With new studies showing the average woman spends 17 minutes a day deciding what to wear each morning, Lisa Armstrong suggests how to whittle back your wardrobe so you save an hour a week. And never feel like you have nothing to wear…
Seventeen minutes out of 24 hours – is that such a terrible amount to spend getting dressed? If most of that time is frittered on indecisive dithering or fruitless searching for long since buried items, if you only have an hour to get yourself and various other dependents out of the house, if you’re ruffled or stressed by the process, or dissatisfied with the end results, then yes. It is.
I can get dressed in five minutes. More to the point, most of the time, I’m happy with the results throughout the day. That may not sound like a monumental life-time achievement but consider the degree to which ease, practicality and a feeling that you look the best you can for the job in hand contributes to a sense of well-being. A skirt that constantly rides up through the day, a shirt that gapes, a jacket’s that’s not quite good enough to take you into a management meeting, or shoes that rub your feet into mutinous slabs by lunch-time can seriously damage your day.
As with all streamlined routines, preparation is required. This means systematic (re) organization of your wardrobe from the roots up.
Know Your Style
Also often described as Finding Your Uniform this is both prescriptive and intoxicatingly liberating. Once you’ve worked out what suits your shape (book an appointment with an objective, emotionally disinterested professional shopper in a store you trust), your personality (only you know what feels right) and your proclivities (are you dressing for a day in court, or by the tennis courts?), you can focus your energies.
Declutter. Or Organise, Organise, Organise
The average wardrobe comprises 152 items of which only 44 per cent are ever used. Overcome this by arranging your clothes and accessories so that they’re all visible and easy to access.
I compartmentalise my clothes by genre and then colour – all my trousers in one section, gradated from black right through to sky blue and cream – the same for jackets and shirts. That way I can ensure they have enough hanging depth in the various sections of my wardrobe. I can also see at a glance what I’m running low on and what I’ve been over-buying.
Knitwear stretches if you hang it, so fold and place it (with moth repelling lavender sachets) in clear sealable plastic bags. Remove all holiday-only clothes from the equation and pack away in a suitcase.
A Quiet Word About Accessories
We’ve all seen Iris Apfel’s specs and neck adornments or coveted Victoire de Castellane’s knuckle dusters… we know accessories maketh the outfit, but 8.10 am is not the moment to work on a stacking ring scenario. Practise your jewellery routine at weekends when you have time to work on some fail safe looks you can roll out with your eyes closed. Have block heels and flats, ankle boots and sandals polished and ready to go. The perfect daily bag? A tote with a toning or clashing clutch combination that offers maximum flexibility throughout the day and into evening.
Build Up Your Basics
This isn’t a mandate to buy a whole new skip’s worth of fripperies. Once you’ve pin-pointed your core army – whether it’s single breasted blazers, leather bikers or bias cut skirts – track down at least one other permutation so that you’re not reliant on only one dependable. A navy blazer for example, is a stalwart with jeans, white and khaki trousers. But matching it with other blue trousers can be frustrating, which is when a Prince of Wales check back-up comes in handy.
Next, augment your hero piece with a supporting cast: tops that sit smoothly under the jacket, shoes that complement the silhouette of your trousers, jumpers that are the right length for those skirts.
Learn to think in terms of complete outfits so that whenever you buy something new it’s in the certainty it will not only slot in with what you have, but improve it. Don’t forget underwear. It should all be sleek, not show under any of your clothes and fulfil its job, which is to offer unimpeachable structural reform at all times.
Unless you’re an instinctive colourist, sticking to a palette of half a dozen or so complementary shades makes life a lot easier. It doesn’t have to be dull. Navy, pale pink, khaki, grey – and a kick of orange – all work together and allow for unpredictable mixes. White, cream, camel, metallic and a sprinkling of animal print can all be classed as neutrals.
Look After Your Clothes
Without coming over all Marie Kondo (the Japanese best-seller who advocates purging your life of any item that isn’t making you happy, not that that’s such a terrible ideal), respect what you buy.
Dispatch anything you haven’t worn in over a year to more deserving causes. Only hang in your wardrobe what’s clean, pressed and fully intact. Finding a crucial button is missing from your favourite trousers on a busy morning is not conducive to your perception of yourself as someone in control. Find a decent dry cleaner that’s on your way to work so that you don’t have to wait weeks before you can get there.
Strategise Your Way Out Of Stress
If laying out your outfit the night before works for you, ignore the control-freak comments and continue. Unless I need to be out of the house at dawn, I’d rather take my chances and see what the weather, and my mood, suggests on the day. That said, I always glance at my diary before I turn out the lights to check what’s heading my way – meetings, after-office events – so that I can mentally slot together some outfit options. Is it a car day, or will there be a lot of walking? If so, which bag will take the extra pair of heels required? It’s my equivalent of counting sheep – effective, productive and soothing.