Last week, I explored the concept of shopping mistakes and what we can learn from them. Today I’d like to look at another valuable way of learning about our wardrobes and ourselves.
We all have favorite clothes and shoes that we wear over and over again, but how many of us take the time to understand why these closet pieces receive so much play? I believe that if we make the effort to determine common threads among our favorites, we’ll learn important lessons for how to shop smarter and create wardrobes that better meet our needs.
A Simple but Powerful Exercise
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer has either just ended or is on its last legs, while our friends “down under” have just closed the door on winter. The end of a season is the perfect time to evaluate our wardrobes. Here’s a simple exercise that will take just a few moments to do but can provide a lot of value:
- Go to your closet and look at all of your clothes and shoes from the past season.
- Ask yourself which pieces you wore most often.
- Look at each wardrobe category (tops, bottoms, shoes, jackets, etc.) and select your “most valuable players.”
- Write down or take photos of the 10-20 items that you wore regularly and loved wearing.
- Look for common themes among those pieces and jot those down as well. Consider styles, colors, prints, fabrics, and other key features of your wardrobe favorites.
My Summer 2013 “Most Valuable Players” (MVPs)
Since examples are always helpful with exercises like this one, let’s take a look at my favorite pieces from summer 2013. While we still have some warm weather ahead of us in Southern California, I’ll be gradually transitioning into fall clothing during October and November. Since I track everything I wear, I have a keen sense of what I wore most often these past few months.
I selected the 14 garments and 4 pairs of shoes I wore most often – and enjoyed wearing – during this past summer. Here’s a photo of my “Summer MVP” items (click on the image for a larger view):
Common Themes Among My Favorites
What are some common themes among these pieces? Here are the top ten common threads that came to mind:
- Skirts and dresses – I definitely prefer wearing skirts and dresses over pants when it’s warm outside. In fact, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants in general and will aim to incorporate them more in my cooler weather wardrobe this fall and winter.
- Black – Black is the key neutral in my wardrobe. Although I also enjoy wearing grey and navy, black is the neutral color I wear most often. I enjoy the versatility of black and feel it works well with my coloring and the style aesthetic I wish to convey.
- Cotton and Jersey – Comfort is key for me in terms of my clothing, and cotton and jersey are both very comfortable fabrics that work well for my casual lifestyle. I enjoy wearing natural fibers and am focusing future buying away from synthetics as much as possible.
- Jewel Tones – I’m a big fan of saturated colors like the burgundy, red, green, and orange tones you see in my summer “MVP” items. I also enjoy wearing cobalt blue, turquoise, teal, purple, and fuchsia tones.
- Leopard Print – Leopard print is a “pseudo-neutral” that is pretty much always in style and works well with most colors. I enjoy wearing the traditional leopard print that is comprised of black, brown, and tan, as well as the more grayscale leopard print that is evident in my cardigan. I find that my leopard print items get worn often and look especially nice with my red, orange, and burgundy pieces.
- Dot Prints – Two of my “MVP” skirts include dot-style prints; one has a polka dot print and the other has more of an abstract circular pattern. Both are neutral tones and work well with other neutrals as well as the jewel-toned solid tops I love to wear.
- Knit Blazers – I like the polished look of a blazer but dislike the stiff feel inherent in many such pieces. That’s why knit blazers work so well for me! They look structured but are very comfortable to wear. Even my denim jacket is more of a blazer style rather than the traditional boxier cut of most such pieces. I’ve long tried to find a traditional denim jacket that would work for me, but I find that fitted and structured cuts are more flattering on my figure.
- Fitted Tops, Looser Bottoms – I have a slim torso and enjoy showing it off, so I prefer more fitted tops, jackets, and cardigans. In contrast, my lower half is not as slim and is where I tend to store any excess pounds I carry. Thus, I prefer to wear looser silhouettes on the bottom. The current styles in the stores are much the opposite, so I’ve had trouble finding new pants and skirts that work for me. Fortunately, I have a number of slightly flared skirts and dresses in my wardrobe, so that’s what I’ve been wearing all summer long.
- Metallic Sandals – I love wearing metallic shoes, as they coordinate well with basically everything I wear. My favorite metallic tones are silver and pewter and I own several pairs of shoes in each shade. I love and wear all of my metallic shoes year-round, but my sandals are what I reach for over and over during the summer months.
- Wedge Heels – I have “fussy feet” and need a stable heel that I can easily walk in. Wedge heels in a moderate height of 2-3 inches work best for me and are what get the most wear with my skirts and dresses. All four of my “MVP” shoes have wedge heels in the mid-height range and all were worn frequently this past summer.
Some Other Interesting Facts about My MVP Items
As I looked at my summer wardrobe workhorses, I noticed a few other interesting facts about them:
- Of the 14 garments shown, 11 were included in my April through June Project 333 wardrobe capsule (that’s 79%!). While I may have gotten tired of wearing some of my Project 333 pieces, I continued to love and wear 11 of them during this past summer.
- Only one of my summer MVP items (the metallic Raffini sandals) was purchased within the past year. The other 17 items are at least a year old and more than half have been in my closet for three or more years! That’s saying a lot for someone who shops as much as I do!
I believe some of the new pieces I purchased during August will end up becoming wardrobe workhorses as well. However, they just haven’t been around long enough for me to make a definitive conclusion. I feel I finally understand what types of clothing and shoes work best for my lifestyle and I’m getting better at buying pieces I will actually love and wear. Doing Project 333 and tracking what I’ve worn in the following months has definitely helped to increase my awareness, and my greater awareness has led to better decisions.
Even though I do more wardrobe tracking than most people, it was still helpful for me to identify and analyze my summer wardrobe favorites. Seeing these pieces all together and highlighting the common themes among them really helped me understand what I actually enjoy wearing. I highly recommend you take the time to do this short but powerful exercise and make some notes about what you learn.
I plan to revisit the exercise for my other seasonal wardrobes. We really only get three seasons at most where I live: summer, fall/spring (similar temperatures), and “sort-of winter.” Since we’ll be moving into fall/spring weather within the next month or so, I’ll likely identify favorites for that season toward the end of the year. I expect to learn even more useful information and will be sure to share my findings with you!
For those who opt to do the exercise, I hope you find it helpful. I’d love to read about what you learn through identifying your seasonal wardrobe favorites. Please feel free to share your findings in the comments section to help us all learn more, too.