Creating a functional wardrobe though inspiration and organization

Photography by Tina Sargeant

I for one feel that the real New Year’s resolutions, the ones that actually stick, surface once “project holiday de clutter” has been achieved, the winter doldrums have come and gone, and the bulky sweaters have been packed away. For me that comes in early March when the yellow tabebuia trees start to bloom and Lakelanders get that first taste of beautiful spring weather. With the arrival of spring comes the idea of cleansing, a “spring cleaning,” if you will, of all facets of life.
While mind, body, and spirit are on the forefront during a season of renewal, I believe many people reach an optimal level of peace when their homes and personal space are in order. For some, the office, kitchen, or garage may be a higher priority when it comes to personal space cleansing. For me, it’s no surprise that I start with my closet. Tackling the things I know — the areas I enjoy first — seems to get me motivated. Maybe it’s not the most important item in the big picture, but in the interest of avoiding frustration, overbuying, and essentially taking the guesswork out of getting dressed in the mornings, I believe having an organized closet is crucial to my harmony and peace of mind.
When tackling your closet, it’s important to have a method to your madness. I work by the three Es when wardrobe planning — Eliminate, Evaluate, and Edit. If this seems foreign to you, think of it as preparing a meal for a dinner party where the prep work, ingredients, recipe, and presentation are all crucial components.


When prepping for a meal there’s nothing more frustrating than working in the midst of clutter. It clouds your psyche, creates a longer process, and can keep you uninspired. In terms of a closet edit, excess items can work against you in the same manner.
With that in mind, you first need to take inventory of your closet and purge into three piles: store, keep, and donate/consign. As with the contents of your food pantry, your closet items have a shelf life. When assessing each item, ask yourself, “Have I worn this in six months?” If the answer is no, what is the reason? Is it a piece that holds sentimental value? For example, your wedding dress, the fraternity social tee where you and your husband first met, a vintage family piece — these items can all go into the “store” pile.
If the garment in question is a classic piece, a seasonal staple, a cocktail or evening gown, or a specialty item that still looks great on you and works for your body type but the occasion to wear it has not presented itself, then it goes in the “keep” pile.
What if it’s in your closet because it was a designer piece you scored for seventy-five percent off at Neiman’s Last Call Clearance, but it’s completely the wrong color and style for you? Or maybe it was a spontaneous splurge with a no-return policy on a last minute dress for a black-tie event you never ultimately attended. Cut the cord. Place it in the “donate/ consign” pile. Otherwise, these items will sit in your closet collecting dust and taking up space. Many of these guilt-inducing-type items will do well at a consignment shop such as What’s New Consignment in Lakeland. Or list your items with one of the latest consign apps such as:


This step is all about analyzing your closet to see what will help maximize its fullest potential. Now that you’ve purged the excess, what items can you add to your wardrobe to create the most looks without adding clutter or breaking the bank?
Go through all of the “keep” items and create as many looks as possible by mixing and matching your pieces. If the world of color, print, and accessories is nowhere near your comfort zone, don’t worry. Thanks to the World Wide Web you will have more inspiration and ideas than you’ll know what to do with. Start with Pinterest and Polyvore to create style
boards and looks to keep you seasonally inspired. Style blogs that keep me inspired and up to date include,, whatiwore. com, and, just to name a few.
Once you’ve gone through your “keeps” and created looks, it’s important to make a shopping list of all the items your closet is lacking. Just as with any good recipe, it’s always smart to follow the “recommended” ingredients. The basic ingredients will get you where you where you need to be, but the recommended additions always seem to pull the dish together. For
example, you have the jeans, black blazer, and white tee, but you lack the accessories needed to kick it up a notch. So on your list goes a printed scarf or a statement necklace. Be mindful that building a working closet is not a sprint; it takes time. A well-curated closet will not happen overnight or in one shopping trip. With that in mind, be sure to identify your needs versus your wants when shopping. This is not to say you have to avoid all of your wants, but, as with anything, the needs should come first. Also, be mindful of not breaking the bank on wants, as more often than not they’re trendy items that may become part of your “donate/consign” pile within six months.
Once you’ve added the items you feel necessary to make the most out of your closet, take pictures of your “looks.” Make a style book to keep in your closet, or tape pictures of your looks around your full-length mirror. This will save you loads of time when getting dressed. Take it a step further and upload photos to a closet organizing/curating site such as Stylebook,
which puts all the pieces together for you.
To show you examples of remixing, our models are pictured wearing one essential piece styled three ways. On Kelly, I used a worn Johnny Cash tee from JCP. Jennell wears a navy schoolboy blazer from J.Crew.


The third and final step in your recipe to a stylish, functional closet is to “edit.” This creates the organizational flow to your working wardrobe. Just as you organize your kitchen shelves to create a practical plan for cooking, you need to do the same in your closet for dressing ease. First, we’ll work with the main contents: clothing.
To hang or not to hang? The following items should be on hangers: dresses, blouses, button downs, blazers, jackets, coats, skirts, trousers. When hanging delicate pants/skirts, cut a small piece of tissue paper and place it over the area you’re clipping to hang. Not all hangers are created equal. Whether felt, cedar, or plastic is your preference, make sure the hanger is thin enough to maximize space. ABSOLUTELY NO WIRE HANGERS! For an aesthetically pleasing look, go for matching hangers.
These items should be folded: tees, jeans, knits/ sweaters, shorts, and anything sequin, beaded, or embellished, which should be separated with acid-free tissue paper to prevent snagging. Organize your hanging garments into three parts: season, category, and color.
By Season. Organizing your wardrobe pieces by season allows more room in your closet and eliminates sifting through items that are not season appropriate. If you have a walk-in closet or a substantial amount of room, you can leave your entire wardrobe in the closet and move the current season to the front. If you have limited space and can’t create a working closet with your entire wardrobe, perhaps you can work out of a guest closet or use sealed storage bags or bins. To avoid mold and mildew, make sure the bins are stored in an air conditioned space if they’re not vacuum sealed.
By Category. Avoid grouping outfits together as this will hinder your remixing possibilities. The priority of placement for each category will depend on your lifestyle and profession. A basic category structure that works for most people consists of tops/blouses, skirts/pants, dresses, jackets, novelty/miscellaneous (this is a category for items you don’t wear on a regular basis, such as your ski jacket, team logo shirts, etc.). Tops/ blouses work best if you separate by sleeveless, short, and long sleeve. Your dresses will work better if you separate short from long. After separating items by categories, arrange these items from casual to dressy.
By Color. I always like to go from light to dark to print within each category. It keeps things uniform and easy on the eyes.
Next comes organizing the extras that are so vital to your wardrobe. Just as you need to be able to see all of your spices in order to know what you’re working with when cooking, the same goes for your accessories. If you don’t see your shoes, clutches, necklaces, earrings, scarves, and belts, you won’t wear them. And what will happen? Unnecessary spending. You know the drill — a mad dash to the mall to find the perfect pair of earrings you didn’t remember you already had.
If at all possible, make sure all of your shoes are in sight and not in boxes. If you don’t have shoe shelves and prefer to store them in boxes, take a photo of the shoes and place it on the outside of the box. For an artful display, organize shoes by color and heel height.
There are many options for your jewelry, and many ideas can be found on Pinterest, but whatever you do, do not put items in a jewelry box unless it is something valuable that is
seldom worn. All jewelry needs to be visible. Necklaces should be hung — decorate a bulletin board and hang them by a pin or tack. Another option I use is to purchase coffee-mug holders at Target or Crowder Brothers, affix it to the closet wall, and hang jewelry from it. For earrings you can purchase a hanging jewelry holder with clear plastic pouches. You can also buy clear plastic trays to place on a shelf or in a drawer. These trays, which come in different shapes and sizes, can also hold your bracelets, pins, brooches, and rings. Bangles/bracelets can be stored on a paper-towel holder.
Pick up a clear plastic file-folder holder at your local Staples or Office Depot.
Use a belt rack that you can affix to your closet wall where you can drape your knit scarves. Hang or fold your silk and cashmere scarves.
A belt holder secured to the wall is best, but if you have many belts you can purchase a hanging belt holder.
I hope these tips have inspired you to edit your wardrobe and create a closet that is an expression of yourself. Think outside the box. Remember that functional can still be fashionable. Create looks that are true to your style, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Fashion should be fun, so make it fun. Get mixing.