How do you build out your closet with intention, functionality, and style? Applying Closet Strategic Planning (CSP) will be a game changer. This isn’t a real thing, I made it up. But stay with me here…because it’s completely logical. The first step in solving for the wardrobe requires understanding that mutually exclusive problems can become collectively exhausting. Most everyone I meet, no matter where you’re at on a Darwinian design scale, becomes a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of creating the perfect wardrobe that communicates not only personal style but also manages to be modern and chic, functional and mindful of the real lifestyle (beyond the fantasy one). Oh, and yes, developed thoughtfully with longevity in mind. The ask can feel overwhelming. But big problems can be reduced to a group of smaller manageable problems that can be worked out individually. The process looks a lot like how I approach designing each new collection.
I know from our collective experience - you, me, our stylists – that just because we all engage with one MINDSET in the dressing room doesn’t mean everyone wants or needs the same things. People may be in different life stages, their days vary, and ultimately what they want to communicate visually differs wildly depending on someone’s modifier (page 196 in The Creative Pragmatist Book). And this makes sense, as we design the collection for our MINDSET and we style it for myriad lifestyle needs.
What I’ll never do is design or assort clothing by age. Deductive reasoning here proves time and again that it’s about the MINDSET and not the AGESET. These two concepts are wildly different, oppositional, in fact.
Here are a few examples of how the closet is built differently depending on one’s needs. Whilst the mindset is the overarching consistent through line - curious, respectful, pragmatic, thoughtful and hungry for sustenance in every element of their life- the closet needs, and how they are addressed, vary depending on the individual.
Sits in the C-Suite or readily knocking on the door to become one from a few floors down; different levels on the hierarchy but share the same daily objectives. They travel a lot; they need to be put together but still creative. They need to be taken seriously and as someone who pushes boundaries and thinks outside the proverbial box. The age is from 23-75 years – ranging from the new graduate who is intent on making moves to the seasoned executive who never rests on their laurels, to the retired individual who remains highly engaged in the world, maybe sitting on a company board or two.
At Home…but Hardly
Schedule is filled to the brim with events, responsibilities and all the rest. Lots of kids events, parties, conferences, and graduations. Loads of activities in their community. The thing is this is the parent AND the grandparent. Disparity in age does not mean disparity in lifestyle: age is 28-80 years.
Really figuring things out. Have gone through dramatic changes (given birth, gotten divorced, lost a loved one) and re-evaluating who they are and ready to make a clean, fresh start. They may be moving to a new location and now removed from their familiar network of friends and community, they’re unsure of how they’ll be perceived if dressed differently. They are committed to understanding their mindset better and want to feel solid. This can be a 30-year-old new mom or a 75-year-old retiree who now lives in a new city and very much wants to show up as herself.
THE CLOSEST BREAKDOWN:
The Need: A closet that conveys decidedly executive but with a personal twist through a creative lens - leaning in more or less, depending on one’s industry. Items need to work with each other fluidly and with little thought yet with an outcome that is entirely thoughtful - especially when some days involve working from home. Since cost-per-wear math is always in the back of your head, being able to make multiple outfits is key - this closet makes strategic sense.
a. The top with a removable scarf. Left off for a sharp open V-neck, left hanging in an effortless manner, or tucked in for a vibe that’s super polished.
b. The jacket with a collared placket overlay - left bare it’s quite sleek and chic, and when worn head-to-toe with the placket it becomes the power suit. With the placket tossed on loosely, it conveys ease: “what, oh this old thing?” dressing.
c. The denim shirt buttoned to the neck goes head-to-head with the polish of the side pleated skirt; left open it matches the eased vibe of the Sid jean and worn with the Tricotine suiting pant it’s the good offset to the refinement.
d. The Ring 3 wool jersey top gives good depth paired with the suiting pant and the sharp contrast of the black leather belt. With the sleeves pushed up high it’s perfect with the nonchalance of Sid, and left long but knotted from behind, makes it a more form fitting contrast to pair with the pleated skirt.
At Home…but Hardly
The Need: Pieces in the closet that work with all the many other items you’ve invested in. They have to be great at dialing a moment up or down, depending on the vibe. We refer to these pieces as valve items. You have lots of events with ambiguous titles - a kid’s birthday, a back-to-school night, cocktails where some are in sweats and others ready for the Met Ball. Making sure you show up with your own personal style and not a series of outfits is what you gravitate to in order to feel grounded.
A. Skinlike Mercerized Wool Soft Sheer Pullover B. Melee Crepe Long Sleeve Cropped Top C. Melee Crepe V-Neck Top D. Douillet Turtleneck Easy Pullover E. Cashmere Socks F. Guy Sandal G. Feather Weight Eco Crepe Benedict Top H. Lutz Knit Asymmetrical Pleat Stella Pant I. Light Weight Stone Washed Black Denim Asymmetrical Balloon Skirt J. Rudy Flat
a. The knit that not only holds up to a big full skirt with an over-the-top shoe but also is just at home layered with denim, tees, and a wool pea coat for a winter sport event.
b. A top that is incredibly elegant and interesting contrasted with a pair of Sid jeans, or left partially unzipped with a sleek pencil skirt and flats for the right event.
c. Low key is key here - this one paired with sweatpants and a heel hedges all bets on the dress code of an event when, really, just showing up as yourself feels most right.
d. The cozy sweater works with a chic denim skirt and heels but is just at home in denim stretched on the floor with a toddler and crayons.
e. Socks in all colors to entirely change up a look and for functionality - you’re running in and out of places and temperatures moving up and down the scale.
f. The heel that works with jeans, socks, an evening dress or a full-on street style creation, dialing down something over the top and ratcheting up the most casual closet items.
g. The top that works at the school pickup line with jeans and the sleeves pushed up, it goes to the evening event with a series of interesting earrings and a great skirt, and it goes to any type of meeting with a chill pant and the perfect flat and socks [see (i) and (j)].
h. The pant that is so cozy, especially paired with a sweatshirt and trainers for a day spent on a mat at Tumblebugs with the little ones. With heels and [the top in (a), (g), and (c)] it goes from sleek and refined all the way to serious drinks out.
The Need: Confidence that no matter what new group you’re sliding into, you will feel like yourself. Fit in without blending in. Items that combine all three aspects of your style - chill, modern and classic. Pieces that convey this right from the start are the best initial form of communication. These are the items that make you feel rock solid, steady.
When building an assortment that focuses on items that function as basics, texture becomes critical. The soft wool jersey of a shirt dress, the dry interesting hand feel of a Shetland wool and the rugged denim combine together in a way that’s curious. A higher neck sweater with odd cut-outs mixed with a denim skirt that has quiet yet very distinct details makes the statement, giving all the confidence you need headed anywhere. Ditto for tucking an athletic pant into a boot with a denim shirt tied carelessly at the waist.
So where are you in your life? How do you think about your needs? Choosing what works for you is much more than scrolling headlines about trends, or God help us, checklists about what works for what age. It’s a lot more fulfilling when you can approach the whole activity creatively and pragmatically. Which checks out, since we’re Creative Pragmatists, after all.