Guide to Better Style: The Curated Closet

Photo: bark

The older I get, the simpler and more refined I try to make my personal style. As a result, I’ve started to view my wardrobe as a collection to be curated instead of a just a closet to be stuffed. I’ve slowly begun to weed out clothes that don’t work, finally give up on looks that just don’t suit me, and gravitate toward timeless pieces and true classics. (See also: Wardrobe Staples Every Man Should Own)

Even better, I think my new wardrobe revelation is saving me money. Once I started to view my closet as a customized multi-season “store” that I create for myself, I began to avoid impulse purchases, items that weren’t in-line with my needs, and looks that I knew wouldn’t stand the test of time.

If you’re gearing up for spring cleaning, here are some tips on how to create a closet that’s more like a store and less like a mess.

Clip Looks You Like for Each Season

Vision boards aren’t just for winning the lottery or scoring a beach house. Clipping looks you like from magazines or saving images online will help inform the buying decisions you make as your curate your collection.


Cleanse your clothing palette by getting rid of what you don’t need and won’t wear. Be honest with yourself and donate, sell, or swap items that you haven’t worn in six or eight months. The purge will clarify the great pieces you have and bring into sharp focus the items you need.


Organizing your closet showcases your clothes, gives you some mental space to get creative, and helps avoid losing key pieces or wasting money buying duplicates. People have different methods for closet organization. Some arrange clothes by season, some by color, and some by item or by outfit. Whatever way you choose, arrange your space for ease-of-use with an eye toward maintenance. What organization method can you live with? What’s going to give you the best chance of staying organized?

See What’s Missing

Once you’ve removed the clutter and organized your closet, it’s time to take a critical look at what’s left and what’s missing. Maybe there’s a great pair of boots you’ve never worn because you don’t have the right boot-cut jeans. Maybe you have a beautiful vintage camel-hair coat but just can’t find the right sweater to go with it. Tag or separate these orphaned pieces so you can begin to consciously fill in the holes in your wardrobe. Refer to your vision board and pay special attention to versatility as you shop for those jeans or that new sweater — what else can it be worn with? What color, pattern, or fabric will work best with other things you already own? Don’t be in a rush to fill the gaps in your wardrobe. Sometimes the very best items come at unexpected moments — at garage sales, thrift stores, or during big sales. Have a little faith in clothing kismet.

Make a List

Creating a closet that’s truly a collection means no impulse-buying. Stay true to your look and the vision you’ve created for yourself; it’ll save you money in the long run. Whether you’re buying a whole new outfit or adding essential piece, make sure each purchase serves a purpose.


Reworking your closet is all about rethinking your clothing philosophy. It takes some time to get it right. Refine as you go. Continue to purge old stuff that doesn’t work, tailor what doesn’t fit, and add versatile new pieces — all with a curatorial eye.

Over time, your closet will cause less panic and begin to showcase a truer and more conscious style. With a better idea of what you have, what you need, and the looks you love; you can target your shopping — spending less and enjoying what you buy more.

Do you already buy with a curator’s eye? What are the best finds or biggest bargains that have helped make your collection?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I like this idea a lot -- I've been frustrated with myself because I have a propensity to buy conflicting colors. I have two great navy sweaters, but my main pair of jeans is black. My bright green dress makes me look like an elf when paired with my boots, which are bright red. Planning like this would definitely fix that.

Guest's picture

You make me laugh with your comments :) Always good to see the lighter side of things - good luck with your wardrobe fix-up!

Meg Favreau's picture

Heehee, I'm glad my comments make you laugh. Now I just need to figure out how to not get those laughs with my wardrobe. =)

Guest's picture

I've been working on this as well, ever since I got an office job and had to be ready/able to pull off business casual five days a week.

Since all of my previous jobs (except one) had uniforms, I decided to approach my new work wardrobe the same way. Slacks and simple skirts, button down blouses, and lightweight layering sweaters.

I also have a small collection of skirts and dresses that I am working on accessorizing for office wear. For the most part this means finding a sweater or jacket that I can wear over them and that works with many of the pieces. I've given myself a deadling of 6 months to find an accessory that makes my mostly unworn dresses/skirts wearable to the office. If I don't find something in that time-frame, the items are getting donated or swapped.

Guest's picture

The Pareto Principle comes into play, 20% of one's clothing is worn 80% of the time!

It helps to learn a few things:
-what looks best on your figure
-what colors look best with your complexion
-how often will you wear it (for cost per wear analysis)

These three things alone allow me to focus like a laser when I am shopping, especially online. I can do a search for "ruched, black, skirt" and get exactly what I'm looking for since retailers have improved their sites with extensive tagging.
I save money, space, time and get a look that I have imagined. Walking into the store can be the opposite, sensory overload, looking at items that won't look good on me at all. Red! Frills! Skinny jeans! ugh!

Kentin Waits's picture

Great tips, Valletta -- paying attention to the basics will help ensure you get what looks good, fits right, and is versatile!

Guest's picture

Thanks for posting this! Though it seems that this particular blog post is geared towards men and their closet contents, I have found many of these tips useful as a woman. I'm currently in the process of purging my closet and making a list of essential items I need. Since I'm fashion-conscious but on a tight budget, I highly recommend shopping at second hand thrift stores if you're looking to grow your wardrobe. Stores like Value Village even carry decent brand names at only a fraction of the cost of retail price.