2013 By the Numbers – Wardrobe All-Star & Benchwarmer Update

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…

2013 Wardrobe Wrap-up

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.

2013 Most Worn Items

I wore these 24 items most often during 2013.

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
  • Pants
  • Jeans

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:

2013 Wardrobe Benchwarmers

These items were worn once or not at all during 2013.

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:

2-Time Benchwarmers

These 8 items were “benchwarmers” in both 2012 and 2013.

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!

3-Time Benchwarmers

These 4 items were “benchwarmers” in 2011, 2012, and 2013!

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
  • 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

23 thoughts on “2013 By the Numbers – Wardrobe All-Star & Benchwarmer Update

  1. Debbie, I enjoyed reading this post! As I’ve commented before, I’ve been (geekily) tracking what I wear for several years now, and it’s interesting to compare notes with your findings. Most of my benchwarmers in 2013 were layering tops — so maybe I don’t need those as much as I thought I did! I was pleasantly surprised to see how much wear many of my all-stars got, bringing the cost-per-wear down to a little over $1 in many cases! And tracking also spurs me to make new outfits with items in danger of becoming benchwarmers. I think your approach is a good one!

    • It’s nice to “meet” another tracking and numbers geek, Tricia. Congrats on both the low cost-per-wear and the great knowledge you’ve gained through tracking! Tracking really has made a big difference for me, too, in the same ways that you’ve mentioned. I won’t be buying more of the types of things that often become benchwarmers and I now know what types of items are better bets when I shop. I highly recommend tracking!

  2. Wow! That is really impressive progress with regard to your benchwarmers especially — nicely done!

    I wanted to comment on your concept of “desired frequency of wear” as that is an idea that I don’t believe I have seen elsewhere, and has been usefully thought-provoking to me. I have been thinking about the fact that if you know your desired frequency of wear, and you know how often you wear/want to wear each type of garment, then you have a guide to how big your wardrobe should be– or more precisely, how many items in each category you should own. (Just to be pedantic about it: there are only 365 days in a year, so if I want to wear each of my garments 10 times a year I definitely should not have more than 36 tops.) What if, instead of paring down our wardrobes, we started with that number for each category and selected that many items from our existing closet. Which items would we pick? And what are the remaining items in that category still doing in our closets? Maybe that would be a useful exercise or thought experiment…at least, one I’m contemplating doing.

    The frequency-of-wear idea is also really useful in thinking about budgeting, it seems to me. There is this strain of thought out there about buying more expensive “investment pieces” and focusing on “cost per wear,” but depending on the overall size of your wardrobe it could take many years for those so-called investment pieces to pay off…am I really going to want to wear those boots 10 times a year for the next 10 years, for example? (Maybe the answer is yes, but for me at least this line of thinking is starting to help me avoid rationalizing purchases with “oh, but it’s an investment piece!”)

    • I am intrigued by the concept of “frequency of wear” as a goal. I have a few garments (dressier blouse, swimsuit, heavy sweaters) that get less of a workout because of their seasonal nature or “special occasion” designation. Most of my pretty small (by design) wardrobe is in constant rotation. I have a fairly new heavy sweater (just in time for the Polar Vortex) and I have already worn it 5 times in about 3 weeks (sometimes worn with a base layer next to the skin). I only have 2 heavy sweaters, so they get worn a lot at this time of year and then they take the summer off. I really like my clothes so I like wearing them a lot, and I try to get a high per-wear value out of them all. I try not to think of “investment” (I think this is a marketing ploy to get folks to pony up more cash for trendy high-ticket items – nothing stays in style indefinitely). I focus on color, fit, construction, and utility (will it go with the stuff I already have? will it fit into my lifestyle?). Seems to work for me. Oh, and having almost no closet space really helps too.

    • Wow, Sarah! What a helpful and thoughtful analysis. I really like your equation of Days/Number of times to wear each item=Number of items needed. “What are the remaining items in that category still doing in our closets?” Such a good thing to think about!
      Thank you for the food for thought!
      And as dottie mentions, the idea of “investment pieces” is ridiculous since investments are supposed to make you money not make you lose money 100% of the time. 🙂

      • I love Sarah’s question, too, Emmy, and plan to use it as I continue to work to pare my wardrobe down to things I really love and want to wear often. I love your comment about how investments are supposed to make us money instead of losing money. So true!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Sarah! I’m glad the concept of desired frequency of wear is useful for you. I hadn’t really thought about this concept until this year (see https://recoveringshopaholic.com/what-is-a-normal-sized-wardrobe/ – my most popular post to date!), but it’s really made a difference to the way I think about my clothes. I still have FAR too many tops, which is why none of them were in the group of items I wore 12 or more times last year. I will be posting my closet inventory next week, but I think I still have over 70 tops, which means most won’t be worn more than 5 times per year. If I want to wear everything at least 8 times per year, I will need to pare my number of tops down to 45 (fewer if I will also be wearing dresses on a regular basis). Lots more paring down to do!

      The concept of “investment pieces” was explored in an excellent guest post done back in June (https://recoveringshopaholic.com/the-real-investment-pieces-you-should-own/) , which puts a different and (I feel) more useful spin on the term. I mostly can’t justify really big ticket items, but I have bought some fairly expensive bags, watches, and shoes in recent years. I tend to wear/use those items a lot more regularly, so I feel less nervous about dropping serious cash. I think it’s a very individual thing, but I agree with Dottie that the idea of “investment pieces” is mostly a marketing ploy!

  3. This is impressive.
    After I found Your blog last summer, I decided to try tracking what I wear everyday, hoping it would help me to have a nice wardrobe and avoid I-have-nothing-to-wear’s. Four months later and I already have some amaizing statistics! And I already see the “problem” items in my closet and have some thoughts for improvement.
    Thank You for inspiration! 🙂

    • I’m so glad my tracking concept and ideas have helped you, Anda! How great that you are now more aware of your problem areas and how to make improvements to your wardrobe. Best wishes to you moving forward! I hope you write again to let me/us know how you’re doing.

  4. I don’t want to wish my life away – but I can’t wait for this time next year when I can see the results of my own wardrobe analysis. It would appear to be a sad fact of my life that the things I look forward to most each day is opening up Excel and recording what I wore and what I spent! You have been a great inspriation.

    • Yay! Another statistics nerd 🙂 I’m so happy to have inspired you! I look forward to reading about your wardrobe analysis (I hope you’ll post about it!) and to sharing my 2014 results, too. In some ways, all of this geeky numbers stuff (and definitely my blogging) is filling some of the needs I previously met through shopping. Interesting how things evolve… Best wishes to you!

  5. I REALLY love the concept of figuring out how many times you want to wear a garment and then matching your numbers to that. You’ve attracted such wonderful–and helpful–readers.

    • Yes, my readers are the best! I learn so much from all of you! I’m going to write more about this concept in future posts…

  6. Really interesting post!

    I like the idea of wears per year.

    You could also invert it, and determine how often you are willing to repeat items and then figure out your ideal wardrobe size based on that. I think you’ve talked about that in the past. It is a way to figure out your minimum wardrobe size.

    I’m perfectly content to repeat clothing items. I notice, though, that I repeat a lot within one year but then stay away from certain items entirely the following year. To me, that suggests that I should either diversify what I wear a bit more so that I don’t get tired of things, or that I should maintain a rather small wardrobe and replace certain categories annually (and within budget of course). Some people who maintain very small wardrobes replace certain feature items annually while keeping a set of building block basics.

    All in all, the numbers provide a very interesting perspective!

    • You raise some very good points, Abby. I think that we are often more comfortable repeating some types of wardrobe items (i.e. pants, shoes) over others (tops perhaps), so we may need more in some categories than others. Of course, this is all very individual, but I think it’s worth our while to give it all some thought. I’m glad my perspective has been helpful for you!

  7. Great analysis! I find it very useful to look at our closets in such a clear way. It can be uncomfortable at the time, with thoughts such as “I spent so much money on that and never wear it”, or “I keep making the same mistakes!” coming up, but it’s such a good way of finding out why we do what we do and coming up with strategies to change that. Wears per year is an interesting place to start that analysis.
    Thanks for sharing my series on ethical wardrobe makeovers, too!

    • It was my pleasure to share your ethical wardrobe makeover series, Emma! I look forward to reading more about your mom’s makeover, as we are close to the same age. Regarding wardrobe numbers, I definitely have the types of thoughts you mentioned. But I find if I get rid of the items that make me feel guilty (usually though passing them on to others who will hopefully love them more than I do), I feel much better. I’m really ready to be done with guilt!

  8. I enjoy numbers posts so much! I’ve taken to writing down what I wear every day (not loungewear) because of you 🙂 i hope to gain some insight like you have!

    Thank you so much for mentioning my posts! I’m happy if my way of doing things helps anyone else in any way 🙂

    • I’m pleasantly surprised that so many of you like numbers posts! Since I’m such a geek, I will definitely continue to do them. I’m glad you’ve decided to track what you wear, Meli, and I hope you get the type of powerful insights I’ve gained from doing so. I was happy to mention your posts, as I know your perspective will benefit many!

  9. Debbie, well done! This is a significant improvement that you’ve made consistently over 3 years, and it can only go better from here. Love how reflective and honest you have been throughout this whole process!! I am so happy and so proud of you – you’re my inspiration!

    • Thanks so much for your very kind words, Belle! I’m glad to learn that my posts have inspired you. It always warms my heart to learn that I am positively impacting others. Best wishes to you!

  10. Debbie, I agree – a vast improvement with wonderful results by starting to wear previously unworn items that you still like and for discarding pieces that no longer work for you, for your lifestyle, and personality preferences. Good process!

    • Thanks so much, Terra. I know you’ve had a similar experience and you have inspired me to dress with less and aim for higher quality in what I buy. I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be with my wardrobe, but I’m feeling more confident now that I will get there!

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