Ask Belle: Roundup, Vol. 2

Feb 15, 2011

Dear Belle,

I hear you organize closets.  What does yours look like?  How often do you reorganize it?  And how often do you buy new things?  Do you change it out every season?

Deb

It’s true, I do organize closets, but my business isn’t so much about storage as it is about your wardrobe.  Too many women hold on to pieces that don’t fit, are out of style or just aren’t a good fit with the rest of the wardrobe.  I’m a big believer that your closet should be kept at a manageable level, so that you can make the most of what you have.  As for my closet…

Behold! The inside of Belle’s closet.  As you can see, it is very clean and organized, just how I like it.  Shirts and jackets to the left, shoes and dresses to the right.  Everything with a place, everything in it’s place. 

As for size, my wardrobe is approximately 75 pieces.  I know that to some of you it sounds like a lot, but I’ve cleaned at wardrobes that were 300+.  Nina Garcia advocates for 100 pieces, and QVC UK recently did a survey that found that the average British woman has 22 unworn pieces in her wardrobe.  75 is probably about right.

I clean out my closet at least four times per year to make donations to Goodwill, sell pieces on eBay and make space for new items.  To replace those items, I usually shop online and only go to the mall a handful of times per year.  I probably incorporate two new pieces into my wardrobe each month, although these are usually smaller accessories or eBay purchases.

I keep a list of pieces that I really love but can’t afford and then look for them on eBay later.  I recently found a Trina Turk dress that I had been searching for for four years, and two dresses from Stella McCartney’s capsule collection for Target Australia that I can’t wait to wear.  I also buy all of my suits on eBay.

Because I’m not rich, I can’t afford to turn over my entire wardrobe every season.  Only 1/5th of my wardrobe is seasonal (heavy tweed jackets, white sundresses, etc.).  I try to keep my wardrobe seasonless by choosing lighter wool suits, lighter weight sweaters and cardigans, sleeveless/short sleeve blouses (good for layering) and lots of dresses.

Belle,

Upon seeing the nail polish you featured in a blog post a while back, I immediately followed your advice, high tailed my way over to eBay, and bought a bottle of the beautiful Iron Butterfly nail polish. It truly is beautiful. One problem. It wears out in under 24 hours. I can paint my nails in the morning and have chips and wears by the end of the work day. I have tried using different base coats and even tried to put on a top coat (though it ruins the effect of the matte nail polish) and nothing has worked. When wearing it, I have to either, touch it up every night, or deal with the tips of my nails slowly begin to peek through. Any ideas of what could help it last longer? Thanks.

Tired of non-committal nail polish,
Hanalyn
I understand the frustration.  Nothing is worse than chipping nail polish, except maybe split ends, but I digress.  I find that the trick to keeping glittery nailpolishes on is four-fold:
  1. Apply OPI Chip skip before you paint.
  2. Apply two good coats, allowing each to dry completely before you add the next layer.
  3. Use Quick and Slick Top Coat, Belle recommended, All Lacquered Up approved
  4. Lastly, re-apply the top coat every few days.

Sadly, there is no perfect solution for glitter polish, but this should help.  If keeping the matte look is important to you, and with this polish it is, try Butter London’s Matte Top Coat.  It’ll help protect the polish without ruining the flat iron look.

Also, look for gel polishes at your local manicurist.  It’s said that they last for up to three weeks without chipping.  And they don’t damage your nails if you care for them properly.  

Dear Belle,

Our law school has a semi-formal event coming up in late March.  The event begins as a reception/dinner with the professors then moves on to an after-party at a club nearby.  The dress is cocktail attire for women, so nothing too fancy.  The problem is, I have no idea what to wear that would be fun enough for the after-party while being professional/conservative enough for dinner and mingling with my professors.  Furthermore, the fact that it falls at a not-quite-winter, not-quite-spring time of year is complicating matters.  I’d rather wear something with some color just because I’m so tired of LBDs as standard wear for events.  Any help would be greatly appreciated! 

Martha

My go to dress for professional events that are semi-formal is black lace or sequins, neither of which seems to fit your criteria.  I also would recommend against wearing a strapless, spaghetti strap or halter.  Though if you do choose one of those styles, please for the love of God, don’t wear a basic crewneck cardigan over it.  Instead, grab a boyfriend blazer, a tuxedo jacket, or wrap.  Don’t own any of those?  You’re average tuxedo rental place will rent you a tuxedo jacket.  I did it before the holidays and it was surprisingly cost-effective.  

Alexia Adamor Detail Dress (Last Call, $169)

If you intend to buy or rent a dress, I recommend something with sleeves or at least full-sleeveless.  This dress has a draping detail and a bit of color, a good mix of fun and proper.  I especially like the slightly puffed skirt, which is good for those of us with hips.  

I’d add a belt and some bangles.  You could also do tights if you really wanted to.  But even though I like this dress, if I were looking for something outside of the LBD, investment piece box, I would rent my dress not buy.

This draped Catherine Malandrino dress is nice.  The dark teal is certainly an improvement over basic black, and at just $75, it’s a steal.  If you need an invite to Rent the Runway so you can look around, click here.  And as always, if you have a question for Belle, send it to capitolhillstyle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Ask The Edit, Style

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  1. e says:

    You don't hang your pants? Where do you keep them?

    Great post, Belle!

  2. Alli says:

    I am always shocked when I hear people talk about the pieces in their wardrobe. Only 75 pieces? That can't include shoes, right? I mean this without an ounce of sarcasm: please tell me how that works? Maybe it's because I'm indecisive, but I probably have close to 100 pieces in each of my closets, and I have three closets. I certainly have some clothes that could be donated and that I don't wear, but those are stored under my bed.

  3. Melissa says:

    Any tips for buying suits on eBay?

  4. Catherine says:

    I second Melissa's question! I have to wear suits 95% of the time and now that more shops have stopped carrying them in store (AT Loft comes to mind) I have difficulty finding new pieces consistently. Thanks!

  5. Belle says:

    e-

    I don't really wear pants. I have three pair. Their on a multi-tier hanger. That's it/

    Alli-

    75 pieces plus 8 pairs of shoes. That's it. I like to keep things well-edited because the average woman only wears 20% of what is in her closet on a regular basis anyway.

    Suits on eBay is it's own post.

  6. lyssa says:

    Belle –

    Love the organized closet. Are these pieces just for work? What about jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, work out clothes, camisoles, etc. Are these part of the 75? I have an unusual fashion challenge because I work part time and am home with kids/casual the rest of the time. I'd love to have a wardrobe that works for both, but you can't wear stilettos and pencil skirts at the nature center.

    Thanks, Lyssa

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