About the Author
Online shopping expert and style guru Michelle Madhok is the founder and CEO of SHEFINDS MEDIA, the company behind shefinds.com and the sites momfinds.com and bridefinds.com. She provides online shopping tips on behalf of Bank of America and PayPal and has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, the Today show, and Good Morning America, among others. Madhok has been featured in Woman’s Day, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and New York Daily News.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Take a Good, Hard Look at Your Closet
Wake up and smell the khaki
Think of your closet as your secret weaponin this modern era, women not only have more opportunities than ever, more designers at their disposal both online and in-store, but also a million more events to get dressed for. In order to make getting dressed in the morning less of a chore and more of an inherent talent, like breathing, you've got to lay down the foundation. This doesn't mean you have to devote a ton of timejust a little. If you're seriously pressed for time, spend five minutes a day for a week on your closet if you must. We live in New York City, where we don't have the luxury of huge built-in closets or extra rooms to store shoes, which means we have to edit often. Some girls we know use their kitchen to store their shoesthe stove, cabinets and even some refrigerators are packed with clothes and accessories. We like to cook, though, and don't want to risk accidentally broiling our shoe collections, so we're constantly rotating our closets. Even if you have ample space, we recommend that you do this, too. How can you get your wardrobe straightened out if you don't know what you have? You cannot begin without confronting this part. Your closet first needs some serious consideration before you start buying, or you'll end up with some odd combinations of clothes that don't necessarily work together. (This is probably how tangelos were born. The only difference is that they're cute.) Your closet, if you don't cultivate it with care, will be a complete mess. Trust us: We're going to make this fun, and you're going to come out of it looking sexy, confident and sophisticated in the end, and for the rest of your life.
While it can be tempting, after a particularly harrowing day at work, to blow half your paycheck at the nearest boutique on the way home, you won't get the most out of your shopping sprees until you go through your own closet with a plan.
So the next time you have a few free hours, take some honest inventory. Haven't worn it in over a year? Does it still look good, and can you think of three more ways to wear it with your current wardrobe? Try it on. Does it look okay as is, and isn't in need of repair? Consider keeping it. If you answered no to any of these questions (and the piece is beyond repair), get rid of it. It may seem hard, but this is the tough love that you need. You'll want to save room for only the pieces that are actually worth it and that add value to your wardrobe. If anything is broken or worn to the bone, it's bringing you down. Fix it or say goodbye.
Start one step at a time, drawer by drawer. This is a much more civilized way of completing this chorewe don't recommend pillaging your closet and making a huge pile in the middle of your room. That's called self-sabotage: You'll never finish if you feel overwhelmed. Trust us: We've been there.
Here we go:
Look through each part of your closet or armoire. Keep pushing certain sweaters to the back of the closet? Give 'em to your sister or your BFF, who's always borrowing everything anyway. Are your pants pulling across your hips? Don't wait until you lose the weightthey're taking up valuable real estate. Get rid of them right now. You can find another size and style that actually flatters your figure. Other things in your drawers to take a close, honest look at: Tees (are they yellowed or frayed?), leggings (stretched or faded?), shorts or skirts (are they too tight, or can barely button?), sweaters and cardigans (shapeless, missing buttons or in a color you never know what to wear with?). Say goodbye.
Once you've got a pile of discarded items, it's time to play fashion detective: What's the common thread? If they're all cotton button-down shirts that just don't fit you right, maybe that's not your style, or it's time to get a custom one made. If your pile consists of all "dry clean only" pieces you never have time to take to the cleaner, look for pieces that aren't so high-maintenance going forward. If your pile is filled with mismatched prints and colors you got on clearancethings you can't match with anythingyou'll know to pass on the sale rack filled with lime-green cardigans next time. In the long run, it's not worth the markdown if you can't make them work with the rest of your clothes.
Now that you're getting the hang of it, move on to your accessories. If your handbags and clutches are still in good shape and you continue to use them, put them all in one place, like a clear storage bin at the top of your closet, or on hooks nearby for easy access. If your accessories are stored neatly and in plain sight, you'll be more likely to use them. If they're in a tangled pile on the floor not so much. If you haven't used the bag in over a year, take a look at itis it worth keeping, or has the trendy style already had its heyday? If it was an investment piece, is in good shape, and is worth something, see our eBay tips (in the box on page 11) or store it in the dust bag it came in. Next, go through your beltsdo they still fit (without creating fat rolls)? Can you think of new ways to wear them, like with a dress, a coat, or over pencil skirts and cardigans? Hang them up on a hanger or on hooks in your closet so you can see them and wear them often. If not, the Salvation Army or eBay will take them off your hands.
Now tackle your shoesare the boots you wore last season able to make it through another winter? Consider whether you should take them to the cobbler to be re-soled, or if it's time to ditch them for a new pair. Try to get at least two years, or four seasons, including fall and winter out of boots, but depending on how harsh the winter has been they may need to hit the thrift store pile before the next frost. Every woman should have a pair of leather or suede flats, plus comfortable sandals for summer. Flip-flops don't countsave them for the beach. You'll need a pair of boots, a pair of sneakers, pumps for work and a pair of evening shoes. Anything beyond that is a matter of preference, but make sure you've got the basics covered before you go splurging on $625 YSL platform pumps during an online flash sale. Just saying. (For the full scoop on seasonal shoe essentials, see our handy checklists on pages 54, 86, 112 and 145.)
Parity raid! Be ruthless in your evaluation of your ingerie drawer. Socks with holesfix them now or toss them. Ugly or worn-out underwear? You're better than that. Stretched-out bra that isn't even comfortable? Stop torturing yourself and your girls. You can't accurately assess what you need when you've got meaningless fillers taking up your extremely valuable closetor drawerreal estate. Make peace with the clothes you feel sentimental about and set them free so someone else can enjoy them.
Cash in your castoffs
By now, you've culled your wardrobe down to your essentials and you've probably got a healthy pile of items to toss. There's nothing we love more than eco-friendly fashionespecially when going green gives you green in return. Make a tax-deductible donation to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or trade in your rejects for cash at a consignment shop or by selling them online.
Don't be intimidated about selling your stuff online. Here are three easy steps for eBay success:
Step 1: Find out what's hot
Before you start buying and selling products on eBay, you need to do your research. Find out what's currently hot on the market. eBay even has a spot in its navigation bar for the top twenty-five brands selling in each category. These items sell for a decent amount of cash, and almost always go quickly Designer handbags are always a safe bet. Fashion is also a decent category to check out, but only if it's a name brand and new or only worn once or twice. Don't go thinking you can unload your seven-year-old winter coat on eBay (unless it's vintage Chanel)you're not going to get any bids.
Step 2: Take good photos eBay shopping is about blind trust that the seller is an honest person. Potential buyers qualify this trust by looking for photos that show a lot of detail, so make sure you photograph back, front and close-up. Also be honest about the quality of the item and point out any defects. If you try to hide any damage, the buyer will just be ticked off when she gets it in the mail and mostly likely demand a refund. Not worth the hassle.
Step 3: Charge the right amount for shipping
Make sure you're charging enough shipping to cover your costs. You don't want to get in the situation where the shipping fee eats into your winnings and you can't go back after the deal is done and demand more money. Guesstimate how much the item weighs and then look up how much UPS or USPS is going to charge you to send. If the item is heavy or being shipped internationally, shipping fees can be significant. We once sent a rather bulky overnight bag via UPS and shipping ended up costing more than we got for the actual bag.