How to Build a Thrifted Wardrobe


I moved back home to Hawaii about a year ago. I had been living in Portland, Oregon for four years, so my wardrobe wasn't exactly climate appropriate. I essentially did an entire wardrobe overhaul when I got back to Hawaii, and I think I've finally come to a point where I'm satisfied with what I've got going on in my closet. Of course it will always be changing, because I love thrifting, and I love clothes, and I can't be tamed. I will definitely continue to buy new things and recycle old things, but I now no longer feel like things are missing from my closet. I now very rarely have the panicky feeling of having nothing to wear. For a long time I thought having MORE clothes would eradicate that feeling, but it's really the careful selection of pieces that work together that bring the calm of always being dressed comfortably and confidently. I think being intentional about what you keep in your closet can actual remove some stress from your life, and if you can thrift those pieces, even better. If you're not totally interested in thrifting pieces for your wardrobe, I still think a few of these can be helpful. But if you want the bulk of your wardrobe to be secondhand, either because of money, or for the planet, or whatever, here are a few tips and tricks to building a wardrobe you'll love:

Get rid of all the crap you never wear.

Soooooo, this one is always hard for me, because I can really love something and never ever wear it. I have so many examples (and honestly some of them are still in my closet), but I try my best to weed things out as often as possible. Getting rid of things you don't wear does two things. First, it gives you a better idea of what you love and feel comfortable in. Again, you might like the way something looks, but never wear it. So while you appreciate it, it might not actually be your style. Getting rid of things like that, and seeing what's left gives you a better, less confusing foundation to work from. Second, this removes a lot of that "oh I have nothing to wear" mood. What happens before you clear all the crap out is you wear the clothing you actually like first. Then when it's in the hamper, but you still have a closet full of crap, you do that thing where you try on a bunch of stuff, but it all sucks, and then you get flustered and think "oh my gosh, I have nothing to wear." Just get rid of all that crap and do your laundry.

Figure Out What's Missing

Okay. Closet's been cleared out probably by about half or more. Now take a look at what's left. Use what's there to reflect on what your style actually is. Now...Is there anything missing? There's this idea that our wardrobe should have a foundation of "basics," but basics depend on who you are, what you do, and where you live. So while shorts may be a pretty regular necessity for me, maybe your closet needs more cold weather clothing. Figure out what pieces you don't have that would really add to what you do have. As an example, I realized early on last summer that I didn't have jeans that I liked or that fit properly. I didn't have enough tops I felt were appropriate for my new job, and I didn't have a pair of casual sandals that I knew I'd get very regular use in (if I owned them). So rather than blindly sifting through racks during shopping trips, those were all things I had on my mind at the thrift store.

Be patient and/or look online.

Patience is key when you're trying to thrift your wardrobe. You're not going to find every perfect piece the first time you hit up Goodwill. That said, thanks to the lovely internet, you can tailor your search. You can check Depop, Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, ThredUp, Etsy, or any other online platform for buying secondhand.

Make sure whatever you buy goes with what you have at home

If you can't wear it with what you already have on hand, you probably shouldn't buy it. I try to picture a top, for example, with at least three different types of bottoms in different colors that I have at home before I let myself buy it. For this reason, a lot of my closet is now white, black, gray and shades of blue. I have a lot of pattern, but all in those colors. And I have a lot of different shapes, but again, all in those colors. Even stand alone pieces like dresses or jumpsuits, you should think about alongside your existing shoes and jackets. Just don't buy something that you'd need to buy more clothes for. That's how things get out of hand.

This is a more extreme example, but I think it's related: My mom once bought a beautiful bird cage at a garage sale for $10. Killer deal, but then (I kid you not) we had to go to the pet store to buy birds for it. We had to buy birds. For the bird cage. Think about how ridiculous that is. And I get it. I get the thought process: you see the cage and you think Wow what an incredible piece. This would look so beautiful in the corner of my living room with two little lovebirds in it, chirping away. It's the same way I talked myself into a hot pink pleated mini skirt. I thought Wow this would look soooo good with like a black hoodie and some of those FentyxPuma Creepers. I did not have a black hoodie or those FentyxPuma creepers, so the skirt just collected dust in a dresser until I realized I was never going to wear it. So my advice to you is, no matter how beautiful the bird cage is, don't buy it if you don't have birds to put in it.

(To be fair to my mom, I don't know if maybe she'd been wanting birds, and then found the cage and used that as a reason to get the birds. I just remember thinking it was insane that we were buying a bird cage with no birds, and I like the story a lot.)

Hopefully this is somewhat helpful in your quest to build a wardrobe (thrifted or not), or gives you some ideas or inspiration. It's been a year of being in Hawaii, of cycling things in and out of my wardrobe, and I'm finally just so so happy with it. She's cute. She's curated. She's color coordinated. And best of all, she's mostly thrifted :)

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