In the spirit of the new year, I thought that in addition to making some vaguer sartorial resolutions, it would be nice to make a list of specific things that I can do to work on various aspects of my wardrobe. I already have a post about some higher-time-investment long-term tracking and inventorying you can do to help curate your closet, but there’s so much other stuff you can do where even if you do only a few short activities a week, can add up to a more polished, better fitting, more organized wardrobe.
Some things here (like conditioning a leather item) might take longer to get through, while others (like getting the measurements of your favorite t-shirt) will be really quick. The idea is that they’re relatively short one-off tasks (though some like the shopping notes you should keep adding to and then actually use) that would probably take you less time to do than the time you spent scrolling through your internet hit of choice today.
This is an aggregation of various tips I’ve read in books and online that I wrote down as a checklist for myself. It’s not meant to be comprehensive or universally applicable, just a way to encourage myself to get in the habit of regularly spending time on wardrobe organization, clothing maintenance, and styling as well as prepping for shopping effectively. I’ll be posting items to my instastories feed on Instagram as I do them (almost certainly not in this order). If you like the idea, feel free to follow along! Most of the items are repeatable or encompass a more general topic to learn about and will be revisited as needed.
General theme of the points that aren’t basic garment care are take a moment to identify why specifically you do or don’t like items or outfits and write it down and make it easy for yourself to find things.
If you’re more interested in doing a full wardrobe overhaul in a more guided manner, I cannot recommend The Curated Closet enough. How to Get Dressed has a lot of good advice on clothing selection and maintenance. See the Style Resources page for more.
- 📖 Print out a reference sheet for all those garment care tag hieroglyphs and tape it up by the washing machine (or save to your phone).
- 💅🏼 Get rid of nail polish and makeup that is expired or you are never going to use because it doesn’t suit you or your lifestyle.
- 📭 Unsubscribe from any brand/shop newsletters unless you already have a specific item in mind and want sale notifications.
- 🔇 Unfollow any style Instagram accounts you find neither helpful nor aesthetically pleasing.
- 🔄 Rotate out stuff from the back of your closet or a drawer.
- 📦 Knitwear storage – straighten it up or check that you aren’t hanging knits in a way that will give them those little shoulder lumps or stretch them out. It takes up more horizontal space, but if I need to hang sweaters I like to do it like this where you fold the sweater in half and drape it over the top bar of the hanger by anchoring the armpit of the top at the hanger hook (there’s a photo in that link).
- 👣 Dig through your sock drawer and pair up any accumulated orphaned socks.
- ⏲ Create a spot for “purge purgatory” storage (e.g. under-bed storage bin, old duffel bag).
- ✈️ Consolidate all your travel-sized toiletries.
- 👯 Organize your tights. If you have trouble telling them apart when they’re all balled up, I’ve seen suggestions to store them in labeled cardboard toilet paper tubes.
- ⏰ Timeboxed vanity / accessories organization. Focus on creating spaces for things to go, e.g. if you have a lot of loose pins and hair elastics, get a small cup or something for them.
- 💍 Jewelry organization: buy or make an organizer (e.g. corkboard or cardboard with push pins for necklace storage). If you know that you don’t have the discipline to actually put your earrings or whatever back into an individual pocket or hang them up every time you use them, consider getting a more general corral space for items like a dish/tray/box for semi-organization.
- 🗃 Figure out how you can systematically reduce or get rid of the items in that pile on your chair or the floor. E.g. making space for and getting a coat/bag hooks by your door or a small clothing rack or laundry rack for “worn but not done” things. Prevents them from getting all wrinkly, helps air them out between wears.
Most of these items are meant to be helpful references for online shopping. This is especially useful for secondhand online shopping, where people will often list flat measurements.
- ❌ Create an anti wish list – a list of item types of details that you have tried before and you know haven’t worked out before for lifestyle or aesthetic preferences, like “sweaters with sleeves that can’t be pushed up” or “raw hems”. Put it somewhere you’ll always have access to while shopping, e.g. a notes app on your phone and read it every time you’re tempted to buy something.
- 🤔 Create an “I Wish” list. Instead of keeping a general wish list of things you want after seeing people wearing them IRL or in photos, have a list of items that you think “it’d be nice if I had…” while you are actually getting dressed. E.g. “I wish I had heavier weight pants besides jeans that I could tuck sweaters into that don’t get lumpy” or “I wish I had more bottoms that worked for deathly hot weather”.
- 📏 Take your measurements (or get a friend to take them, or even better, get a tailor to take them).
- 👕 Measure a t-shirt (pit to pit, sleeve length, shoulder to hem)
- 👜 Measure a bag (including strap length/drop)
- ❄️ Measure a coat
- 🍂 Measure a cardigan
- 👖 Measure a pair of pants
- ⛹🏻 Measure shorts / a short skirt
- 👘 Measure a long skirt
- 💕 Measure a sweater
- 🧣 Measure a scarf
- 📚 Browse some fashion vocabulary infographics. You can browse google images for “fashion vocabulary ___” Personally I’ve seen conflicting info regularly in these kinds of infographics, but even then it’s useful to see what people call things. This allows you to be more specific with your searches, e.g. “cotton canvas kick flares” vs “flare pants” or “dolman sleeve cowl neck top” instead of “loose sleeves top”. Zoe Hong has a playlist of vocabulary videos on Youtube as well.
- 🔬 Learn about fabric properties: rayon, polyester, wools (merino, lambswool, cashmere, etc), cotton, spandex, nylon, leather (“genuine leather”, top grain vs full grain, etc), silk, etc. Wikipedia is a great jumping-off point, or websites about selecting fabric for sewing. And of course, Zoe Hong also has a bunch of videos on fabric properties like Wools 101.
- 🔎 Read about how to determine quality in clothing. I found the guide on Anuschka Rees‘ blog a helpful resource.
- 💊 Clean up a pilled item with a pill shaver or comb or lint from an item.
- 👞 Wipe down a pair of shoes.
- ✨ Condition a leather item (maybe that pair of boots you wiped down yesterday).
- ✂️ Take that thing to the tailor that you’ve been meaning to have hemmed or taken in for weeks.
- 👋 Decommission any holey socks (or darn them, if you do that).
- 👙 Check that your rare occasion items like formalwear/workwear/swimsuit still fit.
- 🛁 Hand wash that thing you’ve been meaning to hand wash.
- 👟 Wash a pair of older shoelaces (possibly soak them first to loosen dirt before laundering them if they’re really nasty) or re-lace a shoe that’s uneven.
- 🎒 Clean out a purse or backpack.
- 💦 Clean your washing machine. I use a communal one for my apartment building, which tends to get some crusty gunk in the rubber seal which needs periodic cleaning. You could also run a hot cycle with the cleaning agent of your choice (vinegar seems to be a popular one) to do a deeper clean.
- 🛍 Clean out the pockets of all your coats.
- 🐣 Get a sweater bag for delicate laundry.
- 🚂 Iron or steam that thing or take it to the cleaners if you know you aren’t going to do it.
- 🖇 Do you have any items that would benefit from nicer or specialty hangers (textured velvet ones, heavy duty ones, ones for pants, etc)? Get those hangers.
- 🤷🏻 What is an outfit you wear regularly that you feel meh about? How could you style it differently so you like it more? E.g. “This pair of jeans would look better cuffed when worn with these boots”. Try it on an experiment with different tucks, cuffs, folds, accessories, and layering pieces.
- 🔀 Find another item to pair with a piece that you’ve only been pairing with one or two things.
- 🌟 Whats a regular outfit you have that you LOVE? What specifically do you love about it? How can you incorporate that into another outfit? Could just be making another outfit with an item you really like, or maybe there’s a similar color combo or silhouette.
- 📸 Practice posing for photos. There are lots of tips all over the internet on how to pose, but good posture is the best foundation.
- 🧣Experiment with ways to style a scarf
- 💡 Find a spot to take outfit photos in your home if you haven’t got a go-to already. Even if you don’t take daily pictures, it can be helpful to evaluate new purchases to photograph them from front, side, and back angles or take a short video. There’s a solid guide on taking outfit photos with your phone on the femalefashionadvice subreddit that I’ve found helpful.
- 👠 Which pair of your everyday shoes do you reach for the least? If it’s something you don’t like about the shoe, add to anti-wish list. If you like the shoe but have a hard time styling it, try and put together 1 or 2 outfits for them.
- 👒 Style an outfit with one more accessory than you usually would.
- 😵 Note down 2 or 3 outfits (include for warmer and cooler weather) that look decent but are comfy for days when you feel awful but need to go outside / to work and do things.
Identify holes or overfilled niches in your closet.
For the “Evaluate your…” items, expand that to the following points and then write down notes in your anti wish list or wish list. Use common sense and consider whether you have enough of a type of item to make it through a laundry period and don’t over-zealously purge things in their off season.
- What silhouettes, fabrics, and colors of this item do you have? Which of each are your favorites? Least favorites? Is there a pattern to any of those? e.g. “cool-toned muted colors”, “floaty thin fabrics”, “boxy cropped cuts”
- Do you already have multiples of something that you don’t need any more of?
- Do you have a disproportionate amount that are only suited to cold or hot weather?
- Do you have a disproportionate amount that cannot be worn to work?
- Is there anything that you would not reach for over any other item in the category for any outfit?
- Does anything not fit?
- 🏡 Do you have any loungewear items you never reach for? Identify why that is (e.g. no pockets, no closure, not warm enough, there are three items in the same niche that are more comfortable). Write it down in the anti-wish list. Move items to purge storage.
- 🏋🏻 Same as above, but for activewear.
- 😬 Do you have any items you are afraid to wear? If it’s “fear of the new”, consider wearing it around the house and then on a trip to the grocery store. Put these things on your calendar. If it’s “fear of ruining unique/expensive item”, remind yourself that if you’re not going to wear it then it’s pretty much the same as not having it anyway. If you are really never going to wear it out, then purge it.
- 🎩 Not exactly a curation thing, but if you have fancy stuff that you feel you don’t have anywhere to wear to but wish you did, consider getting yourself tickets to a ballet/symphony (seats for those can be gotten for about the price of a nice sit-down meal and often there are discounts for students or under-30. E.g. SF Symphony cheap seats are $35, and you can still hear the music just as well), reservations to a nice restaurant, or if you have friends who’d be into it, organize a dinner / no-reason-get-together-and-hang-out at your place where people can dress up. Or if it’s something that doesn’t limit mobility / require dry cleaning after one wear, YOLO and wear it to run errands or sit in a cafe/park and read a book on the weekend.
- 🏖 How is your wardrobe when it comes to hot weather? Do you have a sun hat? Do you have a nicer outfit that won’t be insufferably sweaty? Sandals? Sunglasses that suit your face and haircut?
- ☃️ How is your wardrobe when it comes to cold weather? Do you need thermals, hats, gloves, thick socks? Do you kind of like or dislike the majority of your sweaters?
- ☕️ Evaluate your pants
- 💃🏻 Evaluate your skirts
- 🎽 Evaluate your tops
- 👗 Evaluate your dresses / jumpsuits / rompers
- 🍸 Evaluate your formalwear (whatever “formal” means for your lifestyle)
- 👢 Evaluate your shoes
- 🍃 Evaluate your sweaters and cardigans