Fantasy Wardrobe: Where to Begin

Since a lot of publications and blogs have been talking about decluttering, I thought I’d add my two cents in as far as how it relates to building your Fantasy Wardrobe.

The Fab Chick did a great post on how she’s starting off with decluttering her wardrobe.  It’s a great place to start.  Even Gayle King got her closet made over with Adam Glassman (who, by the way, is one of my favorite guys around…he helped me figure out what to pack on my last big trip all over Europe and Morocco…his suggestion…LAYERS).

We all have to begin somewhere…here’s how I organize my fantasy wardrobe.

1.  BY COLOR.  Ever since I was a teenager and started falling in love with fashion in a remote town in the suburb of a cornfield, which is another suburb of a cornfield in redneck Indiana, I had to organize my wardrobe by color.  It was the easiest way to decipher what was in my closet, as well as how to put together a matching outfit when you have less than five minutes to get dressed. 

To this day, that is still my go to method.  My closet is completely organized by color from black on one end of the spectrum, to the colors in between, to gray on the other end.  This pattern of colors forces me to go for the colors first, and reach for the basic colors last.

One tip I loved from Gayle King’s makeover that I plan on doing next is organizing the handbags and shoes in the same manner…but I’ll need a bigger closet to make that happen.  Right now, I have a very tiny closet (tiniest one I’ve ever had in my life), but it works for me.

2.  ROTATE & DE-CLUTTER.  Every season, I rotate my wardrobe.  In the first signs of spring, I pull out my spring/summer wardrobe and begin incorporating some pieces that would go well with the changing of seasons.  As I go through the fall/winter wardrobe, I start to pack away the pieces that will definitely not go into the spring months…like pumpkin orange scarves.

This is also a good time to go through my closet and figure out what I like and what I don’t like, what I can donate and what will stay.  Usually those fad pieces that will not see next winter heads to the donation pile.  Pieces that I haven’t worn at all in the last two winters…they go.  Why?  Because I have this rule…if I kept it around thinking I would wear it the next year (because I really liked it) and then I never wore it…chances that I will wear it in the third year is slim…it gets donated.

There are certain couture pieces that I will wear only one time a year.  Why?  Because people notice it when you wear it…I mean…really notice it.  I won’t wear it twice in one year.  I’ll save it for the following year.

Here’s a simple guide I go by every season when I rotate my closet:


1. When was the last time you wore it?  Was it 2 years ago?  If so, TOSS.

2. Are there any stains, tears, pilling, etc.?  If so, if the items are not repairable either with a good wash, sewing, or dry clean…donate it.  As far as your delicates drawer…if they’re stained, torn, etc., toss them in the trash. 

3. Do you love it?  If you don’t love it, throw it in the donation pile.

4. Are you going to wear it again?  If the answer is YES, keep it.  If the answer is maybe…put to the side and revisit after you are done de-cluttering.  If the answer is no…donate it.

5.  How do you look in it?  This is the most important question of all.  Only keep items that you look good in.  If you don’t look good in it…donate it.  No sense in keeping something around that you can’t positively feel amazing in. 

6. Donate the sizes that don’t fit you.  When I first started losing weight, I bought a bunch of clothes in three varying sizes.  When my body settled into its current size, it was a good three years since I had been in that bigger size.  It took a while to admit it, but after looking in the mirror, realizing I was swimming in my pants, I decided to finally donate the bigger sizes.  I wasn’t going back to that size again.  For the sizes that were too small…I keep a few items around like Christian Dior suits because they are iconic (and Dior).  I keep them around for a different reason…it’s because I have a love for vintage couture fashion…even if I’m never going to wear it.  For the BCBG stuff that I loved and just never was able to get into after three years…I donated it with the tags still on them.  After all, who’s to say I’m even going to like it when I reach that size?

7. Don’t forget the accessories.  Sometimes you buy something that you just loved…and then a month or so later you realized you didn’t love it as much as before…donate it.  That includes jewelry, purses, shoes, etc.  If you can’t see yourself passing it on to your future children and grandchildren…let it go if you don’t love it anymore.

8. If you want to go further…toss anything that’s not designer.  I don’t recommend this for anyone just starting out.  I only recommend this for the seasoned veterans with a bustling closet filled already with designer duds.  Only keep the designers you love in your closet…toss out all of the other stuff that isn’t designer.  Note: Every person has their own favorite designer or retailer according to what they can afford.  When I was making crap for pay working for the State, Target was my favorite name.  When I moved to NYC and made more money, Gap and Banana Republic became my new wardrobe.  When I headed into my next job, I moved up to Ann Taylor, LOFT, and then Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the couture designers.  It’s a slow and steady climb (trust me, it took me a decade), but I still hold onto a lot of those designers (including Target) from my climb up the fashion wardrobe ladder.  Actually, I still shop at most of these places, because I remember a time when I couldn’t afford those places (including Target).  It just makes me feel good when I shop in those stores knowing that I can afford them now, so they will always hold a special placeholder in my closet.


1. Classics.  Always keep your classic attire…like your work clothes…trousers, cardigans, basic sweaters, tees, tanks, dress shirts, skirts, your little black dress…  These items are the most essential part of your closet.  They are the backbone.  Keep what is still in good condition…toss what has seen its end of days.

2. What you feel beautiful in.  Always keep what you feel confident in when you wear it.  Fashion isn’t just about the clothes, it’s about the woman wearing the clothes.  What you wear defines the person inside of you.  Always keep the stuff around that makes you feel absolutely good about yourself.

3. Keep the stuff that doesn’t hurt you.  Those shoes that felt just right when you first bought them, only to hurt you so badly the day you actually wore them…if you never got around to breaking them in properly and they’ve been there for a while…donate them.  This goes the same for clothing.  If something about it jabs at you or is too tight in certain places (but if you just cover it up…), it violates the rule above.  Move it on out.  Only keep the clothing that you feel comfortable in.

4. Layering pieces.  One of the tricks to traveling all over the world like I do…LAYERING (see Adam Glassman’s advice to me above).  I have an arsenal of tank tops.  I mean, it’s every color of the friggin rainbow (stripes included)…all from the Gap.  What’s great about tanks is that no matter what stain I get on them, I still keep them because I wear tanks every single day.  Whether it’s to sleep at night, or under a sweater, dress, or see through top…tank tops are the best thing to happen to my wardrobe.  For some people it could be regular t-shirts.  I wear tanks under basically everything.  I can throw two tanks on, a sweater, and a cardigan while in the Swiss mountains and then take it down to just a tank and a lightweight top in the Sahara Desert the next week.  Layering pieces are the most essential part of your closet.  Build on them. 

5. The big designer names.  We all have that one love affair with a designer name.  Mine is Valentino Garavani.  I have started amassing my own Valentino collection over the past few years (at a very slow pace).  I wear his stuff maybe once a year because people always notice when I wear Valentino.  Why?  Because he makes me feel daring inside…daring enough to wear a $4,000+ dress in public.  I wear his shoes…everyone notices.  I wear his sunglasses, people exclaim “WOW.”  Me, throw out anything with Valentino on it?  You have got to be kidding me.  He’s a keeper.

6.  The stuff you wear all of the time.  You know what these items are.  The stuff you wear all of the time are a given that they are keepers.  Why?  Because you’re using them.  The point in de-cluttering is to get rid of the stuff you are not using. 


1.  Use this time to decipher what needs to be repaired, dry cleaned, etc.  Before packing away one season, always make sure to take your coats in for dry cleaning (your Uggs, too).  Drop the winter boots off to be re-soled and shined.  If anything needs mending, drop them off to your dry cleaner for mending (or do it yourself).  Wash those delicates you’ve been putting off hand washing.  At the end of summer, make sure your whites are cleaned, as well as all of your dry clean only dresses.

2. After going through your wardrobe, make a list of things that you will need to get going into the next season, especially if you need more classics or pants (or underwear).

3. Keep a list of items you are donating.  This comes in handy during tax time.  The tax man wants to know how many shirts, pants, etc. you donated.  Keep a list handy.  Make sure to keep note of the major designer donations separate from the regular stuff.  Their worth is a little more on the donation line.

4.  DONATE IT. If you can’t drop it off, call one of the charities to come and pick it up from you. is one of my favorites that will come by and pick up donations.

5. SELL IT.  If you don’t want to donate a major designer…try your hand at Ebay, CraigsList or even Bonanza.  I know that when I got rid of a lot of suits in the bigger size, I took a picture of them, threw them all in a bag and sold two garbage bags worth of business clothes for $50 on Craigslist.  When the woman met me to make the exchange…she asked me if I was sure I wanted $50 for it all.  She said there was so much nice stuff in there (all designer).  Hey, in this economy, if $50 worth of business clothes will help a woman going back to work…you’re doing something good.

6. Re-evaluate your delicates drawer.  Each rotation also means a visit to my delicates drawers to see what fits, what doesn’t fit, and what needs to be tossed.  Bras usually hit my list of what I need to buy every season because not all bras (even if you buy from the same brand) will fit the same.  Because the distribution of fat seems to move around a lot on my body, there are days that one size fits right, a month later, I need to go down a size, then the next month I have to go up a size.  It doesn’t make sense…but that also means that I have to re-evaluate what I have now.  Sometimes I’ll find a hole in the lace (needs to be tossed), or when I wore the bra it offered no support, or the wire poked into my sides…these are all things you have to re-visit and decide what you need to get rid of, and what you need to update.  That way you can keep a list of what bras (and other delicates) you need to purchase.

7. Shapewear.  All shapewear has an expiration date.  You’ll have to Google this information based on what you own.  A lot of brands will tell you that you can get X amount of wear and X amount of washings out of the garment before it will be of no use to you.  Look up the info and keep track of how many times you’ve worn the shapewear.  Just because it’s loosening up, doesn’t mean you’ve lost weight.  It just means that the effectiveness of the shapewear no longer exists.  You’ll be surprised to find out that for some major (and expensive) brands, you can only get 9 wears out of it before it’s of no use to you.

3. Where to stuff ’em.  The question when I rotate my wardrobe is: where do I stuff my wardrobe when I rotate it?  Well, while I was in Morocco, I bought two leather poufs (unstuffed).  I thought it would just be easier to take back home.  My driver told me that it was a wise buy, because I could stuff old clothes and blankets into it.  I thought…what a novel idea!  I could stuff my wardrobe in there when I rotated it.  Looking at the poufs, I didn’t think it would be possible to put my entire summer wardrobe into it.  Oh…you better believe I was able to fit my entire summer wardrobe into it! 

You can buy unstuffed Moroccan poufs HERE.  It’s a great way to store your seasonal wardrobe AND have extra seating in your home. 

4. A Pretty Closet is a Happy Fashionista.  What makes a pretty closet besides pretty clothes?  An organized closet.  Beyond just color coordinating my wardrobe, I have a separate wardrobe just for my handbangs.  I have them all hanging up alongside my coats and my new clothes waiting to be worn for the first time.  I’m getting ready to develop a new organized system based on pretty storage boxes. 

Since I’ve started collecting Kate Spade, Rebecca Minkoff, Fendi, Carlos Falchi, Louis Vuitton bags and clutches, I decided to buy large storage boxes to separate my bags for when I’m not using them based on either the designer or the style (i.e. clutches all go in one box).  This has helped to pretty up my purse closet.  As far as shoes…I keep them in the box, only keeping flats in reach (since I wear them the most). 

Always make sure that your closet is organized from top to bottom.  It will make it easier to find what you’re looking for.  Nobody likes to look at clutter, so keep everything clean and easy for you to use and pull from the closet without stressing about ironing the wrinkles out of a pair of pants (trust me, that stresses me out beyond belief when I know that I don’t have pants in my closet that are ready to wear).

5. Organize your drawers.  Would you believe that my underwear is completely organized according to sexy, girl shorts, and the not so sexy?  It makes it easier for me to pull my underwear out in the morning based on what clothes I’m wearing and what activitiy will be happening that day.  My socks are also color coordinated, bras are lined up accordingly, tank tops and tees are folded away nicely, cardigans are separated according to color, sweaters neatly folded away…you get my point.  Every time I do laundry, if I notice the drawer is getting cluttered up, I’ll take time to put it back the way it’s supposed to be when I put clean items back in.  It’s a sort of re-check to make sure it remains clutter free. 

6.  Do a little bit at a time.  No system is absolute or perfect.  After all, it’s taken me several years to figure out how I like my wardrobe to be kept.  There are days I’m too tired to put stuff away, so I’ll throw it on a chair.  Each week, I make time to put things away and put them back in its place.  I do this in all of my rooms, especially when I was re-decorating my office.  I swore to myself that I needed to do a little bit in my office each and every day (trust me…it was my major dump all room).  It took some time, but now I can see the floor.  Now, there’s nothing cluttering up the floor. 

Ever since I promised to do a little bit every single day, it’s now gone into every single room in the apartment.  One minute, I’ll do work in the office.  The next, I’ll clear up the coffee table.  Next, I’m putting things up on hangers and putting them away where they belong.  I’ll pick up a rag and spray bottle and start dusting.  It takes a little bit at a time.  My old roommate used to say that you should commit 20 minutes a day to cleaning.  For me, I just do a little bit here, sit down and rest (watch TV or read), then get back up and do a little bit more, go back and rest…you get the idea. This new system works for me.  After all, it’s making me get organized.

The good thing about the rest in between…it makes me think about how I can better organize myself.  Sometimes being in a different room, I’ll see something (or see a magazine article) that will help me better organize myself in a different room. 

7.  The Storage Container.  When I was in Target last time, I just happened to wander over into the $1 pit.  Oh, the storage items I found!  Since it’s coming in on easter time, I was able to find so many storage containers and trays from $1-$2.50.  I stocked up.  I didn’t know how many I would need or what I would need them for, but I stocked up.

I found a baby blue wooden tray for $2.50…that’s now what I’m using to organize all of my bottles in the bathroom.  Now, everything looks neat and it’s not falling all over the place (like they were in the last container).

I found a bunch of mini storage baskets for $1 in so many different pastel patterns…they’re now organizing the little trinkets of stuff I had in the bathroom, and it’s organized all of my travel toiletries into separate bins according to what they are (mini-makeup items, mini hand lotions, soaps, etc.). 

I found some bigger storage baskets for $2.50 that now hold all of the random paper I have to go through, my travel guides and maps, and all of the other miscellaneous stuff that just doesn’t look pretty out. 

Finding storage containers at a good price has been a godsend in my home.  I didn’t realize how great having a place to store things actually make you feel better about all of the ‘would be’ clutter around you.  Without those storage containers…it is what it is…clutter.  With the storage containers…it’s organized and prettied up. 

Target and The Container Store are good places to start in finding containers.  Also, another good place is Home Goods. 

My next container buy is acutally a wicker storage bench I found at Target for $69.99.  It’ll be a nice addition to my bedroom which can double as a little seating area, but also as a place to dump my flats and tennis shoes when I come home (hidden and out of the way).  Right now, they’re all around my elliptical trainer, embarrassing the hell out of me.

I recommend buying containers that match your room’s decor and will make you smile because it’s so pretty.

Purging: “Remember that 80 percent of the time, we wear only 20 percent of our clothes,” says McKenry. So go through your wardrobe and jettison anything that’s one of the four S’s: stretched, small, smelly (ew!), or stained (sure, you could clean the stained and smelly pieces, but the idea is to let things go). Another great tip: Turn all your hangers in one direction, and for the next six months, flip the hanger (and leave it flipped) when you wear something. Donate the untouched clothes.

Prevention: “The rule of thumb,” says Izsak, “is that when something new comes in, at least one thing—preferably two—must go. And be realistic. If you’re a size 10, hold on to the 8s but not the 6s.”  – from O Magazine

Also…great reading material: How to De-Clutter Your Home FOR GOOD.

Readers, just remember, the key to a great fantasy wardrobe is one where you know exactly what is in your closet.  A true fantasy wardrobe has your basics, but it also is meant to be built upon over the years.  I still have the same Calvin Klein pants I bought 7 years ago.  I still wear it 3-4 times a month.  That’s the key…it’s not buying a whole new wardrobe every single season…it’s about buying what you need (the basics/classics) and building around it.

The basics/classics NEVER go out of style.  They are the most important part of your wardrobe.  They’re also the 20% of your wardrobe you wear often.  BUT the key to building your wardrobe is to have one that you are proud of from the start.  You need to begin at the start by going through your wardrobe and re-organizing everything, and getting rid of the things that you no longer will want to take with you as you build your fantasy wardrobe.  Once you get past the first round, you’ll be ready to head into the next step…building the fantasy wardrobe.

About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth is the voice behind