Even though I already tried to get interested in clothing, it was a non-repeatable burst of motivation. I did it once every two years and bought everything I found, whether or not they fitted or were nice!
Consequently, I had trouble keeping a clean, efficient, and elegant wardrobe with no old, damaged, or ill-fitting clothes.
My goal was simple. I wanted to be seen (by myself first but obviously by others) as a well-dressed person and understand how everyday fashion works.
I gave myself two weeks (lol) to:
- Sort my clothes and get rid of (i.e., give or sell) the ones that are not good enough
- Learn to store all my clothes correctly and to take care of them
- List every clothes I keep and decide what I need (or want) to buy next.
- Craft my "style."
- If applicable, create a selection of stores (and related cloth size) to replace pieces from my wardrobe easily.
- Buy everything I can find right now.
Step 1: De-clutter like you are Marie Kondo
Like many projects, I needed to make room before finding new and better clothes.
In my case, I got nice outfits but also bad ones. Therefore, I could be well dressed, but only on special occasions.
From now on, I want to be "elegant by default."
James Clear taught us in Atomic Habits to break a bad habit by making it difficult, and thankfully, there is a straightforward way for fashion to do so: Get rid of every cloth that does not fit your ideal style.
At this point, I needed to know just enough to decide how I don't want to dress. I just took a walk in a busy street on the weekend and opened my eyes. I mentally took note of the people I found attractive and fashionable and what they were wearing.
Then, I emptied my closet's content on my bed and gone through every one of my clothes. Whenever I found a damaged, ill-fitted, or not good enough (does it sparks joy ?) piece, I put it in the bag.
I was a bit devastated since this step left me with only a few pieces!
I scrutinized the remaining clothes, washed the dirty ones, and iron the crumpled shirts and pants. I had to repeat this step after two weeks or so since some clothes went through the first sieve!
I did the same process for my shoes as they play an essential role in male fashion.
At this point, I had only clothes that I honestly think are elegant and fit my target style.
Step 2: Learn how to store your clothes
Now that I had only "good" clothes remaining, it would be a shame to store them improperly. Indeed, a big part of being well-dressed is to know what piece you have and to keep them in a good state as long as possible.
To do so, you have plenty of options, but I chose the "Marie Kondo's tidying" method. Full disclosure, I never read her book, but Youtube is full of videos on how to store your clothes properly.
In essence, the point of her method is to see all your clothes at once. In my case, the result is the following :
Yeaye! I only have the right clothes, appropriately stored so they last, and from which I can choose wisely since you see them all!
Step 3: List all my clothes and set my "goals"
This step might seem optional, but it was the one that helped me the most.
Once I selected all the pieces I wanted to keep, I created a spreadsheet that looks like this:
Once done, I could set my goals for every type of clothing and measure the amount of work remaining:
Once done, I remember thinking: "So that's it? That's all I need to do ?" For so many years, being seen as a well-dressed person seemed so far away, so inaccessible, that visualizing the low amount of work required made the experience deliciously surprising!
I understood that I was, in fact, two pants and three shirts away from my goal. It made me extremely happy!
The decluttering is done and my goal is clear. It's time for action!
Step 4: Craft your style
This step was terrifying, and probably the one that kept me very long from even trying.
After scratching my head and reading fashion blogs and magazines, I decided to think about everyday fashion. After a while, I converged on the following definition:
Everyday fashion is a consensus of the socio-professional group you want to belong to.
I consider that being well dressed is the same thing as being seen as well-dressed. Sure, you must be yourself, and it's what inside that count. But regarding fashion, it's all about appearance!
And since you can't satisfy everyone, you must choose the ones you want to see you as well-dressed. In my case, I picked the young start-uppers community. It's a simple yet sophisticated style where I identify myself. I am not saying it's the best style, just the one I want.
It was an epiphany. I was not lost in an infinite number of possibilities anymore. Now that I was sure about my target "style community," I only had a few looks to understand and, quite frankly, copy.
Nowadays, between Pinterest, Youtube, and Instagram, it's straightforward to find some sources of this consensus. After a couple of hours, I began to understand the basics of the look I wanted. The days after, I continued my journey with fashion Youtubers, and at the end of the week, I could sum up the style I wanted quite easily:
- White, light blue or black fitted shirts
- Raw jeans, black jeans, dark rolled-up "chinos"
- White sneakers, black sneaker, brown and black boots
With five shirts, three pairs of pants, and three pairs of shoes, you theoretically can create 45 unique looks! Way more than I needed with such a minimalist wardrobe. And I am not even considering coats and accessories.
I knew what I wanted to wear and how many pieces I needed. After years of procrastination, I was finally on the right path!
Step 5: create a selection of stores
If you are like me, you hate browsing for clothes in a physical store. They are hot, full of people, and since I am very tall, they never have the size I want.
To avoid this, I used the spreadsheet I created to find a common denominator for specific items.
In my case, I noticed that all my beautiful underwears came from H&M, and nearly all of my nice socks came from Celio. I already knew my size thanks to my spreadsheet, so I was just an internet order away from reaching my goal for two categories: Underwear and socks.
There were two more categories pretty easy to crack: Shirts and Jeans.
I already knew I wanted all my jeans to come from Levi's, and I heard my brother vent the merits of Café Coton for a long time. I took two lunch breaks to go to their stores and try as many sizes as possible, so I know what cut, fit, and size I could order later.
At this point, I already know where to find all my underwears, jeans, and shirts! It also helped me avoid the paradox of choice since my selection was limited to what these stores sold.
The more you will buy clothes, the more "go-to" brands you will have in your fashion belt. It will take a bit of time, but it's a "do once, use forever" thing.
I cracked many pieces of my wardrobe, and each time I tried something new, I could refine my shortlist of brands to make my life simpler!
Step 5: Buy now, return by default.
At this point, I had a tidy cupboard with only my best clothes. I know what is missing from my wardrobe and where to buy them. It's just a matter of time (and money) until I can call myself elegant by default.
I did several internet orders and made a deal with myself: If there is the tiniest doubt, return it. Since then, I might have received 20+ pieces and only kept 4 or 5.
Thanks to the Diderot effect, once I got quality clothes that I love more than my old ones, it's was a great motivation to continuously improve my style and wardrobe!
I would never have thought that I would write a guide to craft your perfect wardrobe!
But here I am, with a deeper understanding of fashion, better (but fewer) clothes, and a boosted confidence! I even surprised myself enjoying searching for specific pieces!
I am so glad I undertook this challenge. My look bothered me for most of my life, and it never "felt right" until today. Currently, I am still in the experimenting phase, and I try a lot of cloth (and get rid of more), but I am sure that by the end of this year, I will be enjoying my brand new wardrobe, proud of how I look.
Thanks to Nickie for your feedbacks! Your help as my style buddy was inestimable