What Are Your Favorite 100 Wardrobe Items?

A couple of weeks ago, I read about an exercise that could help us to pare down our wardrobes.  The instructions are simple:  select the top 100 items in your closet.  The idea is that once you separate out your favorite pieces, it will be easier to let go of at least some of the things that didn’t make the cut.  Since I love to do wardrobe exercises and am always up for a challenge, I decided to take this exercise on. In today’s post, I will share how it went for me, what I selected, and what I learned from the process.

top 100 items

The Number 100 Isn’t Written in Stone…

Now, 100 items may seem like too many for some of you or far too few for others.  As with Project 333 and other capsule wardrobe concepts (like this one for example), the number is not nearly as significant as the challenge itself.  If you have a small wardrobe but are intrigued by this exercise, perhaps you might want to select your top 50 or 75 items (or whatever number feels right to you).  On the flip side, if you have a very large wardrobe and find the idea of paring it down to 100 (even just “on paper”) extremely anxiety-producing, you can of course select a larger number.   The point is to stretch yourself and get to thinking about what you really need – and truly love – in your closet.

I decided to just look at clothes and shoes with this exercise and didn’t consider jewelry, scarves, purses, and other accessories.   I may do the exercise again with accessories at a later date because I got so much out of applying it to my garments and footwear.  I recently used the “KonMari Method” with my jewelry collection and culled a decent amount, so it would be interesting to see if doing the “top items” selection with my accessories would enable me to pare down further.

The Selection Process

Since I have photos of all of my clothes and shoes, I actually did the exercise on my computer rather than in my closet.  For each wardrobe category, I selected my favorites and copied the item images into a new computer folder.  It took me about an hour to single out what I considered to be my 100 favorites.  It was actually a lot easier than I thought.   The most difficult category was long-sleeved tops, as I have a large number of those and found it hard to narrow them down.  Shoes were a relatively tough category as well because I had to consider comfort, versatility, and heel height in my selection.

I have to share something funny, though.  After making my selections, as I wrote down my item numbers by category, I noticed that they didn’t add up to 100.  I thought that I had ten rows of ten in my “top 100” folder, but it was actually nine rows of nine.   Here I was thinking it wasn’t too difficult to select 100 items and I had only selected 81!  Upon noticing my error, I went back and added an additional 19 items to the folder, but I’m sure I could have left it as it was, too.   While I don’t think I’ll ever be a wardrobe minimalist, I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the idea of living with less, even if my wardrobe is still medium to large-sized (it’s all relative – I know some of you consider my wardrobe huge and others think it’s on the small side).

My Top 100 Items

I’ll get into the individual categories shortly, but first let’s look at the breakdown of the 100 items I selected:

  • 15 bottoms (6 pants, 9 skirts)
  • 9 dresses (5 maxis, 5 knee length)
  • 26 toppers (12 cardigans, 4 coats, 6 jackets, 6 vests)
  • 39 tops (14 long-sleeved, 11 short-sleeved, 14 sleeveless)
  • 11 pairs of shoes

Here’s a bird’s eye view of my top 100 items (I know it’s hard to see everything – category images are included below):

top 100 items

These are my favorite 100 clothes and shoes in my closet. 

In case you’re curious, there were 63 wardrobe items that didn’t make the cut in this exercise.  Here’s how those numbers break down:

  • 9 bottoms (7 pairs of pants, 2 skirts)
  • 6 dresses
  • 14 toppers (7 cardigans, 2 coats, 3 jackets, 2 vests)
  • 23 tops (11 long-sleeved, 6 short-sleeved, 6 sleeveless)
  • 11 pairs of shoes

Some of these items are things I’d be sad to part with, while others I’d be perfectly fine moving along (and may opt to do so when I revisit the KonMari Method in my closet soon).  I would guess it’s probably about half and half, but we’ll see.  Although the focus of this post is on the pieces I did select, here’s a quick look at those that were not included in my top 100:

wardrobe items not selected

These were the 63 items that didn’t make the cut. 

You may be surprised to see a few of the above items there, but in most cases it was either due to a fit or comfort issue or the fact that I don’t need many dressier pieces with my casual lifestyle.  As I’m sure you know, a lot of clothes and shoes are better in theory than in practice. Sadly, we don’t often get to find this out until we have worn them and they cannot be returned.

The Bottoms

Now let’s look at the items I included in my top 100, starting with the 15 bottom pieces. Here’s a look at the pants and skirts that I selected as part of my top 100:

top pants and skirts

These are the 6 pairs of pants and 9 skirts I would include in my top 100 items. 

Yes, this section of my favorites is very much dominated by black and denim with only a bit of color thrown in.   I do like black and denim and both are quite versatile, but I would like to include some other colors in the mix as well.  The reason I have so little diversity in this area of my wardrobe mostly has to do with availability.  There just aren’t as many options out there for tall women, especially in terms of jeans and pants.  I often see colored or patterned pants that I would love to buy, but they’re typically only offered in standard lengths.  Although that will likely continue to be an issue, I plan to work on at least finding finding more skirts in brights and patterns. Having more variety in my bottom pieces will help me to switch things up more and will likely increase my wardrobe satisfaction.

The Dresses

Here are the 9 dresses that I included in my hypothetical pared down wardrobe:

top 9 dresses

These are my favorite dresses:  5 maxis and 4 knee length dresses. 

I included more color and pattern in my dress selections, but black and patterns with black in them still factor pretty heavily here as well. I’m fine with that for the most part, although a bit more color would be nice, especially since I wear dresses mostly in the warmer months.  That’s another issue that I have with my wardrobe, as I would actually like to wear dresses year round.  Yes, I live in a very temperate climate, but I feel the cold more than most and wouldn’t be comfortable wearing sleeveless dresses in the cooler months, even with a topper over them (and maybe tights).   I haven’t made purchasing heavier weight dresses with sleeves a priority as of yet, but I would like to pick up one or two this year if possible.  I’m happy with my dresses during the summer (which lasts 4-6 months here depending on the year), but I’m sure I would like wearing a dress occasionally in the other months, too.

The Toppers

One thing you may have noticed is that I included a large number of toppers in my top 100 wardrobe.  That’s because I wear some sort of topper pretty much every day, again because I have a tendency to run cold. Also, since I wear a lot of solids, I find that including a “third piece” in my outfits makes them more interesting and “complete.”  Here’s a look at the cardigans, jackets, coats, and vests that made the cut:

favorite cardigans

A nice assortment of short and long cardigans in different colors and patterns.

other toppers

Here are the jackets, coats, and vests I would include in my top 100 items. 

There’s more color here, too, although all of my vests and most of my jackets are either black or denim.   There is more diversity in my cardigans and coats.  Although I like black and enjoy wearing it often, I would be well-served to hold back on buying more black jackets and vests since that area of my wardrobe is already well covered. Adding a few colors or patterns here would help me get more mileage out of my other closet pieces, especially since I have so many black and denim bottoms.  I wear my bright coats and cardigans a lot, so I would imagine the same thing would be true of bright jackets and vests. Not that I want to buy a lot at this point, but this is something to keep in mind for the shopping that I do down the line.

The Tops

When I started this blog, I had 129 tops in my closet!   I now have less than half that number (62, not including those tops that I only wear at home and for workouts), but it still seems like a lot, especially if I want to wear everything in my closet at least five – and ideally eight – times per year (see my 2016 wardrobe and shopping goals).  Because I have so many tops, this was the most difficult category to whittle down for the top 100 exercise, but here’s what I selected:

favorite long-sleeved tops

These are my favorite long-sleeved tops. 

favorite short-sleeved tops

I would include these 11 short-sleeved tops in my top 100. 

favorite sleeveless tops

Here are the sleeveless tops I would choose, some short and some long.

As you can see, there is a lot of color here.   My tops are actually the most colorful area of my wardrobe and I love wearing all of the jewel tones in addition to my beloved black.  Interestingly, the weakest link in my top collection is short-sleeved tops. This isn’t good because these are the tops that I actually wear most often!   The main reason why this section of my closet is weak is due to quality issues.  I wear a lot of knit t-shirts and they just don’t last as well as they used to.   I have continued to buy tops from what previously were “tried and true” retailers and brands, but I’ve been less satisfied with my more recent purchases. I’m going to need to find alternate options moving forward.

A lot of my tops are actually too basic, such that my outfits don’t feel “finished” without a topper.  This can be a problem in warmer weather when it’s too hot for a third piece.  When I add more tops to my wardrobe as the current ones wear out or are purged, I plan to focus on finding more prints and solids with interesting details so they can stand on their own.  I’m thinking of things such as texture, ruching, and asymmetry.  Again, I’m not planning on buying a lot right now. These are just things to consider for future shopping.  Basics are great, but there can be such a thing as having too many of them.

The Shoes

Here are the 11 pairs of shoes that I included in my 100 items:

favorite shoes

My favorite shoes – a lot of black here!  

My shoe collection is very black-heavy, as I have written about in previous posts (including this one).  I also have quite a few pairs of metallic shoes, two of which are shown above.   The one non-neutral pair of shoes in my 100 items, the burgundy boots, was purchased this year. I definitely want to add some color and pattern to my footwear wardrobe this year.   I do have two pairs of leopard print shoes in my closet, but I’m moving away from that warm-toned print, as it doesn’t jibe well with my refined color palette.  Also, one pair of those shoes is very worn out and the other isn’t all that comfortable.  The two pairs of colored sandals that I own are not favorites, as one is too shiny and high-heeled and the other is not really in line with my current style. (You can see these other shoes in this post).  

The Bottom Line – What I Learned

This was a fun and useful exercise for me to do.  It showed me that I could definitely live with less and taught me about the strengths and weaknesses of my wardrobe.  Since this post is already quite long, I will likely do a follow-on post on that topic within the next few weeks.  I think that if we push ourselves to select our favorites, we will be better able to identify the “low-hanging fruit” that can easily be passed on.   Somehow, this top 100 exercise was more helpful in that regard than when I did Project 333 (see all my Project 333 posts here).   I believe this is because 100 items feels more like something I could live with year-round and was actually the number would be ideal for me back when I first started this blog (but it felt quite unreachable for me back then).  I may not get there this month or even this year, but doing the top 100 exercise makes me feel that I can do it if I elect to do so.

It may seem like I was being critical of my wardrobe in this post.  While I did learn some things about the limitations of what I have through the top 100 exercise, I do love a lot of my pieces and wear them regularly.   I could probably be quite happy living with the items shown above if I needed to do so.   There’s a nice assortment of colors, styles, and silhouettes that could be mixed and matched to create a lot of outfits that I’d enjoy wearing.  I would eventually like to have more variety in my bottom pieces, more color overall, and increased diversity in top shapes and styles, but this doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It’s good to have a direction we want to move in, but this evolution can happen over time, as we make wardrobe replacements and fill in some gaps little by little.

Patience is by no means my greatest virtue, but I’m going to try to resist the urge to make my “perfect wardrobe” take shape post haste.  It’s a moving target anyway and we will never be “there” and no longer need to buy anything new.   As a recovering shopaholic, I want to slow down closet churn, but it will never come to a complete stop.   We will all need to buy new things from time to time, but it would be nice to buy less and focus more on enjoying what I have.   Of course, emotions often come into play and get in the way of all of this wonderful logic, but that is a subject for another day!

Your Thoughts?

Now it’s time for your feedback, either on what I’ve shared or on your own wardrobes.  I hope that some of you opt to do the top 100 exercise and are willing to comment on what you learned.   While I welcome your comments on my process and selections, it’s always great when you share your journeys, too.  We can learn so much from each other and I have benefitted tremendously from readers’ insights over the years.   Feel free to chime in and interact with each other.


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Comments

  1. Fiona McMurdo says:

    This is an awesome and very inspiring post! Over the next few days, I`m going to attempt this.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Happy to inspire, Fiona, and I’m glad you’re going to do the exercise! I hope you will either chime in here about what you learn or share in the End Closet Chaos group.

  2. Sharon W says:

    Hi Debbie. This was a really great post. As I’ve mentioned previously my wardrobe is quite small so I didn’t complete this exercise. However on the positive side it is very functional and I love everything in it. I typically stick to uniform based dressing. Winter is lots of black jersey with fur toppers and summer is colourful silk tunics & white jeans. I have recently added lots of home wear items which was a clear wardrobe gap. In addition I’ve purchased a number of blush coloured tops & some rose gold costume jewellery. (I think you’ve influenced me there as I haven’t worn jewellery for a number of years) haha

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It’s good that you don’t NEED this exercise, Sharon. Many of us would like to be in your position with a small and functional wardrobe! How wonderful to LOVE everything in your closet 🙂 Sounds like you’ve found a formula that works for you. I’m happy to inspire you to wear more jewelry!

  3. Claudette says:

    Love all your articles,Debbie,so much clear,useful info!
    An idea of mine,I notice you have no white pants/skirts…maybe that would go so well with your colourful and striped tops and of course black tops,that would add so many outfit ideas ….with only one white skirt and 1 pair of white pants

    Also, in the past,I think it was you that had mentioned the Eddie Bauer store for good quality and tall size availability (online)..wish I lived near you..I am in Canada…

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I can see how adding a pair of white pants and a white skirt would add some versatility to my wardrobe, Claudette. My lack of versatility in bottoms is not for lack of trying, but I think I need to try harder. Yes, Eddie Bauer offers talls and I have had some good luck with their clothes in the past. Unfortunately, the EB store near me closed last year, so I now just have to order online if I want to try out their clothes and they only offer free shipping over a certain amount and they don’t have free returns . So I’m more hesitant to order from them now. There are a few other stores who offer tall sizes that may work out for white or colored bottoms, so hopefully I can find one or two this year.

  4. I love this exercise and I guess great minds think alike because I did an exercise very much like this for myself prior to discovering your blog. Like you, I felt this exercise was helpful in seeing what I didn’t need, but also highlighted things I wish I had. I’m looking at my old list and looks like I separated by category like you did and scribbled notes on what I thought I wanted, like “dark brown belt for brown coat.” I downsized to about 100 pieces this way.

    Fast forward about 6 months later and many of the items I wrote down are still in use, but even in that short span of time, things changed. What happened with me is that I started looking more and more critically at every single item and if it I didn’t see myself wearing it all the time, I took it out of my wardrobe and what some call a “holding closet.” That nagging feeling I got whenever I looked at certain items would be the signal for me to reach in and get rid of it. Also, in my case, this exercise highlighted the fact that I had 4 “mini-capsules” within my wardrobe, with different color palates for all of them! I guess I had thought I would need the variety, but for me the nuisance factor of having to maintain all of those mini capsule palates outweighed any joy I got from having more variety. As a result, I consolidated my color schemes for play and work into one palate and this brought the number down to the current 75-80 items, which includes shoes and all clothing except sleepwear and undergarments.

    Thanks to the 100 list exercise that I did, I can now say I’m at the point where I have a wardrobe that reflects me and my lifestyle, is easy on my limited budget, and more appropriate for my location and my activities than when I had tons of clothes. I highly recommend this exercise.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Yes, great minds think alike, Jane! Determining items I wish I have but don’t was an unexpected benefit of the exercise. I was thinking it would mostly help me to get more in touch with what I love and don’t love, and it did have that effect, too. I was excited to read about your ongoing evolution and success after doing that exercise and I hope I will experience something similar. I usually maintain a “holding closet” and that’s where things go either before I have a chance to take them for donation/consignment or if I’m not sure whether or not I want to keep them. I do “rescue” pieces from that closet but not very often. It’s a good method to use for those who are afraid to let go of things. Usually after a month or two, I know what to do, but more time works, too, for those who are more nervous.

      Congrats on now having a small (to me) and workable wardrobe. How wonderful that your changes have been as a result of this exercise! I appreciate your ringing endorsement and I hope others reading this will decide to do the “100 items” exercise themselves!

  5. The title of this post made me feel a bit smug as I “only” have around 97 items in my wardrobe. So, I suppose they would all make my top 100!

    In reality though, I actually don’t feel I need to love all of my clothes. A lot of what I wear to work, for example, is a bit boring and functional (a lot of jersey dresses in dark colours). They fit me, are reasonably flattering, in good condition and work appropriate, and that’s good enough for me. For years, I was looking for a way to express myself more in my work wardrobe, but it just led to me buying too much and still struggling to get ready in the morning as nothing was quite right. I’m much quicker at choosing outfits for work now, because I have less emotional attachment to my work wardrobe and I don’t necessarily feel that the clothes say very much about who I am. So having good enough but not beloved clothes is working for me in that sense.

    • You make a good point Rachel. I don’t love all items in my wardrobe but they are functional, comfortable and work well with the pieces I love.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Rachel, I totally agree that we don’t need to love everything in our closets. That’s why the KonMari “sparks joy” concept can sometimes be problematic. We all have pieces that are useful to us but don’t spark joy or excitement in us. Having functional pieces that work well for us is important and some of these (or even most, as in the case of your work clothes) may not evoke passion in us. I’m wondering if you have clothes in your NON-work wardrobe that say something about who you are. If I had to wear business clothes, I doubt I would love many of them, as I don’t really like business clothes. But even in my casual wardrobe, not everything knocks my socks off and that’s fine. There are definitely some items in my 100 that are more about function than style and I’m fine with that.

  6. You made great choices Debbie!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks, Tonya! I’m pretty happy with what I chose, too. I will likely revisit this exercise later in the year to see if I still feel the same and if I have let go of many of the pieces that didn’t make the cut.

  7. Michaela says:

    What an interesting experiment. I’m going to try this myself.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you’re thinking of trying it, Michaela. If you do, I hope you will find it as useful as I did!

  8. Debbie, you made really great choices! I might have to try it sometime.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks, Kim! I hope you do decide to try it. If you do, I’d love to get your thoughts, either here or over in the “End Closet Chaos” group. I’m sure different people will have varying experiences of the exercise and the lessons that come from it.

  9. I look forward to doing this one. I love these exercises too. I just pulled out my spring/summer clothes and have been ambivalent about quite a few items in the pile, so this might help to move those on more quickly. It will be difficult to apply to my shoes though as I own 80 pairs (down from 100 after a recent cull. )

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you like these exercises, Carolyn. If you’re hesitant to include shoes, just do the exercise for clothes first. If you find you get a lot out of it, you can always go back and apply it to shoes later. Congrats on paring your shoes down from 100 to 80 recently. That’s a big accomplishment!

  10. I’m looking forward to knowing how many times over the next 6-12 months you reach for the items that did not make your top 100 list.

    My wardrobe is on the small side and I love everything I have for different reasons. Still this was a great exercise. I identified 50 most loved items worn for out and about wear, and another 50 pieces of at-home-wear clothing made my most loved list.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m curious how many I will reach for, too, Terra. I’ve actually already decided to get rid of some of them. What could be interesting to do is place those other items in our other closet to see how many I go to retrieve. I may do that, but I’m planning to do KonMari again very soon, so we’ll see what comes out of that.

      I think it’s great that you modified the exercise for your wardrobe and that you have 50 pieces each for out and about and home wear that made your most loved list. You’re in a very good place with your wardrobe now and I applaud you for that!

  11. Small wardrobe, so I chose top five: Grey sweatshirt material zip-up jacket (cozy and soft), SAS oxfords (arches’ friend), shiny grey knit tunic sweater (covers everything), Navy and grey striped shirt (pretty but not flashy), trusty black pants.
    Fun exercise; good post, Debbie.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It’s great that you modified the exercise to work for your situation, Helen. Your top five items sound nice. I like that you have a striped piece in there 🙂 I’m glad you liked the post and enjoyed the exercise.

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