Have you ever stood in front of your closet, trying to choose an outfit, but nothing seems to work? After trying on three or four combinations, we grumble in frustration, “I have nothing to wear!” We have a closet filled with garments, most of which we bought for ourselves, but we still yell out, “I hate my clothes!” Is shopping for more clothes the answer?

If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to transform our closets and finally have a wardrobe that works.

Unfortunately, if you do a quick search on improving your wardrobe, most of what you see are reorganizing strategies. How to get the clothes you already have to fit nicely into your closet and dresser.

Shelving systems, drawer separators, and hanging sweater holders certainly make a closet look better, but they don’t do anything to make your clothes function better.

So, what really makes a wardrobe work?

Shopping on Purpose

The perfect wardrobe is one in which every single piece of clothing and pair of shoes fits you, flatters you, you like it, it’s relevant to your current lifestyle, and … here’s the kicker… it belongs to a complete outfit.

Incomplete outfits are the true source of most of our clothing problems. We would love to wear that dress, but we can’t because we don’t have shoes to match. That top would look great with those boots, but we don’t have the right kind of camisole to go under it.

Incomplete pieces like these (many of which still have the tags on!) fill our closets, making it appear as if we have options when we don’t.

The wardrobe mirage taunts us!

And we did it to ourselves! We bought these pieces, we brought them home, and perhaps we already knew they wouldn’t work. Why do we torture ourselves this way?

Because most of us shop for clothes backwards.

Shopping with the End in Mind


Think about how we shop for groceries. We look through what we already have and make a list of what we need. We think of the dinner plan, figure out which ingredients we already have, and fill in the gaps. This is shopping forward.

We often do the exact opposite when it comes to clothes.

We browse around for fun, just to see what there is. If we stumble upon something we like, we check if it looks good on us, check the price, and buy it.

Sometimes we stop to ask, “What would I wear it with?” That’s definitely a step in the right direction, but we’re still shopping backwards.

If we want to make our wardrobes work, we have to begin shopping for clothes “grocery style.” Here’s how …

Step 1

Sift through all of your clothes. Every time you come across something you haven’t worn in a while, and the only reason you cannot wear it is because you can’t complete the outfit, then hang it up on the far left of your closet.

If there is a different reason you haven’t worn it (maybe you’re still trying to lose those last 5 pounds?), hang it up on the far right. We will deal with those another day.

Step 2

Stand back and consider the big picture proportions. What percentage your wardrobe has actually been useful to you in the last year? How many garments are unwearable simply because they are incomplete? Where did these incomplete outfits come from in the first place?

Now that you have acknowledged where the dysfunction is truly coming from, you will know how to fix things.

Step 3

Make an Outfit Completer List. Scroll down to the end of this blog to find your FREE template! Think of each outfit as a recipe and write down the missing ingredients. What specific pieces would you have to buy in order to make those incomplete outfits wearable?

Step 4

Start shopping forward. Decide which outfit completer would help your wardrobe the most, and let the hunt begin! If you are going to a physical store, take the incomplete outfit with you!

Shopping Forward Guidelines

Be selective. If completing every outfit would over-stuff your wardrobe, then you’ll just be trading one problem for another. Decide which outfits are truly worth completing, and let the others go.

Be efficient. Whenever possible, aim for items that can complete more than one outfit.

Be patient. If those shoes aren’t exactly what you are looking for, don’t buy them. It’s okay to walk away with nothing and try another store next week. It’s not a waste of time, it’s wisdom!

Be focused. While you are on the hunt for that perfect camisole, don’t be distracted by all of the other colors that you do not need. Ignore the sales, ignore the deals, and focus on the goal: To make the garments that you already have wearable.

As you shop forward, on purpose, with a plan, the wearable portion of your closet will grow. Getting dressed will become easier and easier, and one day you will have a wardrobe that works!

If you are ready to completely transform your clothes, shoes, and accessories, check out the Home On Purpose Wardrobe Lesson Series.

Happy shopping!