Whether you're aiming for a small-scale wardrobe update or a head-to-toe overhaul, don't skip the all-important first step of taking stock of what you already have. Not only will it help you integrate new items strategically into your existing inventory, but your closet's current contents can also provide time- and money-saving insights into your style preferences.
That means it's time to make a mess. Don't just rifle through your closet; instead, clear some space and lay everything out so you can see it. If you have a hefty wardrobe, you might want to do this in batches; just be sure to keep similar items together.
The goal here is twofold: First, if you're going to maximize the versatility of your wardrobe, you need to see what you have. An all-occasion closet should include a few key staples -- for example, a great pair of jeans that you can dress up or down whether it's January or July. These staples should be stylish, but not trendy; you're aiming for longevity, not the runway. Even more importantly, they should fit. Even if an item isn't aligned with the style of the moment, if it fits well, it will always look good. Figure out what you have, and if you're low on the classics (think linen pants and sundresses), put them on the shopping list.
Second, dumping your clothing out onto your bed can help you reincorporate pieces you might have forgotten about. If your closet is jam-packed, you could easily overlook a great shirt or that perfect pair of linen pants you bought last season. Don't let your existing wardrobe go to waste.
Take this opportunity to clean out your closet as well. If your town endures summer temperatures that consistently hover above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) or your office doesn't have air conditioning, it's a safe bet that you won't need that cashmere sweater this summer. Pack up the items that you know you won't use for a while, and take this opportunity to throw away or donate items that are stained, fraying, or just don't fit.
Now that you know your starting point, it's time to figure out your destination. Read on for some tips on strategic (and painless) shopping.