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How to refresh your wardrobe, part I

February 20, 2010

Ever gaze into your closet, and despite the mountains of clothes, think to yourself, “I’ve got nothing to wear!”? I certainly have, many a time. And while it may seem like the easiest solution is to go shopping, this is only a quick-fix that won’t really solve your problems. Besides, what if you’re low on cash? Thus I bring you my two-part list of ten ways to refresh your closet.


1. Get rid of the stuff you never wear!

This might sound counter-intuitive, to get rid of stuff when you feel like you have nothing to wear. But really, you probably have plenty to wear and you just can’t see it, either literally or figuratively. Items that you don’t wear are physically or mentally obscuring your view of your closet. By getting rid of the stuff you don’t wear you’ll be freeing yourself to consider new combinations and outfits.

I’m really bad at this, I must admit. I tend to develop emotional attachments to clothes and when I’m trying to get rid of them I think, “But that’s the shirt I wore when [insert significant life event/era here].” For me it tends to be easier to get rid of things to which I’m sentimentally attached if I purge them gradually. Start a giveaway pile and add a bit at a time to it, then give it to a thrift shop or sell it before the stash gets too large. If you just can’t part with something, admit to yourself that you’re never going to wear it again and at least move it into storage, where it won’t be in the way.

Another trick that I love for cleansing your closet is to take your hangers and turn them all so that they’re facing backwards. Then, when you take something out and wear it, put it back the right way. In six months or a year or whenever you can check and see what you really never wear, and it might help motivate you to cast away that dead weight. I’m not going to give you “rules” though, about how long you can keep something you never wear. If you have the space and the inclination, keep it forever. But if it’s dragging down your style and you’d rather replace it with something you will wear, toss it! It’s kind of liberating once you get started, trust me.

2. Fix anything that’s in need of mending.

Got a dress that’s perfect except it’s a little too long? Hem it up! Heel tips on your favorite heels worn down? Time to take them to the cobbler (and the longer you wear them after you should’ve replaced the heel, the more expensive the fix will be. Preventive maintenance, my friends.) Got a seam that’s come loose? You know the drill. Be honest with yourself, though. It’s way too easy to forget about something that’s languishing in the mending pile, and then by the time you get around to fixing it you don’t even want to wear it anymore. Are you really going to fix it? Then do it!

3. If it needs to go to the cleaners, take it.

Let me tell you a little story: There was once a girl who had a stark white blazer with a care tag that dictated “Dry Clean Only.” Now, for most dry-clean-only items she simply handwashed with Dr. Bronners soap, so she almost never made trips to the cleaners. But since this was a blazer she didn’t think handwashing would do the trick and when it got weird stains on the sleeves she put off taking it to the dry cleaners. And it sat in her closet, waiting to be cleaned, for years, until one day when she realized that even if she got it dry cleaned, she didn’t even want to wear it anymore. Don’t let yourself be this girl, i.e., me.

4. Swap your stuff.

Hopefully now you have a pile of stuff you’re cleaned out of your closet. Got friends? Good. Hold a swap party and trade your clothes with them. Invite a bunch of people around the same size (or at least a couple of each size, so no one’s left out), and have them clean out their closets and bring their cast-offs to your place to trade.

Don’t have friends? Sorry. Or maybe your friends are lacking in style? In that case, head to Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co, or the local equivalent in your town, and try to sell your best stuff. When I want to sell stuff I usually head over to the Haight St. shopping area, which is stuffed with re-sale shops, each with a distinct vibe. For example, I know that The Wasteland pays the most, but it usually only buys true vintage and designer stuff, while Buffalo Exchange resells clothes from Forever 21 and H&M. Know your market, and don’t waste your time with stuff that you can’t imagine on their racks.

5. Re-arrange and organize your closet.

You’ve purged your closet and maybe acquired a few new things from friends, and cleaned and mended everything that needed it. Now it’s time to organize what’s left so that you can easily access it. I like to organize mine by type of item. So I have a section for my blazers and jackets, one for long-sleeved button-downs, another for short-sleeved button-downs, etc. Then within each section, if necessary, I group by color. Some people just like to mix every type together and organize everything by color. Maybe you have a totally different system? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Stay tuned for the second half of this list next week, where I’ll give you five more ways to refresh your closet. Now that it’s pared down and organized we can concentrate on the fun stuff!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2010 6:46 pm

    “This shirt is dry clean only, which means it’s dirty.” -Mitch Hedberg

    I like these tips – I’m feeling one of those style evolution moments, so I’m looking forward to the next post.

    • February 21, 2010 11:26 am

      Haha, Breanne, Mitch Hedberg totally had it right :-)

      I hope the next half of the tips help with your style reinvention–I’ll do my best!

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