Even if you haven’t been in school for years, there’s just something about fall that triggers the desire to make a fresh start. And by starting fresh, we mean buying a slew of new fall clothes to breathe life into your been-there-worn-that wardrobe.But these days, most of us don’t have the cold hard cash to go on a $5,000 “What Not To Wear”-like shopping spree. The good news? You can create fresh new outfits—without shelling out a dime—by shopping in your own closet.
Of course, it helps to have a professional stylist on hand to help you pull together some figure-flattering looks from your existing wardrobe (though a close friend or family member with a solid sense of style can help you, too). So we enlisted the help of New York City professional stylist Bryn Taylor, aka The Re-Stylist, since her specialty is doing exactly that—restyling the clothes you already own.
According to Taylor, you’ve got a treasure trove of clothes sitting in your closet right now. “People wear less than one-third of their wardrobe,” she says. “There’s no reason not to wear perfectly good clothes. It’s about showing people a whole new wardrobe from what’s already in their closet, and helping them get excited about it again.”
Whip Your Closet into Shape:
It’s hard to know what you actually own when you can’t even see it. (Quick tip: Use the same style of hangers, rather than the junky ones from the dry cleaners mixed in with some plastic hangers. The uniformity instantly makes your closet look neater and more organized. The best ones are space-saving hangers, which let you fit more clothes into your closet).
Here’s how to get organized and make it easier to shop your closet:
Do a major wardrobe overhaul every season:
“That’s always a good time to go in and reassess what you have and what you should keep,” says Taylor. The best way to keep your closet from getting unrulier than a Costa Rican jungle? Follow Taylor’s “one-in-one-out” rule, meaning when you buy a new piece of clothing, you should donate (or toss) an item of clothing from your closet. “But that’s not realistic for everyone,” she admits. “See if you can get rid of at least four or five items [every seasonal overhaul] so you don’t begin cluttering your closet again.”
Know when to let go:
You’re not alone if you’ve developed an emotional attachment to some of your clothes. It can be hard to part with certain garments, either because they were your go-to item for years, like your chewed up black pumps that are way past their prime, or because you paid good money for that outfit and still hope to wear it someday (we’re talking to you, leather mini skirt impulse buy with the tags still on it).
READ MORE: How to control your impulse shopping urges
“A lot of my clients have some guilt about getting rid of things that may have been expensive or still have tags on them,” says Taylor. “I remind them that if they keep it, it’s staying in your closest on the hanger serving as a daily reminder that you’re not wearing it. By getting rid of it, you’re not beating yourself up over it every day.” Let someone else get some use out of that outfit by donating it or by bringing it to a consignment shop so you can get some cash back, taking the sting out of the money you’d spent on it.
Evaluate your clothes:
Imagine your clothes are contestants on “Survivor”—find out why they’re here and assess how much they deserve to stick around. Go through each item in your closet (pants, jeans, dresses, skirts, blouses, t-shirts, you name it). This will take some time, but you’ll have the best wardrobe full of clothes you feel good about in the end. And isn’t that the whole point—to feel fabulous in your clothes? To suss out whether it’s time to part ways with certain items, hold up each one and “ask yourself, ‘How does it make it me feel?” suggests Taylor. “If you look at this piece and think it’s such a pretty blouse or dress, but you feel fat or self-conscious every time you put it on, you’re not going to wear it. The label doesn’t matter.”
Ditch or donate any clothes that make you fuss and fidget, such as that strapless dress you’re constantly pulling up to avoid a wardrobe malfunction of the R-rated kind, or those khaki shorts that give you an instant wedgie each time you wear them (never a good look). “When you’re fidgeting with clothes, your focus is on that all day and not on your life,” she says.
READ MORE: Clothes That Fit Your Body
Follow the rules:
Still not sure if you’re ready to part ways with a certain item of clothing? Check your emotions and follow these two rules recommended by Taylor: the seasonal rule and the rule of multiples. If several sundresses of yours never met the light of day once this entire summer, it’s unlikely you’re going to wear them again. Say buh-bye. Also, chances are you easily have at least 10 or 20 pairs of jeans or black slacks hogging your valuable closet space. Following the rule of multiples means that if you have, say, 20 pairs of jeans, it’s time to pare them down. Pick your favorites—a pair of skinny jeans, boot-cut jeans, causal boyfriend jeans, a long pair to wear with heels and a hemmed pair to wear with flats, for example—and donate the rest to someone who could really use them.
Weigh your options:
Anyone who has experienced major weight fluctuations tends to hold onto wardrobes from different weights, thinking they’ll fit into those skinny jeans again some day or fearing donating their “fat clothes” in case the weight creeps back up. Taylor strongly recommends donating the wardrobe you aren’t wearing—not just to make room for precious closet real estate, but because of the toll keeping these clothes can take on your self-esteem. “It’s a reminder of something you can’t wear,” says Taylor. “You don’t need that self-abuse.” If it’s (understandably) too hard to part with a former wardrobe just yet, Taylor recommends folding these clothes and putting them in a drawer or a section of your closet that’s not easily accessible or viewable. “You know they’re there, but you don’t have to see them,” she says. “You want to have the clothes that fit you within reach.”
READ MORE: Demystifying Clothing Sizes
How to Restyle Your Closet:
Now that you’ve nixed clothes that don’t do your beautiful body justice, you’ll have more room to see what you actually own and can start creating fresh new outfits. Get ready to shop!Check out our photo gallery with stylist Bryn Taylor on how to revamp your wardrobe and shop your closet.
PHOTOS: Watch our writer Rachel restyle her own closet with Bryn Taylor, and get tips for yours!