One of my biggest wardrobe “aha!” moments was when I found my sleeveless, mustard turtleneck crumpled on the closet floor next to my white and blue striped shirt. Frowning at the jumble, it was the first time I was thankful for my messy tendencies—the pairing was fabulous. And not something I would have ever pieced together if I was just standing in front of my wardrobe, trying to decide what to style that morning.
That’s when it hit me: In order to think of new outfit formulas, you need to shake up the way your closet is organized every now and then. Some people like to group by colors, others like to group by occasions or season, but if you know where everything is, you start reaching for items with muscle memory rather than with a fresh eye. Right after I picked up the turtleneck from the floor, I rolled up my sleeves and took everything out of my closet to reorganize. I had a new idea on how to group my items, and it was going to open the door for many more outfits. I was going to group them according to layers, people!
To me, an outfit is at its peak when it gets creative with its silhouette. Crop tops with high-waist pants, turtlenecks under crewnecks, collared shirts underneath dresses, cropped sweaters on top of maxi dresses—layers have the potential to take something old and overused in your wardrobe and change it into something completely different. But you might not know all the options available to you if they’re categorized by color, seasons or type like most people keep things. To really see the potential, you need to group similar layers together. Ahead is what works for me (and might work for you!).
I never thought to combine these shirts with my dresses or jumpsuits until I started to look at collared shirts as necessary “layers.”
Collared shirts look fabulous on their own, but you can also pop them underneath dresses, sweaters, short-sleeve shirts, strapless frocks, and crewneck tops to add an extra detail to an older piece. Because of that, I like to group all of my collars together, no matter what color, print, cut, or season they are. You never know which collar will be the perfect addition to that outfit you’re trying to build that morning.
These button down shirts are a great neutral in a wardrobe, where you can layer them underneath dresses, match them with busier skirts or leave them open and used as a makeshift cardigan. I like to file these next to my collared shirts, but group them separately together at the end so I can see the different shades of denim in one go.
Since I also like to layer turtlenecks underneath clothes, I collect them next to my collared shirts since they essentially perform the same task. Depending on how thick a turtleneck is, it can be layered underneath a dress when you want to add an extra pop of color, underneath sleeveless shifts to move them from summer to fall, popped underneath sweaters for an extra hue or texture, and underneath jumpsuits or rompers to make them toastier for nippier weather. The possibilities are endless.
In order to see what easy layer you can toss over a dress or top, it’s helpful to have your cardis all together, no matter their color, print or season. The reason I like to have them bunched together is because sometimes I have an outfit that’s missing something, but I don’t know exactly what. I can then glance at all my cardigan options in one spot, and mentally picture which one would tie the outfit together the best. It helps you make some fun, unexpected looks that way!
Sometimes you can even button up the sweater all the way and tuck it into a skirt to transform the cardigan into a top. But if you want to leave it as a layering tool, I like to file my cardigans next to my vests, jackets, and blazers because they all perform the same function.
If you own crop tops, lump them together so you can see what you have at your fingertips to match with high waist pants and midi skirts. But the possibilities don’t end there—you can also layer a crop top over a dress to turn the shift into a faux-high-waist-skirt, or layer it underneath overalls for a playful, young look. In order to see all the options, you need to group them together.
Some sweaters are made to by layered, and those should be stashed on the same shelf, away from your normal, wear-alone knits. Baggier sweaters look great when paired with maxi dresses, when they slouch over midi skirts, envelop a mini, or are thrown over fit-and-flare frocks. In order to remember that those layering formulas are options, group your bigger sweaters separately to trigger that reminder.
Bottoms, by shape
Rather than keeping all of my jeans in one spot, formal pants in another, and printed pants in another, I like to group them all by silhouettes—which means different styles rub elbows. The reason for that is because the shape of a piece is king for me, not its color or its purpose. So I put all the wide leg pants together, the high waist looks together, the peg leg pants on one side, and palazzos on the other.
I like to keep my sleeveless frocks all in one section so I can see what I can easily layer up with collared shirts or patterned tops. I also file my jumpsuits next to these, because I can also layer tops underneath rompers for a pop of color or pattern.
Next to the sleeveless dresses, I store my maxis. Not only is it handy to see all my floor-sweeping gowns in one spot, I like to bunch them together so I can see them as potential maxi skirt options rather than stand-alone dresses. That way my closet doubles with options, because those pieces turn into makeshift bottoms.
Mini dresses are really just tops ready to be worn, so I like to group them all together, next to the maxis. You can easily pop a midi or maxi skirt over them, but I sometimes take it even further and match them with roomier, wide leg pants. It might sound like it would bunch and be lumpy, but if you tuck them into your Spanx (or tummy control tights) it smooths the dress right out and you have an awesome outfit. I
If you feel bored with your wardrobe or feel like you’re stuck in a style rut, try to organize your closet by layers so you can see your closet in a whole new light. You’ll be surprised how quickly your style formula changes with this shake-up!