Five free ways to get the most out of your wardrobe

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Maybe it's just me, but I tend to get stuck in wardrobe ruts that conjure that all-too-familiar feeling of "closet full of clothes but nothing to wear." Getting in a rut with my closet makes me doubt my taste and purchasing decisions, and inspires the need buy something new.

Since I've cut myself off from retail therapy (the cure for that sort of wardrobe ailment), I've started to find new ways to overcome boredom and get my creative juices flowing. These ideas might make me sound a little crazy (if I didn't already...), but they really work for me:

#1 Organize your accessories into cliques

If you follow my Instagram account, you know about my tried-and-true "bag and shoe of the week" strategy for traveling. Well, I've expanded that strategy to include accessories beyond just the basics. Creating coordinated accessory cliques consisting of bag, shoes, sunglasses, hat, scarf, etc. based on commonalities such as complementary colors, diverse fabrics, and similar metal tones was a game changer for me. 

In the photo above, I put a lot of thought into black-and-white straw hat, black-and-white silk scarf, nude leather tote and simple unadorned rubber sandals. They are my Switzerland clique, perfectly neutral of color and guaranteed to play nice with whatever items of clothing I introduce to the combination, be it a black silk shift dress or a shapeless green potato sack of a dress.

My group of structured orange leather tote bag, purple suede sandals and Lucite earrings, on the other hand, would not play nice with all items of clothing and require more thoughtful selections.

Creating these cliques in my closet has established easy foundations for building a variety of outfits and opened new possibilities for certain pieces of clothing I wouldn't have pulled otherwise. Of course, cliques have certain members that float between them and are just frameworks for organizational purposes such as when you need to quickly pull together a dinner party (or an outfit for a dinner party).

#2 Speaking of cliques, befriend the weirdos in your closet one at a time

One weirdo in my closet is the pictured and aforementioned shapeless potato sack of a dress. It's French and I've always loved it, but avoid wearing it due to it's controversial and hard-to-style nature. I made a commitment to wear it this summer after it spent a few years sitting dormant in my summer box. Combining it with the Switzerland clique added some simple-yet-much-needed class, and made me feel fabulous wearing it. I added bright red lipstick, wore it out for a Saturday, and got compliments all day. It was sort of like a Princess Diaries success story for my potato sack.

#3 Hide your favorite things from yourself

Psycho, yet effective: if I have my go-to items within arms reach in my closet, I'll wear them over and over again. So I packed up my favorite items and put them in the back of our foyer coat closet. This helped to refocus my attention on less worn but equally amazing pieces. I rediscovered a few old pairs of shoes this way and have been getting a lot more creative with my work wardrobe when packing.

Added benefit is that the same exact feeling of excitement you get when buying a great new piece is conjured up when you find those forgotten items you hid from yourself a few months earlier. I know this for a fact out of the sheer excitement I had when I found my favorite blue silk Tibi shirt while searching for my feather duster a few weeks ago.

#4 Choose a theme for the day, week or weekend

One theme I've been choosing lately is "I'm going to the beach" when I actually have no plans to do so. This helped me to wear an amazing but very short LaRok dress that I love but never wear out in the city. Instead, I resign it to being a beach cover up. A couple weeks ago, I put it on with my swimsuit and wore it running errands and meeting friends for lunch. Shocker was that no one was shocked: I got over my mental hump and now comfortably wear it for many occasions.

Other themes I choose include "I'm going on a first date" when I have dinner with my husband, or "I am a high powered CEO" when packing for my work trips. 

#5 Rearrange your closet in the order you get dressed, and by "like item" and color

This took a few tries, but I realized that the way I was organizing my closet wasn't conducive to the decision-making required to have great style. I follow a structured process when getting dressed, starting with selecting shoes and coordinated bag appropriate for my day's activities, and then select bottoms, tops or dresses afterwards. I arranged my closet in the order I get dressed and it changed my thinking: I have shoes and bags right up front when I walk in, then have sections for skirts, pants, shirts, and blazers. Each section is sub-divided into like item and ordered by color, resulting in a nice little ombre balance to all of my things. Taking this strategy with organizing my closet helps me quickly assess what will go with whatever item I have on hand to wear.

Of course, I am not perfect and have to spend a little time every week keeping my system organized. A few minutes each week to get everything in order has paid dividends for me and I truly think that I'm getting so much more wear out of the things I own because I can so quickly identify and find them with this system.

Alright, that's all for now, hope you find some of these ideas helpful in getting more use out of your own wardrobe! If you have any ideas that work well for you personally, I'd love to hear them (and use them)!
5 comments on "Five free ways to get the most out of your wardrobe"
  1. Hi Colleen! First time commenter, moderate-time reader.

    I so enjoy these posts. It really gets me thinking about ways I could better utilize what's in my closet. Although, in contrast to you, I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum -- instead of having too much, I'm working on building my closet up from the few basics that I have. It's been an interesting process of buying things too quickly to "fill a gap," only to discover a short time after that those items weren't really in line with my personal style. Little lessons, continually learned.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Erin, thanks so much for reading along and for your comment! It's interesting to hear your perspective on the opposite problem, on filling gaps and making the right selections that align with your style. That is good food for thought - even identifying the gaps can sometimes be a challenge!

      Anyway, thank you for your thoughts and I hope you have a great rest of the week!


  2. Happy weekend Colleen! Great to see your posts again! It is my habit now to check your blog very regularly. I have been so busy lately so I haven't been good leaving comments.

    I really like your ideas, especially #2 and #5. I think we all have something in the closet that we don't wear but don't want to get rid of either. We really should challenge ourselves, looking at it from a new/different perspective, think of it as a little game we play with ourselves. (I must admit though, I do still feel very limited because I care way too much how I (my legs,mostly) look and I do not have the nerve to show them...ahh....)

    one day, I am going to take a day off and reorganize my closet, using your idea, to put my favorite items away, it is so easy to wear them and forget about others we have when they are within reach.

    thank you so much for being a constant inspiration :)

    Have a good weekend!

    1. Hi Echo, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I always love to read them :) And agree with you on the need to challenge ourselves to make better use of the things we choose to keep in our closets! (And glad to see that you are getting the nerve to let your legs free!!!)

      My closet organizing is helping a ton, so I definitely encourage you to take some time to do it. And, FYI, I've been working on your idea re: closet inventory so post on that coming soon!

  3. Hi Colleen,
    I'm in love with two ideas from this post! Creating accessory cliques and a theme of the day. I think so much of style starts in your mind and then emanates from there to the way you carry yourself, walk, talk, dress, etc. I love to study photos of Kate Middleton because she is graceful and deliberate in every way she presents herself. Then I go pretending I'm a princess for the day (even though I am wearing something much more casual than she would wear). The accessories clique is so simple I could do it today and instantly be wearing twice as many of the beautiful items I have hanging on my scarf hooks and my jewelry shelf.