The Elastic Wardrobe (Part 1): The Mom's Key to Closet Sanity

The Mom's key to closet sanity! Check out the series on "Now THAT I Can Do, Momma!" to get walked through the steps to reshaping your wardrobe on a budget. Makes it easy for moms to find something to wear each morning.

Do you enjoy shopping but end up frustrated when you don’t get much or any use out of that blouse or skirt you  bought?

Do you have a ton of clothes that just don’t seem to work together?

Do you wish it wasn’t so hard to come up with outfit combinations?

I think it’s pretty common to collect many articles of clothing over the years, expecting to finally arrive at the complete wardrobe, but never quite reaching that goal. We quickly get bored of our go-to outfits and add “new t-shirt” or “new pants” to our mental shopping list. Multiply that by the many “seasons of size” we mommies experience between, during, and after pregnancies and the closet chaos really takes on ginormous proportions! Am I right?!

The wrong clothes in our closets only brings us guilt every time we scan our hangers looking for something to wear. So many things are just sitting there never getting used! What a waste. But we feel the need to keep them in hopes that someday they will work. We might even buy things hoping that someday they will work. 

A dysfunctional wardrobe also clutters our minds and makes it daunting and frustrating to come up with what to wear each day. We might be looking at 15, 20, or 30 tops hanging there when over and over again we reach for the 2 or 3 that "work."

It's been an ongoing problem for me. Although to the observing world I might have a pretty versatile wardrobe, the amount of waste going on is quite tragic. And that’s why I’ve decided something had to change.

Enter: the “Elastic Wardrobe.” It’s the name I’ve assigned to a movement that has gained popularity over the last few years. And I believe it’s the key to creating a wardrobe that work FOR you, Momma, instead of against you.

Before I explain what an elastic wardrobe is, let me just say that I am currently on the learning journey with you! As I write this post, I am just starting to put it into practice in my own closet. I am not an expert and I have not arrived. But I want to transform this area of my life so I'm doing lots of research and practice to make that happen. I'm discovering some pretty epic stuff! I want to share it all with you as I do so that together we can get rid of the frustration surrounding our wardrobes as mommies. (Pssst... One of the ways I'm keeping this journey transparent is by sharing my monthly budget and purchases with you at the end of each month. Check out the first report here.)

OKAY. Let's dive in!

What an elastic wardrobe IS NOT:

A capsule wardrobe. At least not in the traditional sense. (I do capsule wardrobes on this blog, but differently than most-- I simply see them as a way to further organize your larger wardrobe into a smaller subdivision for a season of life. You can read more about that concept under "Juicy Details" here.)  An elastic wardrobe is not about owning a small amount of items. Although it may be some mamas' preference to maintain a minimalist closet, it's not a requirement. An elastic wardrobe aimed at creating flexibility and interchangeability from the items in your closet. 

Starting from scratch. To create an elastic wardrobe, you start with the best items in your current wardrobe. You are maximizing your closet, not throwing it aside.

A collection of clothes made from spandex. Although spandex pants and elastic waistbands sounded like Heaven after giving birth to my firstborn, that is not what I'm talking about here—haha! I call it "elastic" because it adapts to your daily needs rather than complicating them. It has nothing to do with the fabric. 

What an elastic wardrobe IS:

A set of items with ultimate versatility. 

The kinds of items a mom wants renting space in her closet are those that will get along with the others. If a top only goes with one or two of your pants/skirts, you'll get bored of the outfit combinations very fast and end up leaving it hanging in your closet after wearing a it a couple of times. Because of its low value, that top should not be taking up space in your wardrobe and cluttering your vision when you scan your clothes for something to wear in the morning.

I have one such top (which will be exiting my wardrobe shortly) that I bought when I used to think adding variety of color was THE SECRET to creating versatility. How wrong I was. I'll get to that soon. This shirt has whites and blues in a cool swirly paisley design that (somehow) combined with a bright orange on the sleeve hem and bottom banded hem. It's a pretty shirt and just shouts "summer." I didn't have any orange in my wardrobe so I bought it.

Repeat: I didn't have any other orange in my wardrobe. That means I didn't have many complimentary colors for orange either. The only bottoms it went with were my white or denim shorts. And it didn't convert well into a winter shirt— it only combined with 1 scarf and 1 blazer. That's one outfit. Guess what, after wearing it that way a very few times it was boring. So did I add variety to my wardrobe? Nope. I simply added one more top, one more outfit. That was it. Cute or not, that shirt is not worth the space it's taking up in my dresser. It was too unique and not adaptable enough.

I could give you many more examples. But to avoid boring you and embarrassing myself too much, I will desist. 

Bottom line: no matter how cute a pair of pants, a skirt, a scarf, or a top is, it only deserves closet real estate if it is capable of matching up with several other items already in your wardrobe. And I mean 5 + other items (the more the better). This means that before sliding your card at the store (or online), you want every item to check off the following criteria:

  • Color
    • Is this item (skirt, top, pants, dress, accessory, or pair of shoes) within my color palette (more about choosing your color palette in Part 2).
  • Fabric
    • Does this texture work with other textures already in my closet? (For example, I have a brown corduroy skirt that I've had an impossible time combining with tops in my closet; it's not because of the color, it's because of the fabric.) 
  • Adaptability
    • Tops: Will this top tuck in neatly, go well belted at the waist, or fit under a cardigan/blazer/jacket? If you like knotting your t-shirts, that's another criterion to consider.
    • Bottoms: Can this pant roll up into a cropped version, can it be worn with a belt and with a shirt tucked, etc? Can this skirt be worn with flats/sandals or boots (hot or cold weather)? Can I dress it up with heels and jewelry or dress it down with a t-shirt? Can I tuck a shirt in, leave a blouse out, or belt it? (Note: belting a skirt doesn't require loops—just use a wide belt. Or add temporary loops with this easy tutorial.) 
    • Dresses: Can I wear it in hot or cold weather (with boots or sandals, with a denim jacket or without, etc.)? Does it go well with a cardigan? Can I wear a shirt or blouse over it for a different look? Does it go with leggings?
    • Shoes: Do these flats look good under flared jeans? What about skinny pants? Skirts? Can the boots go over skinny pants or with a dress? Can they be exposed to moisture?

A focus on fit and “love it” value.

An elastic wardrobe needs to only hold items that fit you correctly. Shoulder seams sit at the shoulder, t-shirt hems end above the crotch, pants don't bunch up at the bottom, etc. If it doesn't flatter your body, you probably won't enjoy wearing it and it's wasting space in your closet. 

Also, if you don't gravitate towards an item sitting in your closet or dresser drawer and if it doesn't make you feel put together when you wear it then it's not contributing towards a helpful wardrobe. You need to love it when you slip it on.

About shopping smarter.

How often do you browse clothing online or in a store just looking for something to catch your eye? You're not sure what's missing in your wardrobe but you feel like it needs a little something to spice it up. So you push hangers along until that pretty top catches your eye. You try it on. It fits.  And it's on sale. You decide to buy it. Only problem: over the next week you discover that it doesn't combine well with stuff in your closet. Or worse, it's terribly similar to something you already owned. 

This was me, you guys. Sometimes I'd type up a quick list before heading shopping, but it wasn't well thought out or complete. Once at the store, I still browsed for stuff outside my list because I figured I'd missed something in the 5-minute brainstorming session. 

An elastic wardrobe requires smart shopping. And smart shopping requires a bit of background work.  You need to reassess your existing collection of clothes, find the holes in your wardrobe, and make a stellar list of items you need. I will detail this process in Part 3 of the series.

About turning your collection of clothes into a versatile set of favorites.

I'm done with having a collection of clothes that only give me a meager return on my investment. I'm done with feeling frustration and guilt as I browse my hangers for something to wear at home, to errands, to a baby shower, or to church. How about you? This series will help guide you toward creating a versatile wardrobe that you love. The goal is to open your closet doors and feel excitement over all the fun combinations before your eyes—not frustration, not guilt.

An example

To finish off this intro, I thought I'd throw together an example of shopping for an elastic wardrobe versus shopping for a collection of clothes. 

The old way: You decide to run out for a couple of hours while hubby watches the kids on Saturday morning. You hit the mall and look for some new splash for your wardrobe. You're excited to find a pink blouse, a cognac belt, and a yellow skirt. But when you get home, you realize that your new items don't match up with very much in your wardrobe. You maybe created 4 or 5 new outfits. The skirt actually clashes with much of what you own. But maybe next time you'll find a blouse to go with it. You decide its worth it. But frustration wells up inside when you feel like you barely took a half-step towards a well-rounded wardrobe.

The elastic wardrobe way: You've decided your color palette is navy blue, gray, mustard, and turquoise (totally stole that from my own palette, ha!). You have a list of the exact items you need. Now you go shopping and you find four items from your list: a white denim jacket, a navy shirt-dress, a mustard belt, a navy flats. You go home and (once again) are delighted to confirm all the new outfit combinations you just created. Each item has multiplied the variety in your wardrobe! Rather than only adding one outfit, you have added several! 

SHOPPING AIMLESSLY: Low MULTIPLICITY!

Shopping aimlessly: low multiplicity! How to shop smart @ NOW THAT I Can Do, Momma!

 

Shopping Smart: High multiplicity!

Shopping smart: high multiplicity! How to shop smart @ NOW THAT I Can Do, Momma!

 

Okay ladies, time to wrap this one up. If you've made it this far, I think you've just demonstrated enough interest in this topic to make it happen for yourself! Stay tuned for the rest of the series as I unpack each step towards an elastic and fantastic mommy wardrobe!

What frustrations come up with your current wardrobe? What do you think contributes to the frustration? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!



The Mom's key to closet sanity! Check out the series on "Now THAT I Can Do, Momma!" to get walked through the steps to reshaping your wardrobe on a budget. Makes it easy for moms to find something to wear each morning.