Revamping my wardrobe
May 9, 2008 12:31 AM   Subscribe

I want to revamp my wardrobe, but with a minimal amount of spending and hassle. How should I proceed?

I'm a guy in college. I've never been really concerned about my style, and have just gone shopping when I have been short on clothing. I'm now interested in revamping my wardrobe, since I'll be meeting a lot of new people over the course of the next year (through a summer internship and other activities) and want to make a good impression. I don't feel the need to blow anyone away with extravagant style and designer labels; I will be satisfied as long as I come across as well dressed. I'm going for a casual look. I don't have any dress codes to deal with; I usually wear stuff from Gap, H&M, and Express.

Here are my constraints:
- I have a limited budget.
- I dislike shopping and want to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.
- I don't pay attention to fashion and don't have much of a sense of style.
- I want a very low-maintenance wardrobe. I just want to be able to throw all my clothes in the washer and dryer, and do some ironing. I want to avoid flat drying, dry cleaning, hand washing, and other extra tasks.
- I have stylish friends who could help me shop, but I don't want to drag them around too much.

So, here are the specific things I'm wondering about:
- How do I put together a coherent, well-rounded wardrobe?
- Should I shop online?
- Are there any websites or other resources that give a good introduction to casual male dress for dummies? I just need a simple reference to let me know what's in style, what different clothes convey about me, and what fashion faux pas to look out for. Most websites/blogs I have come across are aimed at a more fashion-savvy audience, or discuss formal wear only.
posted by lunchbox to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know from your profile whether you are in the U.S., but since I am, this answer will be U.S. centric. For a young guy just starting out, with a limited budget, I would suggest spending an hour or two with a sales associate at your local JC Penney. You can certainly find enough affordable outfits to last a business week so you're only laundering once per week. Once you've been working for a few months and are rolling in the dough, you may want to upgrade your wardrobe again. Other department stores to consider then are Dillards, Kohl's, Nordstrom, and Macy's.

You can range from business casual polo shirts and pullovers, to crisp, clean white button downs. Khaki, navy and black are always safe colors for business pants. Avoid things like cargo pockets. Pleats usually help keep the look wrinkle-free.

The particular styles, colors, and brands you like are going to be entirely up to you, but all department stores have determined sales associates who will help you choose what feels and looks right in the mirror.
posted by netbros at 3:13 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you ever seen Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? I just checked out the website for the show, and they've collected tips from each of the show's experts here.

In your case, the relevant expert is their fashion guy, Carson Kressly.

Unfortunately, the tips they've posted seem pretty piecemeal. Worse yet, there are no graphics. It might be check out the show itself and fast-forward to Carson's segments.

Apparently, he also has a book out, which I haven't read, but looks to be quite a bit more comprehensive than what's on the website.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:19 AM on May 9, 2008

Did you read this recent AskMe already? I think you'll find useful stuff there. Also how much spending is "minimal"? Also, what's the climate like where you live?

For a general question like this, the standard stuff always applies: flat front pants (try to branch out from khaki as far as colors), great shoes/great watch/great belt, move away from button-down collars, maybe throw on a sport coat once in a while. But I get the feeling you're asking for people or a website that will just give you a bullet list of the exact clothes and colors to buy, so in that case more information is required.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 6:07 AM on May 9, 2008

Look around. When you see somebody who looks the way you want to look, make note of what they're wearing. Replicate that shirt & pants. Buy a good pair of shoes, and a couple pairs of good socks. Try to buy stuff that is interchangeable. By the time you have 3 or 4 new shirts/pants, you'll be on your way.
posted by theora55 at 6:36 AM on May 9, 2008

There's no good substitute for trying things on. If you order a bunch of stuff from catalogues that turns out to not fit great or not be very flattering, are you going to get around to returning it or are you just going to be crankier for spending money on ill-fitting or unflattering clothes?

I can't say that I advise putting yourself at the mercy of a salesperson. A lot of places just don't pay sales associates enough for them to invest time in your needs. And even if they are genuinely trying to be helpful (rather than just run up your tab), they still don't know you. If you're never going to wear it because it just doesn't suit you, it doesn't matter whether the sales person is correct that you look great.

Let your friends help you shop. Seriously. Faster, easier, more efficient, less of a chore than trying to figure it out yourself.
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on May 9, 2008

Telling you what to buy for casual wear is going to be a tedious exercise without you first telling us what style you're going for, what your size and body type is, and how much you want to spend.

1. Style: athletic/All-American? indie/hipster? preppy? something else? If you can point to photos, that helps
2. Size: tall and skinny? short and skinny? short and tubby? stocky and muscular? View this slideshow at GQ and tell us which body type is most similar to you.
3. Budget: $200? $500? $1000? Amount of money you can spend makes a big difference.

Should I shop online?
No. Online shopping is only efficient if you know what you want and what labels and size fits you. In your case, you need to go to stores and try stuff on to see what fits and works.

I have stylish friends who could help me shop, but I don't want to drag them around too much.
I'm sure your friends wouldn't think it's a burden at all. It's better to make it a trip with a few friends, guys and girls. That way they can rotate helping you out as you go from store to store.

I just need a simple reference to let me know what's in style, what different clothes convey about me, and what fashion faux pas to look out for.
Your initial reference is going to be whatever you see among friends and on the street that appeals to you. Since you're not interested in being fussy about how you look (not a bad thing, just not your priority), I wouldn't worry too much about what image you're conveying. You're not a stylish guy - nothing wrong with that. And with casual wear nowadays, the only rule that seems constant is that there is no rules.
posted by junesix at 8:08 AM on May 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers!

A couple of people asked for a few more details:

-I'm skinny and average height
-The amount of money I'm willing to spend depends on how much clothing I can get for it. But I can see myself spending $300-$500 in the next couple of weeks.
-Style: casual, mainstream college student, slightly preppy.
posted by lunchbox at 8:53 AM on May 9, 2008

Just a note on some earlier comments - I'd advise you, and everyone else, to stay away from pleated pants.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:18 AM on May 9, 2008

I just did a wardrobe revamp, and in my experience... it takes research.

Carson Kressley's got a couple of books out, and both are pretty good. Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man is good too. Check out fashion blogs on the web, including the Sartorialist. Check out all the previous AskMe threads on the subject. Spend a couple of days researching this as a project.

Then go spend your money. You won't pay attention to all the advice you read, but it'll give you the confidence you need to choose what's going to make you look good.
posted by MrVisible at 9:42 AM on May 9, 2008

There was a time that I dressed in a clean well kept boring style. Then I got married and stopped caring what everyone else thought. It was then that I learned this very important lesson, people who can "pull off a look" are the ones who pretty much stopped caring what other people think. (This advice also pertains to dancing.)

But from your previous questions, I sense you'd like something concrete that you can follow. So here are some tips to help guide you. Those who have truly stopped caring what people think will break every one of these ans still look great, but it's a good place to start.

1. Black or brown, pick a side and stick to it. It's an easy shortcut to knowing if an outfit that goes together if any combination of your clothes works out well. Most my shoes are brown or work well with brown pants. All my shirts look great with browns.

2. Buy clothes that fit well. When you put on a shirt, you shouldn't be able to stick a dictionary in there with you. The sleeves on a long sleeved shirt should come to your wrist when your elbow is bent at 90 degrees.

3. Buy a few distinctive shirts and wear them regularly. I'd say I have five or six shirts that people always complement and are way outside the comfort range of most men. I round that out simpler shirts in bright colors. The regular rotation of loud shirts keeps up the reputation of being a snappy dresser, but there's no need to be terribly distinctive every day.

I tend to shop at the same stores you list. There's no shortage of decent clothes out there. $300 should get you started pretty easily.

If anyone wants a shopping meetup in the Twin Cities area, MeFiMail and maybe I'll set something up.
posted by advicepig at 10:04 AM on May 9, 2008

A rule of thumb I like is: spend 75% on "convertible" wear-with-anything clothes and the remainder on "signature" items.
posted by rikatik at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2008

« Older Help me be more anal   |   Too Risky? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.