(aka editing your mess of a closet)
They say spring is coming (although you wouldn’t know it from where we are) and thus, it’s time for the requisite March freshen up of the closet, drawers and anything else. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by this task. I had heard the rule “if you don’t wear it, it goes” but what about my white tube skirt from Parachute that I bought in 1985? Sentimental value, people. I wondered if there was an actual expert we could ask in the field of closet organization, and we found Sarah from a new luxury wardrobe storage service in London called Vault Couture. She came over and we spent a good few hours going through all of it; what to toss, what to sell, what to store, what to keep. I learned a lot and my closet is now much less daunting (but I’m never parting with my Spence sweatshirt, I don’t care what the experts say).
If you’re going to edit your closet, you’re going to need a good deal of time and a plan. Before we got started, Sarah from Vault Couture gave a few suggestions on easing the process:
1. Allocate a realistic amount of time for editing thoroughly (a minimum of 2 hours). Real editing involves trying things on and going through a lot of items. You don’t want to have to run out to your appointment halfway through and loose your clearing out momentum.
2. Work left to right or clockwise rather than just attacking your cupboards in random order to avoid accidentally skipping over drawers, boxes, closets, etc. Make sure every part of your wardrobe is seen to.
Here are a few tips that came out of the cull:
I love this blazer from The Row but I bought it on the internet and it’s too big on me. Sarah suggests I consign it along with a few other items.
This silk Stella McCartney blazer has been worn to death: The collar is stained and the sleeves are frayed. Sarah points out that silk doesn’t have a long life span and so I’m forced to part with it and not consign as it’s no longer wearable.
Sometimes vintage and consignment pieces need a slight adjustment to welcome more wear. This vintage long-sleeve YSL is a favorite, but would look better with shorter sleeves. We make it more modern by shortening the sleeves to three quarter length. Making the alteration at the shoulder rather than at the sleeve keeps the detailing intact.
These Camilla Skovgaard heels are another item that Sarah sends on, as I already had another similar pair.
The Golden Rules of Editing Your Wardrobe
Sarah gives us a few simple rules of thumb for editing your closet and deciding what to keep and what to lose:
1. If you hold up the garment and can see any body part imprinted in it, i.e. elbows, knees, saggy bums, etc., it goes out.
2. Pay particular attention to collars. These are near your face and right in people’s eye line, so any fraying, wear-and-tear or make-up/fake tan stains, etc. means it goes.
3. Consider the “two tries” rule: if you have put on a garment and then immediately taken it off to wear something else two or more times, let it go. I know, you spent good money on it and have never worn it, but you are not getting that money back by keeping it in your closet. Smile and enjoy the cathartic feeling of de-cluttering.
4. Before you begin editing, get at least two substantial storage boxes. Allocate appropriate names for each, such as costume, nostalgia, presents, etc. I have seen amazing Burberry suits hung next to Halloween costumes. I know—this is the dress you were wearing when your husband proposed to you, or this is your college sweatshirt that everyone signed… by all means keep it, as it’s a nice part of your history. But why is it in amongst your work blouses?! This makes your closet feel and look completely disorganized, which in turn makes you feel disorganized.
Box these items up and store them away from your everyday options. You’ll be amazed how much extra space and order you’ll win back just from this one simple step.
Same goes for the million pieces of jewelry, scarves, and wallets that are not your style. Because they were gifts, you keep them out of guilt. This leaves your jewelry box and closet cluttered full of items that you’ll never wear—separate all of these out.
5. Anything more than 6 months old that still has tags on it was a mistake. It doesn’t excite you and/or it doesn’t work with your other pieces. We live and learn. Assess what doesn’t work, and let it go.
6. All, and I mean every single thing you own, should make you feel great, from your cashmere sweaters and jeans, to your evening wear.
And now, onto closet organization:
As we edited and organized, every single item was placed on a rail. It’s worth emptying out your closet completely so that when you reorganize, you start with a blank slate.
Before & After
Before: This is one of the closets before organization—coats, tops, dresses, trousers, bags, sweaters, all jumbled in one place.
After: Now, it’s limited to jackets, blazers, and sweaters.
Separate your closet into loose categories. Sweaters are now on the left while jackets and blazers are on the right.
Chunky sweaters and anything beaded or delicate like silk should be stored flat in an archival box (top shelf) so that these items don’t loose their shape or stretch. Wrap each item in acid free tissue paper. And, always clean/dry-clean these items before storing!
We switched from wooden hangers to narrow, soft padded hangers. These avoid stretching (especially on jersey or silk).
Larger travel bags that aren’t used that often can be stored on a high shelf, as seen.
If you have a lot of black items, separate them by hanging colored items in between. This way, they’re easier to find and don’t all get jumbled into one big black section.
Before: Everyday shirts, pants, and skirts all hanging together.
After: This became a go-to everyday section, with blouses and shirts that are easy to pair with jeans or trousers. There are also a couple of skirts that pair well. Trousers are now hung elsewhere and each item has more room, so they’re accessible and easy-to-find.
After: Bags are now separated by size and displayed at an angle so they’re easy to locate. Everyday bags are separated from evening clutches. Keep the dust cover that came with the bag inside of it to help keep it propped up on the shelf.
Dresses are now organized by length.
A few more useful tips on storing clothing at home
From Vault Couture:
1. For items that attract moths, like velvet or silk, store in a breathable, synthetic garment bag, which will keep the moths out.
2. If you want to keep furs at home, cover each loosely with a thin, pure white muslin and keep in a cool room.
From Garde Robe:
We also asked Doug Greenberg from Garde Robe, another excellent wardrobe storage and valet service based in New York, for some more practical advice for storing at home. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Always remove the plastic garment bags that clothes come back from the dry cleaner in. These bags do not allow the garment to breathe properly, which leads to fume fading (color loss due to air pollution).
2. Never put worn items back in the closet next to clean garments. Even if a worn garment is “clean,” your body oils and perfume act as a magnet for material-damaging insects such as moths. Don’t kid yourself that a few pieces of cedar and a lavender sachet will keep your closet free from insects indefinitely.
3. Be aware that leather items (handbags, shoes, and garments) absorb a lot of water and can take longer to dry completely. After cleaning, keep leather pieces outside the closet for a few days before placing them in the closet. Items placed in the closet too soon could cause mildew and contaminate the closet.
4. Don’t overcrowd your closets. Proper air circulation is critical for preserving fabrics.
5. If you choose to store infrequently worn or off-season garments in a guestroom closet to avoid overcrowding your closet, be sure to open the closet doors and leave a fan on in the room from time to time.
Once you’ve edited and organized, donate or consign
Here are two great consignment websites we’re into:
Editors, PR girls, stylists, businesswomen and more all sell great, gently-used clothing here. There are some pretty amazing pieces to be found and it’s fun to get a peek into these varied worlds.
Today, designer Alex Kramer’s closet goes on sale. A few snaps of her and her home are above.
This site features carefully-selected consignment items sold anonymously. You’ll find pieces by designers like Celine, 3.1 Philip Lim, Burberry, and more. They have a “White Glove Service” available to people with 10 designer pieces or more in 12 major US cities. They’ll come over, help you edit what you’d like to sell, and ship it for free.