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Stylist Monica Barnett: How to create an awe-inspiring closet for career success in the new year

Barnett offers what she calls a "foolproof," four-step strategy to edit your closet for the New Year.
Closet purging can be as much of a physical exercise as well as a mental one, says stylist Monica Barnett.
Closet purging can be as much of a physical exercise as well as a mental one, says stylist Monica Barnett.Courtesy of Monica Barnett.

In preparation for a new year and to shed some of the madness that was "2020,” I want to share some expert insight about closet editing. It’s a New Year, new you and new closet…finally!

As a wardrobe stylist, it's a practice I conduct with all my clients. I tell them that it’s important to create a strategy for getting rid of non-value-added pieces. It’s equally important to come up with a game plan for using a closet revamp as a jumping off point for curating a collection that is more closely aligned to your personal and professional style.

Let's begin by agreeing that purging is as much a physical exercise as it is a mental practice!

Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.Courtesy of Monica Barnett

It can be hard, but remember that purging is actually “style realignment,” or taking what you have and adjusting/deleting based on your current style or personal brand. For example, say you did a girls' weekend in Las Vegas earlier this year, and you purchased that party dress (because all your girlfriends said it looked great) even though you kept tugging at it because it was a smidge too tight for your taste. It's time to let that go, because it's not "you,” nor is it aligned with your personal brand of being a Human Resources coach to up-and-coming executives.

The key to “style realignment” is to keep only the things you absolutely love. If you look at something and you think, "It's not terrible,” that item must go!

But let's shortcut going through every item and use this foolproof, four-step strategy outlined in my new book, “The Creatives’ Closet.”

1. Assuming you're clear on your style persona, separate your A-Game Pieces from everything else.

A-Game Pieces are, simply put, seasonless items that are perfect, you love, they fit wonderfully and are aligned with your personal brand. Note: the older you get, you should find that more of your closet is transitioning to A-Game Pieces or seasonless items that stay in your closet year-round.

2. Sort "everything else" into seasons.

Separate your clothing into two categories: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. This is the same thing you should be doing with your closet in general, so that when you look in your closet, you're seeing what can actually be worn at that time

3. For each season, separate the items into “Yes," “No,” and “Questionable” pieces.

For example, for your Fall/Winter items, you may have “yes” pieces that are a wool dress or cashmere joggers -- wonderful items that are versatile and add value to your looks and brand. “No” pieces are those that you know are out of style, way too big or small, are badly bruised or misused, and should be given a proper burial. And then the “questionable” pieces are items you're just not 100 percent sure on. For example, should you keep those extra-long, wide-leg corduroy jeans with cuffs thinking they may come back in style one day?!

So far, you should have kept all your seasonless A-Game Pieces and your seasonal “Yes” items. And you should have gotten rid of your seasonal “No” pieces and have one remaining pile of “Questionable” items. So, now what?

4. Separate your questionable pieces into “Not Now,” “How” and “No/Never” categories.

“Not Now” items are fashion-worthy pieces but are period-specific, like maternity wear. “How” pieces are those that appear to be fashion-savvy but you haven't quite figured out how to use them. For example, say you have a multi-colored, horizontal striped, cashmere sweater that’s a touch "loud" for your taste but you've seen stylish folks wearing something similar. You know you’ll figure out how to make it work. (Maybe after some research you realize to balance the boldness of the sweater, you just needed a darker colored bottom that picked up one of the colors in the sweater.) Keep it!

And finally, there are the “No/Never” pieces that, after an extended review, you understand they are not aligned with your brand. The 'love is gone', and it’s time to breakup.

Essentially, you are now done. You should have your seasonless A-Game Pieces, seasonal “Yes” items, and seasonal “Not Now” and “How” pieces. Everything else can be dismissed and you now have achieved two goals simultaneously:

1. You've made space for better!

2. You have a closet full of clothes you love and that are aligned with your brand - WINNING!

Monica Barnett founded Blueprint for Style in 2008. She is a wardrobe stylist and personal branding expert who works with individuals to solve personal styling conundrums but also conducts professional development seminars and training for businesses focused on 'the power of the first impression'. While based in Washington, D.C., Blueprint for Style works across the country and you can always connect with her using Pocket Personal Stylist!