Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How to Use the Functional Method to Purge a Cluttered Wardrobe

This is the same wardrobe with which we worked yesterday; today we're going to take a different approach to getting rid of the excess and whittling down to the good stuff!

a 50-piece wardrobe with too many colors and too many prints
all clothes - River Island

Today, we're arranging everything by function. This is a really helpful way to "self-diagnose" a common shopping pitfall - always buying the same kind of garment. I personally have a mad fondness for dresses, and for sweaters. Dresses aren't a terrible problem, because (so long as you have the appropriate shoes and other accessories) a dress is a pretty much free-standing ensemble. But too many black sweaters? BIG BIG BIG waste of money... even if the sweaters are (each and every one of them!) very beautiful...

This heroine has a ratio of tops to bottoms that is at the absolute limit of how high you should (in my opinion) go - 2:1. Bottoms are less memorable, and thus are generally considered to be the piece that you can wear more frequently without getting bored. And especially if we're talking about jeans or khakis, they're much better made than most other garments, and thus are going to last longer and hold up to more activity.

Tops are easy to over-shop - they're worn near your face so your imagination is more likely to be carried away by how pretty the item is, and by extension how pretty YOU will be when you wear it. Most of us know our size with very little problem, and so you don't have to try things on (this makes on-line impulse purchasing VERY easy...). Many people are more... in-shape... above the waist, too, so that little insecurity doesn't have to be addressed by these purchases either. In a nutshell, you can really go extravagantly overboard with blouses, tee shirts, shirts and sweaters...

a 50-piece wardrobe, arranged by function

So let's do a little bit of math to figure out where we're going to have to cull. I'm going to stick with her current 2:1 ratio, because it makes sense in a blouse-heavy wardrobe, but I'm going to push this wardrobe down to 30 pieces. I just feel like there's a lot of extra "stuff" here, and that some real clarity might be gained by being a little bit energetic in the editing process.

Here's how the numbers work:

How to calculate how much clothing to remove from your wardrobe

This is where she finds herself:

A plan for editing a 50-piece wardrobe

As before, when you don't really know what else to do, test-driving each garment is always a reasonable way to figure out what's most flexible and versatile. (of course, if something doesn't fit well, isn't in good condition, or you just don't like it, it shouldn't even make it THIS far - it should be in the first bag out the door...)

Are these pants worth keeping in my wardrobe?

You can clearly see that she has a few items that were impulse purchases, and that don't really need to be in her wardrobe. The decision-making moment, when you admit that something was a mistake, can be surprisingly difficult. But the relief that you feel when you've finally moved that piece out of your closet and it's no longer hanging there, guilt-tripping you, is priceless...

How do I know if I should keep this sweater?

Should I keep this red blouse in my wardrobe?

This looks like a daunting number of pieces to pull out, doesn't it?

editing a 50-piece wardrobe down to 30 pieces

But this already looks SO MUCH better...

a post-edit 30-piece wardrobe

Arranged by color, this wardrobe already is showing the direction in which our heroine should be moving - warm, soft, muted, feminine, floral...

a post-edit 30-piece wardrobe, arranged by color

But have we left her completely undressed? Actually, she still can put together a 24-piece summer capsule wardrobe with at least a dozen different outfits - more than enough for almost anyone.

a 24-piece warm-weather wardrobe

And there are only six pieces that aren't in this warm-weather capsule wardrobe - this could easily hang in the back of the closet, and maybe be incorporated into her outfits from time to time.

six wardrobe items to store for the warm weather

But the pieces that don't go into a current outfit are worth considering - there might be something that we can glean about her future wardrobe direction from these things:

analyzing wardrobe items for a sense of shopping direction

And she's not completely at a loss for packing and travel either; while this isn't the Four by Four Wardrobe of anybody's dreams, it's certainly functional, and provides an abundance of outfit options for most occasions. (My kingdom for a pair of shorts and a simple tee shirt though, right?)

a Four by Four Wardrobe in denim, black, and pastels

What a fascinating process this is proving to be! Maybe one last version, next week or the week after? What do you think?

love,
Janice

p.s. I'm NEVER upset by criticism - my only thought might be that I had let you all down. But if I can learn from you, I will, and if I can write better posts to help you more, I want to learn how!

p.p.s. It occurred to me last night - one of the reasons that I edit the wardrobes in the particular way that I do is because (as much as I try to choose a random assortment of things with which to begin) I chose the starter wardrobe, so somewhere in my cluttered storage area of a brain, I must have had some idea or preconception about how I would approach things. That, pretty much by definition, means that I'm going to edit the wardrobe in a certain way. Thus, it's even MORE important than ever that you all chime in with your thoughts, observations, suggested changes, and criticisms. The more points of view we can share about how best to edit our wardrobes, the more we will ALL benefit.

More love,
J


How to Use the Functional Method to clean a Cluttered Wardrobe and create a summer capsule wardrobe
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36 comments:

  1. This is all very interesting. Suddenly the weather here is New Zealand has become very wintry and so I've been spring cleaning my winter wardrobe. It has some good basics in dark blue, black and charcoal gray but my accent colours split into brights vs muted colours. So where to from here, I wonder......

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  2. Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Another one would be great.

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  3. The black doesn't feel right to me in this wardrobe. Too harsh?

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    1. I agree. The black kind of sticks out to me. Also I would have considered ditching one of those floral skirts. They look too similar.

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  4. This is fascinating! I'm trying to compare with yesterday's post to see whether you eliminated the same things, just for different reasons.
    I would also be interested in looking at the pieces in terms of how well they work together--having long tops with short jackets can be a look, but it doesn't always work. Especially if the top is busy, with ties or ruching or other details. But how many of us buy a top because we like THAT top, and not thinking about whether it will work under all, let alone any, of our jackets.

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  5. More please, I like this series very much. Apologies Janice for yesterday's critique, didn't mean to offend, just got swept away the learning and understanding process.
    I agree that this wardrobe could benefit by having a butter yellow as a second accent colour and perhaps a nut brown for a dark second neutral? Sharon, U.K

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    1. Note to self 'must edit before sending!' First sentence should read.... 'swept away with the learning.....'
      Sharon, U.K.

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  6. Janice,
    Let's be clear -- you NEVER disappoint ! What goes into a wardrobe is so subjective for each of us , and your approach represents how you would address a wardrobe dilemma, which might be different than someone else's ideas. That doesn't make you wrong ! Your posts are so instructive, and we can all take from them what works in our own closets, or not. I am always amazed at how you can do posts with varied colored accents, knowing that you pretty much prefer monochromatic for your own personal lifestyle. So please continue with this marvelous site and your creative genius -- you always make my day, and I can't wait for Monday's after doing without your posts on the weekends ! And -- you are very gracious in your review and responses to the posts by your readers, even if their thoughts differ from your presentations ! Big, big hugs !

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  7. I love having your insight on how/why you make the choices you do, Janice, and the different ways to look at the same question of how to edit a wardrobe. Fascinating!

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  8. I fear that I AM the magpie with my eye on florals and light warm colors. My bottom is never the problem so I happily flit from pattern to solid. Tops are excruciatingly difficult. Large-chested and apple-shaped means I never know without trying and trying again if the top will fit or be the correct color and style to play well with others at home in the closet. No ruffles, yet nothing too masculine or horizontal because broad shoulders do not appreciate that attention.

    Buttery yellow sounds wonderful, but I agree that black is too severe for your heroine and for me. I look like death in black OR stark white and would suggest if warm colors are used, it carry throughout the capsule. Ivory, warm taupe, darker tan khaki, or light warm brown would serve much better for this capsule as soon as our heroine can manage to purchase them.

    I continue to learn. Thanks, Janice, for teaching us so willingly. I'm still such a work in progress.

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    1. I'm sorry but forgot to sign my name--Deb in KY

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  9. I wish I could send you pictures of my items. I went trouhgt closet yesterday and now its about 60 items left. But I just left what fits me in there.

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    1. I'll volunteer my items, too! The pictures aren't up to your blog standards, though. But it would be fascinating to see a sort of point/counterpoint: what do YOU make of the jumble of garments? Does the person who owns the closet agree with your "this person seems to favor x" ideas? And if not, would that mean we're mis-representing ourselves, or not actually letting our clothing express our true personalities?

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  10. Would it be possible for one of your readers to send you a mixed wardrobe like the ones you have been using and then you would edit it? I think this would be fascinating.

    Deb from Vancouver

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    1. I would love to volunteer! I need to photograph all of my pieces, and this would give me the inspiration to bite the bullet and just.do.it.

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  11. Loving this series Janice! It has really helped me to let go of (nearly all of) those last stragglers in my wardrobe that didn't really go with anything else. Hurrah!!

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  12. Very interesting post. My big take on it is how the silhouettes help define the woman. Soft and flowing seems to be her go to style and it makes it more obvious that the more structured (stiffer?) items probably aren't favorites. And I second the comments about black not fitting in well. Olive green seems like a better choice to work with the peach and buttery yellow - very spring like color combinations.

    My only other comment is that this closet of clothes doesn't feel very "magpie" to me. There looks to be an underlying stylistic theme and color scheme emerging with just a few wildcards that are in the range of acceptable but not quite making the cut. I'm sure there are many of us whose closets look more like a cornucopia of colors and styles that have no coherence whatsoever. Here our heroine has a fondness for soft fabrics and romantic florals, but what if she hadn't realized that distinction yet and also had hawaian-shirt style florals? Or skinny jeans with rhinestone flowers? Or a business-like pencil skirt in a vivid shade of purple? I think when you are starting to gravitate towards something but it is still as yet unidentified, the process can be more daunting. Perhaps an assortment that is more "clueless" could be put through your wardrobe forensics process.

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  13. How about adding the February 27 scarf by Ted Baker? Floral and black. I'd love to see if that would tie it all together. (That was a GREAT scarf!)

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  14. I have had mixed feelings on these. Your removal of a lone pair of blue jeans, or moving them into the winter wardrobe kind of boggles my mind. I get that "jeans and a beautiful top" doesn't make for innovative blogging, but it does make for a solid wardrobe choice for the vast majority of us.

    My other thought on this combination is that you have removed all the florals that don't involve a skirt. I think a wardrobe for a feminine woman who loves florals would definitely continue to have a solid bottom/floral top combination. Maybe an area where your bias influences what stays and goes?

    I'm curious, if you were to execute the same exercise with stars instead of flowers, if there would be a bit more pattern that made the cut? I think I would apply the same bias to flowers, but not with strips, which are my preferred pattern.

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    1. What an interesting exercise, especially since my wardrobe and this one are pretty much polar opposites in colors, patterns, and silhouettes. But putting myself in this hypothetical womans shoes (whatever they look like!), I might really want to keep my (I'm guessing) favorite florals. Especially the slacks - there seem to be plenty of solid tops to put together outfits with them and maybe those outfits are what make my heart sing - and show my individuality? - nancyo

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  15. Even though this analysis is functional, the pictures are clearly color based and the two together are spot on! I even get a loose plan of how to do this at home. Drag out all my pieces by color and line up by function and take pictures to work with. Cull and repeat! Awesome and thanks so much. Sue

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  16. Hmm. You got rid of most of the florals. Seems like a fine wardrobe start but if this were a real woman I bet she'd keep a bunch of those florals. Because why else would she have bought them?

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  17. Hmmmm, Janice, have you been inside my brain? Oh yes, I've been rumbled. The thought processes you outline above are exactly why I got into the wardrobe pickle I experienced by the end of my 30s. Twenty years of avoiding the reality of my pear-shaped lower half of my body, picking all manner of pretty blouses, most of which didn't hang out in the same thematic/colour/style corner with one another but sulked in metaphorical different rooms altogether. Accepting my generous derriere and tiny waist as a fact of my physiology, I have started to buy several skirts, and a few trousers, in dark neutrals which - hey presto- finally gives partners to several otherwise orphaned, gorgeous Liberty silk blouses, thus springing them out of closet jail. I also focus on dresses as they best flatter my proportions, but again, being mindful these days - as you advise - to ensure I have the shoes, hosiery, accessories & toppers (esp cardigans of the most flattering dimensions) necessary so I can get maximum wear out of any dress at a moment's notice. Since reading your blog I am now vividly aware of 'functionality' - now whenever I purchase it's from a pre-ordained listen in my head - what proportion does this give (I aim for 1/3 or 2/5), What trousers will this blouse flatter in cut & colour ? How many seasons is this garment? when & how often will I wear this? etc etc. I buy to firm colour parameters too - (your 3 neutrals & 2 accents for a capsule proves spot on for a v flexible result). So obvious once you get into the groove but for two decades, these disciplined and simultaneously liberating habits of mind eluded me. My wardrobe was indeed the delightful but unwearable chaos you illustrate above!
    Many thanks, Anne

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    1. Dear Anne,

      Lol...closet jail. I lierally laughed aloud when I read that and it brought joy to a dreary day. I have items that seem to be serving long-term sentences, but with Governor Janice Riggs' help and the insight of readers, they now have a chance to be pardoned from imprisonment!

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    2. Liberty silk blouses are surely among the garments most deserving of freedom!

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  18. Janice I have a large stash of fabric that I am beginning to sew into garments. I am retired and some pieces of fabric have been in the stash for years and belong to a different style than I now like. I stray, you have given me inspiration to go through my stash applying the color decluttering method to get more fabric into garments. I think the functional method would not work as well although later on it may be a consideration when deciding what I should make with the various fabrics.
    Thanks Janice for giving me some inspiration to dive into my stash and get some sewing done

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    1. I was thinking the same thing with my yarn stash!

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    2. I'll bet every one of us who sews could do this, Annette! How many times have we bought fabric because it was so beautiful, even if it wasn't really our color or style? I know I'm guilty!

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  19. This series, and the lively discussion, have been so helpful. Quite a few things are spinning around in my head,such as, "this looks like a sale purchase" - OK, thanks, I will not buy that skirt that isn't quite the right shade of red, even though it's a really good price!
    Also, "she has never found a signature style" - I do have a signature style, but I haven't chosen it, it's been forced on me, by my body shape, short and pear shaped, and the fact that so few styles actually fit me or look good on me. Now that I don't go to work, the formal, structured clothes that suit me best are no longer suitable for my lifestyle, and I am always in jeans, boot cut, or long shorts in summer, worn with a top with elbow length or three quarter sleeves, to balance my figure, and a long cardigan or shirt to cover my bum. It's a signature style, but I'm so bored with it. When I find something suitable, I tend to buy several colours, but that doesn't really help, I still always look the same.
    I have a large and ever growing collection of "stuff that I like" on a Pinterest board. I can't possibly afford to buy all of it, a lot of it won't fit me, and I certainly don'the need it, but that comment "let's sort it by usage" suddenly made me realise what I need to do - go through my board, decide which items would make a difference to the way I look, and buy them. Thanks for the light bulb moment, and yes, do as many similar posts as you like, I have read pretty much everything you have written and it's been very helpful. More about signature style would be interesting, too. Linda M

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    1. Thank you Linda. You said perfectly what was on my mind! I tend to buy tops hoping to find just the right camouflage for my body, but history leads me to only buy those on sale. While I do a pretty good job of keeping my color scheme in mind, I'm not doing so well on finding a signature style that looks good on my apple shaped body.... so I keep buying and donating. I have navy and beige neutrals and tops roam all over the cool color chart. Mostly solids and I shy away from horizontal stripes. Sigh. I see round women all the time with stunning style.. maybe its that they have the confidence I lack. I'd love to see a style series for different shaped bodies!!! Camouflage 101~~ :)

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  20. I am also really curious about what would unfold if you were to edit a collection of clothing that someone else chose!

    The differences and similarities between today's and yesterday's wardrobe edits are so interesting. I really liked the idea of dark olive as a neutral that came out of yesterday's post, and the idea of butter yellow as a possible accent that emerged from today's. It really shows how these two methods are complementary, and worth doing in tandem!

    Also today's 4x4 held a really useful insight for me, in the past when I've tried to apply that method I've gotten hung up on creating cores of 4 of the exact same neutral, I couldn't make the clothes that I know are absolute staples for me "fit." So the mixed neutrals you show in today's 4x4 sort of validate my sense that it might work just fine to create cores of neutrals, just not identical ones. (I wonder if this is because my wardrobe tends to gravitate around blue jeans...yes they are blue but that doesn't mean I always have to wear navy on top, ykwim?)

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    1. I have done that mixed neutral approach for a 4x4 travel wardrobe. I mentally called it "split neutral," and used taupe, which I only wear on the bottom, for 2 pieces and white for the top 2 pieces (it was the wrong season to bring white bottoms anyway).

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  21. I was thinking that perhaps this woman could keep her shirts in those soft colors in both warm and cool shades. I really love those mauve tops that have been eliminated both times and to my eye they look fine in the same wardrobe as the warm ones. I even thought maybe she could buy some grey jeans (I love mine!) as I think they go with both warm and cool tops. Then it occurred to me that perhaps that's what is making MY wardrobe so crazy--not eliminating the warm colors when I know they aren't my best. Now I know what to try next!

    My other idea was that perhaps this woman could edit by style. I may just be seeing myself in this beginning wardrobe, but she seems to like an edgy look with her soft tops and florals. I would have kept the floral tank, the ripped jeans, both motorcycle jackets, and the olive pants. I agree with you about the floral pants and might suggest even getting rid of some of the white bottoms. So many ways to look at this project. I'd love to see more of these!

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  22. Both today's post and yesterday's are so interesting to read and study. Janice, I am always amazed by your ability to curate and edit to bring a look of cohesion. When I first looked at the wardrobe before editing, I thought it looked like something that easily could have come from my own closet in many ways, since I am a Soft Summer and love romantic floral prints and softer silhouettes. But, I likely would have edited it differently due to my own preferences for building outfits. One thing I've noticed is that I like to use a print piece as the bridge for two neutrals. For example, taupe skirt, ivory cardigan, print blouse containing taupe and ivory... I feel uncomfortable in monochromatic outfits and rarely ever wear them, even avoiding solid dresses typically. If this imaginary woman is anything like me, she might be the same way. So, keeping more tops and bottoms in prints might suit her. And for someone that likes a lot of prints, maybe keeping a higher overall number of pieces might be a better option. Personally, I don't find the black congruent with the other colors and even the darkest olive pieces feel harsh to me. I would go for more of a faded, washed, fatigue green sort of olive to keep the muted feel. When someone is especially suited to these muted colors, it seems like lower contrast combinations are more flattering. Both Soft Autumn and Soft Summer share an ability to wear both cooler and warmer shades and like Laura, I would have kept the mauve pieces and probably added some gray, because I think peach/blush and gray are fabulous together. I would love to see more of those posts because it is fascinating to see and read the different viewpoints.

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  23. I am loving the series! Why can't I give you my wardrobe to declutter? With over 250 pieces in my wardrobe, including shoes and bags, I'm having a difficult time. I'd love to see you declutter a wardrobe including shoes a purses. Some of us are really guilty of having way too many shoes!

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    1. I second this! It would be great to see a wardrobe decluttering that includes bags and shoes!

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