Nothing to wear? Shop your closet

BlogHer Original Post

There is nothing more frustrating than standing in front of a closet full of clothes and thinking, "I have nothing to wear." Admit it --- you do it. So do I. Our solution, most often, is one of two things: we either wear the same things all the time, or we shop for more things. Either way, we still find ourselves looking at our wardrobes without any idea what to put on.

Today we're going to break the cycle.

Let's talk about how to shop your closet. You will need three boxes (or bags), one marked Donate, one marked Storage, and one marked Alterations, a full-length mirror, an hour or so of interrupted time, and a friend whose style sense you trust and admire. Begin by trying on everything you own. Yes, every single thing. Start with bottoms -- skirts and pants -- since this tends to be what most of us complain about. Put on a neutral t-shirt (white is best) and try on every pair of pants and every skirt. Anything that doesn't zip or cuts off the circulation to your spleen has to go. Anything with a crotch that hangs at your knees or a backside that dips to your calves has to go. Anything stained or pilled or faded or just plain worn out has to go.

After you've done the bottoms, move on to the tops. Try tops with a neutral bottom (khakis or jeans) and the proper undergarments. Bend over to check for excess cleavage; reach up to check for stomach exposure. Look for stains and pulls and missing buttons. Be honest, and be ruthless. Only keep things that really fit, and that you really wear.

Return the things that fit and that are in good condition to your closet; put everything that may very well fit again someday in the Storage box; put anything that will never fit again in the Donate box.

Things that would be perfect if you just had them altered go in the Alterations box; set a deadline for having the alterations done. That dress you've been meaning to have hemmed for three years? Give yourself two weeks to get it to the tailor; if it's still hanging in the back of your car after two weeks, get rid of it. Things that need cleaning or laundering go in a separate pile.

Next up: shoes! Try on every pair of shoes. Shoes that need new heels or soles go in the Alterations box; shoes that need to be polished go in a another pile. Give away shoes that you never ever wear; toss shoes that are beyond repair. Even if you're the type who wears practical flats most of the time, hang on to at least one pair of heels. You never know when you will need a pair of dress shoes.

Now that you have a whole closet full of clothes that fit and are presentable, try everything on again, this time with an eye to what goes together. This is the point where you might want to enlist a friend, someone whose style you admire, to help you assess how your clothes can work for you. Put together complete outfits, including shoes; this lets you see what you have and what you need. Do you have a great pair of pants that go with all your tops but no shoes to wear with them? Shop for shoes. Do you have a terrific white blouse but no appropriate bra? Shop for a bra. And so on.

Try every possible combination. Did you find a fabulous lace cocktail skirt way back in the closet? Great! Try it with a basic white shirt and a turtleneck and a fitted tee and a tank top and . . . you get the idea. Try everything on with your jeans -- blouses and sweaters and jackets and tees. Move around in every outfit, and assess how it works -- when you bend over, what's the view like? When you sit down, does the top meet the bottom? Can you really walk in those shoes? Is it a problem if you can't?

Now that you know what you have, and what goes with what, organize your closet. Use whatever system you like for arranging your clothes -- by color, for example, or style or even by outfit -- but avoid dividing your clothes into Everyday and Dress-Up. The average woman only wears about 30% of her clothes, primarily because we get it into our heads that certain pieces are only for work or only for weekends. A black tank top can be perfect with a cocktail skirt; a dressy jacket goes nicely with jeans.

By now, you should have a clear idea both of what you actually have and what you really need, which should help you focus your shopping. Keep a list of what you need and carry it with you when you shop. Fill in the gaps in your existing wardrobe before you add more random pieces. This way, when you look in the closet in the morning, you will see clothes that fit and go together and look great on you. Next week: basics for every wardrobe.

Susan Wagner writes about fashion at Friday Style and everything else at Friday Playdate.


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