By Stephanie Dray
Do you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? Do you shop without really knowing what your wardrobe needs? Do you buy gorgeous separates and never wear them because you don't know how to work them into a stylish outfit?
Impulse clothing shopping can cost you hundreds of dollars a year in wasted spending. And that doesn't even count the time wasted trying to find something to wear to business meetings or other events. But how can you put an end to it without buying an expensive closet organizer or hiring a personal stylist? Here are some steps to get you started.
1. Plan Your Outfits In Advance. Use plain old paper and pencil, or a free clothing planner, and start jotting down outfits for events you're likely to attend this year. Your list isn't going to be complete overnight. It'll take some time, but this is a starting point. It will help you determine what you need to buy and what you already own too many of. Once you're done, it will help you dress on auto-pilot and save you time every time you need to get dressed.
2. Try Everything On. Approach this mission in baby-steps. Dedicate just fifteen minutes a night. Trying things on is the only way to give them an honest appraisal. Each item in your closet has its own quirks. Maybe it doesn't look as good as it did a few years ago. Maybe the shoulder pads are no longer in style. Perhaps it needs to be tailored. A good tailor can shorten sleeves, lengthen hems, or otherwise add flattering darts to give your garments a better shape. The point here is to give each item in your closet a chance to justify itself. And don't get discouraged. It's the clothes auditioning here, not you.
3. Declutter Your Closet. It's hard to find outfits to wear when you can't see what you own. When clothing is so tightly packed that you can't take it off the hanger without knocking three other garments on the floor, it costs you time and money. Time, because it takes you longer to assemble an outfit. Money because you probably keep buying the same pair of pants over and over again, not realizing you have three new ones already tucked away in the back of your closet. It's time to purge. If a garment needs to go to the tailor, put it in a bag and deliver it to your car right now. Don't let it sit in your closet for another year. If a garment needs to be mended, put it in a basket by your sewing machine. If you're not going to mend it, throw it in the rag bag and be done with it. Also, keep your junk clothes to a minimum. Everybody needs an outfit to paint, to garden, or to clean the house. But if you were to stack up all the stained and threadbare clothing you've been hanging onto, it's probably a larger collection than the rest of your clothing combined. Pick out your favorite comfy, just-for-home, outfits and send the rest to the rag bag. These items are robbing you of space and self-image. Out they go.
4. Take Inventory. Using your list or clothing planner, you can now identify gaps in your wardrobe. Business women typically lack sufficient casual wear for weekend outings. Stay-at-home moms tend not to have formal or business attire. Young women often forget to buy clothes for weddings or formal events. Planning allows you to see what holes need to be filled when you go shopping, and take advantage of the sales. It will also let you see if you have items that can be sold or donated. Many women do a thriving business on Ebay selling clothes that are lightly used, or have never been worn at all. You too can turn your fashion mistakes into cash.
We've all seen those women who dress as if style comes to them effortlessly. Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. But following these steps, you can look like they do, natural or not. Remember, planning ahead will save you money and give you time to devote to the other passions in your life. Because fashion is important, but it's not everything!