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How much is enough? How to edit your closet (part two)

Categories: basics

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Last week, we got Gina started on a big closet clean-out; she’s hoping to edit her wardrobe down to only the pieces she really and truly wears. Which, of course, means getting rid of a few things. Or a lot of things, possibly. Let’s talk about how Gina can decide what to keep and what to give up.

(Read about Gina’s first steps here. And then get started on your own closet.)

Once Gina has identified her core wardrobe (the go-to pieces she automatically reaches for), she should make a real effort to start wearing the pieces in her closet that she’s been overlooking. Her goal is to figure out how to make those pieces work with her basics — or to figure out why they just don’t work.

This is the point where it’s important that Gina think carefully about what she wants her clothes to do for her. It’s all well and good to look at a sweater or dress or pair of pants and think how lovely they are — if you’re not wearing those pieces, then they’re a waste of space in your closet, even if they’re absolutely beautiful. Pieces with an emotional attachment — the sweater you wore on your first date with your husband, or the dress you wore for the baby’s christening — can be packed in acid-free tissue and stored. Pieces that you like in theory but can’t make work in practice need to go — that motorcycle jacket that doesn’t fit right through the arms, the slinky black dress that makes you feel naked, the platform pumps that make your feet hurt. If you’re absolutely not wearing them, there’s no reason to keep them, no matter how beautiful they are.

Still agonizing about getting rid of those pieces? Think carefully about why you are so attached to them. Have you always wanted to be the type of girl who tossed a motorcycle jacket on over her silk dress? Try it! If you can’t make it work, then the jacket needs to go. Instead of focusing on making someone else’s style work for you, focus on finding your own style. It’s easier to get dressed when your not constantly revising your look. I promise.

So how many pieces are enough? There’s not a specific number; it depends on your lifestyle. I do lots of laundry, so I can get by with fewer everyday pieces, like shorts and khakis — if you’re a once-a-week launderer, you may need more options to get through the week. I’m also not opposed to repeating outfits — if I liked it well enough to wear it once, I’m happy to wear it again. And honestly, people never say, “Oh, you’re wearing that again.” No, they say, “Oh I’ve always loved that dress!” Promise.



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9 comments so far...

  • I am so afraid to let go of things. This summer, I have kept some skirts and shirts up high on a shelf and I decided that if I go this entire season without wearing them or wanting to take them down…they are worth getting rid of. I feel like that’s a good start.

    alimartell  |  July 8th, 2011 at 6:24 am

  • What a great post! Sometimes it is so hard to get rid of items in your closet. My biggest challenge is that I purge twice a year, get rid of things, and then I end up buying more stuff!

    Heather/H&K Style Journey  |  July 8th, 2011 at 7:26 am

  • What about dressier pieces? I’m a stay at home mom and have my regular wardrobe pretty well edited. But I have a few classic dressier pieces (silk wrap shirt, long black skirt) that I NEVER wear but can’t bring myself to throw out. I’ve had occasion to wear them, but they are old and I always end up buying something new to wear to that dressy occasion. I should give them away, shouldn’t I? (I need tough love obviously.)

    Robin  |  July 8th, 2011 at 9:09 am

  • Robin, I think you just answered your own question.

    Dressy pieces are worth keeping IF you actually wear them when the occasion arises. But if you open an invitation to a wedding or party and then go directly to the mall for something new, it’s time to move those clothes out of your closet. If they’re in good shape, you can think about taking them to a consignment shop (although I will admit that I’m too lazy for consignment — I prefer to donate). But don’t hang on to things you’re not wearing.

    But there’s more! Instead of investing in an outfit you will only wear once, look for classic dressy pieces that you will wear over and over. You can change the look of a little black dress or suit with accessories, if you’re worried about repeating — but honestly, repetition is the key to having a look that is distinctly yours. Truly.

    Susan  |  July 8th, 2011 at 11:26 am

  • I have a semi-edited closet but I don’t have one “style” that I stick to fashion wise so my wardrobe is pretty diverse. I also tend to wear once piece for a month consistently, and then drop it for a while. A few weeks ago I realized that I have way to much selection and was taking too long to get ready [with a three year old more than 5 minutes is too long!]. So I bought a cheap garment rack from Ikea and I now pull out my clothes for the week- creating a little well edited display that I can only select from. It has saved so much time and I only have to go through the “masses” once a week [though I really don't have a ton of clothes]. I also can make sure that everything is ironed & clean before I go to put it on in the morning.

    Cheers!

    Hayley  |  July 8th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  • You’re right. (and I knew the answer already, but wanted to hear it from someone else.) I’m doing it.

    Robin  |  July 8th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

  • THANK YOU! I am so glad I didn’t miss this column!

    I’m going to try your steps. Great ideas and process. I did start by doing the same thing as alimartell so will get rid of that pile if not worn this summer and I’ll try the hanger trick.

    So - I can wear the same black dress I wore to one cousin’s wedding last year to another cousin’s wedding this year with different accessories?

    Gina  |  July 8th, 2011 at 6:13 pm

  • How true about getting compliments even on recognized repeats. I recently gave away a skirt that was too small for me to a dear friend, who protested about accepting it even though she had tried it on at our last clothing swap and it looked great on her. She said that the skirt was too “me”–which is true, as I had worn it a LOT in its time–and I ought to keep it for sentimentality’s sake. But I’d rather see it being rocked by a friend!

    KL  |  July 9th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

  • What about for people who change sizes regularly? I have moved from a 0 to a 14 and everywhere in between due to chronic health issues as well as having a baby. I don’t necessarily want to get rid of my nice clothes that don’t fit me as I change sizes frequently but it also feels weird to have outfits in tons of sizes that don’t currently fit me all over my house. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this situation?

    MC  |  August 19th, 2011 at 6:30 am

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