I Went on a Shopping Moratorium for a Month and Reclaimed My Closet

When I volunteered myself to write a story about taking a break from shopping, it was under the guise of a journalistic experiment—when in reality, it was more of a self-imposed intervention. For months, I had been suffering from a chronic case of “I have nothing to wear” despite a closet that was overflowing with items that I just had to have when I bought them. Rather than spend time sorting through everything I owned to put together thoughtful outfits, instead, I spent money on more clothes.

This fun vintage jacket goes really well with my Urban Outfitters jeans ($69).

Weekend afternoons were for scouring my favorite thrift stores. I could barely scroll through my Instagram feed without "needing" something and adding it to one of my many virtual shopping carts. Our very fashion-forward office certainly wasn't safe; I found myself constantly asking my co-workers where they got their jeans or shoes or jumpsuits. After one particularly trying morning that resulted in a significant portion of my closet strewn across my bedroom floor, I decided it was time to get my act together—for the sake of my sanity and most definitely for the sake of my bank account.

I'm wearing a Miranda Bennett top ($188), vintage Levi's jeans, a vintage Dior logo belt and Maryam Nassir Zadeh's Sophie Mesh slides ($363). (I bought the purse from a street vendor in Mexico.)

What ensued was a month of unlearning the incessant urge to shop and reacquainting myself with my closet—and in turn, my personal style. (Surprise, surprise: I learned that I do, in fact, have plenty to wear.) But the exercise was actually productive in ways I hadn't anticipated. Not only did it invite me to really play with clothes that I had previously felt unsure about, but I also began to clear out the excess—and even netted a good chunk of cash in the process. And ultimately, I learned that investing in my wardrobe can mean so much more than filling my drawers with more items.

I did ultimately buy one piece throughout the entire month—more on that in a minute—but I came out the other side with countless new outfit ideas and an entirely new lease on my closet. The experience granted me a series of lessons that I think should be established as "nothing to wear" doctrine. Stuck in a similar rut? Find my new commandments below.

Clean out your closet once—and then twice.

I paired my vintage Mexican dress with a Wolf Circus necklace ($106).

My first point of action when I kicked off my moratorium was to trim the fat from my closet. It was a moment for some good, old-fashioned tough love—if something didn't fit or hadn't been worn in the past year, it needed to go. I ended up unearthing a lot of lightly worn items that didn't really have a place in my personal rotation but definitely had some life left, so I listed a bunch of them on Poshmark. The rest went to Goodwill.

There were plenty of VIP clothes that weren't going anywhere—like this vintage Mexican dress, for example—but there were still others that I wasn't necessarily ready to ditch, so I put them on a sort of probation. I'd have until the end of the month to figure out a way to wear them, and if not, they'd be cleaned out in a second closet purge.

It's worth noting that save for some old socks and worn-out T-shirts, I really didn't throw anything away. The beauty of platforms like Poshmark and Depop is that they offer a sustainable alternative to fast fashion—as well as an opportunity to make an extra buck. And it was too easy to just cart the rest to my local Goodwill down the street.

Lean into your uniform.

I wear this top with just about everything, but I really love it with my favorite Levi's Wedgies ($98) and chunky Doc Marten sandals ($114).

For some reason, wearing the same thing on a consistent basis has always given me a little anxiety, as if doing so makes me lazy or unoriginal. But while this little shopping detox inspired me to take a few more risks with my closet, it also served as a good reminder that there's nothing wrong with knowing what suits me and keeps me comfortable. I've been wearing this vintage Hawaiian shirt a lot over the past few months, for example, and I've decided to just own it as my summer uniform.

Challenge yourself to wear less-loved pieces.

Just about everyone in our office owns these killer Who What Wear Collection heels, and they added the perfect amount of edge to this thrift store look. (They're sold out, but shop more styles here.)

I was drawn to this old-school Gap skirt when vintage shopping a couple months ago mainly because it was dripping with nostalgia—I remembered when it was all the rage in the late '90s. But it sat in its shopping bag for several weeks thereafter, forgotten. (This happens more often than I'd care to admit.) It wasn't until I dug up this equally neglected Hawaii T-shirt that I decided they'd actually pair perfectly together. I received more compliments that day than I had in awhile—a testament to the sartorial dark horse.

Get creative with "accessories."

The jumpsuit is by eco-minded brand Ozma ($265); the eye shadow is Make Up for Ever ($17).

As a beauty editor, I'd be remiss not to mention that makeup is a seriously underrated accessory. I'm not talking about a totally "done" face, which isn't really my style—instead, I've been playing around with ultra-saturated color juxtaposed against fresh, dewy skin. This lovely Ozma jumpsuit ($365) is totally minimalist, but the shock of orange across my lids turns it into a look. A bright red lip, sleek barrette, and voluminous curls all certainly qualify too. Have fun with it!

Adhere to "The Denim Exception."

A head-to-toe vintage look.

I made the mistake of trying on a pair of promising-looking vintage Levi's at my local farmers market (only in L.A., right?)—only for them to fit, as I suspected, like a glove. When I voiced my conundrum to my shopping buddy, she told me that vintage denim is always the exception. "Finding a pair of vintage jeans that fit well without tailoring is so rare," she argued. And thus, a new golden rule was born: Thou shalt not pass up a pair of perfectly good Levi's.

Invest in your wardrobe in different ways.

I paired these silky vintage pants with a Zara chambray tunic. (Shop similar here.)

After listing my closet rejects on Poshmark, I actually sold them pretty quickly and amassed some cash over the course of a few days. I decided to use some of it to reinvest in my wardrobe—not by breaking my no shopping streak, but by tailoring a stack of clothes I had been avoiding just because the fit was slightly off. I took a few local recommendations from none other than WWW Editor in Chief Kat Collings, and in a matter of days, I had exponentially more outfits to work with. How had I been putting this off?

Take these gorgeous vintage silk pants, for example, which I had all but cast aside due to a worn-out elastic band and a sagging butt. They had been sitting in my closet for the better part of two years and I had worn them exactly once. Now, they're a perfect lightweight option for 90-degree days—and if you notice a trend in all the photos above, they're the perfect complement to my Florida-dwelling-retiree aesthetic. (Some would refer to this as "menocore.")

The funny thing is that while I always thought I could roughly describe my general style—vintage-inspired, comfort-driven, relatively minimalist—I never really saw the common thread through it all until I was forced to really get creative with the contents of my closet. I learned that I really veer toward feminine details, for example; that I'm actually not afraid of color and loud prints—especially if they have that '70s Palm Springs vibe.

Getting better acquainted with my personal style was probably the happiest byproduct of a productive experiment, and it's one of the many reasons getting dressed every morning hasn't just become easier, but it's become more exciting. Technically speaking, I've downsized my wardrobe significantly from where it was a month ago, and yet I feel like I have more outfit ideas than ever—as well as a little more money in the bank. The craziest part: I have zero desire to spend it on new clothes now that my moratorium is over because I finally feel like I have plenty to wear.

Next up: The best jeans under $150.