Saturday October 1st 2022

Create a sexy, seasonal wardrobe (without breaking the bank)

LET’S face it – fashion is a cash-gobbling necessity for working women with a sense of style. Every season, we buy into the latest trends, splurge our salaries at the sales counter and buy at least one more little black dress – just in case.

Why, when we have a cupboard full of clothes, do we still complain about having nothing to wear? Simple. We don’t.

Image consultants spend large chunks of time teaching clients how to organise – and choose – their clothes correctly. No matter how big or small your budget, you can dramatically improve your look in a few, easy steps by learning the secret of seasonal wardrobe building.

Out with the old

As painful as this might be, letting go of last decade’s pink leggings – and anything else that hasn’t been worn in ages – is a must. Clothes are an emotional crutch for many women, which is why we often hang onto them long after their sell-by date.

Successful style depends on owning a cost-effective collection of clothes that work well together – and separately. Having several items that carry through all seasons is crucial, while investing in a couple of top quality, season-specific pieces will ultimately save you money.

The first step is saying goodbye to granny’s threadbare scarves and anything else that just isn’t you. Try this exercise :

Pick at least two items that you have not worn in the last year.

  • Do you remember when, where and why you bought the item?
  • How many times have you worn it?
  • Try it on. Does it still fit? Do you feel good in it?
  • Would you ever consider wearing this again? Be honest.
  • Do you have at least two other separates in your wardrobe that would work with the item?

Now, rope in a friend and set aside a lazy Saturday afternoon. Try on all your clothes – yes, even your underwear – and do the exercise again. It takes time, but the results are worth the effort.

Once you’ve thrown out what doesn’t work, you’ll be left with what does.

Back to basics

A workable wardrobe comprises mostly “tried and trusted” outfits that you love – and which can be worn throughout the year or at least across two seasons. A limited number of separate mix-and-match items are also a must.

The most important rule to remember when building your basic collection is that fashion trends come and go, while classics are made to last.

As you sort through your favourite clothes, consider selling or giving away anything that’s limited by trends – particular styles that you chose because they were the “in thing” last summer. Chances are that you won’t wear them again or when you do, everybody else will have moved on from polka-dot mules.

Once you’ve identified what you want to keep, clear the bed or floor and start piling clothes into specific categories :

  • Clothes that need to be repaired or no longer fit. Those that can be mended or adjusted may be kept, otherwise, put them in your “charity” box
  • Favourite clothes that you wear frequently – at least six times over the past year
  • Clothes that you have not worn in the last six months
  • Clothes that work over two or more seasons – for example, a jersey for both autumn and winter
  • Season-specific clothes, such as a heavy, wool skirt for winter and a strappy top for summer.

Now grab a pen, stand back and examine your booty.

  • Look at your long pants. Do you have at least four different outfits to wear based on how many jeans or trousers you own?
  • Of these outfits, can you wear a minimum of two in at least two separate seasons (for example, autumn and spring or winter and autumn)?
  • Skirts – do you have at least two matching tops to wear with your skirt or skirts? How about a warm jacket or jersey?
  • Consider your lifestyle. Do you have at least two choices for each of the following occasions : work, home, formal, casual and smart (or smart casual)?
  • What is the main colour theme in your wardrobe? Do you have two other colours in your existing wardrobe that match this dominant colour?

Sorting your stuff

Once you have some basic outfits to work with, identifying what to repair, mix-and-match or buy will be easy. There are several sure-fire ways to construct a sexy, sassy fashion foundation from the piles of bits and pieces you’ve selected.

  • Choose a colour. One primary colour should form the backbone of your wardrobe. The best are neutrals – think gray, brown, charcoal, black or navy. Aim to make at least 50% of your collection just one shade.
  • Pick two more. Complementary colours will provide several more outfits within your existing set. If black is your primary colour, for example, you could concentrate on adding brown, cream or white as complementary shades.
  • Splash out. You don’t want to wear plain monotones every day. Boring. A couple of bright, luscious pieces will add spark. Think berry, royal blue, forest green, gold or deep orange – whatever vibrant hue suits your skin tone.

Colours picked, invest some time – and probably cash – in stocking up on what’s missing. The basic, style-conscious woman’s wardrobe should include :

  • Two pairs of long pants – one in your primary neutral colour.
  • Two skirts – or at least one in a neutral colour
  • Several tops (any style) that work with both your pants and skirts. Make sure you have a choice of both long and short-sleeved
  • At least two plain, long-sleeved shirts or blouses – one in your primary colour
  • A jacket – pair with trousers, jeans or skirt
  • A warm jersey or button-down cardigan (plain, preferably no patterns)
  • Your wish list might also include a neutral, knee-length skirt, a trouser suit and a feminine, flattering silk or chiffon top for dressing up or down. A form-flattering dress is also a worthy buy.

A style for all seasons

It’s not necessary to have four different sets of clothes for spring, summer, autumn and winter. Dress smartly by making your clothes work hard all year round. Two rules of thumb for a cost-effective cupboard are :

  • Learn to layer. A long-sleeved top can be worn alone in autumn, but paired with your jacket or jersey, works well in winter.
  • Double up. Don’t put away your summer clothes in winter. Strappy tops are a summer must-have, but they work equally well as a vest under shirts and a jacket in cooler weather, or with a long-sleeved blouse on chilly spring nights.
  • Fuss over fabrics. The type of fabric you choose determines how many times you’ll be able to wear an item – a heavier cotton works in both spring and winter, for example, if you layer or remove clothing. Keep away from wispy chiffons and very heavy knits, if possible, otherwise you’re limited by the season.


A transitional season, spring is neither hot nor cold. The smart way to greet spring is with lighter, brighter fabrics that attract less heat and soften your image in the run up to summer.

Neutrals and pastels are good colours and choose wool blends, cotton or linen. These fabrics work well into autumn and can be layered in winter.


“Beat the heat” is your motto now. A variety of separates is essential, because you’ll probably change sweaty clothes more often. Short-sleeved tops and vests in your primary and complementary colours are a must.

Spend a little more on accessories too. A neutral t-shirt looks heavenly with bright, colourful scarves or a printed hat – plus, you’ll be able to dress down and warm up the same t-shirt in both autumn and winter. Cheap hoop earrings, costume jewellery and a big, bright tote bag complete a sexy summer look.


Autumn is easy. Pair warmer pieces with lightweight items from your summer or spring sections and you’re set.

The ideal look now is more muted – fewer attention-grabbing shades and more colours from your complementary and neutral base. Turn to nature when styling your look – leaves turn gold, red and brown while sunsets are orange and tawny.

Great shades to celebrate this season are camel, brown, beige and cream, which all combine well with white and black.


This season’s the gold standard of style. More money is spent on winter fashion and accessories, simply because we need more clothes – and the fabric is heavier.

Quality is top priority – your winter wardrobe should be built to last. Buy the best heavyweight trousers that you can afford and have at least one warm jacket or blazer in a dark colour.

Other essentials include a well-cut trench coat or long jacket. Double-breasted suits slim bodies, while a single-breasted, A-line cut works well on fuller figures.

Boots are non-negotiable, but you don’t have to buy knee-length, high-heeled styles. As long as they’re at least ankle-length and close-toed, they’ll work.

Accessory know-how

A final word on bling and shoes. Often, we sort our clothes so well, but leave jewellery and footwear to chance.

However, accessories make or break a look. Bright, bold jewellery lightens and brightens a plain t-shirt in summer, while a wool scarf draped over the same t-shirt and paired with a jacket is perfect for winter.

Separate your everyday jewellery (wedding rings, a favourite pearl necklace or gold studs) from “special occasion” or season-specific items, such as funky, summery earrings or bold, dark statement jewellery for autumn and winter.

Do the same with shoes and get all scarves and hats washed and neatly packed.

Happy? You should be. With a little work, your wardrobe’s a guaranteed winner this season (and the next).

© Beth Cooper, 2010. This article first appeared in True Love magazine.