Sunday, February 23

A Perfectly Curated Closet (Without Breaking The Bank)

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My closet is the summation of all my good intentions. There’s something about a perfectly curated closet that just feels grown-up. I’ve been meaning to get my wardrobe organized in a way that reflects fashion, functionality, and personal style for the better part of a decade, but haven’t succeeded.

Until now.

For most of the past 5 years, I’ve lived in the start-up uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and Converse sneakers. This barely changed when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. I favor practicality and comfort over style, with few exceptions. I don’t care for many colors, prints, or whatever is trendy, but sticking to the basics all the time does make me feel a little boring. I wanted to have a personal style that was actually personal, but that seemed impossible if I didn’t like to wear anything exciting.

Finding my fashion footing with The Curated Closet

When I asked Twitter how to create the wardrobe of my dreams, the one recommendation that came in over and over again was The Curated Closet by Anushcka Rees.

The Curated Closet

I ordered the book, and you weren’t kidding! The Curated Closet is basically a textbook on how to craft your personal style.

I had been expecting a light, airy read about shopping for your shape, but it delivered so much more than that. Instead, Rees encourages you to spend a lot of time investigating, researching, and practicing your personal style before you buy. Working my way through the book and my closet has become my primary hobby. Here’s how it works!

STEP 1: Find your style

Since the emphasis of The Curated Closet is on research before spending, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest crafting my personal style before I hit the mall. I should emphasize that we are heading into Fall-Winter in Canada, which had a tremendous effect on what I selected. I legit want it to be October forever, but the next best thing is that it is pretty much winter all the time, so I dress accordingly.

Here’s a snapshot of my fall/winter Pinterest board:

curated closet

The Curated Closet encourages you to buy clothes that fit your lifestyle. I created sub-boards on Pinterest to divide my outfits into work, weekend, and going out, but they surprisingly didn’t differ tremendously. I probably won’t wear distressed jeans to an office, but I’ll sport the same sweater in a meeting or brunch.

One big surprise for me: the thing I was most lacking was loungewear. I spend a lot of evenings and weekends in, just hanging out with my baby, but I don’t want to look frumpy as a mom. I carved out comfy but stylish house-and-errand wardrobe that I’m equally comfortable being seen in public in as I am getting smeared with mashed baby food. It was as simple as trading the leather leggings for cotton ones and swapping out the cashmere sweaters for cotton sweatshirts. Voila!

Turns out my style is a little more polished and personal than jeans and a t-shirt, so long as I add the right accessories. I am sexier and more stylish than I thought! Whether justified or not, I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for not being more adventurous with choosing more colors or prints in my wardrobe. Now I’m letting myself off the hook! Gray sweaters? I actually can’t have too many.

Once you have an idea of what your ideal wardrobe looks like, you can move on to the next step: figuring out how much it costs.

STEP 2: Price out your ideal wardrobe

Once you know what your personal style is, you can take stock of what you have and what you’re missing. Make a to-buy list of all the items you want to purchase, and then budget for each.

When you’re pricing out your curated closet shopping list, don’t put the most expensive item at the top. Instead,  you want to prioritize what purchases will produce the most outfits. This is how you get the most bang for your buck when building your wardrobe!

For example, black ankle boots were top on my list. These were versatile everyday footwear that would match pretty much everything. I picked up a pair for only $150 before I tackled anything else on my list. Unsurprisingly, I’ve gotten a ton of use out of them already! Here’s how some other things on my list looked:

  • wool coat $400
  • dark denim jeans $250
  • distressed denim jeans $175
  • 2x leather leggings $135 ea.
  • 3x white t-shirts $35 ea.
  • 2x grey oversized sweaters $60 ea.
  • delicate gold jewelry, various pieces $300 total
  • heeled brown boots $150

How you allocate the dollars of your clothing budget will depend a lot on how you will wear your items and your personal preferences. I knew some items I would need multiples of, like leather leggings. I also knew could make do with one pair now and buy more later. I also knew that while I wanted to splurge on designer denim, a basic white t-shirt can come from anywhere for cheap. As a result, my shopping list is a mix of high-end clothing items and bargain pieces, depending on their purpose in my overall look.

Once you budget a price for each item on your list, add up the total to give yourself an idea of how much it will cost to update your wardrobe. My total came in just under $3,000 or about $250 per month over the course of the year. This gave me a great guideline for what to buy, and how much I could spend each month without feeling guilty or breaking the bank.

STEP 3: Start saving to shop

Chances are you haven’t been putting money away each month for more than a year in order to splurge on your ideal wardrobe at exactly this moment. Which means you’re probably going to have to start saving and planning now, depending on how expensive your wish list is.

I’m generally a fan of setting up a dedicated savings account for any financial goal. Most no-fee banks let you have unlimited accounts at no cost, which means you can save your little heart out whenever the whim strikes. I’m still making use of both EQ Bank and Tangerine for all my savings goals, but any high-interest account will do the job.

If revamping your wardrobe doesn’t quite justify a formal savings strategy, you can do something simpler. For big-ticket wardrobe items (ie. those that will cost over $200), I’ve been setting up a dedicated goal in my Koho account. Koho lets me save a small amount each day until I meet my target. Then I add the cash to my spendable and use my Koho card to make my purchase, earning cash-back on the new addition to my closet, which I promptly allocate towards my next item. Which brings me to my next point.

STEP 4: Get cash-back on every purchase

If you’re going to go to the trouble of investing in your wardrobe, you might as well get that investment to pay a cash dividend. This is especially important if you’re buying big-ticket items.

I refuse to shop if I’m not getting cash back in some form. So I’ve hacked a number of ways to ensure that happens. I already mentioned Koho above, but since they only give 0.5% cash-back on purchases, I have a few extra hacks and alternatives to get more:

eBates

I buy virtually everything online, and part of the reason is that I can earn cash-back to do so. I often will go to a store in person to try on clothes and get a better idea of how things look and feel, but when it comes to actually buying, I almost always go virtual. eBates is a free website that gives you cash-back on your purchases simply from visiting eBates first then clicking through to your online store of choice. Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, it’s for real!

I’ve earned over $700 in cash-back since joining eBates a few years ago. Most stores only give 1-3% cash-back, but I’ve earned as much as 8% if I’m lucky to catch a special offer.

When you’re really excited about a purchase, it can suck not to get that immediate gratification of taking it home in a shopping bag. But as far as I’m concerned, a few extra days wait is worth extra dollars.

Retail Me Not

Once I’ve clicked through eBates and loaded my shopping cart, the next thing I do is check for any coupons. Retail Me Not is a website that does the work of bargain hunting for you. At least half of the time I’m able to find a discount code for 15% to 20% off my purchase.

When I can’t find anything on Retail Me Not, my other tactics include: abandoning my cart right before I enter payment info or signing up for their email newsletter. Usually, a store will send you a coupon for 10% off within 24hrs to try to get you to finish your purchase.

Cash-back credit cards

I rarely spend debit or cash because I like rewards for my spending. I already mentioned Koho being one of my spending cards of choice, but I also keep the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card in my wallet because I get 4x (or more!) the cash-back on my purchases than Koho offers.

When I combine eBates, Retail Me Not, and a cash-back credit card, I often get 20% or even 30% off my shopping cart total. When you’re building a wardrobe from scratch, that makes a big difference.

The Curated Closet purchased guilt-free

Spending money is not the same as saving it, but you need to wear clothes. You might as well get the ones you want!

Being strategic about the clothing purchases you make can help you save money on your wardrobe over the long term. By choosing clothing that is well made and fits your style, you increase its longevity in your closet. This means you will have to replace fewer items and you get more wear out of what you do buy.

Building your dream wardrobe can be expensive, so it will take time. I’m not expecting mine to be “complete” for 3 years! But I can say one thing: it sure is nice to wake up in the morning and always have something to wear. I also feel amazing in everything I do wear, which is a nice change.

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About Author

Student debt killer, super saver, and stock market addict. BSc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta, MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. CEO x 2 and MOM x 1. Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but hooked on travelling.

4 Comments

  1. I needed this! I’m getting set to go back to work after mat leave (and I’ve spent the last year wearing jeans and v-necks too) and so this was so helpful to read. I want to get a wardrobe that fits (which is so important right now), but I don’t want to spend a million dollars. Thank you for this post!

  2. Literally just put this book on hold from the library. I’ve been trying to do a whole wardrobe rehaul since doing the Kon Mari method a year and a half ago. I had TONS of thrifted and clothing swap clothes and things I got for free in my intense “paying down student debt” days and haven’t really put a ton of effort into updating my style in my 30s. After I get a new job, this will definitely be another focus of mine!