How to (Finally) Streamline Your Closet

Real Simple asked Kim Naci, a New York City-based stylist and closet expert, to share her secrets for achieving a well-rounded wardrobe.

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Photo by Anna Campanelli

What’s the first step?
A closet cleanse. I’ll go through a client’s closet, and together, we’ll edit out anything that doesn’t bring her joy. Because we live in a world where everything is easily accessible through online shopping and flash sales, it’s hard not to get seduced by things we don’t necessarily need. Through this exercise, we’ll figure out what works for her body, what makes her happy and what delivers the message she wants to convey to the world—and then she’ll learn to stop falling for the seducers. As we go through her closet, everything gets sorted into three categories: treasure, tailor or toss.



How do you help a client who is having trouble tossing some of her items?
I try to find the reason behind the reluctance. Is she holding on to something she never wore because she spent a lot of money on it? Then, a good compromise is to consign it and use the profit toward a new item that suits her better. Was it a gift from a relative who didn’t capture her taste? I would suggest that she photograph herself wearing it, email the picture to the giver with a sincere note of thanks, and then pass off the item to someone who would actually enjoy it. Sometimes if the situation is dire enough, I play dirty and I’ll have to ask, “Would you like to run into your ex wearing those stretchy pants?” That helps to put things into perspective.

What about items that have sentimental value?
You don’t have to get rid of your college sweatshirt or that vest hand-knit by Grandma, but you shouldn’t hold on to everything. Limit yourself to a single storage box—if the lid doesn’t close after you’ve loaded it up, something has to go.

What sorts of clothing can be fixed by tailoring?
You can shorten or slim a pant leg or a sleeve or take in a waist. However, if you actually need to alter the silhouette of an item to make it fit better or to make it look current, it’s better to just walk away from it. In general, tailoring is worth the extra hassle—men do it all the time to get a perfect fit. Make it easy on yourself and find one near your home or office, otherwise you will continue to put off the task.

What items should everyone have in her closet?
1. A white shirt should be in every chic woman’s closet.
2. A wrap dress is a great multitasker. Layer it over a lightweight wool tee on colder days, or wear it unwrapped and tied loosely in the front to act as a jacket.
3. Well-made black pants go with everything. Best part? They do not need to be cleaned after each wear.
4. An A-line skirt is universally flattering and it helps create a waist.
5. V-neck top is slimming and creates the illusion of height—you’re directing the eye to go up and down rather than side to side.

When it comes to shopping, which pieces should people invest in?
As a rule of thumb, look for timeless classics you can use forever—avoid anything that falls under a trend or has an easily identified print that will date you. Also take into consideration an item’s cost-per-wear. For instance, if you wear jeans everyday, you can spend more than if you only wore them once a month. But always buy the best you can afford when it comes to shoes. Your feet are your transportation—take care of them.

What’s one thing that women don’t pay enough attention to when getting dressed?
Choosing the right undergarments. By building a strong foundation, you’ll help your clothing reach its highest potential. Invest the time in a fitting and spend the money on a quality bra. It will help your clothing drape properly, and it will improve your posture. If you want to avoid panty-lines, but shy away from thongs, a boyshort will give you more coverage while maintaining a smooth look.

What advice do you have for busy women who put off shopping or going through their closets because they don’t have the time?
Taking care of yourself is not a reward; it’s a requirement. You make time to shop for groceries, shop for the children and shop for the home. But if you aren’t finding time to invest in yourself, you are taking away your best possible you from others.