Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

How To Organize Your Wardrobe

This year, closet, let’s go back to basics

Story by Robyn Passante

Hang Strategically • The easiest way to end up with a disorganized closet is by hanging up clothes without even thinking about it.

My closet is a mix of impulsive thrift store finds, items that were previously trendy, hopelessly outdated duds with strong sentimental value, and a few choice favorites.

I have a hard time putting together a decent outfit, is what I’m saying.

In recent years I’ve tried to KonMari my closet, keeping only those items that “bring me joy.” But I never get far before realizing that would leave me with one pair of faded jeans, two sweatshirts and my running shoes.

Wardrobe woes plague many a woman, but LOCAL Life stylist Roxanne Gilleland says the trick is to go back to basics:  We’re talking wardrobe essentials. You know, the little black dress, the smart blazer, the ballet flat.

LET IT GO • It’s likely that clothing that you haven’t worn in six months is clothing you will not wear again.

I’ve never had any of these, I guess because I never really considered how essential they are — essential for easy outfit building. Essential for always looking on-trend, in a classic sort of way. Essential for bringing me joy when I look in the closet, and then when I look in the mirror.

“With some savvy styling, there is no need to ever say, ‘I’ve got nothing to wear!’” Gilleland says. “When you finally find that perfect little black dress, the softest white T-shirt, that one sharp blazer, you never have to worry again. That’s why the concept of a wardrobe staple is so enduring: A closet built on a streamlined selection of items makes day-to-day dressing infinitely easier.”

Not convinced? Gilleland breaks down this year’s Top 10 Wardrobe Essentials, and what makes each of them so … essential.

Roxanne’s Top 10 Essentials for 2019


Dark Wash Denim
If you’re shopping for fresh denim, make it a dark wash pair. Not only do they work for a wide range of scenarios including the office, but they also don’t stain easily.

White Button-Down Shirt
Consider a white shirt your wardrobe’s pinch hitter. There are endless options for how to wear it: Pair it with a simple skirt or pants for a classic look, or layer it under a sweater or dress to give an outfit dimension.

Elegant Blazer
A great blazer is a true workhorse in any wardrobe. Need an extra something to pull together an office look? Look to a blazer. It’s also a great outerwear substitute when it’s not quite cold enough for a heavy coat.

Sleek Pump
A confidence-boosting pair of heels is a solid footwear staple to keep in your rotation — even if they mostly live under your desk, reserved for important meetings or an after-work appointment.

Black Trouser
Whether you wear them to work or wear them to brunch, a solid pair of black pants that make you feel great is a true Monday-through-Sunday staple.

Little Black Dress
No item is more of a blank slate for accessorizing and styling, yet completely stunning on its own, than the LBD. It’s gotten us through some tough times, and serves as a touchstone for any wardrobe.

Ballet Flats
There’s a reason everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Alexa Chung loves a good pair of ballet flats. They’re equal parts chic and comfortable. Use them to dress up your jeans and button-down combination, then seamlessly transition that same pair to a cocktail dress for a night out. Your outfits (and feet) will thank you.

Jean or Leather Jacket
A jean jacket and or a lightweight leather jacket is a great layering piece that can be worn season after season. A classic deep- to medium-denim wash is the most versatile option. And one can never go wrong with black or brown leather; it’s just a step up from denim.

A Plain White Tee
Is there anything more versatile than a nicely fitted plain white T-shirt? Whether you style that perfect T-shirt with a pair of jeans, a fancy skirt or a slip dress, no closet is complete without one or two — or more!

Pattern Scarf/Detail Belt
Instead of a necklace, try a soft loop of bright, silk fabric to perk up a mundane outfit instantly. And you know what a good belt gives you? A waist. Imagine that!

Style tips for men


• Sell, donate or give away anything you haven’t worn in over a year.

Get everything adjusted: pants, shirts, jackets, etc. Some good local tailors are Kim Custom Tailors, Lam’s Tailors & Expert Alterations and Julius Alterations.

• Spend more money on less pieces of clothing. Quality will save you money over time, plus you will look much better.

• Consider more shoe colors than brown and black. Be more patriotic by wearing reds, whites and blues!

• Your pant legs should stop right at the top of your shoes. There should be no gap, unless you’re trying to look like Steve Urkel.

• Shop for a suit in person.

• Always wear a pocket square with a jacket.

• Either a belt or suspenders. Never both at the same time.

• Match the color of your socks to your pants.

• Wear shoes that are NOT the same color as your pants.

• Do not wear light blue denim, unless you work in construction or are herding cattle.

• Don’t wear button-down collars with suits.

• Don’t wear T-shirts with graphics on them in public.

• Have at least two nice white dress shirts ironed and ready to wear at all times.

• Start a belt collection.

• For accessories, go all gold or all silver. Don’t mix and match.

Dress for the season. Dark colors, grays and blues in cold weather; colorful items when it’s warm.

• Buy a pair of colored canvas sneakers.

• Only unbutton your jacket when you sit. The bottom jacket button always stays undone.

Shirt cuffs should be visible at the end of your jacket sleeves.

• Your necktie should touch the top of your belt.

• Ask yourself, “Would my Dad wear this?” If the answer is yes, don’t wear it.