What we wear is inportant. Clothes are a major part of how we present ourselves to the world and they send a message to the people we meet. And of course, fashion is fun! I don’t often experiment with trends, but I know the fabrics, colours and silhouettes I feel good in. Being visually impaired can make finding a particular item tricky and putting together an outfit, time consuming. So here are some ideas for organising your wardrobe so you can always find that favourite dress or fabulous pair of shoes in no time at all! You might need help from a sighted friend to set some of these systems up but it’ll be worth it to save you time and stress every morning.
1. Organise by type and colour
Keep like items together, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, jumpers, jackets and so on. Then within each category, keep items in order of colour, from lightest on the left hand side, to darkest on the right. So, if you want to wear your black, long sleeved dress, you can head straight to the dresses, go to the long sleeves section and choose the dress at the far right of that section. Easy.
2. Have a system for identifying colours
There a few ways you can do this and you might need a sighted friend to help you with your preferred set up.
Sew different shaped buttons into a garment (round for black, square for pink etc).
Cut the label inside the garment in a certain way to indicate the colour. I cut the corner on the right side to indicate black, the corner on the left for navy, a straight snip in the middle of the label for pink and so on.
Combine buttons and cut-outs to indicate patterns and colours. For example, I might decide to use square buttons for florals and round buttons for stripes. Then using my own cut-out label system, I could attach a square button and cut out the left corner of the label so I know that the garment has a navy floral design.
You could use a colour indicator or even the colour channel on the Seeing AI App too, although this might take longer and is not always accurate.
The ‘Pen Friend’ is a device that allows you to record a short message onto a label and then you place the pen on the label to play back the message. You can get labels that can go in the washing machine. You could record a quick description of the item and any other information like “navy blouse with white polka dots, its slightly sheer so needs a camisole underneath.” You can buy these from the RNIB shop.
3. Colour palette
I find I gravitate towards certain colours when I get dressed, so I stopped buying clothes in colours that I never wear. It means there are fewer colours to decipher in my wardrobe, I don’t waste money on clothes I never wear and I don’t have clothes hanging around that I never reach for because I don’t really like the colour. I have noticed I tend to go for tops and dresses in black, white, pink, berry tones and navy and with that in mind, shopping is much easier too. This won’t be for everyone, some people enjoy being adventurous with colours. They look equally great in neutrals, bolds, pastels and jewel tones, in which case, this might not apply, but for me, if simplified my wardrobe.
5. Consider a capsule wardrobe or even a Ten Item Wardrobe!
Jennifer L. Scott, author of the Madame Chic books and creator of the Ten Item Wardrobe, explains the virtues of having a pared down wardrobe in her books and on her excellent YouTube channel, The Daily Connoisseur. Her Ten Item Wardrobe concept both simplifies and enhances the process of owning, choosing and wearing clothes. When I first came across her work, I immediately saw how her ideas could benefit women with a visual impairment. We blind ladies value looking presentable as much as our sighted peers and the ten item wardrobe concept is a simple way of allowing us to achieve this easily everyday. The idea of having only ten items in your wardrobe seems extreme at first, but the number isn’t the most important thing, you choose the number that is right for you and as long as you keep it streamlined, it still works. The idea is that you have a pared down selection of core items that you feel great in. Those items can be combined with a few ‘extras’ (outerwear, accessories etc) to create outfits that you feel great in, with minimal effort. Jennifer encourages us to become discerning shoppers, so we only own clothes that we love. That way we have fewer pieces, but get more enjoyment out of our wardrobe.
With fewer clothes it’s easier to remember which of them go together and there is no clutter to do battle with, making it easier to locate a particular garment.
You may choose to ask a sighted friend to help you put together your capsule each season (or however often works for you). Once you have done this, you know all the tops hanging in you wardrobe look great with all the bottoms and it is much easier and quicker to choose an outfit and feel confident that you look great in it.
Combining the Ten Item Wardrobe concept with the idea of a colour palette in point 3 can work wonders for a visually impaired girl’s wardrobe. If a colour palette appeals to you for its simplicity, but you fear you might get bored, you could choose a different colour palette with each season’s capsule. That way, you benefit from the simplicity, but still have the freedom to change it up. That doesn’t mean buying a whole new wardrobe each season, but rather storing away items that are not in use and bringing them back out again for future capsules. When you bring them out after 6 months or a year, it’ll be like going shopping for new clothes without leaving the house or spending money!
If the idea of a ten item wardrobe is too daunting at this time, try a capsule wardrobe for a month, or even just for an upcoming trip to see how it works for you. A couple of my favourite resources for capsule wardrobes is the blog Audrey a la Mode and the YouTube channel of Audrey Coyne, an expert in her field who is a joy to watch. She has a way of explaining her ideas simply, so that even a fashion novice like me feels like it could be achievable. If you’re interested in learning more about capsule wardrobes, I’d definitely recommend visiting her channel.
6. Store away seasonal or occasional items
Whether you choose a capsule wardrobe or not, it’s worth storing away coasts and jumpers in the summer and summer dresses and shorts when the temperature drops. The fewer items you have in your everyday wardrobe, the easier it is to find what you need. Only hang up items you are going to wear often. You don’t want to spend time and energy sorting through clothes you can’t wear for another 6 months each time you get dressed. When you have low vision, or are completely blind, minimising clutter makes locating things a lot easier. If you don’t want to fold up special occasion dresses, hang them in a garment bags at one end of your wardrobe so they don’t get mixed up with your day to day clothing.
7. Keep items you wear together, together
If you have a black blouse that you always wear with a black camisole underneath, keep a black camisole on the hanger with the blouse. If you have a dress that you like to pair with a certain necklace, hang them together. Then you can be safe in the knowledge that should you wish to wear that blouse or that dress, you don’t have to then go in search of it’s partner. Just grab the hanger and you’ve got what you need.
If like me, you have a little vision, lighting is important. It might seem a bit indulgent to install lighting in your wardrobe but if it saves time every single day, it’s probably worth it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Although spotlights work well, they are a job for an electrician and will come at a cost. If you don’t want the trouble of having them fitted or are on a budget, good quality, battery powered lights with an adhesive backing can make a big difference and you can stick as many of them in your wardrobe you like. If you have a light fitting in your wardrobe use a white daylight bulb to make colours clearer.
9. Drawer dividers
Drawer dividers keep items separate so you know exactly where to reach for them. It’s great to have similar items together in the same section, like knickers in one section and bras in another, or put items that are likely to become tangled in their own little separate sections, like belts. There are inexpensive options at IKEA and on Amazon, but why not use shoe boxes and other smaller boxes you already have?
When I find a great pair of shoes that I absolutely love (and can walk in), I want to buy it in black and nude. If you do this too (admit it, I bet you’ve done it before!) and you have low vision or none at all, a good labelling system is key. I have heard of people putting their shoes in boxes then labelling the box with either tactile stickers or braille labels. This wouldn’t work for me as I like to be able to feel the shoe so I know which style it is without opening and closing boxes. A simple, thin shoe bag to keep the pair of shoes together works well and you can add a label that works for you to indicate the colour if you need to.
So there are some simple ideas for keeping your clothes organised and easy to find, which hopefully makes choosing clothes and getting dressed a pleasure.
If you have any other tips on organising clothes for someone who is visually impaired, please do share them in the comments. I’d be really interested in hearing your top tips! Let’s help each other to achieve wardrobe happiness (not sure if that’s a thing, but I like the sound of it!)
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