The Clear-the-clutter Closet Makeover

We have more clothes than our closets have room for, and yet getting dressed in the morning is always a frenzy of trying on and flinging off. In principle, we all agree that quality, not quantity, is the key to a smart woman’s closet. Open the bulging door, however, and “more is more” seems to be the operating standard. 

Celebrity stylist Monica Schweiger, who has worked with such stars as Debra Messing, Gwen Stefani and Mandy Moore, believes that a well-edited closet will cut down on morning stress and make you a better dresser. “With closets and drawers bursting at the seams, it can be more difficult to find something to wear,” says Schweiger. “But when there is space to actually see your clothing and accessories, it gives you the opportunity for creativity.”

Identify and evict your wardrobe’s deadwood with these tips:

Main squeeze We cling too much to clothes that cling too much to us. Not only do we believe we’ll eventually fit into that slinky dress once again, we even buy new too-tight items as an advance reward for future weight loss. Weight may fluctuate, but the solution to the sausage-casing problem is clear-cut: Ditch the blouses with buttons that gape. Ditto for those trousers with the too-snug crotch, and jackets that whisker too much in the armholes.

Yesterday’s news Let’s say you’re lucky enough to wriggle into garments from a decade ago. If the miniskirt fits, wear it, right? Wrong, most of the time. If you’re no longer club hopping or attending karate class, you need to dispose of the leather pants and martial arts whites. On borderline cases, seek a second opinion. Invite a friend over to give you tough-love advice on what still works on you.

The frivolous frock Inexpensive garments from fast-fashion shops are easy to part with after a season or two, but what about the teddy bear print designer dress that you splurged on? Put up for sale any designer piece of clothing that you haven’t worn in a year, on an auction site like eBay. This tough bottom line will benefit your bottom line since brand-name labels fetch a premium price.

The sentimental keepsake You turn a blind eye to the hand-knit sweater squatting in your chest of drawers. It was a gift. It was what you were wearing when you met your boyfriend. It’s a family heirloom. The reality is that while provenance is important for artifacts on “Antiques Roadshow,” it is not a reason to harbor a moth-eaten pullover. As long as you have worn the “cherished” piece one time for your friend/boyfriend/relative to see, you’re home-free. Let it go.

Ladies in waiting You’re savvy enough to recognize that fashion is cyclical, so why let go of anything that may make a comeback in, oh, a decade or two? After all, aren’t the neon colors and slouchy boots of the 1980s hot again? True, but style revivals always bear an update. Marc Jacobs’ new line of ’80s getups for fall looks current; the power suit with lumpy shoulder pads from your attic most decidedly does not. Solution: Allot yourself one head-to-toe look of your favorite retro pieces.

Logo OD The college sweatshirt says you love your alma mater. The swim team jacket hints at your athleticism. Clothes make the woman, but it should be the cut and materials of your clothing -- not the advertising plastered on it -- that telegraph who you are. Eliminate any item with a graphic bigger than your fist; keep the rest strictly for runs to the mailbox or corner market.

The Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Post-holiday Sales

Bargain shoppers alert! With post-Christmas markdowns, you can find the best fashion deals of the year at department stores, boutiques and online shopping sites. Look for these five essentials for 2014 and you’ll not only amp up a tired cold-weather wardrobe, but also get a jump on spring styles.

1. The Jeans. Slim-fitting jeans and jeggings that hit at, or slightly, above the ankle will remain the dominant look in fashion for the next few seasons. “A slim silhouette on the bottom gives you more options for tops,” says Los Angeles–based fashion stylist Adeel Khan, who loves the new animal-print jeans that are arriving in neutral and bright colors. “Skip the wide-leg jeans. They can look dated fast,” he says. If animal prints are too trendy for your taste, look for deals on fall’s skinny plum, wine or washed pink jeans from makers such as Joe’s, Rag & Bone or Guess.

2. The Jacket. Save your jean jacket for the dude ranch and pick up a polished blazer. Black is a classic, but Khan suggests selecting a bold color, especially white. “It adds light to your outfit and will stand out in a good way,” he says. This year’s modern twist is the schoolboy blazer. Its nipped waist, shrunken proportions in luscious fabrics such as velvet, satin or deeply colored wool make it a chic topper over slim jeans. J.Crew and Banana Republic offer them in velvet; Anthropologie in rich woolens.

3. The Fun Top. Makers including Banana Republic, J.Crew and Diesel are offering sparkly, slouchy tops. You can find sequined T-shirts and cardigans, or blousy tank tops shot through with metallic threads. A must for a glam look: “You can also wear a night piece casually for day,” says Phoenix stylist Fawn Cheng. Try a sequined bolero with a plaid shirt and jeans for edgy daywear. Skip looks that are like a solid sheet of sequins, says Khan, and keep your accessories basic, like a big ring and simple studs.

How to Build a Year-round Wardrobe

You don’t have to stuff your closets and drawers with separate wardrobes for every season to look great all year round. With a little advance planning, you can build a wardrobe that’s in style spring, summer, fall and even winter. The advantage: You get to wear the pieces you love 12 months a year, you save money, and you invest your fashion budget in versatile, luxurious fabrics.

Wardrobe Tip No. 1: Think layers.

Head to the store with the three t’s in mind: tanks, T-shirts and tights. “The trick to any great wardrobe is layering,” says Shane Cisneros, a fashion stylist who has dressed stars, including Zoe Saldana and Vanessa Minnillo. And keep in mind that you can layer under as well as over. For example, slip a long-sleeved black cashmere or jersey T-shirt under that brightly colored summer dress to give it a cold-weather feel. Complete the look with leggings, chunky boots and a green army jacket, leather motorcycle jacket or structured tweedy blazer.

Wardrobe Tip No. 2: Choose a consistent palette.
Every season, Jacqueline Krafka, designer of the casual chic line T-Los Angeles, builds her collection with a core group of basic colors (black, white, nude and heather gray) and adds a pop of color (orange, purple or turquoise) in items like tanks and pocket T’s. Follow Krafka’s example with cardigans, skirts and jackets in interchangeable neutral colors, reserving more vivid hues for accent pieces like scarves, handbags or lower-priced T-shirts.

Wardrobe Tip No. 3: Aim for natural fibers.

Few fabrics are truly seasonless, but such natural fibers as silk and wool come close. New weaving and knitting techniques allow manufacturers to create light but strong fabrics with a luxurious feel and a built-in resistance to wrinkling. Krafka adds that luxury versions of natural fabrics, such as fine-gauge cashmere and silk georgette, can offer polish along with the comfort of a T-shirt. Even better, these multiple-personality pieces are easy to dress up or down.

Wardrobe Tip No. 4: Invest in classic fashions.

Some items are more or less disposable: white tanks, T-shirts in the hue of the season, trendy pieces from low-priced retailers. Core wardrobe staples, however, will last season after season, always looking polished and feeling great against your skin if you choose superbly tailored pieces in beautiful fabrics. “Every woman should have a little black dress,” says celebrity fashion stylist Nicole Chavez, who has dressed Scarlett Johansson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. “It should be special, so invest in one with a really great neckline, sleeve or embellishment.”

Wardrobe Tip No. 5: Accessorize.

Women’s accessories are the cornerstone of a fashionable, adaptable wardrobe. Whether she’s shopping for her red carpet clients or for her own weekend wardrobe, Chavez selects a few statement accents that she can pair with any fabric, season or style. “The best thing to have in your closet is a leopard scarf or a leopard shoe,” says Chavez. “Leopard is almost a classic color, and it goes with every color,” she says. Krafka also keeps a supply of belts handy that can turn a long summer tunic into a neatly cinched blouse-and-tank combo.

Wardrobe Tip No. 6: Train your clothes to play well with others.

With today’s ultralight knits, tanks with gaping armholes and show-every-curve leggings, it’s trickier than ever to build outfits that don’t require 15 other pieces. “Make sure each piece can stand alone as well as works as a layer,” says Krafka, who suggests looking for high-quality fabrics and modest-enough cuts that provide sufficient coverage.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Alija

Your Most Flattering Neckline

When it comes to choosing a T-shirt, blouse, sweater or dress, it’s the neckline that is likely to make all the difference between a look that flatters your figure and one that accentuates your less-than-perfect parts. “Often, when an outfit doesn’t work, it’s because of the neckline,” explains Houston stylist and fashion show producer Todd Ramos.

On the other hand, choose the right cut, and you’ll appear taller, slimmer and more stylish. How to create this magic? You have to factor in your bust size, neck length, height and even face shape. Here’s a guide to discovering which necklines work for you.

Sweetheart, Scoop Neck, V-neck and Square Neck
The collarbone and decollete region is one of the most alluring parts of any woman. Wearing an open neckline that shows it off is going to make most women appear longer and leaner, says Ramos. Lower, open necklines like a sweetheart (which is shaped like the top of a heart), scoop, square or V-neck tend to look good on almost every body type and size. “They bring attention to your face and elongate your upper body, especially if you’re petite or have a short neck,” says Ramos. Just make sure you don’t reveal too much.

  • Tip: If you’re not well endowed, sweetheart and scoop necklines are best at creating the illusion of curves.
  • Bottom line: Great for everyone, unless you’re top heavy or have an especially long neck.

Crew Neck and Boatneck
If you have a long neck, narrow face, small chest or sloped shoulders, a high neckline -- one that rests on or very near the collarbone -- is your best bet. Crew necks and boatnecks draw the eye out to your shoulders so you appear more balanced and proportioned. In this case, the more substantial neckline gives the illusion of square shoulders, a shorter neck, a fuller face and more ample bust.

  • Tip: If you’re pear-shaped, look for dresses in this cut to balance your upper and lower body.
  • Bottom line: Crew necks and boatnecks balance out narrow necks, faces, shoulders and small chests. But on the flip side, these necklines can make you look bigger than you are if you have generous curves, a short neck or broad shoulders.

Cowl-necks, Mock Necks and Turtlenecks
By choosing the right amount of coverage, you’ll find there’s no need to shiver in the name of beauty. A true turtleneck that hits a couple of inches below the chin will whittle away your height, making it best for those who want to offset a long neck or face. A cowl-neck, which is a looser version of a turtleneck, naturally drapes at the chest, creating a vertical line that elongates the body. A mock neck hits slightly lower than a turtleneck and serves as a good midpoint if you can’t part with your more covered-up sweaters.

  • Bottom line: Trade turtlenecks for mock necks or cowl-necks unless you have a long face or neck. 

A Universally Flattering Neckline
Whatever size you are, a halter will flatter your figure. “It gives support and lift to a big bust,” says Ramos. If the halter has a built-in bra, it can create curves where there are none, which is why you see a lot of halter-style bathing suits and wedding dresses. If your arms or shoulders are your trouble spot, Ramos advises topping the halter with a fitted jacket.

The Neckline to Avoid
Strapless clothing may be on every rack in every store, but stylists agree it’s a hard look to pull off -- unless you’ve got flawless proportions and a yoga bod like Jennifer Aniston. “A strapless cut can make top-heavy women spill out, and tall, thin women look giraffe-like,” says Ramos. The silhouette may, however, be a boon to petite women, helping them look taller.

Tweak Unflattering Necklines
If you wore crew necks before you figured out it’s not your most flattering neckline, work the scissors. “Cut a crew neck a few inches straight down the middle,” says Ramos. A T-shirt may fray a little, but that’s in vogue, he says. And if you cut a sweater, a few minutes in the dryer will prevent it from unraveling.

With any lower necklines, there’s the risk of going too low and looking inappropriately sexy. Whether your top goes too deep or a V-neck is not your best look, try it over a camisole or slim-fit collared shirt before you toss it. “Layering can breathe new life into a too-revealing top,” says Ramos.

Must-have Spring Accessory: The Belt

Updating your spring and summer wardrobe is a cinch this year. All it takes are a few well-chosen belts. If the statement necklace was last year’s must-have fashion accessory, the bold belt is 2012’s style essential. From skinny, neon waist-nippers to embellished corset-like hip-huggers, the belt was everywhere on the spring runways.

Embracing the belt can add shape and chic to the most humdrum outfit, says Phoenix stylist Fawn Cheng. “You can refresh a tired dress or an oversized top by cinching it with a brightly colored belt,” she says. The smocked tee that feels about as sexy as a tablecloth? The boho peasant blouse you wore to death last summer and now seems as fresh as expired milk? “They’re both scorning to be tuned into new silhouettes with an eye-catching belt,” says Cheng.

Belts are also crafty accessories when it comes to flattering your figure. If you’re short-waisted, sporting a low-slung belt will create the illusion of an elongated torso. Try a chain-link version for a modern look. Long-waisted? Balance out your proportions with a wide belt worn at your waist.

Here are four belts you’ll want to add to your warm-weather wardrobe:

1. Glitzy. Skinny or wide, elasticized or leather, the statement belt of the season features a bold medallion buckle in plated or hammered gold, silver or brass. Cheng likes to see the wide version worn high on the waist -- right under the rib cage -- to add edgy glamour to a body-conscious dress. Or put a slimmer medallion belt through the loops of your flared jeans or trousers for understated elegance. The Italian designer Balmain offers a half dozen takes on this signature piece, ranging from $800 to more than $3,000. You can find stylish alternatives at stores like Urban Outfitters and Zara for a tiny fraction of that price.

2. Colorful. “Shocking sorbet” is what Cheng has dubbed this season’s collection of belts in vivid hues -- fuchsia, tangerine, baby blue, coral and chartreuse. They’re the perfect way to introduce color into a neutral or all-white outfit. Or, to update a preppy look, consider a neo-neon combination like a carnation pink cardigan punctuated with a lime green patent-leather belt.

3. Safari-inspired. For spring, Michael Kors showed his version of what a chic woman might wear while enjoying cocktails at a luxe gaming lodge. Models strutted down the runway in animal and camouflage prints -- and utilitarian colors like khaki, olive and brown -- all in supple fabrics. The standout accessory was his fashion-forward interpretation of the frumpy fanny pack: a gorgeous burnished leather strap slung twice around the waist -- once through the belt loops and then just below -- tied on one end and with a small leather purse on the other. The purse-belt is perfect for hands-free toting of your essentials. Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Fendi, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent are all offering their luxe take on the belt bag. You can also find affordable versions from LeSportsac and, of course, Michael Kors.

4. Corset. Thick, waist-cinching belts show off a woman’s ladylike curves. They’re an edgy match -- especially in metallic -- for the peplum skirt you’ll be wearing this spring and summer. You’ll also find casually playful versions in more forgiving woven leather. These look smashing with a traditional trench, a structured jacket, or high-waisted trousers and a white shirt. Corset belts might be a fleeting trend, so you probably don’t want to make this an investment piece. Instead, have a fling with an inexpensive option from a store like Forever 21 or Anthropologie.

Photo: Getty Images