October 12, 2017
I have absolutely NOT forgotten about my desire to figure out a way to have an overall wardrobe plan – something that I think we first discussed back in July?
Theories were posited that one could choose a specific number of each category of each garment, and a certain number of pieces for each season, etc. etc. But it all felt…. forced.
So I’m going back to reality – what is currently in my closet? What have I worn in the last month or so? Maybe I should start with what I actually OWN AND WEAR, and then see if I can make sense of that…
For now, I’m sticking with a target number of 52 – i.e. one piece per week, or 13 per quarter. So right now, I isolated in my closet the last 26 pieces of “non-gym” clothing that I’ve worn or purchased:
I still want to come up with some sort of a template that can be used for record-keeping and planning. I’m not going to assign categories for anything – I’m just going to record what I have and what I’m wearing, and see what happens…
First up, a 13-piece template with room for some notes. I think that you can “right-click” this and save it if you want to play along…
And for those who want to get all 26-pieces of a current wardrobe onto one page, I can do that too!
Here’s where it starts to make sense – this is basically just my personal version of The Common Wardrobe that I’ve been suggesting to the entire world for years. These are pieces that will probably be in my active wardrobe for quite a long time, until rendered completely inappropriate by the change of seasons.
This second grouping includes a few rather warm-weather pieces, since we still aren’t seeing consistent cool weather here in Chicago (I was out yesterday in sandals…). If I were putting notes on this page, I think it would be clear that the first piece to rotate out of my wardrobe will almost certainly be that short-sleeved tee shirt!
For at least a while I’ll have a mad abundance of things to wear:
My thinking is this:
- Each week, I can (but I don’t have to) pull out 1 piece from these 26 pieces that is no longer seasonable, or maybe that’s just worn out its welcome. I can then substitute a “new” (aka lurking in my storage) piece of clothing.
- This swapping can be done weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The goal is to always keep to 26 pieces…
- In theory, at the end of 52 weeks, I should have rotated through 52 pieces of clothing. In theory. This would then, by definition, be my 52-piece wardrobe; anything that doesn’t get worn in an entire year isn’t really necessary, is it?
- If I buy something that’s “in-season,” I have to swap it in immediately. If I can’t find a way to wear something within a few days (okay, maybe within 2 weeks), why am I buying it?
- This approach is very compatible with other wardrobe plans like Project 333, or the “10 Pieces, 10 Outfits” theme that’s often seen on Instagram, if I ever choose to participate in either or both of those.
I’m going to keep track of what gets worn when, and I’ll report in with updates – probably once a month – as I swap things in and out. I’ve been looking for a way to keep the number of items in my closet to a relative minimum, so I’m eager to see if this helps me at all.
Isn’t is strange to struggle with abundance? This is supposed to be what everyone dreams of…
It is so good to try different approaches when planning your wardrobe. In the real world I wear my polar fleece vests all year round – in winter to do housework when inside but I don't wear the vest outside as it is too cold (polar jacket instead)- and in summer to wear in the cool mornings and evenings to keep my chest warm. Thanks for your insight. Hugs Carol S
Zaidie Brown says
I'm currently rolling with a 12 piece wardrobe, half of which is swapped over every month. That gives me more than enough for one unique outfit a day, keeps me seasonal and I still have access to all my other clothes if I need something as a one off (such as wedding/funeral/mixing cement/snow in June…).
I have almost no wardrobe/decision fatigue and it is really helping refine my personal style, after I did a similar experiment a couple of years ago with colour and 24 pieces for 7 weeks (half a term – spot the teacher).
The last experiment lasted about 18m until I was fully satisfied with my colour choices (seven neutrals and two accents – not worn all at once although I do have a scarf with all 7 neutrals equally prominent). I could happily play with a 26 items for 6 months or a 52 piece wardrobe once I have done this current experiment/whittle down. Although I suspect I'm going to end up with fewer than 52 items by the end of next year anyway, but will love everything.
I love seeing how you're planning your experiments in essential clothing, this blog just keeps on inspiring me. Thank you.
I am struggling mightily with wardrobe abundance! I try to narrow my choices down to navy, grey, white, and two accent colors, but I Love Colors!!! Am off to try to tame the monster yet again.
Just a suggestion (I certainly don't have all the answers) but maybe you could use this idea of swapping things in and out to narrow it down to two accent colors at a time instead of two colors ever.
You could swap your pieces a months worth at a time and swap out one or two neutral pieces (to match the weather) and 3 to 4 pieces (or whatever works for you) of the same color. keeping two colors in your wardrobe at a time.
If you find there are colors you constantly keep or keep going back to those could be you two or three accent colors for a less colorful wardrobe in the future and if you like them all about equally you'd have a way to enjoy them all but not such a riot of color in your closet at once which should make getting dressed each day a less difficult decision.
I struggled with this as well, trying to limit myself to two accent colors, but I love color too much! I do a bit of what Lucinda suggests by limiting some colors to certain seasons (summer gets a watery turquoise, autumn gets a deep purple). I also limit the number of items in an accent color (maybe a shirt and sweater, or a shirt and some accessories or shoes). By imposing those limits, I gave myself the freedom to have as many colors as I want. Then I did notice that I really only chose about 5 colors throughout the year. So, once you put it all together, it really is a basic wardrobe of neutrals with a couple of accent colors that rotate through the seasons. I just didn't START with that restriction because it didn't fit me. And if I want to have THREE accent colors in the winter (which is a long season here in New England), that's perfectly okay. I can also allow myself an occasional dip into the off season colors and layer my summery turquoise tee under a white button shirt and navy fleece vest. Going rogue, I know. ;)
I'm a color lover as well, and I change those accent colors seasonally. I have observed that I have more accent colors for Summer than the other seasons, and I am perfectly happy that way ! Within each accent color, I prefer a twin set of sorts — a shirt and tank, or shirt and tee , along with a print that includes that color, if I can find it, or a piece with construction detail . I am blessed to have a large walk in closet, lots of choices makes me the happiest, along with seasonal color changes. In the Winter, I aim for a 1/4 zip , or a cardigan ( prefer a collar, so a sweater jacket )and a long sleeved tee. As far as neutrals go year round , I use stone , tan, olive, and light denim blue in the warm months, and darker tans, rust, brown, olive, and darker denim blue in the cold months. I added burgundy last year. At this juncture, I don't feel the need to restrict myself to a certain number of items in my wardrobe. If and when I move to smaller quarters, I'll have to rethink this position. Since my " Warmie" colors are offered less frequently on the market than the blacks and grays, I don't want them to wear out as fast by frequent laundering that happens as a result of fewer clothes in the closet.
Jo-Anne Keenan says
Librarian2020 I have chosen those exact same colours though I do include indigo denim in navy. And my 'two' accents are icy and jewel colours which mixes it up a bit.
This is going to sound totally bizarre, but I actually use a random number generator to plan out outfits, including accessories, about a month at a time. If I come up with things that don't go together, I swap pieces around, but I also find that I end up with new ways of wearing things that I wouldn't have thought of, and everything in a category gets worn approximately the same amount.
Kaci, what a great idea! Will you share details of what you use and how you do this for those of us unfamiliar with using a random number generator?
This can get a little involved. Full disclosure: I'm a Dungeons & Dragons player, a compulsive list maker, and a total dork ;-)
The one I like to use is https://www.randomizer.org/. You can enter however many numbers you want and the range you want. The categories I use for my clothes/accessories are pants, dresses, skirts, sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, long sleeve pullovers, long sleeve toppers, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, scarves, rings, and shoes. (I always wear my toppers open over something sleeveless or short sleeve and only buy sleeveless or short sleeve dresses, so they all split easily for me. Your categories may vary.)
So let's say I'm trying to put together 24 outfits (because it's a nice easily divisible number). Typically for me that would be 12 based on pants, 6 based on dresses, and 6 based on skirts. I have a list with each pair of pants assigned a number and so forth, and I just roll up a list of pants that uses each pair once and then randomly picks the ones to be used twice. In warm weather, I'd then pair each pair of pants or skirt with a sleeveless or short sleeve top, for 6 pants/sleeveless, 6 pants/short sleeve, 3 skirt/sleeveless, and 3 skirt/short sleeve, again randomly assigning them from a list. If I get a combination that absolutely doesn't work, I swap it around with something else that's been selected. And of course in warm weather, dresses can stand on their own.
In cold weather, it's slightly more complex, but same idea. I like to wear toppers about 2/3 of the time and pullovers about 1/3, so my combos would go to 4 pants/pullover, 4 pants/sleeveless/topper, 4 pants/short sleeve/topper, 2 dress/pullover, 4 dress/topper, 2 skirt/pullover, 2 skirt/sleeveless/topper, 2 skirt/short sleeve/topper.
Then the accessories. I now have 24 slots with outfits that work. In that time, I'll want to wear earrings 16 times, a necklace 12, and a bracelet 8. (Your numbers may well vary of course). I'll also wear each of my 4 scarves and 2 rings once. So I select 16 numbers from 1 to 24 and those are the outfits that get earrings, etc. I don't wear necklaces and scarves together, so I move things as necessary for that. And I have some earring/necklace sets that I like to wear together; they "count" as one slot but "take up" two. And then I select the 16 pairs of earrings, swap around anything that doesn't work, continue for other accessories, and finally for shoes. Sandals only in warm weather, boots only in cold weather, a few things April-October, and everything else year round.
The whole process takes about two hours, but the upside is that I spend zero time thinking about what to wear on a given morning; just pick one of my outfits and make sure it's appropriate for the day's activities. And of course if I need to change something, I do; the system is there for me, not the other way around!
Today it's given me brown pants, a purple t shirt and purple long sleeve button down, purple/blue/pink flower earrings, a "unicorn horn" seashell pendant, and tennis shoes. Yesterday it was a blue and white gingham skirt, dark berry sleeveless top, similar colored flower earrings, and nude heels. Tomorrow I'm looking at dark blue jeans, a light green sleeveless top, white rhinestone flower earrings, a rainbow and black floral scarf, rainbow chainmail bracelet, and gold sandals.
Kaci – WHAT A GREAT REPLY!! Thank you, thank you.
Cheers from a fellow D&Der
Glad to be of service ;-)
Janice Riggs says
I love this community…
"Struggling with abundance" – I never thought of it that way! But it's so true and inspires me to be more disciplined in purchasing new things. Your blog is both enlightening and inspiring all the time. I'm transitioning to a simple navy/grey/white/cream with aqua/teal/blue accents. I've finally gotten used to wearing the same accent colors all the time – I really love them but finally realized my only problem has been what others will think! No more! You are my example! I'm going to do this exercise right now and suspect that I may not need to purchase anything at all!
Janice Collins, Washington, DC
As clothing falls on my head from ALL seasons every time I walk into the closet, I understand "struggling with abundance." AND, even tho it's mostly black; it never seems like enough. I wonder if it's possible to just live in Uniqlo . . .
Another interesting way to reverse-engineer the wardrobe conundrum of (over)abundance many of us struggle with.
I've been living with my personal version of your Whatever's Clean wardrobe for several seasons and have been really happy with the results. Can't wait to see how you manage this. Please keep us updated!
Thank you Janice for the wardrobe concept and template. I have assigned a 16 piece template for each season. Luckily in the UK we still get our four seasons. I have chosen one neutral and two accent colours for each season that can mix and match with each other throughout the year. Although the darker colours will probably be more suited to the Autumn/Winter months. My chosen neutrals are: Greys and Navies for the colder months and Rose beige/taupe with some off-white for the warmer months. My accents will be a mix of blues-Greens, greyish blues, pinks and berry tones. Bye the way, I don't have an abundance of clothes anymore since leaving work and having a good sort out (the local charity did very well out of me), so I'm now more at the 'starting from scratch' stage and deciding what my new look is going to be going forward. Sharon, U.K.
If you stick with one neutral for each season, how do you introduce variety into your bottoms ? Different textures, or varied silhouettes ?
My neutrals could be tops, dresses and bottoms and I would have different tints and shades in the colour and a variety of fabrics. For example, in Winter, my greys could be charcoal and a lighter dove grey or silver. I might have my grey trousers in a flannel, corduroy or velvet fabric, a grey skirt in a wool plaid, a silver grey silk blouse and a grey marl wool jumper. These can then be mixed and matched with my two accent colours giving me lots and lots of possibilities. Sharon, U.K.
Thanks — great variety and lots of options !
hostess of the humble bungalow says
Struggling with abundance is why I like to keep all my clothes to a minimum!
Not as many choices and I get dressed faster and use my accessories more often to make the same outfits feel and look slightly different.
It will be interesting following your thoughts and blogs on this subject!
Kathy Donaldson says
What are your base colors? Black / grey / white – or – cream?
Prue Robson says
This is about how many pieces make up my wardrobe in total, give or take a few. However as some items are trans-seasonal I ended up with about 33 each for A/W and S/S. Plus accessories of course. Shoes are a bit of a weaknesses. I usually have 10-12 each season with some cross over between the two.
Jo-Anne Keenan says
In my [real] world I use numbers based on the Fibonacci sequence…45 hangers, 3 colours, 2 accents, 2 pairs sunnies, 1 handbag 2 totes 3 clutches, 21 tops, 13 bottoms and shoes, 5 dresses, 3 coats etc.. I work on having enough in each category for an 8 day week. Meaning I never have more than 2-3 events in a week so 2-3 formal outfits is more than enough, and 5 good outfits are more than enough, 2 bags, 1 set of pearls, 1 suitcase, and so on and on…of course it all pretty flexible.
Having filled in my four season templates with actual and wishful thinking clothes in my chosen palettes, I have come to the realisation that in addition, I need to have an almost seasonless 12 piece common wardrobe running in the background in all four of my neutrals. That way, I can free up the spaces with nicer items other than t-shirts, jeans and treggings. Sharon, U.K.
An interesting one. In theory I love the idea of a small, well selected wardrobe. In practice, hot weather for 9 months each year means some days see multiple clothes changes (so I could bust through 33 pieces in under a week), and multi facets of professional work, casual work, and ‘mum’ clothes have meant my wardrobe remains full. However, I have been far more selective in the past 3 years in what I keep, and what I buy. Core is black, navy, white and gray. Year round, although fabrics vary. Has been for 25 years. I have tops and accessories in 10-12 colours which rotate according to season and mood. Leopard print and stripes get their own section in the wardrobe, but there are only a handful of other patterned items because I tire of them quickly and find that wasteful. Too much certainly, but many pieces won’t be replaced when they wear out, particularly the more formal work clothes. Because my core items are all neutral I can indulge in an item in a pretty or on trend colour knowing it has many potential outfit partners. I’m focussing now on remixing different items rather than adding loads of new. It’s working for me, so I’ll stick with this for a while.
I put together a summer whatever is clean 13 after reading your post in July. It has been amazing. I'm working on fall now working on adding one piece a week (and trying to shop my own closet first). I also have a many pieces from the common 12 (who doesn't right?) I'm seeing that the summer 13 + common 12 are bridging me through fall as I add pieces.
This plan is solid and it works. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I'm looking forward to next summer as I'll still have my summer WIC. I can focus then on upgrading or working on accessories.
Adding that the first template is great (I didn't try the 2nd yet). I like the lines for notes too – they give a place to jot down accessories and shoes.