May 10, 2019
Unless you’re reading this naked, the answer is probably yes…
So then why do we keep buying clothes? Boredom? A need for variety? Dissatisfaction with what we currently own?
It’s a question that we could think about for a long time…
But let’s hypothesize, eh?
Start with a painting; a… difficult painting…
So when do you struggle to get dressed? For work?
Maybe it makes sense to pull together a tiny cluster – 5 garments and 7 accessories? – that will give you lots of possibilities. You have to be really disciplined about buying simple, classic pieces that are versatile, but they don’t have to be utterly boring:
It might take you a few months to get all of this purchased (or found in your closet) and organized in a tidy spot in your closet; once you have this little cluster together, you’ve got lots of possibilities!
But maybe you get dressed just fine for work, but it’s the evenings and weekends that are difficult? Do you have really excellent jeans? An a nice pair of twill or canvas pants? They make a lot of difference to getting easily dressed!
It’s so easy to buy bright, pretty things, but sometimes you just need to break down and buy good basics that will offer you lots of options…
Maybe you just cringe inside when you get a dinner invitation, or you are asked to go to sometime dressy. This would be a good reason to carefully plan some purchases for getting dressed up – a simple dress, a flowered or other more “statement” dress, and some great accessories.
I can personally vouch for the usefulness of a lace tee shirt!
When you add these clothes to the other things purchased, you have plenty of different want to get dressed up, ranging from quite dressy to “sitting by the pool” dressy:
How do you know if you have enough clothes? It’s a question that I wrestle with a lot…
There’s no really useful checklist that works for all of us… Maybe a “functional” list? I so want to figure this out; I think it would be useful, interesting, and maybe even fun!
It would be fun, but a challenge I think. What if I take a time period, say a month or 2 weeks that I would want to have different outfits for (and after that time period, repeating the outfits), then figured out my activities for that time period. I work part time and it’s pretty casual, but I like to look put together, and the rest of the time I am casual, but dressed. But okay with jeans and a tee. And say I went to dinner once a week, so that is 2 dinner outfits. That really wouldn’t work out to many things needed, especially if they were mix and match. I would try to keep a dressy outfit for each season for those unplanned for events. Also, I would think about what pieces I have that would span the seasons. Also, my workout clothes and sleep/lounge clothes would be separate I think, but the same idea. I am going to have to think about this. Thanks for the idea.
I find myself buying travel capsules too often. I suppose it’s a hobby. Where we live the weather is so often changing, it’s helpful to have different weights of layering and so, I build capsules on colors and material weights. Winter, Cold Spring, Warm Spring, Summer, Warm Fall, Cold Fall, etc.
The most helpful document you have designed was the one with the four corners, formal to casual and warm to cold. It helps with cohesion. It also helps me direction my attention, not to add another color, but instead, to watch for blanks.
I live in a temperate climate also, with very changeable temps within a given season , and you have just opened my eyes as to why I have so many clothes with overlapping seasons ! I am limiting my colors , but still have more items within each colorway than what I have room to hang, and probably too many accent colors, as we recently moved and I have MUCH less closet space now ! My overload is primarily in Summer tops, so for this year I have decided to use two accent colors for a given Summer month, and then two different ones for the next month and so on, to see how many garments actually get worn ! Meanwhile, I keep all collarless long sleeved tops hung up because of interspersed cooler days which can vary from the 50’s to the 70’s right now, though I have packed away my turtlenecks , of course ! On the cooler days, I add a scarf to the long sleeved top. I find it so hard to pack lightly with the varying temps !
I forgot to ask — with temps in the Spring and Fall that can vary within a given week, do you hang both your warm and cool Spring capsules in your closet at the same time, and grouped together on the rod like that, by temperature and weight, rather than by either color or by type of garment, like all tops together, all pants together, etc. ?
Hello, I’ve done it by color and then, I’ve done it by type of garment, and the current mode is garments grouped by weight (fabric, not mine). Heavy third pieces, warmer pants, linen pants, lightweight cardigans, sleeveless tanks, long sleeve blouses, etc. Our spring has been allover the place with temperatures.
Only spring is in the dressing closet at the moment. Come summer, there will be a much smaller selection from which to choose. Mostly linen pants and short sleeves.
Thanks for all your posts. I am currently trying to find my own style with fewer clothing pieces. It is a slow process, but an enjoyable one. Love the archives which provides tons of information!!
Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says
I did a variant on the Project 333 (40 items for two months x 6) for a full year in 2013-2014 and found that around forty items, inclusive of shoes, but exclusive of accessories, outerwear, and bags was enough, but by the end of the two months a) I was ready for a fresh start and b) I wore my clothing out SO much more quickly wearing it all the time. On one hand, it was refreshing to “use up” my clothing (rather than outgrow it or become bored or have it go out of style in a period of disuse), on the other, that creates a different cost problem of its own (to be fair, some of my items weren’t of the best quality going into the challenge, or were already well-worn when I started).
I fell of the capsule wardrobe wagon when I became pregnant in 2014 and have been playing with an overstuffed and exhausting wardrobe of disparate styles and sizes since. I decided to spend F/W 2018-2019 and S/S 2019 wearing as much as I can, tracking wears, and evaluate fully afterward. I think it’s working.
I have this idea in my head of about 100 items (inclusive of clothing, accessories, outerwear, shoes) for warm weather, and again for cold. I’m okay with about 36 pairs of shoes, which feels like a wealth of variety but isn’t too hard to store, especially when boots are packed away come spring (and sandals come fall). It would still be a big wardrobe. And it would be a significant cull to get there. Eep.
I really like the palette from the Picasso! So striking. I choose muted tones for myself, grounded further in neutrals, but the teal and yellow and red are so striking. (Rosie-the-Riveter chic, ha).
It is so refreshing to see you honestly evaluate the wear out factor with a Project 333 type wardrobe plan ! I have muted warm coloring, and often cannot find my colors nor small to medium patterns in garments in the marketplace, and therefore tend to buy duplicate items when I do find them, and then have the issue of where do I store all of this stuff ? I have recently resorted to big blue Rubbermaid containers, stored in my garage, which each contain two given season accent colors , along with coordinating scarves, and are labeled by color. I think that I have too many scarves for Summer also, but then again, along comes a cool day and I need one. It varies so much from year to year ! Some years I never get to wear some garments, and then the next year I desperately need them all ! I think how many clothes anyone has is such an individual matter, based on the climate one lives in and personal choice . I do feel the need to downsize, but I am hoping a major weight loss creates that situation by default, as I love all of the clothes that I currently have ! That is not a brave way to face culling my excesses, but it is the way that I have decided to go, as that shall leave me no choice but to purge all too large garments ! Just call me “ chicken “ !
Taste of France says
I haven’t bought clothes since 2015 and have continued to weed out my closet. I did a vide-grenier (a kind of communal yard sale because individual ones aren’t allowed here), and was struck by the piles and piles of clothes everywhere. In fact, I wrote last week about it and about how many tons of clothes we’re buying and throwing away, so much more than even 10 or 15 years ago.
For the most part, I can look up to date by how I wear things–rolling up cuffs, adding a scarf, wearing a T-shirt with something instead of a more formal blouse…all the pieces are already there.
I have been thinking about this topic for a while. It will be interesting to see other readers thoughts on this. I do mostly purchase 2nd hand and selectively.
Chris in Indy says
It’s interesting to read other comments – I’m certainly not as far along with using/reusing/recycling path as others, but your blog has helped me so much with limiting my purchases!
You highlighted my sore spot – dressy clothes! Weddings, funerals, big life events throw me into an anxiety-laden tizzy every time! And since the events happen so seldom, fit becomes a concern as well.
Bows the time – when I’m not under the gun – to get a dressy capsule set up….
Chris in Indy says
Bows = now’s.
I used to panic at having to dress for events, too. Then someone advised me to think about the outfit I feel most comfortable wearing (my style uniform) which happens to be skinny jeans, a loose top, and 1 inch block-heeled ankle bootie). Once you’ve figured that out, concentrate on duplicating that same outfit but in dressier fabrics. For me, that equates to slim black ankle pants and a silk, satin, lace, or metallic top in a loose style with a 1 inch block-heeled sandal the same color as the slim pants. It’s amazing how freeing this formula is. I can wear the same pants all four seasons and just grab the appropriate top – satin sleeveless, silk short sleeve, lace 3/4 sleeve, metallic sweater. For more variety, you could add a skirt or different color pants and shoes.
I definitely feel Chris’ pain. I’m such a casual person and feel totally comfortable with that wardrobe but always feel out of sync with a dressy event. Loved Lena’s suggestions for altering your uniform. I see so many women wearing black pants instead of a dress or skirt now. Was at a wedding where the mother of the groom tastefully pulled this off!
I would love to see a functional list explored. I’ve attempted some of this analysis – looking at it by function, for which seasons, and how much variation/how many distinct outfits. My easiest categories were gym, running, hiking, date night, casual, and my hardest ones were work-business casual, work-conference/client. I did find it really helpful to assign clothing items as applicable to certain seasons (many span all four seasons, but not all), which let me ID a few gaps and also see what I had plenty of and ought not to ever consider buying more of – for instance – cozy casual cardigans…
Ana Kemp says
With 3 beach trips this year, I made a ‘travel capsule’ and tweaked for each trip. (took 2 dresses, 2 slacks, 3 tops, colorful wrap and some jewelry, plus swimwear and coverups). On the first trip,I had enough outfits, but found them really boring. I am currently on the second trip and added another sun dress and bolder necklaces. My next trip is longer and involves a cruise and then a week in Paris. Wondering if I should just pack 2 different bags with different capsules?
I just completed getting my closet ready for Summer 2019. Project 333 has not worked for me because I want more variety. This time I did a time study to figure out what I actually need. It turns out I spend 75% of my time casual, 10% smart casual, 10% leisure and 5% dressy. Using the cluster idea I learned from Janice, I figured out how many clusters I need for each category to keep the balance of clothing more realistic to my lifestyle. This at least helps me see where I am short on clothing, which wound up being nowhere! I packed away Fall, Winter, Spring clothing. I wound up with 47 items in my closet, not counting shoes, raincoat, etc. The closet looks a lot more manageable now with plenty of variety.
I like the mix here, from casual to dressy as well as the mix of color. My own wardrobe was based in black until I made an attempt to move to a navy blue base…now I have pieces that go with black and navy. Do I have enough? Well. no! There’s always something that’s starting to look a little shabby, and seasonal updates are needed.
I’m doing a year of no shopping (with the exception of replacing truly worn-out items) and it’s been eye-opening. My wardrobe is relatively small, 30-40 pieces per season with quite a few overlaps, but I’ve started to notice how my pieces don’t work together in the most optimal way. Not allowing myself to shop and reading this blog have made me stop and think about what items I could add that will make everything much more versatile. The 4×4 concept, in particular has helped tremendously! I have also noticed true holes in my wardrobe that I’ve felt in the past but didn’t go about filling in the most strategic way. A spring colored cardigan or blazer, for example. Also a few pairs of shoes that are actually comfortable. I know it’s only May but this is turning out to be a wonderful experiment.
I love these responses, because they’re really helpful in terms of thinking things through. I’d ask instead of ‘do you have enough clothes,’ ‘do you have enough of the *right* clothes?’ because that’s what has proved to be my bugaboo through the years. For example, I have for a long time been very stressed before going out to a dressy dinner, simply because I lacked the right shoes. I had shoes, and I even had shoes that almost looked dressy, but I did not have actually dressy shoes. So I bought myself two pairs of dressy shoes that I can actually wear and now I can get dressed…. except that I found that once I bought my dressy shoes, my dressy dress felt wrong. So I have been on a search for a dressy dress (I only need one or maybe two, because I do not go out to dressy dinners all that often) to go with my dressy shoes. My no-longer dressy-enough dress just goes out to less-dressy occasions; there’s no good reason to toss it.
Other than that, I have more than enough clothes, as I too got sucked into the cheap clothes vortex some years ago. However, I have stopped over-buying, largely because I got so depressed looking at my closet, thinking, I will not wear all these clothes if I live to be 75+. The only things I ever need now are the things that legitimately are unwearable for one reason or another, but I am mostly culling and hoping to trim my closet down to the basic wardrobe Janice created years ago; I followed that template and have just the right amount of basics, which are extremely useful for times when I cannot put an outfit together even though I’m staring at perfectly good clothes that have shoes and everything else they need to go together. I figure it’s a lack of imagination on my part.
I love this comment because the true question really is “Do you have enough of the *right* clothes?” Two and a half years ago I started an office job as opposed to the stay-at-home-mom/Freelance musician I had been for a decade. Building a work wardrobe was an interesting experience because I was wearing completely different clothing than ever in my life. I so relate to your dilemma with dressy shoes because I experienced something very similar. Finding the right shoes and discovering the wonders of tall boots were life changing in terms of my wardrobe! I now have a few work Uniforms that work exceptionally well yet I have fewer clothes than I did before. It’s been eye-opening!
I recently found your blog after constantly finding I have ‘nothing to wear’. Your articles have been so helpful! Now that I’ve sorted out everything that doesn’t fit, I am left with a handful of casual pieces even though I spend 95% of my time in casual. For some reason I have always been attracted to dressy pieces when shopping but barely wear them! And don’t get me started on colour – not a single 4×4 in sight. Still planning how to fix this, and I think starting with clusters looks least scary. Thank you!
Carol S says
Love post and all the responses. I have lots of casual coloured clothes. I have my clothes ordered by colours of the rainbow and some placed in big tubs. Every week I change my colours. This week is oranges, next blues, reds, greens, achromatic, yellow, purple. This way I wear all my colours. Seven week cycle. Two clothes washes a week. If I don’t have enough orange long sleeved t-shirts like this week, I wear my greys as a fill-in’s. Eventually (in 20 years time) I might have a basically pale grey wardrobe but imagine the fun and reuse in the meantime of the clothes I already have. Special occasions are few and far between so I worry about them when the time comes. Hugs to everyone!
You are a woman after my own heart who loves varied colors ! I love your weekly approach, though I might make it two accent colors a week that are contrasting to each other, like peach and olive green , or light blue and coral . That way, I should be able to get through all of the garments, depending upon the varied temps we are having. My neutrals are varied tans and stone for Summer, with light blue and olive green as basic colors, used somewhat as neutrals . Thanks for the idea ! I was going to do your plan on a monthly basis, but I like your weekly idea much better !
Carol S says
Thanks and Hugs Shrebee. I have used Taubmans paint wall of colour from a few year’s back to put my clothes in different colour ‘piles’. I’m sure there are other ways to do this. At the end of a week and to help me wash & then change my colour and not mix my clothes up, I have deliberately used opposite colours on the wheel – Yellow then purple – Orange then blue – Red then green. With Janice’s inspiration I have increased the neutrals in my wardrobe with an emphasise of light grey. One day soon my hair will change to grey.
i love Lena’s @2:26pm idea. Janice, I would love to see you explore that topic and delve into it with your critical thinking wardrobe building skills. I am going to give it some thought and see what I can come up with. Same pants different top!~all four seasons. That would really enable one to minimize their evening glamour wardrobe.
I too would like to explore more on this topic. It makes perfect sense, but I’ve never thought of it before.
When I was still working in the school system, I had a colleague who chose a color style or fabric for the week. I started joining in and found it a good way to plan my week. Colors varied widely and we both loved “linen” week. “Cardigan” week also fun. One time we chose one cardigan and wore it all week with different items. I found it made me look in my closet for certain colors and/or fabrics/ styles that I might not reach for. In retirement, I am still doing a version of this. I pick a pair of pants/jeans/skirt and wear them at least 4 times that week. I am attempting a year of no shopping and while I haven’t been 100% perfect I have bought very little! Janice’s site has helped as does reading the comments.
“When do you struggle to get dressed.” What a useful question!
You definitely hit the nail on the head for me with this post. While I have no difficulty to get dressed for work, it all seems a bit too dressy for the weekend. A good pair of jeans – no, doesn’t exist, definitely an area to search for. As I have been very reluctant to buy clothes, it could actually be full of pleasure. On weekends I live on two pairs of narrow pairs of trousers, one Eileeen Fisher that I also wear for work and an adidas one that I wear also to play golf. Versatile, heah. Both have only an elastic, and no zips, so maybe that is a sign too.
Why would I know I have too many clothes – personally I have two indications. a) I forget what I have in my wardrobes – the sorting is not good; and b) I had visitors who were staying for a week and I was giving my own bedroom to them, making some space in my walk-in, using a spare wardrobe. A lot of the shifted dresses are still in the spare wardrobe, I did not miss them during 4 months of cold and miserable western European winter!
Summer hopefully will give me the energy and time to weed out based on the winter experience. Please keep encouraging us to reflect on our own behaviours, your posts go way beyond wardrobe issues.
I have been reading all the wardrobe planning entries… We are starting to seriously down size, and one of the areas is all the clothing that we have “collected.” Many of those garments that at one time were almost essential wardrobe staples are no longer applicable to our lives now. It is not a matter of fashion or body size. There are just some that were for roles and activities we no longer do or have to do.
These blogs are going to be useful in weeding down to only the essentials.
I have a tough time dressing for my climate… my expectations were formed in the MidAtlantic, so I’m always a little overdressed for Deep South summers. I can’t ever seem to find tanks or shorts or capris I like (although I have no problem finding—and then not wearing—silk shirts and wool blazers.) Local stores also tend to stock “flamingo colors”, which aren’t my bag. So I’ll take all the beach-capsule-cruise-wear-Florida wardrobe advice I can get.
Great article and helpful community comments regarding planning or revising wardrobes based on functionality, seasonal weather swings, or lifestyle changes.
As I am no longer working full time agree with mariann’s comment above, my work clothes are a bit too dressy in terms of functionality outside that scope so am looking to expand leisure/casual wear a little more cohesively. As beth mentioned above would like to revise my now too large professional wardrobe down to a personal uniform for my part time job.
Also, as I am learning more about properties of textiles, I am focusing on wool, silk, or linen articles of clothing depending on the season to replace items of synthetic fibers. I recently discovered “linen jersey knit” tee shirts, I am loving these as they don’t show the wrinkles like a typical linen garment but are still quite cool.
Daria Andronescu has a worksheet where you list activities, number of times you’re willing to repeat an outfit during a season then do the simple math. It’s helpful to see what is ‘enough’ garments…
Personally I struggle with : need vs ‘want’
I think this is a great question, one everyone should think about. My answer has been different than I expected, and I haven’t reached my ideal yet, but until now I don’t think I would have been paring down to the right things. Over the last 10 years I’ve experimented a lot, and many of my ideas came from this blog, and I’m starting to realize that a really important part of having enough, for me, is having clothing in fabrics that don’t wear out in one year. As I note what I wear, what feels comfortable to have available, what I look for to buy used–I’m always drawn now to the clothes that can be worn hard for a long time and still look decent–the clothes that can be bought used on Poshmark or at a consignment sale and still have a lot of wear left. These are cotton jeans with a little stretch, linen and hemp shirts and pants, 100% cotton denim and woven shirts, heavier hoodies, cotton dresses, and so on. I find if I focus too much on thinner knits, I never feel like I have enough, because I know if I wear them too much, they’ll fall apart. So I still buy t-shirts, but I’m trying to shift my basics budget to things that I can rely on over time and just buy t-shirts as a seasonal update without the expectation that they will last beyond the year.
I think this post has hit a nerve with so many people, myself included (well I guess if we are TVF readers we have been thinking this stuff through for a reason!).
I have been doing some analysis over the past year or two and have been trying to track what I wear. For me, there are several wardrobe “zones” that get further subdivided by time of year (hot, cold, and moderate i.e. fall or spring). The zones are work, weekend, and special occasion.
I’ve tried to come up with wardrobes where I have 10 tops or dresses for work, divide the tops by two and have that many pants or skirts – and appropriate jackets or cardigans. i.e. two weeks worth of work clothes – and then three weeks worth of weekend clothes. (why three? don’t know, just seems to work). And then one or two formal suits for those days at work when I need to dress up – and no more than one dressy special occasion thing per season. (in reality, right now I just have that for spring & winter, as I haven’t been to a summer wedding for a while!) I feel as if this should be enough.
I say “tried” because I just can’t stick to this. I can do it for weekend, formal work, and dressy stuff. But for regular everyday work clothes I just can’t stick it. If I bump it up to three weeks of work clothes per season, I almost feel OK. For me the weak point seems to be the second layer, cardis & jackets. I just have way too many of these. When I get rid of one, it seems to create a vacuum in my closet and a new one gets sucked in there pretty quickly.
I suspect boredom is a real factor here, but this is just a guess. It certainly doesn’t seem rational.
I did Project 333 too, liberating and illuminating. I shop retail for bottoms, dresses, accessories, but need very little now that I no longer buy what I like and try to work it in, somehow. When I get the urge for “something new”, the thrifts and consignment are such fun to scout. Then I donate something to keep the closet pruned.
Thank you for your ongoing encouragement.
This post is so timely for me right now. I have started the purging, weeding and getting my wardrobe to a manageable level. I’m not done, but found that I have OVER 225 items of clothing, not counting things like accessories or shoes! Some going back 30 or more years.
We have distinct seasons, so I have two separate sets of clothing with only a few over lapping pieces that can be worn year round. Right now I am in the middle of packing up winter and getting all the summer stuff out.
Janet R says
I love linen and buy most of my things at an annual ‘barn sale” and freely admit I go overboard.I have a rainbow of brightly colored tunics, skirts, pants, jackets, lots of neutral and bright dresses as well as scarves galore! I have just recently been selling the things I haven’t really worn online and it feels good to see them going to a good home. I’ve been focusing on losing weight and there’s another reason to let some things go. (I also sort out things to give away to friends and co-workers who like the look). One good thing about having a lot is it makes them last longer. Once something is too worn for work, it becomes an around the house or garden dress until it’s completely threadbare. I love to find the perfect combination of clothing to reflect the colors, shapes or vibe of my jewelry. As I approach retirement age, I am looking at things a bit differently and thinking more about need vs.want. I notice that I wear athletic pants/capris more than any other ‘bottom’ so am sorting out all but favorites in that category. I really enjoyed reading this article and all of the comments! I like the capsule idea if I downsize someday. In the meanwhile, I store out of season clothing in suitcases with labels so I can find my winter pants quickly if I need to.