The rich and famous really are different from you and I — they have better closets.
O, the Oprah Magazine took on the seasonal chore of cleaning out the closet this year with a cover commanding readers to "De-Clutter Your Life!" It sure looked appealing: The cover photo showed the talk show doyenne inside her apparently endlessly spacious and well-appointed closet, with television-friendly, softly colored dresses lined up on matching wood hangers behind her and a sleek island cabinet bursting with fancy shoes in the foreground.
As a celebrity stylist, I've been inside some of my clients' equally well-stocked and commodious closets and even been a participant in a similar version of this perennial magazine piece, trying to deliver pithy one-liners while the actress who was the subject of a "life detox" article posed with a mountain of discarded shoes for the waiting photographer. But most working celebrities' closets function like a kind of personal wardrobe department for a series of "real-life" scenes — everyday outings caught by the paparazzi as well as the more-traditional staged red-carpet walks at premieres and award shows for a phalanx of cameras. What does any of this have to do with you, as you face your so-less-than-perfect closet each morning?
Does your search through the jumble for the right outfit each day bring you to tears or make you want to throw a hanger or two across the room? Is there a way to get out of the house each morning without a defeated sag of the shoulders?
For some answers, I sought out three very different women, who invited me into their closets and shared some secrets of their wardrobe success.
Tip 1: It's all in the edit
After what she calls "20 years at Condé Nast in Times Square, running around in stiletto heels," Dana Dickey, a senior editor at Bon Appétit, moved to L.A. with her 3-year-old son, new puppy and "baby daddy" and settled into a Laurel Canyon house last year.
But her wardrobe hasn't quite caught up with her new life, and going into her closet — a tiny walk-in tucked behind a white curtain in her bedroom — isn't really the "happy experience" she wants it be. She can't even see her shoes.
For Dickey, the first step to a better closet means being honest about where she is in life: "I guess I don't want to turn into a Valley mom, even though it's closer than it's ever been before," she wisecracks, as she tries to figure out a new "outdoorsy-slash-creative" wardrobe better suited to the canyon than the city.
With that clarity, Dickey is ready to do some pitching. The floor-length skirt, bought in downtown New York? "Never gonna work." A Balinese shift? "Fabulous for weather I barely even remember." And here in Laurel Canyon, it's time to get rid of a black wool coatdress that looks "too Jacqueline Susann-ey."
The thing about editing and really looking at your clothes in the cold light of day is realizing that some old favorites do make the cut — Dickey thought about pitching a mauve satin YSL trench coat and then realized it would work thrown over the shoulder on the way into dinner at a place like the SLS.
Tip 2: Go shopping
Once you've made some tough decisions and cleared out some space in your closet, you'll probably realize another reason why it wasn't working for you — when you look at what you really like to wear, there probably isn't enough of it.
Often this kind of closet clarity is the key to finding your own style — and sticking with it on your next shopping excursion. As much mad fun as an impulse buy can be, you'll probably find yourself a lot more focused the next time you hit the mall.
Again, Dickey is a good example. On her shopping list? Wardrobe anchors such as crisp white shirts and her favorite J. Brand 912 jeans. A great pair of ankle boots. And she wants a short leather coat that's easy to run around in — "I have a motorcycle jacket, but I need something prettier," she says.
For fun? She's looking for more necklaces "for the passport-photo area," she chuckles, and since she rediscovered an old white fedora, "I need more WeHo flyboy hats."
Tip 3: Make it easy to spot what you're looking for
Another woman I know, music manager Janelle Lopez, has her style down pat. And since she's doing different things and seeing different people every day, she easily repeats outfits a couple of days at a time, such as a favorite combo of dark top, matte-sequined skirt, black tights and above-the-knee boots with a flat riding-style heel. She wears only flats, she says, because it seems she's always running as she shadows clients such as Jennifer Hudson, New Kids on the Block and Julianne Hough for powerhouse agency Azoff, Geary, Paul.
A "day at the office" could find her in the studio for a recording session, on location at a video shoot, in art department meetings at the agency or checking out a new act at a club, on the road or on the red carpet (making the rounds of Golden Globe after-parties with country star Hough, for instance).
Her enviable organizational skills make her closet work for her fast-paced life. For starters, her setup is pretty sweet — doublewide with bi-fold louvered doors that open to reveal everything on matching white hangers.
Originally there were cubbyholes below the closet rods, but her father ("he's really Mr. Organization," she says) helped her rip them out and install a lower rod for more hanging space.
"I couldn't see things in those cubicles," she says, but now there's everything at a glance.
It's a trick that rubbed off on her from seeing stylists on photo shoots with everything hanging from garment racks. When you need to reach for clothing quickly, the best way to see it is on hangers rather than rooting through a pile of folded items.
And she keeps her closet under control by being a stickler about weeding things out when she buys something new, giving the castoffs to a co-worker who donates them to a homeless shelter.
Tip 4: Keep it uniform
Amy Robinson balances her family (husband and young son and daughter) with a career as a corporate consultant specializing in methods of "bridging the generational divide," as she puts it, devising strategies for retaining employees, planning management succession and aligning the expectations of younger and older employees.
She's wearing a black Chloé cardigan jacket, cropped khakis and a string of pearls, just home after a work meeting. She said her "pretty typical" closet holds everything from "H&M to Banana Republic to Armani."
Her closet, which she shares with her husband, is a spacious tile-floored walk-in, an extension of her master bath. Everything hangs on identical wooden hangers because she likes to see one even line of clothes. She even made her husband use the same hangers on his side of the closet, until she conceded that suit hangers worked better for him.
She admits she would probably wear a uniform of some sort if she could (something she loved about her school days at Marlborough). Shopping, when it occurs, is sporadic — it's hard to find the time, she says. In fact, her mom picked up the linen jacket she's wearing today. "If I had more suits, I'd wear them," she says.
We poke our heads into the extremely neat closet, boots lined up on shelves above the unvarying lineup of hanging clothes. She immediately spies a couple of candidates for expunging, holding up a droopy leather jacket: "I'd never wear this now, it's very '90s," she says.
Then she holds out a great pinstriped sheath, still a backbone of her wardrobe, even though she bought it about 10 years ago. Suddenly she realizes she doesn't want any more suits.
"I wish I had more of these dresses," she says.
See Tip 2!
Vincent Boucher is a fashion stylist and writer in Los Angeles.