:24 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]

Eileen Fisher has natural materials (including some organics), the loose-on-top/tapering bottom silhouette, and aims for socially-conscious business practices; found at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and Garnet Hill (full price and on sale). Look at the rest of the Garnet Hill catalogue, too, for natural materials and the full-over-tapered look -- get on the mailing list for coupons and sale notices, and check out the clearance section. (Also, post-partum, stomach size is not solely about weight: ask your doctor about diastasis recti. It's common in petite moms with closely-spaced pregnancies, and p/t helps a lot.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:07 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]

If you can, get an appointment with a Personal Stylist at Nordstrom. It’s free. Before your appointment, you’ll exchange emails where you tell her what you just told us, plus colors that work/don’t work for you, your size in specific brands, and your budget for the session (get a Nordstrom card, it can help pay for any needed alterations, which are free at a certain level of spend).
During your session, this lovely person will set you up in a dressing room already loaded with clothes. You try them on, let her see what you love, what doesn’t, and she’ll bring you MOAR clothes! Stylists have access to the whole store, all departments, and “stashes” in back rooms. I did this a couple of time while I was still working, and I still have several pieces fermo those sessions ten years ago! Have fune, it was awesome to figure out what really worked for me!
posted by dbmcd at 7:51 PM on July 2

Eileen Fisher also has Eileen Fisher Renew which seems a mix of returned and lightly used items at a pretty good discount. It has a better selection of colors than her current full-price stock IMO. I haven't actually bought from the Renew site yet but I will say I have EF silk camisoles that are mumbly-yrs old and still very wearable. And I bought the same dress twice from her store after inadvertently leaving the first behind on vacation.

For colors and patterns you may also want to look at Gundrun Sjoden Their overall trend is loose fitting artsy but you can size down for most stuff and Tshirts have normal fits. I've been using the tunics and shorter dresses over leggings and jeans, in lieu of sweaters and cardigans.

As to other issues to think about, consider accessories such as jewelry or scarves. These can often "fun up" solids and may be less expensive to switch out over seasons, giving you more money to spend on higher-quality basics. But if you have toddlers, may be not just yet....accessories can be grab points.

And how do you like your current hair cut? Your current tote bag? Your skin care and make up routine? Manicure colors? These also need kept fresh and stylish.
posted by beaning at 7:56 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]

Oh and this question from 2018 asking for colorful eco conscious clothing is very similar to yours! Just spot checking, most of the sites mentioned are still around.
posted by beaning at 8:00 PM on July 2

For your consideration of adding to your potential eventual splurge wishlist (it's on mine), I submit Flood Clothing.
posted by stormyteal at 12:29 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]

It might be helpful to figure out what your Kibbe body type is, because then you'll have a sort of baseline grasp on what cut of clothing looks best on your body. There are lots of Pinterest boards and YouTubers dedicated to Kibbe types!
posted by erattacorrige at 1:26 AM on July 3

I always reccomend COS, which is H&Ms more elegant brand. It's very good value for money, mostly natural materials, great cuts for all body-shapes, very comfortable. The dresses almost all have pockets!! What I also like is their colors are very good. I find that good colors are the hardest thing to find at a reasonable price.
posted by mumimor at 4:11 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]

Madewell is a good brand for tees in a range of colors, they have a slightly boxy fit and aren't overly long (I'm 5'1). You can find them at Nordstrom Rack.

I think the first order of business is a bra fitting, since clothes really do hang off the boobs.

Soma is a good spot for this. The last time I got fitted, the clerk had me put on a sports bra over my clothes with all sorts of sensors on it. Then the bra sent a signal to the clerk's iPad, and she brought me a range of styles to try on.

It was way less awkward than a typical fitting.
posted by champers at 4:37 AM on July 3

I also came to suggest COS. I have been pleased with the quality of their items and they have stylish, yet simple cuts in natural fabrics. I find the women's items do run large, so one should be mindful of length if you are on the shorter side. I've had success shopping the men's section as well for scarves, bags, and tops.
posted by fies at 8:28 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]

I get most of my clothing from consignment shops in wealthy neighborhoods. I have many high 3-figure pieces that I bought for under $40. If you can locate a shop or two like that in your area, it is worth going once a month to browse. Of course look for your preferred brands, but also look for high quality garments in general. This is easier if you do a brief study of how to identify better construction techniques and better quality fabrics.
posted by ananci at 8:32 AM on July 3

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