This is the Part 2: Organizing post of the Wardrobe 100 series. If you’re new, Part 1: Detoxing is here. Wardrobe 100 is a collection of curating concepts with concrete tasks to help lead to a more developed awareness of your own style preferences and a more functional and harmonious closet in an open-ended way. This approach is style-driven, not just style-focused.
I’ve chosen organization to be step two for this process. It may come as a surprise, especially since step one is tearing apart your wardrobe and eliminating large portions of it, but I find that this is the key time to explore your tastes based on what is actually in your closet, identify what is missing, and determine your foundation as you begin to develop your style awareness.
Plus all your clothes are probably everywhere and you should probably put them away.
There are multiple organizational methods to help you do this once you know what is in your closet. I like to divide them into separate catagories of primary systems and subsystems, and as someone with multiple distinct style threads within my wardrobe, my primary system is conceptual with subsystems of uniform, garment type, and color.
Primary systems consist of the overarching organizational theme of your closet. These are the major components that help your closet make sense to you, not necessarily the way your individual items are arranged. The basic systems for organizing a wardrobe are usually listed as garment type, color, sleeve length, etc., but these methods fail as primary systems as they do not account for style cohesiveness in any manner. I consider true primary systems to include concept, uniform, and capsule organization methods. There are others, but these are the ones I will be detailing as I find them the most useful and easiest to apply.
The concept system revolves around identifying specific stylistic themes within your wardrobe.
These themes can be crystal clear or nebulous, but as long as you can identify some threads pulling certain items together after detoxing your closet, you can use the concept system. Don’t worry about determining what those threads ARE at this time, just notice WHAT they are – you don’t have to have know you like androgyny-inspired minimalism and earthy, romantic boho dressing right now, just that you like certain textures, cuts, or colors when worn with other textures, cuts, or colors. Find those pieces you like in your closet and group them together into concepts. Though the ultimate minimalist ideal may be to have one style concept only, this is no minimalist blog. Forcing yourself into a singular concept can actually be detrimental to your self-expression (and your wallet) if you happen to genuinely enjoy somewhat disharmonious aesthetics – you either end up with a closet full of perfectly curated clothing you dislike 50% of the time, or a lot of impulse purchase that for some reason never seem to work with what you have. The concept system allows you to explore multiple style threads with the option for further refinement in the future.
The uniform system shares similarities with the concept system and essentially operates as a more distilled form.
It relies on identifying garment types, silhouettes, or styles that appeal to you and composing your closet to showcase these items. If during the detox period you discover that you wear the same items repeatedly, or that you own 20 different types of white tees, you may be uniform dresser. Uniform organization allows you to pick and choose from your multitude of similar items to create different looks while still maintaining stock of what you own and visual cohesiveness within your closet. Group like items together and refine from there: uniform organization naturally lends itself to further catagorization by color and type. A closet full of basic tees, denim, and outerwear can easily be grouped by white v-necks, boyfriend jeans, and blazers fading to drapey black tanks, skinnies, and leather jackets.
Capsule dressing is currently trendy and often hyper-minimal with the ideal 47-piece wardrobe consisting only of multitasking, basic pieces in muted colors. While this may not be the only type of capsule and capsules certainly don’t have to be minimal, it seems to be everywhere right now. I find most examples of capsule wardrobes limiting in their one-piece-of-each-type mentality and they seem to very rarely happen naturally in a closet, but if you find yourself with little to no style flux in your wardrobe AND you also have a variety of pieces, organizing by capsule may work for you. Capsule organization – rather than the capsule wardrobe concept – works by pairing pieces into smaller units. These units are larger than individual outfits (this would be outfit dressing, something outside of the scope of this discussion but coming soon to a theory post near you!) but smaller than style concepts. Units work best when each capsule has a complete set of outfit options standing alone. For instance, an office workwear capsule may have black skinny denim, two skirts, two shirts, a cardigan, heels, and a moto blazer. You wear all of those pieces every day to the office, but it’s unlikely you’d wear them to non-work events. If you have a very compartmentalized lifestyle, this system may be a good option as it allows for workwear and off-duty pieces to be given their own space and allows you to take advantage of what each of these catagories have to offer, rather than attempting to unify two very different dressing situations. Capsules differ from style concepts as unlike a theme, there may be very little uniting the clothing within a capsule other than that the items can be worn together and are versatile for a particular aspect of your lifestyle. Capsules are usually standalone and have little to no mixing and matching between individual units and they work best when each capsule has a complete set of options – for instance, a workwear capsule may have a pair of black denim, two skirts, two blouses, a cardigan, heels, and a moto blazer. All these items can be mixed and matched between each other without requiring any additional pieces from the rest of your closet.
Subsystems focus on the physical characteristics of your clothing.
They work best within the framework created by the primary systems: organizing clothes within your style concepts by garment type, arranging your uniform closet by color palette, grouping together your capsule items based on sleeve length. Color, type, occasion, and weight can all be considered subsystems and can be mixed and matched based on your individual organizational needs. Remember that all primary systems can be effective as subsystems, but subsystems rarely work effectively as main organizational themes.
No matter the organization method used, I highly recommend including purses and shoes in your system. Both of these items are a very vital part of personal style and are often overlooked when dealing with the wardrobe. Shoes that may seem incongruous when you pulled them out of your closet during the detox may be essential to a certain style concept, or you may discover you own zero purses to carry when you wear your maxi dresses and gladiator sandals. Other accessories such as jewelry, belts, or scarves can be included but these items are often workhorses that transcend catagories – or you just wear scarves with literally everything, always, forever. Ahem.
You will most likely gravitate toward one or more organizational systems intuitively based on the types of clothes you have after detoxing your closet. A mix of pieces you love but are incohesive can lead to a closet organized by concept, a multitude of denim cuts may work well organized by uniform, and a highly varied wardrobe can be organized into smaller capsules to maximize each article’s potential.
Organizing your closet is not a science. There’s no hard rules to how your organize and elements of any and all systems can be combined to make a wardrobe that best fits you and your lifestyle.
Next week I’ll be posting my own experiences with organizing my closet, followed by Part 3: Refining your Closet which is probably my favorite step — because shopping is coming back, oh yes it is.
Have you attempted any of the steps so far? If so, what has been most useful? How do you best organize your wardrobe to fit your lifestyle?