A Wardrobe Overhaul

My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen

I’m going to start this post by apologizing to my mother. I don’t know where I went wrong. Clothing maintenance (or selection, but I think my mother will mostly be disappointed in maintenance since her skills are on point) is not my strong point.

One of the perks of starting a blogger group in your city is that you get to meet a lot of really cool, fashionable bloggers who live nearby. While yes, sometimes this can be intimidating because you realize that you know nothing about clothing, it can also be a blessing because sometimes you can talk them into coming over and overhauling your closet.

There are a few things I blame my lack of clothing knowledge on:

  • I’m an engineer. (Other female engineers probably wouldn’t appreciate this. I’m pretty sure there was an entire hashtag about this called #ILookLikeAnEngineer. It’s just a quick out.)
  • I wore a uniform in high school. That’s four years of plaid kilt, white shirt, burgundy fleece, and black or brown shoes. It was awesomely mindless.
  • Just general cluelessness about three-dimensional design. As I’ve said before, two-dimensional design, great, three-dimensional design, not my jam.

All that said, the real reason that I’m my clothing knowledge is lacking is because I’m lazy and haven’t had too much guidance on finding your personal style in life. So Sarah from smoorelovin‘ and Sarah from Shades of Sarah came over to help me out. (Harvey from #Adulting was also there chilling with us.)

Without further ado, here are the steps to (have someone else who knows more about style than you) overhaul your wardrobe.

1. Find awesome friends.

This is obviously step one. Thank you times a million to Sarah and Sarah, I feel significantly more like a put-together adult after this experience.

2. Pull out a few outfits you like to wear.

Before Sarah and Sarah arrived I was asked to pull a few typical outfits I would wear: (1) a work outfit, (2) a church outfit, and (3) a going out outfit. There were a few things I realized very quickly after doing this:

  • There was definitely a difference between my simple choice and my complicated choice. My simple choice is what I would pull out of my closet if I needed something super reliable that I love. My complicated choice is what I would stress over putting together one morning while trying on almost every article of clothing in my closet. The purpose of this exercise was to pull out the simple choice.
  • The simple choice for me is always black and white. For work I chose a black dress with white polka dots, black leggings, and black boots. For church I chose a black and white skirt with a white shirt and black flats. For going out I chose two outfits, both came with a pair of jeans and boots; one was a black t-shirt with white polka squares (not to be confused with polka dots) and the other was a white(ish) sweater.
  • Summer clothing doesn’t come naturally to me at all. Between the sweat and the hair most days it feels like there is no right answer.

I texted the Sarahs before they arrived and told them that everything I had chosen was black and white, expecting to be reprimanded. Instead I was greeted with a “That’s excellent” and an “I love black and white” with a heart eyes face after it. I guess maybe I wasn’t a complete failure?

My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen
My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen
My Wardrobe Overhaul 06
My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen

3. Sort all of the clothes in your closet.

After I shared my outfits in person with the Sarahs, they started going through my closet. Immediately they commented on the fact that they were surprised by how many dresses I owned. They started making piles: fancy dresses, casual dresses, work dresses, work shirts, drapey shirts, t-shirts and tanks, pants, and skirts. Before I knew it everything in my closet was sorted by type of clothing – and color.

My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it HappenMy Wardrobe Overhaul 03

There were definitely a few face palm moments in this process (which I’m now about to admit to you, internet):

  • I had to admit that I don’t always hang my clothes right-side-out.
  • I gave them permission to throw anything that should have been in the hamper in the hamper (because they were going to find it before I did).
  • I was informed that there were some things that really needed to be OxiCleaned. (Apparently my mother’s routines weren’t that crazy…)
  • The look on Shades of Sarah’s face when she found out that I had been keeping all of my skirts folded in a drawer was priceless. (I have no idea how my mother feels about this, but I’m sure it’s not great…)

They were surprised how many dresses I owned and had a lot of nice things to say about them. They were surprised how much pink I owned. Apparently I usually wear black and white. They were also in general surprised by the amount of clothing I owned, which surprised me.

smoorelovin’ explained to me that there was a point in her life where she narrowed down her wardrobe to 2 dresses, 2 pairs of pants, 5 shirts, etc. and only wore those things for a month or two. She explained that it was nice to do a clothing cleanse, to reset your wardrobe, and to really be able to hone in on your style.

4. Stop lying to yourself.

This part is easier said than done. It’s also easier done with friends (who you love and trust to not judge you too hard).

During the sorting process, when they found an item of clothing that seemed out of place they asked about what the story behind it was. There’s a lot of times my response was, “that’s from high school.” There’s 4 skirts that I bought in 11th grade that are now in my donate pile. I had justified holding onto them this long because they were the perfect “church length” skirt and society wasn’t making those for a while. Well, now they are, so it’s about time that the 11-year-old skirts were retired.

Most of the dirty work happened while I cooked lunch. I went downstairs to the kitchen and left the Sarahs with my wardrobe. After eating I came back upstairs to a pile of clothing that was a “suggested get rid of pile” – actually, it may have been a “strongly suggested get rid of pile.” Yeah that sounds more correct. What was in that pile?

  • Items of clothing that looked old and ragged.
  • Shirts that had tight elastic bands on the bottom. They tried explaining this to me, but it never really made sense to me why this was a bad thing. That said, most of this clothing was from high school, so I figured they were probably right.
  • Items of clothing that had stains that wouldn’t wash off.
  • Things you’re not supposed to wear at the age of twenty-seven.
  • Clothing that didn’t seem to fit with the rest.

So what did I do with this pile of 20+ items of clothing? I sorted it into three piles:

  1. Items of clothing I agree need to go and am willing to get rid of immediately because they are not a wardrobe basic for me.
  2. Items of clothing I agree need to go and I am willing to get rid of eventually, which I placed into a “need to replace ASAP” pile.
  3. Items which I refused to get rid of. There were two of these. One was given to me by my dad’s cousin (this one just didn’t fit with the rest of my clothing, it’s still in good shape) and a shirt I bought at TJMaxx that I always get compliments on when I wear (so I purposely didn’t ask them why that one made the pile).

I also learned that I’m quite possibly supposed to have gotten rid of all of my capris by now, but I like them. So I’ve decided to keep them. I think with the right shoe choice I could pull it off.

I’ve already even managed to replace a few items. And once I realized how easy they were to replace I felt better about getting rid of a few more things from the “replace” pile. It’s just clothing.

5. Find someone to answer your questions and create sample outfits.

If you’re doing this yourself I recommend taking your questions to Google and finding your sample outfits on Pinterest. If you’re lucky enough to have somebody there with you who is more confident about fashion than you are, it’s incredibly useful to ask someone all your questions. For example:

  • How high am I supposed to be wearing these skirts and why does my rib cage look so funny when the skirt is around my waist?
    Answer: Find looser shirts to tuck into skirts.
  • How am I supposed to style a belt with these outfits?
    Answer: Approximately exactly how you think you do it, just actually try it.
  • Chrystina: I wore that dress once, but it was really windy that day and kept flying up.
    Answer: Buy lacey biker shorts or a part of jean shorts to wear under the dress.
  • smoorelovin’: You should probably stop buying dresses for a while.
    Chrystina: Maybe after I buy a few more casual ones.
    smoorelovin’: (looking confused) You have so many casual dresses.
    Answer: I need to stop thinking of nice clothing being for fancy occasions only.

They also pulled out a few sample outfits for me. One of which I had even worn before, so I felt pretty good about that.

6. Put everything back properly.

After we had all of these discussions I sat there and watch smoorelovin’ fold everything that should be folded and hang everything that should be hung. My closet is now sorted by type of clothing and clothing color. My drawers are now a little bit emptier, and things fit in them a little bit better. Here are a few things I learned (which are probably obvious to most of you, but here we go anyway):

  • Skirts should be hung.
  • Bulky sweaters and cardigans should be folded.
  • Drapey shirts should be hung so they don’t get wrinkled.

My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen My Wardrobe Overhaul: 7 Steps to Make it Happen

7. Take next steps accordingly.

The shopping list of items that I should be on the lookout for (but definitely not in immediate need of) include:

  • Jean shorts (< already purchased at Loft)
  • New white shirts ( < one of which was already purchased at Loft)
  • Looser tops
  • Workout clothes
  • Skirt hangers (I lied, these were of immediate need according to the look on Shades of Sarah’s face.)
  • A new black belt
  • A new fabric shaver
  • A good pair of wedges (which I’ve been looking for for a while, but can’t seem to find a pair I really like)

I also pulled the steamer my cousin gave me out of the basement and set it up in my room so I can look more presentable when I leave in the morning.

When they finished there were two pieces of information I was left with:

  1. My biggest problem is not knowing when it’s time to rotate out and get rid of old clothing.
  2. I need to take better care of my clothing so it doesn’t get tossed into the wear and tear ragged pile quite as quickly.

Oh, and if anybody has the answer to how to stop a pencil skirt from turning as you walk to work, I would love to hear it. My best guess right now is to wear an equally heavy bag on each shoulder. I still have to test it though. There’s a chance that just makes it turn twice as fast.

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  • Julia Dent

    For the pencil skirt question, I’m addicted to Lularoe pencil skirts because they’re cottony and stretchy and SUPER comfortable!

    My biggest problem with cleaning out my closet is I’m a nostalgic pack rat, so I don’t want to get rid of clothes that I got in high school (even if I haven’t worn them in 5 years!). Any tips on that?

    • smoorelovin

      Whoops! See reply above LOL

  • I love this! After I started reading Unfancy I feel like I got a much better sense of my fashion style, which allowed me to hone in on it. I’ve been slowly transitioning my closet over the past 2 years to be exactly what I want it to be. She suggests a “hold onto for now” pile / out of season storage. I put some clothes in there that I knew I should probably get rid of but didn’t want to yet. They’ve now been in my drawer for a year, so I think it’s going to feel a lot easier to get rid of them the next time I have a chance to go through it all again. Maybe doing something like that will help you, too. This was a great start, but I feel like this process can take quite a while to get used to. Good luck with it!

    • That’s awesome! What have you found your style to be?

      I’ve found that once I put things in a get rid of pile I’m usually able to part with them within a few days. I like getting rid of things.

      • I’ve discovered that (like you) I gravitate towards black and white + neutrals / navy / stripes + buttery brown cognac leather (much like Unfancy herself) because they go with so many things. I like to throw in pops of color via scarves and fun flats. My work attire is very casual, so my uniform is basically: madewell jeans + madewell v-necks or their anthem scoop tanks + J Crew button downs + long cardigans (which I’m working on finding more of). Those layers get me through most seasons and in the winter I throw on scarves. For my “going out” outfits I’ve been sticking almost strictly to B+W so everything can be mixed and matched. I’ve been dying for some time to do another overhaul of my closet and get rid of basically anything that isn’t an “I love this I wear it all the time” item.

        • Very nice. What I would give for a more casual job some days. I always feel like I have two completely separate wardrobes, but as I said in the post, I’m trying to get better at dressing a little fancier in my day to day. We’ll see if it happens 🙂

          • Yes, I do love my casual job wardrobe. I think the key for you is finding items that work for your day job, but also feel “you” enough to wear out if you dress it up with different shoes and accessories, etc. Also figuring out what your deal breakers are in terms of comfort, style and color scheme, etc.

  • Julia Dent

    I made a t-shirt quilt…and I probably have enough shirts for like 3 more quilts haha I have a serious problem! I also have some shirts and sweaters from like my mom or other relatives that I would feel badly getting rid of, even though I haven’t worn them in years, how were you able to get rid of stuff like that?

    • I think I just have to tell myself that somebody else can use it more than I can. Other than that though, I’ve got nothing.

    • smoorelovin

      The way I look at it is, if I’m not wearing it and haven’t worn it for years, keeping it isn’t making anyone else feel better. The other thing is, when i realized that I was regularly getting rid of clothing items my mom got me without wearing them much, I let her know that there were other things I would appreciate as a gift more. That way she wasn’t wasting money and time picking things out that j really didn’t like anyway. With grandparents… Sometimes you just have to pretend that you like it and that’s that haha! But realistically if the stuff is years old they probably don’t remember it anyway

  • Did you make the quilt yourself or pay someone else to do it? I’ve been meaning to do this ….

    • smoorelovin

      I went to a professional quilter!

  • Whitney H

    So… can your friends come and do my closet next? haha! I went through and got rid of a TON of stuff but haven’t replaced it yet because I honestly don’t really know what to replace it with! These are all awesome tips.

    • Haha, I definitely did tell them that they should turn this into their next business venture. Such a useful thing for people who aren’t sure what direction to head next.

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  • What do I have to do to get the Sarah’s to come up to NY? I don’t know that I have any friends that could do this for me and I absolutely need it…also I have slot of stuff hung inside out as well

  • Harper Yi

    I read in a magazine that one should use those smaller safety pins to pin skirts that keep shifting to your underwear but that seems HELLA extra to me :/

    • I am 100% certain that I would end up stabbing myself on the way to work…

      • Harper Yi

        Maybe Double stick tape?