Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Slaying the Closet Monster – Part 1

Imagine if you only had an armoire to arrange your wardrobe. At least you would know what you own and organization would be imperative.

Marie-Therese Norris, French wardrobe consultant extraordinare and creator of the blog, 
The French Touch, is back to tell us about closet organization which she does for her clients. In our pre-post conversation we both agreed this is a subject that has been discussed to death, but I insisted I would love to hear her take on the challenge. 

Here she offers the preliminaries, next week she will tell us what happens after the purge.

The last time we were together, Ladies, I had to rush off to do battle with a closet monster. Tish thought you might be interested in a few of my dragon-slaying techniques.

In the opera “Siegfried,” the title character goes into a dark and foreboding forest to slay a dragon that guards a cave full of gold. Our young hero is handsome, fearless and totally clueless about life and love. Not his fault, really. Orphaned at birth, he was raised in that same dark forest by an evil dwarf who plans to poison Siegfried as soon as the dragon is slain so he can get his hands on the gold.

Armed only with a magic sword, Siegfried slays the dragon and, after tasting the beast’s blood, is granted the power to understand the songs of the forest creatures and read the hearts and minds of men.

While it would be really helpful to have a magic sword and dragon’s blood handy, I must use more mundane means to slay the monster in my clients' closets.

Before I arrive at the precipice of her deep, dark closet, I ask my client to do two things:

1) Segregate or remove out-of-season clothes (we’ll get to them next season).

2) Set aside the clothes she would normally wear within a period of a week or so. (This gives me a clue to her lifestyle and favorite “go-to” pieces.)

Because Wardrobe Consultations are intense, emotional and draining for the client, I usually schedule several sessions, normally lasting no more than three hours each. The clothes in a woman’s closet represent her life, so I need to be firm but gentle.

Just looking at this makes me nervous.
Step 1: I make four piles:

“T” for Toss – items that are beyond saving or wearing.

“F” for Fix – keeper items that need some TLC (i.e., cleaning, missing buttons, hem repair, alterations, re-invention).

“D” for Donate – items that are in good repair but don’t work for the client (i.e., out-of-style, don’t fit, etc.).

“S” for Sentiment – items that client holds onto for sentimental reasons (more on that later).

Step 2: I make a quick scan of the closet as if I were flipping through books of wallpaper samples to eliminate items that really jump out at me as totally wrong – wrong color, wrong cut, jackets from the ‘80s, tee shirts with logos or “witty” sayings, such as “I’m with Stupid,” sweat shirts that tell the world “Jack’s Firehouse Has Great Eats,” etc.

You get the idea.

Step 3: I evaluate the “go-to” pieces, which can run the gamut from stay-at-home Mom to work-place/professional clothes. As more women work from home, I am seeing less work-place/professional clothes among the “go-to” pieces and more over-sized tee-shirts and sweats, the outfit of choice for the busy American woman.

She hits the ground running in the morning and doesn’t stop until she collapses, exhausted, into bed at night. The last time she bought a sexy “Date Night” outfit she was 30 pounds thinner. Now, when she squeezes into it, instead of saying, “Let’s Go Out to Dinner, Honey,” it says “Hi, Sailor, lookin’ for a good time?”

Step 4: With the List of Wardrobe Basics as a guide, we go through the closet together to see if the client already has some of these important pieces. Sometimes we get lucky; sometimes we don’t.

Step 5: This is the most exhausting Step. From this point on, we will look at and, if needed, try on every piece and make a decision. Keepers are moved to the front of the closet to be arranged later. Everything else gets tossed onto one of the four piles.

A well-organized closet, yes, but an essential detail is missing. . .
If the client does not have a favorite charity, I always recommend taking the Donation pile to the Good Will or the Salvation Army. Holiday-themed sweaters are always a big favorite among the residents of St. Mary’s Catholic Home, where I donate my time and where my Mother has lived for the last four years. They absolutely adore anything in bright, festive colors with Easter bunnies, Christmas kitties and puppies with Santa hats, and so on.

The items on the Sentimental pile are usually the hardest to part with. Often they represent something or someone special from the client’s past – the sweater that Grammy Emmy knitted for her when she went off to college; the pink dress that got her elected Prom Queen; the macramé vest she was wearing the night she met her husband…..and so it goes.

One could get sentimental about Siegfried, n'est-ce pas?
If she has room in her closet, I tell her to keep them (I do have a heart!), but to put them way, way in the back and “please promise me you will never, ever wear them!!”

At the end of three hours, there is a fifth pile labeled “C” for Client, as she lies in a heap, exhausted but happy. I told you this would be exhausting; but it’s worth it.

Get control of your closet; get control of your life.

Sometimes, I think I’m getting a bit too old to slay dragons, but I know I’ll feel better after a long, hot soak and a very large Kir.

Next up, we put my client’s closet back together. I’ll tell you about some surprising things I’ve found in closets, give you some quick tips and -- throw a few other things into the mix.

A plus tard.

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