Wardrobe Planning: A Basic Approach
Comfortable and flattering clothing that is appropriate for a variety of needs is an important part of our lives. Clothing provides comfort and protection, influences our acceptance by others, impacts relationships and the way we feel about ourselves, and is a source of enjoyment and recognition. Clothing also places a continual demand on family resources. In view of these implications, the effort to plan an adequate wardrobe is worthwhile. Selecting clothing can be challenging and fun.
Look in Your Closet
Someone once observed that women wear only 10 percent of the items in their closets 90 percent of the time! While you may claim a better record, most of us have stood in front of a closet full of clothes more than once and said, "I don't have a thing to wear!"
How can you have "a closet full" of clothes and nothing to wear? Perhaps the clothing in the closet no longer fits your body or lifestyle; maybe items are outdated or not suitable for a specific occasion. Probably some items were buying mistakes in the first place! Often the reason is we simply have a collection of garments, purchased to meet an immediate need, accumulated without adequate thought to an overall plan.
This publication encourages recognition of your clothing image and of meeting clothing needs at the least cost through good planning. A basic approach of self-analysis and application of design principles and a process for wardrobe management are outlined. Although this publication is addressed primarily to women, information sheets pertinent to other specific groups are available as supplements.
Understand Your Image
What do the clothes in your closet tell about you? How we think of ourselves and what we want others to think of us are reflected by the way we act and dress. Of all the signals we send out to others, the strongest indicator of who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to be is through clothing. This becomes our "image."
Women often have difficulty expressing a clear clothing image because roles and personalities sometimes differ. The sweet, feminine woman who loves to dress in frills and ruffles may need a more conservative and efficient office image. The tailored career person may want to dress differently for an afternoon gathering with close friends. It is important to remember you can express your inner personality through appropriate clothing, whatever the role or occasion.
Spending time to analyze why you dislike certain garments and why you look and feel better in some outfits, more so than others, will help in selecting good wardrobe pieces that will be worn time and again.
Think about these personalities and descriptions of the way that person might dress:
What kind of clothing do you like to wear? feminine sporty classic dramatic
Plan for Your Lifestyle
An adequate wardrobe means having enough clothes that are appropriate for your activities -- in social and physical situations. Because clothing needs parallel lifestyles, this is a good place to begin planning your wardrobe. What are the activities at which you spend your time, and what is acceptable dress for those activities in the area where you live?
To get a clear picture of your lifestyle and needs, fill in the form below; make additional entries if needed. Refer to this chart when you inventory your wardrobe. Check to see that you have at least one garment for each activity of your lifestyle and that the activities at which you spend the most time are the ones for which you have the most clothes.
Plan for Visual Illusions
Apparel that enhances and flatters you is vital to your having an adequate wardrobe. Few of us have a perfect, well-proportioned body, but clothing can help create that illusion. For problem figures, or figure problems, identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. Basic measurements are helpful, but even more important are body proportions when compared to the standard or ideal.
Figure types are usually categorized as tall/thin, tall/heavy, short/thin, short/heavy, and average, based on the cultural ideal for women of 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing between 120 to 135 pounds. The well-proportioned figure is visually balanced with half the body height above the hip and half below. Shoulder width should be the same or slightly wider than the hips; bust and hip circumferences measure the same, with waist 10" smaller, and waistline should be slightly lower than halfway between shoulders and bottom of the derriere. Other proportions to check are neck length, bust size and location, thigh and arm sizes, shape of tummy, shoulders, and back, and head position. You can judge your proportions with nothing more than a full-length mirror and an open mind. Try this exercise: Tie a string around your natural waistline and neckline then hold a yardstick vertically, touching shoulder and hip. Check its slant: Are the hips wider than the shoulders? If so, you will need to add width at the shoulder for balance. Hold the yardstick horizontally across the body at the hip/leg crease. Is half your total height above the stick and half below? If not, you may need to make the shorter half look longer, or vice versa. You can draw similar conclusions for other proportions and make selections, based on the principles that unbroken vertical lines add length and decrease width, and horizontal lines add width and decrease height.
Effects of Line
Line is the key for creating an illusion of a nearly perfect body, though color and texture can also help. Lines in garments are created through silhouette, construction details, trim, color, accessories, or other means. In making these comparisons, remember that nobody is perfect. Your purpose is to identify where or whether you may need to create visual illusions through clothing design. Note the influence of lines on these figures:
Consider Color in Your Plan
Knowledge of color and how to use color can work wonders for an individual and his or her wardrobe. Color has the power to enhance or detract from personal appearance, to lift or depress the spirit, and to carry messages to others. Color can coordinate the wardrobe and image in effective and economical ways.
Various color-analysis programs help identify your best colors, or you can learn to do it on your own. One popular program categorizes everyone as a "color season," depending on skin, hair, and eye colors; the program prescribes apparel colors accordingly. Others claim that anyone can wear any color -- it is a matter of how and where to wear it, and of the person and his or her clothing becoming a total, pleasing color scheme. Both approaches are based on influences colors have on each other; therefore, it is certainly worthwhile to know and understand color theory.
Generally, hues from the same color family as one's personal coloring will be most flattering. For example yellow, red orange, green, and their neutrals of brown beige will flatter persons with warm coloring, while blues, violets, blue greens, blue reds, and neutrals of gray or black will enhance persons with cool coloring.
An easy way to determine whether your personal coloring is warm (yellow) or cool (blue) is to try swatches of orange and magenta (a pink-purple color) next to your face. If your skin has yellow undertones, the orange swatch will be most flattering. If you have blue undertones, the magenta will bring color to your face and be most enhancing. As a starter, find your personal coloring in the following descriptions, which are typical of the major color seasons. Spend some time in front of a mirror, with good lighting, and try different colors from the chart to see which are most flattering to you.
Remember. Color can create visual illusions of body size, shape, and proportions. Dark, neutral colors make the figure appear smaller, while light, bright colors will make it appear larger. Remember, too, that colors you wear should enhance you physically and emotionally. Dark, subdued colors may be appropriate for your figure and personal coloring, but you may need the "lift" of bright and light accents.
Based on the chart and on trying different colors of fabric swatches to see their effects on my personal coloring, I believe my color season is _______________________, and my best colors are ______________________, _______________________, _______________________, _______________________, ________________________, and _______________________,
Overall, my best wardrobe neutrals include the following:
Consider What You Have
How would you like to open your closet and have everything in it match your fashion personality, your lifestyle, and your body type? Begin by taking a long, critical look at what you have. Take everything out of your closet and try it on; check for fit, suitability, design, and color according to your notes. Then sort all garments into three groups:
Take another look: at textures (too many polyesters, not enough silk?); at color (too many neutrals, not enough bright); at personality (too many tailored suits, not enough softness?). You may need more variation. You also need to look again at Group 1 and ask yourself why some items were not worn. Maybe they were mistakes in the first place, but evaluating could keep you from repeating the mistakes.
Plan on Paper
Now that you have charted your lifestyle, analyzed your figure, discovered your personal palette of color, and inventoried your closet, it is time to combine that knowledge and make your wardrobe plan. Begin by listing the items you plan to keep and their possible combinations, grouped by activity. Use the form below and make extra sheets. The same items may be listed under different activities, but note this in some way to indicate duplication. You may need separate lists for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.
Plan for Basics
You can find many ideas for developing a wardrobe. You may find the previous idea adequate with only a few additions, or you may see a need to begin replacing your current wardrobe with one that better fits your lifestyle and personal characteristics.
Time-tested plans for building a versatile wardrobe from a few basic pieces range from as few as "the basic 7" to 17 or more, not including accessories. The "cluster concept" using several groupings of five pieces works well for many people, especially for a travel wardrobe.
Putting together a basic wardrobe that is functional and attractive requires careful planning, but it can and does work for all members of the family. Recommended pieces for a larger plan are listed with an asterisk marking the "basic seven."
Suggestions for Basic Plan
Start with neutrals in your color family (white, navy, gray, black, or taupe for cool undertones; ivory, beige, camel, brown for warm). Always consider the effect of colors on figure size. Keep the basic items in two or three solid colors that coordinate, and add interest with extra patterned blouses and accessories. Expand with extra pieces suitable for the activity at which you spend the most time.
Other wardrobe suggestions include the following:
The final step is to make a spending plan and take action. Remember. Any fashion is only as good as it looks on you, and any garment is useful only if it meets your needs. Flattering clothing choices are available at all price levels. Your efforts in planning are rewarded by an enhanced image and the satisfaction of having spent your clothing dollars wisely.
Larkey, Jan. 1991. Flatter Your Figure. New York: Prentice Hall Press.
Pinckney, G., and Swenson, M. 1987. New Image for Women. Washington, DC: Acropolis Books Ltd.
Pooser, Doris. 1985. Always In Style With Color Me Beautiful. Washington, DC: Acropolis Books Ltd.
Rasband, Judith. 1996. Wardrobe Strategies for Women. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers.
Wallace, Joanne. 1983. Dress With Style. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co.
By Dr. Betty Fulwood Extension Textiles and Apparels Specialist.
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