Full Closet and Nothing to Wear? How a Stylish Friend Saved Me from Myself

Fashion & Style

Earlier this summer I realized my closet was getting a bit out of control. Out of control in the sense that it was full to the brim but still left me feeling like I had nothing to wear. Ughh. I DREADED getting dressed in the morning. Subconsciously, I knew I had outgrown several of the pieces in there (like that short leather mini skirt, yep, not gonna happen), but I just didn’t have the heart to let some of these pieces go. Not really in a sentimental way, but in a – I’ll probably wear that again someday way. Or, you spent way too much on that way. So, one night when I was enjoying a glass of wine with my friend Madelynn of Wide Eyed Legless, we came up with a genius idea, as one so often does when having wine with friends. In exchange for her enviable fashion sense, I would lend her my interior design prowess – a brain swap, if you will. Madelynn would redesign my wardrobe, while I would revamp and warm up her apartment. A novel idea really. The key was we were to work with what we found in each other’s home and improve upon it, without spending a fortune or redesigning our entire wardrobe or home. Simple enough. We were both excited to make this happen.

A couple weeks later we were ready for the undertaking; I invited Maddy over to help style, curate and mostly, gut my closet. I also invited Stefani, our Editorial Director over to take notes on the process and mostly, to hold me accountable (I was gutting my closet and I was sticking to it!). What I discovered was pretty eye-opening and I couldn’t have done it without them. Having honest opinions from someone you trust and admire is invaluable when you’re in a design rut. Maddy was so kind in helping me accept that my body had changed since having a baby, and that’s OK! She said I should look at this as an opportunity to upgrade and tweak the styles I’ve come to love and wear often. She made it really easy to just say “toss or donate” to the things I held on to for impractical reasons.

After all the purging was through, we created my “core” wardrobe and “style pieces” that I could mix and match with basics. Without all the clutter, I could finally see my own sense of style emerge.

I have since found a new appreciation for investing in wardrobe staples that you can wear time and time again and that allow you to mix and match to create a variety of different outfits. I now prefer investing in quality staple pieces that I truly love over quick, cheap purchases that fade and wear out quickly. Below you’ll find a recap of our process plus some helpful tips from Maddy on staying true to your style, keeping the clutter under control, and investing in items you’ll love for decades to come.

Style Tip: Make sure your hangers are consistent! Nothing feels better than a closet full of matching hangers. Velvet hangers save space and look fabulous.

In this 3-step process below Madelynn transformed my closet from a 20-something-year-old to a classic woman in her 30s. This newly curated wardrobe better meets my current needs and style. I have to admit, I’ve evolved over the years; especially as a mother and established business woman. I love how Maddy helped me put together three aspirational outfits that are chic, easy and functional to wear at home and at the office.

Step 1: Cleaning out your closet

The first thing we realized while cleaning out my closet was that I had a lot of basic – non-basics (if that makes any sense). Meaning, I had a lot of clothes that appeared to be functioning as basic staples within my wardrobe but were not quite serving their proper purpose.

What is a basic you may ask?

A Basic – is a piece of clothing that is neutral in color, cut, and silhouette; you should be able to style this piece in a variety of ways.

After Maddy assessed what I had and what I needed we put together a list of basic staples that we think every woman should have in her closet. This list helped me streamline my wardrobe and have fewer pieces that are more functional.

  1. Black jeans or trousers like Madewell – High-rise Skinny Jeans – Black • Madewell • $125
  2. Blue jeans, (I love a high rise light wash) like Madewell – The Perfect Summer High-rise Straight-leg Jeans – Light blue • Madewell • $115
  3. Oversized blazer in black or gray (a gray plaid would be cool too) like Isabel Marant ‘Madoc’ blazer • Isabel Marant • $350.96
  4. White t-shirt like H&M Cotton T-shirt • H&M • $12.99
  5. Oversized white button up like River Island Women’s White tie sleeve oversized shirt • River Island • $56
  6. Silk cami or two in neutral shades like H&M Satin Camisole Top with Lace • H&M • $29.99 and H&M Camisole Top with Mesh Detail • H&M • $12.99
  7. Black loafers or slides like Women’s Gucci Brixton Convertible Loafer • Gucci • $630
  8. Heeled mules (black or brown) like Women’s Loeffler Randall Lulu Block Heel Mule • Loeffler Randall • $350–395 and Who What Wear Women’s Everly Block Heel Mules – Who What Wear • Who What Wear • $32.99
  9. Black ankle boots (heel or not depending on preference) like Acne Studios – Jensen Leather Ankle Boots – Black • Acne Studios • $560
  10. White sneakers like adidas Originals – Nmd_r1 Rubber-paneled Mesh Sneakers – White • adidas • $130
  11. Little black dress (nothing too fancy but something you love) like H&M V-neck Jersey Dress • H&M • $14.99
  12. Denim jacket like Women’s J.crew Crop Denim Jacket • J.Crew • $110
  13. Black leather jacket like Women’s Bb Dakota ‘Peppin’ Drape Front Faux Leather Jacket • BB Dakota • $98
  14. Large tote (black or brown) like Mansur Gavriel Large Leather Tote • Mansur Gavriel • $375
  15. Smaller cross-body bag (black or brown) like BAGGU Circle Cross Body Bag • Baggu • $180
  16. A good pair of sunnies (I love a cat eye) like Prada Cat-eye sunglasses • Prada • $285 

A few other revelations we had while gutting my closet – I have a tendency to gravitate toward stripes, we had to get rid of a surplus of these.

I would also say through this purging experience, I had to say a big NO to several pastel tops or any clothing that resembled an easter-egg-colored-hue. Apparently, I’ve had issues with that in the past. I deeply need to upgrade my heel collection and possibly PJ collection which is starting to look a bit too oversized and worn-in.

Here are a few items that we all knew immediately that I would need to get rid of: my fuzzy ivory baby doll top, my silver-metallic crop, my leather mini skirt, and my 90s knee-high leather and suede boots. These are all looks I’ve most definitely outgrown now that I am in my early 30s.

Step 2: what basic & trend pieces do you still need?

Below you will find a few basic pieces we bought and/or kept. The equation to outfitting any look is to take a basic staple piece and then layer it with a trend on top. For the style goals Maddy identified for me, she wanted to keep all the basics in the apparel and then layer trend pieces on through accessories. In general, accessories provide an easy and cost-friendly way to make your wardrobe trend right for any season!

Uniqlo classic white men’s tee // Madewell Jean Jacket // Madewell floral dress (similar here) // Red Wing black leather boots

Step 3: Style me pretty – mixing trend pieces with basics

If you are going for a comfortable spin on a dressier look we’ve put together the perfect outfit for a day at the office or work happy hour.

Uniqlo classic white tee // Need Supply high-waisted tan skirt // Loeffler Randall Red heels // Vintage gold necklace

This outfit at first glance might look basic, but it’s quite the contrary! It has so many amazing little details and I like that it’s non-fussy with a touch of something special. Red has also been having a major moment lately, and we thought a fun red sandal was the perfect way to add a bit of that color in!

Here we take a simple look with our black floral dress + leather boots and enhance it with pretty feminine accessories.

Madewell dress (similar here) // Madewell scarf // Need Supply sunglasses (similar here) // Need Supply purse // Red Wing boots

A floral dress is a classic must-have piece in every wardrobe. When the floral pattern is grounded in a neutral color (like black) it is easy to wear and what I would consider a staple piece. There are so many things you can do with a great floral dress. Boots and a jacket in the fall, or a cute sandal in the summer. The options are endless. I stuck to a black shoe for this dress because I find when I wear black, keeping the shoe black will help continue the lines and it lengthens your legs. I layered on the trend pieces with a scarf, small handbag and an oversized pair of cat-eye sunglasses which help tie the whole look together.

Style note: Tailor your clothes to fit if you really love them.

I love accessorizing my outfits with caramel and tan tones. Below I paired my new rattan purse from Bali with tan suede heels from M. Gemi. I recently discovered a great source for these cute little wicker purses from Bembien which sells woven bags made by artisans from around the world.

Here is a fresh put together look that still feels casual but we dressed it up with cute heels and a matching purse.

Zara white and red striped wrap top (similar here) // Good pair of blue jeans like these // M. Gemi tan suede heels (similar here) // Rattan purse from Bali

A wrap top is a great trendy piece to carry with you from summer to fall. They are so flattering and show off the best part of any woman’s neckline! But they can easily look pretty fancy, so Maddy paired this top with a great pair of blue jeans, heels and a fun summery bag. Perfect for a casual meeting with clients or a date night out with Joe!

Images by 2nd Truth

BY Kate Arends - August 22, 2017

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I really love the outfits that were picked out! The colour palette works for just about every situation!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

August 22, 2017 3:32 pm

I really enjoyed this post because I have gone through this multiple times in the past 2 decades, and definitely in more rapid succession as I have been pregnant 4 times in the last 8 years. Trying to find my “style” as my body, lifestyle, and outlook changes has been challenging! One thing I will say is that the “basic pieces all women should have” isn’t all that relevant to me. My lifestyle is super casual and active, comfort is key, and I live in a humid subtropical climate. This translates to fabrics that breathe and have some give, flat… Read more »

August 24, 2017 1:13 pm

I love this! I hope you’ll share your post as you help Madelynn with her home!

August 28, 2017 3:24 pm
Reply to  kate

We definitely plan to!

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August 25, 2017 11:46 am

That tan skirt from Loeffler Randall is insane !

August 25, 2017 11:57 am
Reply to  megan

yikes, I meant Need Supply.

August 30, 2017 4:15 am

Good idea and very useful.
Thank you for sharing this 🙂

jackie wimmer
August 30, 2017 11:27 am

Loved this post and all the great tips. I am a firm believer in fashion classics. They never go out. Jeans, a pretty white blouse and a nice heel is my fav and can work for anyone. I recently cut my closet down buy about 2/3rds. I saved favorites and classics. I have always taken very goid care if my clothes. I am 52 and over the years I have seen many of my favorite pieces come back into fashion. My daughter us amazed when I tell her a piece or a pair of shoes is about 29 years old,… Read more »

September 1, 2017 10:47 am

Great post! Very true about having staples that you can mix and match with.

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September 27, 2017 7:50 pm

Thanks for all amazing and helpful tips and tricks. Love all of the outfits you put together.


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