“Your wardrobe tells your life story,” says Kaarin Moore, founder and CEO of Closet Caucus. A former museum communications consultant turned wardrobe editor, Moore decided to embrace her passion for fashion after a health crisis in her early twenties showed her the value of embracing time.
Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina with a broadcast-journalism degree in 2001, Moore spent a year working for a local paper. “I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she says. She’d always had a passion for clothing and shopping but thought doing it as a career was a pipe dream.
So when a job in corporate communications opened up in DC, she leapt at the chance for a change. But when she was 24, a medical mystery sidelined her. One morning, Moore awoke and couldn’t feel the right side of her body. Years and hundreds of tests later, her condition had deteriorated to something resembling multiple sclerosis.
“One of my colleagues said she wished that when someone saw a sale, it would be their duty to tell all of her friends,” Moore says. And an idea was born: She could combine her fashion savvy and shopping know-how with a service-minded activity—wardrobe editing. A self-described Army brat, Moore says she honed her talent for getting rid of the unnecessary during regular childhood moves.
She chose the name Closet Caucus because it both was uniquely DC and summed up her mission. A caucus, she explains, is a meeting of supporters for a cause—and she considers her service to be as much a support group as an editing service: “I want people to feel comfortable in their bodies.”
How She Does It
Moore begins each session with a pre-interview, usually over coffee or lunch, where she chats with prospective clients about their lives, jobs, and style preferences. “I want to match who they are internally with who they are externally,” she says.
Next, Moore attacks the closet—she sorts through a client’s clothing by color, size, and occasion, helping him or her mix and match outfits and choose unworn items for consignment or donation.
She encourages clients to consign good-quality items rather than simply donate goods, as it “creates a great cash flow for new shopping.” One of her favorite shops is Secondi in Dupont Circle for both sale and new items.
“The goal is for your closet to be your own personal boutique,” she says.
What She Finds
A lot of people are hiding their bodies, says Moore. It’s practically a DC dress code, she says—a combination of too-large clothing, an abundance of black, and the ultimate no-no: Uggs. “They have a time and a place,” she says, “and it’s not the Mall.”
She works to help her clients be at peace with their body image. She tells the touching story of one person whose editing session turned into a life discovery. When Moore pointed out that many of the client’s clothes were too large, the client burst into tears—she realized her previous battles with anorexia weren’t as far in the past as she had assumed.
Weight issues are tough to deal with, says Moore, especially when a client sees that his or her consultant is a size zero. But Moore says her goal isn’t to shape the people she works with into a mold, but rather to shape a positive self-image at any size: “We’ve got to stop the message of ‘I hate my body.’ ”
After the initial consultation, Moore gives clients a list of basics they should add to their wardrobe. She doesn’t do personal shopping but does track sales and sends periodic updates on favorite brands.
Everyone can benefit from her Twitter updates, which share “Challenges of the Day,” plus details on coupon codes and events in town, via Twitter.com/ClosetCaucus.
Closet editing isn’t all giveaways and sale shopping. Moore also assigns her clients “fashion homework,” and her favorite assignment is a fun one.
She gives each new client five brightly colored hangers and asks the person to purchase undergarments, slips, or other frilly, fun items to hang on the hangers in the front of her closet. The only requirement is that the pieces fit and that the client loves to wear them. Over the next six months, clients must try to incorporate the pieces into their daily wardrobe.
It’s a way of helping clients both feel better in their own bodies and add pep to their wardrobe—even if nobody ever sees it. “It’s something small and just for yourself,” Moore says.
She also encourages clients to stock up on basics—Moore’s favorite stores include Redeem, Caramel, and Anthropologie, and she likes many items by Diane von Furstenberg.