Unless you live in a perpetually sunny and warm locale, the temperature is dropping, the days are getting shorter, fall is upon us and winter is right around the corner. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to winterize your wardrobe.
- Pack away summer bags. Spot clean if necessary. I love the Coach leather cleaner – I get it at the outlet for a lower price, and use it on all my leather goods, Coach and not. Recently was loving my Tide to Go stick to remove a few stains on the lining of my purse. Also works well on microfiber and other cloth bags. Once clean and dry, stuff with plain paper (newspaper ink can rub off on surfaces – next time you go to a discount store like Marshall’s and buy anything breakable they will give you tons of plain paper – store it for times like this and for possible moves, packing, etc.) to maintain the bag’s natural shape, and store in an old pillowcase. A pillowcase will protect the bag from dust, but will let it breathe, leaving it pliable. Store your bag on a closet shelf or in a cardboard box under your bed – do not store bags in the attic or a deep cellar for fear of dampness, extreme heat or cold affecting the fabric. Come spring you may end up with a mildewed bag with all the seams separating. I have a cardboard box I got in a set of three – it’s long, not too tall, slides under my bed and has a pretty toile pattern on it. In there I keep out of season bags and other accessories that need to have ventilation.
After Labor Day, you really should pack away any straw bags, cotton purses, bags that are a summer color (white, pastels, brights like apple green and candy pink) or any bag that can be mistaken for a beach tote (raffia, clear plastic parts, woven plastic parts, stripes). This fall is about more subdued and rich colors, nothing screams summer more than a candy pink purse with grosgrain trim. Even if your straw and canvas bag is designer and cost a pretty penny, it is not appropriate for the colder months and should be stored gently so it can get plenty of face time in the spring.
- Pack those summer shoes too. Flip flops should not be used except for showers at the gym. Ditto to Tevas, Merrills, Crocs, Birkenstoks and any other sort of sandal. A heavy pair of socks with these shoes does not winterize them. Same with shoes that follow the rules of summer bags – straw, canvas, summer colors, white. All those beaded leather thongs this summer need to be packed up too. Strappy heels can transcend seasons if they are of a neutral fabric (crepe, silk, satin, leather) and are worn only for evening. Same with peeptoes and slingbacks. If they are a seasonless fabric (patent leather, leather, suede, pony hair, silk) and color, they can usually carry into fall and winter. For the rest, ensure they are in good shape. Take them to the cobbler to be reheeled and resoled and any buckles repaired. Nothing is worse than starting spring with a new outfit that will go perfectly with your canvas and cork peeptoe pumps to find out last minute that the heel is broken or the sole is pulling away from the shoe body. Fix them now, so you will be ready in a few months.
Once your shoes are in working order, polish and remove stains as necessary, and like bags, store them in a well-ventilated container and a climate-controlled environment. Dressy shoes and heels I store in original shoe boxes in my closet. Pumps get tissue paper stuffed in the toe to keep their shape and are stored in a spare closet in one of those over-the-door canvas shoe holders. Boots are stuffed with the same paper mentioned for purses, and are stored in old pillowcases on a closet shelf.
- Stop wearing those sundresses. So Mischa Barton and Mary Kate Olsen wear a gauzy sundress over a turtleneck, footless tights and ballet flats. That doesn’t mean that the everyday woman can carry this off. As I say often; if you are not a fashionista, do not dress like a fashionista. It is far more flattering and stylish to dress simply and appropriate for the season and the situation.
Make sure all of your dresses, shorts, capris, gauzy tops, white pants and skirts are clean and pressed. Take them to the dry cleaners for one last cleaning. When these clothes are clean, take care in storing them.
· Pants are best if the legs are creased by hanging seam-to-seam. This will give creases down the front of the leg – very flattering. If you have the room, hang them from the pant hem on clip hangers to keep their crisp lines. If you need to store them in a box, fold carefully. If the fabric is prone to wrinkles you may wish to roll the trousers or place tissue between the folds. If the pants are denim or another stiff fabric, they should be fine for a few months folded naturally.
· Clothes returned from the drycleaner should be immediately removed from the plastic and the metal hanger. Several months on a metal hanger will make any dress or top have permanent dents and creases in the shoulder. The plastic inhibits ventilation, causing fabrics to possibly yellow, mildew or have their fibers break down.
· Dresses should be kept hanging whenever possible – I have a canvas storage bag in my spare closet. It zips down the front and in there I keep out of season dresses, coats and other items that are best left hanging. The canvas allows the clothing to breathe, but protects them from dust.
- Do a little spring cleaning in fall. While you are packing up your swin suits, capris, halter tops and sandals, reexamine them. Are they still in good condition? Do they still fit? Are they high enough quality and beautiful enough to deserve year-round real estate in your closet? Now is the time to pare down. If you are storing a pair of shoes that never saw the summer sun, maybe it’s time to donate them and free up some space for a pair of shoes that will be adored and worn often. If those capris are looking a bit haggard, it may be best to donate them now so you are forced come Spring to buy a new pair instead of wearing a threadbare, stained, horrific mess. All too often we pull out the new season’s clothes from our attic or storage box to find clothes that remind us of what we dislike most about our bodies. So you spent $80 on that dress in March, it always slides down the shoulder exposing your bra strap, and it makes your butt look big. If it made you unhappy this season, why store it for another season of unhappiness?
A great idea is having a clothing swap. Get together with several of your friends – varying ages and lifestyles makes it all the better. On a Sunday afternoon, have some veggies and crackers and cheese, a couple of bottles of wine and each woman comes with 3-5 items that are still in good condition but not appropriate to her wardrobe any longer (weight change, style change, new job, etc.). For each piece you offer to the group, you are able to take a piece home with you. Anything leftover after the event gets donated to a charity. This is a great way to update your wardrobe, give good pieces a good home, and not spend a dime. Last year my friends and I had one of these parties – my neighbor chose a lime green boatneck dolman-sleeved top I bought on a whim because I had the same in black and loved it. I look terrible in green, and the top not in black was a fashion no-no on my figure. My neighbor wears it often – with jeans and a white tank under it for a trip to the mall, with crisp black trousers and heels for a night out. It looks great on her tall slim frame with her honey blonde hair. It makes me happy to see her look so great in something I myself couldn’t carry off. I in turn wear a candy pink merino v-neck that was too large for a friend who had great success with Weight Watchers and get compliments every time I have it on.
- Don’t be stuck out in the cold. It’s November. It’s snowing in some parts of the world, in others it is just starting to get colder. Are you prepared?
· Do you have a winter coat that looks nice? Not a cast-off from your husband’s company or the navy parka you wear to shovel the driveway. I mean a nice, simple coat that can be worn to the grocery store, to work, to dinner and to your company holiday party. Every woman in a cold climate should have a simple wool coat that hits below the hips. If the coat is between hip and calf length, it usually works with dresses as well as pants, jeans as well as suits. Single breasted is the most flattering on female figures. Black is safe and timeless, but camel, ivory, brown, dark purple and even red can be basics that will work year after year.
· How about your winter accessories? Hat, scarves and gloves are worn daily in a cold climate. You can get great sets and individual pieces at discount stores like Marshall’s and Ross, sale pieces in catalogs like Victoria’s Secret for a song, and really cute pieces in big box retailers like Target and Old Navy. When you have accessories that look good, you feel good. Keep the fuzz-balled stretch gloves for shoveling making snowballs, get a nice knit or leather pair for everyday wear. Leather gloves are easier to drive in, and I saw beautiful pairs in stylish colors and styles at my local Target. Every few years I replace my leather pair with a new pair from Ralph Lauren or Coach, found at my local discount store for an insanely low price. I love scarves – they add color to dreary winter days. I have a few pashminas and shawls that double as scarves in the winter, and I always let loved ones know that new scarves are an always-welcome holiday gift.
· What’s on your feet? Do you have a pair of boots that can handle the weather? You don’t need puffy nylon snow boots, but a pair of footwear that reaches past your ankles, has good grip on the bottom, are water-resistant and stain-resistant will be your best friend. Each year or two I invest in a pair of pleather city boots. Last year I got a great pair with great style at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale. Not too tall of a heel so I can maneuver on black ice, but still a chic shape. They are pleather, look like leather, but water beads up on them. They are Thinsulate lined, but you would never be able to tell from the sleek style and slightly pointed toe of the exterior. I can wipe them clean, and my toes don’t freeze at the bus stop. These are my work-appropriate snow boots. I also have a pair of boots that are waterproof, sturdy, flat and made for walking, shoveling, running errands. Like the fashion boots, these are also attractive. I don’t feel foolish when indoors. Lands End has some wonderful weatherproof shoes and boots for very reasonable prices.
· The weather has changed, has your skin regimen? With the cold and the dry recycled indoor air, skin gets dry and tight. Consider switching to a cream-based cleanser. Only cleanse before bed and in the morning splash water or use an alcohol-free toner. This will keep your skin hydrated with it’s natural protective oils. You should still be using sunscreen, but you may wish to upgrade to a heavier moisturizer or add a serum under your daily lotion. Hands and lips get especially dry this time of year. I keep on my nightstand Hemp Hand Protector from The Body Shop – not the best smell, but this intensive moisturizer on hands and feet (with or without socks and gloves) will let you wake with soft, supple skin. I also keep a tin of Bag Balm (found at most drugstores) for elbows and lips. I slather up before retiring and wake looking brand new. Your skin needs extra TLC in the colder months, take care of it. Unlike that designer purse or that fabulous pair of shoes, you are forced to wear your skin season after season, whether you like it or not. It deserves attention and care more so than any other item in your closet.