Lee, I completely understand that feeling of frustration. Even now, random clothing purchases can get me into wardrobe troubles. When I stick to my basic building blocks, that's when I have success. Here's a few steps I took to create a basic wardrobe:
1. Start by choosing your neutrals! Choose a basic summer neutral and a basic winter neutral that looks great with your personal skin tone. What neutral get's you the most compliments? If you need to understand your colors, I recommend reading, "Color Me Beautiful." If you already know your colors, jot them down!
Summer Basic Neutral: Ivory
Winter Basic Neutral: Warm Gray
Please note: Black does not look good on everyone! If you can't find your neutral, and black is not your color, at least keep black away from your face, because your colors will make your skin tone radiate.
2. Create a Master Wardrobe List using the full list on page 158 of Total Home Makeover: A 20 Day Plan to Renew Your Space & Spirit (below is a shortened version of the list for readers' benefit).
3. Check off the items you already have. This step is really important. The clothes you already have will cost you absolutely nothing. I get into my wardrobe and start checking off the pieces I have and place them on a keep pile. The items that don't fit into this basic master wardrobe, I set aside on a different pile. I will decide later how much I want to keep or give-away of the other items.
4. Shop for the items you truly need. What isn't checked off your list? These are the items you truly need to have a master wardrobe from which to pull.
Now, Lee, I will finally get to your question. Shopping?
To shop for a basic wardrobe that is tailored to my colors and to the actual pieces I need and that will coordinate, I find "in-store" shopping to be a huge waste of time as stores are not organized or personalized. Sewing custom clothes or on-line shopping is what I would recommend with a list of needs right by the computer. Why?
Where do I shop? For the most part, I find the majority of my pieces at these stores ...
JCPenny (has reasonably priced and quality suit seperates)
NY & Co (sometimes)
In addition to shopping, our family is just starting to collect sewing patterns. I'm excited to start learning how to sew my own basic wardrobe. If you aren't a seasoned seamstresses (which I"m not), can you find one in your area? Remember, one good expensive basic piece made with classic lines can be used for years and is well worth the money.
As I am not familiar with New Zealand clothing stores, I will refrain from making suggestions. If any readers know of a New Zealand cloting store that makes classic basic pieces, please leave a comment and advice. I hope these ideas help, and please know that it does take some time and effort to find and pull together the basic wardrobe. Sometimes, I have to wait for a piece. But once it is built, you'll spend a lot less time saying, "I have nothing to wear!"