Shop Your Own Closet: Tips from Susan Wagner

Michele Zipp
shop your own closet

Photo from Susan Wagner

I really want her closet.

How often do you look at your closet, full of all your clothes, and say I have nothing to wear?! This happens too much, and not just when I am PMSing. How can I have nothing to wear when everything is right there in front of me? Mom blogger and super smart stylista, Susan Wagner, opened my eyes to a great in your own closet. How cost effective and genius, right? Here's how.

Susan's blog, Friday Playdate, has a piece called Shopping My Closet that had me seriously intrigued. She explained how she was two weeks into a pact with herself where she couldn't buy anything new until she wore everything in her closet. Everything. One day, she pulled out a J. Crew sweater that she hadn't worn in years, wore it all day, then realized later that it had noticeable holes in it. It was time to shop her closet again.

Here are the basics:

  • Make three boxes and label them Donate, Storage, and Alterations. Then you go through every item and it either stays in closet or goes in one of the boxes. 
  • Next, organize everything and try on again to make outfits. Hang items that match together or color coordinate.

Susan was sweet enough to take some time out of her mommy, blogging, and impending house-guest arrival duties to have a chat with us.

Susan Wagner

Photo from Susan Wagner

Cafe MicheleZ: Did you mend the J. Crew sweater or did it make the donation pile?

Susan Wagner: I'm going to mend the sweater and then give it away -- I was on the fence about it to start with, because it's getting pretty worn out, but I kept thinking that it was fine to wear; realizing after I wore it all day that it had two big holes in it was really shocking. Clearly it's time to retire the sweater, but it was a hard decision -- I think that had it not had a hole in it, I might have kept wearing it, because it's hard to tell sometimes when something needs to be retired. 

CM: You've enforced a "no jeans" policy for yourself. I need to do that -- I wear jeans everyday. How is that working out?

SW: I made it an entire week -- five days, which was my goal -- although it required more thought and planning than I anticipated. It's so easy to just to pull on jeans and a sweater every single day, especially when it's cold. Not wearing my jeans really made me analyze what I was wearing, which is good -- I tend to pair the same things with my jeans over and over. I'm looking forward to getting back to wearing jeans, but I'm going to try to mix up what I wear with them. We'll see how that goes!

CM: Did you feel you got more creative with your existing wardrobe? A la one outfit, three ways?

SW: I was thinking this morning about this very thing -- specifically, about how I probably need to rearrange my closet to break out of some of my ruts. I tend to wear the same pieces together all the time, and when I'm standing in the closet in the morning, before my coffee, it's hard for me to imagine new combinations of things.  Right now everything is hung by color and style, but I think that's keeping me from really using what I have. My next project will probably be to rehang everything so that it's in little "outfit" pods, with all the pieces together.

CM: How many items did you forget you had and are now a new favorite?

SW: This time around, I've fallen in love all over again with my black pencil skirt, which is super comfortable and looks great with everything, and a Flickr commenter has talked me into keeping a gray cable knit sweater that I never wore and thought was destined for the giveaway pile (she pointed out that it would go with some other things I had photographed, which I hadn't thought about before).

CM: How did you get in the right headset to get ready to tackle this time-consuming "shop your own closet" task? 

SW: I first wrote about shopping your closet two years ago -- we were getting ready to sell our house and were trying both to streamline our stuff and to save money; my closet was a jumble of maternity clothes and dresses that didn't fit right and worn out t-shirts from before my kids were born. I went crazy one weekend and just started tossing things; eventually, I got down to a pile of things that I really wanted to keep, but since I still wasn't sure what I had or what actually fit, I started trying it all on. And I was amazed at how easy it was, once I weeded out all the too big/too small/too worn things, to put together a wardrobe of just a few items that fit properly and went together. 

Susan's extra tips so trying on everything is not so overwhelming:

  • Tackle only seasonally-appropriate clothes.
  • Sort through things you know can be a part of your everyday wardrobe. Ex: If you're a stay-at-home mom, move the suits to the guest room.
  • Do the trying on over a few days. Skirts today, pants tomorrow, and sweaters the day after that. Another day and work with just one pair of pants to find all the things that will go with them, and then do one skirt, and so on.
  • Use a timer, like we do with the kids -- commit to half an hour of trying things on, and when the timer goes off, stop and come back later.  
  • Trying clothes on can be a chore, but it will help you identify gaps in your wardrobe, so you can shop for things that will fill them.

Susan's Friday Playdate blog is not just fun to read, but it's inspiring. She got me to clean to my closet -- a feat never once accomplished by anyone until now. Susan's an Oklahoma City mom with two boys, Charlie is 6 and Henry is 8, and she also writes fashion advice for BlogHer and tackles parenting topics on ParentDish.

Thanks Susan! I think you just saved me a ton of money, too!

What do you think CafeMoms...time to shop your closet?

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