Closet Conundrum – how do you know what to keep and what to chuck?

— by Alyson Walsh

Photos: Claire Pepper

I’ve held onto these bootcut needlecords since the 1990s – and that’s because I knew I’d wear them again. Obviously over time, silhouettes and shapes change, but patience and a little wardrobe space carried these bootcut cords through the Skinny Jean Years. This pair of Timesaving Black Trousers were worthy of a reference in my first book Style Foreverthough the secondhand tracksuit top that once accompanied them is long gone. After a recent post someone asked how I knew which clothes to hold onto. Ooh, good question. How does one know? Sometimes it’s instinctual, sometimes there is a bit of magic and mystery (and occasionally guesswork) involved, but is there a formula? Are there certain questions that can shine a light on the closet conundrum of what stays and what goes?

Taking control of an unruly wardrobe equals a more refined personal style, a clearer vision of what you wear and less faffing around in the morning. I have found getting dressed and putting outfits together much easier since we had a proper built-in wardrobe fitted. And that is probably why I’m giving some of my old favourites a whirl. Wardrobe editing is a constant process – I’m about to engage in a mini-decluttering session now that the spare room looks less like a vintage furniture shop (anyone want a chest of drawers?) and more like an organised, calm space.

Back in the bootcut

As we get older, we are less inclined to buy into faddish trends; it’s more about finding reliable clothes that we love. We lead busy lives, requiring more ease and simplicity and less Faff Factor. What we want is to put clothes on in the morning and know they can make us feel confident and comfortable for the rest of the day. This is where Knowing Your Style comes in. Here are six questions to ask that might help when it comes to figuring out which clothes to keep and which to give to charity:


Do you really like it? Everyone is Kondo’ing like crazy at the minute and so ask yourself does it Spark Joy? Do you feel a positive reaction/ an emotional connection when you look at, pick up or stroke the item of clothing? If the answer to this question is ‘yes’, then it’s a keeper. If it’s ‘no’, then let it go.

Does the garment you’ve been hanging onto suit your current lifestyle? After years working as a fashion editor, and then a part-time academic, I now cycle to a shared office space. I dress for comfort, freedom of movement and to please myself. I no longer need kitten heel shoes and more business-y dresses. These are not my signature pieces.

Are you prepared to give the item precious wardrobe space when it’s taking a fashion sabbatical? Is there something else that would be more versatile, deserving and all-round fabulous?

Would you miss it if you gave it away?

Is the garment in good nick? Fabric condition and amount of wear and tear are obvious considerations. I’m more likely to retain an item that has quality and status and will do me proud when it’s unleashed again – often this is an investment piece, not a one-season wonder. Cheap, flimsy fabrics and anything worn out (that’s not a pair of jeans) can be chucked.

Does it fill well and make you feel good? If not, then why are you holding onto a dud?



And when you have a little extra space in your wardrobe for some Not So Basic Basics


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Do you have any wardrobe workout tips?

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