A Chic Critique: Grad Wife Fashion Advice

Today’s post comes to us from the talented and inspiring Annie Heyward, from A Chic Critique.  I know from my own experience as a graduate wife, I don’t always feel that fashionable. Maybe it comes my somewhat limited budget, the fact that I live in England and it seems I end up wearing a black rain jacket most days of late :), or that fashion sometimes gets the back-seat in my everyday life of dealing with family and academia.  We asked Annie to share some practical advice that she gives clients to help all of our readers feel as chic and fashion savy as possible.  I was so inspired that I went straight to the closet after reading her post and must say I feel more stylish than ever.  Enjoy! -M.C.

As a wardrobe stylist, I’m often asked by first-time clients, “Where do we begin?” At the risk of sounding a bit like Maria von Trapp, I always respond, “Let’s start at the very beginning: your closet.”

All of my wardrobe assessments and styling sessions begin with a closet clean-out (what’s that, you say?). A closet clean-out is a wardrobe “edit” of sorts, where I prune through all of the pieces in your closet – tops, bottoms, dresses, coats, shoes & accessories – and help you consolidate.

It’s imperative that every woman do this at least once a year. The typical wardrobe edit takes me, on average, 2-3 hours, and comes with a fee, but I’m going to give you a few tips for doing a mini closet clean-out yourself. Follow these guidelines for a no-cost, simple approach to simplifying your life and streamlining your style!

 Mini Closet-Edit & Clean-Out

Go through all of the sections in your closet (shoes. jewelry. coats. purses. jeans. dresses. skirts. tops. etc.) and ask yourself these three questions:

Does it fit me correctly?

 Answer honestly – no cheating! If you need to bring in a friend for a second opinion, by all means do so. Does it work for the size you are now? It’s tempting to hold onto that pair of size 4 jeans that you wore before you had children; however, if they don’t fit you now, they aren’t being worn and are clouding your closet. Dress for the size you are NOW. This is one of the hardest challenges women have to confront; however, I encourage my clients to let go of any clothes they are holding onto that they currently can’t fit into. Is the shirt pulling across your chest? Do your sleeves feel too tight? Do your jeans button? Is that old dress too short? Is that dress shapeless and a size too big? Be honest with yourself and get rid of things that do not fit. Style isn’t about being a certain size: it’s about proportion and fit. If it doesn’t fit correctly, get rid of it!

Have I worn it this year?

Ladies, just because something in on sale (or on the clearance rack) doesn’t mean it’s a smart purchase. Before you buy any piece of clothing, always ask yourself, “Can I think of at least three different ways to wear this?” If not, don’t buy it. You should never buy something that doesn’t fit well and work for your proportions. However, many of you have fallen into this trap; therefore, your closet is filled with things that still have the tag on them or haven’t been worn. So ask yourself: have I worn this the last 12 months? If not – get rid of it. Trust me, you won’t miss it.

Is it pilled, stained, damaged or just tired-looking?

Pit stains, fraying, and pilling are all just cause for burial. A good dry cleaning might do the trick, but there comes a point when it’s time to let go. Get rid of your college jeans from ten years ago – chances are that the jeans are dated and faded. Even basic knits and tees lose their shape eventually after 30+ washes. It might be time to say goodbye.

Keep a couple of plastic bins or trash bags handy when going through this process. I always have one bin labeled “consignment”, one bin labeled “Good Will/Charity” and a third bin labeled “To be altered or dry cleaned.” Look for consignment stores in your city – a great place to take an old pair of designer jeans, a leather handbag that’s still in good condition, or a designer dress from a department store or known label. The charity is up to you, but two bags of gently used clothing can always go to a great cause. Cleaning out your closet will help de-clutter your life and simplify the process of getting dressed in the morning. Now you only have what you wear, what fits, and what works for you. Get rid of everything else! Then you can see what you’re working with every morning as you get dressed and more easily put together looks.

After you get rid of what you don’t wear, you can see what the holes in your closet are and what you may still need. Happy editing, and stay chic!