A reader asked about my shopping and wardrobe building strategies—instead of reinventing the wheel, I thought I’d rerun this post from June 2015 (with a few tweaks).
After I cleaned out my closet and made a short list of items that I need, I started to think about how I shop. More to the point, how is it that although I have a fashion site I don’t over-shop or have loads of things that I regret buying? Perhaps I can credit the few shopping rules that I’ve followed forever and swear by:
1. If I love something and KNOW that it’s a forever piece, I buy it immediately. Often, this is an item that I first saw on the runway, put on a list, and then asked for it’s delivery date.
2. Buy two identical items if I think I’ll be wearing them often (i.e. jeans, T-shirts, and cotton summer dresses).
3. Always buy one in black or grey.
4. On occasion, buy a fashion-forward item and wear it to death. Then give it away.
5. I don’t wait for the sales. I buy at the front end of the season, then I’m guaranteed to get the things I want. Sale is for those fun and unexpected items that make me feel like I’ve won the fashion lottery.
6. I shop heavily from resort and pre-fall, I find the best and most wearable pieces in these collections.
7. Shop online so things can be returned if I change my mind. I hate a “no return” or “store credit only” policy.
8. Buy basic evening and wear repeatedly by changing up the shoes and accessories. I wore a navy silk sheath to both of my daughters’ debutante balls with two different pairs of Valentino shoes and my good jewelry. No one noticed, wasn’t about me.
9. It’s all about the underpinnings — bras that fit and flatter, slips, camisoles, and tanks.
10. Tailoring and maintenance are key. Just about every piece of clothing I buy gets tweaked by my brilliant seamstress. I keep everything clean and maintained and ready to wear — no holes, stains, or loose buttons.
great shopping advice!
Brava Preston! That is such great advice, I’m going to print it out.
You are GOOD! I love #8. Regarding #9, what’s a petal?
Great list of shopping rules! I abide by all of them. My only addition is taking good care of shoes, a cobbler is as almost as important as a seamstress. Replace heels as needed, put rubber toppies on soles before wearing, etc, etc.
thank you, Preston
Great advice. I also agree with becoming acquainted with a cobbler for shoes, bags and other leather repairs.
Great list of “rules” for shopping. I have learned the hard way that it is best to buy one item that I really love at full price, that fits well and is versatile, than 3 litems on sale that are compromises.
Rubber on the soles is a must and has extended the wear of all of my shoes, especially Belgian loafers.
FABULOUS advice and I have learned so much from you! In my younger years I would hit the sales hard. I had a SA that would send me boxes of merchandise from NYC flagship store. I would keep most of it – it was such a “deal”. The pieces I planned for and bought early are my most loved pieces and forever pieces. The “deals” are mostly LONG gone. I sent a big box of ill fitted items to a consignment store this week. These are pieces I adored, but never fit correctly – mostly “deal” pieces. Why keep? Now I buy a few pieces also from resort or pre fall. And I eye sale only for pieces I wanted before and hit the “lottery” (this season the raw denim Chloe shorts), but may have missed full price.
do you have a seamstress that you would recommend in NY?
Excellent! I love this list of advice – very good points. Thank you!
Excellent advice. Do you have any advice on the best bras?
Just fabulous advice, as usual! Always buy one in black is my personal favorite!
Could recommend a good brand of petals?
Great advice, as always. Twice a year, in preparation for the warm and cold season, I take stock of my closet and the current feel of fashion at the time as well as what I think will be macro trends in the coming years. I challenge myself to adjust my eye (I think you use this phrase) and determine ways I can make small updates to my closet so it feels fresh but not carried away by a whole trend. I tend to update with accessories (less expensive), shoes (need to be replaced more frequently anyway) and minor tailoring or wearing things I own differently. And, quality over quantity- I buy fewer items and wear them into the ground. Some may prefer or require more variety, but if I love a piece I’ll wear it all the time.
All such good advice. I will say, that since I started following KiC and you, I have stopped impulse buys and consider each purchase much more carefully. The only thing (for me) is to really wear my stuff and not keep “saving” it for some occasion. When I do that, I often tire of it and don’t get enough use out of it, but you sort of covered that with #4.
Thank you for posting this. It is such a thoughtful list. It will help me as I clean out my closet(s). It’s time to re-think the wisdom of “deals” that always seem to end up in the giveaway box.
Great advice. I have lived by #’s 1, 5, 6, 8, and 10, and also believe in quality over quantity. Bottega has an in-house repair service for their bags. I needed it once, and they did a beautiful job. I would only add using The Laundress products for maintenance, and avoid dry cleaning at all cost.
I couldn’t agree with you more on tip #1. Anything that I buy immediately has to be something that will look just as fabulous to me as the day I first bought it. And tip #3 is great as well!
-The Office Stylist
Best bras,any advice??
Preston (and her readers), this is the kind of great counsel that keeps me coming back to the blog! Thank you all, and I agree with the “adds” about having a good cobbler, and using Laundress products to avoid the dry cleaner. I’d add: nurture a relationship with a great (50%+ share of sales) consignment store for the few mistakes that sneak in (I’ve had great experiences with The RealReal). Preston and Justina, I assume you are referring to breast petals, which give a smooth look under knits and sheers (noone answered Tori’s question)? If so, Nordstrom has a house brand of silicone petals and other lingerie accessories that are fabulous, washable, and come in a carrying case for travel.
Here is my suggestion to Margaret’s question regarding the bras – do try Eres. This is my go-to brand for lingerie and swimming suits. Since I discovered it I have never looked back.
The best advice I can give about bras is to be properly fitted. For years I thought that I was one size, but I was actually another. I use silicone petals under evening wear and white tunics.
Going to try The Laundress, thank you for recommending (again)!
Any chance you’d be willing to share the name of your brilliant seamstress in New York?
My brilliant seamstress, Veronica, is out in Locust Valley, sorry. I haven’t used anyone in the city in years. I’ll ask around for recommendations.
Just to add one social-conscious note to your wonderful list- know where your clothing comes from and how it was made! Loving a piece that you will wear forever is twice as great if you know it was made well in a socially conscious atmosphere…taking ownership of the whole process before putting on that terrific piece of clothing goes a long way …
I like your list very much, so much that I’d like to publish it on my own Blog and, if you don’t mind add a few things to it. May I? Of course I will write the source.
Love a good tip list! 11.30pm in Australia and now all I can think about it doing a big closet cull.
Wow, awesome list! Thanks for sharing.
Great tips and advice! Now just need a list of your must have items in your closet so we can do clean outs this summer! Thank you!
Great list. I think I do some of that and I really like that you’ve broken down the pieces that build up to smart shopping.
What’s your this-summer piece, if I may ask?
The Céline platforms are my spring fashion-forward item, even though they were from last fall. I’ve been wearing them with white jeans as I run around. The SS15 Céline tan ballerinas, too. Now that I think about it, I buy more runway (fashion statement) pieces in the fall.
Curious (if you do know yet) what your fashion forward fall item will be?
This is fantastic! Such a brilliant list – I think you’ve covered everything, Preston.
Zivile great advice and thanks Preston -good tip!
And yet another one of my favorite posts!!!! Thank you for such a excellent fashion wisdom!
Great list Preston and I love all the comments. Preston how do you realize you love something and it’s a forever piece? Is that feeling absolutely instant? I’m hearing a bit lately about certain classic things still having a use by date. That news may or may not be true but it struck fear into my heart. Can you please offer your guidance? Justine
Great article. However, unlike your #5 and 8, I often find great ‘forever’ basic pieces in the pre-sales along with great evening wear. I find that I buy fewer and fewer pieces at full price and what I buy at full price price are shoes, boots and handbags.
Fantastic list full of common sense as is everything you bring to us. When I shop I choose what I really adore and I have the 5 year test in my mind. Will I still love it in 5 years? Okay let’s go! That includes a skirt from Zara or my beloved camel coat from Celine from a few seasons back. I would say that half my closet is full of clothes that are at least 20 years old or older and I still adore every piece. Therefore I don’t shop that much but I’m into the care of my clothes and shoes in a huge way. I learned this from my mother. Her look was the Great American Sportswear look of the 70’s. Very Grace Mirabella when she was at the helm of American Vogue. Lots of John Anthony, Beene, Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, loads of denim and Ferragamo shoes and boots. These garments have now been passed to me and I wear them regularly so they require a great deal of care to last my lifetime. I do replace my cashmere sweaters, t shirts, and button downs and the rest when needed and buy things in 2’s and 3’s as you suggested. And as for sales, if I don’t want it at full price then I won’t want it at a discount.
Stopping by KiC is a daily must for me; I learn so much from you. Thank you, Preston. I also enjoy all the generous advise and comments from all your readers. I would love to see a post on a similar subject – tips & tricks about diet / lifestyle regimen and what rules do you offer to keep “fashionably” fit.
Preston’s list is one to live by and will help any woman build a wardrobe she adores and one that is for keeps! Like RTG, easily 90% of my closet is 10-15-20-25 years old. Casual, run around items turn over more quickly, but for everything else, I only buy things I love and that are meant to last, and with good care they do. This means you can’t change dress/pant size over the years, but what better motivation to stay fit? I take extremely good care of my clothing primarily because they are very difficult to replace, at any price. I apply the same philosophy to my closet as I do the rest of my home.
Would you happen to know of a brilliant seamstress in Manhattan , have yet to find one –
Great list. My addition would be not to save my favorite items for “special occasions.” I would rather wear a favorite piece many times, than save it, looking for the best occasion to try out for the first time.
I also buy at the beginning of the season, and use sales to stock up on basics( great time for leather items, jeans and tees) or over the top items I might not buy at full price.
Where I differ is with evening wear. I LOVE a printed long evening gown or a printed/beaded evening pant. I have a pair of pastel brocade Dries pants that have become my go to spring evening look. I don’t wear a lot of print( or much color) otherwise, almost never buy a printed top.
Your rules are literally perfect. You know, you should definitely write a book, your advice are always well-thought and clever x
Late response which may go unnoticed but I hope someone can address my query. What is wrong with drycleaning? I invest in quality items and look after my clothes – or so I’d thought… Many of my clothes are years old. I’m the same size and buy classic style. I’ve never noticed damage from drycleaning.
I am reading this post late. This advice is right on. Peppino Tailors in the low 60’s on Lexington is excellent. They are on the second floor above the old Gino’s restaurant (which is sadly now a cupcake shop). They deliver for free, are reasonably priced, have been in the business of tailoring for ages and are serious about their craft with an absence of pretension.
This is one of my favorite posts. Great advice and especially timely as the stores are transitioning merchandise.
Such great advice, and I love reading it again!
Preston, thank you so much! How often do you edit your closet? Quite a problem for me to let pieces go that need to go…
Great post. Got me thinking! I think an effective shopping strategy comes into play with a ‘settled’ personal style. For me it was impossible to resist impulse shopping when I was figuring out what to wear day to day. Now i wear variations on the same things daily and I re-stock these pieces in their variations (multiple black leather skirts, silk shirts) and then hero pieces that are my game changers when I find them. Only when I had my basics sorted could I be strategic – til then it was smash and grab! I shop almost exclusively in consignment shops so I get pieces that are trend-proof and have longevity – I see them context free.
Very practical post. While basics are often viewed as “boring”, a good basic is invaluable- and it can be very hard to find the right combo for fit, fabric, construction quality and style. The perfect white blouse is worth paying for. The same for the perfect fall/ winter dress coat.
One aspect that I am interested in is how much women spend on new clothes, shoes, accessories a year. Of course, this is income dependent but I would love to hear absolute numbers or percentage of annual income from readers of KIC.
Thank you for sharing.
Great tips! I definitely need to follow the one about buying doubles of your favourite pieces – I currently don’t wear most of my clothing because I’m afraid of ruining it and not being able to replace it!
| APRIL ROSE PENGILLY |
Great advice. Thanks for sharing!
so on point.
Still the very BEST advice!! Thank you for rerunning.
I saved this list from 2015 and it’s just as good, maybe even better, today. We came out of the pandemic eager to shop and this is a good reminder to buy what suits you and maintain it for the long haul.
As my internet was down all day yesterday ~ I win, what a treat reading your amazing post with over fifty suggestions from your fashion tribe!
Well said! I needed this lesson especially during the tempting summer sales going on right now. I would love to see a future post on underpinnings!
Preston, I have your original post saved since 2015. Has it really been 7 years??? Please post more of your older posts. All of your advice is still pertinent today…probably even more so! I especially enjoy reading all of your readers comments. You have some very loyal followers who have been with you for a long time. Summertime love,
Good post! I live on LI and in a town that borders LV; would you share your seamstress Veronica’s contact? Where did you stay in Italy? TY for this nice post.
Sonia, I believe Veronica retired a few years ago. I now go to Alteration Specialists in NYC. And, we stayed at the Villa Spalletti Trivelli, which we loved. Had an apartment-like suite in the villa with hotel services — perfection!
These are great suggestions, and some I already do (if I love it and wear it a lot, I’ll buy a ‘back up’ one).
Your comment about returns made me remember another piece of advice I received: Keep the tag on until you wear it. If you haven’t worn it after a couple of weeks, you probably never will. (special occasion items excepted).
I recently used this advice with a pair of really cute sandals I bought. Every time I started to put them on, I decided I’d rather wear something else. After a couple of weeks of this, I returned them, confident that this was the right choice.