Review: Practical Princess – perfect wardrobe

This book by a wardrobe organiser will get you sorted in no time. Practical PrincessPractical Princess – perfect wardrobe tells you how to organise your closet.

Produced in hardback, with lots of photos to illustrate points, it is written by British wardrobe organiser and personal shopper Elika Gibbs.

The useful thing about personal shoppers/stylists/wardrobe organisers is that they live in the real world. They see the kinds of mistakes that ordinary women make, and they deal with real bodies that may not be in the prime of life and a size eight.

Gibbs doesn’t aim to tell anyone what to wear – what she’s interested in is how you organise what you have so that getting dressed in the morning is as simple as ABC and you don’t have to hunt for that missing shoe/trenchcoat belt etc.

She is full of useful tips. For instance, she recommends that you only have one kind of hanger  (in terms of its drop from the rail), so that all your clothes hang at the same height and therefore gain some visual cohesion. This is very sound advice. This, after all, is how garments are hung in shops, which enables you to make a direct comparison between them more easily. She also has organising and folding systems for things like socks, tights, knickers and bras, as well as footwear, coats and evening wear.

I’ve been organising my closet for a long time, and have even advised others on how to do so, but It had NEVER occurred to me to use a template to fold my tees, blouses, etc.

After reading Gibbs’ advice, I quickly cut  a template from stiff card, punched a hole in it and added a narrow ribbon so I can pull it out easily, and I used it to fold all my tees, summer cardis, vests and casual tank dresses. I made this particular template the exact right depth for my bedroom cupboards, and exactly one third the width, so that I can stack things three-across. And it worked like a charm – not only was it quicker to fold things using the template, everything is now lying much flatter and more neatly, and I can far more easily see what I have.

She also suggests stacking tees in colour order, with the lightest at the top, and this does work well – although I had always been quite organised with my hanging garments, my tees were in rather a jumble, and I can now see which whites have been washed (and are therefore yellowing slightly) and which are pristine. While I was at it, I also sorted them into longsleeved, shortsleeved, and v-neck and crewneck. This instantly showed up some shortfalls (do I really only have one v-neck vest?), which will enable me to fill the gaps in my closet more efficiently the next time I go shopping.

Other issues she covers include:

Who are you?
When sorting out what you need in your wardrobe, she asks clients some pertinent questions, for which you can see my answers here:
* Do you work? Yes.
* How do you spend your days? Cleaning, cooking, gardening, sitting cross-legged in a wing chair typing on a laptop.
* What’s your marital status? Married – does that mean I don’t need to bother, or that I’ll never wear something if the DH really doesn’t like it? Both…
* Are you a parent? No.
* What’s your a social life? More like: ‘What’s A social life?’. But decidedly unglamorous – girl’s nights in once a quarter; dinner with friends at theirs or ours or the occasional restaurant (no dress code).
* Do you have any upcoming events? No (I did have recently and bought accordingly).
* What are your interests? Gardening, sewing, making jewellery, rambling, swimming, yoga.
* Do you travel? No. Winter car trips to the coast, very occasional ferry and train. No flying.
* Are you happy with your weight and wellbeing? No, I have put on weight and my wardrobe is currently full of things that don’t fit.
* Have you had any life-changing events or circumstances? Who hasn’t? But in terms of fashion, I suffer from ulcerative colitis, and I also have fibroids, so I can’t bear anything tight around my waist – this definitely influences my fashion choices. I have also had foot surgery and cannot wear high heels.
* Where do you live and what’s the climate? I live in the countryside. Winters are freezing and rainy, summers are boiling hot.

When it comes to sorting out your existing clothing, Gibbs recommends trying on only one type of garment at a time – for instance, all your jackets – because this way, you can compare cut, colour and fit more easily. That is a very sound idea and stops you getting too exhausted and pissed-off with the whole process. Other stylists recommend setting an alarm for 20 minutes and stopping after that, though I am generally happy to sort for an afternoon.

She also recommends creating six sorting piles, which is three more than you usually get: Keep, Archive (sentimental), Maybe, Edit (chuckouts), Alter (including dry cleaning), and Seasonal Changeover for clothing that does only one season. She also details how to get rid of your chuckouts via reselling, Ebay and charity.

The book contains other sections on cataloguing your clothes, moth-free storage, cleaning your closet, getting the right kinds of storage materials and adapting your space, but the section that I’m guessing most women will turn to first is the one on shopping. Gibbs has basic and practical advice on them all, and I thought it interesting that she mentioned looking ‘nice’ as a prerequisite for going shopping. This, I think, is very true, and I myself can never work out whether something suits me unless I put my lipstick on (without my lippy, nothing suits me…).

Practical Princess is a very girly title and my hopes weren’t high, but I found the book a worthwhile read, and it’s very nicely produced, so it would also make a good gift.

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