The Visible Wardrobe

My dad made this necklace rack for me, and it’s based on one he made for my mom ages ago. I admired hers, but it wasn’t until I’d accumulated an enviable collection of necklaces that I recognized its practicality. Necklaces that are tangled in a knot and shoved in a drawer will never get worn. Necklaces that are tidily displayed will slip seamlessly into outfits, day after day.

Over the years, I’ve realized that seeing my clothes, shoes, and accessories is vital to making the most of my wardrobe. I subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy of house cleaning, which means that I have MANY junk drawers and broom closets packed with unloved miscellany. That philosophy spills over into my outfit-planning habits as well. If something is tucked away in a seldom-used drawer or buried under stacks of other stuff, it will be forgotten and abandoned in favor of the visible.

So I try to keep everything visible.

I roll my tights and set the rolls on their sides so I can see a bit of each color and pattern in the drawer. I use a hanging sweater storage unit so I can see each texture and tone peeking out. I hang my belts on a rack outside my armoire so I can see my options. I store my shoes on shelves and racks so I can see and select more easily.

Keeping clothes and accessories visible helps me with brainstorming. Seeing my options laid out sparks countless ideas for pairings and facilitates outfit creativity.

Is a visible wardrobe a priority for you? What do you wish you could display that you currently can’t? Do items kept hidden get worn less? How do you display your clothing and accessories?

P.S. Yes, that is a stuffed wombat on my dresser. Wanna make somethin’ of it?

  • Kimberly

    Actually, this "visibility" issue is one of the things that led to me deciding to join the Great American Apparel Diet this fall. If I have so many things (which I can do) that I barely have room to store them, I end up not wearing a lot of what I have, and what's worse, not appreciating that I have what I have. Half of it is packed away, out of sight and out of mind, and what good is that doing me? I hope that once I buy fewer clothes and whittle down what I have, I'll be able to store and display everything properly and get more use out of it all.

    As for wombats – they're awesome. I met one up close and personal in Australia. They have much better personalities than koalas, just not as good a PR team!

  • Deja Pseu

    I'm also one of those "out of sight/out of mind" people. For jewelry, I have panel with clear plastic pockets on both sides that hangs in my closet. For my shoes, I've invested ($1.97 each!) in those clear plastic shoe boxes. It definitely helps!

  • Allison

    I agree with you. I have a necklace rack similar to yours (although not nearly as large!) which has definitely increased the amount I wear my jewelry. Also I just moved to a new apartment with a big closet that has to doors that swing open, allowing me to see EVERYTHING in my closet. I have set it up to be like an armoire.
    One of the last things I need to do is store my tights as you're describing. This has been on my to-do list since I moved!

  • Chalkdust and Boots

    I have two stuffed walruses, a stuffed owl, and a stuffed warthog (apart from the usual dogs and whatnot). Yes, I'm twenty-nine. … So? I love your necklace rack, but I'm the kind of person who likes to hide away my jewelry in little compartments in a big jewelry case or something. Maybe displaying it would be a good idea…

  • SarahN

    No worries…I have a stuffed bison in my bedroom.

    Out-of-season clothes notwithstanding (they're in the basement), I've tried hard over the past two seasons to cull the wardrobe down to what will fit in my small walk-in: floor-to-ceiling shelves for shoes (kept in their boxes), three drawers for foundations, three shelves for jeans and sweaters, a full-length rack for dresses, and four half-length racks for jackets, tops, skirts and pants. Each rack is two feet wide and if I can't fit all my skirts on the skirt rack, for example, I get rid of a skirt. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with not needing 25 pairs of pants and 43 different tops for each season, but I think I finally have. It makes getting dressed (and swapping out seasonal clothes) that much easier.

    Jewelry is another story, however! I received a lovely jewelry box as a gift, and it's perfect for earrings and bracelets, but it doesn't suit my chunky necklaces and I'd feel guilty about getting rid of it. That necklace rack is a great idea. Mine reside in my underwear drawer 😉

  • Rebekah

    1. My boyfriend keeps a stuffed wombat on our dresser.

    2. Your wombat seems to have stolen this show!

    3. I am a firm believer in a visible wardrobe. I haven't found a way to display tiny earrings/body jewelry, but I keep my eye on everything else. That way, it's easy to see what's not being worn enough.

  • Sidewalk Chalk

    It's okay, I have teddy bears guarding my beloved closet items too.

    Visibility is so important for me. When I was moving, I couldn't believe how many items had fallen by the wayside just because I couldn't see them. Now that I have a bigger closet to myself, I've made it a priority to make the smaller items visible. I have a necklace rack similar to yours, only it was fashioned out of an old belt and some thumbtacks. Whatever works, eh?

  • tinyjunco

    my mom had a stuffed havalena that my brother bagged in Arizona. it had quite a ferocious snarl on it's face (it's final moments were actually spent munching grass – the taxidermist got a little carried away).

    mom kept it on an open shelf above the closet rod, so visibility was no problem and we always knew where to find it. (anyone else starting to think 'vogelsang' with this thread?)

  • Future Lint

    I totally agree! I forget what I have if it's all a wadded mess in a drawer. I have a series of vintage hooks in my walk-in closet and each hook holds all the necklaces of one color. I also have a wooden cribbage board in the shape of a whale mounted on the wall where I put nails in the holes and it holds all my small gold and silver necklaces/pendants! Guh, I'll have to take a picture and put it on the blog because it is hard to explain!

  • Anonymous

    I have made some great improvements in my storage and display lately! I got black velvet necklace and bracelet bar displays like the ones they have in stores. I got mine on ebay. They hold alot on look gorgeous on my dresser. I highly recommend them! I have a huge belt collection and put up little hooks in my closet to display them. Belts without hooks get rolled and put into my top drawer of my dresser. I have developed a system of putting my clothes in garment bags and storing them flat on the top shelf of my closet in off season. I got a nice 3 shelf shoe display, off season shoes are in tupperware under the bed. I still have to go through my drawers and rotate things around to make sure I don't forget about them. I still have not found the ideal tight storage system – they are usually in a giant mass. Doing all of this in a tiny NYC apartment is quite and accomplishment I think!

  • Alexandra

    Dang, I want one of those!

  • GlitrVamp

    This is something I constantly struggle with. I definitely agree, when an article of clothing or accessory is hidden away, I often forget about it. But I'm running out of space for things like scarves and belts….and oh who am I kidding, just about everything else when it comes to my clothing, shoes and accessories! I smell a big closet pair down project brewing…

  • Anonymous

    I thought the necklace rack was genius and put one up immediately . . . right next to my stuffed platypus (Platyboy). Ahem.

    I'm always trying to find the balance between being able to see all my stuff but not wanting to LOOK at it all the time either. I have racks behind doors that are usually open, sliding doors on my closets, etc.

  • SewingLibrarian

    I need a way to see my scarves. At the moment they are in a drawer, neatly folded, but it's hard to see them all. I tend to forget what I have. Someone on the Purse Forum had a solution, but it involved buying a lot of supplies from an archival supplies house. I'm not sure I'm into that level of organization. But I'm open to ideas from anyone here…..

  • Stacy

    I am very lucky to have a large walk in closet…it was one of the things that sold me on this house. 😉 My shoes are mostly in their boxes along the back wall. My husband has a little tiny speck of space for his 6 pairs of shoes.

    My jewelry collection is fairly large. I found a hanging jewelry holder that has individual clear pockets on two sides for my jewelry. I bought 2 and they are FULL. It is really nice that I have it hanging right at the end of my clothes, so I can pair everything up at the same time.

  • Katie K

    See my comment yesterday about not being able to find anything in my closet. I've put myself on a shopping ban until November and I'm going to clean out my closet next weekend and reorganize. I realized that I was buying pieces that I already owned but couldn't find, which is depressing and really not a good way to dress.

  • Anonymous

    Sewing Librarian,
    I put my scarves on a pants hanger. I got mine at Target, but there are all kinds of styles out there. Mine has 4 swing-arms and 1 stationary arm, and it holds quite a few.


  • Janna

    I have a bunch of Ikea Flang drilled into one of the walls in my closet, I love seeing all my pretty necklaces! Plus I really do wear them more once they are visable and easy to get to.

    Plus at $2.99 each, they can't be beat!

  • Lucy Starcrest

    I agree. It definitely has to be seen or it will rarely if ever be worn. It just hung a bunch of necklaces on the wall like that. And while this is difficult when in regard to shoes, especially in my small house, it works better for me. I just use the excuse that I don't have the closet space anyway to put everything out of sight/out of mind!

  • Sara

    YES! If I can't see it I might as well not have it, because I sure won't remember it.

    I have a similar necklace set-up & I got this earring holder this week from Etsy which I love!

    The only thing is that it doesn't hold a certain type of earring backing that I have a lot of (not sure what it's called).

    I need a better idea for my bracelets than just having them stacked around a bud vase, because it's annoying to remove them all & unless they're bangles they get lost in the shuffle.

    It's hard to keep everything visible but still out of the way in my tiny apartment, but I try! But, the necklaces and earrings hanging on my wall are sort of like art, right? Haha

  • lisa

    "Out of sight, out of mind" happens to me occasionally when I forget I owned a certain sweater or top, but it doesn't happen as often as I'd expect. My accessories, shoes, handbags, and clothes fit into 2 dressers, a teeny closet, and a moving storage rack, so there isn't a whole lot to lose track of. 😛

  • Audi

    I'm still working on getting my closet at the new house as organized and visible as it was at the old place. Having everything visible is hugely important to me; I can literally forget about something for years if I can't see it.

  • Valerie-MN

    I agree with you on "seeing the items" in regards to most of your closet items. Two of my exceptions to that rule are purses and jewelry.

    For purses, I keep them covered, but I do remember what I have in my big collection. The reason I keep them in their storage cloth bags is because I have a lot of leather purses and if i keep them uncovered and visible on the shelves, some leather purses leave their dye on other leather purses. So, that is a word of warning to ladies who have a lot of purses – keep them covered and have a label or picture outside of the bag to say what is inside.

    I'm a jewelry collector so I love having a big armoire and a big chest to store my jewelry. I store my jewelry nearly every night back in the armoire/chest and choose my fresh pieces for the next day – that way, I don't forget what I have.

    Great suggestions from everyone.

  • Sonja

    Oh my goodness, I totally forget about things if I don't see them. I definitely find that it helps if things are visible. LOVE that necklace rack!

  • Melissa

    Um, yes, I would actually like to have my own stuffed wombat, thank you very much! I've never even heard of that before but it's freaking adorable.

    I use 3M hooks mounted on the side of my dresser for my necklaces. I recently purchased a belt organizer from Bed, Bath and Beyond so that I can see all of those options as well.

    I've never been a fan of tights but I was also never a fan of skirts until recently. I think I need to start a collection and use your idea of rolling them to keep them organized.

  • SewingLibrarian

    @Cindy, thanks for a great idea! I will try it. I might even have one of those hangers in my closet that I can use to try out that idea.

  • angie

    Yes, yes, yes!!! A hundred times YES to having a visible wardrobe! Out of sight *is* out of mind. It's the only way. Love this post, Sally.

    And your Papa is a sweetie pie to have made you that gorgeous necklace rack.

    Btw, I have over 200 stuffed animals and I am 40. I have kept every single one that Greg has given me – more than 2 decades worth.

  • Rachel

    This is why I hate dressers – drawers are evil and hide things! I use one of those metal shelving units that you find in garages for my folded clothes. That way I can see all the fronts at once. I haven't quite figured out how to make the shoes visible in my tiny closet, but I'm working on it!

  • CrankyOtter

    Visibility is crucial for me. As I've gotten older, I've gotten a lot better about organizing things so I can keep things out of sight until I need them. But when it comes to clothes, I pick out my bottoms of the day then need to scan my options. If this involves opening anything, that stuff is out of the running.

    I just had a "closet professional" come out and her ideas for my closet were completely antithetical to how I use my space. "Oh, you need doors and drawers!" She was horrified by my sock bin and open shelving. I love my sock bin and open shelving. I'm considering putting something like a curtain around it so I can close it off but 99.99% of the time I know I'll leave it open.

    BTW, my necklaces live on a piece of foamcore with pins stuck in it at various heights. I have one small peg rack like yours that I use for my longer and go-to-everyday necklaces. I am thinking about putting them in a thin cabinet because they're getting some tarnish, but having them all hanging and ready to go means I wear one almost every day instead of nearly never.

  • liz

    i have 10 cork board squares nailed to the wall filled with clear thumb tacks [the long kind not the short kind]. my slight OCD requires all the silver-only jewelry be separated from any [faux] gold or colored jewelry. necklaces are hanging off the bottom and often get ripped down by my curious cat, and earrings are hooked over the thumbtack.

  • Maria

    LOVE your necklace rack. Showed it my hubby and he is excited about building one for me. Will send a pic when done! Great idea, thanks Sal.

  • Jamie

    Out of sight, out of mind — which isn't a good thing when it comes to getting full use out of one's wardrobe. I live in a studio apartment with no closets (Aren't studio apartments supposed to have larger closets to compensate?). I have a lot of makeshift clothing storage, most of which works surprisingly well. But my poor scarves are tucked away in a tupperware container and are not getting much love these days. Poor dears…

  • Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    Visibility is key. If I can't see it (or worse can't find it) then it doesn't get worn. My wardrobe is constantly in a state of reorganisation as I try to get everything arranged simply and to be as visible as possible.

  • hollydare

    Most of my necklaces are silver-based, and silver can apparently oxidize(or something scientific like that) when exposed to air. But I read somewhere long ago that if you keep them in ziploc plastic bags, silver is less likely to tarnish. So I put each necklace in its own individual bag, and then keep the bags lined up in a shoebox. This system works perfectly for me, because I just visit the shoebox everyday once I'm dressed. Before the collection got out of hand, I kept the ziploc bags safety pinned to a long sturdy grosgrain ribbon that hung in my closet. A second ribbon is used for earrings, which I just poke right through the ribbon (without baggies). Hopefully, you're getting the visual on this. It's a GREAT system for me: visible, organized, and space-saving.

  • Charlotte

    i definitely agree with this!! i leave my shoes out, well most of them, and sometimes wear different ones than expected if they just catch my eye, instead of my standard go-with-everything suede booties.
    i also find that when i leave clothes hanging outside my wardrobe instead of putting them away (naughty!!) they seem much more appealing.
    i have so many clothes I'm constantly guilty of forgetting what I have!!

    charlotte xxx

  • Jen

    I just bought my first grown up bedroom set, which is forcing me to reorganize my clothes…visibility is definitely something I'm working on.

    Love the wombat! My husband got me one for our anniversary one year (we lived there together for a semester in college). Kimberly, they definitely need better PR, they're adorable!