Lose the Clutter, Find Your Style

I’ve always believed that clothing reflects who we are. But if we hold on to stuff, it starts to reflect who we used to be. How can we grow if we can’t let go? A surprisingly simple strategy for stepping into your best look now 

by Jennifer Braunschweiger
Photograph: The Coveteur

Re-enter the black velvet blazer from Paris. Was it staying or going? I gave myself a stern talking-to. The jacket isn’t my youth; it’s just fabric. It’s not a vacation in Paris; it’s just stuff. But—no go. This is where the Wear Everything in My Closet Experiment broke down. I could not send that blazer to Goodwill as if it were a dusty teapot. Instead, I tucked it -gently into a keepsake box and carried it carefully to the cellar. Call me sentimental or even weak, but I believe that clothing is powerful. I love the memories that blazer whispers to me. I just don’t need a daily reminder.

Make the Closet Project Work for You

Masking tape is your friend
To keep track, I put a piece of tape on the shoulder or waist of every item. Then, when I wear it, the tape comes off. That way it’s clear what I’ve worn and what I haven’t—no cheating. (Once I forgot to discard the tape, which made a funny story for the colleague who picked it off my back.)

Do the work to sell it
Finding a consignment shop that handles the level of designers you own is a huge pain (I asked around, then tried two). But the effort paid off. I found it much easier to discard expensive clothing (rather than hang on to it “just in case”) when I planned to sell it. I worked hard to earn the money to buy these clothes, and it seems somehow more respectful of that effort to make sure they go to someone who wants them. My first consignment experience was humiliating—I felt judged when the salesperson examined the armpit on an Etro button-down and then passed—but I got used to it. And I did make several hundred dollars.

Stop shopping
I didn’t buy anything while I was doing the experiment, and I didn’tparticularly want to. That discipline turned out to be helpful: By not adding anything new, I was better able to focus on wearing what I already had. 

Take your cues from other women
On the street, in the office, on the subway, I started to become a keen observer. What is everyone wearing? What works and what doesn’t? I learned that once you hit 40, sparkly jewelry, unobtrusive makeup and nice shoes go a long way toward elevating a ho-hum ensemble. That and good tailoring. Wear clothes that fit!

Forgive yourself
Much as my colleagues loved to vote on my clothes, they almost always said I should keep whatever I was wearing. The takeaway: I am more critical of myself than my friends are. You may not give yourself a fashion pass, but others often will.


CLICK HERE to see some of the outfits Jennifer put together for her closet project

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