How To Build Your Own Tiny Closet: Steps 3 & 4

Why do we buy clothes we don't like?  Why do we buy clothes we don't want to wear?  How does that happen?  I've been working on those questions for a while and I've found a few reasons...

Welcome to Steps 3 & 4 of building your own Tiny Closet!

In my last post, we stepped away from our closet entirely and took time to outline our lifestyle and daily activities.  Then we took that birds eye view of our day-to-day and attached feeling to it.  Yes to feelings in our wardrobe!  How do you want to feel when you shop for groceries or catch up with the girls for drinks?  When you go out for that Friday date night?  When you're waiting for your flight?  It's all about the feels, ladies!  Not only does style and fashion emote, it also helps you emote whatever kind of feeling you have to share.

So!  On to 

What do your feelings look like?

Let's flesh it out.  Using the last list we made which was:

activity  // location of the activity // feelings for the activity  

We are now going to figure out how we can accomplish that desired feeling while doing each daily routine.  So taking an activity of mine, with its location and how I want to feel doing that activity, let's discuss what it looks like to feel sophisticated and modern:

Grocery Shopping  //  Costco, Farmer's Markets & Trader Joes  -- sophisticated, modern

  • dress flats
  • high waist pants and jeans
  • drapey tee
  • linen dress
  • black gauchos
  • dark full length jumpsuit
  • leather mules
  • tapered leather harem pants

What does sophistication look like to me?  What does modern look like to me?  The clothing listed above are my personal definitions for each.  I didn't pick them because those clothes look sophisticated and modern on anyone, I picked them because they look so on me.  Otherwise, I could've picked a beautiful cream shell dress or a trench coat or a pair of tall equestrian boots only to end up feeling fat, short and frumpy, a far departure from sophisticated and modern.

Rachel Zoe first question as a personal stylist to her clients was always, "Who do you want to look like?"  No, she wasn't going to go out and buy that exact same wardrobe for her client but by asking that question, she could then ask "Why?"  and that "why" was most important because there was always emotion behind it.
The client didn't want to look identical to Halle Berry, 
the client wanted to look like how they felt when they look at Halle Berry.

If you don't nail down what the feelings you want to exude during your day look like, you have a higher chance of becoming distracted and persuaded to buy something else that won't be quite as impactful to you.  And that's why we have items unworn month after month - year after year.   To me, sophistication well fitting basics. To another, it could be a floral dress.  Make it personal.  It's your closet, after all.

Can't find the exact looks that match how you want to feel?
Easy.  In the design world, we call them tear sheets and mood boards.  Start putting your magazines to work!  If you wrote that you want to feel sexy and strong when you go hiking on Sundays, start narrowing down what "sexy" and "strong" look like to you, cutting it out of magazines, saving online images and everything in between.  Start a "Closet Feels" board on your Pinterest account (I know you have one) but categorize the board for each activity and emotion that you listed in the previous steps.  

Get a very clear idea of how you want to feel in your clothes so that no compromises are made for your image.  
Take your time in this step.

Alter it, Store it, Purge it
You've figured out how you want feel, you figured out what type of clothing will accurately emote how you want to feel and look in your daily life.  Now it's finally time to take a look at your closet with a fresh new perspective and make some decisions!  Chances are, you've got a fabulous, workable closet that just needs a little organization, definitely some storage, some alterations here and there and then some purging.

Let's start with purging...
No humming and hawing here, guys.  Can I part with this??  Does it work?  Dragging your feet is a sign of compromise!

Compromises make for a boring generic closet, which is no good.  

If you feel yourself becoming indecisive about what you should keep and what you should toss, consider these questions:

  • When was the last time you wore it?

If it was a year or more, and it is NOT an heirloom piece (meaning it bares no special significance and will not be passed down) then toss it.

  • Does it fit perfectly?

If it does not fit perfectly, can you afford the proper alterations?  If so, set up an appointment that day with a good local tailor.  If you don't wish to alter it or it cannot be altered, toss it.

What's great about purging is you get to donate your amazing clothes to someone who will indeed think they're amazing.  You can also do trades at higher end thrift and consignment stores (psst, that's how I got my beautiful Catherine Melandrino eyelet dress, by trading in my Vera Wang garden party dress!).   Then there's also gift cards and cold hard cash for giving your clothes to places like Crossroads and Value Village.

Time to Alter!
For those pieces in your closet that you love but there's that one thing about the fit that you don't love so much - and for those dry-clean only pieces you never got around to sending in, now's the time to alter and clean!  Get one bag for alterations and one bag for dry cleaning.
Sidenote ** Is dry-cleaning unrealistic to your lifestyle?  Make a mental note to avoid buying "dry-clean only" clothing in the future.

  • Hem your pants and denim
  • Take in skirts and dresses
  • shorten tops, coats and dresses (yes, this can be done)
  • dye those lackluster items that still have importance (going pro with this is best)

Altering your clothes to make them more for you is already making a huge improvement to your wardrobe
and will definitely get you closer to feeling wonderful in your clothing.  Don't underestimate the power of custom alterations!!  Sometimes it's the the only solution you need.

Start making room for your capsule!  You don't have to wear every article of clothing you have all year long.
Some clothes weren't even built to be worn every day.  Besides,

Having all the clothes you own in front of you all the time is distracting and can even feel chaotic if you have a large collection.

Storing away pieces will even make them more special to wear when it's time for the perfect occasion and season.  Not because it's simply there and clean.  So put away those fun Summer beach maxis, swimsuits, floppy beach hats, flip flops, cutoffs and cropped jean jackets.  Put away anything you can't see yourself wearing during the season you are in right now.  Yes, many items in your closet can be layered, re-styled - fine.  But for those that cannot, get 'em outta sight.

Get some bags of silica or cedar chips and buy some nice flat boxes to place all of your out-of-season pieces in.  Label the season/s for each box (Spring/Summer or Winter Only) and store the boxes close by but away from your closet.

Focusing on what you have to wear for just the current season will help you determine what you need 
for the current season and set you up to shop for clothing with purpose, focus and higher standards.

Can you believe we haven't even gone shopping yet??
Steps 3 & 4 are all about reconditioning the perceptions and needs we all tend to have of shopping and building a wardrobe.  These steps are largely about customization!  Because it's integral to make your closet yours.

If you really think about it, clothing sold for everyone can't possibly fit everyones body and tastes perfectly, so get in there and redecorate a little!  I so hope I have helped you in doing this.

Come back on Monday for the important final step in building a Tiny Closet you love!  It's time to put together your shopping list!  Thanks so much for reading and we'll pick back up on Monday :)  
Aaaaaand (drum roll please) The first piece for Fall is now available to purchase at The Tiny Closet shop!!!!  Early-access for subscribers only.  Store will be open to all on Monday 10/3!  


  1. Check! Done! HARD! Expensive shoes and bags I never liked or wore, colors that did not work for me, beautiful lined slacks I really wanted to look good in but didn't so I never wore them. Evening dresses purchased in a hurry for an event (a whole blog could be dedicated to last minute event shopping. Geez! Jewelry that will never look good on me. And a few things my daughter and sister had stored away years ago. Two large boxes went to a women's shelter - felt sooooo good! Can't wait til Monday. Thanks again!

  2. I have been reading about capsule wardrobes, curated pieces, etc... for months! This blog helped me to truly get it. I have hundreds of pieces for every season and I often love some outfits and felt frumpy in others. I am going to take my time and really begin to buy what I love, tailor some pieces and get rid of others. The first thing I'm doing is taking back a pair of boots, that are okay and wait to find boots I LOVE, when I love something I wear it, feel confident in it and feel beautiful! I am now beginning to understand-my curated look will always be mine and mine alone! Thank you for taking the time to help with a paradigm shift!

  3. Oh wow, this looks incredible! I kind of want to try this myself now.