The year is almost 75% over and I have yet to do a wardrobe “benchwarmer” update, so now’s the time! For those who are new to this blog, I have defined a wardrobe benchwarmer as any item that only gets worn once or is not worn at all during the course of a year (see this post for more information).
Wear Statistics and Starting this Blog
Of course, I want to wear my closet pieces far more than twice per year, but I had to start somewhere. When I launched “Recovering Shopaholic” in January 2013, I had close to 300 garments in my closet, so most of them weren’t being worn all that often. At that time, I had been tracking what I wore and how often for two years and the statistics were pretty abysmal:
- In 2011, I had 112 garments and 11 pairs of shoes that were either worn once or not at all.
- My 2012 numbers were even worse, with 125 garments and 21 pairs of shoes achieving “benchwarmer” status.
Those statistics were a large part of my reason for starting this blog. Not only was I spending far too much money on shopping, I wasn’t even wearing most of what I purchased! Clearly, something had to change, and simply tracking what I wore wasn’t doing the trick.
So I started the blog, delved into deeper exploration of my wardrobe and shopping habits, and set some goals and rules to help keep me on the straight and narrow. I also took on some powerful challenges, including Project 333, which helped me pare down my wardrobe to a more manageable level within a year’s time.
My 2013 Numbers – A Vast Improvement
My 2013 wear statistics were much better. I reduced my number of wardrobe benchwarmers from 146 to 28. Although I didn’t quite reach my goal of having absolutely no benchwarmers, I definitely made excellent progress and am proud of the changes I made. You can read a lot more about my 2013 numbers and conclusions in this post, as well as see some photos of both my closet benchwarmers and “all-stars” (items worn at least five times last year).
I realize that I set the bar pretty low in terms of what constitutes wardrobe benchwarmers and all-stars. I know there are many people out there who wear everything they own at least five times per month, let alone per year. Those same people probably wouldn’t even think of holding on to anything that doesn’t earn its keep by being worn many, many times each year. While I hope to be one of those types of people one day, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Setting Goals for 2014
For 2014, I set these goals (read more here) related to wardrobe wears:
- Wear at least a third of my wardrobe pieces 8 or more times during the year.
- Wear at least half of my items 5 or more times during the year.
- End 2014 having worn everything in my closet 2 or more times – no wardrobe benchwarmers!
Today’s post addresses the third goal above (I’ll look at the first two goals later in the year). I recently took the time to review my closet and see how I’m doing in terms of potential wardrobe benchwarmers. Please note that I did not include any items that were bought after July 1, 2014. Although I’ve already worn some of my summer purchases multiple times, many of them are awaiting cooler weather to make their way out of my closet (it’s been much hotter than usual where I live).
Potential 2014 Wardrobe Benchwarmers
As of today, I have 45 potential wardrobe benchwarmers for 2014. These numbers break down as follows:
- 1 dress
- 1 skirt
- 7 short jackets/cardigans
- 3 tanks/short tops (worn with skirts)
- 9 long cardigans/long jackets/coats
- 9 tanks/short-sleeved/long-sleeved tops (worn with pants)
- 1 pair of jeans
- 14 pairs of shoes
Of those 45 items, 25 have not been worn at all this year and the remaining 20 have been worn once. Yes, this number is pretty high, in large part because I haven’t been pushing myself to wear everything in my closet like I did last year. Instead, I’m wearing what I most want to wear and feeling much more satisfied with my outfits as a result. I feel this is a positive change, as it’s more important to be happy in what we wear than to make sure we’re wearing everything we own out of a sense of guilt of obligation.
It’s important to note that I have less than half the number of potential benchwarmers this year than I did last year at roughly the same time. Even when I was pushing myself to wear all of the pieces in my closet, I still struggled to reduce my number of benchwarmers. That’s because my wardrobe was still far too large for my lifestyle needs and I continued to purchase far too many new items. While the size of my closet still outstrips my needs and I’m still buying more than I’d ultimately like, I’m pleased to see that my progress over a year ago is marked.
Here’s a snapshot of all of my potential 2014 wardrobe benchwarmers:
The majority of these items were purchased prior to 2014. In fact, only 8 of my potential benchwarmers were purchased this year:
The above items were all discussed in my 2014 Purchase Analysis, so I won’t repeat that discussion here. But I thought it was interesting to note that the majority of my potential wardrobe benchwarmers were purchased in previous years.
Common Characteristics Among the Benchwarmers
I looked at all of the items pictured above and have identified some reasons why they haven’t been worn, as well as a few common characteristics among them:
Many of my potential benchwarmers (12 items) are dressier pieces and I don’t have many occasions in my life that call for such items. While I feel it’s okay to retain a small “formal capsule,” I also think I can wear some of these pieces in more dressed down ways. But I’m not going to push too hard to make things work if I don’t really love them.
Summer Toppers Not Being Worn
This summer has been very hot, so I haven’t worn some of my toppers (7 items) as often as I usually do. These toppers don’t have to be worn only in the summer, however. In fact, many of them can be worn year-round in the temperate climate where I live, so they’ll likely still be worn at least twice by year’s end.
Too Many Black Shoes and Too Many Heels
I have too many black shoes and too many pairs of heels (11 of my benchwarmer shoes are black and 7 are heels). I’ve preferred flat or low-heeled shoes this year, as I like to be able to walk in my shoes for longer than a few minutes! Clearly, I don’t need to hang on to so many pairs of heels when I rarely wear them. See below for more on my benchwarmer shoes and my shoes in general.
Ten of my potential benchwarmers were purchased at consignment stores (I’ll be posting an analysis of my resale purchases later this week, so stay tuned for more on that topic!).
Colors Not in My New Palette
A few items (4) are in colors that are not in my newly refined color palette (e.g. orange, light green). The only reason I still have these items is that I still like them in theory. However, if I don’t wear them more often by the end of the year, I’ll likely pass them on.
The Speed of Closet Purging
I’ve been doing a fairly good job of purging unloved and unworn clothing from my wardrobe. I’ve proceeded more slowly with this effort than some people (like Mette, for example), but I’ve learned that I need to be mindful of my closet “set point.” Whenever I pare down too quickly, I tend to feel a sense of scarcity that sends me running out to “beef up” my wardrobe once again.
Purging more slowly has allowed me to gradually reduce the size of my wardrobe such that it’s now about half the size it was when I started this blog close to two years ago. I downsized much more quickly in 2013 and have slowed down the pace quite a bit this year. I’m okay with that, however, as I’ve been working to refine my style and better understand the types of pieces I want to wear. Increased style clarity is making it easier to release items that don’t mesh with my preferred aesthetic.
The Shoes are More Problematic
One area of my closet that’s been more difficult to pare down is my shoe collection. Shoes also make up a sizeable proportion – 31% or roughly one-third – of my current wardrobe benchwarmers, and most of these are black! As I mentioned above, 11 of my 14 shoe benchwarmers are black (one of those is a polka-dot print, but the predominant color is black).
I also have a number of black shoes that are worn regularly and are not benchwarmers, but the problem is that I have far too many black shoes overall. In truth, half of my current shoe collection is black, and some of them are quite similar in style. I’m sure I’m not alone in this (after all, almost all shoe styles are sold in black), but I definitely need to do some black shoe culling.
Paring Down the Black Shoes
Let’s take a look at all of my black shoes (my black “benchwarmer” shoes are pictured above).
I definitely want to keep all of the shoes in the first row. With the exception of the third pair, all are worn regularly and serve different purposes. The third pair was a gift from my mother last year and was quite pricey. I wore these shoes six times last year, but since I’ve been working on toning down the “church vibe” of my skirt and dress outfits, I haven’t reached for them at all during 2014. I need to find a way to dress them down (if you have ideas, let me know) or just keep them on hand for the rare dressy occasions in my life.
Black Shoes I May Purge
As for the second and third rows, I’m considering letting go of the following shoes:
- Clark’s Black Sandals: These shoes (row two, first pair) are very comfortable but look a bit “heavy” on my feet. I’ve recently chosen the Ecco sandals (row one, pair five) over these virtually every single time, so maybe I don’t need to hold on to this pair anymore.
- Tall Black Boots: I would like to have a pair of tall black boots, but these don’t work for me. They are the pull-on variety (no zipper) and don’t stay up well. The shaft of the boot always gets wrinkly on my calves and looks unflattering. I’d been holding on to these until I found a replacement, but I don’t really need to do that since I never wear them anyway.
- Ecco Black Boots: The heel on these is the same height as the Paul Green pair (row three, pair three) and I always prefer that pair over these. The only reason to hold on to these is to replace the Paul Green boots, which are getting worn out. The Clark’s pair in row one has a higher heel and doesn’t work with the same pants length (yes, I know that if I always wore slim jeans, that wouldn’t be a problem).
- Ecco Bow Flats: I have only worn these once since I got my AGL flats (row one, pair one) and they serve virtually the same purpose. I still like these, but I like the AGL pair better. There probably isn’t a good reason to keep both pairs.
- Indigo Slingbacks: These shoes are uncomfortable and serve the same basic purpose as the Clark’s slingbacks (row two, pair two). I’m almost positive I’m going to let these go.
- Polka-dot Peep-toes: I still like these, but they are past their prime (I’ve had them since 2009 and have worn them a lot). They no longer look very good and probably should go. I found another pair of black and white shoes this month that will likely take their place.
Black Shoes I’m Keeping – For Now
As for the other shoes, I don’t wear the Coach pumps (row two, pair four) very often because they look pretty dressy. However, they pair well with my slim-fit jeans and are more comfortable than they look. I can’t walk in them for hours, but that would be true of any shoe with that heel height. I’m going to keep those shoes for now. I’m also going to hold on to the Coach sneakers (row two, pair five). I haven’t been wearing them this year (I wore them 23 times last year!), but I believe I will reach for them again in the future. I still like them and they are in excellent condition.
The peep-toe Mary Janes (row three, last pair) are also staying because they are very comfortable and I can walk in them all day. The heel is too high for most of my pants, but I have a few pairs of pants that work well with them. I don’t like the way they look with skirts and dresses due to the high-placed strap, but the strap is necessary to keep the shoes on my feet!
More Shoe Purges Ahead…
In looking at the rest of my shoe collection (non-black pairs), I believe I can purge a few additional pairs as well. You’ll see what I decide to let go of in my September accountability update, which will be posted in early October. This was a useful exercise for me, as I’ve only been wearing about half of my shoes on a regular basis. Why hang on to shoes that are just taking up space in my closet? That leads to a false sense of security and often obscures the shoes I do love from being seen and worn more often. It also prevents other people from potentially enjoying the shoes I’m not wearing.
Wardrobe “Benchwarmers” and Guilt
I’m glad I took the time to assess my potential wardrobe benchwarmers for 2014. While some of these items may end up becoming part of my regular closet rotation, many of them will likely be passed along before the year is over. In fact, I’ve already designated a few pieces to donate or consign this month. In some cases, it’s a matter of “splitting my wears” with more loved garments or shoes. In other instances, I’m just not feeling the love for particular items. Why force the issue when I already have such a large wardrobe?
It’s often guilt that gets in the way of purging unloved pieces from our closets. We feel remorse at spending money on items that have rarely or never been worn. It’s hard to get past those feelings, but we need to remember that the money has already been spent (see “sunk cost theory”). We aren’t recovering our lost dollars by keeping these items hanging in our closets, and we usually just feel bad every time we see them there. We’re reminded of our lapse in judgment and the money we have wasted.
The best way to let go of unloved items is to pass them along to friends, loved ones, or co-workers, as Mette did last year. Barring that solution, we can sell items in good condition on eBay or via consignment. The returns in such cases are usually small, but it can make us feel a little better to recoup even a tiny portion of our losses. I’ve taken that route more often recently, but for many years, I chose to donate my cast-offs to a local charity. Sadly, not all donations end up being used, but donating is surely a better option than either throwing the garment away or burying it in the back of your closet for a number of years.
I’m definitely going to make powerful decisions about all of my wardrobe benchwarmers before the year is over. I will likely do another update on this issue later in the year and let you know how it’s going for me. At that time, I’ll also address my summer purchases (see here and here for photos and information) and see if I’ve been able to improve my purchasing track record as a result of my outfit journal and work with Bridgette Raes.
Speaking of Bridgette, some of you have asked when I will do another update on the process I’m going through with her. At this point, I have not yet scheduled my second virtual session, but I hope to have it sometime in October and will post a follow-up shortly thereafter. Stay tuned…
I know most of you probably don’t identify and track your wardrobe “benchwarmers,” but almost every woman has pieces in her closet that aren’t being worn regularly. I’d love to get your answers to the following questions:
- How many times per year do you want to wear the items in your wardrobe?
- What criteria do you use for letting go of closet pieces?
- Do you agree with the much quoted rule about getting rid of anything that hasn’t been worn in a year?
- Under what circumstances would you hold on to items that aren’t being worn?
Feel free to share your thoughts on these matters, as well as any other feedback you have on this post.