March 13, 2023
She is ready to simplify. The recent report “Unfit, Unfair, Unfashionable” recommended that people living in 4-season climates should have a wardrobe of no more than 85 things – garments and shoes…
For winter, she’s going to start here:
If she’s going to have 85 items, that means 22 per season, with a bonus item; she’s already decided that her bonus item will probably be a wool dress than can be worn all year!
She’s going to go outfit by outfit – 3 garments and a pair of shoes… And she’s starting with jeans!
Next she starts with her black knit pants…
A simple grey and white outfit with jewelry:
And black jeans too! Her life is pretty casual…
She still has plenty of “space” for more garments; after much pondering, she adds these:
Are her clothes going to work out? She tests them in the 4 by 4 Wardrobe Template to get a different look at them:
Of course, she’s going to wear more jewelry than just what she put with her outfits! And more scarves too… But at this point, her magic number is 20 garments + shoes.
Her options are good!
If she can do this 4 times a year, she can keep her wardrobe to a size that is within recommended guidelines to avoid piling on pollution. Not a bad goal…
This report, to which I linked at the top, is not the easiest thing you’ll read this year, but it IS fascinating.
The big recommendations?
- 85-piece wardrobes, including shoes.
- Buying no more than FIVE new garments per year; everything else is expected to be purchased second-hand.
- Keeping every garment at least 9 months longer than you “normally” would.
- Launder less.
Possibly the most interesting thing I learned was the degree to which France is very near to consuming fashion at environmentally safe levels, due to a handful of laws they’ve passed. Fascinating…
p.s. Eight years ago, the wardrobe based on La Grande Odalisque by Ingres was a taupe-lovers dream!
Well, Because I invested in creating the common core a couple (a few?) years ago, I have most of this in my wardrobe – or versions thereof. Guess that makes me ahead of the game. I do like these workhorse pieces of my wardrobe. Thank you Janice!
Dee 2 says
Not to be That Person, and recognizing no one is perfect… but I hope she is able to support sustainable fashion with her purchases and maybe purchase most of her “new” wardrobe used to extend the life of what has already been manufactured, shipped, and bought.
That said… this looks like a terrific wardrobe that is simple and practical but also flexible, able to be dressed up or down to take care of 80-90% of life’s events.
The idea of 22 garments… maybe 7 outfits with 3 pieces each… fits with your year-long perspective on the Japanese year of a new “season” every 2 weeks or so… total of 85+/-. It just works! And here i thought I had to be able to see 52 weeks a year or 26 weeks a semester or even 12-13 weeks a season! Hey! Good reminder that sometimes 2 weeks into the future is all that is manageable but it can work!
I have a hunch that a lot of this was already in her closet; buying all new is NOT a good solution unless your closet and all in it was literally destroyed! And that does happen…
Sandy b says
This is great food for thought and needed motivation for a lapsed minimalist. Not sure I can manage 100 percent, but I need to realign my goals after the crazy holiday sale shopping debacle. The four by four template has always been useful, and I’ll use it to shop my closet and make a tidy late winter to spring capsule. I feel better just thinking about it. My basics are navy and grey, and I can dig out my 3/4 sleeve tops. Reading the points mentioned in the article, I don’t plan to get rid of things I already have to make the 85. But I can limit new purchases since I have found that I really don’t need as many pieces as I think I do. I admit I am distracted and tempted by all the new spring clothes. So this is just the post I needed to read.
By the way, a thanks to the lady who recommended the Miss Silver detective series. Very entertaining.
Sandy b says
Also, forgot to say, if I have something, or several, that doesn’t work for me and is still in decent shape I will certainly donate it. There has to be a supply side to the used clothing scheme.
Everything but the black for me. Charcoal gray would be my base with some French blue (to pick up the gray blue color in the painting) thrown in the mix.
Nope. I’m not having anyone, especially not the government, dictate how many clothes I can buy or have. That’s a very slippery slope that we seem to be on already.
That is such an interesting article. Thank you for the link. A few takeaways for me are:
1. buy less, buy better; share, share better.
2. 5 new a year, repair and mend, wash in cold, and increase use-time.
3. 85 garments + shoes
3. The breakdown of a two season wardrobe (with 74) was enlightening.
Living and working on a farm means my work clothes are primarily jeans/shorts, t-shirts/hoodies, and boots. My wear around the house on Monday are my wear for farm chores on Tuesday.
I suspect I really only need 5 other outfits and 2 festive outfits.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, even if you never adopted any of their suggestions!
Sally in St Paul says
Sandy B, I couldn’t reply directly above…I like your point about not purging your wardrobe to reach the 85 item number. While everyone has to find their own sweet spot for wardrobe size, it’s not like we win a prize by reaching a somewhat arbitrary number, esp. if we are removing items that actually have value to us. I agree that from a sustainability perspective, it makes more sense to think about limiting what we bring into our closets than to reduce our wardrobes to hit the target.
I feel like there is a lot of discussion of purging (Kondo etc.) without much consideration about what happens after. I think a big purge can feel really good in the moment, but how often does it lead to overconsumption as it seems that people idealize minimalism without being able to truly sustain it. If purging is setting up a purge, buy, purge, buy cycle, it’s part of the problem rather than a solution.
I was very interested in what the report said about the concepts of “upgrading” and “updating” our wardrobes being just another marketing ploy to encourage consumption. I hear a lot about updating in connection with being “in style,” “on trend,” and for those of us of a certain age, “relevant,” and people speaking against that…which is very easy to do when you have a classic style and aren’t really tempted to jump on every trend.
However, there is less attention given to how nefarious the concept of upgrading can be…and I believe it definitely can encourage overconsumption by linking unnecessary purchases of “better” clothing to ideas like high quality, self-worth, social class, and status. And this is a trap women with a classic style can easily fall into. Replacing the clothes/shoes you have and that are perfectly fine with new more expensive versions of the same thing because “investing” in one’s wardrobe is what “stylish French women” do. Things like “buy the very best X you can afford” in a market where expense is not necessarily a mark of quality, durability, etc.
Kudos to Janice for linking to this report…it has a lot of food for thought. It can’t be easy to thread the needle of “sustainability is important” and “my business model is dependent on people buying brand new clothing” so a lot of people in this position might have made the choice to not highlight this report.
I had to make the choice to share this because our collective understanding of what our actions mean to the world is more important than my business model! It did give me a moment’s pause, but I am willing to trust that my life will be better if I try to do the best thing possible for the most people, and that means thinking about the planet, not my income!
And you’re right that we need to make better use of what we currently own, and make our acquisitions carefully, thoughtfully, and with a plan. I’m here to offer plans!
lots of love,
Sally in St. Paul. I love your first and second paragraphs. I started going through closets about 2 (3?) years ago. It was a process. Clothes that didn’t fit, never worn, not likely to be worn. Too many colors I never reached for. The Common Core helped me immensely, I bought a few pieces to round that out, and went from there. This year I purged everything that hadn’t been worn in a year with the exception of coats – because that kind of depends on what kind of weather we have during any one season. I let go of things I had been hanging onto “just in case”. Really? After three years of never being taken out of the closet? I’m at around 64 items now (excluding shoes and coats) and couldn’t be happier. It also taught me a lot about what I actually wear, and what I fantasize I will wear. Now I can look at pieces and even though I like them, think it through as to will they actually be worn, or is it just because I think I will wear them. My wardrobe has good basics, and a few accent colors, but only 1 or 2 of each. Anyway, just saying. I wouldn’t purge to get down to a number, but I did do it to get down to a cohesive wardrobe I am really happy with, and everything is rotated through. Thank you Janice and readers! I”ve learned so much from these articles and the comments.
I want to think about the advice in this report carefully. The timing is great, because only yesterday I decided to change the base colors in my capsule wardrobe from navy and gray to a lighter blue and camel. I was ready to order more than five new things online, for sure.
I was sick the entire month of January (nothing too serious- just an antibiotic-resistant infection followed by a bad reaction to the last sulfa antibiotic) and lost 15 pounds. So now all my navy and gray pants are too big. My complexion is still pale and colorless, and I figured if I were going to buy new things anyway, I’d do well to switch from cool and high-contrast to warmer and muted, especially for tops.
There are two nearly-new navy pieces I want to keep, though. Has anyone ever had corduroy pants or heavy 100% cotton, non-stretch jeans altered in the waist? I wore mine maybe twice each and would love to get extra use from them. I can sew well enough to take in lightweight fabric, but these are going to need a pro.
Janice, thanks for linking the article. I’m sure it’s saved me from making some wasteful mistakes.
Sorry to say that 4 seasons times 22 items works out to 88 items. It is actually only 21 items per season that they allow for, plus one. That makes 85. But you could still keep all the stuff you already have, right? My understanding is that you are only supposed to buy 21 items per season. 7 per month if you think that way.
And you can buy in Charity and Secondhand shops which I have done a lot of my life.
Really at one time I had a huge amount of clothes and I was miserable with them. I know so much more about how to dress thanks to you and other fashion bloggers!
Meg, TomKat Stitchery on You Tube just did a very good video on taking in RTW pants in the waist. It wasn’t too hard. You might give it a go.
Thanks, Kristi. I might try that alteration technique!
Too bad donated clothes often get discarded. I’d heard that even before reading this article – otherwise, my first instinct would be to donate nearly -new clothes if they no longer fit.
Two thoughts here—a person needs more items in winter than in summer, because of the need to layer. So if I was going to do this, and was starting from scratch, I’d allocate more of my ‘budget’ of 85 items to winter than to summer.
I admit to having not read the report, and I do hope to; but another thing to think about is that some people’s four seasons fall in a narrower temperature range than others. In the middle of the continent where I live, the temperature range from summer to winter spans over 100 degrees F (56-ish degrees Celsius, if my very quick conversion is correct); I’d argue we really have six seasons, ranging from Swear Word Freezing to Ridiculously Hot. Where I grew up, the temperature range was much narrower, about half that; so even though we had 4 seasons, more of my clothing was appropriate year-round.
Meg, I used to need waist tucks. My mom did them at home on her plain sewing machine and to help push the heavy folds of the tucks would use a sewing tool called a Jean-a-ma-jig. Hope that helps you!
Sandy b says
Meg, I hate so say this, and it may not happen to you, but when I lost weight due to illness quite a bit came back. And I really missed some clothes I had given away. I recommend storing your favorites for six months or so. Just saying. Glad you’re better!
Why am I not receiving any posts? Have unsubscribed and resubscribed but nothing is getting through. I have read other comments recently from others having the same issue. I’ve contacted the contact email and no answer. I’m thinking of just unsubscribing but know I’d miss these posts so much. Anyone out there listening??
I’m trying to fix it – I have no idea what’s going on…
I agree with a previous poster that all seasons are not equal. In St. Louis, I love spring and fall but they often meld into summer. So my 8X items would probably not include 22 dedicated just to spring. There are a lot of clothes I wear year-round, also… my three-quarter sleeve tops, light cardigans indoors, etc. Lots of good stuff to think about. i would have said that I already only had 88 pieces of clothing, but I bet I’m wrong.
Sandy b says
Where is Beth T?
Yes, I miss her too when she’s absent. I love her comments.
Thank you so much for informing us about that interesting report!
Kari, thanks. I love gadgets, so will check out the Jean-a-ma-jig your mom used.
Sandy B, your post reminded me of advice Janice posted a while back about filling in your wardrobe with a few pieces when you gained or lost weight but expected to return to your previous size. I’m off to search for it!
Wow, nearly a year ago.
This is reply to Cathie, (it won’t go under to comment) who posted this;
“My understanding is that you are only supposed to buy 21 items per season. 7 per month if you think that way.
And you can buy in Charity and Secondhand shops which I have done a lot of my life.”
My understanding is 5 new items per year. The rest to be charity shopped second hand.
My thoughts on charity shopping, I do almost 100% of my clothes and accessory shopping in charity/thrift shops but what I’m starting to see is more and more dead stock new with tags. Have charity shops just become a dumping ground for manufacturers to hide their poorly manufactured over production because it’s more sustainable? I suppose it at least gets a second chance to be sold but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that those clothes are second hand. They went through no hands. Unlike someone purchases online or in store find it doesn’t fit or not right for the purpose they bought it for.
Interested to hear what others think as I worry about charity shops changing.