Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Closet Organization for the Large and Varied Wardrobe

Christine asked this question in a comment:

I am curious how you, Sal, and other style bloggers, who by definition tend to have a lot of pieces, keep everything accessible and in order. So much closet organizing advice seems tilted toward a minimalist perspective.

I’d never really thought about it, but she’s right: Even many of my own posts on closet organization describe tactics that I can aspire to, but rarely apply to my own large and varied wardrobe. Naturally, I can’t speak for all style bloggers – some of whom also own a lot of clothing, but many of whom aim for minimalism – but I’m happy to share my own tactics.

Store off-season clothing

Seasonal wardrobe separation has its pros and cons, but since I live in a climate that boasts a nearly six-month winter and requires many a bulky sweater and heavy skirt, I find this practice to be essential. My layering pieces stay in their drawers year-round, but blazers, dresses, tops, skirts, and pants get rotated in and out depending on the weather. We are lucky enough to have lots of basement storage, so I keep my off-season items on a covered rack or in sealed storage bags with mothballs.

Make use of all available space

The image above is not of my own shoes, but I use that same heel-toe shelving technique to maximize my space. I use a similar technique with sweaters in my hanging sweater rack, folding them all but stacking them one with the collar facing the opening, one with the collar facing the back of the rack, and so on. I store some of my boots on top of my armoire. Every bit of space that has been reserved for my wardrobe is in use and nothing is wasted.

Employ a variety of storage techniques

My actual closet is tiny, but it has a bar, a hanging sweater rack, stacked shelves on the floor, and built-in shelves up top. My hats are hung from a string over my desk. My scarves are stored by color in two hanging scarf organizers. My dad made me a gorgeous jewelry rack for my necklaces. My PJs, layering tees, and jeans are in dresser drawers. I have boots on shelves and shoes in racks. If I tried to fold and drawer everything or hang everything up, I’d be sunk. If someone has thought it up, I am likely using it to keep my wardrobe in order.

Pick a categorization technique

I hang my tops by sleeve length and then by prints/solids. I keep all of my cardigans in the same spot and all of my pullovers in the same spot. My button-fronts are a ridiculous hodgepodge and so are my blazers, but just about everything else is categorized and stored accordingly. I know where to find all of my stuff at any given time. I also know where all of my tank tops are, so if I need a tank top of some sort but don’t know which color or style yet, I can go to that part of that drawer and view all of my options. My own practices won’t work for every owner of a large and varied wardrobe, but finding storage and categorization techniques that work for your own items – by color, weight, season, pattern, etc. – will help you feel more organized.

Fluff

When I hang clothing and replace it in my closet, it tends to get a little bunched-up - especially since my closet is fairly full. At a certain point, I will have washed, hung, and replaced just about everything in there, and all that bunching will add up. So every few months I take everything out and put it back in a few pieces at a time. Fluff out sleeves and smooth garment bodies flat. The simple act of undoing the natural re-hanging-related bunching frees up LOADS of closet space.

Know what you own

I suppose this isn’t an organizational technique as much as a wardrobe management one, but it merits mention. I love having a large and varied wardrobe because it allows me to dress in an expressive and eclectic way, but I’m aware of the risks. A large wardrobe means you may forget that you already have a gray skirt and buy another, or become so overwhelmed by your options that you only wear 10% of what you own. I purge my closet every season and I take inventory of it regularly. Knowing what I own helps me make use of my clothes. I play favorites like anyone, but I also know which items are veering off into closet orphan territory. This knowledge helps me decide what is really earning its keep and what should be donated or consigned when those purges come around, but also challenges me to build outfits around languishing items.

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Who else out there has a large and varied wardrobe? How do you keep it in order? Would any of my techniques work for you? Others to suggest?

Image courtesy Cupcakes and Cashmere

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Reader Request: Describing Your Personal Style

Hi all – Disqus randomly closed comments on this post, so I’m reposting. No idea what happened – apologies!

Describing Your Style

Susan e-mailed me after reading this post about Boho at the office:

I was reading that you don’t consider yourself Boho, and it got me wondering how you describe your style? I’m fascinated with how people describe themselves, and I wonder if you don’t describe it, if you find that limiting, or if you do with some number of adjectives, pictures or metaphors. I’ve read somewhere to come up with two adjectives to describe your style. I think that sounds like an interesting exercise.

Many, MANY moons ago, I did some noodling and landed on “arty eclectic with a broad streak of retro influence.” I must now admit that I’m not entirely sure how I came up with this phrase. I put “eclectic” in there because I’m a total style dabbler and wanted that expressed in a succinct and positive way, and “retro influence” because I don’t do full-on vintage all the time but instead hint at styles from decades past. “Arty” probably arose because I like asymmetry and funky pieces, but it might’ve also gotten shoved in there because I don’t feel like I comfortably fit into any of the typical style categories. And because I view style not necessarily as an art form, but a means of self-expression.

At this point, I’d probably revise my little phrase to “eclectic retro rocker.” I’ve always dabbled in rocker looks, but with the messy hair I’m letting those leanings seep through more often. Retro and eclectic still definitely apply, though, so they can stay. I’m both a word person and someone who works in a style-related field, so I may have an easier time attaching descriptors to my own style and the styles of others. But I’d be happy to share a few tips for those of you interested in describing your own styles, especially since doing so is something I ask you to do as a client, in my book, and in the mini makeover guide!

The big buckets

It can help to start with broad strokes, so ask yourself if your style seems to fall into one of the most-used categories: Preppy, minimalist, classic, edgy, Bohemian. Other less-used but potentially helpful buckets include romantic, androgynous/tomboy, sporty, retro, and bombshell. Do any of these fit, even partially?

Style icons

Even if you struggle to pin a broad term to your own style, you may still be able to identify a few other people whose style you admire and seek to emulate. Style icons needn’t be famous; They can be people in your own life, fictional characters, anyone. Can you think of a style icon? What do you love about her/his style? How would you describe her/his style? Do those terms apply to you, too?

Adjective brainstorming

Making a nice, long list of terms that describe aspects of your style and dressing preferences can give you some clarity. Are you dressy, casual, colorful, neutral, textural? Are your clothes sparkly, soft, sculptural, flowy, or embellished? Try a stream-of-consciousness brain dump and see what happens. A few key descriptors may rise to the top.

Patterns and signatures

Take a peek in your closet and look for items that appear in multiples: Do you have gobs of moto jackets? (I know I do.) Tons of ballet flats? Is your closet overflowing with maxi dresses and billowy blouses? How about cowboy boots? More than one pair? If you have a couple of styles or items that get bought and worn often, they may be contributing to your signature style. What patterns can you identify in your wardrobe? Do they describe a specific style?

Photographic evidence

Still photos offer startlingly different perspective from mirrors, so consult a few snapshots. If you do this, you’ll need multiple images for reference. What common threads do you see? Any signatures or patterns? Do your outfits remind you of any potential style icons? Can you put your style into one of the big buckets?

Ask around

Talk to someone in your life who sees you frequently and knows you in a variety of settings from casual to personal. How does this person see your style? How does she/he describe your dressing choices? Don’t think this is a last resort option, either, friends! The people who know you well can offer insight and clarity even if you’ve already got some pretty solid descriptors.

This is not an exact science and these steps may still leave you drawing a blank. But hopefully getting the ball rolling will help. The vast majority of us never take the time and energy to understand our personal styles well enough to describe them, but it can be a really valuable exercise. Once you know how to describe your style, you can begin to refine it. As you shop, you can pass over items that don’t fit within your ideals. As you purge, you can jettison items that aren’t harmonious with your personal style. Putting some words around your style can be subtly but powerfully beneficial.

Can you describe your style in a few words or a short phrase? Do you wish you could? Think any of these exercises might help?

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Reader Request: Family Vacation Style

dressing for family vacation

Reader Ursula posted this question to Facebook:

Have you written about how to dress for family vacations (Disney specifically) and not look like you are trying too hard (or too little as the case may be)? Struggling with function and body image on this one.

I’ll admit to never having entered a Disney theme park and I don’t have kids myself, but I’ve been to loads of amusement parks for day trips and taken plenty of vacations – with family and alone – that require similar amounts of walking and standing in line. (Think art museums in Florence in June. LINES, people, oh the lines.) So although I can’t speak from direct Epcot-based experiences, I will make my suggestions and ask those of you who have done Disney or similar family trips to lend a hand in the comments!

Feet first

Last year I was reminded that in hot weather, feet swell and swollen feet in even the comfiest of ballet flat-like shoes worn without socks will lead to blisters. This year I was reminded that walking around for 8+ hours in ANY temperature will cause your feet to swell and  flats can be killer in those cases, too. If your feet hurt, all bets are off, so consider your footwear choices first.

Audi’s solution is supremely comfy sandals which allow your feet to breathe and can have a little more leeway for swelling. Try comfort brands like Clarks, Dansko, and ECCO for starters, but sportier, casual brands like Crocs and Teva can work, too, depending on the clothes you plan to wear.

My feet can get just as torn up by sandals as they can by flats, so I’m thinking upgraded sneakers instead. If you don’t need loads of support, classic Keds or Chuck Taylors will look equally cute with sporty dresses and with shorts. But since most of us can’t do something that flat for hours on end, check out the current Keen offerings – especially the Maderas and Coronado – as well as the Teva Freewheel and Dr. Scholl’s Jennie.

Accessories next

No, really. Accessories are key to both comfort and style when you’re on vacation, especially if you’re both walking and hauling.

For starters, make sure you’ve got a bag that is lightweight and comfortable to carry. Something that can be worn crossbody like this LeSportsac bag would be great – water resistant and absolutely featherweight. If you’ve got to haul diapers, bottles, or other heavy kid supplies you will need something sturdier, of course, but if the whole gang is mobile and carrying their own stuff, pick a lightweight bag for yourself.

Track down a pair of sunglasses that you totally love. In all likelihood, they’ll be on your face more than off, so don’t settle for an OK pair. Target has a great selection, and if you’re willing to spend more I love the shapes at Madewell. This is a great way to up your style quotient, even if the rest of your outfit is super casual.

And consider picking a single set of simple jewelry for the whole trip. Stud earrings or smallish ones that won’t get caught in hair, a gold or silver chain necklace, and a bracelet or watch. Jewelry may seem like overkill, but opting for classic, understated items will help you look more polished without feeling over-embellished.

Clothing choices

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with shorts and tees for family vacations, so long as they’re actually comfy. Shorts can chafe and bunch on certain bodies and especially in hot weather, so bear that in mind – blister block or talcum on the thighs can help, as can wearing slip shorts (unless they make you overheat). Also remember that you are likely to wear a size larger in shorts than you generally do in pants, so consider sizing up. Also also super long shirts worn with shorts may throw off your proportions, so pick tees that balance you out. I’d do v-necked tees in solid colors, tan or denim shorts, and cute sneaks. Simple, clean, casual but classy.

If you want to have some non-shorts options, think about dresses from athletic brands like Athleta and Title Nine as well as brands that offer washable, durable knits like Land’s End. Dress, sunnies, sneaks, bag, done. And if you’ve got any slightly fancier stuff planned, add a scarf and some jewelry to your suitcase to dress up your knit frock.

Protect your skin

A sidenote to style, but I’m throwing it in anyway. SLATHER YOURSELF WITH SUNSCREEN. Make sure you have protection for your face and lips, too. Since you will likely be getting your photo taken approximately every 12 seconds, consider a tinted balm like my beloved Fresh Sugar. One swipe and you’ve got SPF 15 and a hint of color.

If you’re camping or hiking instead of hitting a theme park or roaming around a major city, some of these suggestions will need tweaking. Rugged footwear, appropriate bags, and wicking clothing may all come into play, so adjust your choices depending on your destination.

In terms of trying too hard? Unless you’re dripping logos and diamonds while riding the rides, I doubt anyone will notice. Maybe I’m being naive, but my guess is that most of the families roaming around the Magic Kingdom are too busy building memories and snacking and laughing and posing with princesses to care what other families are wearing. I hope so, anyway.

Am I wrong? Those of you who have recently vacationed with your fam or have an upcoming trip, what tips and suggestions would you add? Anyone do dresses for weekends at Wisconsin Dells or Disney, or are you shorts all the way? What about footwear? Sandals, sneaks, something else? Help me out with your input!

Image courtesy snoopdrew

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