Here’s a little known but perhaps unsurprising fact: most women only wear one tenth of the clothes in their wardrobe. Ponder for a minute that woeful percentage. While few of us will ever muster a convincing challenge to Poliform’s world of orderliness you have to wonder what all those clothes are doing there. And worse still, why we are buying duplicate items of unworn clothing.
I hit a personal low once when, confused by the never-ending clutter, I managed to buy the same top twice — but I am not alone. The average UK woman spends £13,000 in a lifetime on clothes she will never wear.
Presumably because we’re far too busy whining about clothes that hold sentimental value, tops that were just too expensive to throw out and items that would fit perfectly if only we lost half a stone/were a foot taller or resembled –with one eye shut – Rosie Huntington Whiteley. Clothes tumble forth, and yet still we complain of nothing to wear.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t another bossy fashion article beseeching you to chuck out the whole damn lot and employ the services of an expensive style consultant. But there’s a lot you can do to look better dressed right now. I know because three years ago I detoxed my wardrobe and it changed my life immeasurably.
So ruthless have I been in my culling that I could probably challenge George Osborne to a duel of cutbacks… and win. My clothes, shoes and accessories now fit into six small-ish drawers, a monastic (by fashion editor standards) two sets of rails and a couple of shoe racks. And I’m now down to eight handbags.
Getting dressed in the morning is no longer the half an hour struggle despairing that I have ‘no clothes’ to wear. For a start, I can actually see what’s in my cupboard and consequently any ‘gaps’ that are missing. There’s arguably a lot, lot less but it’s an edited, super slick selection of things I love.
Everything I own was subjected to the following questioning: Did it fit properly and did I feel good wearing it? The overlying stipulation was that I had to really love each piece that stayed – and it had to give me the ‘lift’ or the sartorial equivalent of a good hair day. That’s quite a lot to ask from a pair of trousers perhaps but that way I was always going to find something I would want to wear. And I was going to feel happy wearing it. It was simple, kindergarten-ish sounding criteria made up entirely by me but it worked. Clothes that hadn’t been worn for three years (I made that figure up too) no matter how wonderful looking/expensive/ one off/designer-y were donated to charity or sold on through a dress agency. Anything that didn’t fit properly and couldn’t be remedied at the dressmakers was also discarded. As for those ‘fashion heirlooms’ I had been stashing in the event of having a daughter, well I got over myself and got rid of those too. (N.B For the record I’ve since given birth to two daughters and I still don’t regret it).
For every one item that I have slightly regretted binning, there are probably thirty that I don’t miss. Of course my husband points out that this is hardly a challenge for a fashion editor privy to advance notice of sample sales and who, over the years has been ‘gifted’ the odd bag. Except I’m inclined to agree with most stylish women I know that too much choice clouds your judgement.
A lot of our reluctance to undergo a wardrobe detoxing is actually the fear of ending up with too few clothes. In our consumer crazed society, we often choose quantity over quality. Don’t look on this challenge as a new year resolution made to be broken. Think of it as the year you started dressing properly. So what are you waiting for? Grab those bin liners and get culling. You’ll be surprised, you’ll be constantly torn but once you’ve started, I guarantee it will be hard to stop, so cathartic is the satisfaction gleaned from seeing a clearer wardrobe. You might, once you’ve flogged a whole load on ebay, even be a little richer. If nothing else, you’re going to learn something about yourself. Happy editing!
How to actually do it – The rules
- Sort out what you are going to wear and what actually suits you
Find a rail (John Lewis does very reasonable, foldable ones) and take a long, hard look at your wardrobe. Stick your favourite pieces, the ones you genuinely love (and feel great wearing) on that rail. There might be less on that rail than you’d anticipated. But don’t panic by adding less favoured pieces which will only defeat the object. If you really can’t bear to do this on your own, enlist the help of a trusted friend.
- Make a pile of mending and alterations
From that selection make a pile of what needs to be dry cleaned, washed or mended. Don’t be lazy about sorting out minor repairs or getting new buttons sewn on . Your edited new wardrobe needs to look fresh and appealing.
- Edit the fantasy rail
This is where a bit of steely resolve is required. Put aside anything that hasn’t been worn for two to three years or has never felt quite right when you wear it. Ask yourself why it doesn’t feel right? Is it the wrong size? Is it still age/job/life appropriate? Now might be the time to come to terms with the fact that you are never going to look like Alexa Chung if you’re a 5ft, pear-shaped blonde. If it’s because it’s the wrong colour/shape/ neckline then start a selling on/charity pile. If these items can be salvaged, add to the mend and alter pile. Repeat the above with underwear chucking out greying bras and ‘comfy’ options with frayed elastic. Do the same for shoes and boots and don’t’ forget to give your tights, socks and jewellery the same dispassionate overhaul.
- Assessing what is left
By now you should be left with an edit of clothes and accessories that you love and enjoy wearing. By clearing away the clutter, you will hopefully also begin to see other positive aspects emerging. You will hopefully see that you your favourite items have similar necklines and skirt lengths or a particular cut or colour – the future wardrobe uncluttered with bad buys and fashion mistakes. You will also be able to spot things that are missing. A great shirt perhaps? Or not enough tops – we should aim for five tops to every pair trousers or skirt. Make a list.
- How you ‘merchandise’ it is entirely up to you
Do you arrange your cupboard by sticking all your trousers, skirts or tops in sections? Or should you do it all by colour? There isn’t one right or wrong way. Whatever works for you best. What is more important is that you can see everything easily and don’t ‘forget’ about anything.
- Proper storage
The jury’s out on what type of hangers you should use. Personally I favour wooden ones (inexpensive at Ikea) but if you have to settle for the thin wire ones that you get back from drycleaners, it’s a good idea to pad over with tissue paper so that they don’t spoil the shape of your clothes. Dry cleaner bags should be removed as being covered will only discolour them. Shoes and boots should be stored with the appropriate foot trees so they retain their shape. Seemingly a lot of faff but it is utterly worth it in the long run.
Make the time to alter the clothes you love that don’t quite fit right. Most local drycleaners have seamstresses who can do adjustments, for anything which requires more work, find a specialist service. In London, Julia Dee of Designer Alterations is one of the best. Not only will they do basics such as replacing buttons if you’re too lazy but they’ll also alter hemlines and waistlines or if required copy a favourite garment and mend cashmere that has been devastated by moths or too much wear.