Is your closet a never-ending sea of fashion confusion? Mine, too. I’ve heard those much-touted statistics that women really only wear 20% of their collected wardrobe, and I know it’s true. I wistfully marvel at the contents of my former (minuscule) NYC closet from my 20-something days. The lack of space and funds forced me to maintain a carefully-curated wardrobe of honored pieces that remained in constant rotation. How did I lose that habit? How do I get it back? I asked Carmen Westbrook, the image consultant behind Naked Fashion Help to guide me, and instead of proclaiming me a lost cause, she calmly reassured, “Let it go! And, organize the rest.”
Women often tell me “I don’t have a thing to wear.” Or “I hate everything in my closet.” And the number one cry for help: “I just want to look pulled together!” If you lean towards the fashion-challenged, having too much in your closet simply confuses matters. Whittling things down can make it easier to pull your look together.
The first thing I do when I begin working with a client is tackle the dreaded closet. Before I arrive and to streamline the process, I give my clients a little homework. The five steps I ask them to go through before we meet are also steps you can follow to get a better sense of what you have to work with before you do any shopping:
1. Toss anything that does not make you feel good.
The blouse that gapes at the bust and makes you feel self-conscious. The skirt that rides up your legs when you walk. The heinous holiday sweater zany Aunt Mildred gave you. Let. It. Go. With the exception of the sweater, if the items are in good condition, donate them to Dress for Success or the charity of your choice. There are plenty of non-profits that will give the items a second life. The holiday sweater just needs to die.
2. Pitch anything that has seen better days.
Stained, worn out and damaged clothes? So long! My colleague and professional organizer, Suellen Germani with Creative Order, refers to these items as “well-loved” or “loved to death.” That’s a polite way of saying let it go already. And, let’s not forget the shoes during this purge fest. If shoes look dated and are covered in dust, clearly you will not miss them.
3. Separate your seasons.
I’m talking two seasons – spring/summer and fall/winter. If you don’t have the luxury of additional closets to stow things away, then consider buying natural cotton, hanging storage bags. Segregating those items within your closet will help you hone in on what you have to work with right now. When you’re trying to make a morning meeting, less is definitely more. If you’re an athletic person, create a separate section just for gym wear. Your hoodies and college sweatshirt should not be commingling with your blouses.
4. Scarves and jewelry make a difference.
Wearing clothes that fit properly and accessorizing really is the best way to get that pulled-together look. Comb through your scarves and jewelry and dispose of anything that is just not “you.” Organize the remaining pieces so that you can easily see and get to what you do like.
5. Assemble and photograph a few outfits.
What are the activities you routinely do that put you into a wardrobe dilemma? For a lot of women, it’s simply everyday work life. Create five days’ worth of outfits and photograph each one of them. Include shoes, jewelry, bag, everything. While you’re doing this, you’ll probably start to think of things you could add. I keep a list in the notes section of my phone and I’ve named it “Style Me.” These are things I want to keep in mind when I am out shopping so I stay on track and on budget.
So, you’ve streamlined your closet, and you may now be wondering when or if you should hire a wardrobe consultant.
It’s definitely not for everyone. Some people are born with an innate sense of style. They know exactly what works for them and make getting ready for the day appear effortless. Some really like to shop, they buy lots of stuff and they love creating outfits. They may look like a hot mess on occasion, but they’re just fine with who they are and have no interest in other’s opinions. The third group is where my ideal client resides – 35+, fashion-challenged, hates shopping but wants to look great and wants it to be as easy as possible. If this describes you, then certainly consider hiring a professional.
A good image consultant should be able to help a woman define her personal style. The result should be a reflection of the client’s personality and lifestyle and not what the image consultant thinks you should look like. When my clients receive compliments like “You look amazing” and “Have you lost weight?” I know I’ve done my job.
Carmen Westbrook is an Atlanta based image consultant. After training at The London Image Institute, she launched Naked Fashion Help in 2009. She is available for one-on-one wardrobe consulting as well as group presentations. Connect with her via her website at www.nakedfashionhelp.com