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What’s Actually In My Wardrobe

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

As we were completing on the sale of our house a few weeks ago, packing up our entire lives was obviously a priority.

Our chain didn’t quite work out as hoped so we don’t actually complete on our new property until the end of October. In the meantime we are in a cute (albeit small) holiday let cottage near the pretty village of Henley-In-Arden.

Having to pack away yet essentially retain enough clothing and accessories for 6 weeks in unpredictable weather (anyone else think that late September and October have to be THE most difficult months to dress for?!) was unequivocally challenging. But it did give me the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate what I actually wear in general. What have been the best investments? What are my wardrobe staples rather than frivolous throw-away pieces that I probably wear once and then forget I ever bought them in the first place…..

I lost my style mojo when I tuned thirty (Am I even allowed to go in Topshop?!) again when I had my daughter as my body didn’t feel like my own, and then more recently in the summer. However, things are looking up folks – I’m firmly back in the proverbial fashion drivers seat. Or at least I think I am, especially when I look in the mirror after a few glasses of Sauvignon and the light bulbs are uber soft focus.

Mix And Match

I always try and buy pieces that will definitely work with other existing items already in my closet – and I don’t mean a top that will look ok with one pair of jeans, I mean as many mix and match items as possible. I’m not ever going to own a “capsule” wardrobe per se. And neither would I want to, I love to while away the hours looking for online bargains – but at least my palette of grey, navy, black and white allows me to choose an outfit fairly quickly of a morning.

You probably need to buy this chunky knit cardigan by the way – only £22 in the sale, I sent the link to my best girls (we went out to celebrate a birthday on Saturday and it drew much admiration for it’s warmth and ability to look non frumpy)…and now six of my friends are also proud owners. We should probably get together and have some kind of matchy matchy party with volouvents and crudities. Or maybe just really extravagant cocktails. Hmm, cardigans and cocktails… that sounds like the start of a new blog.

Invest In Quality Basics

I am a big advocate of The Outnet for designer basics. Everything is usually 50% off RRP (if not more, I’ve bought many pieces at 80% off in the past) and I sign up for email notifications of brands I love and that fit true to size so I’m aware of new stock, rather than having to trawl/check on a wing and a prayer.

I like Isabel Marant and Helmut Lang in particular – the white long sleeved top and the fine knit in the header image were from these brands respectively. I have worn both numerous times which means price per wear has been about 50p. I also have a few amazing going-out dresses from Alexander Wang, both which cost me less than a posh frock from French Connection.

There is currently 15% off if you spend over £150 at The Outnet by the way, the offer ends on the 30th September.

Find A Dress Shape That Suits

For me there is nothing simpler than a pretty dress, black tights and ankle boots. Dresses make me feel feminine and as though I have made some sort of effort – whilst remaining fairly casual. For my petite frame and long body a tea-dress style that is fitted at the natural waist and slightly flared in the skirt is always a winner. I favour floral prints and a mini length that isn’t so short you can see my bum when I bend over.

For luxe I love Reformation. For every day I recommend the aforementioned Topshop (I do go in, I just avoid the crop tops and shiny lycra). I have this cute little number in a few different colours and flowery patterns.

If You Have Short Legs Try High Waisted Skirts

I was a little late to the high-waisted party, I think because high-waisted jeans don’t suit me at all, thus I avoided every other item for years. A skirt however – that’s an entirely different story it would seem. They elongate the appearance of my legs like nothing else. Not to mention the fact if you find one that is fairly form fitting without making it difficult to actually breathe, you can even hide that giant bowl of pasta you consumed at lunchtime (happens.)

I have quite the selection from Freepeople – both in denim and pleather that work with a variety of vest tops, T-shirts and blouses.

Size Does Matter (but not how you might think)

It’s immensely frustrating when you order “your size” from a store only for it to be distinctly on the large or small side. I tend to stick to brands that at least for the most part, don’t seem to deviate too much as returning online purchases isn’t one of my favourite pass times.

And NEVER buy a piece from a brand you haven’t before that you can’t return – I found out the hard way with a second hand yet never-worn pink dress from Sandro via Vestaire Collective. The fit just wasn’t quite right and even though the colour is lush, it looks ruddy awful with my sallow complexion.

What my fashion buyer friend Naughty Maria taught me though is to try on different sizes of a piece that you love the look of, but for whatever reason just doesn’t seem to hang quite right. Sometimes I go a good few sizes up, to create a different look to perhaps what is intended. With jumpers in particular, I like them bigger so I can layer, and with “oversized” pieces, sometimes I find a size smaller is more flattering.

Pretty Lingerie Deserves To Be Seen

More Maria advice, sometimes the strap of a lovely colourful or lace bra or detailed body suit gives a subtle nod to sexy. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

As per the larger sized jumpers as mentioned above, I like it when they fall off your shoulder slightly and you can glimpse a peek at a beautiful undergarment.

I buy all sorts of pretty bras from H&M but have recently discovered amazing brights from French brand Undiz.

Buy Back Ups Of Pieces You Adore

This goes without saying. Every since I realised my favourite grey faux suede boots from a trip to Paris were on their last legs and I had no way of replacing them with something similar (believe me, I tried) I vowed to ALWAYS purchase a back up of anything particularly paramount to my personal style. Shoes in particular – I find if I discover a pair that are both comfortable and suit various ensembles, I will wear them for years.

Do let me know any of your wardrobe tips and tricks in the comments box below, and if you would like to join our cardigan and cocktails shindig. I’m well up for making it a “thing”.

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea

28 thoughts on “What’s Actually In My Wardrobe

  1. I love having a good old nosey in other people’s wardrobes! Totally second the point about not buying something from a brand you haven’t tried before that you can’t return. I should have followed this advice before buying a much loved B&SH dress which turned out to be indecently short. I mean I still wore it with tights but it’s not ideal. More brands need to take note of Reformations fit description ??

    I’ve literally just streamlined my wardrobe again, two black bags full of nonsense I shouldn’t have bought / don’t wear. Looking forward to filling in the gaps with ALL THE LEATHER and knitwear ??

  2. I feel in a rut at the moment, I feel fat and frumpy and like I don’t have anything nice to wear. I sway to jeans all the time as there easier to wear with a toddler to run after, but don’t have nice tops to wear with them and have just been wearing one ok shell top pretty much all summer! we moved house this month and I also got rid of a lot items, but I still have a massive vacuum bag full of clothes in storage – I don’t know why as they are all size 10 which I haven’t been for about 10 years, apart from a brief 9 month stint around my wedding 7 years ago. I’d like to buy some lovely winter stuff but with all money going into the new house it’s not looking likely….clearly I’m having a woe is me day!!! Don’t even get me started on clothes for the office!!

    1. Claire, I live in jeans a good 80% of the time. They are baby proof and can easily be dressed up / down. I’m a big advocate of the capsule wardrobe and take a mix and match approach to shopping. I’ve spoken previously about how I literally binned 3/4 of the contents of my wardrobe, vacum packs and underwear drawer post baby because I’d lost my way fashion mojo. It’s literally the best thing I’ve ever done! I’d also just moved house at the time so had to decide between things I really wanted (those dreamy Stuart Weitzman boots for a start) and things I needed like a new fuse box so can totally sympathise with your situation.

      Maybe you could treat yourself to a couple of tops and camis (New Look has some great options at the moment) and some new knitwear just to freshen things up about in the interim? There’s currently 25% of layering pieces at ASOS. Not that I’m enabling or anything… ?

      I’m lucky in that I work in a creative agency so don’t need to wear traditional office wear, skinny jeans and a blazer is as smart as it gets!

    2. Oh Claire bless you! Firstly if there is one top you love don’t be afraid to buy similar but in different colours/patterns. If it suits it suits – not all outfits you wear have to be completely different, just comfortable and make you feel confident. As Lynsey mentions, New Look and ASOS are great for bargains. OASIS have some great stuff at the moment too.

      Today I’m wearing this ripple stitch jumper with slash sleeves – it’s warm and a really flattering colour and it isn’t boxy like some designs that can appear unnecessarily wide.


    3. I know the feeling of being stuck in a jean rut! I have just worked up the courage to get rid of my clothes that no longer fit – they have been in suitcases for years and I still don’t fit into them so they have got to go. I realised recently that if I did actually lose the weight I would want to treat myself to new stuff anyway. I keep an eye on the Boden clearance page as you can get some bargains on there!

  3. I have that top shop dress too!
    I have seen that cardi in ASOS and umm-ed and arrr-ed about it a few times, as I am not sure what I would wear it with – any tips please?
    Btw love your wardrobe layout xx

    1. Hi Maya! If I’m going somewhere cooler like the park or to the shops with Mabel then I’ll wear it with a plain long sleeved top, mostly I wear it with a pretty camisole as it’s a lovely “outside” piece but I just whip it off when I go inside somewhere warm xx

  4. Love Reformation – I am on the waitlist for about 5 dresses but never bought from them before. Could you compare it to a UK company in terms of sizing?

    Love your wardrobe layout too – its making me think about ditching one of my shelves and putting in another rail

    Hope the house move goes smoothly!

    1. Hi Emma! I find Reformation really good for sizing actually – I think they give really good descriptions of the fit and fabric which I make the time to read a few times over. My UK size is exactly equivalent to what they specify.

      I bought something in the sale a few weeks ago which they did explain in the description comes up almost a size bigger – which it did, I had it altered but as it was such a bargain in the first place I wasn’t bothered.

      I am ALL about the double rail 🙂 x

  5. I am totally in the buy more of something you love. I’ve recently started getting my post baby mojo back and am starting to find a style that suits me and is baby proof. It’s so hard to remain positive about how you look as a stay at home mum so I am treating myself to a few nicer pieces for those baby free days and actually, sometimes it’s nice to stick on a nice dress and some lippy even if you’re only hitting the park to give you a boost. Now how have I never shopped in reformation before…

    1. Anna, apologies in advance that you may spend an unprecedented amount of time on the reformation website….sign up to their email newsletter for sales news and new stock and you will probably be on there daily.


  6. I love seeing people’s wardrobes, thanks for sharing Charlotte!

    Totally agree about buying doubles of things that are key to your wardrobe. I live in ruched pencil skirts at work, after trying lots of different styles I realised these were the ones that works for my tall, hourglass/curvey shape. I have two in every colour for each version I buy – Baukjen is very good for these, but have also got some from Hush – where they can be a little short, I’m quite tall! – and Boden last season, if anyone is interested.

    Also I live in a style of cardi from Zara, cheap but very effective (they have the same style this year and I will be restocking!) and last year invested in two identical jackets from Whistles in different colours.

    Aside from shapes it is all about sorting a colour pallette. Now I’m in my late 30s (how the hell did that happen?!?) I’ve discovered navy, black, mid blues and olive/khaki really work for me (with a few Breton stripes and sequins chucked in) and so I consciously avoid anything else, except in accessories where anything goes.

    I guess the last big revelation I’ve had with clothes is that I’m now wearing things for years, not just a season or twelve months and so I can invest a bit more in things I love.

    1. Hi Caroline! Loving the sound of a rushed skirt! unfortunately pencil doesn’t work for me at all, one of my hips is on the wonk after having Mabel and I am not the proud owner of any kind of hourglass silhouette, I am very jealous of your curves. At least I know though I guess – I saw a lush leather one the other day in H&M and just looked at it forlornly… probably need it 🙂


      1. Ah but Charlotte you have such a lovely petite figure and wear things I could never do! Guess we all have to play to our strengths 🙂

        The leather pencil skirt sounds awesome, something to hunt down…

  7. Charlotte, great post, love that cardi from asos- how do you find the sizing? I hate everything in small medium large, is so vague and brand dependent. Still carrying the post baby chubb so around a size 12 and want to layer but not swamp me?! thanks xx

    1. Hi Rachel! I have an XS but I would say it’s quite “generous” I would say order a small and a medium and send one back. Annoying – but ASOS do have free returns. xxx

  8. I’m not sure how I’ve never heard of The Outnet before – it’s amazing!!!! I’m desperately searching for some Lace cami’s to wear under knitwear etc. H xx

    1. Hariette The Outnet is my favourite…..I bought an Alexander Wang dress once for £80. Couldn’t believe my luck, it fits like a dream! xxx

    2. On the lace cami front, New Look is excellent, as is H&M. I also love the lace bodysuits from Boohoo at the moment xx

      1. @Charlotte – Do you get on ok with a bodysuit? I’ve got long legs and a long body so always worried about them riding up into my unmentionables!

        1. I love a bodysuit Lynsey, especially under high waisted skirts as they don’t ride up/become untucked like cami tops can. I think ASOS do some in tall? xx

  9. Hi Charlotte, I have that cardi, love it and wear it loads!
    When I was in LA with work a few years ago, I treated myself to a couple of dresses from Reformation, not cheap, but have worn them loads (in summer and winter) so I justified it!
    I use Outnet too – bought a gorgeous dress by Needle & Thread, reduced massively.
    I do struggle with ankle boots and jeans – any links please!

    1. Hi Shivani! I am currently really into Zara jeans – they give great shape and retain their stretch (no baggy bum!). I have these in both blue and black – the ankle zips make your calves look longer and more slender (which I personally need!)

      For boots Freepeople (as mentioned above for skirts) is amazing right now, so many styles, I have about 4 pairs in my virtual basket (!)


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