How to build a dream wardrobe on a small budget. Step-by-step guide.

How to build a dream wardrobe on a small budget.

Step-by-step guide.

Author: Daria Andronescu, personal shopper and founder of Personal Shopping &Travel.


Let’s be honest, starting a new wardrobe from scratch might be terrifying. If you are afraid that you will have to spend too much money on buying new clothes, and that you will buy something completely wrong, then this article is for you. Today you will learn how to begin building the perfect wardrobe from scratch on a limited budget, where to start and what to buy in the first place, how to identify your lifestyle and fashion taste and many more useful tricks that you need to know.

So where do we begin? First of all, I want you to understand the fact that it will take some time for you to create a stylish, fashionable and functional wardrobe. Patience is key. It’s impossible to buy everything you want in one day. For a “beginner” it’s much more effective to start with buying just a few things and then gradually and slowly build up a small, but perfect capsule wardrobe.

Step 1: Analyse your lifestyle.

Before you begin working on your capsule wardrobe, you must understand why you need to buy new clothes and in what quantity. To analyse your lifestyle and figure out what kind of outfits you need, you should do the following:

  1. Make a list of your regular activities: work, business trips, meetings with clients, meetings with friends, gym, hobbies, nightlife, time spent at home, etc.
  2. Try to remember and analyse how many and what kind of outfits for each type of activity you needed in the past month.
  3. Then draw a graph or a little chart of what you found out. As an example, I’ll show you how my lifestyle looks like and what sets of clothes I need in order to maintain it.

chart eng

Step 2: Create a moodboard of your dream wardrobe.

To understand what kind of style to choose while selecting your first set of clothes, you need to understand in advance what clothes you would like to see and have in your wardrobe in the future. What are your style preferences? What makes you look beautiful? What is comfortable for you to wear? What colors should you choose? Perhaps, all of these questions make you feel a little overwhelmed, but believe me, when you know the answer it will be so much easier to build the perfect wardrobe you dreamed about for so long.

There is a great exercise that will help you realise your fashion style and color preferences. All you need to do is to create a moodboard full of beautiful goodies that you would like to see in your ideal wardrobe. After all, it’s one thing to imagine your dream wardrobe in your head, the other is to see it with your own eyes, on paper, just in front you.

Perhaps making a moodboard may seem to you childish thing to, but it’s not. Think of this exercise as another project on self improvement and finding your personal style.

What you need:

  • Scissors.
  • Clay.
  • A printer / scanner.
  • Several sheets of paper format A3.
  • 5 – 10 fashion magazines (the more, the better).
  • 1 – 2 magazines on makeup and hairstyles.
  • Books about style, if you have any.

идеальный гардероб

Creating a moodboard.

If you took the first step and have been able to draw a chart of your lifestyle, then you already know what you need to buy clothes for. Let’s break it down into categories of those regular activities you need clothes for: office, meeting with friends, party and leisure. To do this, take a sheet of paper and divide it with a ruler and a pencil into the four categories. For those categories that need more outfits, for example, if you spend in the office most of your time, leave more space. In addition, you can make a separate mood board for haircuts, make-up, hair colours, cosmetics – all that inspires you and you would like to try in the future.

While choosing parts for your mood board, try to think less and rely more on your gut feeling. Don’t try to analyze clothes in terms of style, color, or of whether you wore something like that in the past. Forget everything you’ve heard before about fashion and choose from the heart.

Cut all of the things you want to have in your wardrobe. It can be a set you like from photoshoot or street style images, some elements of the garment, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc. Find as many of these “goodies” as you can and get to the next stage – dividing all pictures into the activity chart.

Choose something that would be perfect for work or meetings with clients. Think about what would make you happy to wear while out with friends? You  should have at least 5 pictures in every category, but the ideal would still be 15-20 for each. If you couldn’t get enough of them from magazines, feel free to go online and search for the missing parts of your moodboard there.

After that, it’s best to take a break for a day or two. It will help you to calmly analyse your choices, and perhaps, later, you will want to add new stuff or move something around.

Now it’s time to proceed directly to filling and finishing your moodboard. At this stage, you should leave only those pictures that best reflect your fashion style and your perfect wardrobe in general. Glue it on paper. Once finished just look at your creation and try to explain your style out loud. “At work I will be wearing  _____ because I need to look like _____.” “In my spare time I like to put on  _____ because I like to look _____.”

This exercise will not only make you see and understand your personal style, but also reveal a clear direction in which you should move towards the ideal wardrobe.

Step 3: Work on your starting capsule.

After analyzing your lifestyle and fashion style, it will be much easier for you to understand what items you need to buy. For the first capsule try to choose clothes that will play quite an important role in your future wardrobe. For example, if you really enjoy a look like jeans + shirt + jacket, include these things in your starting capsule. Choose only something you can wear at least twice a week and for different situations. Don’t buy anything overdressed or too boring. Try to find a middle ground. As for shoes, choose something very universal and suitable for all the clothes you are planning to buy right now and in the near future. In any case, it’s always better to buy shoes at the end so you can make sure they fit. Make a final shopping list, even if there are only 5-8 things you can afford to buy for now.

Example of mini-capsule on a small budget. 


Coat, H&M. Sweater, Mango. Shirt, H&M. Skirt, Mango. Jeans, Mango.

Step 4: Go shopping.

Save a photo of your moodboard, first capsule wardrobe and color palette on your phone and don’t forget the shopping list. Now that you’re fully prepared, it’s time for the first truly rational shopping of your life. The main rule here is to invest in quality, not quantity. If you can’t find good quality clothes for your budget, try looking for it in the commission shops, second-hand or online outlets. (List of my favourite online outlets can be found here). Remember that all things in your capsule should easily mix and match and create stylish outfits that you truly enjoy. But at this stage, I have no doubt you’ll do great this time.

Step 5: Become a stylist for yourself.

When shopping is over and you come back home, don’t just throw new things in the closet. Lay all new items down on the bed and try to create as many outfits as you can. Mix and match. Don’t forget about your old clothes / shoes / accessories – some of them might also look great paired with some of the new stuff. By the way, creating outfits with new clothes immediately after shopping is a great fashion habit that will lead to knowing what to wear for any situation.

Step 6: Continue to work on your perfect wardrobe.

After buying your first capsule start working on the next one. Make a shopping list, select stuff, determine the budget. Remember, it’s all about quality, not quantity. So, try to buy one or two high quality items a month, instead of five questionable quality items.

This approach will help you not only gradually build an interesting wardrobe for all occasions, but also teach you how to be more responsible and rational while buying clothes.

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