I seem to go through phases in terms of the types of posts I do. Recently, I’ve been very focused on wardrobe management topics, which was also the case last year at this time. Perhaps it has something to do with the seasons changing and the end of the year approaching. I don’t think I’m alone in this focus. We hear lots of talk about “spring cleaning,” but I really think fall (or autumn, as you may call it) is more the time when many of us want to get our closets in order.
Of course, I’ve been working on my closet for quite a while now. This blog is coming up on its two-year anniversary in January, but I started tracking what I do and don’t wear way back in early 2011. I may have made a bit of headway in those first two years, but there’s nothing like sharing your goals and progress with the world to knock a project into high gear! Writing this blog has done more for my recovery than anything else I’ve tried, and I’m happy I’ve been able to positively impact others in the process.
Wardrobe Benchwarmers and the “First Impression Test”
Last week, I gave an update on my wardrobe “benchwarmers,” those mostly unworn items in my closet. In response to that post, longtime reader (and two-time guest poster – see HERE and HERE) Deby suggested that I take some time to go through all 45 of my potential 2014 benchwarmers and subject them to what she terms the “first impression test”:
If I were you, I would separate all 45 of those benchwarmers out of the closet and put them on the bed or in a place with mirrors where you can try them all on at one time – one right after the other, like an assembly line, with this technique:
Try the garment on (without first looking in the mirror), then go to the mirror and look at yourself as though you are meeting Debbie for the first time. What is your impression in that first second? Do you like how Debbie looks in the garment or not? Turn around, look at your profile. Do you like it or not? If it doesn’t look good from the front, don’t keep it. If it looks good from the front, but not in profile, then don’t keep it either. You don’t need to overly analyze it –remember, it only takes a few seconds to make a good impression!”
Taking on the Challenge – and Then Some!
Not only did I decide to follow Deby’s advice for analyzing my “benchwarmers,” I used it with every single item in my closet! In today’s post, I share my feedback – and the results – of my weekend “closet audit.” I fill you in on which items I chose to purge and why. I also include photos of all of the pieces I’ve opted to let go.
For some of you, the thought of trying on all of the pieces in your closet may set off a major anxiety attack. Believe me, I can relate. At one time, I had probably 4-5 times as many items as I have today, and my closet was more than twice as full when I started this blog in January 2013. If you have a very large wardrobe, it may be less overwhelming to go through just one area at a time. Perhaps you could address your clothing for just the upcoming season or pick one type of garment to look at (e.g. pants or dresses) during your first go-around. There is definitely value in doing a closet audit, but it doesn’t need to be done all at once! Proceed at your own pace – you will make progress even if you just take one “baby step” at a time.
How I Spent My Sunday Morning
While my husband was off doing a century bike ride last Sunday (that’s 100 miles, folks!), I decided to take on a much less athletic challenge of my own, my closet audit. The weather had temporarily cooled down enough for me to contemplate trying on all of my clothes, so I dove in. I followed Deby’s suggestions above and applied them to all of the items in my closet.
I added one small addendum to the instructions. I made sure that I was wearing potential accompanying pieces when I tried on an item in question. For example, if I was trying on tops, I wore pants and shoes that I might wear with them. I didn’t get too fussy with it, but it was helpful to be able to view an item as part of a viable outfit instead of on its own. I didn’t have to swap out the supporting items all that often. Most of the tops were tried on with black pants and most of the skirts were paired with a basic fitted top.
When all was said and done, I had designated 23 items to purge from my wardrobe. I was able to return four of these pieces for refunds earlier this week, while the other 19 will either be consigned or donated shortly. This may not seem like a very large purge – and it wasn’t. Since I’ve been working so hard on curating my wardrobe (with lots of ups and downs) and have been consistently paring things down on a regular basis, it’s unlikely I’ll ever do a major closet overhaul again. However, I feel very good to have expelled some of the “dead weight” from my wardrobe, those unloved pieces that were merely taking up space.
Here’s a photo of the 23 items that left my closet during my weekend audit:
There are some additional pieces that are “on the bubble” for various reasons. I have a few pairs of worn-out shoes that need to be replaced soon but are still being worn in the interim. There are also some items I need to take out for a “test drive” to see if they’ll work well in real-life. I’m sure some of these “maybes” will be passed on before the end of the year. I also took two tops to my tailor for minor (read, non-risky) alterations that will make them more wearable in the coming months.
The Nitty Gritty
Now let’s look at the pieces I purged and why I opted to remove them from my closet. I think it’s always a good idea to examine our reasons both for buying new items and letting things go, as we can learn a lot from the patterns that emerge. I usually explore these issues in my monthly accountability posts. I will be sharing my September accountability update next week, but the “What Left My Closet” section appears in today’s post instead. Next week’s post will look at what I bought last month, what I wore, and how I’m doing with my budget and item limit for the year.
As you read through my explanations for letting some of my closet pieces go, it may be helpful to consider whether or not those issues apply to you and your wardrobe. We often don’t really understand why we don’t wear some of the items we own, but you may find that you resonate with some of the struggles I’ve experienced with my closet benchwarmers.
What I Returned
I decided to return four items that were bought during July and August:
These items were all bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but the grey jacket was on back-order and didn’t arrive until mid-August.
Here are my reasons for returning the above items:
- Black sweater coat: This coat didn’t look good unbuttoned and would have needed to be worn closed all the time. Also, I have a lot of warm coats and jackets and don’t really need another one. I thought I would wear this coat on my evening walks, but I already have another jacket that serves the same purpose.
- Grey tone leopard print flats: I loved these shoes, but they were a bit too tight in the toe-box. I had tried the next size up, but my heels slipped out of the larger version. I walked in them a bit around my house on Sunday and decided they just weren’t comfortable enough to keep.
- Grey moto-style jacket: This jacket also didn’t look good open, but that wasn’t its main issue. I loved the way it looked on me, but the fabric was itchy! Most of my tops and toppers are made of cotton and other natural fibers and I need to stick to those fabrications. This jacket had a high acrylic content, which I’ve learned doesn’t work for my sensitive skin.
- White ¾ sleeve tee: I also bought this tee in cobalt blue and I’m keeping that one. While this white tee is more opaque than many on offer today, it still was a bit too see-through for my tastes. I also don’t love the way I look in bright swathes of white. I think I’ll mostly stick to white as part of a print instead of on its own.
The Toppers I Purged
Six toppers – cardigans and jackets – were included in my weekend closet purge:
Two of these were recent (bad!) consignment purchases, while the other four were bought at retail stores. Only one of these items received sufficient wear (the green knit jacket, believe it or not) to be termed a worthwhile buy. The others should never have been bought in the first place!
My reasons for purging the toppers above are as follows:
- Black cropped cardigan: This is another fabric issue. I’ve learned that I cannot wear wool next to my skin at all. This cardigan is made of merino wool and is from a good brand (Eileen Fisher). I liked the way it looked on me, but I started to feel itchy after just a few minutes of wearing it around the house (as a sort of mini “test drive”). I just bought this in August and it will be re-consigned, unworn.
- Blue short jacket: I mentioned this jacket in my recent purchase analysis post. At the time, I touted the color and said I liked how it looked on me. But at second glance, I realized the sleeves were too short and the jacket just looked too “shrunken” on my frame. I was seduced by the color and the label (Nic and Zoe, a brand I like), but it just didn’t work on me. Another resale failure that is being re-consigned without ever having been worn.
- Light green knit blazer: I bought this jacket back in 2012 and have worn it at least 10 times. However, I found myself not reaching for it at all this year. I think that since I’ve refined my color palette, I realized that neon colors are not really the best for my skin tone. I also think the jacket hasn’t washed well and looks a bit worn out at this point (sad, shouldn’t things last for more than 10 wears?).
- Grey polka-dot cardigan: I wore this cardigan the other night for a movie outing with my husband. I found myself fussing with it fairly continuously. I never know which buttons to close on these types of cardigans. I tried buttoning the top two, then a few in the middle. I liked the latter way better, but the cardigan still wouldn’t stay in place. I no longer want to wear clothes I have to mess with all the time, so I’m passing this one on. I only wore it that one time, so it was definitely a buying failure. It cost $12.99 at Costco last year, but I’d definitely like to get a lower cost-per-wear out of my clothes!
- Long purple cardigan: I wrote about this item in my purchase analysis as well. I had high hopes for it and I love the color, but it just looked too shapeless on me and made me look bigger than I am. It looked pretty good in the photo I posted, but my arms covered up all of the extra fabric at the sides. My narrow torso and waist are two of my favorite parts of my figure, so I like to show those areas off as much as possible. This cardigan made me feel less than fab, so out it goes.
- White cardigan: My only wearing of this cardigan was as part of what Bridgette Raes termed a “chicken outfit” (see my post on my session with Bridgette and her YouTube video). Sadly, however, I didn’t like it any better with the more interesting accompaniments I tried on. It washed me out and ended at the widest part of my hips. This cardigan is what convinced me that white isn’t one of my best colors. I love it in my striped ensembles or as part of another print, but a stark patch of white just doesn’t do me any favors!
The Tops I Let Go
I added six tops to my consign/donate pile on Sunday:
All of the tops above were bought at resale stores, with the exception of the leopard print tank, which was added to an online order so I could receive free shipping (so not a lot of thought was put into it). I’m being reminded over and over again that I just don’t do that well with secondhand clothing purchases!
Here’s why I opted to pass these six tops along:
- Black tank with ruffled neckline: I bought this tank at a secondhand store in Maui back in the summer of 2011. I never loved it because it was a bit too worn out and a touch too snug in the hips. I opted to shorten it this year, as I thought I’d wear it more often with skirts. Sadly, however, that was not the case and I have another similar top (also black with ruffles but short-sleeved) that I like much more. I still haven’t completely broken my habit of trying to rescue garments through alterations instead of letting them go.
- Black short-sleeved cardigan with attached striped tank: When I tried on this top on Sunday, my first impression was that it looked flimsy and cheap. The fabric is too thin and the top looks worn out. The sleeves also looked uneven. I think it was just poorly made in the first place and was already past its prime when I bought it a resale store last year. I think I wore it only four times total, so it wasn’t a good buy.
- Turquoise print blouse: When I bought this top, I still had my consulting business and was attending networking meetings regularly. I had more of an opportunity to dress up back then, but I still wasn’t that much of a ruffles and frills kind of gal. This top not only has a ruffled front, but there are ruffles around the neckline as well. It’s pretty much ruffle overkill! Every time I tried it on in recent months, I changed into something else, so it was time for it to go.
- Burgundy print cowl-top tank: This top was good in theory, but the color is somewhat “off” on me. I love burgundy, but this shade is too warm in tone for my complexion. The lighting in the store must have been very different from what I saw at home. I looked pale and washed out in it upon my first impression, so I’m letting it go.
- Blue leopard print tank: I used to really love leopard print, but I’m moving away from it now. I still have a few pieces that I like (two dresses, a cardigan, and some shoes), but this one was never really a favorite of mine. The material is too thin and I don’t like that it has a V-neck. Although I like V-necks with sleeves, for some reason I’m not a fan of tanks with that neckline. I turned my nose up when I looked at myself in the mirror, so no need to keep this top around!
- Orange print blouse: The problem with this top was fit. It was a bit too large on me, so it would often ride up when I moved around, causing me to need to fuss with it regularly. I liked the print, but that couldn’t override the fit issue, so the top is moving on to a new home.
Shoes That Are Moving On
I decided to pass on five pairs of shoes during my Sunday closet session:
All of these shoes were mentioned in my recent wardrobe benchwarmer update, but here are the specifics for why I’ve opted to consign or donate them:
- Tall black boots: These boots are the pull-on variety and don’t stay up! This leads to a “wrinkly” appearance that is unflattering. I’m not sure if I really want/need a pair of tall black boots in my closet at this point, but these are not it.
- Black flats with bow detail: I used to wear these shoes often, but have only worn them once since I brought a new pair of black flats into my closet. Simply put, I strongly preferred the new shoes over this older pair. I finally realized why on Sunday. These shoes have a higher vamp which makes them look less streamlined. There’s something about them that says “old lady” to me for some reason and that’s not the image I want to evoke!
- Black slingback sandals: These shoes have always been somewhat uncomfortable and I could never wear them for long stretches of time. I have another pair of black sandals with a similar heel height that I like better for both comfort and style reasons. I have too many pairs of black shoes and these ones didn’t make the cut.
- Grey peep-toe pumps: I bought these shoes at a clearance sale back in 2012. I like them in theory but not in practice. I’ve only worn them a few times and they always pinched my toes. I tried to stretch them, but it didn’t help all that much. They’re also too fancy for my lifestyle and serve pretty much the same purpose as a pair of metallic slingback heels that I have. No need to keep both pairs, so I opted to hold on to the shoes I like more.
- Black polka-dot peep-toe wedges: These shoes were loved and worn often but have passed their prime. I held on to them because I liked the polka dots and red heels, but they don’t look very good anymore. It was definitely time for them to go.
Other Items I Purged
I purged two other items that didn’t fit into the two categories mentioned above, a skirt and a purse:
You probably recognize the skirt from previous posts, including my 2014 purchase analysis. I need to out myself about this one… I tried to alter this skirt twice to make it work! I shortened it a few months ago to knee-length and recently tried to narrow it as well. I say tried because that second alteration didn’t work! The skirt hung in a funny way and made my hips look even larger than they are. No thanks! Sometimes I think I’m not all that smart. I mean, how many times do I have to make the same stupid mistake before I learn not to try to remake garments through alterations?!
I shudder to think about how much money I’ve wasted by trying to save bad purchases through ill-advised tailoring. I would have thought I learned my lesson after writing about this at length in December, but I still did it a few times this year. Narrowing an A-line skirt is not an easy and straight-forward alteration by any means. It’s much simpler to narrow a pencil or straight-style skirt, but slimming down a flared skirt is risky at best. No need to flog me for my alterations faux-pas; I’ve metaphorically whacked myself upside the head more than enough since I got the skirt back last week. At least once it’s gone from my home, I won’t have to feel guilty and stupid every time I see it!
The last item pictured – the grey purse – wasn’t actually part of my weekend closet audit. I let that purse go earlier in September while my mom was visiting. She had been carrying a purse that wasn’t really working for her, so I offered her my unused bag as a replacement. She loved it and is happily carrying it now. This purse was special in that the look could be changed by means of shells that attached to the bag with magnets. It’s actually four purses in one, as I had four different shells to use with it. I used it a lot for a time, but my style preferences have changed. Fortunately, the purse has a new home with my mom. I was happy to be able to pay it forward like Mette wrote about in her guest post last month.
Closet “Set Points” and Wardrobe Size
I’m grateful to Deby for giving me the nudge I needed to address the dead weight in my closet. I’m very happy to have let go of the items detailed above. My closet set point is gradually edging downward as I bring some pieces in and let others go. My current garment count (not including workout and lounge wear) sits at 132, which is a pretty comfortable number for me at this point.
I’d eventually like to downsize a bit more, but I’m okay with where I am for now. This number equates to four seasons of Project 333 if I were only counting clothing pieces and switching everything out completely each time. I know that most people carry some items over from season to season, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve pared down to where I am now. My hunch is that my ideal wardrobe size is closer to 100 garments, but I believe I’ll get to where I want to be over time.
My objective now is to slow down my rate of incoming items and continue to release at least one existing item for every new one I bring in. I haven’t computed the exact numbers for this year as of yet, but I know I’ve released more than I‘ve brought in and I’m happy with that.
Coming Attractions – Wardrobe and Life
My focus for new acquisitions will be on shoes (upgrading my shoe wardrobe and replacing worn out pairs), accessories (more colored pieces as per Bridgette Raes), and pants (my most difficult items to buy). I may pick up a top or topper here and there, but I’m pretty well set in those categories and don’t want to increase my numbers. I’ll share another closet inventory with a breakdown by category sometime soon, but I don’t think it will be that different from the last one I did.
I’m doing well with the closet portion of my recovering shopaholic project but faltering on the full life part of the equation. Although it’s not easy to get one’s wardrobe into shape, I’ve been finding it a lot easier than overhauling my life. I’ve experienced lots of ups and downs and twists and turns on my journey to cultivate a workable wardrobe, but those pale in comparison to the struggles I’ve encountered in building a fuller and more meaningful life. I need to really face that veritable Mount Everest before too long and I will definitely share my thoughts and my journey here!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this post. Have you recently done a closet audit of your own? If so, I invite you to share how it was for you – your challenges, successes, and insights. If you’re still struggling with an overly large wardrobe, I encourage you to ask for support here. You’ll likely receive a lot of helpful input from your fellow readers – and me. If you have questions but don’t feel comfortable posting comments, you’re welcome to write to me individually. I may opt to address your questions in a future post.