Have a packed closet and nothing to wear . . . except impulse buys you now regret? This four-step intervention plan is here to help you create a pared-down wardrobe of coordinating, enduring, great-fitting pieces and breeze by unflattering markdowns. (Because pleather leggings shouldn't happen to anyone.)Okay, so here's step one. I'll post the other three steps later. I won't use quotes for the rest, but it's all Sarah Stebbins' words from here on out.
Identify what's working
You probably have a handful of go-to pieces you instinctively reach for when you want to look put-together. Now imagine having a rack full of them. the first step toward achieving that goal is figuring out what makes those favorites so, well, favored, says Amy E. Goodman, the author of Wear This, Toss that (Atria $27). "Pull out the five things you would wear every day if no one was keeping track," she says. Choose something in each clothing category: tops, pants, dresses, and skirts. Then ask yourself a few questions about each piece. jot down your answers so you can use them as a shopping guide later (or download a fill-in-the-blank checklist as realsimple.com/buyguide).
How would you describe the item? Crisp and tailored? Soft and ruffly?
What image does it project? Smart and professional? Edgy and fashionable?
What color is it? Does the shade brighten your complexion?
What fabric is it made of?
What is the silhouette like? Nipped at the waist? Flowing and hip-grazing?
What parts of your body does it accentuate?
What parts of your body does it de-emphasize?
Is it comfortable?
Your answers reveal: Your style barometer. Use your notes to help pinpoint what you like. "Be careful of buying replicates," says Goodman. You may learn you prefer darks and flared shapes, but you need only one good pair of black bootcuts. "Think of it as nailing down a signature look, not getting into a rut," she says.