Skip the Mall -- Shop Your Closet First

Real Style on 03.15.11
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Photo: The Container Store

One of the great paradoxes of parenting is that a night out without the kids is both something we dream about and something we dread. Once we’re out the door, of course, the kid-free night is typically wonderful, but getting all the pieces pulled together -- hiring a sitter, getting the kids ready, finding something to wear -- can be exhausting.

I can’t help you find a sitter or prep your kids, but I can help you get dressed. And I can help you do it without ever leaving your house. Yes, really -- you can find the perfect outfit for virtually every occasion without spending a dime. Promise.

Shopping on the fly often means buying pieces that you’ll never wear again -- either you bring home something that’s just like something already in your closet, or you grab something totally out of character. Either way, you waste time and money. But when we’re faced with a night out, our instinct is often to assume that we have “nothing to wear” and to race out to the mall to buy something. For your next night out, start by shopping your closet and wearing what you already have. Shopping your closet -- especially when your closet holds a carefully edited selection of pieces -- means that you will always look and feel your best.

Know what you have.
Start with a carefully edited wardrobe. Once a season, go through your closet and assess what you own -- and get rid of everything that’s not working for you. Keep a list of pieces you need and shop only off that list. When you know what you have, it’s easier to make it work for those occasions that require more than yoga pants and a clean t-shirt.

Bonus: A carefully edited closet makes getting dressed for your normal day easier, too. Promise.

Think outside the box.
Most women tend to segregate their clothes -- we separate our wardrobes into “dressy” and “casual” and “work,” and we never violate those categories. When you shop your closet, mix it up a little. Pair casual pieces with dressier pieces: a fitted tank is perfect with a lacy cocktail skirt, for example, while a pile of bling-y necklaces can spice up even the most casual sheath dress. Give yourself time to try things on -- don’t wait until the sitter is at the door to start making your decisions. You RSVP for events in advance -- go ahead and plan your outfit at the same time.

Bonus: If you do need to buy or borrow anything to finish the outfit, you’ll have time to track it down.

Enlist a stylist.
Celebrities have professional stylists to dress them for events, but you don’t need  to pay Rachel Zoe to help you get dressed. Ask a trusted friend to come help you pull together your outfit; sometimes an impartial eye lets you see your clothes in a whole new light. Enlist someone whose style you admire, and really listen to what she’s saying. Even if you don’t wear exactly what she suggests, her ideas can be a jumping-off point for your own style decisions.

Bonus: If your friend is feeling generous, you may be able to borrow accessories, like jewelry and handbags, for special occasions, rather than buying something you won’t use more than once.

A night out shouldn’t be about what you’re wearing; it should be about taking a break from the everyday. Rethinking your everyday closet is a simple way to make any night out special and affordable.

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