I'll admit that there was a time when I opened my closet doors and a motley crew of mismatched colors, shapes, and textures would spring forth, like a muppet fashion surprise party each morning. Surprise! You have no idea what you're going to wear today! And, we're not going to help you, they taunted me.
I wasted many hours of my life, staring at these animated rows of clothing, anxiety rising, struggling to assemble a cohesive, stylish outfit. (Despite owning many beautiful pieces like my white collared Celine dress, Chanel sandals and Prada blouses and, more embarrassingly, being a stylist aka a professional outfit maker.) The problem was twofold, not only did I dismiss the mess as “organized chaos” (it wasn't), but secretly I felt it was a status symbol of sorts. Somewhere in my subconscious, I believed that my glut of clothing and subsequent inability decide on my dress was somehow an impressive show of my fashion-ness. In reality, it was a complete waste of time and money.
Because I had no organization in my closet, I often made impulsive and wasteful buying decisions. More times than I care to admit, I bought something new for an upcoming meeting/date/occasion because I couldn't fathom sorting through my clothing. Even worse, once those new items disappeared into the abyss of my closet, I rarely wore them again. When I did finally take control of my closet, I found unworn pieces with the tags still attached — usually because I'd bought them hastily but eventually realized they didn't work with anything else I owned.
Even if you aren't as extreme a shopaholic as I was, a messy closet still often leads to poor buying decisions — or, at the very least, dressing anxiety. I’ve learned that to have consistent good style, stress-free mornings and to be a smart shopper, you need to know everything that you own, where it is in your closet, it's condition, and how flattering it is on your body. With this knowledge, you'll be an unstoppable style machine. Here are the three simple steps to turn that dream into a reality:
1. Start sorting.
Sort your clothing, shoes, and accessories into two groups: 1. Will Try: he pieces you plan to keep, or are unsure about, and 2. Got-to-Go: The pieces you are certain you don't want.
Be generous with your Will-Try selections, and include garments that need repair or are slightly ill-fitting for now. Now that you’re motivated to declutter your closet you might be tempted to “Marie Kondo” your closet and throw away anything that doesn’t instantly bring you joy. In the case of clothing, I recommend you give anything you’re unsure about a chance. With some consideration and the right tailoring, you can breathe life and wears into pieces that you’ve struggled with in the past. The Got-to-Go pile should be small at this stage. Only include garments that you know you will never wear because they are so offensively ugly..
2. Try it all on.
Try on everything in your Will-Try pile. And I mean everything. This is your study in self-styling. As you try on each item, ask yourself: Do I like this? Does it suit me? Do I feel good wearing it, and why? Is it comfortable? Do I love the color/fabric/drape? Be considered and take your time.
After wearing every single item, divide your garments into three categories: 1. Definitely keeping: the pieces that look and feel amazing. Take a mental note of the styles, colors, designers, and fabrics in this category for future shopping success. 2. To be tailored or repaired: Never underestimate the money-saving power of getting your clothing tailored or repaired. Replacing a missing button or fixing a small tear is quick and inexpensive (or youtube-able). Additionally, if you have an item that you like but the fit feels off, a minor alteration is often transformational. Most dry cleaners offer alteration services at reasonable prices. Furthermore, shoes that have a worn sole can be inexpensively re-soled and brought back to life. 3. Got-to-go: no amount of alterations or styling creativity will make these items work. Add them to the Got-to-Go pile.
3. Organize, organize, organize.
You've done the heavy lifting, and now it's time to merchandise your closet like a Bergdorf Christmas window. Actually, it just needs to be functional and appealing to live it's best life. To begin, get the best hangers that you can afford and if possible shelving or boxes for your shoes and accessories. Repopulate your closet by color and, if you're really motivated or have a lot of clothing, by style and color (e.g., pants by color, tops by color, etc.). Arrange your shoes by style and color. Make sure to fold and stack delicates like knits to prolong their life.
As for the items, you decided didn't work, there are many ways to dispose of them to avoid landfill.
* Give to friends and family. A friend of mine had a box at her door of items that she didn't want in her home anymore for guests to select from as they were leaving.
* List items on resell sites such as The Real Real, Poshmark, ThredUp, or Rebagg.
* Repurpose old garments as headbands, headscarves, or belts for yourself, friends or children.
* As a last resort, send to a fabric recycling facility or use as household scraps instead of paper towels for cleaning glass and windows.
A shopping tip I always share with friends and clients is to buy an item only if you already own at least three pieces that pair well with it. This reduces wasteful spending and helps you to build a wardrobe full of outfits instead of random (even if lovely) pieces. Now that you know everything you own, this is easy to do, and now that you're not wasting money on mismatched tops and unwearable shoes you can focus on buying more expensive items that will last longer and compliment pieces you already own.
Words: Laura Jones
Photography: Laura Jones
Copy Editor: Sonjia Hyon