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"Fall is here, so now is the time to focus on your closet and your wardrobe and get them both in shape," says Ron Leal, a designer and fashion consultant with a knack for what he likes to call "closet therapy."
"You have to wear clothes every day so you may as well learn to love your body and respect your clothes and the best way to do that is to get your wardrobe and closet organized," according to the expert. "First step, pick an outfit, stand in front of a full-length mirror and be really, really honest. How is the cut, does it fit me well? Is it trendy or is it a classic? These are the questions you must ask."
Ron's approach to what may seem like a daunting task is a blend of tough love and less-is-more practicality.
"Nothing is going to date a woman like a floral print. A woman who focuses on neutral colors and items of good quality that fit well is going to look beautiful and put together no matter what her age or income bracket," Ron says. "I don't care if you shop at Target or Neiman Marcus. Neutral garments that fit well are the key. Add a little color as an accent and see how flirtatious you feel. You'll feel good because you look great. This process will do wonders for your self-esteem."
Before getting started you'll need ...
• Bins for storage, bags for charity items and for garbage.
• Invest in good quality hangers — wire hangers damage clothes.
• A full-length mirror — be prepared to try clothes on.
• A rolling wardrobe rack — so you can really see what you're dealing with.
• Have the vacuum handy — now is the time to actually clean the closet.
• Set aside several hours — this process takes time to do right.
Organizing the closet
• Rotate your wardrobe at the change of the seasons — spring/summer and fall/winter. Use the change of the seasons to remove everything from your closet, putting the past season's items into storage. This not only preserves your clothes but also gives you a chance twice annually to re-assess your wardrobe and organize your closet.
• Store items properly. Items to be stored should be wrapped in plastic and sealed in airtight containers. Label bins according to garment type and store in a cool, dry place.
• Put a full-length mirror in your closet. "This is not to be harsh about your curves but to give yourself a realistic assessment from head to toe. How does the ensemble look? If it's too tight, if the print is dated, if it looks worn — it's time to pass it on."
• Be meticulous. Organize clothes by sleeve length and color, same with pants and jackets.
• Be thorough. Don't just organize clothes — organize accessories, shoes and jewelry at the same time.
• Appreciate the process. "Eliminating clutter and being organized is a wonderful accomplishment that just makes you feel better about yourself; giving clothes to charity passes on the good karma to others."
Organizing the wardrobe
• The three-year test. Many fashion experts say that if you haven't worn an item of clothing in 12 months — toss it. Ron's rule is three years. "A quality garment that is well-maintained can easily last 20 years or more."
• What to keep. "Solid colors — black, navy, brown, camel, gray and winter white should be the foundation. Learn how to mix within these colors and learn how to add seasonal color as an accent."
• What to toss. "What looks dated are pattern, bright color and texture. As you clean out your closet these are the items that really need to be scrutinized. That printed jacket that looked lovely two seasons ago — now you look at it and go, 'Yikes!' "
• What about trends? "I'm not saying clothes can't have an edge. Of course they can! Just keep the edge in a neutral color. You'll look better. Trust me!"
• How do I accent with color? "Every season there is always a dominant color scheme. You have to be honest and assess if that color works for you. Just because you see it in a magazine does not mean you need it in your wardrobe."
• What about budget? "It's not about how much money is spent on an item, it's about cut and color. A $39 camel-color coat from H&M or Target can be fabulous."