I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of clothes. I also never have anything to wear. Recently I embarked on a mission to clear out my closet, organise what’s left and then shop with some sort of focus. I thought I’d share my experience with you in the hope that it may be somewhat helpful! I do appreciate that not everyone has the ability to just simply get rid of a load of clothes and then go and buy new ones willy nilly, but hopefully you’ll see that this is more a wardrobe detox than it is simply throwing out old stuff and buying new things for the sake of it. Due to the nature of my job, I do kindly get sent a fair amount of clothes and whilst that payment in kind does alleviate the financial pressure of shopping, it does mean that often my wardrobe is filled with lots of ‘fast fashion’ pieces that realistically are not going to last (in terms of my interest in them) beyond the season or even the second or third wear.
Get everything out
Everything. I’m not into doing things by halves and I find that tackling a drawer or a category (e.g. ‘dresses’) at a time just means that I never really get the job done. Instead I prefer to empty literally every single item onto my bed and work through it, piece by piece. That means that I’ve got an empty wardrobe and drawers to put things back into and I can’t give up on the task either because I’ve just made a colossal mess and my bed is uninhabitable until further notice.
Do you need it? Do you love it? Does it fit?
These are the three questions I ask myself about each and every item. It’s a trick my mum taught me when I was a fast-fashion hungry teenager desperate to spend my pocket money on every new-in trend and a method I still practice when I’m stood in changing rooms today. It also applies perfectly to items that have already made their way into your wardrobe!
Although I’m not expecting you to be head over heels for every pair of white trainer socks, just because something is an essential item doesn’t mean you can’t love it too. Even the most simple of necessities: underwear, a plain white t-shirt, a pair of black jeans are so much more likely to make you feel good when you put them on if they’re items that fit well and feel comfortable.
Based on my own wardrobe, I’d hazard that the proportion of yours that you genuinely love is pretty low too. I try and ask myself whether I’d buy the item if I was stood facing it in a shop now. When I love something – how it fits, how it looks, how it feels – I find excuses to wear it all the time so it’s a worthy investment, regardless of how much it actually cost. In contrast, there are lots of things lurking in my wardrobe that I like but usually pass over when I’m getting dressed in the morning.
Regardless of how much you do or don’t love something, if it doesn’t fit then it’s not much use to you at all. I tend to cling on to things ready for that day I miraculously lose an inch or two off of my waist or y’know…grow a foot. It’s pointless because they hang their unloved and although (whilst I’m not quite where I’d like to be fitness wise) I don’t actually mind the fact that my body has changed and matured a bit, it does some how feel like a rather negative and unwelcome reminder.
When did you last wear it?
Sometimes even things I love have an expiration date. Yes, that evening dress I wore 3 years ago is gorgeous but am I realistically going to ever wear it again? The likely answer is no because when another invitation of the sort comes around, I’ll want to wear something new. I’d rather my dress made it’s way to a lovely new owner than sat hanging in the back of a wardrobe. As for fast fashion (by that I mean on-trend-this-precise-second high-street items), if I haven’t worn it within the last couple of months then it goes.
Keep, Charity, Sell
Items I’m keeping go back in my wardrobe, this time in some sort of category order (e.g. tops, dresses, jeans). Everything else is divided into two piles; charity shop and sell.
I list items that are in great condition and have some sort of resale value on an online market place. At the moment I’m using Mercari which is a super user-friendly app and has zero seller fees, unlike eBay or Depop; both of which I’ve had limited success with. In my first month of using the app I made £293 from unwanted items which I can then use to spruce up my wardrobe.
Finally, items that are a bit worn or unlikely to be of much interest, or simply worth too little to bother uploading once postage has been taken out of the fee, go to the charity shop. They may make a bit of money on the shop floor, or by being recycled or sent to clothing refuge schemes.
Now Make a List of Everything you actually need
Now that your wardrobe only contains things that fit well and look and feel great, you’ll be able to see if there’s any obvious gaps. For me, I realised that I often struggle to find tops that I really like so top of my list is a classic nice black t-shirt and a pretty white broderie anglais top that goes with everything but looks a bit more interesting than a plain white shirt. You might not be able to go out and buy everything on your list at once, but it means that next time you go shopping you’ll have some sort of focus – just make sure whatever lands in to your basket ticks all the boxes above!
Know what suits you
Sounds simple, but it isn’t always so if in doubt take a very honest friend shopping with you! Sometimes even just being aware of simple things like which cuts you do and don’t like wearing can save you from falling victim to a trend that you don’t actually feel good in. My mental check-list looks like this: I don’t like cropped tops, I only wear high-waisted bottoms, I prefer v or scoop necks and avoid especially high-necked items (however pretty!) like the plague because they make me feel self-conscious of my short neck and round face.
Let the accessories do the talking
Sometimes the simplest of outfits are the most effective, especially paired with the right accessories. Invest in great sunglasses, a belt, find your personal style with your jewellery and get a ‘goes with everything’ bag that you love (one for summer, one for winter). Rather than feeling the pressure to spend loads of money on new, super trendy outfits, focus on timeless accessories that convey your style; yesterday I wore a pair of very simple straight legged jeans and a £6 M&S black shoe string vest – by all accounts a very boring outfit – but I felt really good and comfortable and frankly, a lil bit stylish.
Don’t be fooled by a sale
It’s not a bargain if you weren’t going to buy it in the first place.
Where to invest and where to save
I’m not suggesting you never frivolously buy something a bit superficial and on-trend again, but when buying into fast-fashion it’s worth actually considering the cost per wear and perhaps heading to a cheaper high street store. The lower end shops tend to copy and produce a lot of hero items from key trends on the cheap so look out for dupes, that way if you get bored after a handful of wears it’s no real dent in your bank account and you won’t feel guilty about getting rid of it either. Selling sites or charity shops are also great places to indulge in some fast-fashion without forking out full price, especially in affluent areas; I once bought a brand new black French Connection coat that I’ve worn through two winters for £30 from a charity shop on the Kings Road. It was retailing at the time for over 10 times that!
Contrastingly, classic pieces are worth investing a little more money into so that they last when you wear them time and time again. If you’re on a budget then follow the advice that I learnt from the wonderful Lydia Millen: buy one nice, timeless item rather than several cheaper, superficial things. At the end of the year you’ll have a handful of gorgeous pieces that you love and can wear over and over, rather than an over-saturated wardrobe stuffed with last-season trends that you don’t really make you feel good anymore.
Regardless of your age, size or budget, your clothes should make you feel good. Wear things that make you feel happy and sexy, not just because they’re currently gracing the pages of Grazia, and hopefully in the long run you’ll save some pennies, make getting dressed in the morning easier and reduce consumerism.