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10 Things in Your Wardrobe to Never Toss, Sell or Donate

Some classic shoes, clothes and accessories are declutter-proof

A woman standing in front of a wardrobe closet holding a stack of folded jeans

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En español | Marie Kondo really opened a can of worms. Decluttering your closet has now become a YouTube and TikTok phenomenon, with everyone claiming to be an “expert.” But let's be honest, for 50-plus women, a closet clean-out is way more than a tidy-up task. It's a painful process. Our clothes have helped us fit in, stand out and move up. They've made us feel sexy, slim, fashionable, smart and put-together. They've gotten us through jobs, relationships, breakups, reunions, hormones and diets. We're grateful to them, and letting go is not easy, even in this new world of comfort clothes and sneakers. Here are 10 things to never toss, sell or donate (no matter what they say).

1. Silk blouses

They were elegant players in your work wardrobe, but in today's working-from-home world, is it time for buh-bye? Absolutely not! Stop encouraging your “good” blouses to be closet snobs and start treating them irreverently ... like tees. Even those with bows and peplums can get a cool new life as mates to joggers and jeans. Don't get hung up on perfection. The beauty is in the fluid, drapey look, so undo the ties or a few buttons at the neck, casually roll the sleeves, do a half-tuck and let the shirttails drift free. Try layering them under a denim or leather jacket or a slouchy sweater. They elevate a sporty look, just like a spritz of perfume or some red lipstick.

2. Your favorite old jeans

These typically belong in the “if only I hadn't thrown them out” category. If your jeans fit your current body (emphasis on current!) without squeezing, pinching or a struggle and they're not ridiculously extreme in rise or shape, keep ‘em! Good jeans are hard to find, and broken-in jeans molded to your own set of curves are worth even more. The best styles to rescue are straight-leg, cropped or even skinnies (yes, they're not going away!) in a consistent color like a dark or medium blue or an even-toned vintage wash. Then continue to wear them with attitude because, like us, they get better with age. If your jeans have gotten faded, worn in spots, or have a few small rips or a ragged frayed hem, so much the better. Extra style point for you!

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3. Blazers

Superstar designers like Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan taught us that a structured notch-collar jacket is all it takes to give a curvy body a stronger, sleeker shape. Throwing on a blazer whenever we felt schlumpy and dumpy, when the scale was five pounds over, or when we just needed a confidence boost was so reassuring — and it worked! So why stop now? Keep any blazers that still fit. Check the fit at the arms and chest (this is crucial for mature women), especially when you cross your arms and button the jacket. No pulling or creasing? Great! However, if your jackets have big retro shoulders or a boxy fit, a tailor can (and should) tweak the shape by removing the pads and taking in the excess fabric, raising the shoulder line, and slimming down the sleeves for a more modern silhouette. Though a blazer and jeans are practically a universal dress-up uniform, try slinging your jacket over a hoodie, pairing it with cargo pants or joggers and sneakers, or belting it over a dress. Get creative!

4. Classic cardigans

You probably have the newest versions — boxy and cropped or long and loose. But what about all the traditional cardigans and twinsets you've been holding on to? First of all, the latter are now trending for 2021, so start wearing them again as a duo. But don't stop there. Classic cardigans — both crew and V-neck — are efficient shape-shifters that can assume a new style identity just by working the buttons. For example, do only the top button and you get a swingy A-line shape that looks fresher over a tee. Or create a blouson style by securing a couple of the bottom buttons and pulling the sweater hem up to sit at your waist or upper hip. Belt your cardigan buttoned only at the waist over any dress (from tailored to boho midi), and you get a style refresh, or reverse any cardigan, so the buttons run down your spine, for an instant evening look. Don't worry: The sleeves and buttons will keep all in place.

5. Boots and shoes that make sense

Just because you once fell in love with those pointy-toe stiletto pumps or over-the-knee boots doesn't mean they should rent room in your closet today. You are not archiving for the Smithsonian or the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But these 10 footwear styles make the keepers cut: ankle boots that slip on and off easily and partner with any pants or jeans you own; knee-high riding boots and leather booties that keep your calves comfy and look great under midi skirts and over leggings; loafers and flats with sturdy skip-resistant rubber soles and oval toes that don't cram your bunions or corns; rain boots that are sleek enough to wear with polished pants; fashion sneakers with a shoe personality, like leather slip-ons or wedges; sporty sneakers for workouts and walking; cozy shearling-lined boots for chilly weather; and one polished pair of black pumps, because you'll need them when you least expect it.

6. Your best skirt shape and length

You don't need the entire spectrum of skirts now hanging out on your closet rods, just the ones that suit you. Basically, if you're bigger on top and slimmer on bottom, save any body-skimming pull-on skirts — like slip or knit pencil/tube styles. They'll give you a narrow bottom proportion that works well with wide, cropped tops and big slouchy sweaters. If you're bigger on bottom, keep those pleated skirts and A-line styles that pair well with fitted tops, tuck-ins, and bodysuits and have ample room for tummy, hips, thighs and booty. The minis and tight tailored skirts that make life difficult? Donate!

A woman walking out of a building wearing a beige trench coat

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7. Trench coats and black leather jackets

These might be your “forever” items. They make us feel edgy, urbane and cool, and look as right over a hoodie and leggings as they do over a little black dress. If you're lucky enough to have a classic beige water-resistant trench, hide it from your daughters and granddaughters! Same goes for the black leather moto jacket. Don't save either one for a rainy/jeans day. Instead think of them as layering pieces. Slip the trench over a midi dress, cardigan and boots, then knot the belt (never buckle it!) so the ends dangle. Or wear the trench open over a blazer and jeans or layered tops and leggings. In this case, just knot the belt in back or tuck the ends into the pockets.

8. Slim ankle pants with the right rise

Despite our reliance on joggers, sweatpants and leggings, you still need a pair or two of real pants. Since 50-plus women have more black pants than they actually wear (the search for the perfect black pants is one of our favorite hobbies), whittling your collection down to the best takes a lot of fine-tuning. Some billow at the belly or behind; others cling at the wrong spots or are a length that narrows our shoe choices. These are the giveaways. The pants to hold on to are ankle length (not capris), with a hint of stretch and a straight slim leg. They'll also look perfectly smooth from waist to ankle instead of having the second-skin look of skinny jeans or leggings. The rise will be high enough so the waistband hovers at or just below your real waist. Your best black ankle pants may be a pull-on style in a woven blend or ponte knit or a tailored flat-front style with a zipper and angled pockets. Find them and hold on tight.

9. Wrap dresses

Ever since Diane von Furstenberg gave us this now iconic style back in the ‘70s, we've counted on wrap dresses to sculpt our bodies. This one simple style restored our waist (or created one) and balanced our top and bottom proportions for an hourglass silhouette, and that V-neckline flattered every bust size and shape. And it was very forgiving about a few extra pounds. Before long, the style was mimicked everywhere, from Saks to Target, until every brand, designer and retail site made it a staple. A dieter's delight, wrap dresses in every color, print and fabric never miss the point … which is to make you look good. Never let them get away.

Earrings, necklaces and other jewelry in box

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10. Your favorite statement accessories

Sure, our bodies have changed, and we now wear comfier, sportier, more casual clothes, but don't deep-six all the extras! Earrings, necklaces, bracelets and scarves collected over decades are not-to-be-rejected treasures. They make us feel sparkly, radiant and original. Always keep your lightweight hoops and studs, clip-on chandeliers and whopper earrings, pearls and chains, pendants, bibs, brooches and bangles. Yes, I'm telling you to keep them all! Instead of editing down, try new ways to stack them up or combine them. You might wear one black pearl stud earring and one white one instead of a matched pair; twist random ropes of pearls, beads and chains together for a chunky new necklace; or co-mingle silver and gold bangles on both wrists. Just don't hit your ears, wrists and neck all at once — you don't want to look like a Christmas tree.

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