Do you have a toxic wardrobe?


Is your wardrobe toxic? Is it rammed with clothes that looked great in the shop or on someone else, but that you never wear? And if so, what can you do about it?

Over the years, fashion stylist and blogger Karen Skagerlind has seen her share of toxic wardrobes! Now she shares the giveaway signs of a wardrobe that’s in trouble, and her expert tips on how to detox it. So you can look (and feel) better.

Do you have a toxic wardrobe?

To find out of our wardrobe qualifies as ‘toxic’, answer this simple questionnaire.

  • Do you have clothes hanging up that you haven’t worn in four years?
  • Are your clothes so close together you could take away a hanger and they wouldn’t fall?
  • Do you still own clothes that are two sizes too big or small for you?
  • Do you have items in your wardrobe that remind you of a sad time, such as a break up or job loss?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above then maybe it’s time for a wardrobe detox! It could be impacting on your wellbeing, having a negative impact on your body image, and eroding your style confidence.

How to detox your wardrobe

If you have clothes that you just don’t wear, then admit you are a hoarder and be ready to let go of all that dead wood!

When you open your wardrobe door you need to see clothes that work for you, not those that don’t work hard enough. For those items you just can’t let go then I advise a grace period. Put them in a storage bag, label with the date and put in the garage or loft where they will be out of sight out of mind.

If you do remember an item and wear it within six months then keep it. Otherwise you need to say bye-bye!

However do learn from your mistakes, and when you are tossing clothes aside rationalise why you didn’t wear them. Was the colour or fit unflattering or was it a fashion fad?

Make a note and take this shopping with you. Use a memo on your mobile to remind you and don’t repeat buy items that you just won’t wear.

Your clothes need to breathe too!

Just like you, your clothes need to breathe. And they can’t do that if you have so much in your wardrobe that they stand up on their own!

Ideally you should have a thumbs width between items. This will make it easier for you to see what you have at a glance, rather than struggling and rummaging around to find anything.

Use thin coated hangers. I used to have wooden hangers but they are quite bulky, and the slimmer hangers are real space savers. I still use wooden hangers for jackets and coats that are heavier.

Also please throw away any wire hangers – a pet hate of mine – as metal is not a fabric’s friend! They can snag fine knits as well as lead to misshapen garments. Remove any plastic dry cleaners covers too, and let your fabrics breathe.


Throw out any clothes that don’t fit

Unless you are undertaking a fitness and nutrition regime and aim to lose or gain an excessive amount of weight, then please take out any clothes that are two sizes too big or small for you.

Small weight fluctuations are normal and if you are more comfortable in a bigger pair of jeans at certain times then keep them. But the pair of jeans you last wore before having children, or dresses that you wore in your last trimester have no place in your wardrobe today.

Unless they are sentimental (with positive connotations) then they will serve as a constant reminder of how you were or want to be, reinforcing unrealistic expectations and therefore are psychologically damaging every time you see them.

Wear clothes that fit and flatter you now. You deserve to feel good whatever your current size.

Also remember high street ‘sizes’ vary hugely, so ignore the number and buy what fits (a friend recently tried on two pairs of trousers from the same high street store – one was a 12 that she could barely squeeze into, and the other were a 10 and hanging off her!).

If you look good, you feel good and any compliments you receive make for a better body image. It may even give you the impetus to lose weight when you see the results of great dressing, rather than be depressed when you see a mass of black, voluminous clothes.

Ditch the sad memories

Also get rid of any items that remind you of a sad time in your life. When you see them it will put you back into that place emotionally and those negative associations aren’t good for your wellbeing.

For example, if you got made redundant, the outfit you were wearing at the time may make you feel unworthy or resentful when you wear it again. Buy a new work outfit that you love and feel confident in. Maybe choose new colours or styles to differentiate between the past and your bright future!

Now is the perfect time to detox!

I always say February/March is a great time to detox your wardrobe, as spring is around the corner and the hardest working items you wore in A/W are fresh in your mind.

To help you get started, here is a short detox to-do list for you:

  • Set aside three hours – you will need between three and four hours of focused, uninterrupted time. It may seem a lot but if you make the time now it can save you up to 30 hours a year by not procrastinating every morning for five minutes over what to wear.
  • Buy slim hangers – if you don’t already use them then buy slim coated hangers, also it means silky knits or fabrics won’t keep slipping off. Try Wilkos or Tesco.
  • Get bin liners and wipes ready – you will need bin liners for clothes, and baby wipes for dust and dark corners.
  • Be ready to let go – you also need to be ruthless and ready to let go.
  • Keep and replace your ‘uniform’ – keep the items that make up your ‘uniform’ and make a note to replace them if they are worn out.
  • Take out items that need work – take items out that need dry-cleaning or mending.
  • Rework dated clothes – consider going to a local tailor or alterations service to breathe life into dated clothes that are still in good nick or great fabrics. Shortening a sleeve, removing shoulder pads or taking in seams to create shape are just some ways to change the old into wearable ‘new’ items.
  • Make piles – divide your ‘out’ piles into charity, recycling-if items are soiled or torn, or try a local dress agency for branded or more expensive items – you may recoup some money and feel less guilty about wasting money on purchases you haven’t worn.

After a wardrobe detox, many of my clients can feel bereft, and I do say it can be an emotionally draining experience. However after a few days you will feel positive about your ‘new, working’ wardrobe and smug that you won’t have to do it again for a while!

Karen Skagerlind is a former fashion buyer and owner of personal styling service Wardrobe Wand. She also writes school mum style blog Mums Wear Daily.  

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