the how-to: 15 minutes to a happier closet

Beautiful closet, clean closet, organize closet, how to clean your closet

Image via California Closets

We don’t talk enough about the realities of fashion, do we? The difference between “them” (those gorgeous stylesetters you admire endlessly on Pinterest) and “us” (who are openly thrilled when we manage to successfully assemble an outfit with more than two components). But the chasm can feel wide. How is it that “they” make themselves look so fantastic, so often? I’ll tell you.

Surely, a budget-free existence never hurts – if I see one more image of those Valentino rockstud cage flats that I’m beyond obsessed with, but don’t come in my size and are $900 even if they did, I may hurl myself overboard. Also, a solid knowledge of how to properly layer and accessorize, which we should talk more about – it’s not as hard as it sounds, even on our most-insane, I-have-zero-interest-in-putting-in-effort-today days.

But the biggest factor? Loving what you’re wearing, and knowing it looks good on you. Truly. Think about how you feel when you put on that dress that you know flatters your curves just so, or those heels that make your legs look tall and lean. Now think about how you feel when you wear a pair of pants that doesn’t quite fit. Maybe they’re a smidge too short, or a bit too tight, and you spend the day rearranging yourself to stay comfortable. We all do it. But friends, we need to stop.

For all of the wardrobe styling consults I do, the one constant I always tell clients is this: you have to love everything in your closet, and feel good in it. If that’s something a tailor can help you accomplish, you should have one on speed dial. And don’t underestimate what’s possible:  pants can be lengthened, white shirts can fit flawlessly, and blazers can make you look two sizes smaller if they’re properly nipped in at the waist. Plus, if everything in your closet makes you feel fantastic, you end up needing less to be happy. Think about that for a second. It’s true.

This weekend, try a little trick with me: Head to your closet and pick 5 things that you know don’t belong. No need to go nuts with a full-blown cleanse – this is a 15-minute exercise, I swear. Look for things you haven’t worn in a year, or that make you feel frumpy when you do wear them. And get them out! Put them in a bag, and put them in the car immediately, so the next time you drive by a thrift or consignment shop, you can drop them off.

There, doesn’t that feel better already?

Next, pick 5 things that could use a little tweaking to make them right, whether they’re from Target or Saks. If you love that sheath dress, but the armholes are too big, or that pair of jeans would be so much cuter if the hem was an inch shorter, make a pile and take yourself to a tailor! Seriously, put everything in the car right that minute. (If you don’t know a good one, call your favorite boutique in town and ask. I guarantee they’ll have a guy or gal they love.) Now, expect to spend some money. Maybe even the cost of a new dress. But you’ll get five new things that you actually love, that fit you well and that make you as carefree and kick-up-your-heels happy as those girls on Pinterest.

I’d love to hear how it goes…will you promise to report back?

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13 comments on “the how-to: 15 minutes to a happier closet

  1. Erin

    Absolutely agree, and it’s something I harp on as well. Get a good tailor! It’s only in the past forty years or so that people started expecting clothes to fit them off the racks. Everything I buy goes to the tailor first, and while it means I can’t buy as much, it’s worth every penny. I’d rather have ten fabulous pieces that fit like a dream than fifty mediocre ones!

  2. Erin

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, my go-to guy for the past six years has been Mustafa at Laura & Melinda’s in NYC . He’s absolutely amazing and such a sweetheart 🙂

  3. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    Erin: Tailors and cobblers make the world go ’round, I swear! Thanks for sharing your guy in NYC 🙂 We should get everyone to share their local faves here. My go-to guy in Portland is Abraham – he used to make Johnny Carson’s suits!

  4. Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie

    Fabulous fabulous post! I think so many of us are in the rut where we grab what’s closest so these updates are really great suggestions. I can’t tell you how often I tell clients that their number one secret weapon is a great tailor – If a piece fits you perfectly, like it was made for you, it doesn’t matter if it’s F21 or DVF – You’ll feel and look amazing! <3

  5. DL

    Thanks for this post, Becki! comes at a great time as I’m trying to simplify my closet and also going to a “clothes and goo” party on Sunday afternoon where a bunch of girls and i are bringing our gently used clothes, accessories, and unused make-up and lotion etc laying around to trade and the stuff that is leftover, we’re giving to Goodwill… Your advice on fit cannot be overstated enough!

  6. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    Caity: So glad you agree! You know, I have a dress from Target…it was $25, and the fit was okay, but I spent $40 at a tailor, and now, honestly, it’s easily my favorite dress in my closet, which I can’t say about dresses that cost me hundreds.

  7. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    DL: Now that’s a party I’d like to go to! I think it’s so much easier to let go of things from the “maybe” pile when you (a) know it’s going to a good home, and (b) are getting something in return. Genius!

  8. A


    Excellent tip, and also, I think this should be a manifesto. I did the first part last weekend – and it really did not feel overwhelming and DID make a difference when I peeked back inside.

    Also, I would probably ruin the Valentino heels on first wearing by getting my heel caught in some elevator gap somewhere.

  9. Kendra

    OK, I commit to doing this over the weekend!

    And I would love a post on not underestimating what’s possible with a tailor. I have one who has done fine things with my pant hems and has added buttons to a couple of blouses (based on your post suggesting doing that to a blazer!). But I’m more than a little stumped when it comes to evaluating whether a piece just doesn’t fit or whether it could be altered to fit.

    My local fave for the SF Bay Area/Peninsula: Graziela at Fashion Tailoring in San Carlos, h/t to the stylish Melissa for sending me her way!

  10. Annika

    Augh, those Valentinos are GORGEOUS, but I too am getting tired of seeing them on every. single. blogger. I love what you are advocating here. I had already just done this with my jeans- from J Brand to Gap, I got rid of the ones that I didn’t think were perfect. I now have 3 pairs left- skinny, flare, and boyfriend, but I love them and they look good with all of my tops. I like these closet purging tips! Now, if you could help me with the “ensembles with more than 2 components” thing….

  11. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    Kendra: Can’t wait to hear how it goes! I should definitely put something together about magical tailors…thanks for the suggestion 🙂

    Annika: 3 pairs of jeans?! You are a savant of minimalism. I can’t imagine…but what I can imagine is how much easier life would be if I were choosing between 3 pairs every morning instead of 30. Hmm…

  12. Kendra

    Two bags in the car now: one for Career Closet (having just made the switch to a much more casual workplace) and one for Goodwill. Didn’t find anything to take to the tailor, but I look forward to a future post on that!

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