After countless hours spent crunching spreadsheet data, I’m finally ready to reveal my 2013 wardrobe numbers! As I worked to prepare this information, I was reminded of a quote I heard a while back. While I don’t remember the exact wording, the gist of it is that our possessions can enslave us because we spend so much time acquiring and maintaining them. That has definitely been true for me and particularly in regards to my clothes.
While I’m a statistics junkie and enjoy crunching the numbers, it would be nice to have less data to compile at the end of the year. This would require my having fewer clothes and fewer things coming into and out of my closet each year. Of course, that’s a big reason why I took on my recovering shopaholic project. I wanted my life to be less about shopping and more about other things, while also having a smaller wardrobe that works for me and my lifestyle.
Progress Made, But Still So Far to Go…
I’ve made a great deal of progress this year, but working on my spreadsheet highlighted how far I have to go. I’d like to have fewer garments and to be getting more use out of what I own. I’d also like to have many more wardrobe “all-stars” and few or no wardrobe “benchwarmers.” I also want to truly love more of what I own (if not all of it) and to have more clothes that make me smile. I have to trust that all of this will come if I continue doing the work. It’s like they say in 12-step programs, “It works if you work it.” So I will continue to work on refining my wardrobe, while simultaneously working to create a life that makes my heart sing.
The above needed to be said, but now it’s time to move on to the numbers. This will be a highly data-driven post, but I will also include a few photos to break things up a bit and add some visual interest to the mix. This post mostly focuses on what I wore during 2013, including my wardrobe “all-stars” and “benchwarmers.” In my next post, I will delve into what came into and what left my wardrobe last year, and subsequent posts will cover my current closet inventory and my goals and rules for 2014.
Starting on a High Note – the “All-Stars”
Let’s start by looking at my most-worn clothes and shoes from 2013. I have termed this desired category my wardrobe “all-stars.” When I first coined that term in 2011, it referred to anything that I wore four or more times during a given year. For 2013, I raised the bar a notch higher to five times per year.
I realize this is still quite a low number and ideally I’d like to be wearing my clothes at least eight times per year, if not more. But this is a process and I’m aiming for progress instead of perfection at this point. For now, I’m going to set eight wears per year as my goal for all of my garments and shoes. If I reach that milestone and want to aim higher, I can always re-adjust later.
I will keep raising the bar until I’m wearing my clothes as often as feels right for me. I’m not sure yet what the number will be. What I do know is that there is not one universally agreed upon benchmark to which everyone should aspire. We all need to determine what works best for us. Some people have no problem with having a huge wardrobe and wearing most of their pieces only a time or two per year. I used to be that person, but I’ve changed.
I suspect that many of you are in the same boat and are trying to pare down your wardrobes and get more wear out of your clothes. You may or may not know what your ideal wear rate is, but you know you’re not there yet. It’s okay; you don’t have to know. Just keep noticing what’s working and what’s not working for you and make adjustments as needed along the way. Eventually you’ll reach the point where you’re happy with the size of your wardrobe and the rate at which you wear your clothes.
My 2013 “All-Stars”
I ended the year having worn 63 items (47 garments and 16 pairs of shoes) at least five times. At this point, that’s roughly a third of my overall wardrobe, so that’s not too bad. If I look at my goal of 8 wears or more per year, the figure goes down to 37 items (25 garments and 12 pairs of shoes), which is more like a fifth of what’s in my closet.
There were a number of items that got worn at least once per month during 2013. Here’s a breakdown of the 24 items that I wore 12 or more times last year by wardrobe category:
- Casual Jackets: 6 (generally worn on walks or to the gym)
- Coats: 2
- Cardigans: 2
- Blazers: 1
- Pants / Jeans: 5
- Skirts: 1
- Shoes: 7
Here’s a snapshot of my most-worn items from last year. As you can see, there are no tops or dresses in this photo, and only one skirt. Clearly, I either have too many such garments (as in the case of the tops) or I just don’t wear them often enough (the dresses and skirts). There are also a lot of dark colors and not much color in the mix. I assure you that I do wear bright colors on a regular basis, mostly in terms of tops and topper pieces, but most of those items were worn fewer than 12 times last year.
In case you’re wondering, my most-worn garment was a lightweight jacket that I wear for walks (fourth row, second from right). I wore that jacket 83 times last year! Not surprisingly, my second most-worn item was a medium-weight parka (top row, second item) that I wear for walks during cooler weather (it got worn 67 times in 2013).
And Then There’s the Lounge / Workout Category…
Other than the casual jackets that I wear on walks or to the gym, I hadn’t been tracking how often I wear my workout or lounge wear pieces. However, I decided to track this area of my wardrobe beginning in June and through to the end of last year. In all, there were 21 items in this category that saw at least 12 wears during the final seven months of 2013. Two of my lounge / workout pants were worn over 100 times within that time period!
Clearly, I spend a lot of time walking, working out, and “lounging,” so it was a good move for me to buy nicer pieces for this wardrobe category last year. Although I’ve started to wear more “regular” clothes around the house, I still go on walks most days and spend a lot of time working out. I want to feel good in everything I wear, so I’m glad I decided to devote a larger portion of my clothing budget to this critical piece of the puzzle.
A Low Note – Wardrobe Benchwarmers
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I use the term wardrobe “benchwarmers” to refer to those garments that are only worn once or not at all during a given year. Clearly, we want to have very few (or none!) of these types of pieces in our closets!
While I had hoped to finish 2013 with absolutely no wardrobe “benchwarmers” on the books, that didn’t end up being the case. In actuality, I ended the year with 28 benchwarmers (22 garments and 6 pairs of shoes) overall. Of this number, 13 were purchased during the summer of 2013 or later, so they don’t adhere to the literal definition for benchwarmers (since I didn’t have them for a full year). However, I believe I really should have worn all of these pieces two or more times since I bought them, so I included them in this summary.
Here’s how my 2013 benchwarmers are broken down by category:
- Short-Sleeved Tops: 5
- Sleeveless Tops: 3
- Coats: 1
- Blazers: 1
- Short Cardigans: 4
- Dresses: 3
- Skirts: 2
- Shoes: 6
I had absolutely no benchwarmers within the following categories:
- Long-Sleeved Tops
- Long Cardigans
In the case of the first two categories, I had pared down what I owned sufficiently that all remaining items received a lot of wear. In the case of pants and jeans, I simply had so few of each (because they’re so hard for me to find!) that what I had got worn quite a lot over the course of the year.
Here’s a snapshot of all of my 2013 wardrobe benchwarmers:
When I look at this photo, my first thought is that I really like almost all of these items! However, many of these pieces are dressier in nature and don’t really fit my ultra-casual lifestyle of late. I just didn’t have many occasions last year to wear dressy clothes. Since 2013 was not really representative of my life at large, due to illness and life transition, I’ve decided to keep a relatively small capsule of dressier pieces in my closet. I think there’s a decent chance these items will see more wear this year, but if that’s not the case, I will definitely pass more such pieces on via donation or consignment.
Looking Back – 2011 and 2012 All-Stars
I thought it would be fun to look back at my 2011 and 2012 numbers to see how I fared those years in terms of wardrobe all-stars and benchwarmers. Let’s look at the all-stars first… Here are some key numbers from the previous two years:
- Worn 5+ times in 2012: 54 items
- Worn 5+ times in 2011: 55 items
- Worn 8+ times in 2012: 39 items (26 garments, 13 pairs of shoes)
- Worn 8+ times in 2011: 35 items (24 garments, 11 pairs of shoes)
I was a bit surprised to learn that my all-star numbers haven’t varied much over the years (as a reminder, 63 items received 5+ wears in 2013 and 37 items were worn 8+ times). I think there are a few reasons for this. For one, my wardrobe continued to be too large. Secondly, I continued to bring too many new pieces into my closet. Since I made excellent progress in both areas during 2013, particularly in the latter portion of the year, my hope and suspicion is that my all-star numbers for 2014 will be quite a bit higher.
I also looked at how many all-stars from 2011 and 2012 retained that status during 2013. Happily, many of the items I wore often during past years also received frequent wear last year. Over half of my 2012 all-stars (31) and an even higher number of my 2011 all-stars (37) were worn five or more times in 2013. Why the higher number for 2011? For much of 2012, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t in terms of my style. As I wrote about in “Stay True to Yourself,” I took a major style detour while trying to live up to the job title of “wardrobe stylist.” I’m still trying to rediscover my authentic sartorial persona after losing my way for quite some time…
The Bright Side – Benchwarmer Comparisons
I saved the best news for last, as my most positive changes have occurred in the area of my wardrobe benchwarmers. Here’s how my benchwarmer numbers compare over the years:
- 2011 Benchwarmers: 123 (112 garments and 11 pairs of shoes)
- 2012 Benchwarmers: 146 (125 garments and 21 pairs of shoes)
- 2013 Benchwarmers: 28 (22 garments and 6 pairs of shoes)
A vast improvement, don’t you think? I’m definitely proud of myself for starting to wear previously unworn items that I still like and for discarding pieces that no longer work for my body, lifestyle, and personality. I’m experiencing a lot more joy and a lot less guilt as a result! My plan is to end 2014 with absolutely no benchwarmers at all and I feel this is a do-able goal. Why keep things around if they aren’t working for me? It will only lead to wasted space and unnecessary guilt.
2012 Benchwarmer Project Results
As previously mentioned, I had 146 wardrobe benchwarmers in 2012, which was roughly one half of my overall wardrobe. I decided to take on “The Wardrobe Benchwarmer Project” in January 2013 with the goal of either integrating these items into my wardrobe rotation or letting them go. At this point, the majority of my 2012 benchwarmers have left my closet. Of the 37 items that remain, 29 of them no longer hold benchwarmer status in that they were worn at least twice (and some much more than that) last year. The remaining 8 items were still benchwarmers during 2013.
Here’s a photo of the 2012 wardrobe benchwarmers that also earned that status last year:
As you can see, almost all of these items are relatively dressy in nature. The bronze sandals (not dressy, but no longer my style) were taken for consignment last week, so they have already left my closet. Alterations were made to both the black/white top and the black coat late in the year, which should lead to my wearing both pieces more often in 2014. The alteration to the top was minor and inexpensive, whereas the tailoring done to the coat was more extensive and pricey.
I probably should have passed the coat on instead of altering it, but the risk paid off in this case, as the coat now fits me much better than before. But I still intend to only have minor alterations done moving forward (see “The Dark Side of Alterations”). I may have gotten lucky with the coat, but I had the opposite result more times that I’d like to count. I’ve learned my lesson at long last and won’t be repeating the dire mistakes of the past!
For the sake of being thorough, I also looked at how many of my 2011 benchwarmers remain in my closet. That number is 29 and 20 of them are no longer benchwarmers. Five of the remaining nine were worn more during 2012 and less often again in 2013. The other four are, yes, three-time benchwarmers!
The black/white top and the black coat are included in the 3-time loser group, but I really believe these garments will be worn now that they’ve been altered for a better fit. The black blazer was also altered earlier in the year and I’m much happier with the fit of that garment. However, I just didn’t have any occasions to wear such a blazer last year. The same can be said about the leopard print pencil skirt, but I likely will consign that skirt soon. I don’t like how it’s quite shiny in appearance (not really noticeable in the photo), plus it wrinkles in a funny way when I walk. Since our garments need to work when we move, not just when we’re standing still, I think this skirt finally needs to make its way out of my closet!
In Closing (Finally!)
So there you have it… all of my all-star and benchwarmer statistics for 2013. I did tell you it was going to be a lot of data! You may wonder why I bother to crunch so many numbers each year. Well, for one, it was this type of number crunching that led me to start this blog last January. In truth, I had no idea how large my wardrobe was and how infrequently I was wearing what I owned until I started tracking it all. Yes, it takes a lot of time (the day-to-day tracking is easy; it’s just the year-end stuff that’s so time-consuming), but in my case, the truth has gradually started to set me free.
Tracking got me started with paring down my wardrobe and Project 333 took me to the next level, which is why I opted to do it again this winter. I no longer want to be a “wardrobe maximalist” with a jam-packed closet full of clothes that I rarely or never wear. While I’m unsure if I will ever be as much of a minimalist as Project 333 “purists,” I do plan to continue streamlining my closet while I hone my personal style and cultivate a wardrobe that’s workable for me.
I believe that next January’s wrap-up process will be much less laborious and my numbers will be a lot more favorable. I look forward to a lot of growth and change this year and to focusing less on my wardrobe and shopping and more on the rest of my life.
I will likely always enjoy clothes and shopping, but things had become so out of balance for me that it’s been difficult to claw my way back to sanity. But I am doing just that and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for accompanying me on my journey. There have been lots of ups and downs and many twists and turns, but I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. I see a future for myself beyond being a shopaholic, and I would have never believed that could be possible not too long ago. If you’re reading this and you’re still struggling, please know that there’s hope for you, too!
Useful Links – Closet Editing & Ethical Wardrobes
Although I’m no longer doing regular “useful links” posts (but you can check out past link round-ups here), I enjoy sharing resources periodically that I feel will be beneficial for you. A few bloggers I like have recently done blog and video series on topics of interest. I invite you to check them out!
- Meli, a regular reader and frequent commenter, recently did a fabulous three-part series on her blog titled “How to Edit/Purge Your Closet.” Although this is a topic I often address here, I learned some useful tips from Meli’s posts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- Emma, another reader and past guest poster, is in the midst of doing an ethical wardrobe makeover on her mother! This is an ongoing series on “This Kind Choice” (a wonderful blog on the topics of fashion and ethics), but you can catch up here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- Bridgette Raes recently did a three-part video series on questions to ask ourselves to help with the closet editing process. I’ve often shared Bridgette’s blog posts here, as they are always so good! Well now you can see and hear her, too!: Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3