News & Runway

Closed Set with Julie Bensman: New Year, New Closet

Rachel Zoe closet

As cyclical fashion trends come and go, often uttered is the old adage: what’s old is new again. Yet, there comes a day when “old” can never be “new” and, really, just needs to be purged. A personal case in point? A faded yellow-over-time white pageant dress I donned while securing the 1995 Miss Majorette of the Midwest title (did I neglect to mention this to you all before?) – think boning corset, hoop skirt and layer upon layer of cheap chiffon. My mother and I found it in the attic when I was home over the holidays and, after a good laugh, we plotted its demise: eBay.

It seems there’s no better and more appropriate time to clean out one’s closet than after the New Year, when old clothes are shoved aside to make way for new gifts and after-Christmas sale purchases. Some find it cathartic to clean house and start fresh; anyone who has watched an episode of Hoarders, on the other hand, knows how tough it can be to get rid of certain items (Nostalgia! Memories! A time when I weighed 10 pounds less!)

So how do we decide what stays and what goes? My dear friend and stylist to the stars, Cannon, shares his advice:

  • First, take all the empty hangers out of your closet. You’ll be surprised how much room will be freed up afterwards.
  • Identify which pieces in your closet are only there for sentimental reasons and store them someplace else.
  • Get rid of anything ripped, torn or pilled, as well as anything you haven’t worn for 8 months or more.
  • Use that valuable real estate for items every person needs in his/her closet. For men, it’s 1) black pants, 2) a classically cut suit, 3) a statement coat; for women, it’s 1) a black dress, 2) a garden (spring) dress, 3) a statement coat.

Once you’ve established “to keep” and “to pitch” piles, decide if your items might enjoy a second life of style with someone else. If you’re looking to make some cash on your castaways, below are three of my all-time favorite consignment shops in NYC (to buy at or sell to):

  • Housing Works – Can’t articulate how much I love this place.
  • Ina NYC – A little pricier, but you can find major deals on designer goods in near mint condition.
  • Second Time Around – Several stores in Manhattan and nationwide; you have to do a little digging but worth the effort.

NOTE: I live downtown so this list is limited to my ‘hood. Email me with your favorites wherever you dwell…

And in the cases of pageant dresses and other unmentionables, when eBay fails, sometimes the garbage can is just unavoidable. RIP.



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Editor-At-Large Julie BensmanThe Fashion Spot’s Editor-at-Large, Julie Bensman, is also the Entertainment Editor for Niche Media, whose titles include Gotham, Hamptons, Ocean Drive and LA Confidential. Closed Set is a collection of her musings on all things fashion, from an editor’s desk to your desktop.