Tuesday, January 18

tuesday tip: is a must have list a must have?

Shortly after I came of age fashion-wise, I started seeing all of these "must have" lists floating around. "Ten Items a Woman Must Have in Her Closet", and so on.
So me, being left brained latched on to those. I especially loved Tim Gunn's list of

Essential Elements
Basic black dress
Trench coat
Classic dress pants
Classic white shirt
Day dress
Cashmere sweater
Sweatsuit alternative
Bonus: Trendy item
I grabbed that list and shopped till I had a neat little check by each item. Then I looked at my closet, back at the list, and back to my closet. Now what?
Far be it for me to argue with Tim Gunn, but yes, I do have issues with a universal "must have" list. Do I think a personal must-have list is a must have? Yes.
But every woman must take into account her lifestyle, not to mention what fits or flatters her.
A mom on the go (my friend Angie's brilliant term in place of "stay at home mom") will have a different criteria than a woman working outside the home. And even within those broad categories we have different lifestyles...a school teacher would have a different wardrobe than a marketing representative. A financial planner would have a different list than someone working in a creative field.
And beyond this, we have personal style that turns lists and ordinary clothing into YOU.
So as not to make this more complicated, I suggest everyone start with the same first step. Cleaning your closet. Empty your closet entirely, and make three piles:
Keep - Items you love, wear often, and get compliments on
Donate - Items you never wear, keep only because they were a gift, items that are damaged beyond repair
Fix - Items that you like, but need dry cleaning, ironing, or mending
Hang the keepers on matching hangars facing the same direction in the closet. However you choose to organize your items is entirely personal. I hang mine by item, ie: jackets, long sleeve tops, short sleeve tops, skirts, trousers, then dresses. I fold my sweaters and denim.
Put donated items in a bag and drop off at your earliest convenience. The longer they sit around, the more they'll nag at you and take up valuable space.
Find a place to store fix items, and make a point to fix one or two items per week until they are done. If six months passes just donate. You obviously aren't missing them that much.
This might take a day, it might take four. But it is a valuable first step in establishing what belongs on Your List. Be ruthless, and if necessary, enlist the help of a trusted friend who can be completely honest.
As always, if you have any questions or tips, please feel free to share in the comments!


  1. I've never paid much attention to "must have" lists because they usually didn't fit my needs. Maybe half the items on the list did, but that's it. They always seemed more geared towards career women, which I am not.

    Do you organize your clothes by color within each category? (I do, mostly for tops, hence my curiosity.) ;-)

  2. @Erin, but of course. :)

  3. So here's my problem. I think I have a pretty good idea of my own must-haves, but then I need to multiply that by about 2 or 3 sizes, plus maternity, plus each season. I only have enough closet space for one size, and one season at a time. The rest is helter skelter and terribly un-organized. :(

  4. Good points, @eLiz. While I've never worn maternity, I have (as you know) lost a lot of weight and have had to house various seasons/sizes in one closet at a time. It's tricky, but not impossible. I'll do my best to address that in the near future.