Look before you leap into a new spring wardrobe

By Debra D. Bass
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

We can officially enjoy more sunshine thanks to daylight-saving time, and we’re finally free to pack up our snow boots and heavy coats.

So while you’re rooting around in the closet looking for your sandals and tank tops, it’s a good time to reassess your wardrobe before you do any spring shopping.

If you do not own a full-length mirror, buy one. Stat. You can’t dress properly if you can’t see yourself. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, the cheap $10 hang-on-the-back-of-the-door variety works fine. But make sure you’ve got good lighting and enough room to back up and turn around.

Look at yourself from every angle, not just the front. You want to be the first person to notice that there’s a hole on the left cheek of your pants before you leave the house.

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, don’t just pack your winter clothes. Scrutinize them. Did you wear it? Did you like wearing it? Does it need repair? Does it still fit? Does it add real value and diversity to your wardrobe or is it just something to throw on when everything else is dirty?

And finally, is it really worth packing or should you put it in the charity pile? End of season is a great time to let things go because by the time you’ll wear it again, you’ll probably have forgotten about it. Dump the dead weight in your closet to make room for the things you truly love and that truly flatter you. You’re going to shop between now and winter. You can replace it with something better.

Once you’ve gone through your entire winter closet, remember to wash or dry clean anything you need to pack away for next fall, especially coats. The interior of shoes should be sprayed with a disinfectant before packing, and by all means brush off the crud, spot clean and wash the soles of your shoes (salt residue corrodes cars; think of what it will do to your footwear). Besides, who wants to open up a box of dirty clothes and shoes?

By the way, don’t pack your leather or faux-leather boots just yet. You will probably want to ditch the tights, but you can still wear most boots into spring. Lighter weight dresses and skirts with tall and cropped boots can be a nice balance of light and heavy. But don’t just wear a typical fall outfit in April or you’ll look off-kilter.

So, now it’s time to unpack your spring and summer clothes. Just like you reassessed your winter clothes, do the same with your warm-weather attire. Try things on in front of your full-length mirror.

Ask yourself if you still like it. Does it fit? Is it stained or ripped? What will you wear it with? Do the buttons need fortifying?

Now that you’ve got time to try things on (Note: You should try everything on if it’s worth keeping), it’s a good time to experiment with new options. Try wearing your new fall blazer with a T-shirt and last year’s spring skirt, try wearing a mock turtleneck over a summer tunic and leggings or add a boyfriend cardigan to a maxi dress. Experiment with mixing patterns and contrasting colors; some of the looks might surprise you.

If something needs repair or alterations, don’t hang it up. I repeat: Do not hang it up.

Put the items in a bag for the tailor and put it by the front door so that you can actually take it to the tailor instead of thinking about taking it to the tailor or forgetting to take it to the tailor.

Now that you’ve got all your spring to summer wardrobe items in the closet, do a little merchandising.

Group clothing by type and style. Maxi dresses together, light short-sleeve shirts together, long-sleeve knits together, blazers, jeans, slacks, skirts, etc. And if you’re really ambitious, coordinate by color. It’s a good way to figure out if you have three black skirts too many.

You also can glance through your closet and figure out if you’ve got any gaps. Did all your jeans end up in the charity pile? Was your only white shirt ruined by sweat stains? Do you need a couple of spring dresses that are work-appropriate?

It’s painful and tedious, but it’s better to know exactly what’s in your closet so that you can get the most out of your clothes. It’s also a great idea to shed outdated, ill-fitting and superfluous items that clog up your wardrobe. Don’t just keep it because you bought it. We should learn from our mistakes. Don’t punish yourself for buying a green neon shirt or cheetah print Kimono top on whim by making yourself look at it every single day.

The more things in your closet that you love (not feel so-so about, but love), the more likely you are to feel good about getting dressed and how you dress.

And isn’t that a good way to jump into spring?