Resolve to whittle your wardrobe, declutter your closet

Image consultant Marian Rothschild is author of a new book "Look Good Now." She was at her Boulder home on Monday, January 20, 2014 showing off her closet and tips that help. (Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post)

If one of your resolutions for 2014 is to get your closet organized, you have a lot of company. Keeping clothes and accessories neat, clean and ready to wear takes more effort that many are willing to expend.

People ignore the task for any number of reasons, including lack of time; angst over how to do it; and fear of letting go (or admitting you spent too much money on stuff you never wear).

But if youre in need of a little closet control, were here to help. Local fashion experts have some suggestions on how whittling your wardrobe might actually be good for your pocketbook as well as your image.

Marian Rothschild, an image consultant and author who has a maddeningly neat closet in her Boulder home, insists that organizing your wardrobe can be life-changing.

People who do it can cut down a lot of stress and time spent getting ready, says Rothschild, who recently compiled her wardrobe and image advice in the book Look Good Now and Always.

In the process of editing your closet, youll find things that are perfectly fine that you no longer wear because they dont fit, they dont suit you or youre tired of them. If those items are stylish and in good condition, you can re-purpose them in a couple of ways by swapping them with a friend, or maybe making a little money by reselling them in a consignment store. More about those options in a bit.

1. Sort and edit

First, its time to tackle the main chore. Edit your closet and remove things youre not wearing, Rothschild instructs. Put the items you remove into three piles: donate; clean or repair; consign or swap.

Next, arrange what youre keeping so that everything is clean and wrinkle-free and ready at a moments notice.

Rothschild arranges her clothes on a double-hang rack so that all the shirts and jackets hang on the top and are sorted by color, from light to dark. On a rack below are skirts and pants. Longer dresses hang to the side.

Belts and scarves are also displayed on hangers; shoes are on shelves, and sweaters, T-shirts and other items are folded and put on shelves or in drawers. Frequently worn necklaces are displayed on the vanity in the bathroom.

Also in or near the closet you need two things: a full-length mirror and good lighting. We see people from head to toe, she says. If youre only using the bathroom mirror, youre not seeing your hemline and that a skirt or dress doesnt hit at the right place. Or that youre wearing shoes that dont do anything for the outfit. I also always recommend turning around and using another mirror to see the outfit from the back.

If youve got meetings, social events or other occasions coming up and you need to decide what to wear, try things on and pick an outfit in advance so you wont be in a jam the morning of an important event.

I just did a dress-up and spent some time putting things together to see how they looked and fit, she said.

Rothschild recommends you do a closet edit at least twice a year: in the spring and fall. Take a good look and be brutally honest, she says. Ask yourself, Whats in there that I will never wear again? If you have well-made classics, maybe designer things, that have some style but youre not currently wearing, move them to the back of the closet or a different closet.

Similarly, keep your most-worn items handy and at eye level. Put garments you dont wear regularly down below or on a higher shelf.

Shes not a hanger snob, but Rothschild still likes to have them all the same, so she stores her tops on white plastic hangers and pants on the plain wire trouser hangers you get at the dry cleaners.

Once the closet is organized, its time to deal with those other piles. The easiest one to dispense with is the items to donate to such organizations as Dress for Success. You can claim a tax donation and the charity will benefit from the goods.

For garments that need cleaning, repairs or tailoring, decide how much it will cost you and if its worth the time and money.

2. Swap, dont shop

The third pile clothes and accessories that are still in style and in good condition that you dont want to give away can have a new life when swapped with friends.

Swapping is a no-cost way to get new-to-you fashion items and pare down your wardrobe.

Dont know how to run an exchange? Take advice from Stacey Johnson, who has organized fashion swaps for 6 to 60 women and now sells Its a Fashion Swap Party kits. Assembled in what looks like a paint can, the $48 kit includes instructions, invitations, cocktail napkins, straws, drink stirrers and a T-shirt for the hostess. It can be purchased at Johnsons website, itsafashionswapparty.com

The key is to assemble a stylish group and have fun, says Johnson, an entrepreneur who uses her marketing background in business ventures that have a repurposing or vintage spin.

Look at your social circle and invite those people who love fashion and have on-trend, covetable wardrobes, she says.

Plan the event at least three weeks in advance so a minimum of six to eight friends will have time to go through their wardrobes and find pieces to swap.

Set up the space so that it looks appealing. Get a rolling rack to hold hanging items. Put jewelry on trays. Merchandise vignettes like youd see in a boutique. Have mirrors handy.

Offer guests food and beverages as they arrive and lay out the ground rules. You get to pick the same number of items as you bring. When several people want the same item, try a coin toss or rock, paper scissors, Johnson says.

Encourage guests to try on outfits or individual pieces. Part of the fun is the camaraderie fashion inspires in us, Johnson says.

Items not claimed should be donated to charity at the end of the event.

3. Consign and recoup investment

Selling clothes and accessories via consignment is another way to recoup some of the investment youve made in your wardrobe.

Shop owners such as Casey Burnette of Alis Closet in Cherry Hills Village says she sees an uptick in consignors at this time of year as women clean out their closets.

Burnette says to turn all the hangers in your closet so the curved hook on the top faces out, and flip them the other direction as you wear them. After a couple of months, it will be obvious which items you havent worn. We all tend to wear the same things over and over, so remove those hangers that are still facing out and consider consigning them, she says.

Like many upscale consignment stores, Burnette is picky and accepts only clothes and accessories that are high-quality or designer brands. Items must be freshly laundered or dry-cleaned.

She splits the sales price with clients 50-50, but other stores vary in how they pay consignors. Some retailers offer cash or store credit on the spot; others will keep the items for sale a designated amount of time usually no more than 90 days and either donate unsold pieces to a charity or have the consignor pick them up.

Burnette recommends calling and/or visiting several consignment stores before making an appointment to have the owner look at your clothes. Shops cater to a variety of customers, and after you see what a given store has on its shelves and racks, youll have an idea of whether or not your clothes would be a fit there. You can also tell that if the things you are wearing when you go in look like they could fit right into the store, its a match, she says.

4. Another way to save money: Rent

A category in many womens closets that represents a lot of money, but not necessarily a good investment, is special-occasion clothing. Cocktail dresses and black-tie gowns tend to be pricey, and most women dont have that many occasions to wear them.

Burnette is tapping into that market by renting party clothes.I have so many people who come in looking for full-length dresses for a gala, or something to wear to a wedding, cocktail party or cruise, she says. Alis Closet charges $30 or $60 to rent a dress for a four-day period, and Burnette throws in a shrug or wrap at no extra charge if one if available.

Shes offering dresses in sizes from 0 to 12 and a wide range of styles and brands. Burnette says customers have already reserved dresses for Valentines Day.

I had a Christian La-croix dress that was originally $4,000 sit in the store for a while. Even for a resale price of $500 it was expensive to buy and wear for just one evening, but renting it for $60 was perfect.

Besides getting to wear a designer dress for a night, the customer is left with a good feeling, because the frock goes back to the shop and doesnt have to sit in her closet and wait for another special occasion to make an appearance.

Suzanne S. Brown: 303-954-1697, sbrown@denverpost.com or twitter.com/suzannebro