If you’ve been following Second Hand September you may have been inspired to ‘not buy new’ this month, and if you've been following my blog you might have had a rifle through your wardrobe for pieces that can be reinterpreted for Autumn. Here you may have encountered a stumbling block: a wardrobe that instead of of being ripe for inspiration, is actually so disorganised it renders even getting dressed near impossible. You need a September sort out: AKA The Wardrobe Edit.
Before going any further let me explain (In the words of the great Dragon's Den) where I’m at. I’m not preaching from the lofty heights of sartorial utopia. My friends and family would be unlikely to label me as high in either organisational skills or common sense: I have a floor-drobe habit; a clean washing on the stairs taken up three days later habit; I have a sock drawer of doom that I can never find one matching set in(This extends to my children- I recently in a fit of pique threw every child sock away and started again); and as much as I would love to have my hangers facing in opposing directions dependant on whether I have worn clothing items in the last 6 months, this is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. What I am is a stylist who has spent my career pulling clothes together into something cohesive: for shoots, tv shows, or to help people clarify what they are trying to put out to the world. And one simple thing I have learnt is that this is hard if you have an excessive amount of unsuitable pieces cloudy-ing the water. Even harder when those clothes fall on your head every time you open the door. It’s impossible to know what you have and haven’t got, let alone put a good look together. You need to edit.
The Recreated SATC Wardrobe. * Actual Sartorial Utopia
So a Wardrobe Edit it is. *Rubs hands together* September is an excellent time, bringing with it a pleasing ‘back to school’ frisson. Picture your wardrobe a bit like last year’s pencil case: chuck out the sweet wrappers, sharpen the pencils, give it all a bit of a wipe. The excitement of knowing you have everything revived ready to draw a masterpiece or write the next great novel. The wardrobe edit is basically that, with one large pencil case and lots of sharpened clothes at the ready. So how to go about it? Here are my top ten tips:
1. Edit Ruthlessly This needs some time so don’t launch into it ten minutes before school pick up, or after a big night out. There’s nothing worse than emptying a wardrobe all over your bed, discovering the unsorted carnage when you want to go to sleep and subsequently sweeping it onto the floor, where it lies for the next two weeks. (my husband calls this the mine sweeper.) Take everything out of your wardrobe and remove:
Pieces that don’t fit you and aren’t ever likely to
Pieces that you haven’t worn for over a year
Pieces that have reached the end of their wearable life
Pieces that are lesser repeats of things you like way more.
2. Make Do and Mend
Before discarding try pieces on and check they can't be revived with a shorter hemline, or a bit of creative tweaking. Paying a local tailor is infinitely preferable to unworn pieces hanging, and money wasted on buying more. Even better, get a sewing machine and give it a go yourself. (My personal Autumn term project.)
3. Pass Your Clothes On
Clothes that don’t work in your wardrobe might be the missing piece someone needs in theirs. Sell quality pieces on preloved sites, give to charity, pass to friends, or join/host a clothes swap event (fun!). Whatever you do just DON’T throw them in the bin.
4. Store Sentimental and Seasonal Pieces.
If the first thing you see every time you open the wardrobe is your wedding dress, it doesn’t help with outfit clarity. Remove any sentimental pieces that aren’t part of your day to day wardrobe, and any seasonally unsuitable pieces. (There should be some overlaps here. remember you CAN layer that sundress! But I generally draw the line at cheesecloth, kaftans and swimwear mid winter) Store these somewhere where you don’t have to see them every day.
5. Assess the Balance
You should be left with a collection of pieces you can get to grip with a little better. Have a look at these? are there three hundred tops and only 5 bottoms? a thousand dresses and one jacket? Jokes obvs, but an unbalanced wardrobe will negatively impact your ability to put ANY outfit together let alone one that shows the world how snazzy you are. Jot down what clothing type you are lacking. This is the beginning of THE LIST. ( This inverted triangle should give a little idea of the proportions to aim for)
6. Consider your Style
What is left in your wardrobe should begin to be telling you something. Lots of print and colour? All clean girl minimal? Take a good look at what you wear- there will be repeats of colours and styles that form the basis of your style DNA, ie what you enjoy most. Having an awareness of this stops you buying pieces that A. are so off track they never get worn and B. don’t go with anything else and thus are frankly pointless.
7. Try on Your Clothes
How often do we actually have time to put outfits together when we aren’t running out the door in five minutes? An hour spent putting looks together ( snap yourself in them for reference) will allow you to be more creative in your combinations, plus reveal gaps in the virtual jigsaw puzzle of your wardrobe. Add these 'gap' items to the list.
8. Remember Accessories
I’m not talking Iris Apfel level here. But a concise variety of shoes, bags, maybe a belt or a scarf if you’re feeling wild, that can be used in different ways, is a good start. I see so many people struggle to pull outfits together each day, and when we dissect their wardrobe it turns out they are woefully accessory free. Add pieces you feel could help uplevel your current outfits to the list.
9. Look at the Jigsaw
By now you should have a list of ‘jigsaw pieces’ that you are missing that are genuinely helpful in putting looks together. Commit this to memory. (Or even better the notes section on your phone) Having a mental or irl ‘moodboard’ gives us direction when shopping and stops us picking up totally unsuitable pieces we’ve seen on a teenager on instagram.
10. Invest Wisely
You’ve trimmed the fat from your wardrobe, clarified your style DNA, and worked out what jigsaw pieces are missing from the style puzzle. You are now far more equipped to hand pick specific items in more creative ways: second hand, preloved and independent, rather than wildly sweeping the high-street for anything that takes your fancy: Cherry picking rather than raiding the greengrocers. (See my online preloved edit, independent brands edit and 10 ways to shop sustainably in 2022 for more inspiration)
So The Wardrobe Edit: It’s about giving some attention to what you have rather than just what you want, and getting to grips with your style, whether you like to look like Audrey Hepburn or a bare back rider from Giffords circus. It's not about extreme Marie Kondo-ing, colour coding or following a strict ‘capsule’. And yes if you still feel like you’re flailing, I am on always on hand on zoom or irl, to help decipher your direction, create outfits from what you own and shout YOU LOOK AMAZING in pieces that you know you love but need a helping hand to put out in the world.
Thank you for reading! If you want more information on wardrobe editing look at my style consulting website and drop me a line with any questions. I will be covering other areas of the wardrobe edit in future blogs, including how to work out your style dna, and my tips on exactly HOW to style outfits that say what you want them to. Subscribe here to have it delivered to your inbox on a Sunday morning.