Creating a wardrobe that works for you

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About Hallie

Hallie is married to Dan, and together they have five children. She writes at Betty Beguiles, and is the author of Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter.

Second only to running out of coffee, nothing puts a damper on my mornings quite as effectively as not being able to find anything appropriate to wear. I don’t know about you, but I’m not usually operating at maximum capacity first thing in the morning. The last thing I need is to go toe-to-toe with a disorganized closet while still bleary-eyed and fuzzy with sleep.

After engaging in far too many gruesome early morning outfit battles, I decided that something needed to change. Bound and determined, I set out to regain control of my wardrobe. If you find yourself in a similar position, these simple steps might just help you to do the same.

Consider your lifestyle.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What does an average day in my life look like?
  • How often do I need to dress in formal wear?
  • What additional items do I need to help transition my wardrobe into the colder months?


The key to creating a wardrobe that works for you is to be intentional.
Answer the above (and other similar) questions, and create a list of the type and number of outfits and accessories you’d need to flourish. This list will be key in making the hard decisions about which items of clothing get to stay and which need to go.

Simplify your current wardrobe.

Once you’ve put together a list of your basic wardrobe needs, set aside several hours to simplify your wardrobe.

Take everything (yes, everything) out of your closet and lay it across your bed. Designate space in your bedroom for three piles: a Donate pile, a Keep pile and a Try On pile (for all the pieces that you’re not sure about). Sort every single piece of clothing that you own into one of the three piles.

Once you are finished sorting, breathe deeply and turn your attention to the Try On pile. One by one, try on each item of clothing. A trusted friend might come in handy here. Then consider these questions:

  • Do I feel comfortable wearing it?
  • When was the last time I wore it?
  • Does it flatter my unique figure?
  • Do I have somewhere to wear it to?
  • Do I have something to wear it with?

Be honest with yourself, and be ruthless. A woman doesn’t need a lot of garments to create a lot of great outfits, she just needs the right mix of garments. I know better than anyone how hard it can be to part with certain items of clothing, but if it doesn’t serve you in some easily identifiable way, you’re better off without it.


Photo by Rubbermaid

Create a beautiful closet.

How you create a beautiful closet will depend upon your personal preferences. Be creative! Your closet should reflect you and your individual style. Consider investing in quality hangers, pretty boxes for storing items, and/or scented satchels.

The goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing space. I can’t explain it, but beautifully displayed clothing somehow helps me better enjoy the clothes I have and minimizes the urge to go shopping.

Assess your current wardrobe situation and make adjustments.

Pull out the list you made at the beginning of this process and compare it to the pieces in your newly decluttered closet. Once you’re free of the clothing you no longer wear, you can effectively assess your current wardrobe situation.

If you have too many of one type of clothing, pick a select few of your favorites and then sell or donate the rest. If you find that there are pieces you lack, make a reasonable plan to buy them.

One other thing to remember: every single item you own should be able to be paired with another piece to create a complete outfit. Some people even like to arrange their clothing into outfit groups to further simplify their mornings—this is a great way to confirm that all your pieces have a purpose. If you find stray garments, give them away or find them a mate!

Building a wardrobe that works for you comes with many obvious benefits: It reduces stress, frees up mental energy, results in more peaceful mornings, and creates extra time to spend doing the things you most love.

What’s your favorite item in your wardrobe?

Join the Conversation

Comments

  1. avatar
    Michelle J says:

    Love this post! Funny thing is I just did this a couple of days ago! I actually tried on every single piece of clothing in my closet, created an outfit that I loved with all the accessories (shoes, jewelry etc) and then hung the ensemble on the back of my door and took a photo of each outfit, printed the photos and hung them on a ring in my closet. This way when I don’t know what to wear I go through my photo cards find one I like and get dressed! This was a lot of work but so worth it, and now when I go shopping I know exactly what I am looking for based on what I need to complete an outfit!

  2. These are some really great suggestions! My closet really needs a bit of attention, and I love the idea of putting together outfits and accesories in advance – I always get so stuck on that part, and I never remember to find an outfit until 10 minutes before I have to go. Thanks!! :)

  3. I am totally drooling over the picture of that closet! Great tips, btw. We live in a 1930s house and we’re lucky to have two small closets in our room. That’s one of the things we’re looking at when searching for a new home – closet space! Until then, we just shove everything in where we can and we make do. :)

  4. Love :) I’ve been intending to haul over my closet for a while now–it’s been way too long since I did an all-out purge. Thanks for the prodding to actually turn this good intention into reality, Hallie!

  5. This is a good article, I’ll use it next time I need to sort my closet as it contained a couple questions to ask myself I hadn’t thought about. My ‘donate’ pile is generally a black trashbag though!

    My favorite wardrobe item(s) are turtlenecks. I like them so much I’m buying a bunch on sale and cutting them down for summer. Odd, but easy!

  6. Thanks for this post Hallie!! I’m in the beginnings of a complete overhaul of my room and, though I have had a few big purges, I was not looking forward to going through my closet (in the last year, I have done a number of major purges of the clothes on my drawers, and my shoes, but I havent been game to attempt the closet). My main problem is that I am currently also in the beginning stages of losing 70 pounds (I’ve so far lost 9 lbs in the last four weeks!), and a lot of the clothes I have in my wardrobe are ones from 5-10 years ago, when I was thinner. Some of it I love, and will inevitably have to end up in a box for when I do get to that size, but a lot of it has sentimental value which I know is going to be hard to cut … Thankyou for your tips!! I am going to sit down and work out a plan of attack in the morning (currently almost midnight here in Darwin, Aust!)

    • Congratulations on your weight loss, Larissa! That is awesome!

      Also, I have a free e-booklet on the sidebar of my blog that might help you make a step-by-step plan of attack. Feel free to grab it! :)

      Thanks so much for commenting!

    • I was in a similar situation after having my second child. Once I lost all the weight (Okay, *most* of the weight, 15 months after his birth) I did a major clothing assessment. Many of the items I’d been saving were 5-7 years old, from before I got pregnant with my first son. I realized I no longer wanted to wear that stuff, like the black pants from 2002, and got rid of almost everything. It was depressing how little remained but it was helpful in building my new wardobe.

    • Go Larissa!! Wow – 9 pounds in 4 weeks! That’s awesome! My 9 pounds went the other way in 4 weeks last year! It’s yet to reverse itself! :) (of course – my coffee ice cream addiction doesn’t help either!)

      Thanks for the post Hallie! I just wish I had enough clothes to actually need to purge some of them. :) hee,hee. Ok . . . there are some I could get rid of . . . but the past few years have been leaner around here, so kids get clothed first, and mom is last. Now I understand why my mom never ran out and bought the latest fashions for herself! (She had 4 kids and was a SAHM and pastor’s wife. I have 5 and am a SAHM.)
      I think I need more variety in my simple wardrobe. :) I do tend to only buy things that go along with all the other things I own, so I can mix and match . . . but in looking at my closet . . . every top is solid and there is an overabundance of black and grey! :) I need more color in there!
      One of these days . . .
      Thanks again!

  7. Great post, and wonderful to see you here! I read your posts on Faith and Family Live, and enjoyed your writing over there. I’m glad to see that you are writing on another one of my favorite blogs!

  8. I’m all over this! This will help me with my BIG master bedroom decluttering project I’m working on this month. Thanks for the guidance and motivation!

    I think my favorite item in my wardrobe has to be my jeans!

  9. Thank you for your sweet comment! I’m eager to check out your blog, too! “Ready, Set, Simplify” sounds like exactly what I need! :)

  10. A friend of mine just called to say “Go look at Simple Mom! Betty Beguiles is guest posting!” It’s like seeing the planets align to see two such fabulous bloggers come together. ;) Anyway, thanks for a great post. I’ll be taking a new look at my wardrobe tonight.

  11. The favorite things from my closet? Black “favorite” t.shirts from GAP, a couple wool cardigans and a some cool scarves (I love scarves). My wardrobe is small and simple. Whenever I try to branch out with more color or girly styles it doesn’t work – I end up giving my daughter those clothes to cut up and repurpose :)

  12. My closet needs some much needed attention, my wardrobe has been lacking since my pregnancy over a year ago. My baby is 8 months now and I finally have my body back. Time to lay everything out and make a fun shopping list! Thank you for the inspiration to getting it started

  13. Hi Hallie!! Great Post! I am in the process of better organizing my closet, it’s just that I keep my massive yarn stash in there as well as I just don’t have a place for it. But since I am not knitting anything right now… I should just move it into storage.

    As far as favorites or staples, Maxi Dresses are my go to (living in SoCal helps) but I do love a great L/S shirt with jeans and a scarf!

    (Says she sitting around in sweats.)

  14. Great advice and I am seriously jealous of your closet and wardrobe.

  15. Very timely as I did yet another closet purge yesterday. This warm winter is making me think about spring and summer much earlier than I normally do.

    Our biggest problem is our closet size is more than adequate for our clothes but it’s set up so poorly it’s not very usable. We have a house built in 1920 and the master bedroom closet is one of those with two hanging racks, one directly behind the other. There’s really not much we can do about it so we just have to commit to constantly reassessing and keeping things in order. Oh well, could be worse.

  16. “Wardrobe” is one of my sore spots being a stay home mom. I have 4 children ages 1-5 and it is hard to get myself to take the time to “dress up” for them :/ These are good tips though that I will definitely consider working on.

  17. This is so timely for me – I’ve arrived a place where I have far too many clothes, and not enough outfits. The right mix, as you talked about above, probably exists in my closet, but I can’t see it because the darn thing is so overfilled.

    My goal is a wardrobe of carefully curated items that work together in a million ways *and* that fit into my lifestyle of stay-at-home-momhood while making me look pulled together and like myself. Thank you for the advice – I need all the help I can get!

  18. My favorite item in my closet are my scarves. They bring new life into any oufit! I loved this post. I actually, prepare my outfits from the night before. I find that it saves me from frustration in the morning and I tend to look more “put together” if I have taken the time to prepare my clothes ahead of time.

  19. I was reading an article last night about getting your closet organized. And then I saw your post today, Hallie. Hmm, guess that’s a sign that it’s time to get moving on that closet, huh? I especially liked your idea of getting rid of anything that doesn’t have a mate. Or purchasing a mate for it. I love variety and prefer to wear something new every day for as long as I can. I get bored with repeating my clothes. But, that’s led to owning a lot of cheap clothing that doesn’t hold up and may not necessarily be flattering on me. I also am expecting to be pregnant in the near future, so I have my “normal” sized clothes, transition clothes and pregnancy clothes. Fortunately, we have lots of closet space!

  20. I feel conflicted about this–on one hand, I think there’s a lot of wisdom and that this is something I could really use right now. On the other, for someone who is at a point of transition (i.e. possibly having another baby soon), I don’t know if this is a good time for me to go through a major closet overhaul–I did that during my last pregnancy, and really regretted getting rid of a lot of things. Even though I didn’t wear them at the time, a lot of them would have been good transitional pieces for post-pregnancy!

  21. Hi,
    I love your closet and ideas. I’ve been trying to get around to doing that and now you’ve given me an incentive to finally get it done. Also I now own an accessory business. I realize now more than ever how we can simplify our lives and closet and use accessories to make the difference. We can change the look of a little black dress by just adding different accessories to it. Now we really don’t need all of those clothes.

  22. I want that closet!!

    I blogged about a concept invented by Jennifer Skinner called the Very Small Closet here: http://www.checkmatesystem.com/?p=3146

    I’m slowly working towards it but think maybe I should start with the ideas here of tossing things that don’t go with anything else first. Thanks for a fun post!

  23. My favorite item is probably my brown leather tall boots. I bought them when I closed down my wedding planning business. I wanted to have one fun splurge item that makes me remember all the hard work and fun I had while running the business.
    I did the big clean out of my closet last year when Simple Mom did the Project Simplicity. The closest clean out is still on of my more popular posts :)
    http://randomrecycling.blogspot.com/2011/03/one-week-one-wardrobe-and-infant.html

  24. What helps me is the idea of having a “uniform.” During the school year (I work in a high school), I’ve always got three basic pieces:

    Top (t-shirt or blouse)
    Bottom (skirt or pants)
    Top Layer (sweater or jacket)
    The bottoms and tops are mostly neutral (brown, black, ivory, or denim), but I’ve got a few t-shirts in colors I love.
    The top layers are mostly colorful.

    In each season, I have fewer than 30 items–most things mix with everything else, and I have plenty of outfits. I use scarves and earrings to make getting dressed a bit more fun.

    This is easy, and I waste far less money. Because I’m buying fewer things, I now have money to buy higher quality. I like my closet more than I ever did when I had more in it.

  25. I agree with Meredith. Purging my closet sounds wonderful but since we’re (hopefully) not done having kids and don’t have a lot of extra money to buy clothes I feel like I can’t get rid of items that will be good transitional pieces for early pregnancy and post-partum. Now I understand why my mom held onto her clothes for so long. Any suggestions?

  26. One of the biggest lessons I learned about wardrobe is owning items that work with your unique body. I’m only realizing this now at the age of 32, so there are plenty of “What was I thinking?!” items currently in my closet. But now that I have that standard in mind, I’m more discerning about what I buy and what I keep. For instance, tops that land on my waist or even a little below just does not flatter me—I need to buy long tops that rest on my hips. Spaghetti straps are a no, but halter tops are a definite yes.

    I’ve yet to do an actual purge yet, but I’ve started going through my closet and selling things that I haven’t worn in a bazillion years or just don’t flatter me at all. I like to think of my closet as a collection of beautiful, classic pieces, so I don’t even mind if it’s not jam-packed with items so long as all the items there are pieces I love.

  27. I really have to do something about my wardrobe! I’m sharing a tiny one with my hubby and all our clothes are squished so tight I ended up wearing what I always wear (since those clothes would be ‘sticking out’ due to too crammed to align it. I’m really struggling whether to donate the clothes in my wardrobe which I don’t wear, yet those are the ones that have been worn before my pregnancy. Those in boxes are even more unlikely to be fitted in!

    Throw away or keep? Getting bigger wardrobe is not an option cos our room isn’t big and our baby has eczema and we want to avoid having too many ‘shelves’ for dust to settle.

  28. I just did a little of this over the weekend, but with my maternity clothes. I have waaay too many “comfy” maternity clothes that I would hate to actually be seen in– they’re comfy, but frumpy. I pared them down significantly, and it felt great!

  29. I love the idea of making a list of items that I need to flourish with my wardrobe. I have a running wish list in my iphone notes that I add to when I see something is missing. I have been practicing only buying necessities, but giving every item purpose is great too!

  30. I just organized my closet. I’ve got a pile to donate and a pile to take to the consignment shop. I love the wooden hangers! I’d love my closet to look like a boutique!

  31. A few months ago I totally overhauled my closet and was thrilled with the results. Last week I received three bins of maternity clothes, and now I am completely overwhelmed. Ah, the process starts again!

  32. Thank you for this post. I am just starting to go through my closet to clear out what I don’t need before we move next month. I will share some of the tips with my husband as well.

  33. Most of my favourite items in my closet actually came from thrift stores. I find that the clothes that ends up in the thrift store is high-quality and long-lasting, sometimes even classic, and the price is right! I am trying to overhaul my closet these days (it is a good winter task) so I will definitely be taking some of your tips in with me.

  34. My favorite item in my wardrobe is a black scoop neck short sleeved tshirt. And my Levi’s perfect waist jeans. We need to redo our closet, it is small (wonderful old house = tiny closets) and I would love it if you could suggest a free tool online to set up modules by closet dimensions….we have an odd shaped closet and I CANNOT WAIT to organize it!

  35. And another thing about purging….even if it is something you might wear, wish you wore, maybe can wear in the future (you know when…)

    Remember that by DONATING it Someone Else can wear it, love it and enjoy it RIGHT NOW. We get rid of lots of things with that mindset. How many coats can you REALLY wear and enjoy?

  36. Another idea is thinking about your clothes seasonally. Rubbermaids or hanging garment holders (Walmart) tucked away somewhere with all of your spring/summer clothes and vice versa (sweaters stored during summer). This is of course if you live somewhere with distinct seasons and you have the space to store clothing elsewhere.

  37. Thank you so much! I have been looking for YEARS for a way to not become overwhelmed doing this! This step by step is amazing, and I think I acn actually do this! Thank you!

  38. To have a dream closet is still a dream for me… it’s simply never enough space :)

  39. Love these ideas. Printing this out for future reference.

  40. Ahhh I see it’s time to tackle my wardrobe again, thank you for the guidance and tips. I have to say that the 2nd picture with, errr I think I counted 32 pairs of shoes, is not quite my definition of a paired down closet, but maybe shoe heaven! It made me giggle because it is so dramatically different that my hodgepodge collection of 6 pairs :-)

    Love Laura

  41. Love the point that we don’t need a lot of clothes, just the right ones. Fits right in with the Financial Woman philosophy of conscious spending! Thanks, now excuse me while I go organize my closet!

  42. I hate my closet. Maybe I should just purge and decorate it a little so I’ll use it instead of stacking the clothes next to the bed.
    My favourite thing to wear is skirts.

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