How To Upgrade Your Wardrobe, If You Feel Like It

I do go through phases with my wardrobe — do you? I feel like I am just now coming to the end of a phase. This phase could be characterized by: let’s buy a lot of inexpensive (i.e., thrifted and consigned) items, have fun playing with them, then recycle them to the thrifts.

There’s nothing bad about this approach. It has been a lot of fun, especially in my trip to NYC for which I packed very little and “lived” in items I acquired there in the amazing thrift stores. I have managed to keep my closets from getting too full, by using my one-in, one-out policy fairly strictly.

I don’t know what’s moved me, but I feel now like changing to a higher quality, lower-volume wardrobe. I am re-reading some of my favorite style books and blog articles on the topics of the well-curated wardrobe, the pared-down wardrobe, and the quality-over-quantity debate.

Here are some of the ideas sloshing around in my head, about how to upgrade and slim down my current closet. I reserve the right to change my mind! but I am having fun with this paradigm right now. Some changes I’d like to make are:

  • Better shoes and bags – it’s OK to thrift and consignment-shop these items, but I want very good quality and some personality in my shoes and bags.
These Faryl Robin shoes would add quality and personality!
  • Better accessories – watch, bracelet, earrings. I do want one very nice watch, a steel one for everyday that makes me smile when I look at it. One terrific cuff and a pair of  artisan earrings will fill this bill.
I like this watch, for example, by Citizens.
  • Tops in better knits and silk blends, in black, navy, ivory, and gray. I have bought lots of “cheapie” tops and they have disappointed me after a couple of washings. Time for upgrades!
A cashmere tee is luxurious and long-lasting.
  • Jeans that fit perfectly. This won’t be too hard, because I’m lucky to have a fairly standard-size lower body. But I often have “cheaped out” and purchased just-good-enough jeans. I really do want a great fitting pair that will upgrade my casual looks.
I am not judging myself, or any other woman who enjoys an inexpensive, eclectic closet. It’s just clothing, and should be fun, fulfilling and flattering. I am letting my pendulum swing, and enjoying the process. Have you made this journey? Are you in the midst of a pendulum swing right now?
(Visited 193 times, 1 visits today)



  1.  I couldn't agree more with your point about quality tops in neutral colors. Why are these so hard to find? I have one good one that I wear over and over and over. (But with the higher quality, better fit and neutral color, I can get away with it. Lesson learned!)

    I don't know if I"ll ever switch to limited, higher-quality jewelry. For me, funky, handcrafted "bridge" jewelry is the one area where I like infinite variety! It takes up less space than clothing, and you don't have to worry about perfect fit. It also helps me get more "looks" from fewer clothes.

  2. I tried to buy an expensive designer watch in the 1990's. I spent about 250.00 for me that was a lot of money. Well the dumb thing broke and could not be repaired. I was so mad because I thought I had bought good quality.
    So I am sticking with Seiko they are still ticking and not that bad to look at.
    Purses: I had bought a designer bag around the same time. A huge investment for me 500.00. Well stupid me I walked away from my cart at Costco and my purse was gone. The contents dumped into my cart but the purse gone. My policy now is no purse that costs over 200.00.
    Jeans I just spend money on the cheap ones and have them altered. No one has ever mentioned that my jeans are cheap but I have been complimented on the fit.
    Call me a debbie downer but some of the thrifters look so rediculous in their dated apparel. Somehow to my eye it just looks dowdy. However with that said every once in a while I see someone that does it right.
    So I am trying to buy items that are mid priced like Talbots and staying with my most flattering colors and fit. Yes sometimes I crave something less traditional in my wardrobe so that is when  I go cheap to try the look out. But I am with you I would rather have a smaller wardrobe but know that all the pieces work for me. I think if you are a smaller person you will have more luck finding things that are designer quality. Most Americans wear a size 12 or larger. So there will be more quality lesser worn pieces in the smaller sizes.

  3. It will be fun to watch your evolution.  Good for you for the discipline to do one in – one out.  Trying to get that one down!

  4. I can't ! I am a thrift addict! Maybe if i go to therapy, ha, ha, ha!
    Good for you if you took that decision, me i am having to much fun with crazy ready to explode closet

    Love you

    Ariane xxxxx

  5. At the moment I'm really careful with my money and I noticed that if I buy something I try to buy good quality because I want it to last for long long time. Before I would just spend my money  without concidering quality. A good pair of shoes elevates any outfit so it's a great way to upgrade a wardrobe.

  6. These are great items to upgrade with. I've also found it makes a huge difference to really buy quality coats. After all when it's cold that's the only thing people see! And I always feel a million times more stylish when I put my Michael Kors trench coat on.

  7. I agree with you.Nothing is wrong with finding a good deal but I know what you mean about quality vs. quantity.  I want some really good pair of trouser pants and blouses. I have to almost always alter my jeans because my waist is smaller than my thighs.  

  8. I'm always reminding people they can have jeans altered…why spend years searching for a mass-produced item that fits like a custom item, when you can actually have something customized!

  9. Great post. I can't thrift, I never have any luck, so I am all about basics from J. Crew (the quality at the Gap has gone down dramatically in the past 10 years), and accessories from Hermes. I love their scarves and Twillys.

  10. I'm finding that thrifting is allowing me to redefine my style. As I am (SLOWLY) losing weight I'm discovering what works and not. After years of avoiding structured fiteed clothing-I'm finding, even now, it works better for me. Six months ago you would have NEVER seen me in a fitted blouse, trousers and a jacket. Today it's totally different! 

  11. Oh my goodness!  I've had so much crap in my closet that I couldn't even find anything!  Now, I'm pared down so much……I mean REALLY pared down!  While most of my clothing is thrifted, I'm all about quality.  And I'm with you…shoes and purses need to be top notch.  I've done great thrifting fabulous shoes; but handbags, really not so much.  I'm still looking for that one great purse!  I always tell my sons, wear what they want and don't spend a lot.  But just make sure you've got great shoes and sunglasses.  I also got them each a really nice watch for Christmas and that seems to make things look really pulled together.  Hugs Patti!  ~Serene

  12. I'm definitely in a thrift it all sort of phase. I've just found a number of fabulous stores and am very excited by my numerous inexpensive purchases. I feel like I really need to push myself creatively these days, so the expensive quality pieces will have to wait until I'm in the mood.

    One thing I don't skimp on is jeans. I couldn't find a pair that looked good until I started buying high end jeans. Now I can't go back. Try J Brand. They're fantastic.

  13. I know this very feeling you describe, but I also remember that when I began blogging I was bored with my simple, but, dare I say, French, approach to style for work wear.  I am curious to know the name of a maker of silk tees.

  14. You can get the best of both worlds by thrifting the better quality lines!  It's such a thrill when you find a well-made designer dud for a great price.  For myself, I just like clothes that look "normal" but on closer inspection have a different print, texture or je ne sais quoi. 

  15. I've been there too, Patti–and I have found the "french" way works for me.  (how "french" it is remains to be seen)  One expensive item in an outfit.  It seems to upgrade the cheaper items and dosent break the bank!

  16.  omg, Megan, you are an angel! I just bought them, what a fabulous bargain!

  17. I do a little bit on both sides. I invest in really good unique shoes and clothes, but also fill in the gaps with thrifted and vintage finds. I think life is about discovery and finding oneself in everything is important. I switch up my style all the time, but really make a difference with the seasons. I'm trying to really reach a point of cohesive style, but I might just be too changeable for that.

    Also fyi for any size 9s out there, there's a pair of those faryl robins in navy on ebay for $12.50 here:

  18. Yup, Patti. I'm headed in your direction but am still in the ascending swing of my penchant for clashing patterns and colours. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the glow from any person who feels great in what he or she has on, conservative or outrageous. Have fun exploring this new chapter…

  19. I am still trying to focus on quality instead of quantity. "Trying" is the key word. I keep weeding stuff out that's not well-made, the right color, or a good fit, but then I buy a bunch more stuff to fill in some sort of mental gap. I guess the pendulum is swinging veeeerrrry slowly.

  20. I am a fine leather freak and will spend a ton of money on shoes and bags, though I don't have very many.  BTW, that is my everyday watch and I LOVE it.  

  21. I think I was born with expensive taste (  !  )….and I have always justified purchasing better quality as a better investment.  For me, that meant trying to find a good sale and buying less each season.  I do agree with you about purchasing better quality shoes.  I have always tried to buy good shoes and also take care of them. (take them to the cobbler for repairs, storing them in the box, etc.)  It has paid off; I have several pairs of shoes that are more than 20 years old and I can still wear them.  On the other hand I bought cute pair of trendy (cheap) ballet flats and I feel like I am wearing the cardboard box they came in!
    I think it is great that we are all continually evolving….no boredom here!

  22. I am realizing that I want jeans that fit really well and not just okay. They may be more expensive, but if I feel fantastic in them and get a lot of wear from them, then they are really worth it. I have put back things that did not fit quite right even though they might've been fantastic bargains.
    I have come to realize that the accessories I love the most and wear the most are my Yurman peices. Expensive, yes, but if I figured out what I have spent on a large number of less expensive items that are rarely worn, they would actually be less expensive per wear.
    It's only taken me 60 years to get to this point. Too bad I wasn't a quick learner, I could've had a couple more Yurman pieces.

  23. I so agree!  My wardrobe goes through phases as well.  The "have lots" of lower quality and thrifted does make it fun to mix and match; and for me I find I "save" my higher quality and am reluctant to wear (for some unknown reason). 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.