There was a time when I knew my closet well.
I used to dip into her double doors every morning for a crisp button-up, ponte pants, and flats. If my day called for a dressier look, I made a beeline to the jewel-toned sheaths.
These days I only pop in to my closet once a week to grab a backpack for a trip to the grocery store. My primary wardrobe consists of work-from-home yoga pants and tank tops.
My closet and I are strangers. I know I’m not alone.
We probably won’t need one of the cocktail dresses or the wrinkled blazers that are smushed between anytime soon. And alas, our jeans may not slip over our hips with the same ease they once did.
So, what should we do with our clothes now? It’s time to reconcile our old clothes and our new lifestyles. I talked to some experts to help find answers on how to sort, store, sell, donate, and give away what we’re not wearing.
This is an excellent time to reevaluate all of your clothes, says Joey Clark, owner of Center City boutique and closet editing service Kin Boutique. Sort your clothes into three categories: Keep. Maybe. Give Away.
Ask yourself: Do I love it? Does it still fit? Does it make me feel good?
Separate your summer and winter pieces. “The only things you should have in your closet are the items you are wearing that season,” Clark says. “Otherwise you are wasting real estate.” (Pro tip: If those jeans don’t fit anymore, get rid of them.)
“This is a great time to get introspective about your own personal style and what works for you,” says Clare Sauro, director of Drexel University’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection. “One of the things we’ve learned during this time is what we can do without.”
Study the items you are keeping. What do they have in common? Do you like printed blouses? Are you in love with the sheath silhouette? Make these items the core of your wardrobe and build a capsule collection around them, says Sauro. This means that everything new you buy should match back to these items.
Once you’ve decided what you are willing to part with, separate these clothes into three piles: give away, resell, or donate.
Give away: If that red checkered shirt no longer fits and your best friend has eyed it for years, give it to her. Who knows, perhaps she’s willing to trade her gray, long-sleeved T-shirt dress for it. Think about setting up a Zoom clothing swap with your friends. But before you make the contactless trade, thoroughly wash the clothes.
Resell: Consignment shops, either brick-and-mortar or online boutiques — like The RealReal — that offer you a percentage of sales for the clothing they sell for you, are hit-and-miss these days. So call in advance to find out whether they are taking clothes and what their coronavirus policies are. Other questions to ask: What kinds of clothes do they take, what condition they should be in, and what season they’re currently looking for. And be prepared to wait it out.
Here are a few local options:
Donate: It’s also a good idea to call donation centers first. The need remains great, but because of COVID-19, many have changed their hours of operation or drop-off processes. Here are some options:
Now that you’ve pared down your wardrobe, it’s time to store what you want to keep but aren’t wearing right now. Look for a cool, dry place to store your clothes. Here are some other tips:
Examine everything. Replace missing buttons. Repair holes. And most importantly, Sauro says, make sure your pieces are clean and pressed. “The black suit jacket you thought you’d get another wear out ofback in March before COVID hit probably needs to be washed now,” Sauro says. “Not to mention, dirty clothes attract insects.”
Use the right hangers. Plastic and wire hangers often leave indentations in clothing, especially sweaters. Pro tip: It’s better to fold and stack your sweaters. For clothes you need to hang, use hangers covered in soft fabrics like velvet, Sauro says, because the grip ensures the clothes stay in place. And make sure the hangers are the right size, when hanging blouses or blazers. They should fit the width of the shoulder. “If you are trying to put a petite-shouldered jacket on a wide hanger, the hanger will distort the jacket and create a problem,” Sauro says.
Use garment bags: You definitely want to store your most special pieces — cocktail dresses, business suits, and ball gowns — in woven garment bags, says Brian Lipstein, owner of Center City-based specialty menswear brand Henry A. Davidsen. An opaque fabric will keep the ultraviolet light off clothing and help to prevent fading. Pro tip: A light-hued bag won’t bleed on your pastel gowns or leave dark lint balls on your dresses, Sauro says.
If you are storing more than one item in a garment bag, separate each piece with acid-free tissue paper — available at Staples or the Container Store. Acid-free tissue paper will let your garments breathe and prevent discoloration, Sauro says.
Use cedar, not mothballs. To keep moths and moisture out of your wool suits and silk gowns, place cedar chips throughout your closet, Lipstein says. Their scent is more pleasant than mothballs and less toxic. Pro tip: If you use cedar chips, Sauro says, keep your wools away from linens because cedar can accelerate the yellowing of your white cotton garments.