I’ve never paid much attention to clothes. Until a few days ago. While channel surfing one evening, I happened to land on TLC’s television show "What Not to Wear."

Out of little more than sheer boredom, I decided to watch the episode. I then spent the next two days watching every episode I could find online, cheering every time a participant looked in the mirror and saw a classy, confident, and beautiful woman looking back.

By the end of my television marathon, I was a convert. I wanted the confidence that comes from controlling your image and knowing you look good. I did NOT, however, want to spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes! Nor did I want to spend hours in stores trying to assemble new outfits.

Then I found Polyvore, a free online outfit creator that let me play with various "looks" (many of which consisted of things I already owned) without spending a dime or stepping out my front door. Interested?

How to refresh your wardrobe with Polyvore:

Start with an Inventory

It is often possible to create stylish looks by using what you already own and putting a new spin on it. The first step is to inventory your current closet. Get out a pen and paper and write down all the contents of the closet. Keep in mind that sweatpants and shapeless T-shirts are for the gym, not for the street!

Sign Up for Polyvore

Signing up with Polyvore is easy; I didn’t even have to do that annoying "check your email for confirmation" thing. I was able to start working right away! Just click the “register” button at the top right corner to get started.

Add What You Already Own

After signing up, it’s time to start creating outfits! Polyvore offers a way to save items to your account, so it’s easy to find them again and use them over and over. First, go to the navigation bar at the top of the page and click "create."

Next, click on one of the "category" icons on the right side of your screen. The idea at this stage is to find something that looks as close as possible to what you actually own. I’ll use my blue cami as an example (note: Polyvore calls camis "tank tops."). To search, I first clicked on "tops" then typed in "tank tops." Next, I used Polyvore’s color picker to select light blue.

The final step in adding what you already have to your Polyvore collection is to click on an image that closely resembles the item you own and then click on "Save to My Items." This will place the item in your personal collection so you can use it over and over. To access your items, click on the "My Items" tab on the upper right side of your screen. Clicking "Clear All" will clear your item type and color selections so you can work on your next item.

Now, all you have to do is repeat these steps to add all the items on your list. It will take a bit of time, but it will be worth it. You’ll be able to create outfits without digging through the clothes hamper or tearing your closet apart.

Build Your Outfits

Now that you have your "digital closet," it’s time to put some chic, stylish outfits together. To do that, click on the "My Items" tab. Then, all you have to do is drag and drop your items to the "collage" section (the left side of the screen). When you’re done, click “Publish” to save your collage to "My Sets."

Polyvore has an "idea" section to help get you started. You can also surf collections created by other Polyvore members. I, for example, searched "scarf with jeans" on the “Vogue,” “Marie Claire,” and other fashion websites. If you get stuck, you can also go to the websites of the major fashion magazines and search for clothing combinations.

Figure Out What You Need and Go Get it Cheap

Once you’ve played around with creating outfits out of what you already own, you’ll get some insights on what (if anything) you still need to complete your "look." To plan what to buy, go back to Polyvore’s items and select things you might consider purchasing (or, for that matter, making).

I decided a denim handbag might look good with an outfit consisting of dark wash jeans, cami, and cardigan. I didn’t have one, so I searched for "bags" using a search keyword "denim." I found a bag by Chanel that looked good with my outfit, but there was no way I was paying for a brand name! Instead, I cut up some old jeans that had rips in the crotch area and made a similar-looking bag.

If you aren’t a seamstress, you can print out pictures of the items you like and take them to the thrift store or department store. You can often find brand names shopping thrift, and stores like Walmart often have items that are visually similar to what the top designers are rolling out.

This has been a guest post by Melanie 
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Wardrobe Revival: Free Online Outfit Advice