How to Build the Perfect Wardrobe That Is Stylish & Functional

Our top tips and must-have items for curating the ideal wardrobe that will last for years to come!

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This post will show you how to build a wardrobe, and which essentials you’ll need to get started!

Header image for how to build a wardrobe with text overlaid on photo of an organized closet

Would you like to curate the ideal wardrobe with pieces you’ll be able to wear for years to come? We’re here to help!

Whether you’re starting from scratch, looking to refresh your current wardrobe, or interested in trying out a capsule wardrobe, this guide will break down all of the essentials you need for a well-rounded wardrobe that is functional and stylish.

If you love fashion like we do, it can be easy falling into the “trend trap” of buying trendy clothing that you only end up wearing for a short period of time. And while we love trendy clothes, we know that the timeless, basic clothes are what end up lasting the longest. Plus, you’ll be caught up in feeling like you have “nothing to wear” if you entire closet is only filled with trendy items that come with expiration dates.

With this guide, you’ll feel like you actually have more to wear, with less items. And even if you pick up trendy items here or there, you’ll have a solid foundation of clothing to fall back on (and wear). So, without further ado, let’s get to building you the ideal wardrobe.

Tips for Building a Wardrobe

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When curating your wardrobe, consider these tips before you start shopping!

Define your personal style.

It’s super helpful to define your personal style before building your wardrobe.

Ask yourself: What type of message would you like to convey with your clothing? Do you prefer casual basics or elevated, chic pieces? Is there a style category you identify most with, like classic, edgy, preppy, or bohemian?

Give it some thought and try to nail down the personal style you have (or would like to have). I recommend checking out Pinterest for inspiration, and creating a “mood board” that encapsulates your dream style, and then looking for clothing that bridges the gap.

Think about your lifestyle.

In order for your wardrobe to be functional (which is the main goal!), you’ll need to consider your lifestyle and the kinds of activities you do day-to-day.

Do you love splurging on dressy pieces, but most days you’re just in class or at work? Think about the ways in which you spend the majority of your time, and direct your attention towards pieces that you’ll be able to actually wear on a daily basis, not just one-time wears.

Quality over quantity.

I know it’s easier to justify clothing purchases that are inexpensive, especially when it comes to trendy items. But we all know that these pieces often aren’t the best quality, and realistically, they won’t last in your closet for long.

Instead of being tempted by fast fashion sales, choose quality pieces instead. Clothing made from better and more durable materials will hold up much better over time and won’t fall apart in the wash, like cheaper items can.

One helpful way to decide if an item is worth the splurge is by calculating it’s Cost Per Wear (or CPW). Simply take the cost of an item and divide it by the number of times you think you’ll wear it. You may be surprised at the result, and you’ll be able to make a better decision on whether an item is worth purchasing or not.

Buy the right size.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve totally bought jeans that are too small for me, hoping that I’ll fit into them one day. And though this can sometimes be motivation for eating a healthier diet or keeping up with an exercise practice, this isn’t the best use of your money. The point is to be able to wear your clothing now!

When you’re investing in your wardrobe, try to be realistic about the sizes you buy, as well as the cuts of the clothing. An ultra-short crop top is a fun, trendy item to wear, but how much will you wear it five years from now? Think long-term, versus what is appealing only in the present moment.

Consider a color palette.

Mixing and matching your clothes will be a lot easier if you stick to a cohesive color palette.

For a capsule wardrobe or a base wardrobe, stock up on neutral clothing. Even if you love dressing colorfully, you’ll likely find that too many different colors in your wardrobe becomes difficult to make different outfits with. This is why sticking to a few main colors that can be mixed and matched is ideal, and neutrals are best for this.

Your Ultimate Wardrobe Shopping List

Now that we’ve gotten the ground rules out of the way, let’s get to the fun part: shopping! These are the items you’ll want to invest in for the ideal wardrobe.

Tops

Let’s start from the top and work our way down. These essential tops are going to give you endless styling possibilities for years to come.

White and Black T-Shirts

At the core of any functional wardrobe, you’ll find these two non-negotiables: a basic white and black t-shirt.

Think of these like blank canvases, just waiting to be styled however you desire, regardless of any fleeting trends. Dress them up, dress them down, wear them alone or add layers – the possibilities are endless.

Button-Down Shirt

What could be more timeless than a classic white button-down shirt?

This ageless item is a wardrobe building block, and if you invest in a quality button-down like this cotton poplin shirt, you’ll be able wear it for years to come. A button-down shirt is an especially great layering piece that looks fabulous under blazers and sweaters.

Neutral Sweater

You won’t regret adding a neutral-colored sweater to your wardrobe. Opt for a classic design, like this straight silhouette sweater with a mock neck (the perfect “in between” of a turtleneck and a crew neck).

A sweater like this can be worn with anything from jeans to dresses, and dressed up with a pretty necklace (worn over top).

Bottoms

You don’t need a ton of bottoms to make a variety of outfits. With the bottoms below, you’ll find that you have everything you need to style a look for just about every occasion.

Blue Jeans

A key component of the ideal wardrobe? Blue jeans, of course!

I don’t need to convince you on why jeans are one of the best clothing items to own, but when putting together your ideal wardrobe, I do suggest you make sure to get a pair in a medium blue wash with no rips. I love ripped jeans, but they aren’t suitable for every kind of occasion, so a pair without rips is going to be more versatile.

Also, a medium blue wash (as opposed to a light wash or dark blue wash) is the equivalent of a “neutral” color for denim, adding to their versatility. You’ll be able to wear any color with medium wash jeans, and they work in every season. The silhouette of these “mom fit” jeans falls in between skinny and straight-leg, for the most versatile look, too.

Dark Jeans

You’ll be reaching for a pair of dark wash or black jeans for years and years to come – they are a staple piece that can be styled a million different ways!

A dark black wash makes jeans appear dressier, making them ultra versatile and appropriate for a variety of settings.

Though straight-leg styles are the current trend, I’d suggest always having a pair of black skinny jeans in your wardrobe above all other styles. They work with every kind of shoe, including knee-high boots and rain boots, which aren’t as easy to wear with straight-leg styles. Black skinny jeans also give you a sleek, elongated shape that is always a good look!

Trouser Pants

A nice pair of trouser pants will always look polished, and are a must-have for dressier settings like the workplace. Opt for a pair with classic tailoring and an ankle-length hem, which can be worn in all seasons and with a variety of footwear (booties, pumps, flats, etc.).

Black Leggings

Black leggings are a total wardrobe staple. From working out to lounging around and everything in between, you’ll get a ton of wear out of black leggings with a high waist.

This pair is made from a blend of recycled materials and offers soft support.

Dresses and Skirts

A few functional (and pretty!) dresses can make a big impact within your wardrobe.

Little Black Dress (LBD)

A little black dress (a.k.a. an LBD) is a must-have! A black dress with a classic silhouette like a wrap dress will never go out of style, and is appropriate for so many different occasions. Not to mention wrap dresses are super flattering on the body, since they cinch your waist.

Dress it up with a pair of pumps, or keep it laid-back with flat sandals and a denim jacket; there are so many ways to style this! A dress with short sleeves is especially functional, since you can wear it in all seasons (simply add a sweater or jacket over top in chillier weather).

Floral Dress

Though a floral dress is not quite as versatile as an LBD, you’re sure to find yourself reaching for one during the spring and summer. Even in the fall, you’ll be able to throw a cardigan over top and wear it with tights and booties.

Satin Slip Dress

A satin slip dress that is midi length is another dress that you won’t regret adding to your closet. Silk or satin fabrics are perfect for dressier occasions, but you can also style this casually with booties and a sweater worn over top. The slip-style silhouette offers a beautiful, feminine look.

Outerwear

The right outerwear can make or break your outfit. These three classic options will earn you top style marks!

Denim Jacket

The ultimate casual jacket, a denim jacket will only get better with time and wear. Throw it on over your t-shirts, dresses, black jeans, and more for laid-back looks.

As with jeans, go for a medium denim wash to give you the most versatility.

Trench Coat

It doesn’t get more classic than a khaki belted trench coat. For decades, the chicest fashionistas have been wearing this piece to elevate their outfits, and this year, trenches happen to be a huge fashion trend.

Regardless of its trend status, though, you’ll want to wear this item forever.

Camel Long Coat

A long coat is the perfect piece to keep you warm while bringing your outfits together in a super chic way.

Invest in a black or neutral-colored coat (like beige or gray) in order to match the majority of your wardrobe. Look for a coat with a tie-belt waist for an especially flattering fit.

Shoes

An outfit would not be complete without the right shoes! These are the fundamental footwear that will round-out your wardrobe.

White Low-Top Sneakers

A pair of white low-top sneakers is a classic shoe that will keep you comfortable. These simple sneakers can be worn with everything from jeans to dresses to trousers, and their low-profile design is timeless.

Black Ankle Booties

Simple black ankle booties with a low heel will take you everywhere you need to go.

Look for a pair with a low to medium heel height (think between two and three inches tall) for the most wearability. You’ll be able to wear these day or night!

Neutral Flat Sandals

You’ll be surprised how often you’ll find yourself turning to a pair of neutral-colored flat sandals in the spring and summer.

They go with just about everything thanks to their neutral coloring and low-profile design, and they’re sure to become a go-to thanks to how easy they are to slip on and off.

What do you think of our guide for building a wardrobe?

Will you use these tips? Which items are your favorites? Leave a comment and let us know!

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