How to organise your wardrobe so it works for you

What does your wardrobe look like? Is it neatly ordered with on-trend recent purchases and a few vintage gems that you wear to death?

Or is it a sad mess of god-knows-what old items that you longer fit or wear – or even know you still have?

If it’s the latter, don’t worry. Not only are you quite normal, but our super-stylist (and Wardrobe Wand queen) Karen Skagerlind shares her well-honed tips for organising your wardrobe so it doesn’t just look good, but works on a practical level, helping you to easily put together stylish outfits in seconds each morning.

How to organise your wardrobe

So autumn is nudging into our daily dress code and instead of those go-to short sleeve blouses and dresses, we are thinking layering items or even (dare I say it) adding knitwear.

When the seasons change it’s a great time to reorganise your wardrobe – especially now while summer is still relatively fresh in your mind (and not a dim distant memory) and yet you are excited by the autumn/winter season and have endless inspiration at your fingertips thanks to the recent weekly and monthly glossies all showcasing the new season trends and looks.

If you can clear a few hours (or even a day!) in your diary to tackle your wardrobe twice a year, it will save you time and energy in the future, and may even buy you a few precious a few extra minutes in bed in the mornings. And if nothing else, that’s surely worth the effort!

Getting started

To get started on your wardrobe clear out, you’ll need:

  • Three large, quality bin liners for the recycling bin, charity shop and eBay/car boot sales or local dress agency.
  • Magazine inspiration.
  • Wet wipes.
  • Thin velvet hangers (replacing wooden hangers with these will add inches to your wardrobe – I get mine from TK Maxx but they are available from Amazon).
  • Cedar or lavender bags to help prevent moths. These Frida Kahlo lavender bags are great!
  • A local dry cleaner, tailor/alterations service and cobbler.

Firstly get rid of any plastic or wire hangers – your clothes deserve better! Then bin any dry cleaning plastic bags, as fabrics need to breathe. If you want to protect any items of clothing invest in suit bags, however if you look after your wardrobe your items shouldn’t need them.

Ideally you should be able to hang, fold or display every item in your wardrobe. As a rule if you can’t see it you won’t wear it (if I had a pound for every time a Wardrobe Wand client said ‘ooh I’d forgotten I had that’ I’d be a rich lady). I know this depends entirely on the size and inner organisation of your wardrobe, but it will pay dividends – remember, unless you live on a nudist colony you wear clothes every day, so it’s worth the investment.

How to organise

There’s no right or wrong way to organise a wardrobe, as long as it works for you. Personally, I’ve split mine into day and evening wear, then by garment type, and finally arranged each garment by colour. For example, outerwear/jackets, black through to white – then day dresses, black through to white etc.

Working out what to purge

Okay, realistically if you haven’t worn something in three years, dispense with it – unless the following apply:

  • It is a vintage number such as Norman Hartnell and has intrinsic value.
  • It has real (not imagined) sentimental value – I’m talking your great great grandmother’s fur coat or your designer wedding dress, not something you wore when you dated your first love!

When I work with a client that wants to keep something that I’m sure they can live without, they need to sell it back to me, giving three reasons why it should earn space in the prime real estate that is their wardrobe. This usually sorts the sheep from the goats of the garment world!

As a side note, it’s good to know that some high street stores do incentives to swap their own brand items for vouchers against later purchases.

Working out what to keep for a capsule wardrobe

When I edit a client’s wardrobe I start with footwear. When sorting through your own, think about any you haven’t worn and work out why – maybe they’re not comfortable, you don’t have the lifestyle that requires 20 heeled evening shoes, or you love them but have worn them out.

Be ruthless, keep only the items you love and write a shopping list to replace the hard working shoes and boots you’ve worn to death. Get any pairs that need it resoled or reheeled.

You can apply this thought process to garments too. After footwear I usually move onto outerwear and jackets, bottoms, dresses and knitwear (if you can, fold your knitwear as it can become misshapen if hung). I usually leave tops until last as they’re the biggest category. As you’ll have been through the majority of your wardrobe by this point you’ll know what tops will go with what. And if you outfit-build as you go along, you’ll be able to be more ruthless. My rule of thumb is that you should be able to build three different outfits for each item, proving that it works hard enough for you to keep it.

My golden rules

Some golden rules that I impart regularly to clients are:

  • Spend on good quality jeans – they’ll last much longer because of the denim/fabrication technology and have a better fit (I buy most of my denim from TK Maxx as it sells top brands at a fraction of the price).
  • Buy what you love and reflects your personality – don’t buy something just because you love it on somebody else.
  • Look at compositions and buy the best fabrics you can afford. Personally 100% acrylic sets my teeth on edge, but a mix of fibres will last longer and look more expensive.
  • Try different sizes on – all retailers vary as there is no one standard set of measurements used across the high street. Even sub-brands can vary, so ignore the number and go by fit and look.

Once you’ve applied my tips across all categories, you should have filled your bin liners, your hanging garments will have breathing space, and you’ll have a focused shopping list and a clear idea of outfits you can wear. You’ll also love your new look wardrobe… until next season when you can do it all over again (any excuse for a spot of shopping)!

Need more help with your wardrobe? Karen offers personal styling services, including wardrobe reorganisation, through Wardrobe Wand.