Streamlining is the process of analysing your existing clothing, footwear and accessories collection, then editing it to fit with your chosen aesthetic and lifestyle.
The purpose is to make the collection more relevant to who you are, more usable, accessible and, often, smaller.
Wardrobe streamlining covers the analysis and edit of:
- Personal aesthetic
- The number of items in your wardrobe
- How items are arranged in a functional order
- The wardrobe design and display
I’ve used this term to include wardrobe design as well as clothing, but wardrobe streamlining could also be ‘creating a capsule wardrobe’, ‘creating a dream wardrobe’, ‘closet deep clean’ or related terms.
In this detailed guide I’ll explain the key elements of the process, who’s doing it and what it means for fashion businesses.
A few of the Pinterest results for ‘wardrobe streamlining’
Visibility. Wardrobe streamlining is about making everything to do with your clothing clear: what you own, what your style is and how your wardrobe functions. It’s project management for your togs.
Why are people doing it?
Links with wellbeing practices
Reducing the number of objects you own has a clear link with minimalism. But minimalism can have a very Spartan vibe. Wardrobe streamlining has stronger links instead with softer and more established wellbeing practices, like de-cluttering, spring cleaning and the ‘sort your shit out’ ethos.
The next step for the capsule
Streamlining is also a child of the capsule wardrobe, a mid-80s fashion phenomenon. ‘Streamliners’ often end up with a capsule wardrobe at the end of the auditing process, but streamlining goes beyond the capsule – it’s the analysis and edit of the display space too.
Claiming back time and energy
Streamlining maximises free time and minimises effort in getting dressed – both luxuries time-poor consumers crave.
Wardrobe streamlining is a solution to lots of irritating problems, especially for consumers working in jobs where personal presentation is a criterion for success.
Our sharing culture encourages home- and style-making that’s ‘Pinterest-worthy’. Socially connected consumers want a wardrobe they’re proud to Instagram – one that looks good and functions well, which their audience will be able to see in their personal style.
Who’s doing it?
Mainly socially and digitally connected female professionals, mid-twenties upwards, often those moving into a new space (physical, professional or mental) and, for the younger audience, with a desire to ‘look grown up’.
Anyone could become a streamliner if:
- They lack time, space and energy in their homes and routines
- They have ‘too many clothes/nothing to wear’
- They’re struggling with a changing identity (for example, pre-dad to fatherhood; college to graduate; married to divorced)
- They’re aware of how clothing can represent your personality
Click on the links to jump ahead.
- Analysis and edit
- Style self-awareness
- Time and energy saving methods
- Specific number of clothes
- Wardrobe design
- Digital integration
Analysis and edit
Into Mind’s 10 step wardrobe revamp plan
Streamlining starts with an analysis of your current clothing, personal style and goals for the streamlining. Some online publishers offer workbooks, workshops, individual sessions or editorial on how to undertake analysis often using outfit diaries, daily photographs, a critical eye and an honest friend.
Editing happens post-analysis, when where you are now and where you want to be are completely visible. Editing means removing items, putting together new outfits, making a shopping list or rearranging and redesigning your wardrobe.
Some of the many images on my ‘Developing Style’ Pinterest board
Part of the analysis stage of wardrobe streamlining is the development of individual style self-awareness. This can be physical, like what silhouettes suit you, or conceptual – what ‘look’ you’re going for.
Style self-awareness means being able to look at your life, activities, identity and body objectively as well as subjectively. This is often where objective ‘eyes’ come into play: the blogger, trusted friend or sales advisor.
Time and energy saving methods
A limited colour palette means easier choices
Wardrobe streamlining is designed to help save participants time and energy, so methods and tools that save these precious resources are an essential characteristic.
- Putting together outfits before they need to be worn
- Arranging garments functionally (e.g. in order of hem length)
- Picking a limited colour palette for the wardrobe
- Having fewer items of clothing, making choices easier
Streamliners might use tools they create to help them – like lists, drawings or personal photographs – or third party tools like printables, guides and workbooks.
Specific number of clothes
Kendra’s 10 items for 30 outfits on Closet Confections
Streamliners can take a similar approach to the minimalist consumer and their limited wardrobe, editing their collection to a specific, often arbitrary, number of items. This process has been popularised by individual blogging projects which then become widespread. Visibility determines how many items – ideally, streamliners want to see all their clothing, shoes and accessories in one go – but there are other variables too.
Often these arbitrary numbers are for ‘test’ periods, with the perfect number for the individual growing from their experience. It often doesn’t include underwear, sportswear or loungewear, or anything designed for specific hobbies.
Ikea’s ‘open shelf’ designs: the streamliner’s dream?
Wardrobe design helps to make the edited clothing collection visible and easier to use: an essential element of wardrobe streamlining. It includes the organisation, presentation, storage and care of the collection – like using open shelves to see all your garments.
The aesthetic of the wardrobe design is as key to personal representation as the clothing itself. Many consumers don’t have the space for the wardrobe of their dreams, but streamlining can help them have an organised wardrobe of which they’re proud (and looks good on the internet).
An example Polyvore collage, with shoppable links
Digital platforms play an important role in wardrobe streamlining at every step of the process. Platforms include:
- Pinterest and Polyvore, where new styles can be curated ready for the edit
- Online publishers, who provide guidance and tools to support participants
- Apps like Stylebook, with constant visibility of items and quick, easy ‘play’ with outfits
- Online communities like WIWT, which are built around recording outfits
- Instagram, where participants can share the streamlined, stylish collection and wardrobe
While wardrobe streamlining can be done without ever going online, digital integration has popularised the process and given participants a range of tools to support them, as well as share their experiences.
What can fashion brands do?
Make sure you’re in the closet
For fashion brands, the first questions to ask with wardrobe streamlining is ‘Are we still in the closet?’. In a limited wardrobe, brands have less competition and more likelihood of being repurchased as the name is visible and has been chosen intentionally by the wearer.
If your brand is one of the many thrown out in the editing process, it’s unlikely a streamliner will buy from you again.
The aim for a fashion brand is to make sure you stay in the closet by providing great products with great service in a way that makes the wearer feel good.
Maximise digital opportunities
Brands who are maximising digital opportunities can benefit from wardrobe streamlining, where the digital integrates seamlessly with the physical clothing experience. Digital opportunities include:
- Working with relevant, ‘on brand’ online publishers
- Producing beautiful Pinterest and Instagram lifestyle images
- Making products available on curation platforms like Polyvore
- Using third party platforms or apps as advertising opportunities
If a fashion brand can be present digitally at every stage in the wardrobe streamlining process, it’s more likely to stay in the closet and be repurchased.
Provide ‘offshoot’ services and products
Wardrobe streamlining is about clothing and the wardrobe experience. Fashion brands helping customers complete the analysis and edit can benefit from the trend. So can those providing ‘offshoot’ services and products that make the process more enjoyable.
‘Offshoot’ services and products which benefit customers could be:
- Clothes packaging and wardrobe storage in your brand’s aesthetic
- Personal style consultation, analysis and suggestions
- Online workbooks, guides and quizzes
- Customer database that tracks purchases and can make useful ‘other item’ suggestions
- Discounts for clothing care from trusted partners (like drycleaners)
Wardrobe streamlining is an activity loosely tied to wellbeing practices.
If fashion brands can provide a holistic range of support for streamliners, they’re more likely to keep their place in the closet.
Create displays showing function
Wardrobe streamlining encourages participants to think carefully about how their clothing is arranged so it functions effectively for their lifestyle. Fashion brands can echo this with visual displays, in store and online, demonstrating functionality.
This could be grouping items for a multi-layered outfit on one rail; one colour palette but different garments in one display; or subtle variations on one garment (such as t-shirts) all on one shelf.
The emphasis is on understanding how someone gets dressed and echoing that in retail displays, showing an empathy with your customer’s lifestyle.
Promote an aspirational brand experience
An important element of wardrobe streamlining is the inspiration, celebration and sharing of a functional, polished and beautiful clothing collection.
Fashion brands promoting an aspirational brand experience are more likely to been revered and, ultimately, stay in the closet.
While incredible images are naturally a great starting point, the brand experience needs to extend to service, retail space, interiors, storage, models and language. Out of these, aspirational spaces are as important as inspirational clothing.
If a fashion brand can make its shelving as aspirational as its shoes, it’ll stay in the closet – and probably have a Pinterest tutorial written about it.
Featured image: edited ‘hanger’ by enric archivell via Creative Commons.