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Let me Guess. If you've come this far, chances are your closet is too full of stuff you never wear: all-time favorites, one-season wonders, and bargains you always thought you could slim down and fit into. Filleting out fashion mistakes is tough. But it is time for action if:
- What's in your wardrobe has become a mystery to you. You have no idea what you own because everything is stuffed in together.
- At the end of a season your wardrobe is full of unworn clothes and things that don't work with more than one outfit.
- Getting dressed has become a chore and looking good is a grind. What stands between you and looking fabulous is some tough decisions. But the results are so worth it. "Effortless chic" is fashion's biggest lie. Great wardrobes don't just happen.
What to keep and what to ditch
Let's be clear about one thing: Getting a great wardrobe is not about being spoiled or self-obsessed. Knowing what you have and how it works for you saves you time and will give you peace of mind when you need to know you look good. You can look great, every day, with minimal fuss.
You may never be satisfied that the job is done. This doesn't matter. It may never be done. But knowing what you need makes you a better shopper, less likely to be tempted by impulse buys. And being able to see just what you have can inspire outfits you didn't even know you had. Old favorites become new looks when you spot combinations you never considered.
If, throughout this process, you can be as honest andruthless as possible (or, failing that, find a friend who will be), you'll quickly begin to find out what works and what doesn't. The things that work are the elements of your personal style, the basis of your own personal fashion rule book. With time and confidence, your rules may be bent, but never, ever broken.
If the job seems enormous, don't worry. Getting started is the hardest part.
Know your style
You can't do this in an hour, so make sure you set aside enough time. A day should be enough to reorganize shelving and hanging space, but if there is any DIY involved (repainting, shelf hanging), you'll need two days. Have all the things you need at hand: a full-length mirror, garbage bags, hangers (see page 24 for the essential wardrobe kit).
Empty your wardrobe completely. Immediately cut your task in half by setting aside out-of-season clothes. This is only a temporary measure, but it feels so good to get fast results. That set-aside stuff will eventually need to be sorted, but at least you can tackle it later.
Try everything on. If it no longer fits (your look, your shape, your taste), get rid of it. Make five separate piles of clothes for the dry cleaner, the tailor, the charity shop, the trash, and eveningwear. You may end up with an "iffy" pile, but don't let it get too big. The trash and charity piles should not be left lying around or they'll creep back into your wardrobe. Some charities and recycling companies will collect old clothes. Call them immediately.
Failing that, turn your trash into cash by having a yard sale or taking a stand at a flea market. Gently worn or collectible labels can go on eBay. Or, even better, plan a swap party: Your fashion mistake could easily be your girlfriend's dream dress. What remains can, collectively, be dispatched to the charity shop.
- All clothes that have shiny, worn patches on the seat or the knees.
- All clothes that show the shape of your butt or knees when you are not in them.
- All clothes that are beyond the help of the best tailor you can find. The telephone numbers of experts like these are often one of a stylish woman's best-kept secrets. Failing that, good stores generally have a direct line to the best alterations -people. Be brazen. If you don't ask, you don't get.
- All clothes that are too small or too large.
- Anything that's not clothing (wrapping paper, photos, and books belong somewhere else).
If you're still having trouble working out what to ditch, put it in the iffy pile and apply the two-year rule: If you haven't worn something in that long, it has to go; there is no excuse. Once that's done, only the best of what you have remains in the cupboard.
The Only Exceptions
- Eveningwear. It gets worn less and so, if it's stored correctly, stays in good condition for longer. And classic trends always come back.
- Stuff you think is collectible (don't you envy your friends whose moms kept their Halstons?). By all means keep your favorite fashion moments for posterity, but that doesn't mean those harem pants should get another airing in your lifetime.
- Anything that has made it through all these filters because of its fantastic quality. Keep these in a box with all the other iffy items for annual reassessment.
Your new order
When you put everything back in your wardrobe, try to work out a way of arranging things so you will know immediately where to look for things. Here's my running order, but feel free to adapt to whatever works for you:
- Tops (shirts, shells, cardigans)
- Bottoms (pants, jeans, khakis, skirts)
- Tailored jackets (hanging with the skirts or pants they go with)
- Dresses (progressing from casual to evening)
- Eveningwear and coats (should have a little section of their own)
Don't forget: Put the out-of-season stuff away. No one wears flannel in July. And February is no time for a pretty peasant skirt.Style Clinic. Copyright © by Paula Reed. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.