I frequently reorganize my closet in an effort to better understand and utilize the pieces I own. For a long time, I just organized everything in a standard fashion: by garment type and then by color. However, I’ve found that making periodic “tweaks” to this arrangement can make it easier for me to get dressed for my various life occasions.
In today’s post, I share about my most recent closet reorganization, why I did it, what my new sections are, and how they’ll help me get dressed more easily in the coming months. I also outline a wardrobe goal that I’m working towards and how I plan to get there.
Reorganizing My Closet in a New Way
Last fall, I wrote a two-part series on “third piece” challenges (HERE and HERE), in which I explained the difficulties I experience when dressing for warmer weather. Part of my dilemma involves making sure my outfits look interesting and well put-together without using a traditional “third piece” (e.g., a cardigan, jacket, or coat), but an even bigger challenge relates to my emotional comfort when I’m unable to cover up as much when it’s hot outside.
Some unseasonably warm days in recent weeks reminded me that I need to start getting my summer wardrobe in order. As such, I decided to do some closet purging and reorganizing. I’ll address the decluttering part in a future post, as it’s still ongoing, but the main organizational shift this time around involved my summer tops. I went through all of my short-sleeved and sleeveless tops and separated out the ones that I’m comfortable wearing without a topper.
These “standalone tops” are those that I feel are flattering on their own. This is generally because they’re loose enough to breeze over the areas of my body that I feel self-conscious about. So, if it’s too warm for a topper or if I need to remove it at some point during the day, I feel confident just wearing the top on its own.
After I determined which tops fit the “standalone” description, I further divided them into solid and patterned pieces. Finally, I arranged each section by color, from the lightest to the darkest pieces. Following my closet reorganization, I now have the following distinct sections of summer tops:
Category One: Standalone tops that can be worn without a topper.
Category Two: Tops that I only feel comfortable wearing WITH a topper.
Category Three: Tops that I only wear at home or for exercise.
About the Categories
Many of the tops in Category One are what I call “crossover” tops, in that they work well for both at-home and “out-and-about” use. They tend to be quite casual in nature, but their fit renders them more versatile for wearing on hot days when a topper isn’t practical. Because they’re looser-fitting and/or a bit longer, I feel comfortable (emotionally) wearing them on their own. These tops are “good to go” and ready to be worn in warmer weather, whether at home or when I’m out and about, so there’s not a lot more I need to say about them.
The tops in Category Two are the main subject of this post. These are the tops that I don’t feel comfortable wearing without a topper. This has more to do with fit than style, and it’s all about my emotional comfort, not how I feel physically in the top. Most of the pieces in this category are shorter and/or snugger-fitting than my tops in Category One, so I only wear them on cooler days when I can pull a cardigan or jacket over them.
The reason I even have any Category Two tops is because I’m self-conscious about my “rear view.” I often feel like I look just fine from the front, but I have lots of lingering body dysmorphia from my lengthy battle with eating disorders and I’ve always carried any extra weight in my lower half. My self-consciousness has only intensified as a result of my higher post-menopausal weight and decreased level of muscle tone. I probably shouldn’t even look at the back view, but I can’t help myself from wanting to understand what others see when they look at me.
I know that I’d probably look more stylish if I dressed differently (e.g., shorter tops, tucking things in, belting, wearing lighter colors, etc.), but I just can’t bring myself to do so given the anxiety that I experience. So, I’m always trying to balance the way I look with the way I feel when I put my outfits together. This is especially true during the summer months because of the need to wear less clothing so I can stay cool and physically comfortable.
Some of my tops in Category Two have yet to be worn at all – about half of this section, as I haven’t been able to figure out what to pair them with. I like these tops in theory, which is why I bought them. However, when I’ve tried to incorporate them into outfits, it just didn’t feel right, so I switched them out for another top that I was more comfortable wearing. I haven’t gotten rid of these “outliers” just yet, as I’ve kept hoping that I could somehow make them work. Separating them out into their own section will hopefully help me to either add them to my regular wardrobe rotation or pass them on for donation.
Category Three tops are the most casual of the bunch, and I usually wouldn’t consider wearing them for out-and-about occasions. They’re generally workout-specific garments or pieces that have seen better days but still have some life left in them. They’re good enough to wear around the house, but I don’t feel polished enough in them otherwise. Some of these tops are scoop-neck styles that are cut too low for me to wear in social settings, as I’m fairly modest and don’t want to risk revealing too much.
Category Three is relatively small and is shrinking as time goes on, as I now aim to have more “crossover” items in my closet as a way of minimizing wardrobe overwhelm. The more pieces that we have that do “double duty,” the fewer overall items we need to have in our closets, so crossover items are the way to go.
Being Less Rigid with My Tops
Before I created the above category distinctions for my tops, they were divided into just two sections: “at-home” and “out-and-about” items, and there was very little crossover between these two groupings. But after some introspection and exploration last year, I decided to stop being so rigid with the way I wore my tops. I discovered that many of the tops I’d placed in my at-home wardrobe could also work quite well for other occasions, especially when dressed up with accessories and more upscale pairing pieces.
After all, even the plainest of garments can usually be “upleveled” if we devote a bit of attention to it. Doing so requires more work than with pieces that have “special details” (i.e., pattern, texture, ruching, or embellishment), but the extra effort is well worth it for the sake of closet versatility. Currently, my plainer tops are often the ones that I feel more emotionally comfortable wearing (mostly because of fit), so it makes sense to do what I can to incorporate them into out-and-about ensembles. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’d like to have more “special detail” tops in my closet overall, so that’s something that I’m focusing on as I shop.
As a result of going through my tops and creating the new sections, I’m now aware of a lot more options for getting dressed on hot days. Whereas I either previously limited myself to a small number of out-and-about-designated tops that I knew worked well without a topper, I now have a wider array of tops to choose from, most of which used to be reserved only for wearing at home.
The Goal I’m Working Towards
Now that I’ve shared the new categories that I’ve designated for my tops, you might be thinking that it sounds too complicated, and I wouldn’t argue with you there. Ideally, I’d want most of my tops to be part of Category One so that I could comfortably wear any of them without a topper. I plan to work toward this goal in earnest, but in the meantime, it’s helpful to have things arranged to facilitate my getting dressed more easily on warmer days. What I want to avoid are those times when I either have to be physically uncomfortable wearing a topper on a hot day or emotionally uncomfortable from feeling too “exposed” after removing my top layer in order to avoid overheating.
My end goal is to completely eliminate Category Two, and I also want to keep Category Three relatively small. Most women own workout-specific clothing, as well as some loungewear, but I don’t think it’s all that common – and definitely not advisable – to own tops that one is only comfortable wearing with some sort of topper over them. I’m okay with continuing to own some tops that I wear only when working out or when I’m at home, but I ultimately want most of my tops to be those Category One “crossover” pieces. I would like to feel comfortable wearing virtually all of my tops on their own without a cardigan, jacket, or coat.
While I’m working toward that eventual goal, my revised closet organization will make getting dressed easier and reduce the number of times when I’m forced to choose between my physical and emotional comfort. When I get dressed on a warmer day, I’ll now only select tops from Category One (or Category Three if I’ll be at home all day or am about to exercise).
Eliminating Category Two
There are currently seventeen tops in Category Two, but I suspect there may be some movement between that section and Category One as I actually put summer outfits together and wear them. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time assigning all of my short-sleeved and sleeveless tops to the three categories. I tried most of them on in order to make my determinations, but I was wearing the same pair of pants the entire time, so I might possibly change my mind about some of the tops as I go along.
Since I want to eventually eliminate Category Two, I’m going to try to see if pairing those tops with different bottoms might result in my feeling more emotionally comfortable wearing them. If I just can’t make that work but still really like a particular top, I’ll hold on to it for now and accept its limited utility (needing to be worn with a topper). Those tops that I don’t like all that much will probably be purged from my closet at some point during the summer.
I definitely won’t purchase any new tops that I’m not comfortable wearing on their own. The combination of not adding to Category Two and actively trying to pare it down will result in this category gradually diminishing over time. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but having the awareness of this particular closet issue will help me make the changes necessary to have a simpler and more workable wardrobe.
I’ll see how this new system works for me this summer. As I mentioned above, I may end up moving some of the tops around, as I might discover that some of what’s in Category One actually belongs in Category Two, or vice versa. This is a flexible system that I can use to my best advantage as needed. I’ll be sure to report back later this year to let you know my progress in eliminating Category Two and streamlining my summer tops.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in… I know that many of you probably don’t have the same issues I have with my summer tops, but you likely have your own challenges that I’d be interested in reading about, whether they’re about self-consciousness, dressing for hot weather, or whatever. I’d also love to learn how you arrange your closet and what changes you’ve made in that regard, especially if those shifts led to your better utilizing your clothing. Feel free to comment on any of those topics or about anything else related to this post.
In my next essay, I’m going to share something else I discovered about my wardrobe while I was reorganizing my tops. I had a bit of an “aha moment” that I wasn’t expecting that will hopefully result in more positive changes. Stay tuned… and have a wonderful remainder of your spring (or autumn for my friends down under).