How to Create a Smart Wardrobe Shopping List (+ free printable)

by | Wardrobe Planning, Wardrobe Wisdom & Style Tips | 0 comments

A shopping list… seems too basic to make a difference in your wardrobe? The thing is, this is not the kind of shopping list you whip up just before heading out the door. This one’s awesome, and encompasses a master plan for where you want your mommy wardrobe to go. 

In this post I’ll cover all the details about an awesome clothes shopping list and why it’s transformed the way I shop.

The way I used to shop

Prior to starting this blog, I employed very little strategy in the way I bought clothes. I did keep a monthly budget. But that’s where the order ended. Here were my mistakes:

  1. I thought creating versatility in my wardrobe meant getting as much variety as possible. I tried to bring as many colors and patterns as possible into my closet.

  2. I played it safe. I didn’t know what was trending for the year and if I did, I wasn’t brave enough to try it on.

  3. My purchases were based on sales or what looked cute on me in the dressing room, not on what I really needed for a superb wardrobe.

Why these habits left me frustrated with my wardrobe

Having every color in the rainbow represented in my closet only made it more difficult to create a variety of outfits from every clothing piece. I thought I was making my wardrobe interesting, but instead I was limiting my options for combining my clothes into new and fresh outfits.

Playing it safe meant I stayed stuck in old trends for years, or I fell back on styles that I was very familiar with–for me that was corporate attire. The first time I got serious about shopping for myself (and had the income to do so) was when I started my first full time job as a receptionist at a software company. That meant I got good at shopping for slacks, button down shirts, and blouses with attached sweater vests. Those clothes were still my “safe zone” years later and kept appearing in my closet. Needless to say, dressing for a day as mom or a morning at church was downright frustrating! And I never felt “in style” because I wasn’t brave enough to try out current trends.

Buying clothes solely based on the price and on what I happened to find on the rack led me to make purchases that I either didn’t really need or didn’t absolutely love. Meanwhile other areas in my wardrobe that needed filling stayed bare.

What I do differently now and why it works

Snag this shopping list printable

I still try to buy variety, but now it’s guided by 1) my color palette and 2) what I really need in my wardrobe. I cover color palettes in full here, but in short it’s deciding on a set of colors that you love, gravitate towards, and that work together.

To discover what I was missing from my wardrobe initially I took 30 minutes to purge it of dead weight (stuff I didn’t wear or love) in order to get a clearer picture of the value in my wardrobe. With a little help from Pinterest, I compared what I had to several “beginner wardrobes” or “capsule wardrobes.” Any basic items that I was missing started forming my list. (I’ve further broken down this process here and here.)

 Click here to view capsule wardrobe examples on pinterest

Click here to view capsule wardrobe examples on pinterest

SIDE NOTE: I have a different approach to capsule wardrobes than some other books or websites. To me, it’s not about having a small amount of clothes but rather a highly relevant and remixable set of clothes. I like to think of them simply as helpful “wardrobe plans.” Because that’s what they are. A carefully thought out plan for a season of easy, mom-friendly outfits that fight the frump. 

You can find my capsule wardrobe plans for stay-at-home moms here.

Don’t know where to start? Check out this wardrobe plan for suggestions on what to have on your shopping list:

As I browsed online for capsule wardrobe plans, I kept an open mind towards styles I wouldn’t normally buy. For example, if I wanted to try a loose kimono top and there was the need for a casual top in my wardrobe, I wrote it down on the list. Then I further detailed which color from my color palette I should look for and anything else that was relevant like pattern, texture, etc for that particular item.

Rather than writing “1 top” on my shopping list, I have learned to write details to insure I bought what I really needed in my wardrobe, not just the first deal I came across.

Example: 1 Kimono Top— Loose fit, Navy, gray, or white, Light or no pattern.

The first draft of my list needed tweaks. It was missing some things I’d add later, and it included some items I later realized were really not the direction I wanted to take my wardrobe.

I started my list on paper (see printable below!) but have transferred it to my blog so that I can edit and re-edit as my style comprehension evolves and as I find what I’m looking for. (See my list here.) I want my shopping list to be a true reflection of what will add the greatest value and elasticity to my wardrobe as a mom.

As a result of these changes, my shopping experience has transformed in wonderful ways! Here are the top improvements:

  • I don’t feel aimless when I’m out in the mall, at a consignment store, or browsing the web for clothes. I’m not just looking for new clothes, I’m looking for the precise pieces that are going to add the most value and excitement to my wardrobe.

  • I have the guts to turn something down. When I come across something super cute or cheap but know it’s not what I need in my wardrobe (on my list), I can turn it down without wondering if I’ll regret it later.

  • Because of my prior evaluation of my existing wardrobe I confidently buy even simple, “boring” clothes like the gray tee because I already have a vision for how it will go a long way to add outfit variety.

  • I have freedom within the structure. I occasionally still buy an item that wasn’t on my shopping list. I still feel confident about the purchase because before buying it I run it through the same criteria used to create my shopping list. I’m editing-on-the-go.

  • I’m no longer stuck in a fashion rut. I’ve seen what’s trending and decided what styles I want to try out.

  • I see beyond the price tag. While I still never buy almost anything at full price, I’m willing to pay a few dollars more for something on my list because I have the confidence of really knowing I will get good use out of it.

  • I save money in the long run. My purchases have purpose and will last a long time, adding value to my wardrobe like never before.

  • I no longer feel guilt about my purchases. As long as I stay within my budget and only buy things on my list when they meet the criteria of an excellent buy, I can enjoy peace and excitement about what I’ve spent money on. I’m no longer unsure or nervous about whether I’ve been wise with my latest purchases.

You might also be interested in: The Elastic Wardrobe (Part 3): Decluttering Your Closet & Shopping Smarter

Summarize that please!

  1. Evaluate your existing wardrobe to find holes that need filling. Use capsule wardrobes on Pinterest for inspiration, keeping an open mind for new trends you want to try.

  2. Determine your color palette.

  3. Determine your monthly budget.

  4. Using the printable below as guidance, start writing down the biggest needs. Narrow down the item using details about ideal color, style, fit, fabric, etc.

  5. Keep editing/updating your list as you go out shopping or think about another way to add versatility and flexibility to your wardrobe. Consider keeping a final draft of your list on your phone for easy maintenance, after you’ve hashed it out on paper.

  6. Enjoy exciting, guilt-free, and purposeful shopping!

Best of all, enjoy your purchases like never before. Your shopping trips will be a wild success every time—yes even when you come home empty-handed. You’ll feel good about not buying what you didn’t need. And when you do score a perfect find from your list, you’ll feel crazy good too!

Free Printable: Shopping List for Moms

Click here to get your password and download this PDF

You’ll forever have exclusive access to my library of free printables.

If you’re already a subscriber, you can download it here. Password is at the bottom of the last newsletter you received.


Click here to see a list of my favorite places to shop!

Have you ever maintained an ongoing clothes shopping list? How did that work for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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