the great closet cleanout

For the past decade or so I have been an avid thrifter, buying clothes mostly based on textiles that I loved (gaudy silk prints? Yes. Wool paisley? Yes! 75% ramie? Oh yes). Many of these became as-is wardrobe staples, but much of my shopping was also fueled by a lofty sense of the potential held by each garment. In the sewing & knitting world, people often talk about their stash — yarn & fabric awaiting a project, sometimes bought with a purpose, sometimes grabbed just because. I had a serious thrifted stash, which resulted in a wardrobe chock full of half-wearable treasures awaiting their day in the refashion sun.

And yet, as I worked my way throughΒ  the wardrobe architect month 1 worksheets, I felt at first overwhelmed and disheartened — so much of what filled my closet did not, and unless I quit my job to hack everything up, probably would not, fit my core style. This was puzzling at first, wondering how I got so distanced from my personal style, until I realized it was because I’d been holding onto so many “treasures” from past style phases that they were obscuring my core wardrobe, which I knew existed in there somewhere…

Then, a coworker tipped me off that the Oakland White Elephant Sale, a massive annual tag sale that takes over an enormous warehouse, to benefit the Oakland Museum, accepted donations throughout the month before the sale, and would reward donators by letting them shop on “drop off days.” Maybe this isn’t a big secret, but to me it was incredible, and I knew what I had to do. Suddenly, I felt liberated! I knew that I could go through my closet and weed out all the items cluttering my core style, and rest assured that those “treasures” would find their way to someone who also feels the thrill of thrifting, because the WES attracts vintage lovers and avid secondhand shoppers.

the great closet cleanout

Everything from my closet, piled onto my bed in a somewhat organized fashion. To the right are all the “core” pieces I kept, in the middle are activewear and some “maybes,” and pretty much everything on the left went to a new home.

Resting assured that I could send things on to a good home, I did some additional ‘net surfing to help guide my closet cleaning. The Wardrobe Architect series served as my foundation, but through that I found Into Mind and have found their guide to a minimalist wardrobe super helpful (I didn’t buy the official workbook, just clicked around a bunch and ruminated on the tips and activities). I’ve also been following the capsule-wardrobe-focused blog Unfancy, and her tips and capsule strategizing are useful.

When I got down to business, the whole ordeal was a lot quicker than expected. The resources above, combined with keeping my silhouettes in mind, created a ruthless purge. It was awesome. Here’s what I kept:

closet cleanout collage

From the top!

4 “day dresses” (i.e. casual): Wiksten tank dress, vintage denim dress, Alder shirtdress, vintage ’50s collared dress

3 party dresses: thrifted velour minidress (two-toned, stretchy, and amaaazing), Urban Outfitters tank/shift dress (worn to my college graduation! love the color), vintage paisley maxi dress (worn to my cousin’s wedding; needs mending)

4 sleeveless tops + 1 beautiful blouse: Osei-Duro x Hemlock shell, khadi Wiksten, thrifted knit tank top (made of ramie blend, which is a bast fiber I’ve rarely seen – weird & cool), H&M tank top from a really long time ago (I’d like to copy the pattern and make a new one), hand-embroidered tunic purchased from an artisan in Oaxaca, MX (I cherish it).

6 tees: top 3 are everlane tees purchased recently (they’re good basics, but I wish I known about Be Good Clothing before I bought them, because Be Good makes great basics too but is all organic & fair labor certified! on my wish list), thrifted stripey tee, 2 thrifted silk tees

4 long(er) sleeve tees: yellow hemlock (an early make, it’s getting kind of ratty), stripey hemlock hack (will blog soon!), Linden swap from Charnelle of Call me Chartreuse, black tee (anyone else buy C&C tees in the early 2000s? it was a thing, but hey, it still fits)

Edited to Add:Β 3 long sleeve blouses (2 thrifted collared shirts; 1 thrifted silk tunic) – not pictured because somehow I forgot about them when making the collage?

2 shorts, 2 overalls: denim, black denim, thrifted velvet short overalls (I mean, why not?), denim short-alls (not pictured)

4 pairs of pants: black Madewell jeans, gray H&M jeans (from the men’s section because I got tired of tiny inseams), Madewell lightwash blue jeans, Gap jeans

3 skirts: vintage fancy black skirt (a good work staple), linen wrap skirt, thrifted mini

4 sweaters: colorblocked handknit Hayward (will blog soon!), cropped bulky cardigan from a clothing swap, thrifted shawl collar cardigan, drapey cardigan from Anthropologie many moons ago

3 jackets: thrifted denim jacket, vegan “leather” (really it’s just pleather??!) jacket from free people a few years ago, wool Uptown jacket

1 flannel shirt, 1 vintage dolman cardigan/jacket thing

1 raincoat, 1 heavy wool coat (thrifted for a steal & I had it tailored but would still like a slightly better fit)

2 hats (everlane beanie, handknit hand-me-down beanie), 2 scarves (gifted silk scarf, handknit bulky cowl)

5 pairs of shoes: Sven clogs, free people booties, thrifted loafers, Urban Outfitters flats (need to be replaced), birkenstocks

Backpack (everlane), handbag (thrifted & desperately needs to be replaced)

slippers (hand-me-downs), running shoes (Brooks), rain/garden boots (bogs)

>>> GRAND TOTAL: 46 pieces of clothing + shoes & accessories


I sorted through all my socks, underwear & bras, and activewear, but did not include them in my photographed catalog. I also kept a group of things that I haven’t worn recently but can’t quite part with (top, including a few dresses, sentimental sweater, crazy floral pants, go-to costume aka sailor suit), and a group of things I will be using as fabric for new pieces (bottom, mostly silks and denim):

closet cleanout 2

After donating my goods, I shopped at the WES with newfound clarity and came home with just 2 new items: vintage high-waisted lightwash jeans (on my wishlist for some time) and a black silk skirt with really interesting pleating/draping.

Not only did this major closet cleanout provide me with insight on what IΒ really wear regularly, but it highlighted gaps in my wardrobe and some areas that need to be replaced. I’ve been dreaming of springtime sewing (though I’m not totally finished with my winter wardrobe plans), and some new investment pieces, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

What about you, have you been bitten by the spring cleaning bug/capsule wardrobe bug?


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