How to Create a Cohesive Closet
In my twenties, my closet was a hot mess. Shopping the sale rack without a list meant I brought home anything that caught my eye – aka the loudest, most bedazzled clothes. Nothing went together, and I would stand in front of my closet each morning trying to come up with creative outfits for my job as a teacher. Often there would be multiple pieces scattered on the floor by the time I left.
Over the years, I’ve learned to simplify and have slowly shifted to a more cohesive closet built around basics and mostly neutrals that work together. The added benefit is that I can now get quickly everyday, usually in a minute or two. Plus, I no longer create a pile of discarded clothes every time I get dressed!
Today’s post will help you think about your own closet as a collection. By working through these steps, you can streamline your clothing and the daily process of getting dressed. Let’s get started…
1 / Pick a Palette
A narrow color palette makes mixing and matching much easier. Begin by removing any outlying colors that you don’t wear regularly. This doesn’t mean you need to have all neutrals, but rather stick with whatever colors you truly feel best in. When I first started simplifying my wardrobe, getting rid of a few items in the red-yellow-orange color palette made a big difference immediately. Now my closet is built around black, white, blue, tan and a little bit of green.
2 / Calculate Your Casual-Fancy Ratio
Be honest about how casual vs. fancy your closet needs to be. Naming your lifestyle will help you avoid the wear-once purchases that can accumulate in the back of your wardrobe. As you adjust to new seasons of life, such as working a full-time job after college, staying home with kids, pregnancy, or working from home, paying attention to this ratio will help your wardrobe reflect your life stage.
For me, right now my ratio is 90% casual to 10% fancy, which is very different from when I was teaching full-time. If you’ve had a big life change that affected this ratio, you probably have some wardrobe gaps to fill. Bonus points if your fancy and casual clothes can also mix and match together for extra outfit options!
3 / Stick With What Works
In each season, notice what feels really good on your body. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s ok to wear a uniform, to buy multiples of your favorite tee, and to dress for your shape. In the winter, I love to wear a sweater, jeans, and a parka. In the summer, I like a sundress or a tank-shorts combo. I shop from a couple of favorite brands where the sizing is consistent. The clothes & colors are already designed to go together. It works!
4 / Shift with the Season
While a cohesive closet relies on a foundation of basics, part of the fun of getting dressed is the change of season. Spring is for florals, stripes and pastels. Winter is for thick knits and wool hats. Fall calls for flannel, boots and the return of jeans. Summer is for sundresses and bare toes.
You don’t have to do all of these things (your wardrobe will be a mess if you do), but try keep a drawer or under-bed bin to stow something special for each season. As each new season arrives, you can add a fresh spin on your basics. Keeping those off-season pieces out of sight will instantly help your closet to be more cohesive and user-friendly too. We use a couple of cotton bins on the top shelf of our closet to store off-season clothes.
5 / Clean Out Often
Take inventory of your closet regularly and remove what you don’t love to wear. This helps so much! You can begin to see and appreciate the clothes you love by removing excess. I find myself doing this at the change of season, since it’s easy to name what I didn’t reach for over the past months. Rather than continuing to store it “just in case” or out of guilt over money spent, I sell or donate unused clothes. (If you need more help, don’t miss this post I wrote last fall.)
6 / Have a Long-term Vision
When making new purchases, think long-term. Will you wear this for years to come? Is it high enough quality to last multiple wears? I’ve learned to value fewer, better things that I will use, rather than more for more’s sake. My goal is to avoid a buying-purging cycle. I spend more energy making intentional purchases on timeless styles rather than chasing trends and impulse buys.
This takes practice, but a cohesive closet can never be short-term. You need to be willing to commit to clothes for years rather than months in order for them to begin to make sense with each other. As a bonus, this is the way true style is born. Rather than being “on-trend,” you will simply be wearing what you love to wear.
Such a good guide, Lindsey. I think a cohesive wardrobe goes hand in hand with having honed in on your own personal style, which has so many benefits. My friends were recently joking in our group text about how college age women were saying to get rid of skinny jeans (I think–? I’m on a long social media hiatus and don’t know the details), women a little younger than we are were freaking out about losing their skinny jeans, and women our age just rolled their eyes and went on wearing what we like. I don’t know if it’s so much age as it is having defined your personal style. If you know yourself and what you feel best in, trends come and go without making much of a ripple in your closet. That’s something I love about your blog–no links to the new “it” item, just honest thoughts about building a wardrobe that works and frees mental and physical space for what matters.
Lauren, Thank you so much! I totally agree – having a good idea of personal style certainly helps a wardrobe be more cohesive and make sense. Knowing what you feel good wearing is connected to knowing yourself. And I am so with you about skinny jeans – I still plan to wear them, especially in fall and winter. I think that is a big difference between fashion (so trend-driven) and style, which is much more personal and unique. So glad to have you as a reader and thanks again for your insights!
I love this post SO much! I like a little bit of pattern, but mostly neutrals, and I’m trying really hard to keep things cohesive. I think I’m going to purchase the Everlane tank and henley. They’re beautiful pieces. What size did you go with for each of those? Thanks!
Love that! I went with a small in both – my true size. If you want a looser fit, you could go up a size, but they have quite a bit of stretch in the fabric.