Wardrobe Magic, Part 1: The declutter

A bulging wardrobeBe honest, did you start the new year with some sort of ‘this year I will look more together/stylish/effortlessly elegant/less like I got dragged through a hedge’ resolution? A huge number of women (and, no doubt, men) start each year with determination to make this the year they finally get it together, style-wise. It means that January is always a busy month for me, and I’m sure it is for many other consultants, as we get a rush of bookings from people who have made exactly those sorts of resolutions.

To set off your stylish new year, I’ve created a series of posts on how to carry out your very own bit of wardrobe magic – helping you fill your wardrobe with clothes that you love, that make you feel amazing and that all work together (so not too much to ask then). I would usually start bandying about the term capsule wardrobe here (I am a huge fan of them), but am reluctant to head too much down that path lest I frighten off those of you who like a rather more well rounded wardrobe. Suffice to say that whether you want a wardrobe that contains 20 garments or 200, this series of posts will help make sure that every single one works for you and fills you with joy when you open the wardrobe door.

In the interests of not boring to death those of you who are very happy with their fourteen bulging wardrobes (or tiny suitcase sized wardrobes), I’ll be alternating these posts with ones on other subjects, so fear not if a wardrobe planning series isn’t for you!


What will we do?

Having the perfect wardrobe doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time, energy and commitment. Not a ridiculous amount, not days and days of your life, but certainly a good handful of hours. If you find yourself instantly thinking ‘oh, I can’t commit the time and energy to do that then,’ just think how much time and energy you currently spend on a daily basis not only trying to put together an outfit from your existing wardrobe, but then throughout the day thinking about your outfit and debating whether it really works for you, and then still feeling not-quite-right all day because you know that it doesn’t really make you look your absolute best.

My aim is to walk you through the steps you need to put together a wardrobe of clothes that makes you feel amazing every time you open it, makes getting dressed a genuine pleasure and makes you forget about your clothes all day because you know that they work and you don’t need to think about them beyond that.

Where do we start?

I try not to make assumptions about the people that read this blog, about their lifestyles and budgets, so I won’t go into huge depth on that front, but I am going to make one assumption before we start. I am going to assume that, having come to this blog through the Kettlewell site, you have had your colours analysed. If you haven’t, I really can’t recommend it highly enough (not that I have a vested interest or anything, being a consultant. But really truly and honestly, it’s well worth it!). Not only will it help you look and feel your best every time you get dressed, it will also create a naturally limited palette of colours from which to create your wardrobe. Limiting your colour palette means maximising your wardrobe’s mix and match potential, meaning more outfits and fewer clothing dilemmas. It makes everything from pared down elegance (see last year’s post on wearing your best neutrals, for instance) to maximum fashion following craziness (I’m looking at you, faux fur) easy and accessible.

And so, without further ado, we step into Wardrobe Magic, Part 1: The declutter.

Organizing your clothes

The process

Clearing your wardrobe is not as straightforward a task as one might think. It’s easy to say, ‘oh, just take out everything that you haven’t worn for 6 months and that doesn’t suit you and get rid of it,’ but that doesn’t cover seasonal clothes, special occasion clothes, and what you’re supposed to do when throwing out the clothes that you’ve realised don’t suit you would leave you heading out in your underwear every day (believe me, I’ve had that particular wardrobe meltdown, in my pre-colour and style analysis days).

And so, without further ado, here’s my foolproof method for taking step one in having the perfect capsule wardrobe (cringe, sorry! I can’t help sometimes using that term, but please take it to mean whatever you want from your own wardrobe) – sorting out what you already have, discarding the worst and working out what your next steps are. As I mentioned above, I am going to assume that you have at least had your colours analysed, if not your personal style, and therefore know which palette of colours your clothes should be drawn from.

1. Try and make sure as much of your wardrobe as possible is clean and actually in your wardrobe. Saves diluting your carefully edited wardrobe later on with stuff that was loitering in the laundry basket.

2. Pick a day when you have a good clear stretch of time ahead of you. Possibly several hours, depending on the size of your wardrobe. I can normally help a client go through an entire lifetime of accumulated clothes in about three hours, but then I am fairly ruthless, and it’s always easier to be dispassionate about someone else’s wardrobe.

3. Find a notepad and pen (yup, we’re getting properly organised here. Notes will be made. You may be tested on your answers later. Or not).

4. I normally start with ‘pull everything out of your wardrobe,’ but if you have areas and acres of clothes, this can be ridiculously overwhelming. So, if you have a wardrobe like mine (i.e. pretty minimal), go wild and pull everything out. If it’s a little more out of control than that, then just pull out one ‘type’ of clothing at a time, such as tops or trousers, and then move on to the next ‘type’.

5. If you’ve pulled out everything, then divide your clothing up into piles (tops, skirts, trousers etc). If appropriate, divide into workwear and casual clothes too (if you have a lot of crossover between your work and casual wardrobe, don’t worry too much about making this division).9037401_f520

6. Pick a pile. Let’s say for the purposes of this list that you start with casual skirts.

7. Now divide that pile of skirts into two piles – one pile will contain any skirts you have in your colours (and style, if appropriate. I won’t keep saying style along with colour, but assume it to be the case if you have had your style analysed), the other pile any that are the wrong colours for you. If there are any that feel a bit borderline, make a decision which pile they belong to based on how many good coloured skirts you have. If you have tons, then those borderline ones might as well go in the wrong colour pile. If you only have one skirt in your colours, then throw any borderline ones into the right colours pile too. If you don’t have any skirts in your right colours, then make a note in your notepad and carry on with the wrong colour ones.

8. Starting with your right coloured skirts, you will now divide them into three piles – the Keep, the Maybe and the Leave My Life And Never Darken My Door Again (we will call this the Toss pile, for the sake of brevity). Go through the skirts and choose your favourite one or two. Those unquestionably belong in the Keep pile. If you don’t actually have two skirts you love, then make a note of that in your notepad and move on to the next step.

9. If you couldn’t come up with two favourites from the right coloured pile, take a look at the wrong colours and see if any of those are favourites. If they are, then add them to the Keep pile. Again, make a note of the fact in your notepad.

10. Go back to the right coloured skirts and make snap decisions about each one. Try not to overthink it, just ask yourself whether you love the item in your hands. If the answer is yes, put it in the Keep pile. If it’s an ‘ugh, no, I look huge’ or a ‘that would look nice if I lost 10lb’ or a ‘oh, that used to be so lovely when I wore it for Great Aunt Petunia’s 90th birthday back in 1993, but I haven’t worn it since,’  put it in the Toss pile. if you find yourself hesitating for more than a few seconds, put it in the Maybe pile. Anything that needs mending/dry cleaning/anything actually doing to it before it can be worn needs to go into the Maybe pile too. We’ll worry about these clothes later.

11. Repeat step 10 for the wrong coloured skirts. If, however, going through the right coloured skirts gave you plenty of skirts in your wardrobe (don’t worry too much about what your version of ‘plenty’ is. If it looks enough, it probably is. No one ever died from not having enough skirts), don’t even both looking at the wrong coloured ones. Just add them to the Toss pile.

12. Iron/fold/hang and return to your wardrobe anything that was a Keep. If you now have 47 skirts hanging in your wardrobe, don’t worry too much about it for now, but we will come back to this later.

13. Repeat steps 6-12 for every type of clothing.

14. Your wardrobe should now contain a lovely and carefully edited selection of clothes that you love. If it doesn’t, you now have one of two problems:

14a. Too many clothes!

14b. Not enough clothes!

What next?

We will deal with the solution to both of those problems in the next installment of Wardrobe Magic in a couple of weeks, as well as looking at what to do with all those Maybe clothes (I’ll let you take the Toss clothes to the charity shop/ebay them while you wait for the next installment, though).

2 thoughts on “Wardrobe Magic, Part 1: The declutter

Add yours

  1. This sounds so complicated to me! The easiest way to start would be simply biting the bullet, and chucking out ALL the clothes that are your wrong colours and then the styles, as they’ll simply be wrong to start with. Who would want to wear the wrong colours after having colours done? Get your swatches out and just chuck or charity shop if in good nick. Since having my colours and my styles done with Nina Wing from House of Colour in 1998 and being ‘diagnosed’ as a true Autumn, there hasn’t even been a pair of black shoes in my cupboard, and all the white, blue navy, royal blue, pink and blue-based colours etc gone. Then being a guinea pig for the students of Colour Me Beautiful in 2008,and I was whatever the fancy name is for Autumn – basically the same. So that’s my advice as you’ll have clothes you can wear rather than the cupboard! Be ruthless, and then you won’t end up with half as much clothes in piles on the floor or overwhelmed. If it ain’t on the swatch, chuck it and, er, enjoy the acquired freedom of it all.

    1. Mmmmm, true about not wanting to wear a colour that is not one of yours or indeed my lovely Autumn colours. However, I have a favourite pair of cotton Trousers that was grey. I dyed them and they are now a beautiful russet!

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