6 tips for shopping your closet - une femme d'un certain âge

Shopping my closet & a new look with a favorite jacket

Susan Blakey wears a long navy jacket, striped sweater, boyfriend jeans and blue oxfords.

We’ve had several days of overcast, chilly weather, so I’m in sweaters and jackets again.

jacket (similar look) | top (similar) | bracelet | jeans | shoes (similar)

I purchased this navy jacket/topper in 2017 at a boutique in Venice, Italy. It’s from a Belgian brand, SCAPA. I fell in love with the longer cut and pleat detail in the back. It was a spendy piece, but the quality of fabric and construction is outstanding! It’s been languishing in my closet the last few seasons, so I decided to find new ways to wear it.

Above, I wore it during the same trip in 2017, in Paris. On the right, in Venice, CA later that year.

Finding a balance between consistency and novelty

I’ve been thinking lately about the balance between novelty and consistency when it comes to our wardrobes and style. While some of us admire and aspire to a style uniform (or at least a very well-defined and coherent style), others find it boring or unimaginative. (Ironically enough, it’s often people in “creative” occupations who adopt a style uniform, e.g. Anna Wintour and her sheath dresses.)

As I see it, most of us are somewhere on a continuum between “uniform” and “must wear something different every day.” I probably bounce around in the middle third of that continuum. I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel every time I get dressed, but need to shake things up periodically to keep from feeling stale.

Novelty is a stimulant of sorts. And novelty is good for our brains, boosting dopamine and memory retention. There are, of course, many ways to feed that need for novelty besides what we wear. Reading, travel, visiting museums, taking up a new hobby, learning a language, fresh flowers on the table…the list is infinite. But as this is a style blog 😉 I’m going to focus how to create novelty and variety in our wardrobes (without resorting to fast fashion).

6 steps to create variety (with what’s already in your closet)

Since my color and style consultation, I’ve become much more selective about what I add to my personal wardrobe*. There’s been some trial and error, and it’s still a work in progress. But I’ve managed to build a cohesive wardrobe that works for me. So at this point I’m aiming to “buy less, but better.” And I want to keep the “churn” in my wardrobe to a minimum.

Here are some tips that have helped me to create variety in my own wardrobe:

Know what you have

Go through your closet periodically (I try to do every 90-120 days) to take inventory and re-organize if necessary. Evaluate what you haven’t worn and why. (And then stop buying more of it…😆 )

Create a “playlist”

You may do this already if you live with a lot of seasonal fluctuation. If not, choose a “top 10, 20, 30, or ?…” for the next few weeks, and put the rest in a less prominent space. (You’ll see why…)

Experiment with combinations

Working from your “playlist,” see how you might combine and re-combine those pieces. I always advocate trying to create a cohesive wardrobe, which will make this much easier.

Play with accessories

Try different accessory combinations. I’ve found that sometimes just changing shoes and jewelry, or adding a scarf, can completely change the overall look of an outfit.

Wear it differently

Try a French tuck, roll up sleeves, cuff your jeans, wear a shirt dress as a duster, knot a shirt at the waist. Sometimes these little tweaks can open up new ways to wear a favorite piece.

Refresh your rotation

Every few weeks, swap a few pieces in and out of your “playlist.” Those pieces you add back will feel fresh and new again.

When you do shop, have a list of wardrobe “gaps” and look for those first. (Mine are summer-weight printed tops and dressier tops for going out.) And don’t buy more of what you already own multiples of (unless they are wearing out or no longer fit). But do be open to the occasional unique piece that fits your style and adds personality to your wardrobe.

*I am occasionally gifted pieces as part of collaborations with brands. I will always disclose if an item is gifted. Otherwise all clothes and accessories I include in my outfit posts are my own.

How do you balance novelty and consistency in your wardrobe?

Stay in touch.

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  1. Robyn
    April 26, 2021 / 4:01 am

    First, you do such a lovely job with your suggestions and ideas. I truly appreciate those who love to express creativity and novelty in their clothes and live vicariously through them. You, and so many others do it well. I do not. I attempted it for many years and failed. Limiting my wardrobe and finding a uniform helps reduce decision fatigue. Finding just the right formula is still a process though. I also have a weekly food uniform, but I do go wild on the weekends. Purchasing multiples is something I do frequently too. If I like something, more than likely it will be discontinued. One to wear one for a spare.

  2. Kelly
    April 26, 2021 / 4:35 am

    These are great tips! Balance for me comes from a style uniform with a couple new trendy pieces each year that fit the uniform. In Spring it’s cropped jeans (various styles), striped, patterned, or white tees and a topper of a denim jacket, cardigan, sweater blazer or utility jacket. You can make a hundred outfits out of 3 pair of jeans, 10 tees, and four toppers. I like your ideas of the playlist and bringing in items from your rotation and also changing looks by styling differently. Oh, and the accessory tip! White canvas sneakers give an outfit a totally different look than cognac slide sandals…I could go on but making myself stop now!

  3. Vivien
    April 26, 2021 / 5:29 am

    Great blog! So much fun shopping your closet and creating different looks! I crave variety-more so now I retired somehow. I added way more colour to my wardrobe in both garments and accessories. If you stick to your colour “season”, it is much easier to mix and match, I.e. pure hues with pure hues, shades with shades. I find a change in accessories makes a huge difference. I also found organizing my large closet by colour within type of item very helpful. Like your playlist concept!

  4. Kathryn
    April 26, 2021 / 6:03 am

    I am so happy to see this article and wish you would do many more of them. I am sure I am not alone in being concerned about the messages women receive encouraging us to “buy new, buy more” as clothing rejects end up in landfills. Thank you, Susan.

  5. Sue H
    April 26, 2021 / 6:42 am

    Great post, thanks for sharing. I would add, try bold new combinations. Many women want everything to match, so the key is to find pieces that *go together* but don’t match. Sometimes we just have to shake it up a little.

  6. Susan D.
    April 26, 2021 / 6:56 am

    I am not a clothes person and abhor shopping and find that my wardrobe is rather sad, especially after almost 14 months of the pandemic. I welcome your tips and suggestions Susan.

  7. Kathy
    April 26, 2021 / 7:59 am

    I so enjoy your blog and today’s Instagram video! You always look so chic.

    • Susan Blakey
      April 26, 2021 / 1:37 pm

      Thanks very much, Kathy!

  8. Anon
    April 26, 2021 / 8:19 am

    I find myself drawn to blazers, but who needs blazers, especially now?

    • Judy
      April 26, 2021 / 8:36 am

      Now that Spring is finally here, I’m looking forward to wearing my blazers. I think blazers jazz things up. I also bought a beautiful new silk scarf inspired by one of Susan’s posts.

  9. April 26, 2021 / 8:26 am

    These are great tips, Susan. It’s so easy to buy duplicates of things that “used to be” our workhorses. I’ve caught myself doing that and need to be more selective. I am crazy about that jacket!

  10. Eve
    April 26, 2021 / 10:30 am

    I live on the Gukf Coast where it gets hot early. Right now we are having perfect days but it will be 90 before you know it. It’s hard to find cool tops that give me the coverage I need at 78. I don’t wear sleeveless or thin, see through things. Without that third layer it can be difficult to look pulled together. I’ve found that something with a pattern or interest as in graphic, looks better than plain solid and tied in front can look cute.
    Which reminds me of a black blouse with white polka dots that I loved but it always just looked frumpy. One day I tied it at the waist and it had a different feel. Maybe we need to play with our clothes more. Love your shoes always.

  11. Joyce M Hodge
    April 26, 2021 / 11:50 am

    Susan, a great post with lots of food for thought. I am in the creative field and recognize now that I have been “high” on change and novelty. Without the whim of travel for change, shopping stepped up until awareness set in; it was becoming exhausting, too much “stuff” and too many decisions. The idea of a “uniform” based on high quality timeless pieces that suit my lifestyle has become my new mantra and it feels so much better. The beautiful jacket in your post directs attention to your individuality and elevates you without fanfair; the perfect accessory.

  12. Mary Alice
    April 26, 2021 / 1:41 pm

    Hi Susan,

    I am curious about the textile used in the jacket. Also is it lined? I am a seamstress and so I am always interested in the details of garments.

    • Susan Blakey
      April 26, 2021 / 2:13 pm

      Hi Mary Alice, the outside of the jacket is a beautiful tropical weight wool blend (96% wool, 4% elastane). The jacket is fully lined except for the pleated panel in the back.

  13. Lisa B
    April 26, 2021 / 2:40 pm

    So glad you featured that jacket! My husband bought the same for me when he was in Rome. I love mine too. Have worn it with a white v neck tee and white jeans. Just love it.

  14. Judy B
    April 26, 2021 / 4:43 pm

    Some excellent points to think about–all fresh ideas. I wouldn’t have thought about a playlist approach, but will try that—very creative! I really enjoy and appreciate these well-organized and thoughtful posts! Also liking the videos!

  15. Claudia
    April 26, 2021 / 5:05 pm

    So many good ideas! After 30 + years of professional life I certainly don’t need to shop, especially with the super casual office I am now working in. I often look at layouts in magazines and online for something fresh then recreate the look from my own “stuff”.
    But I must add… enough with the French tuck!

  16. Diane B
    April 26, 2021 / 7:07 pm

    Just a note. I used to be able to see your instagram snippits on the blog without being on instagram, but now I cannot see any of them. I do not do facebook or instagram unfortunately.

    • Susan Blakey
      April 26, 2021 / 7:18 pm

      Yes, the widget I was using stopped working a while back so I had to remove it. I’m working on a re-design that will show my Instagram posts on my home page. Hopefully will be done in a couple of weeks.

  17. Susan
    April 27, 2021 / 4:35 am

    I second the gratitude for a post on re-loving items. Reducing the impact clothing manufacturing and distribution has on our environment is so important.

    I’ll give the playlist idea a try! Another idea I’ve used to re-love items is to dye multiples of worn pieces. This year, I took two of my inventory of white cotton tee shirts and dyed each a different color with a good outcome. They seem like new tee shirts! My task now is to remember to wash them separately or by hand.

  18. Michelle Hamric
    April 27, 2021 / 6:53 am

    Thanks for outfit ideas for shopping our closets. I don’t know if some of these pictures are older or newer, but just wanted to say have much I love the short hair cut on you. It’s adorable and oh, so chic!!

    • Susan Blakey
      April 29, 2021 / 1:49 pm

      Thanks, Michelle. The photos with the pixie cut are from 2017.

  19. Kay
    April 27, 2021 / 2:49 pm

    Since my house burned down (California wild fires) I have had the “opportunity,” if you want to call it that, to build my wardrobe from scratch. At first, I just bought what I could get and needed right away. Now I am doing what you suggest here and trying to make a cohesive wardrobe without a bunch of extraneous junk. It’s a work in progress. (Shoes are the big problem for me. I had several I loved and wore often but cannot replace.)

    • Susan Blakey
      April 29, 2021 / 1:48 pm

      Kay, again I’m so sorry about your fire losses. I hope you’re able to find some replacement shoes that you like just as much.

  20. April 29, 2021 / 7:57 am

    Good jacket, good brand and very good renewed styling. Great with the fab green shoes. I had to laugh when I read “And stop buying more or it”. Guilty as charged. Like black trousers …aagghh.
    Let’s not talk about me and how I balance novelty and consistency haha. I am terrible.

    • Susan Blakey
      April 29, 2021 / 1:47 pm

      Thanks, Greetje. You do well re-mixing your wardrobe, I think.

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