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The M Dash

Live with purpose.


How to Edit Your Closet in 3 Simple Steps

July 29, 2015

When it comes to building a great work wardrobe, you need to start with a solid and well-curated base. The first step? Think like an editor (i.e., break out the red pen).

Bestselling author Stephen King often touts the famous mantra: “Kill your darlings.” What he means is: Don’t get sentimental about things that don’t serve your greater purpose. For the writer, that’s a sentence (or a page, or a chapter) that doesn’t enhance the larger narrative. For the professional woman, it’s those clothes that you’re attached to, but that you never actually wear. In other words, it might be time to kill that random “going-out top” you’ve had since college. Below, we present three tried-and-true rules for how to edit your closet like a pro.

1. Separate Work & Play

Your first mission: Separate your “play” clothes from your “work” clothes. You might think you own a lot of cross-over items, but few things genuinely make sense for both work and fancy-free frolicking.

Once you’ve decided what is workwear versus leisurewear (we love that word), create dedicated space for each. If you can swing two separate closets, we’re impressed. If not, just divide your closet in two, and be rigorous about storing clothes on their designated sides. Tailored pencil skirts should not fraternize with leather hot pants!

2. Be Ruthless

You have room to be a bit sentimental, but you must also learn to edit decisively. A few cherished pieces may last a lifetime, but that wine-stained blouse must go, no matter how many memorable nights you’ve had in it.

Come up with a vision for how you want to look and feel at work, and then adhere to that vision as you edit. If you’re going for a sleek, sophisticated wardrobe, it’s probably time to bid adieu to anything overly frilly, ruffled, or sequined.

3. Expire & Retire

Like much of what we own (food, technological devices), clothes have a shelf life. Buy them with thought, handle them with care, and make repairs when necessary. But accept the fact that they will have to be retired one day.

Dry-cleaners and tailors can work wonders to resuscitate a piece, but don’t hang on to anything that is:

Still can’t decide?

If you’re agonizing over whether a piece should stay or go, ask yourself these two questions.

1 — Have you worn it in the past year?

2 — Is this something “an adult” would wear?

Once you’ve decided what to retire, pay it forward! Through January 31, we’re giving a $25 MM gift card to those who donate gently-worn workwear items to our partner Bottomless Closet. Learn more here. 

For more advice on how to cultivate an amazing work wardrobe, check out Wear to Work: A Guide to Building Your Ultimate Professional Uniform.


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