Once you’ve gone through the basics and have a rough idea of what you’re looking for to start your wardrobe, where do you go next? The obvious answer is straight to your closet, of course! We are building a whole new wardrobe, after all.
But instead of rushing out, buying a thousand new pieces in the style you want to explore, and overhauling your wardrobe in one go, stop yourself. I know! I know! You’re so excited, and it’s so hard to control yourself… But trust me. You need to.
Step One: Look in your closet
Before you purchase anything at all- regardless of whether or not you have a budget and a plan- you need to take a peek at your current wardrobe first. But a mistake I’ve seen a lot of people make in this area is throwing out most- if not all- of their current wardrobe the second they look in their closet. This is a big don’t in my opinion.
Throwing out a significant portion of your clothing right off the bat means you have far less clothes to wear in general.- and having clothing options in the interim is important. What’s also important, is that everything in your closet right now is safe. They are likely clothes that you are comfortable in, which you’ve owned for a while. And when you redesign your wardrobe to fit a new style, it often comes with a confidence hurdle that you have to get over. Keeping safe clothing around does a lot to help ease that transition emotionally and in terms of self confidence and self image.
Furthermore? Believe it or not, most people will have at least a few things in their wardrobe that go well enough with various Vintage styles; things like plain colored T-Shirts, spaghetti straps, waist belts, certain pairs of shoes, skinny jeans, and a few other items can be used in a beginning Vintage wardrobe without much effort.
Instead of throwing everything away, look over them with a closer eye and try to find pieces you think would go well enough with the Vintage look you’re trying to achieve. If you have anything at all that you think looks like it would go with the era or trends that you have picked for your Vintage wardrobe? Keep these around.
Looking over your clothes like this before buying anything means you (hopefully) eliminate some basic items, reducing the financial strain of rebuilding a wardrobe from scratch.
Step Two: Make a Plan
If you didn’t skip the research steps, you should already have a rough idea of what you want before you get to this point. But you also need to have a rough idea of the budget that you have for a new wardrobe- and a plan for tackling the purchase of the items you want to have; I really cannot stress how important having a game plan and budget is in the beginning.
Keeping in mind the clothes you hopefully found in your closet… What colors do you want to add? What patterns? What styles? What other items do you need to have a complete wardrobe? How are you going to get them? Are you going to purchase one new piece a moth? A piece every week? How much can you spend on clothes at any given time? These are integral questions to ask yourself well before you ever start adding new items to your closet.
Additionally, if you want the most bang for your buck, pieces you buy should also have at least one or two common elements between them so they can be swapped around and interchanged with one another; building your wardrobe with a conscious mind as to how pieces compliment one another allows for interchangeably. So instead of having 7 basic items with which you can create only a handful of outfits? You have greatly increased your outfit options with limited items.
This is why planning ahead of time is so incredibly important to a successful wardrobe rebuild.
Step Three: Start with the basics!
Once you have all the details sorted out, you can start purchasing pieces to try. My suggestion is to start small, with basic items in your chosen style… And when I say basic items, I mean basic items: items which are practical, everyday wear- ignoring things like foundation garments, overcoats, accessories and similar items; these items are negligible in many ways and modern substitutions will work well enough for a person who is just starting out- especially since the style of many of these changed somewhat drastically from one era to the next.
Ergo, things such as coats and stoles (unless necessary for Winter or colder climates), stockings and garters, the appropriate bras, shapewear, corsets, and so on can be invested in later- after you have explored a bit and have finally settled on the Vintage style that you like. In fact, the only type of undergarments that I really believe you need to invest in right off the bat are a half slip and a full slip. Other than those, I recommend sticking to the basic external wardrobe items.
But what are the basic external wardrobe items? According to Fashion on the Ration– a wonderfully detailed historical account of Pre, Wartime, and Post War WWII fashion:
“the average wardrobe of a middle class (British) Woman would have consisted of seven Dresses, two Two-Piece Suits, a similar number of Skirts, three Overcoats, one Mackintosh (an oiled, waterproof body covering), and five or six pairs of Shoes- all split between the seasons; while a poor (British) Woman might have only three Dresses, one Skirt, one or two Overcoats, and one or two pairs of Shoes“.
As a result, I would recommend investing in the following items for a starter wardrobe: 1 or 2 pairs of neutral colored (Black and / or Brown) shoes, 3 to 4 blouses, 2 skirts, 1 pair of pants and 1 pair of shorts (if either were worn in the era you chose, if not then substitute other items of your choice), and 1 or 2 dresses.
Other people will certainly have different ideas of what constitutes “basic items”, and that is fine. But to me, this outline gives you a varied enough beginning wardrobe that you can get a decent feel of how you feel in the styles of that era- and it does so without breaking your budget too badly.
Building a brand new wardrobe from scratch takes a lot of time, effort, and money. This is true no matter how savvy you are about your shopping, or whether or not you know all the great places to look- and know how to find all the best deals. You can very easily wind up spending way more than you want for pieces that you’ll end up never wearing- or end up with a wardrobe full of pieces you don’t have anything to go with.
I know, because I did this when I was first starting out. It’s a horrible spot to be in, and can quickly wind up turning your new wardrobe into nothing but a fancy a money sink. Phase two is designed to help you avoid that. So take a deep breath and hold onto your knickers. You’ll get there, but you need to be smart about it.