The temptation for many women to go out and buy clothing is a strong one. If you think your wardrobe has a hole that needs filling, you could just take the first opportunity to hit your local stores or surf the Web. But at some point you’ll likely run into the ceiling of your clothing budget, and you don’t want that to happen at a time when you need the perfect dress for a special occasion. So don’t always be so quick to look for an opportunity to shop outside your closet. Shopping can give you a psychological boost, but if you’re using it as a way to lift your spirits rather than as a way to create a look for yourself, then you’re almost certain to miss both goals. Rather than reach for your credit card every time you feel like it, do what every clothing store does several times a year: Take inventory. If you don’t take stock of what you already have in your closet, you’re likely to buy the same thing over and over again because that’s what you’re drawn to. Being organized and allowing yourself to really see what you have gives you the freedom to buy new pieces you may have otherwise overlooked.

I’m not suggesting you enter every item you own into an Excel spreadsheet. Still, you should take some time as a new season is about to arrive to go through all your clothes and give away whatever isn’t perfect for you. (For more on how to pare the ordinary or unexceptional from your closet, see the next section for a brief introduction on my 10 System and Chapter 2 for additional details.)

At the same time, make a list of what you need and put down as many details as possible. For example, “a white button-down shirt to wear under blazers” may top your list. That way the next time you’re looking through the racks in your favorite store, you’ll able to fill in the gaps in your closet. Some people give away items as soon as they buy a new one. While that method preserves closet space, it places unnecessary limits on you — especially if you’re a good shopper. There’s no reason to get rid of one pair of navy slacks just because you buy another pair, especially if you can wear the new pair in a different way. Maybe you wear one pair to work with ballet flats because they’re too short to wear with heels. Another pair of navy slacks that you can wear with heels wouldn’t be considered a repetitive item in your wardrobe. Although both slacks look similar, they serve different purposes.

Putting on a new article of clothing is a great feeling. Even if no one notices, you know that your mood has been elevated. But after a while, that blouse (or pants or scarf) joins the ranks of all the other items in your closet. Even though it’s no worse for wear, it loses the punch it once had on your emotions. It’s no different than if you ate your favorite dish over and over. After a while, you’ll yawn instead of salivate when you see it on the menu.

While you can’t stop this process, you can slow it down. Learning how to reinvent pieces you have is key. For example, a white button-down shirt can take you many different places. It can be worn under a sweater. When you are on vacation in a tropical place, it can be tied over a bathing suit and paired with a long skirt. If you’re heading to work, it can be worn with a sweater-vest. And finally, if you’re off to a fancy event, you can dress it up by pairing it with a sequin skirt and a pashmina scarf.

When all is said and done, no matter what you’re wearing, you have to be yourself. If that means certain styles are not for you, so be it. But with so much to choose from, you can be sure to find pieces that are perfect for you. And by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll know just how to be the stylish woman you’ve always dreamed of being!