Signature Wardrobe Planning (PAPERBACK)


PAPERBACK. BOOK TWO IN THE MS BLAELOCK’S BOOKS SERIES OF PRACTICAL AND USEFUL SELF-HELP/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT BOOKS. Buying clothes seems easy, but getting matching ones that fit you and your lifestyle is more difficult. The illustrated Signature Wardrobe Planning shares a plan for buying the right clothes at the right price for the right life.


Are you confident that your clothes suit you and reflect who you really are?

Drawing on early twentieth century purchasing patterns and advice, through two World Wars and the Great Depression, Alexandria Blaelock describes a four-step system for developing your wardrobe plan. You’ll learn what you need to know, to have the courage to make a plan and stick with it.

  • Your budget
  • What’s appropriate
  • Your style
  • What you need

And the background knowledge that will make your wardrobe plan last; how to:

  • create wardrobe capsules
  • perform wardrobe reviews
  • prepare to shop
  • identify good fit and quality
  • care for your clothing
  • maintain your body shape

All so that you can confidently build your signature wardrobe.

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Introduction 1
PART ONE: Historical Context 9
1900s 11
1910s 23
1920s 35
1930s 47
1940s 61
1950s 75
PART TWO: Develop Your Wardrobe Plan 87
Step 1: Set Your Budget 89
Step 2: Determine Your Appropriate 99
Step 3: Establish Your Style 111
Step 4: Decide Your Needs 127
Modern Day Worked Example 137
PART THREE: Build and Maintain Your Wardrobe 147
Record Keeping 149
How to Conduct a Wardrobe Review 159
How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe 169
What Good Fit Looks Like 177
What Good Quality Looks Like 189
Decoding Dress Codes 197
How to Choose a Hat 223
Let’s Go Shopping! 209
Clothing Care 223
Maintaining Your Body 245
Glossary 253
Bibliography 265
Index 273
Author’s Note 284
About the Author 285


As you sit here today, you are in many ways very fortunate. You could be invited to a gala event at a moment’s notice, and if you are, you can go into any store and buy a new outfit: head to toe, inner to outer layers. Frock, shoes, bag, jewellery, makeup and an exotic new fragrance. You can visit a hairdresser for a fabulous do, get a mani-pedi and have your makeup done too. With very little thought and effort, you are dressed in an outfit worthy of an elegant soiree within hours.

You don’t even need to consider whether you can afford it – just pull out your credit card and purchase whatever you need regardless of the price. Many of us would think looking perfect tonight is more important than anything else.

Building a wardrobe that works over a longer term seems much more complicated than buying for a single event. At face value, buying a bunch of clothes seems quite straightforward. You can easily buy enough clothes to get you through a week without washing any of it, and they might even be fashionable.

However, it’s more likely you’ve bought random stuff; not one garment matches any other, they aren’t made from similar fibres, don’t have common care instructions, and you can’t comfortably wear them to any of the places you usually go.

So you are going to be paying them off for many months and probably won’t wear them for even longer. You won’t be “dressed”, you’ll just not be naked.

The advice given by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in 1925 is just as applicable today as then – don’t cheat yourself or others by not dressing well. Be proud of yourself, dress to please yourself and enhance your confidence. “Make the time to learn what is appropriate, becoming and wholly lovely for you”.

Just a few short decades ago, mass produced clothing wasn’t readily obtainable, let alone affordable. It’s hard to imagine, but up until the 1960s, people were generally reliant on clothes designed and manufactured in the country they were sold. Credit cards did not exist so shoppers were more careful, thought more deeply about what they needed, and shopped according to what they could afford.

I learnt to shop in the 80s, the early days of credit cards. Those days were so early we didn’t understand the limit, thinking it was like a monthly allowance. My limit was $200, and that was about the amount I got paid each fortnight. Laughable now, but it seemed like a fortune to me. My employer supplied my uniform, so all I had to buy were what I like to call Princess Clothes – the ones I wore when I went out partying, looking for my Prince Charming.

Today, as always, the basic wardrobe planning problem is building this year’s wardrobe on last year’s clothes (not lack of money). I think this may be one of those universal truths so obvious you need someone to point it out. You need a process to ensure you buy clothes that work for the life you currently live, at a price you can afford.

While you’d probably LOVE to throw out all your clothes and start again, you can (and really should) start where you are. You wouldn’t knock your house down to renovate your kitchen, you’d examine its current state, work out what is and isn’t working, then plan and undertake the renovation work.

In just the same way, examining your clothes to understand what’s working, what’s not, and why you have nothing to wear gives you the information you need to make your plan. Then you can shop in the full and certain knowledge you’ll require tremendous reserves of inner strength to stick with your plan.

This book comes in three parts.

  1. Historical Context
  2. Develop Your Wardrobe Plan
  3. Build and Maintain Your Wardrobe

1: Historical Context

We start with an overview of the social and fashion conditions for each decade of the early twentieth century. While I have grouped the information into nice easy to absorb eras, fashion like most facets of life follows an evolutionary path and is not easily segmented.

I draw against statistical data relating to white working and middle class income and expenditure in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), simply because this information is easiest to find. So when I mention replacing a suit in three to four years, it’s a figure based on what real people actually spent averaged out across the population. It’s not that they were only allowed one suit every three years, it’s just what they could afford to buy.

During the 59 years covered, there were changes in the statistical classification of people and purchases, as well as changes in the variety of goods available for purchase and the way people shopped not captured by the data. This accounts for some of the variation in whether jewellery, makeup, personal and clothing care costs are included in the clothing budget or not.

There are some inaccuracies due to different technological release dates between the US and the UK. This has resulted in some variations and inconsistencies within the information I’ve been able to access and provide for each decade.

As such, this overview is full of wild generalisations – across age, ethnicity, class, urban/rural and country. But as this part isn’t intended to be a dryly accurate academic account of what your life might have been like during this time, I think that’s fine. This part forms an introduction to the ways the prevailing economic conditions and standards of living at the time would impact your purchasing plan. Naturally some found it easier while others (non-whites in particular) were in a much more challenging position.

I provide this information to show you the way you dress is influenced more deeply by the larger world around you than you suspect. I hope this makes it easier to consider the place of appropriateness and style in your own wardrobe.

2: Develop Your Wardrobe Plan

Using fashion and shopping advice from 1900 – 1959 (the same time frame as the statistics) I’ll guide you through a four-step process that gives you the information and confidence you need to make a plan and stick with it. I’ll help you:

  1. decide how much you can spend. You’ll be brave enough to face the unpleasant truth you can’t afford all the nice things you want, and confident enough to make the hard decisions you must.
  2. determine what clothes are appropriate for you right now in the life you currently lead, regardless of your age, size, location and occupation(s). Not the imaginary one where you’re 20lb (9kg) lighter, or the one where you’re a Princess with a house full of servants doing your bidding. But something comfortable for you no matter where you live or what you do.
  3. work out what your style is, and how you can present your authentic self to the world in a deep and truly unique way. You will look good and feel confident while still fitting in with the expectations of others.
  4. decide what clothes and accessories are necessary for you, and how many of them you require. You will understand how to put together the most practical, functional and cost effective wardrobe possible.

3: Build and Maintain Your Wardrobe

I will help you navigate the mysteries of putting your wardrobe plan into action. You will learn:

  • what sorts of records to keep and why
  • how to review your wardrobe
  • what the different kinds of capsule wardrobes are, and which one is best for you
  • clothes don’t fit when you try them because there is something wrong with them (not you!), and what you can do about it
  • what the characteristics of quality are and how you can prioritise them
  • what clothes to wear for a variety of dress code occasions; historic and contemporary
  • how to shop efficiently and effectively
  • how to take care of your clothes so you can maximise their lifespans

There’s some repetition between the Develop Your Wardrobe Plan and Build and Maintain You Wardrobe parts, but only so you have the relevant information to hand and don’t need to keep flicking backwards and forwards to find it.

In this book, I use the term wardrobe to refer to your clothes, and closet for the places you put them. I’ve also put a glossary at the end, so if you come across a word or abbreviation you don’t understand (or forget) you can look it up.

The matrix shown on the next page provides examples of the different kinds of clothes I refer to through this book.

Table 1: Historical Clothing Styles

Historic Clothing Styles

Are you ready? Then turn the page and let’s get started


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Additional information

Weight 0.379 kg
Dimensions 21.6 × 14 × 1.7 cm


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