Being immaculately dressed does not necessarily mean having an enormous wardrobe. In fact, as Laura Campbell explains, looking good is all about knowing what suits you, admitting what's fantasy (whether size- or trend-wise) and getting rid of the rest. When did you last edit your wardrobe and how much of its contents do you actually wear? These are the questions every woman should ask herself when attempting to clear out her closet. According to a recent study, three-quarters of women own 10 items of unworn clothing, and have clothing in three different dress sizes, only one of which fits. Yo-yo dieting is apparently to blame.
I was first alerted to inveterate hoarding when I wrote a weekly column on what people wear for a British newspaper. Over two years I snooped inside countless wardrobes. It was a fascinating insight and, let me tell you, men are just as guilty of stockpiling as women. Several men boasted larger collections of clothes than their wives. One male Imelda Marcos admitted having the same quantity of kit in four separate houses.
Since becoming a style consultant and personal shopper a few years ago, I am regularly called upon to edit out-of-control wardrobes. I have witnessed women whose walk-in closets are so jam-packed that their out-of-season overflow has to be stashed into every spare cupboard, chest of drawers and corner in their homes. Aside from hoping to morph into Giselle, the excess is often a result of women being oversentimental about certain pieces, reluctant to move on from their youth, falling for spontaneous and ill-advised buys or picking up "bargains" in the sales.
Working out what to keep and what to lose can be a minefield, but the only way to start is by focusing on all the unworn clothes and to try everything on in front of the mirror. Does the colour work? Is bubblegum pink as fab on you as it is on Beyoncé? Does the shape flatter? Does the design fit in with your lifestyle? Should harem pants only be worn in, well, a harem? Can you wear a bold floral print or is it wearing you? Is the lace too racy, the skirt too micro, the red leather perhaps a touch mutton-esque? If in doubt, ask a friend whose style you admire and is not frightened of being frank. There's nothing like having an objective eye and an honest opinion to help clear your mind.
Don't hang on to what I call "rainy day clothes". These include anything you hope to squeeze into at some point in the future. Dress for the here and now. Chuck anything you wear when you're feeling under par and definitely get rid of anything that's past its best. Make three piles of the rejects - one of clothes that you may be able to sell on eBay, the second of items that may suit a friend and the third for the charity shop. There are no longer strict fashion diktats, so stick to what suits you and don't get swayed by trends just for the sake of it. Accessories are a great way of updating any outfit and a good tailor can adapt or copy favourite pieces. As for the clingy, gold lamé jumpsuit: there's only one place for it and Studio 54 ain't no more.
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1. Edit your wardrobe every season. 2. Store out-of-season clothes in clear boxes, with cedar blocks and scented tissue paper to deter insects. 3. Store shoes in clear boxes for easy identification. 4. Hang lightweight knitwear and silk on padded hangers. Banish wire hangers: they're ugly and ruin fabrics. 5. Colour code your wardrobe. 6. Go for styles that flatter your body: emphasise a shapely torso with a waist-cinching belt; wear eye-catching shoes if you have good legs; A-line skirts suit wide hips; a bias-cut gives the illusion of curves. 7. Choose skirt lengths carefully: thick calves need longer lengths; mid-calf lengths make legs look chunky: micro minis are best for the under 35s; above the knee is fine at any age. 8. If you're short, wear jackets that end at the hip. 9. With trousers, remember: the higher the waistband, the bigger your derrière will look. 10. Be careful with colour: loud shades can overwhelm the wearer; don't wear black too close to your face.