By Jess Lively of With Intention

Though I am far from a fashion blogger, I’ve learned several lessons over the past seven years of intentionally evolving my wardrobe. The first key to building an intentional wardrobe that I’ve learned thus far is…

Creating a clear vision is essential.

Fashion and style will gradually shift over time as our lives and tastes change, but I don’t believe that an intentional wardrobe can begin unless some unifying theme or vision emerges. That vision or theme may take a while to develop, but we must start with this essential step before ever stepping foot in our closets or whipping out our wallets.

To start this process, it might be helpful to reflect on how you feel about your wardrobe as it is right now. You might find that overall you are pretty satisfied with your clothing, or, you might find that you are really wishing for something quite different. To gauge the overall standing of your wardrobe, it could be helpful to do a mental Venn diagram and think about how much overlap there is between what you want your wardrobe to be like and what it actually is like.

Big disconnect? Then it’s time to start thinking deeply about what it is you want to look or feel like in your clothing. Small disconnect? That means you already have a rather good – or great – vision that you may be knowingly or unknowingly acting upon already.

Here are three simple methods to try to determine your vision:

1. Create an inspiration board.

Thanks to Pinterest, this has never been easier. Simply dive through magazines, catalogs, fashion blogs or Pinterest and find the images and styles that resonate with you the most. Consolidating the images to a physical board or online pinboard helps to give you a feel for your overall style (tip: this can even be done seasonally).

Next, it could be helpful to look for themes across the images. For me, I like color, stripes, dots and all things white and gold. Overall, my look is rather preppy, but I am recently trying to keep it from looking too predictable.

After taking a look at the trends on your board, you might be able to identify pieces within your wardrobe that don’t match your vision, and others that do. This is what is going to help you when you go into your closet to exfoliate and create an intentional shopping list of items you’d like to include.

Dedication to the greater vision helped me achieve a more cohesive and collected closet.

2. Create a mantra.

Another way to think about your wardrobe is to think about how you’d like to feel or look. For example, I helped a friend years ago with her own closet exfoliation. She used the phrase “effortlessly chic” to help guide her exfoliations and inclusions in her wardrobe. Her innate understanding of that phrase gave her the courage to donate those items that were nice, but not within with her vision. It also gave her the restraint needed to avoid sale items or budget buys that didn’t match the “effortlessly chic” vibe.

For my own wardrobe, I set an intention (ironically during the poorest time of my life) to only have “nice things.” What qualified as nice? Anything that was high quality, lasted the test of time, and had a sophistication about it that I liked.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much cash to go buy a lot of nice things at the time. So instead, I spent my time doing what I could: I exfoliated all the “not nice” things that I could live without. For me, that exfoliation phase meant that I had fewer things overall, but the proportion of nice things rose with each cheap or unnecessary item’s exfoliation. And for the past five years, I have done my best to buy things that either look “nice” or are intentional investments in my wardrobe.

3. WWJD?

For a phase of my college career before the “nice things” mantra I shared above, I did a massive exfoliation (of mostly Forever 21 clothes) under the vision of “What Would Jennifer (Aniston) Do?” Sure, it was rather silly. But I felt at the time that she really encapsulated a lot of the style that I admired. Her casual chic pieces were simple and sophisticated at the same time.

This led me to exfoliate a lot of the more frivolous items, like aqua sequin tops, pink layered skirts and a neon orange something-or-other. Even though a little (immature) part of me still liked the pieces a bit, the dedication to the greater vision helped me achieve a much more cohesive and collected closet. And I can’t tell you the number of items I decided not buy from Forever 21 when on the WWJD spree–which, in the end, saved me money on things I would have later regretted.

Picking a fashion icon may not be a long-term key to an intentional wardrobe and vision, but it can be a nice place to start if other methods don’t seem to click.

Once you have your vision clarified, you will be ready to start editing your closet and including new items in an intentional way.

As the writer and teacher behind With Intention, Jess Lively helps people apply an intention-based approach to business, relationships, careers–and even closets. This story was originally published on