What You Need to Know for a Strategic Wardrobe Review

Fashion Plate for Australian Summer Fashions 1885
Fashion Plate for Australian Summer Fashions 1885

Australian Summer Fashions 1885 via State Library Victoria 

It was a sunny and balmy 62.8° F (17.1° C) this morning. I was dressed quite lightly because I was following up on my intention to walk more. It might get warmer today, though there’s the chance of a shower so it might not either. You’ve got to love it when the weather bureau hedges their bets. But it is Spring here (Fall/Autumn for my northern hemisphere friends), and really, that is just what the weather is like this time of year.

As I walked, (and observed the clothing choices of people walking to the station) I was thinking about my summer preparations (aside from the obvious ones of hair removal and slimming back down to fit into my summer clothes). There’s also things like giving my summer shoes some love with leather conditioner. And after my trip to the Agricultural Show, I realise I need to get some new linen pants.

We are all more or less united by the change of season, so as I have already explained why a wardrobe review is a good idea, I thought I’d share some information from my book Build Your Signature Wardrobe about how to conduct a wardrobe review.

In general, I would recommend making your wardrobe plan before you review your wardrobe because your circumstances may have changed and you haven’t yet thought about the corresponding changes in your clothing needs. You might have lost your job or been promoted, had a baby or sent your youngest to school. Once you know what clothes you need, you can see which of the clothes you already own will still work and which need to be replaced with something more appropriate for your life as it is right now.

1. Get Ready

This might be hard, so you will probably need some alone time and a few treats to get you through your wardrobe review. You will be making notes as you go, so have a notebook and pen handy too.

Gather some bags or boxes to categorise your clothes as you go. At the most basic level, you will be identifying clothes to keep and discard, but your labels might include donations, sell, alterations, kids dress up, dry cleaning and so on.

2. Gather ALL Your Clothes, Shoes and Accessories Together

Collect everything (even the things in storage and that need washing) together in one place; ideally somewhere clean (perhaps your bed).

This will look intimidating, and you will probably want to do it a bit at a time, but it’s really important for you to see ALL of it so that you have a basis for comparison to your disposal and keep piles to get a realistic idea of the adequacy of your previous shopping.

Take a long hard look.

As you look you will probably be able to just pull things out that you don’t want any more, identify clothes you thought you had lost and notice that you have multiples of things that at first glance don’t seem too different. You might also see that you have a lot of one particular colour and realise you don’t like that much. Make a note of anything that seems important or that you want to think more about later.

Thoroughly inspect each garment to ensure it is in good wearable condition; just throw anything that is stained, discoloured, stretched, worn, torn, holed, frayed and embarrassing. If you cannot mend or clean it, and aren’t prepared to pay someone to do it, throw it in the trash. Make a note in your book to replace them.

Otherwise, try it on.

3. Try Everything On

Your goal for this step is to make sure that each garment you own has a place in your life; that you think it is still appropriate and stylish.

Sometimes you will have clothes that are just mistakes, perhaps they were expensive, or gifts from special people or remind you of special times. Other times you just don’t wear them but don’t know why. But if you aren’t going to wear them, they are a waste of closet space and should be disposed of, or arrangements for proper long term preservation and conservation. As you do this, try to identify what is “wrong” with them and note it in your book. For example, if you know that you don’t like high cut necklines because you feel like you are choking, you will remember not to buy them.

If it doesn’t fit get rid of it – if it’s too big you don’t want it there giving you permission to size up and if it’s too small you don’t want it there making you feel bad about yourself. If you love it, but think it would benefit from lengthening or shortening, changing buttons or trim then lay it aside and set a date to get the alterations done by.

Your skin and/or hair colour may have changed, or something else might have made you change your opinion about some colours. If you look in the mirror and can’t immediately see that the colour works, tale a photo and recheck it later. If you can, try to identify at least one garment that is the perfect colour – you can wear this when you go shopping as an easy colour comparison test for potential purchases.

4. Clean Your Storage Spaces

Now that you have only your most amazing clothes left, you need an equally amazing place to store them. Somewhere neat, clean, pleasant and relaxing. Somewhere like a high-end boutique!

So while your closet is empty, clean the floors and dust the shelves. Consider repainting and improving the lighting. If you need to, add double hanging rails (so you can see your tops above your bottoms) and some racks, boxes and baskets for storage. Include a full-length mirror so that you can review your outfit before you leave the house. Buy sets of good solid, pretty and supportive hangers. Ensure that any clips are padded to ensure they don’t damage your clothing. Line your shelves and drawers to protect your clothes from splinters.

And include something like a Victorian style clove studded orange, cedar blocks, lavender sachets or Savon de Marseille to subtly perfume the space and deter insects .

5. Carefully Store Your Off Season Clothing

If your clothes are clean and ready to wear, swapping seasons will be less stressful that if you have to clean and repair everything as it comes out. Even clothes that are not obviously soiled will retain fragrances and body oils that may stain and attract insects.

So clean and repair everything before folding and padding with tissue paper and packing in the order that you are likely to want to pull them out (with a natural insect repellent like lavender sachets or cedar blocks). Store your packed clothes in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight, or if you’re lucky enough to have a spare closet, just pack them in cotton garment bags and swap closets.

Moth balls are little balls of concentrated pesticide that work by releasing toxic vapours. These vapours soak into your clothes and leave toxic residue on your skin as well as releasing the vapours for you to inhale which can have serious health implications for some people, particularly children and asthmatics. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, you can minimise your exposure by airing the clothes out for at least 24 hours, preferably outdoors in the sun on a windy day. After this, you should wash them thoroughly before wearing them. Not the least stressful transition that I can imagine…

6. Refill Your Storage Space

When you refill your closet, only return the clothes that you will wear this season so that you can see what you have.

Still thinking high-end boutique, hang each garment neatly on its own hanger, facing in the same direction with good air circulation. Hang pants from the waist to avoid creased and sagging knees. Support delicate clothing by sewing long loops of tape in the waist to slip over the hanger’s hook (you can store them in cotton garment bags for added protection). Put your shoes and other accessories where you can see them and might be inspired to wear them.

Depending on what’s appropriate for you, you could group them by colour in item order, e.g. dresses, pants, skirts, jackets. Or as outfits. Or by lifestyle categories e.g. work, evening, weekend. Whichever way you choose, put the clothes you wear the most often front and centre for easy access.

7. Shop Your Closet

And if you still have the time and energy (or perhaps another day), you can look at what’s left and start building outfits. (Or maybe you already did this while you were trying things on).

You can do this in two different ways.

  1. Get washed, style your hair and put on make-up before trying on your clothes again. Try all your tops on with all your bottoms, and try them with all your jackets, other tops, outerwear, accessories, jewellery, scarves, bags and shoes. Note which combinations work, and which require a little something extra. Update your shopping list.
  2. If you have identified colour hues, tints and/or shades that work for you, you can take a slightly different approach by skipping the trying on and comparing each garment/accessory with one that you know is perfect for you. If it doesn’t work you can discard it because it isn’t the right hue/tint/shade to match you or the rest of your clothes. It’s still a good idea to record the combinations that work, and new items to buy.

The advantage of trying things on is that you can see whether the lines and textures are harmonious. And whether you can offset any colour irregularities with other items.


Does my revised early twentieth-century wardrobe review process work for you?

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29th September 2015

If I amused, entertained, or informed you today, feel free to leave me a small gift. Click paypal.me/alexandriablaelock to go to PayPal.

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