Sometimes we need to get dressed quickly and get out the door. We often don’t have much time to put together new ensembles, so we tend to stick with the same “tried and true” outfits we’ve worn countless times. The fact that many of us are perpetually short of time goes a long way toward explaining why most women wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time.
Creative Solutions to Closet Conundrums
I have more time than a lot of people, but I still find myself reaching for the same combinations time and again. However, since I’m working toward cultivating a smaller and more workable wardrobe, I really want to make sure all of my closet items are earning their keep. If things aren’t getting worn, I either need to find ways to make it easier to wear them or pass the neglected pieces on for donation or consignment.
Whenever I have a problem to solve, I always try to come up with a creative solution that will work for my unique situation. When the problem in question relates to my wardrobe, there’s often some sort of tracking or calculations involved. In today’s post, I share one of my wardrobe “problems” and what I did to solve it. Since many of you may not share my particular dilemma, I also explore how similar methods can be employed to solve other types of closet conundrums you might encounter.
My Pants and Shoes Dilemma
When I shared photos of my Project 333 capsule items back in January, I received comments that some of my shoes looked quite similar, in particular the two pairs of black boots I had selected. In response, I shared that I included both pairs of boots because the heel heights were about an inch apart and I wore them with different lengths of pants. I’m very particular about what Angie of “You Look Fab” terms “PPL,” which stands for perfect pant lengths. As a result, I not only have some virtual duplicate shoes in my closet, but it’s also difficult for me to remember which shoes to wear with which pants.
Now I know that some of you get around such dilemmas by either exclusively wearing skinny jeans or by hemming all of your pants to the same length and wearing identically heeled shoes. Those of you who are nodding your heads right now are far cleverer than I. Moving forward, my plan is to center on two main shoe heights and hem all of my pants accordingly. However, in the meantime, I need to do my best to work with the variety of pant lengths and shoe heights I currently have in my closet, especially as it relates to items that I love and enjoy wearing.
The Closet “Cheat Sheet”
Enter the closet “cheat sheet.” I took some time over the past week to try on all of my pants with my various shoes and jot down notes regarding which shoes look best with each pair of pants. Yes, this took a chunk of time, but I was tired of either wearing the wrong shoes when I’m in a hurry or spending too much time switching out my shoes as I prepare to head out the door. I also have a trip coming up and I want to streamline my selection process and only pack two or three pairs of shoes to take with me.
After I finished my try-on and note-taking process, I created two “cheat sheets” to help me with my “which shoes with which pants?” dilemma. The first cheat sheet lists each of my pants (yes, I only have 12 pairs) and itemizes the shoes which coordinate well with them. The second cheat sheet lists my various shoes followed by the pants that are good matches for each. See the photos below for a quick look at my new “cheat sheets” (click on the photos for a larger view).
What About Shoes for Skirts and Alternate Pant Silhouettes?
I plan to keep these cheat sheets in my closet to streamline my getting dressed process each day. As we enter into the warmer weather season, I may opt to create additional references for my skirts and dresses and the shoes I wear with them (I have other shoes besides those listed above). However, those pairings are generally much simpler, as I don’t have to worry about how the height of the shoe impacts the length of my skirts and dresses (except in the case of maxi-length garments).
There is some overlap in terms of the shoes I wear with pants versus those I wear with skirts/dresses, but my pants are really the main problem when it comes to shoe pairings. I can definitely understand why skinny silhouettes and cropped pants have become so popular in recent years, as the shoe conundrum is far less of an issue with such garments.
I’ve mentioned that I added one pair of skinny jeans to my wardrobe in recent months, but I don’t see myself boarding the cropped pants train anytime soon. I’ll never say never, but after years of struggling to find pants that are long enough for me, the currently trendy ankle length (which is generally a few inches above the ankle) just looks “off” to my eye. I’ll leave this trend to those who love it and wait until full-length trousers come back into vogue. Yes, wearing full-length pants makes the shoe issue more difficult, but I now have a plan in place for dealing with it.
Other Types of “Cheat Sheets”
Now, some of you may have read what I wrote above and either thought I was far too anal-retentive or just couldn’t relate to my particular challenge. Well, if you like the idea of using a closet cheat sheet but see no need for the type I mentioned, let me assure you that there are many alternate applications which can be employed. Below are some other ways you can use “cheat sheets” to help you manage your wardrobe.
Do you always wear the same pieces together? Do you want to mix it up a bit but struggle to do so when pressed for time each day? Here’s where a closet cheat sheet can really come in handy. When you have some free time, perhaps on a weekend, play in your closet and create new outfits using some favorite pieces or those tricky items you aren’t sure how to coordinate. Take photos if desired to capture your best combinations or create a spreadsheet to track your results. You can also use one of the new smart phone apps such as StyleBook or Closet+ to assist you in creating new looks.
This application is very similar to the previous one but more comprehensive. In addition to determining which tops look best with a particular skirt, for example, you can also track the shoe, topper, and accessory options that work best with a garment in question. Having a list of go-to outfits that you know look fabulous can make it much easier for you to get dressed quickly while still varying things up a bit. Again, you can use a spreadsheet, outfit photos, smart phone apps, or a simple pen and paper to record your findings.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles to pack for travel. I always seem to take too many things with me and sometimes neglect to pack the right types of items. A friend of mine created a packing checklist to ensure that none of her wardrobe or beauty essentials gets left behind. While her list is generic in nature, you can create alternate lists for different types of travel. After all, what you’ll need for a beach vacation varies widely from your essentials for a ski trip, as one example.
Packing checklists can be created in reverse as well. After you return from a trip, take a few moments to jot down what you actually used during your travels. Also make note of what you didn’t take along but wish you would have, as well as those “dead weight” items which should have been left at home. This way, you’ll have an accurate list ready for the next time you travel. This is likely what I will do following my upcoming trip (and I’ll share my insights in a future blog post!).
Many closet minimalists and image consultants swear by the concept of wardrobe capsules. The minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 (read about my experiences with this challenge HERE) specifies that participants use a capsule of 33 items for a period of three months. Those who follow the challenge to the “letter of the law” remove all other items from their closets and focus solely on the 33 pieces they’ve selected for the current term. Project 333 is a lot of fun and an amazing learning experience (check out the rules for getting started or the “Dress with Less” microcourse to learn more), but it’s only one application of the wardrobe capsule concept.
Wardrobe capsules can also be created for the various roles and activities in your life. You may have separate capsules for your work attire and your weekend wear, for example. You may also have a formal wear capsule that you have on hand for parties, holidays, and other such events. You can either separate these capsules physically within your closet or use “cheat sheets” to easily identify them when needed (or you can do both!). Either way, it’s helpful to understand and capture in writing the different clothes you wear for the various events of your life.
You can also use these cheat sheets to track how often you wear particular items. I did this for Project 333 and was surprised to learn that I didn’t wear my capsule items nearly as much as I thought. The tracking was extremely simple to do. I just listed my capsule items one per line and added a checkmark for each time I wore a particular garment.
Tracking how often you wear your wardrobe pieces can help to guide your future buying decisions. Knowing what you wear a lot versus what rarely leaves your closet can assist you in determining what types of items you should buy more of, as well as where you should put the brakes on your shopping.
What Did I Leave Out?
I’ve provided a few examples for how you might use closet “cheat sheets.” I hope my suggestions have helped you to see how you might implement similar solutions for your wardrobe. However, I’m sure there are many other options which I’ve left out. Perhaps you are currently using a cheat sheet or checklist for your wardrobe or have done so in the past.
I’d love to “hear” your ideas for streamlining your wardrobe and the getting dressed process. What have you done to make it easier for you to get out the door, pack for travel, or best utilize your closet pieces? I know we have a very creative and resourceful group here, so I look forward to reading about your closet solutions. If you’re viewing this post via email or a feed reader and want to comment, click here.
This time a year ago, I responded to a question from a reader about why I continued to shop even though I had a packed closet and hadn’t made decisions about many pieces I owner. This post gets into using shopping as a coping mechanism and my some of my personal reasons for overshopping.
If you’re newer to the blog or enjoy revisiting earlier posts, check out “Why Continue to Shop?” Feel free to leave a comment on that post, too, if you wish.