How Journaling Can Improve Your Style

In my last post, I wrote about “The Dark Side of Style Redefinition,” which was a topic that resonated with many of you.  I find some comfort in knowing I’m not the only person who sometimes looks into my closet and wants to start over.  In truth, it’s not as bad as all that.  I have my emotional moments during which I hate pretty much everything I own, but those stormy times pass and I realize that I do like a decent proportion of my wardrobe. But the plan I devised during my most recent closet meltdown is already beginning to bear fruit.

Keep an Outfit Journal

Taking the time to journal about your outfits can be very beneficial!

In today’s post, I expand upon item #2 of what I termed my “cunning plan” for addressing my shopping and style for the remainder of the year.  This step involves keeping a daily journal in which I write about the outfits I wear, where I wore them, and my feelings about each ensemble.  After I wrote last Thursday’s post, I’ve gone back and chronicled my outfits from the beginning of July through to today.

After only two weeks of journal entries, I’ve already gleaned a lot of useful information that will help me shop smarter and further refine my style.  Since I’ve achieved such a powerful result in this very short time frame, I’d like to share my approach and lessons with you today.

Why Keep an Outfit Journal?

As many of you know, I already take photos of most of my outfits and have been doing so since the beginning of the blog.  This action has been helpful to me in a variety of ways:

  • The photos have helped me to see that certain outfits really didn’t work.  I was then able to identify ways in which the look could be improved the next time around.
  • I could see how my style was evolving over time.  This was especially beneficial during those times when I’ve felt stagnant and unhappy with my wardrobe.
  • I was able to save my favorite looks in a folder so I could easily remember and wear them again.  It’s good to have a selection of looks that work easily accessible to us, particularly when we need to get dressed in a hurry.
  • I could see the different ways to wear various pieces in my closet, including those that were trickier to style.

Photos are great, but they only tell part of the story.  My photos enabled me to see whether or not an outfit looked good, but I had no idea how I felt while I was wearing it. I also didn’t generally remember where I wore the ensemble and if the outfit worked well for that occasion.  Enter the outfit journal!   Such a record allows me to keep track of far more information than a mere photo can capture.

What to Include in Your Outfit Journal

Now I’ve only been doing this for two weeks, but I think it’s best to keep things relatively simple.  Here’s what I am including in my outfit journal:

  • A list of the items I wore, including clothing, shoes, and accessories.
  • Where I went in the outfit and what I did there.
  • How I felt in the ensemble.  Did I feel like myself?  True to my style?  Was I comfortable physically?  Emotionally?  I may not address all of these issues every single day, but I try to capture how I felt as succinctly but comprehensively as possible.
  • What would have made the outfit better?  Perhaps different shoes, alternate accessories, or switching out one of the included garments.
  • A rating of the outfit on a scale of 1-10.

Of course, you can modify your outfit journal in any way that suits your needs.  You may wish to omit one of my categories above or include an additional data point that’s important for you and your life.  The key is to capture as much information as needed to help you understand what is and isn’t working for you in terms of your wardrobe and style.

Why the Outfit Rating is Important

I’ve often written about the importance of only having items we love in our closets.  I recommend rating everything we own or consider buying on a scale of one to ten related to color, style, silhouette, and fit.  I suggest that we should all aim for “8”s or higher when shopping and when auditing our closets.  I stand by this advice and am working to follow it more consistently myself, as I don’t always practice what I preach!

But there is another piece of the puzzle.  We may love most – or even all – of the components of an outfit but not love the outfit itself!  In fact, I think that’s been a considerable factor in much of the wardrobe dissatisfaction I’ve experienced as of late.  I often push myself to wear my wardrobe “benchwarmers” in my outfits.  I frequently pair these pieces with closet favorites, thinking that’s the best way to make them work.  But one “dud” in an ensemble can completely ruin an entire look!  Not that all of my benchwarmers are duds, but that’s typically why they’re gathering dust in my closet. Although I will occasionally excavate a diamond in the rough from among my benchwarmers, that’s more the exception than the rule.

Looking Beyond the Rating

Once you rate an outfit, you can then examine what could be done to increase that rating.  This is an important step, as there are usually simple actions you can take to up your satisfaction the next time around.   It could be as easy as adding an accessory or two to a look to take it from ho-hum to fabulous (for tips on accessorizing, see Bridgette Raes’ excellent posts).   Alternatively, you may find that the lack of a particular item is holding many of your outfits back.  Perhaps you find yourself wishing for an alternate fit of jeans or a jacket in a new silhouette.  If a certain item comes up time and time again, this piece should be a top priority for any future shopping that you do.

Asking yourself how you could improve an outfit can prevent you from making the same sartorial mistakes over and over again.  If you see that one piece of your outfit tends to be the “missing link” (i.e. you always dislike your pants or shoes), you will be more motivated to correct this area moving forward. It may be helpful to keep a list in the back of your journal of the suggestions for improvement that you make.  That way, you can easily identify patterns and plan your shopping priorities accordingly.

What I’ve Learned So Far

At this point, a few personal examples may be helpful.  I’m very excited by how much I’ve learned in a short period of time from keeping my outfit journal.  I have to highlight another important piece of the puzzle, though.  I am also adhering to item #1 of my “cunning plan,” which is to only wear what I feel called to wear.   I am not forcing myself to wear wardrobe benchwarmers or trying to make a particular garment or accessory work because I haven’t worn it in a long time.  As a result, all of my outfits thus far have been at least “7”s out of 10.  Sure, I want everything to be at least an “8,” but my track record to this point hasn’t been bad.

I’ve found that I feel best when I’m dressed appropriately for the occasion or activities in which I’m engaged.  My life is very casual, but I have a tendency to purchase pieces that are a bit more on the dressy side.  I’ve learned that this doesn’t work for me, as I don’t want to stand out because I’m dressed up more than those around me.  My husband has often commented that I looked like I was ready to go to church when in fact I was just heading out to run errands.  In order to tone down the “church vibe,” I’m endeavoring to wear more casual shoes and toppers with my summer ensembles. Flat sandals and cardigans are working better for me than dressier heels and blazers.

It’s also important for me to feel physically comfortable in whatever I’m wearing.  If I have to “fuss” with my clothing a lot throughout the day, I’m not happy with the outfit, even if it looks fabulous in the mirror or in photos.  In addition, I need to feel like myself in my clothes.  If I feel like I’m trying to be something I’m not, I end up hating the outfit regardless of how attractive it may be visually.

Another key point that kept coming up in my outfit journal is that I need to purchase higher quality pieces.  For example, I have a black cardigan that I wear frequently during the summer, but the material gets overly wrinkly and doesn’t look as crisp as I would like.  I also feel that some of my skirts are a bit too flimsy and attract static when it’s hot and dry outside.  I can’t help but think there are better alternatives out there that will have me feeling happier about my outfits.  I like the way many of my clothes look, but the way they feel and how well they wear matters, too.

Here are a few other points that I noted in terms of how I could improve my outfits:

  • I need to make sure to wear the right color and style of bra for the outfit in question.
  • If my hair is puffy or frizzy due to humidity, I should put it up!  Feeling unhappy with my hair definitely decreases my overall outfit satisfaction.
  • I need a good-fitting, high-quality pair of straight-leg or boot-cut jeans to wear with flats. I am still warming up to a slimmer fit and have worn the pair of jeans I purchased earlier this year.  However, I also need a good pair of jeans in my standby silhouette, as I find myself reaching for my old worn-out jeans too often and end up being unhappy with the look.
  • I’d like to wear pants more often in the summer and could benefit from purchasing a lightweight pair of casual black cropped pants (in a silhouette that works for my figure).  I love to wear skirts and dresses, but sometimes pants are more appropriate for certain occasions and it’s often too hot for jeans.

All this in only two weeks!  I can only imagine what I’ll learn if I keep my outfit journal through the end of the year, which I plan to do.  Perhaps I’ll finally start to avoid the shopping mistakes that continue to be prevalent even a year and a half into my recovering shopaholic journey.  I may have finally found the “magic bullet” that, when combined with everything else I’ve learned, will finally help me to buy the right things for my body, lifestyle, and personality.

My Recommendation and Some Questions for You

I wholeheartedly recommend that those of you who are struggling with your shopping and your style start an outfit journal. Try it for a month or two and see what you learn.  I believe that tracking what you wear, how you felt in it, and what you could do to improve your ensembles will help you shop smarter and take your style to the next level.

Now I’d love to get your input.  Have any of you kept an outfit journal?  If so, what did you learn?  What other methods have you used to improve your shopping and your style?  I invite you to share your insights and suggestions in the comments section.  I loved the comments on my last post and learned a lot from the collective wisdom we have in this community.  I’m sure you’ll have a lot of helpful tips to share on today’s topic as well!


Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and subscribe for free updates by email.

I also invite you to join the End Closet Chaos private Facebook group, where you can interact with others about the topics discussed here.

Comments

  1. I haven’t gone so far as a journal, but I do take pics, and recently (mid May) started tracking what I actually wear each day. All pen and paper so far, with tally marks next to each listed item.
    I found that I wear my cheapy Kmart Route 66 v-neck tees more than anything else. Shocking. But they are pretty great for the price, actually. I was going to mention them the other thread when you were bemoaning see through white shirts. Anyway, from this information I decided I am going to try an expensive (for me, even though it’s half off) modal/cashmere blend tee at the end of No Buy July. If I’m so enamored of my $9 shirts, I imagine the $70 version will feel like heaven itself. And I know already from tracking that I WILL wear it.
    Like you mentioned, when life’s occasions are casual, having the clothing to match makes one feel more harmonious with your surroundings. I think a lot of us like to buy dressier, ‘pretty’ things. But casual doesn’t have to be cheap or boring or style free. My ‘designer’ tee should elevate my casual looks accordingly. Can’t wait!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m only using pen and paper so far, too, but may use an app or an online file soon. The important thing was that I got started and it was easy for me just to write in a notebook to begin. I think it’s great that you found some tees at Kmart that work for you! As Angie says, leave no fashion stone un-turned! That’s one place I haven’t looked, so maybe I’ll check it out. I look forward to hearing how it goes with your new more upscale tee. If you like it, perhaps it could work for me, too!

    • Mo, I was just about to suggest this very approach. Instead, I’ll just say, “Ditto.” 😉

  2. I love this! I too have been keeping an outfit journal. I started in January and have pretty much been consistent every day. I snap a picture, upload it to my computer, and keep the journal in Word. Just like you, I write a bit about my day and how I feel about the outfit. I was giving them letter grades, but I like your scale of 1-10 idea better and would like to adopt that. It has been, as you say, supremely helpful in defining my style. I have decided to purge pieces from my closet the very day I’ve worn them (this is a good thing, as I have far too big of a wardrobe.) So definitely keep it up! My closet overhaul is still a work in progress, so know that it will take awhile, but I think you’re right…it could be the missing piece of the puzzle for women who are struggling with cultivating their wardrobes.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your outfit journal process and experience, Mary. Your process sounds great and very doable. I plan to get rid of things the day I wear them if I feel blah in them, too. Although I’ve pared my wardrobe down a lot, there’s no sense in keeping things that don’t make me feel fab. I’d rather have a smaller wardrobe filled with things I love!

      • Agreed, that’s my ultimate goal, too. I came home today and impulsively tossed a few more things into my giveaway bag. I do not think I will regret it (as opposed to impulsively buying things, which is always regrettable!)

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Good for you for getting rid of more things that don’t work for you, Mary. I rarely regret letting go of clothing items. Most of the time, I’m just relieved that they’re gone and I don’t have to feel guilty when I see them hanging there anymore.

  3. I had a revelation recently too but in a different manner. I’ve been keeping tabs on my outfits (no formal journal) and felt bored and like my clothes all looked the same. Then I read bridgette’s post on accessorizing without handbags and my epiphany struck the next morning. I need COLOR and interest in my outfits- monochrome rarely feels right to me (sometimes its good but only with a lot of visual interest). Adding some color that wasn’t matchy matchy but ‘went’ felt ME. Now I know what to purchase in the future and how to go about constructing a better FEEL in my outfits! And I know now my OUTFITS were boring me, not the clothes.

    Yay for style refining! I think this will help direct better purchasing but also motivate me to purchase less and shop my closet more because I know what to do.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on your revelation, Meli! Sounds like it will help you a lot moving forward. I think that for a lot of people, it’s the OUTFITS that are boring, not the clothes. That’s definitely been the case with me many times. But I didn’t realize it until recently! I hope you’ll be much happier with your outfits with the addition of more color.

      • This is an important distinction – the OUTFITS are boring, not the clothes. Great individual pieces do not guarantee a great outfit. Along the same lines, sometimes a piece that is kinda boring on it’s own helps to make an awesome outfit. So it’s smart to not judge our closets simply item by item, in a vacuum. It’s all about the outfit, in the end.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Very true, Mo! I can’t believe I didn’t GET this until recently. I kept buying more and more clothes, when I really needed to pay more attention to my OUTFITS!

  4. Debbie, I had a chuckle about the “church vibe”! I’m like that too. I’m sure most people prefer casual dressing, but I feel more myself when I dress up a bit, and have always struggled to look good in casual clothes. A big part of my reason for starting this whole wardrobe evaluation process was to find a casual style that suited my SAHM lifestyle after quitting an office job. I’ve made progress but feel I could do better. I make notes about individual items or whole outfits from time to time, but I think I would benefit from the more thorough approach you describe.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I feel more like myself when I dress up a bit, too, Kayla. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work too well for my casual lifestyle in ultra-casual San Diego! I decided I’d like to fit in here a bit better and learn to do casual in a way that works for me and for where I live. I think the outfit journal will really help. I hope you find it helpful, too! Please keep me posted.

  5. A pair of lightweight casual black cropped pants! Hallelujah! Be careful…these could be life-changing! Try J Jill. The ankle pants, maybe hemmed a touch for you (I hem about 3-4″ because I’m a shortie). The side zip is perfect for wearing a tee or sweater untucked.

    • Also try on some of Talbot’s long jeans and ankle pants. Their long ankle pants have an inseam of 31.5″ which might be perfect for you with no hemming.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for the pants tips, Carter and Kim! I would LOVE to find some pants that work for me. It’s always such a challenge, but I need to keep trying, as I DO like to wear pants sometimes in the summer, too. Dresses and skirts are great, but they sometimes have their limitations. Plus, it’s nice to have a bit of variety.

  6. Maryann says:

    I tried a journal but this didn’t work for me as it became another chore to be done. I am glad it is working so well for you. I have cleared my wardrobe of unworn garments. I was very hard line with myself. It took a few culls but I am now far happier with my wardorbe. Basically in the first cull I got rid of the garments that I knew didn’t fit properly, that no longer fit my lifestyle and the “what was I thinking?” pieces. Then I set aside the garments I wasn’t sure about. The rest went back to the wardrobe. Each week, at least, I would wear one or more of the pieces I wasn’t sure about. If liked wearing it stayed, if not it was gone, no second chances. Interestingly most of the garments went. I gave myself a few months & if I hadn’t worn the set aside pieces they were gone. I have not missed any of the garments I let go. Most were colours I thought I should wear such as navy, were not comfortable to wear or didn’t feel right for me. I now have a a wardrobe of around 50 garments, at least 80% of which are black. It works for me. Loving a piece is not in my opinion a good reason to keep it. It must earn its keep. I still regularly review my wardrobe as I do not want to slip back to the bad old days.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your process, Maryann. It sounds like you’ve made amazing progress as of late – good for you! I may end up feeling like the journal is a chore, too, but I think it’s an important piece of the puzzle for me right now. I like your idea of setting aside the “maybe” garments. I have mine tagged with binder clips on the hangers, but maybe I will move them all to one side of the closet, or even put them in a different closet. Sometimes I give things too much of a chance. A few months is generally enough time to make a decision, provided that the items are in season.

  7. I’ve never done a journal, but I do take pictures and have for the last couple of years. A few days ago I was looking at last summer’s outfits compared to this one. Last year I had many cringe worthy outfits. Bad colors, fit, unflattering styles, etc. Even though we still have a couple of months left of warm weather I am very happy to say that there has only been one outfit this year that I really disliked. The top that I was wearing had a very poor fit/drape. It has since been consigned. There were a couple that could have been better or that were kind of boring, but the colors are good (thanks Dottie!) and the fit and styles are flattering. Getting rid of almost 2/3 of my wardrobe has paid off and now that I see clear results I know that it was so worth it.
    I’ve also worn almost all of my spring/summer clothing already at least once except for a handful of mostly dressy things. Last year I had so much that I didn’t even have a chance to wear it all.
    I love my black cropped pants. They are one of the most frequently worn items in my warm weather wardrobe. (say that three times fast!)

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I had some cringe-worthy outfits last year, too, Tonya. And some of them are posted here on the blog! I’d like to remove them, but they’re all part of the process that many of us go through as we start shopping less and pay more attention to our style and what we’d like it to be. I have liked more outfits this year than last by far. A few duds have still been there, but my track record is definitely improving. Good for you for wearing almost all of your summer clothes thus far! I still have some things I haven’t worn, but summer starts later here. I like your tongue twister at the end of your comment. I don’t think I could say that three times fast, but I DO hope I can find some black cropped pants. I used to have a pair I loved, but had to purge them last year because they were worn out!

  8. That’s a very interesting idea, in 3 years of life simplification, I’ve come up with a lot of things but never journalled my outfits. What I’ve done a lot though, is to save inspirational pictures (I can hardly take pictures of my own outfits in my small appartment with few mirrors), then gather them by theme and analyze why I like these outfits and what I like in them. Sometimes, I like certain proportions or colour associations, sometimes, it is a specific piece or accessory that stands out… I’ve made some lists over time, and tried to apply it to my own outfits, and it helped a lot figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.

    Thanks to that analysis (that I usually go over at each seasonal change, when I dig out the seasonal items and figure out whether I need to buy something new for the season), I now have a very precise idea of my preferences: what type of fabric I like, how it should drape on my body, the neckline, the exact colour shades I like (I realized that cheaper items usually come in brighter, less subtle colours and that’s why I couldn’t pair them properly in my outfits for example), and thanks to that I have drastically reduced my purchase mistakes this past year and a half.

    Now I’m having the opposite problem actually (and that’s why I decided to do a shopping hiatus), which is that I still own too many, not because there are a lot of “second choices” or “almost good” items in my wardrobe, but because I know myself well enough to spot items that will work perfectly, and I have therefore a hard time putting it back on shelves even if I don’t need a new one right now. As a result, I have a wardrobe full of favourites (which is great), but I have too many of them and I feel like I don’t really enjoy them fully as I can only wear each once a month or so.

    Anyway, I’ve been digressing, the journaling thing is a very good idea. I think I might actually pick it up, as one of my objective these next 6 months is to wear everything I own (even the few “meh” items remaining), to make sure I’ve given my items all the chances possible by experimenting them in various outfits, before editing and bringing the “meh” items at the charity shop. It might be worth noting down how good the outfit was, and which item was a problem if there was indeed one.

    Now I only have an excel sheet (inspired by Mette’s very organized method) in order to track how often I wear each piece (along with jewelry), in order to figure out what I wear the least – but you’re right, journaling my outfits may help figuring out why I wear them less – is it a lack of opportunity because I already have similar items that I reach out to first, is it because something is off? Good luck with your own journaling, i’d be interested to hear more from you in a couple of months or so to see how it helped shaping your outfits and if you have purged some items as a result.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I love your idea about the inspirational pictures, Kali! I save such photos, but don’t make the types of notes you do. I think I’m going to adopt this idea, as it sounds like it would be quite helpful. Do you save physical photos or online? Do you use Pinterest to do it? I have a folder of photos from magazines and catalogs, as well as a folder on my computer. I haven’t thought to organize by themes, but that’s an excellent idea.

      Interesting that you now have a new problem because you know yourself and your preferences so well. I can see that happening to me, too, but I’m still in the camp of making purchasing mistakes. Good to know that I should look out for the problem you have in the future. I think the purchase hiatus is a good way to remedy what you’re going through and I’m glad you’re writing about us so all of us can learn, too!

      I love the ideas I get from all of you! Mette’s very organized method is wonderful, as is ours. I will definitely report back on how the journaling shapes my outfits. I’m happy to have learned so much so quickly, so I’m sure there will be a lot more to share in a few months.

  9. I totally empathise with the ‘church vibe’! I’m exactly the same – it’s because my clothing style is classic. I’m ok in jeans (as long as they’re smart and indigo!) but prefer tailored stuff. I’m trying to soften the look with a cardigan but noticed that’s no longer working for you, I could see the point made by a commenter about the cardigan making the overall look square-necked so I’m bearing that in mind too.

    Regarding an outfit journal I just started this in July and already discovered my gym outft makes me feeling bleugh – I need to look at something better than a pair of leggings an baggy tee!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I think cardigans still work for me, but the shorter and more fitted ones are more flattering than the longer open variety. I definitely feel more casual in a cardigan than in a blazer, even if the blazer is knit. I bought the knit blazers to be more casual, but sometimes they still give me the “church vibe,” especially if I’m also wearing more formal shoes. Good point about journaling your gym outfit. I think we need to feel good in EVERYTHING we wear, even if we’re working out or at home. I wrote about that here: http://recoveringshopaholic.com/neglected-wardrobe-areas/

  10. I started my outfit journal last week at your urging. I have already learned a lot. It had never occurred to me to note how I feel in an outfit, even though comfort is one of my style words. I put a pair of too tight capris in the donate pile yesterday after journaling about them.

    One day, I had a really bad hair day. Since my hair is short, there was little I could do. But it sure did cloud how I felt about how I looked. The same day, I spilled tea on my white tank! It made me realize what a hassle white tops are. Also made me remember to put a stain stick in my purse!

    I make a lot of my own jewelry. My journal has helped me see that I need to shorten a couple of necklaces to go with the neckline of my tops. I also need to refashion a bracelet.

    I keep my journal on my iPad and it only takes a few minutes to enter the information. I can’t believe how much I have learned in just a week. Thanks for sharing this tip.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you started an outfit journal, Anne, and are already benefiting from it. I was so excited about what I learned that I had to do this follow up post yesterday! I think it’s great that your using your lessons from the journal to purge items that don’t work and refashion some of your jewelry pieces. It’s important that we make modifications based upon what we learn and it’s good to see that you’re doing just that!

  11. That’s great that journaling is proving to be such a useful tool for you, Debbie! I look forward to continuing to hear about the insights you gain from this process.

    About a year and a half ago I challenged myself to wear every item in my closet, and kept tabs on whether I liked/how I felt about each outfit (not as extensive as the journaling you are doing, but similar principle). A variation on your question “What would have made the outfit better?” was key for me — I asked myself “What would I rather be wearing?” That was really helpful in refining my style and determining which pieces are really my wardrobe workhorses.

    Of course, my impulse then was just to buy a bunch more versions of whatever that “thing I’d rather be wearing” was. So my more recent effort (inspired by this blog!) to track what I wear each day has really been the missing piece, I think. As I’ve said before, that process has made me realize that I don’t wear even my favorite items as often as I think (there just aren’t enough days in the year!). So one or two versions of my “favorites” is plenty, I don’t need 4 or 5.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I like your “What would I rather be wearing?” question, Sarah. I may add that one to my list, but will keep in mind that it may lead me to want to shop more. Perhaps I will add “from my closet” to the end of the question to keep me in the “shop my closet” mode. I’m glad you started tracking what you wear and that it’s been helpful for you. I think most people don’t wear their clothes as often as they think they do. When you see the numbers right in front of you in black and white, you realize that you don’t need nearly as many clothes as you thought!

  12. GingerR says:

    I think anything that focuses you on what you have and not what you don’t have is constructive. For me, being focused on what I don’t have is what compels me to shop.

    I’m pleased to see you mention including your hair in the equation. Widening the focus of self-image from clothing to body gives you another outlet of expression and source of satisfaction.

    I was reading in a magazine about an app”Stylechat” that seemed like it might help with this, allowing you to shop your closet and keep outfit photos, but after looking at the promotion/description online I’m afraid it’s more oriented towards shopping than cataloging what’s there and would probably just result in more ads. I do a good job of buying things without extra encouragement.

    I think for this purpose an honest-to-god notebook with a cute cover, maybe a few stickers, some scrapbook accessories, and taped in photos might be good. I think people with large wardrobes like the physical world and a notebook needs to be real, not digital to satisfy.

    • Hi Ginger,

      I really love your last comment and think it is very insightful. The idea of a scrapbook is terrific!

      As for your first comment, I agree it’s so easy to focus on the wants rather than the haves. Long ago, at the suggestion of a book called “Your Money or Your Life,” I made an inventory of every item I owned: the good, the bad, the ugly. Everything. It simultaneously provoked gratitude for the bounty and embarrassment for the poor choices in the lot.

      Listing every item in one’s wardrobe, like journaling, can be enlightening.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Good points, Ginger and Amy. I think it’s so true that when we focus more on what we don’t have than what we do have, we are compelled to shop. That’s why it’s hard for me to frequent fashion forums and style blogs. I see lots of cute outfits and clothes and then I want to buy the same items for myself! I should just be INSPIRED by what I see and go into my closet to recreate looks, but that’s not usually what happens.

      I like the idea of listing everything in my wardrobe. I actually have a spreadsheet, but I haven’t updated it in a while. Perhaps I should add a new column for notes so I can track how I feel about the item in question. I do note why I buy and get rid of things, but don’t track how I feel about what I own. That could be an important data point to capture!

  13. I just uploaded an app called outfit journal for $.99. It allows you to take photos, specify the activity, who you were with, rank the outfit with 1-5 stars, give it a name and keep notes. It then stores the outfit by date. However, you can pull them up by category such as event or activity. You can also photograph and load in each item of clothing, but I haven’t gotten far enough into it to figure out how to do that yet.

    I just got dressed to go out and take a hike and I was able to log in my hiking outfit under the category hiking. I really like this category feature because it makes it easy to look up past outfits based on what you wore it for which means you won’t have to dig through all kinds of outfits by date.

    I’m going to try this for awhile. I often create a really great outfit and then think it is so great that of course I’ll remember it. A few weeks later…no memory whatsoever!!! Hopefuly this will help with that.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      This app sounds wonderful, Happy Forgiver! I’m going to check it out. Seems like exactly what I might need. I also think it’s good that you track your hiking outfits as well as your outfits for less casual activities. I think a lot of people forget to focus on workout outfits, but those are important, too! Thanks for sharing your new app with us. I think it could help a lot of people.

  14. I just got my Real Simple magazine in the mail, and you are in it! Congratulations!

    • Running out to get my copy now!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I haven’t even gotten MY copy yet, but I did get to read the article the other day on an app called Next Issue. They exaggerated a few of the facts (like how much I’ve spent), but the article was mostly very good. I was honored to be contacted to share my story. I hope it will inspire other people! I’m going to share the article on the blog soon, but was waiting until I received my copy and saw the magazine in stores. Maybe now is the time.

  15. Just to update, I have just written in my journal that the dress I wore to visit my family today made me feel fat and frumpy – neither of which I am or need in my life! My score rated a 4 so it’s out the door! 🙂 (aka saltbox)

    • Debbie Roes says:

      How great that you’ve started a blog, Saltbox! I also think it’s wonderful that you are keeping an outfit journal, although I’m sorry you felt fat and frumpy today. I have those days, too, but it’s usually the clothes and not us! Good for you for sending those clothes out the door!

    • I also had a pair of pants on yesterday that immediately was purged last night. It was its 3rd wear this year- each time I felt frumpy AND they’re just a bit too tight, but I NEEDED them because I have so few light-colored bottoms. The leg shape was too skinny and they only could be worn with flats. I ordered a pair of very light-colored looser fit/wider legged trousers in their place (recently identified wardrobe hole) so I’m crossing my fingers they work out! 🙂

      • Debbie Roes says:

        Good for you for purging that pants that made you feel frumpy, Meli! I hope the ones you ordered work much better for you. I need to purge some pants, too. I have a hard time doing that because it’s so hard for me to find pants (always need talls and they can be hard to come by), but I really SHOULD purge anything that makes me feel frumpy and unattractive. I’d rather just wear the same few pairs of pants over and over again than have even one day of feeling blah about my appearance due to ill-fitting or “tired” pants!

  16. More good ideas here. The outfit app sounds like a dream (wish I had developed it)! I think I’ve moved on from the need to journal about the clothes I wear but that doesn’t mean I am not mindful about what I wear. I put a lot of thought into building my wardrobe and deciding how many different ways I can wear a particular garment — and I am willing to be adventurous with color, pattern, and texture (even in my mostly black, white, gray, red, and blue clothing). If I feel uncomfortable in a particular garment, it doesn’t go back in my closet. I plan what I will wear even before I get out of bed each morning (otherwise I can’t get up!). And I do take notice if/what people say about my clothes. I am thinking about buying the app….

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I don’t think I’ll feel the need to keep an outfit journal once my wardrobe is to the place where yours is, Dottie. I know you’ve worked hard to build a wardrobe that works for you and I look forward to being in a similar place myself. I am definitely thinking of buying that app, too. And like you, I wish I had developed it! Seems like something that could be useful for many people.

  17. Deborah (Deby) says:

    I’ve never been moved to keep a day-by-day journal of my outfits, with an eye to figuring out what makes a good outfit, but there are two things that I do that are similar in a way:

    1. If I put on an outfit and I don’t like the way it looks or feels soon after donning it, since I usually work in my home office, I will get up and go analyze the outfit in a mirror as to why its not working, and then I change my clothes. If you don’t feel comfortable in something, and you spontaneously get up and view yourself, you’ll quickly see what’s wrong, because it will not hang correctly, or something very obvious will be “off” about it. This is very often the eureka moment at which I decide to purge a garment from my closet. At times, I will deliberately put on an outfit that I’m not sure about just to see if it passes the wear test at home.

    2. I cut pictures of looks and ideas I like out of fashion magazines, paste them in a wire bound sketch pad, and then match up the garments from the looks with ones I already have in my closet to create a similar outfit. I’ll make notes in the page margin about which of my pieces have the same flavor as the look, and what new ideas (usually in terms of accessorizing or accent color) that I might want to try out. Then I go to a store setting, sometimes wearing my similar outfit, and try on similar accessories/colors from the look to determine whether its right for me. Sometimes accessories and colors are more attractive in concept than actuality, so this is a fun way to try something new without making a commitment unless it really proves worth it.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I love the intuitive approach you take for improving your style, Deby. I tend to be a bit too analytical at times, so I could benefit from adopting some of your methods. I can definitely see how spontaneously viewing myself could help me identify what’s wrong with an outfit. Like you, I sometimes put outfits on at home to see how I feel about them. It’s a low risk situation and a good way to test things out. I often cut photos out of magazines and catalogs, but I don’t take the next step to make notes like you do. What a great idea! I also love that you wear an outfit you wish to find accessories for to the store. I sometimes do that with shoes and have found it to be very helpful. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

      • Deborah (Deby) says:

        Working from my home office, I am doing a skirt experiment today! I am wearing a knee length floral printed pleated cotton skirt that is about 8 or 9 years old. I kept it because I have always loved the print, but that is not enough, so now I am analyzing it for fit and length. I have become more attentive to hemline proportions and am testing all my skirts.

        I will assess how it feels as I am working at my desk (just fine so far), how it feels when I walk around and do various activities, and how it looks when I spontaneously go check it out in the mirror. The thing about mirror checking this way is that you–for a few seconds–see yourself as a stranger might see you, and it can be a wakeup call on how you look!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          This is just great, Deby! Good point about seeing ourselves how a stranger might see us. I plan to use your method for a few items I’m on the fence about. Let us know your verdict on the floral skirt!

  18. Christine Hansen says:

    Debbie,
    Just read your piece in Real Simple. I’m proud of you and rooting for you! I haven’t experienced shopping addiction like you, but I do struggle to stay on budget and tell myself no. It is really so freeing to live below your means. I just tell myself, you are not your car, your closet, or your house. Your mind and soul are your identity and they cost nothing. Just require some nurturing. Well done!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your support, Christine! I love what you had to say. You’re so right that we are not our possessions. I’ve always known that intellectually, but it’s taken me a while to really get it in my bones. Glad you liked the article!

      • Deborah (Deby) says:

        Debbie, is your article in the August issue? I was in the grocery last night looking for Real Simple, and did not have time to peruse the issue to find the article, as I was in line with others.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Yes, it’s in the August issue, on page 158. I shared about the article in my post yesterday, so you probably already saw that, but responding here too just in case…

  19. I do not keep a journal but I do take outfit photos as often as I can. I find it helpful to look back and see what items worked, what didn’t and why. It’s also nice to see how my style changes over time. A favorite blazer or color one year may be passe to my eye the next year. In general, the condition of my clothes will greatly affect how I feel for the day. I adore my steamer and use it on everything: knits and jeans look especially nice and ‘new’ from a quick steam after washing. Although this could be because I hang dry most of my items.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Outfit photos have been very helpful for me, too, Lisa. You’re right that our favorite colors and styles can change a lot from year to year (or even in a shorter time frame). That’s why it’s so important not to buy too many things at once. If we have too much of a particular color or style, it’s harder to transition over (or we feel guilty if we purge a lot of rarely worn clothes at once). A gradual approach works better, but I’m still a work in progress in terms of putting that into practice!

      • Deborah (Deby) says:

        I have found an interesting thing with regard to color. In general, my favorite color family is purple. However, I don’t have that many purple items of clothing! I used to wear a variety of purples until I analyzed my colors and realized that some purples don’t look as good on me as others, so I edited down purple in my wardrobe. Instead, I find myself having more pieces in coral and nude blush tones (which has become my new neutral). When I do wear purple, I avoid the middle ground tones, choosing one that is definitely reddish or a blueish in tone.

        I use purple as an accent in decorating, and my master bedroom area has purple tones with pale grey lavender walls. One doesn’t always have to wear a favorite color to enjoy it, especially if its a color that may not flatter your own tones!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Very good point about enjoying favorite colors in other ways besides clothing!

  20. Just wanted to thank you for this idea. I don’t take photos of my outfits even though I’m a very visual person who will often work from a rolling rack (no working camera and not interested enough to get one, particularly as I’m one who doesn’t think a picture is the truth of what one sees). I have tried listing out what I wore or keeping a list of favorite outfits I wore. Pretty soon I flag, since I’m not getting anything out of it.

    I had often written out why I was purging items but I was not writing out why I liked or was keeping items. Your particular set of questions is great for that and, like you, I am already learning a lot from having started it. That should be enough motivation to keep it up!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Glad you found this post useful, Vildy! I was surprised at how helpful it’s been for me, especially since I was already using photos and other tracking methods. I plan to keep up the journal until at least the end of the year (and maybe longer). I will report on what I’m learning soon, and I hope you will chime in and let us know how it’s going for you, too.

  21. Carolyn says:

    I also recommend journalling, although I don’t journal about my wardrobe in particular. I have always kept a folio of inspiring fashions and now also use Pinterest. I really have always had a consistent personal style and preferences. My problem, as a shopaholic, was wavering from my true personal style in the belief that I could perhaps do better or look like someone else.

    Just recently I removed a bunch of button down collared shirts. I don’t like them, they don’t do anything for me and are just not my style. Yet, I went on to buy them in the mistaken belief that maybe I should incorporate them into my wardrobe when I really did know deep down that they weren’t my style.

    I like simple silhouettes in beautiful fabrics with edgy shoes and accessories such as A-line shift dresses with interesting shoes or simple pants and top with great wedges and a cool bag.

    If my house was burning down and I could only save a handful of clothes, I know exactly which ones and interestingly they truly correspond to my personal aesthetic and I reach for time and time again. Which begs the question, why do I have all that other stuff??????????

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I love that you’re so clear on your sense of style, Carolyn, and can articulate it very well. I think many shopaholics waver from their personal style in the ways you described. I know I did! I feel the same as you in regards to button-down shirts. They’re on pretty much every “must have” list, but they’re just not me! I will leave them for those who love them and stick with my beloved knits 🙂 Good luck on your continued wardrobe pare-down. You’re doing amazingly well so far!

  22. For your interest. On developing personal style and a 37 piece capsule wardrobe:
    http://into-mind.com/2014/07/14/carolines-37-piece-capsule-wardrobe-creative-process/

    • Debbie Roes says:

      This was a great article and I included it in the “useful links” section of my post yesterday. Thanks for sharing it. I love “Into Mind” and always look forward to her posts!

  23. Sew stylish says:

    I use Pinterest as a visual diary of what I wear. This week it’s been so cold I’ve mostly repeated my outfits; a dark teal pant, a layering stripy merino with a cobalt V neck sweater on top. I add a scarf and coat when I went to work, and used a faux fur vest when at a friend’s place for coffee. When I review my seasonal outfits board, I can see elements of my style, since I’ve now explored shopping my wardrobe for the past year. Usually there is a colour, pattern, texture or detail that makes it ‘me’. That gives me the happiness factor.
    Sounds corny, but I still am excited to wear stuff in my wardrobe each day. It was only last year that I started fully utilising my gear, through a tip I pick up on your blog about turning the hangers around. I’ve slowly got rid of stuff I no longer need.
    I will post on Pinterest some more of my outfits. Each fortnight or so I take out a skirt, dress and a jean or pant. Then I work out the outfits, often pinning them to a outfits board. In the evening, I take a quick look at the board before I hang out the outfit for the next day. This minimises the morning rush and washing. Each week I wash some of the elements and swap something else in. Sometimes only a change of topper, or shoes, scarf can make a difference. So it’s a bit like doing a 15 by 15 challenge, rather than a 30 for 3 months.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your process with us, Sew Stylish! I don’t think it’s corny at all that you’re excited to wear the stuff in your wardrobe. I think many of us are working toward that end goal! It seems you’re using Pinterest to your best advantage. I’ll have to go in and look at some more of your outfits. The ones I saw a while back looked lovely! From all of the comments about Pinterest, I’m inspired to dust off my account and start using it again!

  24. Sew stylish says:

    I should also say that because I make 80 percent of my clothes, I do have a closer relationship, with my clothes. Over the past 30 years I have always sewn something. Not always have I known what suits me, but that has evolved over time. Also my putting together outfits skill has improved over the past year and practice does make quicker practice. My daughter who’s 12 has picked up the same skills, she really does have a capsule collection going…

    • Debbie Roes says:

      How wonderful that you make most of your clothes! Not only does that help you have more of a relationship with them, but you’re also able to make exactly the clothes you want in terms of color, fabric, style, and silhouette. It’s great that you’re passing your talents on to your daughter, too!

  25. This is today’s entry:
    Items: Jeans, pink tee, honey coloured flats
    Occasion: cinema with DH
    Score 4/10
    Notes: Shame on me, should have changed. Jeans too tight and hot for Summer, pink tee ill-fitting.

    I’m so inspired by this post – it’s making me really think about what I wear!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I love that you’re doing the journal, Saltbox! This entry is perfect in that it clearly and succinctly illustrates the problem with a given outfit. I hope you put that ill-fitting top in the donate pile! As for the jeans, save them for the cooler weather. I’m glad you’re learning a lot through journaling. I am, too, and will definitely share my learnings in a future post!

  26. I’ve kept a very simplified clothes journal for years. I use a small wire bound notebook and I only list outfits that I like. I wear mostly separates so I’m always looking for new ways to pair the same items. When I’m changing out of my work clothes and have worn a combination that works well, I’ll add that outfit to my notebook. I always start with what I’ve worn on top, followed by bottoms, shoes and accessories. I put only one outfit per page so if I get rid of a part of the outfit, I can tear that page out of the book. I mostly use my notebook on those days when I’m either too tired to pick out my clothes for work or when I’m wondering how I paired up a certain clothing item. I recently started a separate weekend outfits notebook for those times when I need something comfortable and casual, but still want to look pulled together. My notebooks definitely save me time and since they only contain great outfits, I know I’ll look good without having to think too much about it.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your clothes journal process, MARS. I like that it’s so simple and how it’s worked so well for you. I may add this type of journal to my process, as I like to keep track of the outfits that DO work. I usually do that by using photos, but a journal works well, too. We definitely need to keep aware of go-to outfits to pull on when time is short. It’s often when I’m in a hurry that I end up with a “dud” outfit. I’d like to avoid that as much as possible!

Comments are closed for this article.