If you've ever dreamed of having an organized and well-stocked closet, along with your own custom lookbook that is readily accessible whenever you need it, here's the good news is: it's possible! There are now enough cool new applications online to make it easy and fun to catalog the contents of your closet, put together fun new looks, compile personal lookbooks, create packing lists, and even track what you wore when/where. We've compiled a list of all the "tools" you'll need, plus easy step-by-step instructions. If you invest a bit of time and effort, and you'll be amazed at the payoff: a formerly out-of-control closet miraculously transformed into a chic cabinet of wardrobe wonders.
- Hefty bags, a supportive girlfriend...and possibly cocktails
- Digital Camera or Cameraphone
- Closet Couture
- Photo "cleanup"
- Create a virtual closet
- Make fun outfits
- Easy To-Do Lists
- Stay Streamlined
1. THE PURGE Since you'll be cataloging every - yes, every! - item of clothing you own, you'll first want to pare down as much as humanly possible. If purging everything all at once seems overwhelming, start with the current season; remove everything that's out of season, stash it elsewhere, and deal with it another day (see #7). Then get ruthless and repeat after us: if you haven't worn an item of clothing or a pair of shoes in a year, you're NOT going to. This item, much as you love it, is actually taking up valuable wardrobe real estate and therefore stressing you out every time you open the closet. If it is really expensive or high-end designer, consign it - we recommend Linda's Stuff - or sell it yourself on eBay (there is an active market in fancy labels...and we speak from experience). Everything else that you aren't wearing gets put into the DONATE pile & passed along to the local thrift store. However, because The Purge is easier said than done, we highly recommend recruiting a chic girlfriend to keep the cocktails flowing, stop your spirits from flagging, and most importantly: help you weed without mercy.
Tip: You're not losing anything by giving it up clothes and footwear you're not wearing; rather, you're letting someone else have a chance to use them, and freeing up valuable closet space so it's only filled with the clothes you love and are actually wearing.
2. SHOOT Pull everything that remains from The Purge out of the closet, lay it out on a white sheet or plain background, and snap a digital pic of each individual item. The white background is key so you don't have to PhotoShop later (see #3) in order to remove a background that distracts from the fabulousness of the items in your lookbook. Alternatively, if you happen to find an item online that looks pretty much like the one in your closet, right-click it and use it instead.
Tip: For your lookbook to look as stylish as possible, steal tips on how to shoot off-figure fashion pix from NET-A-PORTER.com or InStyle.com.
3. CLEAN UP YOUR CLOTHING PHOTOS If you end up with a clothing pic that needs the background removed, try PhotoShop. Here's the quick & dirty 411: First, crop around your outfit as closely as possible. Then select WHITE from the palette of color options, and use your BRUSH TOOL to erase anything around your outfit. To get close up with a finer brush, magnify your picture up to 400 or 500% (look in the bottom left corner) and make the brush size smaller. Keep erasing around the outline of the outfit until it's against a totally-white background. Look at it one last time at 100% and if you're happy with the results, don't forget to save it.
4. PUT YOUR WARDROBE ONLINE Sign up for ClosetCouture.com - this is where you will maintain a virtual version of your wardrobe. It is organized by clothing category - including dresses, tops, knits, and shoes - which makes it a cinch to create your own personal lookbooks. They have a helpful quickie video so you can get started right away uploading your clothing photos.
5. MAKE FUN OUTFITS Use the Closet Couture function called Dressing Room to pull items out of your wardrobe and create fabulous outfits. Because the only choices left in your closet are only items that fit properly, you can focus on playing stylist and create as many creative outfits as possible. (This is also a great time to do a test run and see how those crazy-expensive shoes or extravagant bag you've been lusting after would actually work in your real-life closet.) Once you've created an ensemble you like, give it a name, and add it to an Album, ie. a lookbook. You can create as many lookbooks as you like - by season, by occasion (cocktails; date; work; travel) or even by clothing item (every possible outfit you can make with your LBD, your red shoes, etc). Have something in your closet you wish you could get more mileage out of? This is where you'll want to take advantage of Polyvore (Polyvore.com). It's a community of fashionistas who enjoy nothing more than creating fabulous outfits. You can either make your own like our red dress set at right (we were working on what to pair our new frock with other than tried-and-true black) or find someone else's outfits that are inspiring. Then do a screen-capture and add to your Inspiration Lookbook using the Closet Couture feature under Albums called Upload Picture.
Tip: Unlike print magazines where fashion editorials are motivated mostly by advertising dollars, Polyvore users simply adore fashion & creating cool outfits. So why not find an item on Polyvore that's similar to one in your closet, and see what kind of creative outfits the Polyvore users have come up with. You'll be amazed at the range and variety.
6. KEEP A TO-DO LIST As you're photographing clothing from your wardrobe and putting outfits together, you'll inevitably think of details you want to remember: get those pants hemmed; fix that loose button; buy a chic navy sweater so you can get more mileage out of that new floral-print dress...which is where Evernote comes in: it's like having searchable Post-it notes that are accessible online. The trick to making Evernote work is to be diligent as you're cataloging and organizing your wardrobe: the minute you think of something, make an Evernote of it, and pretty soon, you'll have a working To Do List of what alterations & fixes you need in your closet, plus a shopping list to fill in any holes. Sign up for free at Evernote.com.
Tip: Unlike the yellow sticky notes we all love in real life, the ones on Evernote aren't limited by size & you can write as much stuff as you want on each one. Best of all, they're accessible from any online-ready gadget so you'll always have your shopping & to-do lists handy, even when you're away from your computer.
7. PERSEVERE...until every single item of clothing you own is photographed, cataloged, and placed into a Closet Couture lookbook. Even if the entire process takes a few months or more, keep at it until everything in your actual closet has a virtual clone and is in a lookbook.
8. STAY STREAMLINED Once you've reached this hard-won point, make it a firm policy that Something New Means Something Goes. If you buy a new dress, one that's already in your closet needs to go - either donated or consigned. Any new purchases will need to be photographed, added to your virtual wardrobe, and put into one of your lookbooks. Because the real "work" begins once you get your item home, it should help end the mindless recreational shopping that got you in trouble in the first place. The beauty of this approach is that instead of aimless spending, each new purchase will be a stylish, powerful addition to your fashion life.
Tip: If every time you buy something new you get rid of something old, you'll never again end up with a closet stuffed beyond recognition.
9. ENJOY CLOSET NIRVANA...and by all means, feel free to be annoyingly zen and smug to everyone with regards to your new wardrobe mastery.
- Lesley Scott
(images: dream closet at top - dominomag.com; Confessions of a Shopaholic - NBCChicago.com; fashion still lifes - prodoto.com; photoshop background removal - archvision.com; streamlined closet at bottom - Living Small)
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