Updated: Jul 14, 2020
by Isabella Cordaro
I always hear people complaining that they have nothing good to wear, they have no closet space, they never like their outfits, and so on. My response is always pretty much the same: We need to approach our wardrobes like an actual, ongoing project. Something that’s assessed, has requirements, and needs to be maintained. If your wardrobe doesn’t make you feel like the best version of you then you need to reevaluate it. We can spend years finding our own unique style, because similarly to us, it's always changing and evolving. I've coached countless friends, strangers, and myself, through the deepest of closet clean-outs. I've gone through this process so many times with a variety of people and after seeing their results, so I think it's time to share what I've found works best!
The key to having a meaningful wardrobe, one that makes you happy, is figure out the commonalities for the clothes you love to wear and getting rid of the ones you never wear. My first piece of advice for starting a closet clean-out: Take everything out! Our subconscious thinks it's harder to get rid of something when it's already in the closet, but if you have to put it back in the closet to keep it you may find you don't actually want it. My second piece of advice is to look at everything you have and make sure the balance makes you happy. Michael Kors once said your closet should be 70% staples and basics and 30% unique statement pieces. This ratio obviously varies person-to-person but it's a great place to start. Once you've done a good clean-out and figured out what you can sell to make some money back, (I'd count this as my third piece of advice because selling clothes you don't wear is so much better for the environment and your wallet than throwing them out) now it's time to figure out what you're missing!
Some of us are talented designers and are capable of creating the items we think would make an outfit perfect.... but some of us are not. If you have the creative capacity and God-given talent to physically make an item you're envisioning, then you need to take advantage of that. Nothing is more unique and "your style" than a piece you created yourself. BUT, for those of us who know we do better in stores rather than in front of a sewing machine: it's time to shop with a plan. I’m convinced that 80% of over-shopping and having items we don't even like could be solved by truly understanding what we are shopping for and what our style is. Otherwise, it’s way too easy to fall prey to whatever’s cute or pretty, and then you waste your money on a closet full of clothes you never reach for.
We all treasure the concept of making a list before we go to the grocery store or planning things with a budget, so why not do the same for clothes shopping? My fourth piece of advice, and this is a big one: make a list of what you're going to look for. Browse moodboards, websites, and influencers to see what outfits you like and what they all have in common. Make a list of things that you wish you had in your wardrobe. For example, mark down a style or color pants you've seem that would great with 3 tops you already have. Shopping with a big-picture plan, versus the impulsive or desperate buys, has a plethora of benefits. You buy less, save money, save space, have items you really love, can more easily create outfits that make you feel good, the list goes on and on. Having a list of items ahead of time will help keep your shopping focused. Aiming to have just one item per category will save you both space and money as well.
And finally, my last piece of advice to anyone shopping for specific items or even for specific occasions: do not just buy something because it's cheap. After shopping at H&M and Forever21 for years, I’ve discovered that I rarely loved anything I’ve ever bought from there. It usually ended up falling apart or losing my interest after just a few wears. It pains me to think of the amount of money I've wasted on Fast Fashion. Now that my style and taste is more developed I wish I had that money back to invest in items of better quality. If you don't see something you really love in the store you're standing in, move onto another store. You'll know you've found the right piece when you see it so don't waste your money on something cheap and easy.
To sum it all up for those of you about to take on a closet clean-out project: take it all out and decide what you want to keep, sell what you don't want, figure out what you like the look of, make a list of what's missing from your closet and what you want to shop for, and finally make sure you really love it and have things to wear it with at home before you buy it.