Facing a wardrobe rut

Oct 18, 2008 at 8:52 p.m. ET

The other morning I opened my closet to get dressed for the day and was utterly, completely, and thoroughly uninspired. I stood in my bathrobe for minutes that started to feel like hours surveying the prospects. It didn't look good. My newer and old favorites weren't looking particularly interesting and I looked at one pair of pants and wondered why I had ever (ever!) purchased them. Even though I wore them happily for a long, long time.

Nothing to Wear
Everyone goes through this now and again. The relatively new doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the closet while the same old stuff is just that - old. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with anything in the closet or dresser, it's just reach that level of familiarity the borders on contempt. But they are just clothes and with some careful cleaning out and rearranging, you can give new life to the old rags. It can feel (almost) like a whole new wardrobe without spending a dime.

In uncertain economic times, you don't necessarily need to go shopping to spruce up a wardrobe. You do need to use a little creativity and look at what you do have with different eyes.

First, weed out

When dealing with a wardrobe rut, a first step is to clean out what you have. Go through everything in your dresser and closet and put them into three piles: clothes you haven't worn in a year or more (or that don't fit anymore), clothes you still like but haven't worn in a while, and clothes you wear regularly.

Now, those clothes you haven't worn in a year? Put those in two further piles: clothes that are still wearable, and those that are not due to stains, rips or whatever. Put the wearable clothes in a bag and put them in your car; next time you go out, drop them by Goodwill or some other charity. The unwearable should go to a recycling center.

Of the remaining clothes, keep them in their piles, but look through them. Do any need repair or have stains that need attention? Mark these clothes in some way - possibly with a note about the needed attention safety pinned to it.

There will be a couple or few special items that are exempt from these piles. As long as you set limits on those items, that's okay. Formal or semi-formal wear might fall into this category.

Second, rearrange

Now, starting with the clothes you wear often, rearrange them into combinations that are different from how you usually wear them. Add in pieces from the other pile. For every "new" outfit you put together, take a photo of the combination so you remember - you can even add-in accessories so you have a complete look.

Keep doing this. Keep creating new combinations.

You will, however, have a few pieces that don't get used. If those pieces were from the haven't worn in a while pile, it's probably time to take those clothes to charity, too. You can keep a few unattached items, but not too many.

And those clothes that need repair or stain treatment? As you put everything away again, keep those items aside and set a time to take care of those items. Fix them - right away.

Finally, a little something new

As you were rearranging, you may have noticed that one outfit or another could have benefited from a new basic or accessory. Make a list of these possible additions and keep it in your wallet. You can keep an eye out for just what you need when you do go out shopping. If you are an adept discount shopper, all the better. And never underestimate what an accessory can do for an outfit.

While this won't solve all your wardrobe ruts, it certainly can stave off wardrobe pothole. With some creativity and care, you can create new looks with minimal new cost.

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