Cameron Silver, the owner of Decades, a Los Angeles vintage haven known for high-end consignment, has years of experience organizing and preserving garments. Here, he shares advice for how to do it yourself.
Divide and conquer
First, look at the space in your closet. The heights of racks and bars will determine where you place each clothing category: Longer items like dresses and coats will go on the highest racks, while items such as tops will go on shorter ones.
You do not need to empty your entire closet to start. Once you establish your layout, you can remove one item category at a time.
For each item in each category, consider these three questions
1. Does the garment still fit me?
2. Is it appropriate for my current lifestyle?
3. Have I worn it in the last two years?
If you answered “no” to all (or at least two) of the above questions, then you should pull the garment for potential editing. If you are not emotionally tied to the particular item, plus you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then this garment is a good candidate to edit.
Once you have answered the questions, your garments will go into one of three piles
The first pile should be the items you want to keep. The second should be the ones you want to give away. The third pile should be items that require repairs — anything that needs tailoring, is missing a button or has a snag.
Start your edit, article by article
Dresses: To begin, you will need some room along the closet bar to group all of your dresses together. Remove the dresses from the closet and push the other garments on the rack to one side.
For each dress, ask yourself the three questions above. Then place each dress into the appropriate pile.
Suits: The road map for suits and jackets is the same as dresses. Take them out, inspect them and place them into one of the three piles. If your closet’s racks are arranged in a more modular fashion with less height, your jackets should go on the higher racks. If you only have one closet rack, you should add pantsuits, skirt suits and jackets after dresses.
Tops: T-shirts and knits should be folded and placed in dresser drawers or on a shelf. They do not need to go on hangers, which will change their shape over time anyway.
Blouses or button-down tops should be removed and placed on lower racks.
Skirts: You should ensure you have proper skirt hangers. I would not recommend keeping skirts on a wire hanger, with or without safety pins. Follow the same grouping guidelines.
Pants: If you fold your pants, use a sturdier wooden or metal hanger, rather than a wire one. When folding pants, hold the pants up, fold them in half (being mindful of any crease lines) and drape them over the bottom of the hanger, so that the legs are on one side and the zipper is on the other. When you place them back in the closet, all of the hangers should be facing the same direction and the zipper side of the pants should face the right.
If you prefer to hang your pants, do so from the waist using the same type of hanger you use for skirts. The front of the pants should face the right of the closet and the hanger should be in the same direction as all other garments in the closet.
Jeans, on the other hand, are meant for folding; they are way too bulky to hang in your closet. Stack them by their wash — light to dark or dark to light, depending on your preference.
Once you have edited, time to organize
Now it is time to determine how the clothing will be organized. I would suggest first grouping clothes by colors, from light to dark. (Always check the pockets of your garments; you might find some lost treasures.)
You should then group garments by sleeve length, whether that is long sleeve or short sleeve T-shirts or dresses.
Decide what to do with your unwanted clothes
If a garment doesn’t fit you but is in good shape, you can try to resell it on a site such as thredUp or Depop, or give it away — to a family member, a friend or an organization that accepts pre-owned items. Here are some tips on donating clothes in the time of coronavirus.
If the item is stained beyond repair, you can later take it to a textile recycling operation.
Some storage tips
If there are items that you definitely won’t wear for a while, place them in a breathable canvas garment bag so you don’t have to think about them. You can store the garment bags in your closet or flat under your bed. You could also use a flat wardrobe box, a piece of luggage or an extra bedsheet to carefully wrap your garments. It is important to sensitively store these pieces during the off season and avoid the elements.
Some of your clothes may require professional cleaning before they are stored. If so, when they are returned to you, remove any plastic and metal hangers before you put them in your closet or under your bed. (You can recycle the bags and hangers afterward. Today, many green dry cleaners will use a cloth garment bag to avoid using plastic.)