In 2015, I went on a Caribbean Cruise to Cozumel with a bunch of blogger friends of mine. What an AMAZING trip! The trip organizers were The Six Sisters from SixSistersStuff – you may have read some of their many cookbooks, and a well-known local fashion consultant Alicia Richmond from Chic on a Shoestring who taught us a ton about style and managing our closet for age-appropriate style for every body type and every budget.
The Sisters (they really are 6 actual sisters) were just a ton of fun and we got to hang out with them and their whole family – several husbands and many of their kids were along, plus both their parents. Such sweet girls and we got to tour the Mayan pyramids, go snorkeling, eat dinner together every night and really have an enjoyable trip. Cruises are my absolute FAVORITE vacation.
We also spent a lot of time with Alicia. I knew her already as I had appeared on a couple of TV segments with her and been a model in a fashion show for her. That was quite an unexpected experience as I am short and rather chubby – definitely NOT fashion model material, but she managed to pick out a denim and blazer combo for me that was absolutely stunning! Sadly, my camera ATE the photos from that experience.
Alicia does fashion for a living – she has worked with Clinton from What Not to Wear, dressed Utah’s First Lady for various appearances, and at the time was doing a lot of work for Macy’s in choosing and displaying their women’s fashion. She also has taken women on shopping trips all over the world – several of them came to Mexico with us, and does closet consultations for women similar to what they do on What Not to Wear.
Helpful Advice from a Fashion Consultant
When the big name fashion consultant tells you stuff – you LISTEN. And then you come home and get to work! She spent quite a bit of time teaching the whole group about what styles were most flattering for different body types and why. It was absolute GOLD and I took tons of notes.
Her advice was not to go rushing out to buy a bunch of new stuff, but instead to start with your closet. Take it all out and go through EVERYTHING. There are hidden gems in there that will completely dazzle you when paired with the right pieces. Now this was years before Marie Kondo appeared on the scene, but I found the advice to get everything in one place very helpful. We all have so many clothes that it’s really difficult to look at them objectively.
My first step was to take every single piece out and organize it by categories – pants, tops, blazers, sweaters, etc. One thing Alicia advises is that you should never organize your closet by outfits. That is too limiting. Usually you want to organize by type of clothing, or by function of the clothing (work clothes, weekend clothes, workout clothes, etc.), or by color groupings.
Prior to starting this exercise, you may want to read my Closet Organizing Post – which shows you how to remove things that are out of season, stained, torn, too large/too small or just plain UGH. There’s no point in wasting your valuable time with pieces that don’t have any possibilities at all. You want to spend your time on the clothes that are in season, appropriately sized, and in good enough shape to wear.
Then I took each category of clothing and spread it out on the bed. So, starting with pants, then tops, then skirts, etc. I asked myself the following questions:
- Is this a good color for me? Alicia had showed us how to do our colors. I’m a winter, so I look best in bright, clear colors like jewel tones while my sister is all earth tones and neutrals. But you put me in beige or brown and I want to cry because I feel so frumpy.
- Do you fit me well? Alicia spent a lot of time on fit, especially jackets and tops that were too long or too short. An extra couple of inches can make anyone look dumpy and sad. Sometimes you fall in love with the fabric, but after wearing it for a day, you realize a blouse will gap open or a pair of slacks is a little too tight or too short. A skirt that looks pretty on a hanger, might hit at the widest point of your calf. Those are the ones you get rid of. And the ones that fit are the ones you want to pair up with your best tops.
- Are you an age-appropriate and flattering style? This meant the end of the road for quite a few pieces. I do mostly stick with age-appropriate items, but flattering? Not always. And some things just make you feel frumpy while others get you tons of compliments. I have two jackets that are long, flowy, duster-style pieces. They are not supposed to work on someone as short as me, but I always get lots of compliments when I wear them so I wouldn’t part with them for the world.
- Do you go well with my other pieces? This one was a pretty easy question as I tend to gravitate towards certain colors and certain styles. I’m not very adventurous with clothes – that’s why I need a stylist like Alicia to nudge me out of the box and get me to try new things.
- Do I already have you? This was another value to getting everything in one place. We tend to buy the same pieces over and over again because they make us feel SAFE or they remind us of other pieces we already love. I found FIVE black and white print skirts or dresses. I’m definitely keeping them all because I LOVE them, but I’ll be careful not to buy any MORE of them.
Creating the Magic with the Remaining Clothes
So now that I had purged my closet of all the bad stuff, I had the chance to go through and start pairing up some outfits. I tried some color combos that I thought were off limits – black and brown for instance. I tried olive green with grey and loved it. Rose pink or navy also go exceptionally well with black or grey. And my beloved black and white prints looked stunning with a plain jewel toned silk blouse.
Alicia showed us how to create our own little Lookbook. When you’re going through your closet like this and you pull together a great outfit, take a picture of it. It can be a selfie of you wearing it, or – if you are lame like me and can’t take a decent selfie to save your life – just lay them on the bed. Then set up folders on your phone – work outfits, casual outfits, party outfits, etc. Then anytime you are struggling with what to wear – voila! You’ve got a little stash of great outfits at your fingertips.
In the course of this little project, I learned a lot. I found a bunch of clothing that was languishing in the back of my closet. This little exercise made me pay attention to my clothes in a way I hadn’t done for a long time. I found some great items I’d forgotten about and put together some items I wouldn’t have thought to pair up.
I also dumped a good-sized box full of fashion “mistakes” – items that were out of style, didn’t fit, or just weren’t right for ME. That made more room for the items that I do love and plan to wear. And I’ll do a little shopping too – but not much until I pay off the cost of that cruise!
Your Closet Functionality
While your going through this process, you want to pay attention to the functionality of your closet. What’s working and what isn’t working? In our case, our closet is pretty wide, but the doors are pretty narrow so it creates some real visibility issues with the items at the far ends. Can’t fix it without ripping out a wall, so I have to use my visible space wisely.
We are going to add some new lighting to make it work better. We also took advantage of the empty closet to raise my top bar up about 6″ to accommodate some of my longer skirts and sweaters. Now I have to stand on a stepstool now to hang them up, but at least they fit in there better. I also discovered that my very fluffy white cat has been “nesting” in my closet for his naps – little stinker. I’m going to have to buy stock in a lint brush company!
I organize by type of clothes, and then within type, by color. I think it makes it easier to put together outfits this way. I commend your raising the bar (literally). I always say the smaller your closet, the more important it is to use every inch wisely. Often, the investment in a closet organizing system is worth it. If all you’ve got is one bar across the top, it’s hard to make the most of the space.
Thank you Seana! I agree. It’s very important to use your space wisely and our closet it put together kind of weird, so it made sense to switch it up a little bit.