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Tips for shopping in your own wardrobe: knowing what clothes you already own 

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

how to shop in your own wardrobe image

I am a great believer in shopping in your own wardrobe before investing in anything new.  I have friends who often compliment me on what I’m wearing and are clearly surprised when I say I have had the items making up my outfit for decades. In fact they have asked me to help them ‘shop in their own wardrobes’ and we’ve had great fun doing it.  But before you can start ‘shopping’ to have to be fully aware of what items you possess to choose from.

I have to confess to being a bit of a hoarder when it comes to clothes. And like everyone else I had items lurking in the back of the wardrobe that have not seen the light of day for years! In decided to tackle my overflowing wardrobe, in part because I am about to put my house on the market to move, and also because I found myself wearing such a small proportion of my clothes – I genuinely wanted to see what hidden gems I had hidden away and forgotten about.

I decided to try everything on and determine what I would keep, what I would sell and what items I would donate to charity. I would also try things on in different combinations creating a whole new set of ‘looks’.


The things you will need to start shopping in your own wardrobe

To try on all the items in my wardrobe I armed myself with:

One pair of black trousers

A white vest top

One pair of heels

One pair of flats (could be trainers but the laces make them fiddly)

One set of shoulder pads

Two belts- one wide and one narrow

A temporary hanging rail

I set myself a mission to literally empty my wardrobe , which built into the eaves of my house had become unmanageable!


Get yourself ready

We all know how much better clothes look when you look in the mirror with your hair and make up done – so get ready. Treat the exercise as though you are out shopping with a friend. In fact you could even have a friend join you.

Don’t worry about when you last wore it or how long ago you bought it. Be open minded. As I removed some items from my wardrobe they were obvious rejects – but everything else I tried on with other things I hadn’t tried them with before.

Be creative – try blazers with jeans and dresses,  if you have suits that you wore for work split them- how can the jackets work for a more casual look? Try belting dresses differently . Layer things in ways that you hadn’t previously considered – I have a couple of fabulous dresses in fabrics that I love – but they are now too low cut for me – my shape has changed in the last twenty years, but by layering them with a broderie anglaise top or bright lightweight knit they make great summer skirts.

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Similarly with other dresses I layered them with a white t-shirt under or sweater over to wear differently and create more options for everyday looks.

I found some gems – a lovely black and white Agnes B blouse, a Ted Baker white shirt with a ruffle front, some Thierry Mugler floaty trousers which I used to only wear on holiday but as a result of this exercise  discovered  a number of other tops which could be worn with them, making them more versatile, and saw lots of possibilities in terms of different combinations with many of the other items.

I also discovered that I own so many white shirts that I should never need to buy another one!!

Fall in love with your clothes again

I have fallen in love with my clothes all over again – including one or two things that I bought in my 20s!!

If you follow me on Instagram I have already  shared some of the new ‘looks’ and will continue to do so – I have to find ways to wear all of those white shirts!!

One of the reasons that this exercise has worked for me, is that I have mostly only bought clothes that I truly loved. I have also always paid attention to how things fit and hang on the body. My grandfather was a tailor – when I was a child he didn’t play games with me, but  he would talk about how clothes were cut, seams finished, buttonholes made. I think part of what he taught me has always stayed with me.

As much as I love clothes, I have never really been a follower of fashion. I have tended to buy in small independent stores, both at home and abroad – and I have some great holiday market finds.  My philosophy when it comes to buying clothes is that they have to meet the following criteria:

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Does it Fit and Flatter?

Does the colour flatter your skin tone and is the pattern in proportion to your bodyshape?

Does it Highlight your ‘Best Bits’

Cost per Wear

At least 3 Ways to Wear It?

Does it make you Feel FABULOUS?


Only buy if you can tick all of the boxes.

The same should apply when trying on items you already have in your wardrobe – although as you already own it the ‘cost per wear’ isn’t as crucial.

Benefits of shopping in your own wardrobe

The benefit of really understanding exactly what you already have in your own wardrobe, will enable you to identify any gaps, so when you do want to make a new purchase you can invest in clothes and accessories that fill those gaps – and increase the versatility of what you already own.

In my own case I know that I really don’t need to buy any more white shirts or little black dresses- but if I want to indulge I am better off buying a fabulous handbag.

It took me several afternoons to go through all the clothes in my main wardrobe, and finishing it was quite a relief! Be warned – the bedroom can get very messy as you go through the process, but personally I have never been so on top of what I have hanging in it!

shopping in my wardrobe over 50 image

I have decided to store some of my clothes better suited to other seasons and so have ordered hanging wardrobe boxes from Amazon





Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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