By Mary Ann Wilcox

Is it time to buy a new wardrobe? You can cut the time you spend shopping, reduce your budget for clothing expenses and eliminate duplicates and mistakes in your wardrobe with this handy shopping aid. It’s called a “wardrobe in your pocket.” It is a handy little book that has swatches of all your clothes on a card. That way you know what you have and it eliminates returns (a big time eater).

Step #1 — Purchase a credit card holder with at least six fold-out compartments. Or better yet, two credit card holders, one for your color swatches and one for your wardrobe swatches.

Step #2 — If you know the colors you look best in, cut squares of those colors from scraps of fabric and place three in each plastic compartment of the holder.

Step #3 — Take 3×5 cards and cut them the size of the plastic compartments. Label each card with a component of your wardrobe: jackets, suits, skirts, pants, sweaters, blouses, t-shirts, etc.

Step #4 — Cut a swatch from your clothing and hot glue or glue stick them to the appropriate card. You can cut small pieces from hems, facings and large seams. Sweaters usually come with a piece of yarn attached that can be used for this purpose. If you can’t cut a swatch, then you can write a description on the card or take a picture with your phone, reduce it and place it on the card.

Step #5 — Make a list of the clothing items you need to complete your wardrobe. Write them on a card and place them in your “pocket wardrobe.” For instance, I have a two-piece, crepe de chine dress with white and dark camel flowers on a black background. I have white pants, shell and jacket that coordinate, and black pants, jacket, top and skirt that also match. I need a camel top, pants or skirt and a jacket to complete this 12-piece cluster. I would list these items on the card with a notation that they need to match the two-piece dress.

NOTE: A 12-piece cluster gives you 102 combinations.

Step #6 — Always carry your “wardrobe in your pocket” in your purse. That way you can match colors and wardrobe pieces when you find a great item on sale to add to your wardrobe.

For additional help with saving time and money shopping see shopping end of season sales, thrift store shopping, strategic planning and comparison shopping in our new “Dress Better for Less Manual” at

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