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By Karen Brailsford
Make this the year you stop choosing quantity over quality and buying slightly different versions of the same outfit.
Just follow these five strategies for getting the most chic from your shopping dollar, and you'll never again have to lament, "My closet is stuffed, but I have nothing to wear!"
Strategy No. 1: Shop your closet
Taking inventory of your wardrobe will help you figure out what you actually need to add to your collection, says Los Angeles fashion stylist Mar Yvette, host of the "Citysearch Weekend Roundup" segment on the television show "Good Day LA."
Spend a few hours trying on those items you haven't worn in a while. See how they look and how they make you feel, and figure out whether or not they coordinate with anything else in your closet. Be open to new combinations. The argyle cardigan you bought a decade ago in a preppy fervor may be just the thing to belt and wear over a sheath dress today.
"Shopping for clothes without truly knowing what's already in your closet is like going grocery shopping on an empty stomach," says Yvette. "You end up spending a whole lot of money on things you don't need."
Strategy No. 2: Streamline and Spread the Wealth
This will go against every shopping urge you have, says Yvette, but less is more.
The goal is to build a wardrobe that lasts. You'll save money in the long run if you buy fewer, better-quality (and therefore, more expensive) pieces rather than lots of cheaper items that are likely to fray or go out of style.
Sure, you can get your trend fix with H&M's disposable designer collections, but the bulk of your closet should be filled with quality pieces made from fabrics like cashmere, linen and wool that transcend time.
Follow up on strategy No. 1 by pulling out any items you haven't worn in a year. If they no longer fit and are beyond tailoring, wish them well and donate them to a charity organization.
Strategy No. 3: Build From the Basics
Whether your style is cutting-edge, classic or casual, these essentials are the building blocks of a functional wardrobe:
Black pants: They're the most basic of the basics
Dark denim: Opt for a trouser cut
White button-down shirt: Designer Carolina Herrera lives in these
Sheath dress: It's simultaneously sexy, classy and sassy
Cardigan: Throw over the sheath dress or pair with jeans or black pants
Two-piece suit: Mix and match the jacket and the skirt with all of the above
Strategy No. 4: Choose double-duty items
Carilyn Vaile, who designs easy-to-wear items for women on the go, recommends buying items that multitask.
Questions to ask as you carefully vet pieces on the store rack: Can the tunic be worn as a minidress? Can the long waterfall jacket be belted and worn as a dress with tights and boots?
"If an item can easily transform into other outfits, it keeps my interest," says Vaile. "Not only will it stay in my wardrobe longer, it will be worn more often."
Strategy No. 5: Shop the Sales With Caution
No doubt, some of the articles of clothing cluttering your closet still have sales tags hanging from them because you couldn't pass up a bargain.
But it's not a bargain if you only bought that dress, sweater or pair of (slightly tight) boots because of the 90 percent markdown and never wear it.
Before you purchase an item on sale, ask yourself: Would I still want this piece -- in this color, size and style -- if it weren't marked down? If the answer is no, pass it up.
Karen Brailsford is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. She writes about style for People, In Touch Weekly and MyStyle.com
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