Top Tips, Wardrobe Management

Detox your Wardrobe

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci.


Clutter is something The Lady’s Maid tries to avoid, especially within the wardrobe. Some of the wardrobes that the Lady’s Maid has worked with are so large she gets lost in them and would quite like to stumble upon a Narnia-like world to escape them. Ladies that employ a Lady’s Maid are evidently in need of someone full-time to impart some order on to the chaos that can become a woman’s wardrobe. But whatever the size of your clothing collection it is still important to adopt a little organisation and appropriate decision-making to get the best out of it. A YouGov survey revealed that there are around 2.4 billion pieces of clothing lying unworn per year in the UK, cluttering up wardrobes across the land; this equates to approx 46% of the national wardrobe.* Whilst some people may be hanging on to things for posterity, or “just in case” they need it, there is undoubtedly an accumulation and hoarding of unwanted or unnecessary clothing going on.

The often heard sartorial refrain: “I have nothing to wear” is often due to clothing clutter – it is hard to create an outfit if you can’t easily locate one. The Lady’s Maid advises performing a wardrobe detox at least twice a year to prevent overcrowding the closet. So, before you begin organising your winter wardrobe, try and have a clearout to eliminate old clothing that is no longer worn. This process is so important, especially if you regularly buy new clothing, as it will free up space for the remaining clothes and new ones, enabling you to organise them better and find specific items easily. It will also help you to identify what gaps you may have in your wardrobe – garments that you may need to purchase to get the full potential out of what you currently have. Having a thorough wardrobe audit is also very liberating – it will make you feel much more organised and in control of your clothes and your style. The ends of seasons are the best times to have a clearout, so you can do it at the same time as rotating your wardrobe and putting out-of-season-clothes into storage (see post on seasonal storage for tips on storing clothes).

When you go through your wardrobe, be realistic about the clothes that you wear day to day; hanging on to garments that you no longer wear takes up space unnecessarily, so try to adopt a ruthless sorting process. The detox process will be easier for you if you have a portable garment rail to place clothing on while you are sorting through your garments. Divide into the following groups:

  1. Keep, wear regularly
  2. Keep, but need to supplement with new purchases in order to wear
  3. Washing/ironing/mending
  4. eBay
  5. Charity
  6. Storage (out of season)
  7. Discard/recycle

If there are any garments that are dirty or damaged or need altering deal with them before returning to the wardrobe or selling/donating to charity. If they need repairing/altering you aren’t going to wear them until they’re fixed – nothing should be in the wardrobe that isn’t ready to wear.

If garments no longer fit or you haven’t worn them in a while, try selling on eBay first or donate to a charity shop. Popular designer and high-street labels and occasion outfits/dresses tend to sell better on eBay than casual clothes, so consider sending casual clothes straight to the charity shop if they are in good condition, or to a clothing recycling bank. High end designer labels will also sell well on designer second hand clothing websites such as www.hardlyeverwornit.com

Keeping organised

To keep your clothing collection at a manageable level, try to resist purchasing any unnecessary items and focus instead on filling the gaps in your wardrobe that were revealed after the clear-out – Group 2 is likely to be full of separates which only work if they have something to work with. Make a list of things you think your existing wardrobe would benefit from and focus on acquiring these items the next time you go clothes shopping. Your goal is for a complete, versatile and manageable wardrobe to fit in with your space and lifestyle. Resist the temptation to purchase new one-off garments unless you think they will complement what you already own.

Another way of keeping control of your new tidy wardrobe is to always get rid of something old every time you buy something new. Unless you have unlimited space this is the only way that you will keep the size of your wardrobe at a constant level and prevent overcrowding. By selling old items on eBay this will also make you feel more justified in making a new purchase as you have given yourself a discount tag!

Once the detox is complete your remaining wardrobe needs to be efficiently organised so that you can easily locate specific garments. Avoiding clutter creeping back in will be much easier if you have appropriate wardrobe space and storage solutions, so in the next post The Lady’s Maid will look at wardrobe organisation.

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* YouGov report commissioned by Marks & Spencer in April 2012.

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Top Tips, Wardrobe Management

Seasonal Storage

As the days start to draw in and the temperature drops autumn/winter brings not only the very welcome start of a new series of Downton Abbey (about which the Lady’s Maid is naturally very excited) but the need for a seasonal wardrobe change. Now is a perfect time to pack away your summer clothing and bring out the winter woollens. With that in mind the Lady’s Maid thought it fitting to use her inaugural post to offer tips and guidance on how best to store clothing when it is out of season.

‘ “This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.’

– C. S. Lewis, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe

If you don’t have an enormous wardrobe extending onto a further magical world like Narnia you will need to pack away clothing after summer has passed to maximise the space available for winter wear, which is likely to be much bulkier (especially if like lucky Lucy your wardrobe is full of furs).

Clothes are at the greatest risk of damage when in storage if they are not protected properly, so ensure that you take the correct steps to protect your garments. If you have a spare room, put a rail or wardrobe in there for clothes you want to keep on hangers, otherwise most clothes can be folded and put in clothing storage bags or boxes and placed on top of wardrobes or under beds.

1. Firstly, ensure that everything going into storage is washed, clean and thoroughly dry. Surface dirt and dust will become more ingrained over time and cause damage to the clothing fibres. Dirty clothes will also attract bugs and pests – any natural protein fibre clothing with old food stains or perspiration will attract moths and carpet beetles which cause damage to the clothing fibres. Some stains are colourless, so even if the clothes aren’t visibly dirty it is best to wash/dry-clean them first before storing. Moths attack only natural protein fibres (silk, cashmere, wool) so your winter wear is more susceptible than summer wear but other bugs could still be attracted to any dirty or dusty clothing.
2. If there are any clothes that need mending make sure they are fixed before storing.
3. Never store clothing in polythene bags or plastic garment bags, especially if the garments are made of natural fibres which need to breathe. In plastic bags condensation will form and could cause mould or yellowing of fabrics, leading to permanent staining.
4. Garment bags should be made of a breathable material, like calico, and large enough to hold each garment. Do not pack too many garments in one bag as the fabric needs space to breathe and to hang naturally to prevent creasing.

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clothing storage box: The Holding Company

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garment bag: The Holding Company

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clothing storage bag: Cath Kidston

   5. If storing garments in boxes, fold and wrap clothing with acid-free tissue paper to provide further protection and prevent creasing. Use breathable boxes or bags specifically for storing clothing. Acid-free tissue paper is available from specialist stationers or some dry cleaners e.g. Jeeves of Belgravia. Garment bags and boxes can be bought from department stores and specialist storage companies such as The Holding Company or http://www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk. For added protection you could seperate precious knitwear from  other clothing and place in special cashmere storage bags such as these ones from The White Company.
6. Place an anti-moth lavender sachet or cedar wood block at the top of each storage box or hanging on the garment bag to protect from moths and other pests.
7. Place the storage containers in a cool damp-free area away from direct sunlight and heat. Above wardrobes or under beds are the most obvious places, or in spare rooms. Attics are not the best place for storing clothes as they are likely to become quite hot in summer and possibly damp in winter. They are also likely to be very dusty places as, unless you are the most devoted of housekeepers, it is unlikely that you regularly dust your attic. These conditions combine to make them the ideal home for bugs, and conversely the worst home for your clothing. Clothing stored in attics is also susceptible to damage from rodents looking for bedding material to make nests.
8. Try and inspect clothing that is in storage every now and then – moths are crafty creatures and even if you have taken all of the above precautionary measures, the odd one could slip through. In the event that this occurs you will want to be able to deal with any damage caused as soon as possible.
9. If you are likely to go on holiday to sunnier climates during the winter, it would be a good idea to keep holiday clothes together in one storage box so that they will be easy to locate when it comes to packing for your holiday.
10. When bringing clothes out of storage brush them down with a clothing brush and give them a steam or press to freshen them up. Wash if necessary or refresh with a scented linen spray.
11. If your wardrobe overwhelms you and you are prepared to pay to store clothing off-site companies such as The Wardrobe Curator will catalogue your wardrobe and store out of season clothing until you need it again.

In the next entry The Lady’s Maid will look at what you should do if your knits have suffered that most calamitous of clothing crises – the moth attack.

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