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.