Monday, October 6, 2008

Style Therapy Rule # 1: Get Rid of It!

If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in over a year, the odds are, you never will. Most of us wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. What's wrong with the remaining pieces that we've stuffed into the closet on a mishmash of hangers? The stretched out cable knit sweater weighing down on the wire drycleaner hanger. Joan Crawford would give some of you a good beating for that one. And what about the ubiquitous white plastic hangers? The ones we bought in bulk during our university days. They've moved from dorm room to dorm room. Apartment to apartment. And some of you have the unmitigated audacity to hang them up in the custom made closets of your co-ops! 

So now we have a closet bursting at the seams, with hangers that aren't uniform. The velour sweatsuit with copy that reads "angel" or "bad girl" on the bum is hanging next to the church (or temple or synagogue) dress purchased during your Laura Ashley phase. Somewhere in the nether region of the wardrobe is upwards of 30-40 pairs of shoes. You don't even like most of them. Some lime green mules from 1999 that you haven't worn since, well, 1999. You bought them for your cousin's wedding; never to be worn again and collecting so many dust bunnies, they could be mistaken for grey fuzzy slippers.

Underneath the mules is one, not two, one Prada Sport sneaker you bought down on Canal Street. You can't even find the other shoe! Most likely it's buried between that pair of clear heels you thought didn't look too strippery and the platform flip flops you sprained your ankle in last summer.

When our closets are stuffed with superfluous rubbish, our eye naturally zones in on pieces that are familiar. Those pieces tend to congregate together somewhere in the middle, and hence, we wear them ad nauseum, forgetting about the stripper heels and faux Pradas. 

My brand of pedagogy is laced with tough love because I've been there. Time after time I've purchased items because they were the right price or the right designer or brand name. Something can look great on a model or mannequin and once you get it on, make you look like death. Before we get to the cash register it's imperative that we try on everything, and be honest with ourselves. I'm as loath to go into the dressing as anyone else, but think of the money (and space) to be saved by not bringing home foolishness. That teeny tiny room is the place to discover whether or not the color and silhouette are flattering and if you foresee yourself wearing it next year. Or better yet, next month.

A lot of us are feeling the pinch in our wallets due to the economy. Some of us will stop shopping and try to pay down our debts. But the fact remains that sometimes new clothes are a necessity. Whether it's a new job, new baby, recent promotion or fluctuating weight, going forward, when you do decide to shop, decide what works  best for you. But before that, take a survey of what's lacking in your closet. 

The initial step should be assessing your lifestyle.  A suburban soccer mom's wardrobe needs defer from that of a recent college grad living in the city. Once lifestyle has been determined, figure out what your personal style is. Do you favor timeless pieces in traditional cuts and fabrics, like the smart Donegal blazer from J.Crew? Or do you err on the more progressive side, with items like a pleated Issey Miyake cocoon jacket?

If you're ill over analyzing your style, a Closet Detox will cure that. When I go into clients' closets, I have them try on EVERYTHING. From that wrinkled and faded t-shirt picked up at a Color Me Badd concert to a perfectly fitted black Jil Sander suit. We see what works. What works is what best presents the image the client is trying to convey. If you want to be taken seriously by your coworkers at the law firm, that Color Me Badd tee is a liability. 

Once we've gone through every garment, we eliminate the excess. A client can donate to charity and put it towards taxes or I help them consign or sell on eBay. Whatever they decide to do with their leftovers is more lucrative than having it take up space (and energy) in the closet; unworn and unwanted.

After a successful Closet Detox I either advise my client on what to buy or we go shopping together. At times, their budget can be relatively moderate, so we have to be strategic and buy the best my client is able to afford. It's better to have a few quality pieces that you love and that love your body back, than to ram and cram pounds and pounds of unloved clothes into a limited area. We detox our bodies of junk and foolishness, why not our closets?

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