How to Rebuild Your Wardrobe After A Disaster

Q: I recently lost my favorite clothes to my apartment fire. I had collected them over the last 7 years and they were a mixture of a variety of different styles and designers. Do you have tips for rebuilding my closet after this loss?

How to Rebuild Your Wardrobe After a Disaster

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your tragedy—but out of great lost comes great opportunity. Take this as an opportunity to rebuild not only your life, but your style.

Here’s some thoughts:

1. Focus on rebuilding your wardrobe, rather than just buying pieces to get you through. This will help you save money and also start to build back your style confidence.

2. Use this horrible event as a chance to reassess your own personal style. Go through your favorite magazine ripping out all the pictures of items you like. Do you notice a trend or a particular style? Take a tape measure and measure yourself at your bust, waist, and hips to help you determine your body shape.

3. Start out by purchasing the perfect ten—ten things you should have in your closet.  These are like the building blocks of your wardrobe. Make sure you buy versions of these things that fit into your personal style. Buy the best garments you can afford. You can find these things on sale at Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Loehmanns. Also check out department stores like Macys, Lord and Taylor (who has great online coupons you can use in store), and even Bloomingdales, who all have great sales. This goes against what I usually advise, but yours a special case—you may want to even sign up for a store credit card to help you rebuild closet.

4. Add in some great accessories—make a trip to Target, Forever 21, Laila Rowe, or H&M. Also use these stores for trendy pieces to add into your wardrobe.

Again, this is an opportunity to rebuild a new you. I would also like to ask fellow readers of this site to post their tips and ideas in the comment section below.

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  1. preeti says

    Add at least one luxurious item – be it lingerie, a fabulous bag, a glamorous hair ornament, etc., whatever works for you. Basics are essential, but they’re all about adequacy. Something special will make you feel special, and renewed.


  2. Wendy says

    First of all, what a daunting task to get back on track, on so many levels!

    But something good can come of something bad—and your question is doubtless going to help other Budget Fashionista readers who need to reinvent their wardrobes for other reasons.  In a relatively short time I went from a size 10 bottom to a 0.  Lists (and a seamstress) got me through!

    Indulging your imagination can be an excellent escape.  You may want to try making a list of your ideal wardrobe.  What would you have if you could have *anything*?  Then real needs: What do you absolutely need to go about your life—what suits your work or school environment, and the weather where you live?  (If you live in the snowbelt your necessities will differ from someone living in a more moderate climate.  Even if summer things are at the lowest possible markdown, if you’re going to need a winter coat and boots, that may be a bigger priority.)  Is there any overlap between the fantasy wardrobe and what you need?  If you have or plan to have pets, what fabrics and colours work with the animal’s coat and or claws?  What purchases can be worn in more than one season, or in a multitude of ways? 

    I bought a heavy tweed blazer I could use as fall outerwear and in the winter as a blazer and 3/4 sleeve sweaters that were three season wearable.

    I capitalized on a relationship I had developed with a sales associate at my favorite store—when things I liked but couldn’t afford at full price were marked down, she would call me (at each level of markdown).

    I also tried to use the opportunity to move outside my comfort zone to try colours and shapes I wouldn’t have been drawn to otherwise.

    Good luck!!!

  3. Jamie says

    So sorry to hear about this tragedy..
    I would most definitely hate it if I lost my favoritec clothes..

    The one piece of advice I can give you is go to Express. They have a sale almost every time I am there, and they have great basics in a more flattering cuts and fits.

    Hope this helps!


  4. says

    First of all, you shouldn’t try to build it all at once. Bad! You’ll spend a lot of money, and might not get the right things. First of all, I think you should buy a few black things (shirt, henleys, tops, trousers, skirts etc.), as these not only will be invaluable to your wardrobe, but also will help you get through until you have a good wardrobe. Second, DON’T BUY ANY TRENDY THINGS. Remember, you’re looking to build a long term wardrobe, not a short term. Third, since you have to make up for 7 years, I would NOT advise spending lots of money. Go to resale, discount, chain, outlet stores to get your stuff. Good luck, I hope this helps!

  5. says

    Sorry about your lost. For starters you can shop in upscale thrift shops and pick up some fabulous finds. Go to ebay and get some great designers cheap.     



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  6. Rene says

    Buy basic bottom pieces (pants, jeans, skirts) that can be made more interchangeable with tops or blouses. Everyone needs a great pair of black slacks, a black skirt, and a pair of comfortable jeans. Select a pair of jeans that are not too casual, or too dressy, this way you are able to wear with any shirt. If you have additional money available go ahead and buy a pair of khaki colored pants, and or a khaki colored skirt.

    As for the shirts start off with solid colors like black, white, and or some pastel colors because these can be dressed up or down depending on your accessories. If you buy a top with a pattern, you’ll less likely wear it as often as people will remember you in that top every week. Solids have a tendency not to be noticed as much, esepecially if you are changing your accessories with it. A few good accessories are the items that will really stretch your wardrobe. I suggest one faux pearl necklace, some crystal pins/brooches, 1-2 basic belts,1-2 trendy belts, plus a couple of interesting scarves, and a great pair of sunglasses. The couple of trendy belt, updated sunglasses, and scarves will make you look up to date, and no one will ever know you are working with a limited wardrobe. Good luck to you, and sorry for your loss.

  7. says

    gosh, i totally hate that for you.  i agree with the girl who said something about express.  they have sales all the time!  new york and company tends to, too.  and they’re clothes are very flattering and range in size.  i’m very tall and thin and my sister is petite and we both shop there all the time.  old navy is also good for basic tshirts and jeans because they usually have a buy one get one discount, which i love.


  8. says

    I’m sorry too darling. Take the time to picture yourself in what you want to wear and then go look for those things. It maybe a good idea to build up the basics, jeans, sweaters, shoes and coats and things like that. Then go for the fun stuff! New lingerie to make you feel sexy no matter what your wearing on the outside and some great skirts and blouses to go with the fabulous new high heels or boots! For every door that closes a new one opens! although nothing is more tragic than a fire…now you have no choice but to re-build your wardrobe, so enjoy yourself:)

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