Creating a wardrobe that will always give you something to wear can be a challenge. We will show you an easy 3 step process on how to build a wardrobe that’s right for you.

We will look at:

  1. Identifying what looks best on you, suits your lifestyle and represents your taste
  2. How to organise and build your wardrobe
  3. How to color in your style and your own unique essentials and style personality

How to build a wardrobe, Step One: Assess your body type, lifestyle, and style personality

Before rushing into the process of putting all the clothes for your wardrobe together, it is important to get to the heart of what your needs are. You can divide this step into three categories.

  1. First, assess your body type and what cuts and styles look best on your body.
  2. Second, examine your lifestyle to decide what types of clothes you need to invest in most.
  3. Third, identify your style personality.

1. Assess your body type

How to build a wardrobe - know your body type  |

Knowing your body shape can be very beneficial when it comes to selecting the best clothes. You can have all the clothes in the world and not be as well dressed as a woman with 10 pieces in her closet that are tailored to perfection for her body shape.

At 40+Style we identify 5 main body shapes:

Hourglass body shapes: Typical hourglass body shapes tend to have a well defined or narrow waist. As the bust and hip are almost the same width, the narrower waist creates an hourglass like silhouette.

Pear body shapes: The typical pear body shape is characterized by hips that are wider than the shoulder. For this particular body shape, fat tends to accumulate on the hips and buttocks.

Inverted triangle body shapes: Inverted triangle body shapes have broader shoulders, which are wider than the hip and buttocks areas. For this shape, the bust usually tends to be proportionally large with smaller hips.

Rectangle body shapes: Typical rectangle body shapes tend to not have a defined waist and are characterized by hips that have a similar width to the shoulders. This particular body type is not necessarily curvy with a small to average sized bust.

Apple body shapes: Apple body shapes have no defined waists. They tend to hold weight on their stomach and typically have a small to average bust size.

To determine your body type please visit this article which also includes a handy calculator.

Read our ultimate guide to creating a capsule wardrobe that works best for you.

2. Examine your lifestyle

If you often find yourself having nothing to wear for the most common activities in your life, it is most likely that you do not have a wardrobe that is well aligned with your lifestyle. This can be problematic, as you will usually buy one off pieces for random events and create a wardrobe that is not coordinated with other pieces.

One of the best ways to create a more effective wardrobe is by taking an assessment of your lifestyle and the activities you engage in the most. There are four main categories of lifestyle activities that tend to encapsulate what your entire week looks like:

Professional activities

These activities require clothes that convey a professional image, and are mostly worn to the office or wherever professional aspects of your life may take you.

How to build a wardrobe - understand your lifestyle |

Daytime social activities

Not quite casual, daytime social activities consists of outings like brunches and lunches, religious services, and or any other type of event that is social in nature and requires more than a very casual and laid back look.

day chic dress outfits |

Evening social activities

These activities are pretty self explanatory. They consist of evening socializing to events like dinners, drinks with friends, parties, etc. Clothing is usually more eye catching and intended to make a statement.

capsule wardrobe: evening dress and skirts |

Casual activities

Casual activities can range from a day spent at home to a day spent running errands around your town or city. The goal is usually to be as comfortable as possible, while still looking stylish.

lifestyle capsule looks: chic casual looks |

As mentioned above, if you find that most of your time is spent in professional settings and you always struggle to find something to wear, then this might be a clear indication that your wardrobe and lifestyle are misaligned. Now that you have the various lifestyle activities in mind, let’s create a lifestyle assessment in 3 steps:

  • Step One: Either keep a diary of activities for 1-2 weeks or take an hour one day to assess what your activities look like for a period of 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Step Two: Take 8 to 10 hours a day for your activities and multiply this by 7 for the week. This leaves you with 56 to 70 hours of the week to determine how and where you spend the majority of your time.
  • Step Three: Rank your activities from most to least according to the number of hours/time spent on that activity. As an example, if you work 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 40 hours of your 56 to 70 hours a week is spent at the office (or wherever you work).

Once you have a ranking of your weekly activities, you have a good sense of what you need most. This does not necessarily translate to a strict percentage for your closet, but it does indicate that your wardrobe should favor versatile pieces for the activities you engage in the most. This goes a long way in minimizing the “I have nothing to wear” syndrome.

3. Identify your style personality

Now that you know what types of clothes fit your body shape best and the type of activities you engage in the most, it’s key to think about your style personality. Knowing your style personality makes building an ideal capsule wardrobe significantly easier, as it allows you to know the clothing you are most comfortable in and feel most beautiful wearing.

Style Personality Quiz |

There are many ways to get clearer on your personality and you can describe yourself in terms of clothing style (eg. classic, bohomian) or characteristic (elegant, casual). A great way to discover your style personality is to take our style quiz.

When you take this quiz, you will be assigned your unique style personality and will be given a specific capsule wardrobe for your style personality.

Build your wardrobe step 2: Organize, try on & clear out

Once you have determined who you are and what looks good on you, it’s time to see if your wardrobe reflects that.

Sometimes we tend to buy a lot of new things for a new season without being aware of what we already have.

So once you are familiar with your body, lifestyle and style preferences it’s time to go through your wardrobe and see what you already own.

Often, you have much more to wear in your closet than you realize, but sometimes we get stuck in a rut of wearing the same thing over and over again because it’s the first thing we see or we become too comfortable with what is familiar. When building your winter wardrobe, take the mantra of “organize, try on, and clear out” to heart.

Organizing your closet will allow you to see everything you own. Make an effort to schedule a time to organize your closet. Take all of your items out, and similar to a department store begin to take inventory of what you own.

Next, try on items in your closet to gauge whether or not they’re worth keeping. If you find yourself often saying, “I might wear this” or “This could work”, chances are you’ll put those pieces right back to the rear of your closet or in the bottom of a drawer. Try on your pieces to see what is worth keeping as it is, taking to be altered, or donating.

Remember, style is defined by quality and not quantity.  

For more tips on how to do this, please read how to edit your wardrobe.

How to build your wardrobe, Step 3: Select the essentials of your wardrobe & for your style personality

Now that you have figured out what you should keep in your closet, take the opportunity to see how many of your pieces are a great foundation for the perfect wardrobe for the particular season that you are in.

Read our ultimate guide to creating a capsule wardrobe for tips on how to create your perfect season wardrobe.

Check our latest trends articles on how you incorporate current trends into your style.

Check our article on wardrobe essentials to see which essentials you may like to include.

Throughout this site you will find lots of articles on how to find your unique style and how to build a wardrobe that is right for you.

We wish you lots of fun exploring and creating your unique style.


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

Want to get more articles from 40+style in your inbox, subscribe here.

You can also connect with 40+style on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Support 40+style by using the links in our articles to shop. As an associate for Amazon and many other brands, we receive a small commission (at no cost to you) on qualifying purchases which enables us to keep creating amazing free content for you. Thanks!