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November 2021

Shopping 101: Wardrobe & Closet Organizing Tips & Tricks

By Stacey Mayesh


Fashion Starts with Storage Solutions: Get Organized!
You may think that being stylish starts with shopping, but you would be wrong. Being stylish starts with having your clothes, shoes, and accessories organized in your wardrobe. How do you know what to buy if you don’t fully know what you own—and what you don’t? Once you have waded through your wardrobe, weeded out those jeans from college, stored your grandmother’s vintage beaded sweaters, organized your shoes, and made a few other simple changes, you can assess what pieces you need to complete an outfit or what outfits you need but don’t have at all.

Most people don’t have an unlimited budget. So, if you’re one of them, you want to avoid fashion frivolity, and be able to say—without smirking—that you are buying things you need. The idea is to enhance your wardrobe, not overwhelm it with things you’ll never wear. The first lesson in shopping 101—get organized.

Step 1 to Wardrobe Organization: Clean Out Your Closets
Where to start? Eliminate. It’s really tough to shop when you can’t even make sense of what you have!

This closet organizing is a great snowy-day activity, as it is time-consuming and requires you to really think about the way you live, what you wear, and what would make it easier to get dressed in the morning.

What to Eliminate from Your Wardrobe
I don’t really like to save things for a rainy day. If I haven’t worn something in a while, I get rid of it. My clients always say, “But what if it comes back in style in 5 years?” My response is always the same: “It always comes back in a slightly different way and usually doesn’t feel very relevant anymore.” Frankly, living in NYC, I don’t have the storage space to just hang onto things that aren’t in active wardrobe rotation.

Go through the clothes in your closet. If something has not been worn in several years, is old and pilled, otherwise dingy, or doesn’t fit well, toss it. If you must save it because it has sentimental value or you just can’t part with it, put it in a well-labeled box up on a high shelf of your closet so you remember that it’s there, but it’s not adding to your everyday wardrobe clutter.

If you can’t decide if something is worth saving or not, chances are it’s not.

When I’m purging my closet, I will usually make a pile of items that are worthy of designer resale and consignment shops, or even eBay. To qualify for Ebay resale or consignment sale, an item has to be in excellent condition and will always sell best if it has a designer label.

I then make a pile of clothing and fashion accessories that can be donated to an organization that takes used clothing. I don’t feel great about just throwing things away. I say reduce, reuse, recycle! Once you’ve cleared out the wardrobe muck, you will be dealing with a lighter workload and a cleaner closet.

Step 2: Organize Your Wardrobe Space
The next step is to organize your wardrobe, and this requires you to really look at your available closet space to determine how to do this in a way that will work for you.

Here are some closet organizing ideas:
1. Organize your clothes by season: if you’re limited by storage space, put your out-of-season clothing in another area and focus your closet on what you’re wearing now.
2. Organize your closet by item: tops with tops, sweaters with sweaters, pants with pants, dresses with dresses, etc.
3. Organize by lifestyle: work clothes with work clothes, casual weekend clothes with casual weekend clothes, etc.

Once you’ve rearranged things in your closet, change all of your hangers so that they match each other. Having the same hangers will make everything hang at the same level, create visual consistency, and enable you to focus your eye on the clothes better. Then arrange by color within each category. Having this uniform wardrobe look makes a cluttered closet look organized and professional.

Step 3: Add to Your Wardrobe—Yes, SHOP!
Now that your closet looks the best it can possibly look, it’s time to shop to add needed items to your wardrobe. Try mixing things in new and different ways. I often find that going through the exercise of editing and organizing inspires all kinds of styling ideas I hadn’t previously thought of. Challenge yourself to make a new combination every day. Have fun and get creative . . . and, sigh . . . know that spring will be here soon!

Useful Organizing & Storage Tips & Tricks of the Trade

1. Shoe Storage Ideas
Having worked in women’s fashion magazines for so many years, I have gotten in the habit of photographing my shoes and putting the photos on the outside of the boxes. I like to keep my current-season shoes outside the boxes, in a more accessible part of my closet, and my out-of-season shoes inside their boxes up on a high shelf, along with the empty boxes of the in-season shoes. This helps me easily see where everything is and what’s in each box, but the lower portions of my closet aren’t clogged up with lots of shoes I’m not wearing. This is less of an issue if you live in a house with lots of storage space, but we New Yorkers are always space-challenged. I once had a boss (who is now a very high-profile fashion editor) who kept her massive shoe collection in her kitchen (the Louboutin section was inside the oven!) because she only ate out and didn’t keep food in her apartment.
2. Buy Some Closet Solutions & Wardrobe Organizers
My chic friend Melanie Fascitelli designs a fabulous line of closet organization accessories through her company clos-ettetoo.
3. Jewelry Storage & Jewelry Organizing Ideas
Jewelry is one of those things that is difficult to organize and can easily get tangled and lost if not properly cared for. I like to organize my jewelry in slim, plastic, stackable drawers from the Container Store. They’re modular, so I can add or subtract them as necessary. Within the drawers, I have little dividers, boxes, and cubed trays that help to further organize. Everything is really accessible and easy to see. Without these drawers, I’d be rummaging through lots of bags and pouches all the time.
4. Save the Best: Organize Your Finished Wardrobe Creations
I recommend taking photos of your favorite outfits, so you don’t forget them after you’ve had a moment of inspiration. I often do this for my clients and often go as far as putting all of the photos into an iPhoto book labeled “Winter Wardrobe 2011 Party Looks,” or “Spring 2011 Work Looks,” or “Winter Vacation Outfits.” If you don’t want to take photos, you can always take careful notes about each look. I even have an ultra-analytical client who is so used to looking at financial data that she records her favorite outfits in spreadsheets!
5. Need Help? Don’t Fear the Professional Organizer
Finally, if all else fails, I recommend hiring a professional organizer. If you are in the Tri-State Area, I recommend professional organizer, Paula Bellini of Bringing Order from Chaos. She will change your life!

Related Links
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Stacey Mayesh, Fashion Contributing Editor
I am a NYC-based fashion stylist who has worked with top tier magazines (Marie Claire, InStyle, Elle, Lucky), and celebs (Selma Blair, Jessica Alba, Susan Sarandon, Sean Combs) for 15 years. I was recently featured in Vogue and on NBC Weekend Today. I now work with private clients bringing a fresh . . . Read more of her fashion secrets

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