The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining. Spring has sprung—well, everywhere except the dark depths of your closet.
As much as you surely enjoyed layering scarves, sweaters, and jackets for winter (and then taking all those layers off once you finally got inside the office), when spring rolls around, it’s the perfect time to give your work wardrobe a little spring cleaning.
Not sure where to start? To get your office attire spring-ready, follow this step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Sort—Ruthlessly
Put on your game face, because you’re about to face a tough opponent: Those clothes that you absolutely never wear, but can’t quite seem to get rid of. I’ve been there. But spring cleaning is all about making a fresh start, so take advantage of this time to ruthlessly sort your work wear into five piles:
1. The Keepers: These are the staples you wear day in and day out—you wouldn’t even think about getting rid of them. They fit perfectly, flatter your figure, and go with everything. Think: Your perfect pair of black slacks, timeless nude heels, and classic white button-up. These will go right back in your closet—no need to mess with a good thing!
2. The Fixer-Uppers: These are the clothes you love dearly, but don’t wear because of some issue with the way they fit. Whether your pants drag on the ground, your sleeves don’t actually reach your wrist, or your dress doesn’t quite fall right on your hips, if it doesn’t fit, you won’t wear it.
But don’t jump to conclusions just yet—here’s the real test: Can it be altered to fit—and do you love it enough to actually take it to the tailor? If the answer is yes, keep it (and don’t procrastinate—pull the trigger and just get it fixed already!). If you like it, but not enough to spend $12 on a new hem (i.e., it cost even less than that when you bought it at Forever 21)—it’s time to let it go.
3. The Cleaner-Uppers: When you’ve mixed and matched your favorite blazer all winter long, it’s probably in need of a little freshening up. Same goes for the spring skirts and dresses that have been tucked in the back of your closet for months. To spruce up your spring wardrobe, take all those dry-clean only pieces to get cleaned and pressed.
4. The Leavers: These are the clothes you haven’t worn in months, can’t imagine wearing in the future, and probably wouldn’t pay a tailor to fix. (Um, why are these still in your closet anyway?) Obviously, it’s time to find them a new home. This is where it’s important to be merciless: If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re probably not going to wear it again. So, be completely honest about anything that doesn’t flatter, doesn’t fit, or that you just plain don’t like—and bring it to the donation bin at Goodwill.
5. The Save-For-Laters: The temperatures are finally warming up, so unless your office is chilly enough for heavy sweaters and fleece-lined tights (which, if your office is anything like mine, it’s actually a possibility), it’s time to store away your heavy winter clothes. Make room for your linen blazers and cap-sleeve dresses by stowing away your heavy sweaters and boots. (Pro tip: Wash or dry clean your sweaters prior to storing them, then tuck them away in airtight plastic bins—your Winter 2013 self will love you.)
Step 2: Plan Your Shopping List
Now that you’ve cleaned out some extra space in your closet, it’s time to head to the mall so you can fill it back up, right?
Well, in a way. After cleaning out your work wardrobe, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to really pinpoint what’s missing going into this season. So, take inventory of what you already have and decide what staples you still need. Maybe you already have a go-to pair of black slacks and a fabulous grey pencil skirt—but you’re still looking for the perfect black blazer. Or maybe you have some great skirts that you’d get more use out of with some new silk blouses or an ivory cardigan.
Also pay attention to what you do have. If half of the items remaining in your closet are shift dresses, buying a couple of new ones may be a good investment—they’ll definitely get used.
No matter what you buy, though, the key is to stick to basics that you’ll wear often and won’t go out of style (will a white button-down ever be off-trend?) and to invest in good, quality pieces. Once you have your staples, you’ll be able to add in trendy accessories as they come and go, like a neon belt or leopard-print heels.
Step 3: Reimagine What’s Left
Now that you’re left with a slightly more compact work wardrobe, you may have a moment of panic. Without so many options, what in the world will you wear? (Although, let’s be honest: You thought the exact same thing even when your closet was filled to the brim.)
When you’re done sorting through your work clothes, it’s the perfect time to breathe some new life into them. But you don’t need to go on a frantic DIY spree (although if you have the skills, you definitely could)—you can simply reimagine how you combine individual pieces. Try mixing patterns, like stripes and florals or gingham and polka dots. Get a bright springtime look by pairing a bold, bright colored bottom with a chambray shirt (or even another bright color!). Still a little chilly out? Layer a striped shirt under a cap-sleeved dress, or fully button up a cardigan to wear it like a shirt. (Need some inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board for ideas on how to remix your office basics!)
Most people tend to rotate through a set of go-to work outfits—and that’s completely fine! But if you’re looking to expand your wardrobe (even with fewer pieces!), try pairing individual items together that you hadn’t thought of before. You’ll find that you have a much bigger wardrobe than you thought.
After sorting through your clothes, organizing them, reimagining them—and maybe buying a new piece or two—it’ll feel like you have an entirely new wardrobe. And that’s enough to get anyone excited about starting a new season at the office.
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After beginning a career in management, Katie realized she wasn’t doing what she loved and determined it was time for a major career transition. Now, as a staff writer/editor for The Muse and a content marketing writer for a healthcare IT company, she gets to do what she loves every day—write and edit content ranging from demand generation campaigns to career advice. Her career and management content has been published on Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, Inc., and Newsweek. Find her on Twitter @kgwolfie.More from this Author