Wardrobe planning

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Find out the clothes that are really working for you – and discard the rest.

Which clothes in your wardrobe are you actually wearing? According to professional wardrobe organisers, the answer is surprisingly few – about 20 per cent. The remaining 80 per cent of our clothes hang there untouched.

For all kinds of reasons, it’s very easy to end up with a wardrobe full of things you don’t wear. But keeping clothes that don’t do you sterling service is a mistake. You have to maintain them, you have to insure them, you have to store the damn things and be responsible for them.

If you’re not sure about this concept, consider for a moment that every square inch of your house costs you money. Look at how much square footage of your precious property they are taking up. What is that worth to you in real terms? My house in rural France is worth 1,000 euros per square metre. In the South-East of England, your house might be worth £265 per SQUARE FOOT. Seriously, how much of that precious space do you want to devote to clothes?

Apart from creating extra space, working on the basis that every woman needs a wardrobe that actually works for her, sorting out the sheep from the goats among your clothing has other advantages.

* You will no longer have days when you have ‘nothing to wear’.

* Everything in your wardrobe will fit and flatter you.

* Dressing in the morning will be easier and stress-free because, by and large, everything will go together.

Sort it out

Step one to discovering what works in your wardrobe and what doesn’t, is to find out what you’re actually wearing right now, and you’ll probably have to do this at least twice (once for summer and once for winter, or even more if you divide your clothes by extra seasons). For this exercise, you’ll need the following:

* A clothes rail. Place this in the spare room/adult child’s room/anywhere dry and safe where your hangable clothes can be stored for a while.

* Two brightly coloured ribbons. Tie these at the right-hand end of the hanging rail in your wardrobe. They should be different colours and loose enough so that you can slide them up and down the rail.

* Two long wardrobe shelves, cleared of stuff, or two large cardboard boxes for storing foldable clothes. Label them 1 and 2.

Over the course of the next two weeks, whenever you wear a hangable garment, replace it on the rail to the right of the first ribbon, moving the ribbon along as necessary (wash or dry-clean garments as you go along, as you would normally, obviously – don’t put them away dirty). Likewise, whenever you use a foldable item such as knickers, t-shirts, bras, jeans and so on, replace it on the first set-aside shelf, or in the first cardboard box.

If you find you use an item more than once, place it to the right of the second ribbon, or in the second box – these designate your ‘frequently used items’.

After two weeks, take a look at the clothes that you’ve actually worn. Why are you wearing them? Chances are, they fulfil a number of criteria:

* They fit you.

* They’re comfortable.

* They’re practical for your lifestyle.

* You like them.

* They may also flatter you, though not necessarily – they may just be all you’ve got.

Now make some notes

1: If these clothes fit you, make a note of the size. If, in all honesty, they’re too big or too small but you’re wearing them because you have nothing else, give this step a miss.

2: If they’re comfortable, ask yourself why – is there a generosity of cut, a particular length of sleeve, a height to the waistband that you favour? Are you looking at a coat with a shoulderline that goes over everything else or is the right length for the car? Are the knickers ones which actually hold your buttocks in place rather than cheese-wiring you into submission? If so, note it down so that you can duplicate these buys. For instance, I no longer wear short tees or vests – only long ones that don’t come untucked when I bend or crouch.

3: If they’re practical for your lifestyle, try to analyse why. Does the colour go with your other things? Is the fabric? Is it that they’re patterned and don’t show the dirt? Is it because they’re easy to maintain? Two years ago, I switched all my foundation pieces to the colour navy, with occasional forays into black or charcoal. I lead a dirty life of dog walks, woodburners, gardening and cooking, and navy is a good, practical colour that doesn’t show the muck but still feels quite smart. 

4: If you like them, again try to analyse why. Be specific – this blouse makes you feel sexy, this dress makes you look taller, you can run in these heels. Your particular likes and dislikes may be nothing to do with ‘fashion’. 

5: If they flatter you, you’ll know from other people’s reactions as well as your own. Ask for guidance. Is this just the right neckline for you, for instance? Is the skirt length just right for showing off your calves? Does the colour make your complexion sing? Define exactly what it is that’s flattering about this garment and reproduce it.

Now list each of the five categories above, so that you can give the rest of your clothing a score out of five.

Finally, take all the clothes you didn’t wear out of the wardrobe and hang them on the rail in the spare room. Ditto with the folding clothes you didn’t wear. Store them on the spare bed for now, or swap over your cardboard boxes and put those in the spare room. These unworn clothes now have a two-week reprieve before you analyse their wardrobe value and consider getting shot of them. You might be surprised at how few trips you actually make to that spare room.

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