As we’re approaching the end of the year, and many folks will have some downtime coming up for the winter holidays and new year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some tips for doing a more pleasant and effective wardrobe edit. As I recently refreshed my personal style board, I wanted to share some things that I keep in mind while putting together a board to make it a more effective guide for my wardrobe. Figuring out what patterns in your board you can translate into concrete wardrobe and outfit changes is another can of worms, but the first step of that is collecting some references that you can use to identify outfit formulas, styling details, colors, textures, and key items that you want to base your personal style around.
I use Pinterest for this post since I find its UX the useful for this activity, especially now that it’s got sections and notes built in, but you can of course use whatever image collecting method you want, whether Instagram saves, a slide deck, or just keeping a local folder on your phone or computer, and a lot of these tips will still apply.
♻️ Start from an existing board
Doing anything completely from scratch is difficult! If you don’t already have some boards from other users saved, when you find a pin that speaks to you, take a second to check out the board it’s on. If you’re lucky, you may find a bunch more pins through the board that nails what you’re looking for more than the Pinterest algorithm’s suggestions.
📰 Pin directly from active brand accounts
Once you’ve spent five minutes searching for fashion inspiration on Pinterest, you will notice that due to the algorithm prioritizing already-popular pins, a lot of the fashion is stuck in the early 2010s when the site was first taking off. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with considering outfits from that era, but it can get frustrating if you’re trying to find references from other eras or just more current looks for variety.
If you’re having trouble getting the feed to show you pictures of full outfits instead of thinspo close-ups of waists masquerading as fashion pins, check if some brands that you generally like have official accounts that pin fresh lookbook images to surface some new things, or for general aesthetics rather than brand-based searches, pin from Instagram search results which tend to be more fresh. Pinning from brands can be helpful if you want to include some currently available items, but even if the shoppable part is not important for you or you find the more active brands whose aesthetics you like are not in your price range, those can be helpful as purely as they tend to be more curated and include more photos of full outfits.
Some examples of brand pages that are actively curated:
🗂 Keep separate sections for non-everyday looks
It can be a lot more fun to collect inspiration for party outfits or fun workout wear than outfits you can wear to the office or grocery store, but unless you’re specifically only doing an edit of a formalwear capsule or your gym clothes, keep your pins to pieces or looks that are closer to what you’d consider everyday wearable things.
Of course, you can’t let a particularly good picture of those dream pajamas or ~wedding guest outfit inspo~ go to waste, so keep those items pinned into separate sections of your style board (or if it’s easier for your focus, entirely separate boards).
👖 Include pieces you already own
If you aren’t creating a board for the purpose of a complete from-scratch wardrobe overhaul, include some pins of items already in your closet that you wear frequently or that you find make an outfit feel comfortably you. When reviewing the board to edit out pins, you can have those for easy reference to picture whether the new options will be easy to pair with your existing favorites. You can upload your own photos or search for the original stock photos of the items. If you can’t find those then at least pinning something similar can still help.
Don’t be shy about adding lots of pins of existing things if you enjoy wearing a lot of your current items! A wardrobe refresh doesn’t have to mean cleaning out 75% of your stuff every year. It can be quite helpful even if you have just not been shopping super consciously in recent times and want to double check that things are staying on the right track (I’m def guilty of this – that’s the main reason I decided to revisit all this). Sometimes seeing things with a slightly new perspective via a Pinterest board instead of staring into garments jammed in your dresser is what you need to figure out what’s going on. Or you can use the board to think about what directions your current pieces can go when paired with 10% new items with a distinct aesthetic .
You might have some items you’re particularly fond of and keep in rotation but don’t get to wear most days for practical reasons. You can include those too if you think their look could still be used to decide if a new item is compatible. For example, I don’t wear my needlepoint frog bag or hand warmers every day, but if some item vibes with both those and my relatively neutral canvas backpack and sneakers, then it’s likely a good fit for the board.
Vintage Katha Diddel purse from eBay
Baggu canvas backpack (old style)
💾 Pin first, edit later
You can always remove a pin later, but it might be impossible to find something that popped up in your feed again if you skip over it. When making a style board as an exploratory exercise, you don’t need to only pin things that are 1200% “YES” images. If there’s something definitely drawing you to an outfit but you’re not sure if it will make sense in your wardrobe or is just something to be filed under “appreciate, but not personally aspire to”, go ahead and collect the pin for now. You can periodically go back to your board and categorize things into two or three boards if you notice that there are multiple aesthetics going on, or cut items that seem like they’ll be too difficult to integrate with your core pieces or just won’t work for your lifestyle.
If you’re particularly feeling some FOMO, you can keep a dedicated board as a sort of pin purgatory to move pins to instead of deleting them.
In my experience, 25-100 pins is usually a good range to give a clear picture of a style without it getting either so varied or noisy that it would be more easily understood via separate boards, or unhelpfully repetitive for an initial analysis. You can of course continue collecting pins you like past the initial exploration+curation+analysis loop, but for a fresh board, going way past that can make identifying patterns overwhelming.
💨 Avoid getting caught up in flavor images
“Flavor images” aka aesthetic pictures that are not of actual clothing items or outfits can be helpful to inspire colors, textures, shapes, and motifs. If you include these in your board, be honest with yourself if the clothing items you’re pinning actually reflect those, or if the flavor images are carrying the board and making the outfit images seem more exciting than they actually are. e.g. “is it witchy fashion or is it just scowling thin people in black clothing pinned next to moody over-filtered photos of herbs?”
Personally, if I’m going to include aesthetic pins, I now like to keep them to their own dedicated section so that they’re easy to reference but won’t add bias to the actual clothing pins.
⚖️ Check that you are pinning items from all clothing categories
Who among us hasn’t had a time when we just looked at out wardrobes and thought something like “why do I have 36 (scarves, cardigans, earrings) but hate all my (jeans, jackets, bags)????” We all have our favorite types of pieces to wear of shop for. I love bags and shoes but find it harder to get excited about pants. But if I make a Pinterest board that doesn’t include any bottoms, that’s not going to help me figure out what I’m trying to get out of full outfits.
You might not find tons of photos of entire outfits that are exactly what you’re looking for, but as long as you can remember what aspect of a pin you liked, don’t hesitate to include it anyway. Similarly, while ideally you’ll pin a lot of full outfit pics to get a better visual for silhouettes and styling, including images of individual pieces.
In the same vein, check if you are pinning items that are primarily suited to only some of your local seasons. You might realize that you prefer different aesthetics for warmer or cooler weather (not an uncommon thing!), in which case you can keep separate sections or boards for each general weather type. But again, if the goal of collecting all these reference images is to create a guide our everyday clothing, then it will be more helpful the more complete it is regarding your year round lifestyle.
💇🏻♀️ Include head styling
In addition to clothes and accessories, pull in a few images of hairstyles, makeup, nails, or other styling elements that you feel work with your board’s look. After all, head styling always creates a halo effect on an outfit, whether you went full pinup kitsch or are leaning into the free spirited look.
If you’ve included enough pins of fully styled lookbook images, the styling you’re picturing with the clothes might come across without additionally putting in pins specifically of hairstyles or makeup styles (if that’s an element you incorporate). But if the board isn’t communicating that dimension of the aesthetic, then even throwing in 2-3 pins of hairstyles or makeup details friendly to the aesthetic can help keep that in mind, even if it’s just some simple options like a half-up bun on otherwise unstyled hair. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just intentional.
You may also find it helpful to pin headshot photos of a model or two with a natural look with your coloring and hair type to help you visualize the stuff in the pins in your actual life. I always like to recommend @gentlehairdos Instagram as a hairstyle reference (it’s mostly editorial photos, but includes a lot more simple looks than your typical hair inspo account).
🌼 Play around with the pin order
I tend to personally enjoy the look of boards that have the items “randomly”/evenly distributed instead of ones sorted by color or item/outfit type. So while I might pin similar items one after another while I’m initially building the board, I spend some time after I’ve got a bunch of pins collected to shuffle them around. I also find it easier to identify patterns across categories when it’s more of a mixed bag effect and my brain can kind of consider the whole collage at once rather than be drawn to more easily identifiable clumps of pins. You might feel similarly, or you might find it more helpful or pleasing to keep images more sorted. Either way, take a moment to consider whether sorting or shuffling of your images might help you out. The Pinterest board should ultimately give you warm and fuzzy feelings whenever you pull it out.
How I curated my latest board
And since we’re here anyway, to add a little color to this post, I figured I should share the latest iteration of my own style board. For 2019-2020, I was going between my Storybook Style and Crunchy Casual boards, eventually finding myself in the pandemorama pit of “my sweatpants hardly fit” despair (and it turns out, an actual anxiety disorder, but that’s another story) and basically only wearing uncomfortable pajamas until I managed to acquire some pieces that fit.
Once I was out of the “lying on the rug and dissociating every afternoon” phase of this year, I decided to just go with the flow and just wear comfortable stuff until I had a better grip on more important things than having a vision for my wardrobe and completely vibing with my primary Pinterest board. During the last couple of months I ended up settling into a more easygoing style closer to Crunchy Casual than Storybook, but I felt that the original crunchy board didn’t quite capture the softer and more whimsical elements I was enjoying in recent outfits.
I’ve still been buying clothing regularly, and while I’ve quite liked a lot of the individual pieces I’ve recently added, I haven’t felt like I’ve had a good clear feeling for the direction I want to keep my wardrobe in. While it’s fine to enjoy multiple aesthetics and wear different styles from day to day, realistically I don’t want to have too large of a spread of clothes. I get overwhelmed with too many options, and also with a finite amount of actual closet space, I want to keep most things super easy to mix and match on the days when I don’t have a whole hour to play dress up and fine tune a new outfit combo.
Since I do like my current clothes, I started out this board by pinning a bunch of my current core pieces, in particular making sure there were colorful sport sandals, high top sneakers, and Dr Martens “Leona” boots since I wear one of those options 90% of the time. I also included a few of my beloved beachy dresses and some overalls and some of my favorite layering pieces (peep the flannel and the patchwork cardigan). Ultimately, over half the pins here are actually pieces I own and this is a combination aspirational mood/style board and wardrobe catalog board to help me work through the aesthetic direction I want to take or maintain based on my current wardrobe.
If you were to pile everything I own into a mass of fabric, it would pull more neutral than the effect of the pieces I have. But as I contemplated what I found appealing in the pins and in recent outfits I particularly liked, I noticed that I felt a lot happier with outfits like the two below that incorporated higher energy colors, even if by area most of the actual clothing was a traditional neutral.
I don’t expect that I will ever run classic black and blue wash denim or white footwear out of my wardrobe, so to encourage myself to stay on the track of wearing things in colors that would really feed my soul (or inner five year old, however you want to think of it), as I pinned additional images I made sure that the high level impression of the board was that it had a cheery palette, and that any individual pin that was mostly neutral colored leaned more whimsical, for example two pins with neutral overalls are both layered over rather girly blouses.
Another pattern I picked out and ran with was that despite the continued mixing of more romantic-vintage style pieces like puff sleeves and elaborately cabled knitwear (think stuff that would be friends with the items at Selkie or Doen) with more modern or practical items like tees and ripstop nylon bags, I’ve eschewed (relatively) dressy shoes from daily wear as I didn’t have any I felt I could justify adding in the “start with frequently worn items” phase. I haven’t done a shoe edit for a while and I’m not intending to do one soon as my footwear inventory has been pretty stable and I still like each individual pair, but when considering adding any new pin or IRL clothing piece, I want to nudge myself toward things that pair easily with more modern utilitarian shoes instead of derby shoes, flats, or t-strap platform clogs.
n.b. “Easily” is of course subjective based on what you’re comfortable with, personally and in the context of your workplace or neighborhood if that is a factor for you. My neighborhood is pretty chill about offbeat casual fashion. I could wear the mint green puff sleeve balloon pant jumpsuit to the grocery store with hiking boots and that would legitimately not be that weird.
If you want to add some of these images to your own Pinterest board or just view them larger, you can check out the “Girly Granola” Pinterest board here. I’m still partial “crunchy casual with a touch of whimsy”, but that’s a bit long for a title. And who am I to pass up an opportunity for alliteration? If you enjoyed the bright colors and hiking influenced aspects of the board, check out @alla.wears.things on Instagram. If maintaining a soft fairytale aura without compromising comfort is more your thing, check out @monicakim.jpg.
I hope that was helpful for anyone tackling a closet refresh soon! I’ll be following this post up with more articles on different aspects of wardrobe curation that are more text-based while I attempt to get out of customer support limbo with UPS and Apple regarding my current camera-phone-less situation.
If you feel like you would benefit from some additional support in any part of a wardrobe edit, I’m happy to discuss whether I can help you with a Pinterest board analysis or another customized discussion session. You can learn more on the Personal Style Coaching page.