I’ve shopped all my life and still I have nothing to wear (Part 1)

“My struggle is this” were the words from a reader recently:

Well, as the old saying goes, I have shopped all my life, and I still have nothing to wear!!

My main issue is I love clothes..hey what the hell…shoes, handbags, scarves you name it! However, I have got into a bit of a spiral of always buying new without really looking at what I already have!

I’m 56 (don’t scrub up bad for an old bird) , but I really need some tips on how to make the best of my wardrobe!


Dear Reader,

Your struggle is real! This is something that I see time and time again and the best bit of advice that I can give to you right now is this:

YOU MUST NOT buy anything else!

Nada. Nothing. Nope! Not allowed. Even if an invitation comes through to a Royal Wedding, or to Christmas Lunch with the Queen you are NOT allowed to buy ANYTHING. Do I make myself clear?

Phew I’m glad that we got that out of the way. Do you feel better for knowing that? Do you feel as though a weight has been lifted? I know that I do!

But not buying anything else is not going to solve your problem because it sounds to me as though you are in a bit of a pickle. We need to make a plan with a capital “P” and it starts with setting some time aside. From the sound of things I would say that you will need three hours at least, so pop on the radio or a podcast, get yourself some bin liners and let’s get cracking!

First, I’d like you to sort through your shoes. That’s always a great place to start. Do you know how much you can tell about a person by their shoe collection? I could let you in to all sorts of secrets…but I won’t.

If you have any shoes from the 90’s (ie square toed sling backs) they need to GO. As does anything that doesn’t fit you, anything that’s worn out (unless it can be repaired), anything that’s too high for you to wear even for a special occasion and anything that you just can’t see yourself wearing again. Be strict with yourself. Heels and toe shapes date fairly quickly and there’s nothing that can ruin a good wardrobe as much as terrible shoes. So if in doubt, they need to go.

Actually let’s take a step back. Really I should have started with undies and nightwear but I think that I’ll leave you to sort those on your own. But the same principles apply – saggy bottoms and bras that give you droopy boobs are not allowed. They need to go! And please can we have some nice nightwear in there? No winceyette allowed. Or static inducing nylon either.

Now, let’s sort through your wardrobe systematically, working in sections. Let’s start with your coats. And let’s make some piles. I’d like you to try everything on first, unless you know that it’s a keep for sure. And then I’d like you to think about it a little bit more. That dog walking coat that you’ve had for 10 years because it’s “practical”? We can do better than that!

We can have a pile of things that need to go to the charity shop or the clothes bank, either because they are worn out and bobbly, or because they don’t fit, or because the collar is too dated to be seen out in or because they were a gift and you’ve always hated them.

Next let’s have a pile of things to go to the cleaners so that when the chilly weather does arrive, you’re all good to go. Make a note of anything that needs fixing whilst it’s at the cleaners, such as a pocket with a hole in, or a ripped lining. Or maybe the sleeves need shortening on a coat so that it fits better.

I’ll let you have a pile too of things that you’re not too sure about, or things that you feel sentimental about and don’t want to part with just yet. That’s OK – there’s room in your life for that pile too. Just maybe not in your wardrobe.

Now let’s move on to jeans and trousers, then let’s move on to skirts, dresses, jackets, knitwear, tops, blouses, shirts and tees.  I’d like you to try everything on and take a good look at how it looks and at how it makes you FEEL. If it doesn’t spark joy, or near joy, then it’s time to say goodbye to it. And if you have triplicate or quadruplicate or quintuplicate of anything – just keep your best one or two.

You need to add to the various piles that we’ve already created, working on the same basis of clothes that need “to go” – whether it’s to the charity shop, the clothes bank or the cleaners as well as your “sentimental/not quite ready to part with yet” pile.

Let me give you some ideas of things that MUST go. Woollen items that you’ve washed and shrunk and which have lost ALL of their stretch. There is absolutely no salvaging them so don’t even try. Jeans and trousers that you’ve had since the 90’s; it’s time that they went. Anything that is sitting on its original hanger and which bears the writing “St Michael’s” on it. That DEFINITELY needs to go, as does anything that you bought which is older than 6 months but which still has its labels on it, as does anything that you bought thinking that one day it “might fit.” It won’t. Let it be gone! All it does is sit there and make you feel bad about yourself.

These things also need to go: Coast dresses that you bought for an event about 15 years ago and which you drag out every time to you go to an event. Trust me, they need updating. You deserve to feel special on big night’s out, even if they don’t happen too regularly. Bolero cardis to go over said Coast dresses – yep, they need to go to.  Old bags which are squashed in a pile – trust me, ditch them, especially if a receipt that you find in one is dated 2004. You also need to part with traditional granny style cardis, anything with a Boden “ditsy, or fun” print, three quarter length wide cropped linen trousers and any orthopaedic looking shoes. I don’t care if you have bunions. I do and so does Victoria Beckham. There are alternatives.

After working through your clothes, I’d like you to have a cup of tea (or a lie down). Your bedroom will resemble your house after the 6 weeks’ school holidays when your children were little. Bag up the “to-go’s” and survey the scenery. Your wardrobe and drawers should be fairly empty by now so take the time to give them a clean down. You’re bound to find some long lost and previously cherished item. That needs to go too. You’ve managed without it for this long.

Now it’s time to start re-assembling your wardrobe so that you can see what you have. I was going to save this for Part 2 but I’ve realised that you might end up having a ransacked bedroom for a week if I did that….so let’s crack on!

First I’d like you to pack away anything that you’re not going to wear until next summer. That should create some space.

Then I’d like you to look at the space that you do have and I’d like you to decide how you want to use it. How best does it serve you? I’ve found over the years that people work on an “out of sight out of mind” basis. So if those fab shoes that you love and want to wear are kept in a box at the back of the wardrobe – you’re never going to wear them. Ditto for that Hermes scarf you invested in and that beautiful jewellery that you were gifted. Bring it to the front so that you can see it!

Personally I like to group all similar clothes together and then arrange them from light to dark within their section (particularly knitwear and shirts/tops). Lighter knitwear, shirts and blouses, jackets, dresses and skirts are all hung up. Jeans are folded on a shelf, as is heavier knitwear and loungewear. Basic tops and tees go in a drawer as do undies and nightwear and swimwear. Coats have a separate wardrobe downstairs.

Now this not might work for you. Some people don’t like to hang any knitwear, or they may prefer their jeans to be hung up. Think what works for you. You may have a section in your wardrobe for things that you haven’t yet worn but which you would like to. You may create an “A” and a “B” wardrobe depending on how smart your clothes are. You may have a separate home and work wardrobe or you may mix them. Everyone is different so think what works for you.

Now that you’ve sorted all of your clothes, shoes and coats, let’s take a look at accessories. Pull them all out and put them on the bed. Now let’s work through them. Ask yourself do you love it, have you worn it recently, is it dated, does the colour suit you, is it uber practical? (I’ll allow the odd item that is purely practical and which serves NO other function – but not many!)

These are the things that you should part with (or keep in a separate drawer if gifted from children/loved ones etc). Any chunky beads that you’ve had since pre-2017. Long, thin, nylon scarves that are anaemic in colour – especially if they have watercolour flowers on them. Anything that you don’t love or wear, large fabric brooches in the shapes of flowers, belts that no longer go round you or which you really should never have owned in the first place.  NB This is all tongue in cheek – but you get my drift!

Once you’ve organised your accessories into some kind of colour co-ordinated systems, or a system which works for you, it’s time to stand back and survey your work. How much better do you feel knowing that what you have in your wardrobe is what you love, need and know you will wear?

I’ll be back for Part 2 next week. In the meantime, pop to the cleaners, the charity shop, the clothes bank and so on and cleanse your wardrobe of the things that you no longer need.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU ALLOWED TO GO INTO THE SHOPS! But I will allow you to download and read my new guide “How to work the shops like a Stylist” because when it IS time to hit the shops again, this will be soooo helpful for you! Oh and if you have any wardrobe dilemmas or style queries, I’d love to answer them!



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