the clever wardrobe, part one

June 11, 2009

If I mention the phrase ‘wardrobe crisis’, about 95pc will know instantly what I mean and will nod with weary recognition. (The other 5pc, being armed with a drill sergeant-esque personal stylist, a walk-in wardrobe the size of Panama or both, will probably not benefit much from the following. Lucky sods.)

Which of the following applies to you?

(a) You have a groaning wardrobe filled with shiny jumpsuits from the first time around/ 30 pairs of parsnip-legged black trousers/ other things that fill you with despair just by looking at them. Sample quote: “I have nothing to wearrrrr!” followed by sobbing.

(b) A sustained case of the blahs every time you think that dreaded question, “What to wear?” which leads to 20pc of the clothes getting 80pc of the airtime and all those fabulous sparkling lovelies you’ve picked up being completely neglected. A corruption of the Pareto principle, if you will. Sample quote: “Meh.” followed by an ennui-laden shrug that Sartre himself would applaud.

(c) The spondulicks are not what they once were, for whatever reason. When you open your wallet, bats fly out, so that rather rules out a spree of any sort for the next while. Sample quote: “If only..” followed by secretive, lustful browsing at the Outnet.

Oh, I’ve been there. All of them apply, as it happens (only, replace the jumpsuit horror with a cape/ shawl/ wrap habit that hasn’t been seen since Victoria shuffled off this mortal coil).

Whatever the case, whatever your budget/ state of your wardrobe at present/ gender, I think you will find something useful in the following posts. This post isn’t telling to get rid of everything, or nothing, or to buy lots of expensive organising-ware to keep your clothes immaculate (half of the best tricks are dead cheap or free, after all). It’s just a bit of a nudge, coming from someone who has been there and is there right now.

Part One: Confronting The Wardrobe

This bit might not be pretty. Actually, if it’s anything like my last attempt it might closely resemble the frickin’ battle of Helm’s Deep, with the Uruk-hai represented by battalions of sack-of-spud dresses and bad shirts. But let us not be daunted- once more into the breach, if I can mix my literary references to painful effect.

Know What You Have How often have you gone into Shopping Haze and emerged, blinking into the sunlight, with another pair of black trousers (or whatever your own weakness is)? I’m all about knowing what you have to avoid that ever happening again. However you want to do it, it’s vital to know exactly what you have on hand and what sort of condition it is in.

The next bit depends on whether you’re visual/ tactile or more a fan of lists. Maybe you’d prefer to go through everything and itemise to your heart’s content. Or you could arrange everything so it’s properly on display (padded hangers, colour co-ordination, the works) and work from there. I’ve recently run across a website called Closet Couture, which is a take on the latter approach.

The idea is that you take photographs of all your clothing and accessories, upload them to the site and other users get to play dress-up with you. Over Grauniad way, Emma Sibbles gave it a try and was quite impressed. Quite tempted to give it a go myself, although what this most stylish audience would make of my distressing fondness for shawls, I don’t know.

And Then, Know What’s Missing Yes, that spangly dress channels Sally Bowles beautifully but if you’re officebound most of the time, it’s not getting the outings it deserves, damnit. Should it be in your wardrobe just for its beauty or should you send it somewhere it will get more wear? This is what you’ve got to decide at this stage.

The beauty of going through your wardrobe piece by piece is that it will soon become shockingly apparent what you’re missing. (This is a good time to set aside things that need mending or a bit of loving care, too.) It also means that you’ll discover the most amazing neglected treasures- who knew you had a pashmina? How very civilised.

Get Ready For A Purge For this part, you will need the following:

– clear space, and lots of it

your religious tome of choice and a copy of a full exorcism rite determination not just to pile everything back in and forget about them for another six months

– patience, as the place will look like an war zone at first

Be merciless, because you’ll need to be. If it doesn’t fit, it has to go. If it depresses you just by looking at it, toss it. If it doesn’t work somehow, find out why and either fix it or pass it on.

Give yourself proper time to go through everything (never know when a fashion montage will happen!) and to try things on. Sort out the items into piles: clothes to keep, clothes to pass on (friends/ charity/ swap), clothes that need mending/ a little updating, clothes no longer suitable for man nor beast (rag). You might want to add or remove categories as appropriate.

Of course, during this process of re-familiarisation, you may find things that.. how shall we say.. are not so much to your taste. You may experience the following:

(i) cold sweat; (ii) flashbacks; (iii) curling up in a foetal position, willing the image of that early 90s ironic floral vomit explosion of a dress out of your mind. In the case that it’s not hideous, just no longer suitable for some reason, there might be hope yet.

Deal With The Remainders Now to see what you can do with the offending article(s).

1. Is it in good nick? Put it in a bag for a charity shop or bring it along to a clothing swap. Someone else is bound to see something in it that you don’t.

2. Is it a little careworn? See if it can be mended and then pass it on.

3. Is it seriously beyond repair? It can be used for rag. Some charities will take rag, but as yet I’ve found no textile recycling companies in Ireland that deal with us private punters, alas. It’s fairly easy to repurpose clothing that’s past its best, though- the likes of Craftster and Instructables have some brilliant ideas.

4. Is there something wrong with it that a little imagination might fix/ are you bored of it the way it is? Take yourself off to the fabulous forums over on BurdaStyle to get the know-how, or if you’re short on ideas, have a chat with some artistic folk. I’ve got some great customisation ideas from other designers at Cow’s Lane, for example.

You will then see how best to store or display your clothing now that your wardrobe is exorcised refreshed. I swear by padded and wooden hangers to give your clothing proper shape. Store your clothes with lavender bags to dissuade moths, and fold delicate or otherwise clothes with tissue paper or hang in wardrobe bags to keep them at their best. I’ve noticed that many shoe aficionadi store their preeeecioussssss in the original boxes, or in stronger gift boxes, with a photo of the shoes on the front. Genius!

Have A Very Large Cup Of Tea Because You’ve Earned It Or a very strong drink, if the experience has been sufficiently scarring. (I won’t judge.) If you’re still feeling full of resolve, brace yourself for more fun and frolics in part two…

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