Martha Stewart has never gotten rid of a single piece of clothing. Stored in the attic of her home in Bedford, New York, her museum-quality collection is climate controlled and perfectly organized. Each item is hung professionally and removed from dry-cleaner plastic—her very own vast sartorial archive. The long reigning queen of domesticity begs the question: wouldn’t we all keep everything if we could?
Stewart oversees an impressive empire. Over her seven decades, she’s transformed skills such as cooking and crafting into high art. At 76, she still gardens, decorates, organizes, entertains, and more—all the while managing four houses, a multimedia brand, and a new denim line for QVC. Personally, she is an adoring grandmother to daughter Alexis’s two children, Jude, 7, and Truman, 6, and she also dotes on her 200-plus pets and farm animals.
On a Friday afternoon, Stewart fields questions from a reporter via phone. Unaccustomed to monotasking, she both talks and chops. “There’s leftover short ribs and brisket chuck,” she explains. “I have people coming to visit tomorrow for a garden show and I’m making sandwiches. I’m caramelizing onions to throw in, and probably some oven-roasted tomatoes, and I’ll use horseradish from my garden.” She makes it sound effortless.
Is there nothing she can’t do? “I learned how to sew all my clothes,” she says of her modest upbringing in Nutley, New Jersey, as the second oldest of six. “Shirt sleeves, button holes, jackets, coats—I made my own wedding dress.” She married Yale law student Andrew Stewart (whom she divorced in 1990) while attending Barnard, where she double-majored in history and architectural history. They settled in Connecticut; Stewart started a catering business, and a New York publisher approached her to write a cookbook. Entertaining came out in 1982, Martha Stewart Living magazine in 1990, and her television show in 1993.
“I don’t believe it’s necessary to get rid of something valuable or that has meaning. I try to find a place for it.”
Stewart still takes great care of her clothes. At her Bedford home, she recently turned a 200-square-foot bedroom into a walk-in closet, including a double bureau island with jewelry drawers and floor-to-ceiling hanging wall space. “I needed easy visibility and access for housekeepers to replace clothing as it returns from the cleaners,” she says of her constantly revolving wardrobe. “Today I have two changes of clothing, tomorrow I might have three—for meetings, dinners, TV appearances, etc.” Current closet staples include denim shirts (from her QVC line) and leather pants. “Leather looks like nice with anything,” she says.
Sometimes she visits the archives to retrieve former outfits. “Broad-shouldered jackets are back, so I found my beautiful Hermès suits I bought in Russia in 2005,” she says. “They’re perfectly in style, with large kimono sleeves.” She finds “new” clothes all the time. “I think it’s a little harsh to say, ‘Get rid of everything.’ I don’t believe it’s necessary to get rid of something valuable or meaningful. I try to find a place for it. I’ve collected a lot of stuff and done a lot of work to organize it all. I’m a historian, and I like old, historical things.” Such as her mother’s clothes, her daughter’s first baby dress, three pairs of diamond stud earrings, and every inch of Edsel Ford’s 100-acre estate in Maine, which she purchased in 1997 in toto—forks, spoons, hair dryers, and all.
At this life stage, she’s more about curating a legacy and less about paring down possessions. “I don’t know yet what my grandchildren will value,” she says. She’s one person, she acknowledges, but nonetheless holds onto properties in Maine, Bedford, the Hamptons, and New York City. “Will my grandchildren want a house at the beach, or to travel around Tasmania? Until I have clear answers to those questions, I will not downsize.” For now, it’s back to the chopping board.