How do you “shop your closet”? It’s frequent advice from stylists and fashion magazines — but what does it really mean? I’ve noted before that one of my favorite weekend activities has always been to play “Closet,” meaning much the same. (Pictured: my closet!) Reader R wonders…
I know you have covered wardrobe basics before, but I have a slightly different question in that vein. I am always intrigued when you mention having spent time in the weekends in the past trying different pieces together. I would like to do that, but feel hopeless in that regard–most of which is probably my own lack of fashion sense, but I also suspect that a lot of my wardrobe pieces don’t actually go together. Outside of having lots of boring black pants and white shirts, how would you suggest building a wardrobe that is both interesting and has lots of different combinations? Are there certain fabrics or colors that are more mix-and-matchable across seasons? Or should one stick to say, subdued blazers and pants but interesting tops? Or is it just a matter of having fun and bold accessories? Thank you!
Playing Closet is, without a doubt, one of my favorite games. It’s a perfect activity for this time of year, when you’re bored of everything in your winter closet but not yet ready to shiver in your spring clothes yet (but, perhaps, are still gearing up for doing a seasonal closet shift). Just a warning: you make quite a mess. Clear a few hours here so you can start AND finish the game by putting stuff away.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What have you been trying to wear to work, but without success? (Usually this would manifest for me as a layering or a color problem — nothing looks quite right with the limited time/brain power I have in the mornings before running out the door, and I instead grab something safe and save it for “later.”)
- Colors: If you’ve been stumped with colors, take a look at the color wheel — including the opposite side of the color wheel. Are there fun colors that might work well with Problem Piece but in small doses? Then, look at your scarves, blouses, camisoles with new eyes — might those two pieces work together? This can also work with colors from different seasons — light blue is normally sold in spring, while burgundy is sold in fall, but they look great together. Ditto for olive (fall) and pastels like pink and purple (spring) (olive green pants are one of my favorite surprise closet basics for just that reason!).
- Layers: If it’s been a layering problem — I’ve been there so many times. The neckline is too low, or gapes, or whatever, and the “usual” things you wear beneath it just don’t work. It’s only after trying on half my closet do I find that V-necked silk sweater camisole with the thick lace edge (which I previously only thought of as a weekend layering piece) ends up looking GREAT beneath that deep-V’d cashmere sweater, or that the scoopneck tee that’s a bit too sheer to wear by itself looks amazing juuust sticking out of the top of a sweater that gapes open way too far.
- Are you bored of your closet? If it’s been a “bored out of my skull” problem, I’d suggest going to the advanced class and playing with prints, textures, and other layering pieces. This may result in more “fashiony” looks that can be great.
- Prints and patterns: Try mixing two patterns (such as, say, houndstooth and floral) and see how you like it. Avoid wearing two big swaths of pattern if you’re still new to mixing prints — go for something like houndstooth pants, a simple black sweater, and a floral scarf. (Another spot for beginners: polka dots and pinstripes — both very easy to mix.) Look for small patterns that have something in common at the beginning, such as a similar color or even a similar theme.
- Textures and colors: Go to your closet and remove EVERYTHING in the red family. Lay them all out on your bed, and look at them as possible candidates for ONE outfit. Try them on — how does that coral red sweater look with that burgundy blazer? Alternatively — if you have four gray pieces that you normally like but usually wear as neutral basics, how do THOSE all look together? With enough texture and contrast you may find that it’s a really sophisticated (and fun) look.
- Layering pieces: For example, try wearing a peplum t-shirt over a silk button down — as long as you keep the colors subdued they’ll work. Try layering short-sleeved and sleeveless sweaters on top of button-front shirts. Try layering button-front shirts beneath sheath dresses. If you’re truly daring, try wearing a mini dress or tunic sweater with trouser pants.
Bonus round: I read this advice YEARS ago — possibly it was how the fashion stylist for Sex in the City recommended fashionistas get dressed: throw a ball at your closet until 3 pieces fall out. Put them all on. (I think her advice ended here — as in, voila!, you have an outfit! Leave the house and have a great day!) For our purposes, though, take a look at what you’re wearing. It may be totally wackadoodle, but there may be something good in there — two prints you never would have thought of, or perhaps even something like a dress over pants. (Tip: if it’s a tutu and a baseball jersey, have a good laugh and put the clothes away.)
At least, that’s how I’ve always played the game — readers, how do you “shop your closet?” Have you found any good combinations that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise?