Category Archives: Wardrobe Management

How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

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Fold your sweaters and knits

If you look inside your closet, do you see garments that are in sad shape?  Do you see fading, pilling, holes, stains, scuffs, and other flaws in your clothing and shoes? Of course, some of these items may be old and past their prime, but others are relatively new and should be in much better shape.

Although there will come a time when even our most treasured clothes and shoes will need to be discarded, there are things we can do to extend the lives of our wardrobes.  This post offers a few tips I’ve found beneficial over the years that I hope will be helpful to you as well.

Buy Better Quality

Sometimes people are surprised that the t-shirt they bought at Target for $10 last year has become stretched out, pilling, and ready to be thrown away.  Now I am not one to knock Target or similar discount retailers, but we need to be realistic in terms of what we’re getting when we shop there.  The clothing offered at such stores is cheap for a reason, and the store is still making a profit despite the low prices we’re paying.  They are cutting corners somewhere and often in multiple places, including fabric type and weight, workmanship, and quality control.

It isn’t an iron clad rule, but it is usually true that you get what you pay for.  It’s fine to shop at lower-end stores, but don’t expect the things you buy there to last forever.  What I recommend is that you purchase wardrobe staples and classics at medium to higher-end stores and buy trendy pieces at the discount retailers.   Trendy items have a shorter shelf life anyway, so it usually isn’t a good idea to spend a large portion of your clothing budget for such things.

Store Your Items with Care

Do you hang your shirts and sweaters on the wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners?  Or do you use the plastic tube hangers that are only slightly better?  If so, please stop that!

Our clothes spend more time in our closets than on our bodies, so it’s important to store them properly.  I recommend that you fold sweaters and knits whenever possible, as they have a tendency to become stretched out when hung.  For other garments, I suggest the felt-wrapped hangers that not only protect your clothes; they also take up less space than standard plastic or wooden hangers.  You can buy the original brand name “Huggable Hangers” at either Target or The Container Store, but I’ve found a similar version at Costco (not currently listed on their website) that works just as well.

Laundry Tips

Most people wash their clothes after every time they wear them and this is often not necessary.  If you’ve only worn something for a few hours or if it wasn’t worn directly next to your skin, you might be able to get another wear or two out of it before a wash is really needed.    Sometimes a quick “spot cleaning” is all a garment really needs to be ready for another wearing.

When you do wash your clothes, here are a few other tips to help extend your clothing life span:

  • Use warm or cold water instead of hot.  Hotter water is harsher on clothing fibers.
  • Wash jeans and pants inside out to minimize color fading.
  • Hand wash bras and other delicate items and lay them flat to dry.
  • Use mesh bags and the delicate cycle when machine washing lace or embellished garments.
  • Hang clothing to dry on a clothesline or drying rack instead of using the dryer.

Shoe and Handbag Care Suggestions

The way we store our shoes also impacts how long they will last.  Store shoes in their original boxes (you can snap a photo to attach to the box for easy identification) or in a shoe rack, as opposed to piling them into a box or on your closet floor.   Use boot shapers to retain the shape of your boots in between wears.

To keep your shoes looking fabulous, I recommend using a Quick Shine sponge.  It’s quick and easy, leaves no mess, and is very inexpensive.  You can even keep one of these sponges in your handbag for quick touch-ups as needed.

Speaking of handbags, they retain their shape best when stored right-side up and stuffed with paper or fabric.  Many better purses are sold in cloth bags that can later be used for storage purposes.  The Container Store sells boxes and shelf separators which are useful for storing your handbag collection.

 

Tips for Packing Prowess

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Travel Packing TipsIn this post, I share some of my tips for effective packing. Since most of us take at least one trip per year and the airlines are placing more and more restrictions on baggage allowances, it has become increasingly important for us to learn to pack wisely.

My packing tips have been gleaned through my many years of over-packing and my subsequent concerted effort to mend my “wicked ways.”   While I still have a tendency to over-shop on vacation, my packing for the outbound portion of my trips is now much more modest and manageable.  Read on for my packing prowess suggestions…

List Your Probable Activities

Before you even open your closet to start the packing process, take a few moments to jot down the probable activities in which you will be engaging on your trip.  Is your trip for business or pleasure?  Will you mostly be sitting in offices or meeting rooms, or will you be venturing outside for open-air activities?  Will formal dinners be a part of your plans, or will you primarily be eating in casual diners?  Think about what you will most likely do on your trip, as that information will be a key guiding factor in terms of the clothing and shoes you will need.

Check the Weather Forecast

Most people remember to investigate the weather report for their destination, but I thought I’d add a gentle reminder in case this quick check slips your mind.  If you will be traveling to an area that experiences a lot of weather shifts, it’s always a good idea to find out what you might face during your time away.

For example, my recent trip was to the Lake Tahoe area, a region for which snow is a possibility in pretty much any month of the year.  I have learned to never assume that the sunny San Diego weather will follow me to Tahoe, especially since my summer skirts and dresses didn’t provide sufficient warmth when the weather turned on a dime a few years ago.  This year, I lucked out in terms of weather, but now I always remember to check the forecast and plan accordingly.

Select a Color Palette

It is much easier to maximize your outfit combinations using minimal garments if you select a color palette for your trip.  I usually recommend deciding upon one key neutral color (maybe two, if you include denim) and two other colors.

As a reminder, neutral colors include black, brown, navy, gray, white, cream, and beige.  Neutrals can be combined with each other and basically every other color in existence, so including neutrals when you pack really gives you a lot of “mileage” (pun intended…) in your travel wardrobe.

Let’s say you love to wear black.  If you include one of each key piece – shirt, pants, skirt, jacket, etc. – in black, you will have a lot of mix and match possibilities.

Shoes First, Bottoms Next, Tops Last

I find it’s best to select your shoe options first.  Shoes are the heaviest items in our suitcases, so I recommend wearing one pair of shoes (ideally the heaviest pair) and packing a maximum of two other pairs.  While exceptions exist, three pairs of shoes will generally be all you’ll need for most trips.  Select shoes that you love and can easily walk in, as we typically walk more while traveling than in our day-to-day lives. Ideally, select shoes that can be worn with all or most of the outfits you will pack for your trip.

After deciding upon which shoes you’ll take with you, choose your bottoms.  For men, this means pants, jeans, and possibly shorts.  For women, skirts and dresses may also be added to the mix.   Since bottoms can usually be re-worn at least once, you don’t need to pack one bottom per day of your trip.

Select your tops after you’ve finalized your bottom options.  Since tops generally weigh less than bottoms and shoes, here’s where you can include a wider variety of choices.  A good rule of thumb is to pack twice as many tops as bottoms.  Remember to include at least one jacket or coat (usually not more than two or three) for evening wear or cooler climates.

Use Accessories to Increase Options

The best way to increase your outfit possibilities is through the use of accessories.  Of course, this tip applies more to women than to men, but men have accessory options as well (belts, jewelry, sunglasses, pocket squares, etc.).  Accessories usually don’t weigh very much, so if you have carte blanche to over-pack anything, this is the category.

If you are a woman and love scarves, tote a few along in colors or patterns that match or coordinate with the garments you are taking on your trip.  Pack your favorite costume jewelry pieces (it’s generally better to either leave your expensive items at home or wear them throughout your entire trip) to add personality and life to your ensembles.

A Word about “Just in Case”…

There are three words that are responsible for the bulk of over-packing – “just in case.”  Many of us keep throwing more and more things into our suitcases with those words in mind.  We want to plan for every possible contingency that might occur during our travels.  My best advice also consists of three words – just say no!

While it’s okay to pack an umbrella for potential rain, I don’t recommend overloading your luggage with things you won’t need on the off chance that your plans may take a 180 degree turn.  Plan for your most likely activities and pack accordingly.  If something completely unexpected arises, you can shop for anything else you might need.  Yes, I said shop!   A change of plans may necessitate a shopping trip.  Win, win, says this shopping enthusiast…  And since you didn’t over-pack, there will be room in your suitcase for a few new purchases.

The Power of Alterations

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Power of Alterations

If your first thought upon seeing the title of this post is, “I never alter my clothes,” you’re not alone. With the exception of having their pants hemmed or getting wedding or formal wear tailored, most people do not alter their clothing.

In this post, I present an overview of the incredible power of alterations to help you look more stylish and polished, as well as slimmer and more attractive.  It’s amazing how some simple and often inexpensive tailoring can take garments from so-so to fabulous.

Off the Rack = Not Perfect

Most people expect clothing to fit them perfectly off the rack.  If that doesn’t end up being the case, they tend to blame their bodies and think something is wrong with the way they are shaped.  In truth, it is extremely difficult for clothing designers and manufacturers to create clothing for all of the many body shapes and sizes which are out there.  In fact, it’s next to impossible.  There are just too many possibilities and permutations!

Celebrities Tailor ALL of their Clothes!

Now you may look at celebrities in their impeccably fitting clothing, even jeans and t-shirts, and think that if you were shaped like them, your clothes would fit you like a glove.  But what you don’t know is that many celebrities have each and every thing they own tailored, right down to their tank tops, khakis, and shorts.  I have this on good authority from Clinton Kelly of “What Not to Wear” fame.  No, I didn’t speak with him personally, but it’s splashed all throughout the Internet, including in this article.

Love Your Wardrobe More & Feel Amazing

I discovered the power of alterations myself about seven years ago and I have been an “alterations junkie” ever since!  My clothes are now tailored to showcase my figure’s strong suits and skim right over those parts I don’t love as much.  Please believe me when I tell you that a tailor can help you to love your wardrobe more and feel even more amazing in what you wear.

Many Tailoring Possibilities…

Here is a list of alterations that I have personally had done to my clothes over the years or have seen done to other people’s clothing (if you are in the Point Loma area of San Diego, check out Tiffany’s Alterations – I swear by her excellent work and reasonable prices!).

Alterations for Shirts and Jackets

  1. Take in at the sides (my most common alteration!)
  2. Shorten straps on tank tops and camisoles
  3. Narrow sleeves
  4. Shorten sleeves (e.g. too short long sleeved tees can be made into ¾ length)
  5. Lengthen sleeves (take down hem or add fabric at bottom)
  6. Narrow shoulders (shoulder seam should hit at the outside of your actual shoulder)
  7. Remove or replace shoulder pads (modernize those 80s and 90s style blazers!)
  8. Take up at shoulders (give a very low-cut top a more manageable neckline)
  9. Replace buttons (can really modernize a dated look!)
  10. Shorten shirts and blouses
  11. Shorten jackets (not always possible, but can be done)
  12. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style tops (or sew shut at top)
  13. Add snaps between buttons on blouses to avoid gaping

Alterations for Pants

  1. Hem/shorten (most people know about this and have done it!)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow legs
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. Take out side or back pockets and sew shut (good for those of us with fuller hips)
  7. Make full-length pants into cropped pants or shorts
  8. Remove or add cuffs
  9. Take in seat / shorten rise (a difficult alteration but can be done)

Alterations for Skirts and Dresses

  1. Shorten (good for petites or for when styles change)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow at sides
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. If elastic waist, tighten or loosen elastic (can also replace with wider or narrower elastic)
  7. Tack down pleats
  8. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style dresses (or sew shut at top)
  9. Take in sleeves on dresses
  10. Shorten sleeves on dresses (make ¾ sleeves, short-sleeves, or sleeveless)
  11. Add sleeves (in same or contrasting fabric)
  12. Take up dress at shoulder to make less low-cut

Give Your Clothes New Life

The list above is just a sampling of the magic that can be worked by a talented and qualified tailor.  There are many other options at your disposal!  It never hurts to ask if something can be done to improve the fit and functionality of a garment.

Often, clothing items that might otherwise be tossed aside or donated can be revitalized and given new life with a visit to your local tailor.  Of course, you’ll have to decide if the alteration is worth the cost to you.  I have to admit that I’ve had occasions of “throwing good money after bad” by altering garments I probably should have let go.  But more often than not, my alterations have been of great benefit.

I hope this post has helped to open your eyes to the power of alterations.  At the very least, I hope you’ll at least consider the possibility of tailoring your clothes moving forward.  It really can make a tremendous difference and help to amp up your style!

Closet Audit Tips

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When someone is interested in cultivating a new personal style and image, the best place to start the process is by doing a closet audit.  A closet audit involves going through all of your clothing, shoes, and accessories and assessing everything based upon your image goals as well as the color, style, fit, and fabric of each item.  You then release the items that no longer your body, lifestyle, and style preferences, and compile a shopping list to fill in any wardrobe gaps that have been identified.

An Effective and Liberating Process

The closet audit process is not only highly effective; it is also liberating, cathartic, and empowering.  At the end of what can sometimes be a lengthy and tiring process, you’re left with a nicely organized closet filled only with the pieces that support your image and style goals for success in all key life areas.

I feel that everyone can benefit from conducting a closet audit at least once per year.  It can be difficult to do because of the emotions that are often attached to our clothing, but it’s my hope that the questions I offer below will help make things easier.

Try Everything On and Ask Yourself These Questions

I suggest that you set aside at least a few hours to go through everything in your closet.  Ideally, you should try everything on and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I love it?  (Rate each item on scale of 1-10; if less than 8, alter or donate!  See “The Power of Alterations” for information and suggestions on tailoring your clothes.)
  • Does it fit?  (If it’s too tight, either donate or store elsewhere if you think it might fit again soon.  If too loose, consider alterations if you still love the item.)
  • Is it flattering?  (Does it highlight the parts of your body you love and downplay any areas you might not love as much?)
  • Is the color good for my skin tone?
  • Is it age-appropriate?
  • Is it my style?  (If you’re not sure of your style, tear photos out of catalogs and magazines of things you love.  Compare to what is in your closet. Also see this article for more tips on finding your personal style.)
  • Does it fit my lifestyle?  (We often buy things for “someone else’s life.” Your wardrobe should be appropriate for who you are and what you do.  More on this HERE.)
  • Have I worn it in the past year?  (In most cases, barring formal wear and a few sentimental pieces, items not worn in over a year should go!)
  • Do I feel good when I wear it?  (You want to feel attractive and confident in your clothes and ready to take on life’s important events and challenges!)
  • Do I receive compliments when I wear it?
  • Would I buy this item today?  (Ideally, your answer should be yes!  Wardrobe mistakes and outdated pieces should be passed on.)

Perhaps Enlist an Assistant

It can be helpful to invite a friend or family member to assist you with the process (and offer to do the same for him or her), especially if you know that person will offer honesty and constructive criticism.  In other words, don’t ask your mother to help you if she thinks everything looks good on you.  Remember, you want to edit your wardrobe down to a more manageable size and have it support your image and style goals.

Just Do It!

I hope the questions and suggestions above will be helpful to you when you do your next (and perhaps your first!) closet audit.  A closet audit may take a lot of time and energy, but the rewards are extremely powerful.   The bottom line is that you should follow the advice of Nike – Just Do It!

Wear Everything in Your Closet!

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Declutter your closetMany of us have far too many clothes in our closets!  Contrary to what you might believe, having more clothing does not make it easier to get dressed.  In fact, a preponderance of choices can be overwhelming and make the dressing process far more difficult than it needs to be.

If you love and wear everything you own, it can make sense to maintain a larger wardrobe.  However, I’ve found that this isn’t the case for most people.  Far more common is the situation in which there are a lot of unworn garments in a person’s closet.  This can make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.  Your “star players” can be obscured by a bunch of ho-hum garments that are merely occupying valuable space in an overly stuffed closet.  That’s a situation we want to avoid!

A Simple Tip – Wear Everything!

The tip I’m about to offer is very simple and straightforward and is particularly useful when combined with my previous tips, “The Hanger Trick”” and “The Power of Tracking.”  My suggestion is that you push yourself to wear items that haven’t been worn in a while.  See, I told you it was simple!

If you’re like most people, when you go through your closet deciding what to wear, you pass over certain garments time and time again.  I suggest that at least a few times per week, you actually challenge yourself to wear one of those frequently rejected pieces.  Pull it out, create an outfit with it, and wear it!

Actually wear the item out of the house.  It may be better to wear the questionable piece on a short errand or low-risk situation (a first date may not be an ideal situation for test-driving your clothing!).  That way, if you find yourself hating it, you won’t have to keep it on for very long.

Wear It, Then Make a Decision

This is a two-part tip.  The first part is to wear the item in question.  The second part, and this is very important, is to make a decision about it!  When you get undressed later that day, decide what you want to do with the garment.  Did you find an unexpected “diamond in the rough” and wonder why you never wore such a great item of clothing?  If so, great!  Hang it up and vow to wear it again regularly.

If you couldn’t wait to get the garment off your body, you should know what to do.   If it’s in good condition, add it to a donation bag for charity.  After all, just because you don’t love something, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as the old saying goes.

Aim for All 8’s to 10’s in Your Closet

Some items will fall into more of a gray area, but I always tell people they should aim to have all of their clothes be “10s” or very close to that.  If something is an 8 or a 9, it is a keeper.  Below that, do you really want to wear something that doesn’t make you feel fabulous?  None of us really needs a huge wardrobe and “8” to “10” pieces can be found at all price points, so why keep things that are just so-so?

Alterations can definitely take some garments from ho-hum to magnificent and many people forget about this valuable opportunity.  If you really like a garment but it’s just not right, try taking it to a tailor to see what can be done.  I’ve rescued many a garment by having my personal “miracle worker” (for those in the Point Loma area of San Diego, I highly recommend Tiffany’s Alterations) perform her magic on it.

A Personal Example…

FYI… I personally use all of the tips I recommend on this blog.  As we’re now into the second half of 2012 and there are still items in my closet that haven’t been worn this year, I use this tip almost daily at this point.

Just yesterday, I wore a black lace top that hadn’t been worn since 2011.  I discovered I still like the top, but it’s an odd length – too short for pants and too long for skirts.  It’s also longer in the front than in the back.  I’ve decided to shorten the top and even out the length all around.  I feel confident I will then love this top and wear it regularly with skirts,  However, I would have never figured this out if I had left it unworn in the closet for months – or even years – on end.

Goal – A More Streamlined Closet

I hope this tip will be helpful for you in better managing your wardrobe.  Remember to wear those questionable items in your closet and then make a decision about what to do with them – keep (and wear!), alter, or donate.   Over time, you will be rewarded with a more streamlined, functional, and pleasing closet.

The Power of Tracking

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How often do you wear your clothes?  Do you have any idea?  Most of us think we wear the items in our closet far more often than we actually do.  It can be a useful practice to track what you’re wearing and how often.  This article highlights an easy way to do that, as well as my personal experience with tracking and how it’s helped me become a smarter shopper.

A Simple Tracking Method

I started tracking how often I wear my clothes at the beginning of 2011.  I decided to do this because I had an overly full closet, was shopping on a regular basis, and still found myself making purchasing mistakes.  I reasoned that if I learned what I was wearing most often, I could them buy more of those types of pieces and fewer of the items which languished in my closet.

My clever engineer husband devised a simple tracking method.  We purchased a box of tags on strings and hung a tag on each hanger in my closet.  For those items that are not stored on hangers, such as jeans and shoes, I created a tracking spreadsheet that I kept on a clipboard in my closet:

Clothing Tracking Spreadsheet

Wardrobe “All-Stars” and “Benchwarmers”

Clothing Tracking Hanger TagEach time I wore any item, I would mark an “X” either on the item’s hanging tag or on my spreadsheet.  I also used the “hanger trick” that I wrote about in a previous article.   My tracking only took a few seconds each day, but provided me with valuable data as the months went by.  I was able to see that I was wearing my jackets, cardigans, and jeans frequently and my tops, dress pants, and dresses less often.

At the end of the year, I took inventory of my wardrobe “all-stars” and “benchwarmers.”  All-stars were defined as clothes worn four or more times, but I actually wore a lot of them many more times than that.  My biggest “all-star” was a casual jacket that I wore an amazing 116 times in 2011!   Wardrobe “benchwarmers” were designated as things not worn at all or only worn one to two times over the course of the year.  Sadly, I had quite a few of those…

I learned I had far more tops than I needed.  All in all, only thirteen of my tops achieved all-star status!  I had also accumulated a number of shoes that were so uncomfortable, I only wanted to wear them to walk in and out of a restaurant.  Not surprisingly, such shoes aren’t very versatile and receive little wear.

Better Decisions & a More Manageable Closet

My shopping decisions have definitely improved since I started using my tracking system.  I now buy more jackets and fewer tops, as one example.  In combination with the regular closet purging I do (more on that on future articles…), my closet has become more manageable and a lot less cluttered.

I’m continuing to use my tracking system in 2012 and I have no plans of stopping this activity.  It is so quick and easy to do and it’s extremely beneficial.  Why don’t you try it for at least a few months to see how it works for you?

The “Hanger Trick” Tames Your Closet

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Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the “80/20 Rule”?  This principle holds that in most areas of life, the few (20%) are vital and the many (80%) are trivial.  Simply stated, 20% of what we do produces 80% of our results.

The Pareto Principle and Our Closets

While the Pareto Principle initially referred to wealth distribution, it can also be applied to our wardrobes.  In truth, most people only wear 20% of their clothing.  The other 80% is simply over-crowding our closets and taking up valuable space, leading to the common phenomena of staring into a full closet and exclaiming, “I have nothing to wear!” Read the rest of this entry