You Downsized Your Wardrobe, Now What?

When not working with clients, The Practical Sort has been out and about meeting the most fascinating people.  Occasionally when I come across women-owned businesses offering complementary services that I believe could benefit my clients in some way, they will be featured in "What's On My Mind Today."  Feel free to drop me a note at to let me know if you find this series helpful.  Let's see who is on deck this month.

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You finally decided to release those old jeans that are ripped beyond a fashion statement.  That stretched out sweater doesn't do justice to your new trim waistline.  And that suit with the puffy sleeves has not seen the light of day since Bill Clinton took office.  Purging your closet has begun.  Those holey jeans are replaced with lots of holes in your wardrobe.  Now what? 

Meet Cristina Villarreal.  Her childhood passion for creating Barbie doll fashions alongside her mom, grandmother, and aunts grew into an illustrious career in the fashion entertainment industry.  You may have heard of bands such as Aerosmith, Destiny's Child, Meatloaf, Spice Girls.  She toured with them as their wardrobe mistress for the better part of a decade.  Among her many talents are visual merchandiser, make-up artist, hair stylist and designer at Bella Stina Designs. 

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Cristina also does closet organization.  Now you might be thinking why would I be putting in a plug for someone who directly competes with The Practical Sort?  In fact, she is the second Cristina (or Christina) who is a fashion stylist/wardrobe organizer that has recently caught my attention. 

I am an organizer.  Fashion sense is not within my comfort zone.  Occasionally when I have worked with clients to pare down their wardrobes, they end the process with a sense of loss.  Loss for the items they once held dear and at a loss for how to begin rebuilding a sensible wardrobe.  Part of my service model is offering the tools to help you to reconstruct in a practical way.

I sat down with Cristina a few months back to chat about her story, her philosophy, and her process.  Our Q&A is as follows:

The Practical Sort (PS):  Who is your ideal client and how do you find them?

Cristina Villareal (CV):  Men & women lost in Wardrobeland.  They are typically professionals between the ages of 30-55 who need a wardrobe refresher. Someone who is looking to update their professional look and represent who they are. 

PS:  What is your philosophy on dressing for trends vs classic styles?

CV: I tend to be more classic in my approach.  I advise my clients to purchase 1 or 2 trendy pieces per season, but don't over do it.  Don't spend a lot on something that will go out of style.

PS:  How do you gently help a client release beloved clothes that no longer flatter?

CV: First, I look at the condition of the clothes and work with the client to let go. It can become a very emotional process, if there are pieces that are super-sentimental, then those can be retained.  Keeping pieces in your wardrobe because you’ll wear them again someday when you lose those 10 lbs definitely need to go.  Don’t focus on the 'when' concentrate on the 'now'.  Be happy and comfortable in what you wear now.  Let’s get rid of those unflattering pants or top that do not do your body any justice.  Style is for everyone and they make different silhouettes for a reason. 

PS:  After paring down, what is your process for helping your clients rebuild while staying within their budget?

CV:  As a personal shopper, I am familiar with the stores that match people's budget constraints and select from them accordingly.  Options include clearance racks, thrift stores, consignment stores, and even coupon Apps for the budget conscious.  Personally I love  Whenever I am out shopping with a client and they find something they love, I pull out my phone and grab a coupon.  They appreciate the savings. I always say that it is best to invest in a good quality piece if you are going to wear it frequently.  This is especially true when you are doing a capsule wardrobe with limited pieces that will be worn repeatedly.  A high-quality item will be made of better material that will help keep it’s shape longer. 

PS:  I love hearing other organizers secrets.  What are your top 3 secrets for organizing a wardrobe.

CV:  These are my top 3 secrets:

1.  Slim velvet hangers for gripping clothes and wide wood hangers for coats in order for them to properly maintain their shape.

2.  Color code.  I use the RoyGBiv system with my clients from white to black.  [note:  for readers not familiar with RoyGBiv from elementary school science, it is the acronym for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet].

3.  Further organize by short sleeve to long sleeve.

PS:  How do you advise your clients on shopping for quality vs. quantity?


CV:  Would you rather buy one good quality t-shirt at $40-$60 that can last years and hold its color and shape or would you prefer spending $5 every 3-6 months for a t-shirt that will loose its shape and color?  Use the tips mentioned above to shop budget consciously, you can often do both.  Brand names can be found in those venues if that is what you are looking for. 

PS:  With limited space, how do you suggest allocating for work vs. casual?

CV:  Invest in versatile pieces. Slacks can be worn from office to a date-night. A cardigan can be worn to an office or for a casual weekend look.  Finding pieces that work in both work and casual not only saves space, but money too. 

PS:  Like the ingredients to have on hand in your cupboard to whip up meals in a flash, what are the ingredients for a must-have wardrobe?

CV:  I have compiled this Check List for A Timeless Wardrobe Capsule (click on the bold to download). 

The checklist contains basic wardrobe pieces needed for a well rounded classic and timeless style year-round.  

PS:  Finally, what do you prefer fashion or organizing?

CV:  I like doing both.  I find pleasure in helping people with their wardrobe and have their style reflect who they are.  At the same time, I enjoy organizing a wardrobe closet to make dressing in the morning for a client a breeze. 

Click here if you would like to learn more about Cristina and her styling services.  If you need organizing assistance beyond the wardrobe, you can find help here with The Practical Sort to get you on your way. 

Thank you Cristina.

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