On Friday, I shared the good news portion of my 2014 wardrobe review, my closet “all-stars.” I appreciate all of the excellent feedback I received on that post. I especially liked learning about the way others track their wardrobes and work to make sure what they have gets worn on a regular basis. I realize that wearing something five, eight, or even twelve times per year isn’t exactly stellar or earthshattering and that many of you wear your clothes far more often. But, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day (or even two years), so we have to start somewhere and build from there.
I definitely have a lot of room for improvement in terms of frequency of wear for my clothing. Seeing my 2014 numbers is really what pushed me to start my new “Love It, Wear It” challenge. The stats in black and white also propelled me to do another closet purge, which I will share in a future post, along with an updated inventory.
A Few Words about the Term “Benchwarmers”
But now it’s time to look at the downside of my 2014 wardrobe recap, my “benchwarmers.” As a reminder, I have defined a wardrobe benchwarmer as something that is only worn once or isn’t worn at all over the course of an entire year. Again, this is another fairly extreme characterization and you may wish to classify your benchwarmers in a very different way (if you even want to do it at all). But for those of us who have histories of shopping too much and amassing overly large wardrobes, it’s a good place to start.
No matter how we define a benchwarmer, it’s probably normal for most people to have at least a few. After all, a lot of us hold on to formal garments that are rarely worn but come in handy when they’re needed. We may also have clothing for events like job interviews, funerals, and tropical vacations that just don’t get used much in our day-to-day lives. I think this is perfectly okay, as long as our benchwarmer count doesn’t go too far into the double digit territory.
Before I started this blog, over half of my very large wardrobe fell into the benchwarmer zone, which is what propelled me to begin “Recovering Shopaholic” in the first place! I realized how ridiculous it was to have so many clothes that weren’t even making it outside my closet. Fortunately, I improved my numbers quite a bit during my first year of the blog and ended 2013 with only 28 benchwarmers (13 of which were purchased in the second half of 2013 and hadn’t been in my closet for a full year). I hoped to reduce that number during 2014, but did I?
How I Did With My Benchwarmer Goal for 2014
When 2014 began, I set a number of goals regarding my wardrobe and shopping. One of those goals was to end the year having worn everything in my closet at least two of more times, meaning no benchwarmers at all. Well, I didn’t achieve that goal, but I now realize that it was probably unrealistic in the first place, given what I wrote in the section above. However, I know I could have done better than I did with properly utilizing my wardrobe pieces.
I ended the year with 17 wardrobe benchwarmers that had been in my closet for all of 2014. There were also 16 additional items that I purchased during the year that were either not worn or worn only once. Those latter items were discussed in my recent purchase analysis (in the “on the fence” section), so I’m going to focus this post primarily on things that I owned prior to January 1, 2014.
So I actually had 5 more benchwarmers last year than during the previous year! The main reason for this is that I wasn’t pushing myself to wear everything I owned in the latter months of 2014. Since I started keeping my outfit journal, I decided to only wear what I truly wanted to wear. Thus, I concerned myself less with wardrobe benchwarmers as a result. Although I feel I still had too many benchwarmers last year and would like to do better in 2015, my main goals are to be happy in what I’m wearing and have the right clothes for my lifestyle. If I succeed in those areas, I believe that my benchwarmer number will naturally decrease as well.
2014 Benchwarmers – An Overview
My 17 benchwarmers that were in my closet for all of 2014 can be broken down into the following categories:
- 2 shirts (both sleeveless)
- 2 casual jackets
- 1 coat
- 1 cardigan
- 3 blazers
- 8 pairs of shoes
Here’s a snapshot of my 2014 wardrobe benchwarmers:
A Closer Look – The Clothes
Let’s take a closer look at the benchwarmers. Here are the 9 garments that I only wore once or not at all last year:
I think it’s useful for me to analyze why I feel these items ended up being benchwarmers, as that will help me to decide their fate. From left to right, top to bottom, here are my thoughts:
- Black knit blazer: I often wear my knit blazers with skirts and dresses on cooler summer days or evenings when I need a topper. This past summer was the hottest one I can recall and I rarely needed to wear a jacket or sweater to keep warm. This is the reason why many of my toppers had low wear numbers. However, I also purchased a black moto jacket last year and found myself choosing that over this one and the next, as the moto silhouette is more casual and more in line with my evolving style
- Black knit blazer with grey trim: This jacket was a benchwarmer for the same reason as the previous one. I would have probably worn both jackets at least a few times had the weather been cooler. Bridgette Raes suggested that I wear my blazers with jeans, but I worry that the blazers might look too short/shrunken with jeans and give me an all legs, no torso look. I probably won’t keep both of these blazers and may let go of both, but I’ll try the jeans ensembles first and see what I think.
- Grey/black printed sleeveless blouse: I love the colors and print of this top, but I don’t like that there are a bunch of ruffles down the front. I used to like ruffles but am no longer a fan, as they are too “girly” for my current style. This top has already been slated for consignment or donation.
- Black blazer with ruched sleeves: This is a longer blazer that looks best with pants, but I haven’t had much occasion to wear it in my casual lifestyle. I do still like the way it looks on me, though, so I think I will try dressing it down with jeans to see if I like that look. It’s kind of a “just in case” item that I hold on to in the event of a job interview, funeral, or other formal type of event. I’m okay with having a small number of these types of pieces in my closet.
- Grey/black casual jacket: I love the way this jacket looks from the front but not so much from the back. It’s a bit too short and I worry that the accordion-style pleats in the back make my butt look bigger than it is. I like that the jacket is more stylish and interesting than my other casual jackets, but it just might not be the right jacket for me.
- Green coat: I should have never gotten this coat. I saw it on sale in December 2013 and asked my husband to buy it for me as a Christmas present. I now wonder what the heck I was thinking! The color is too warm-toned for my complexion and the wool itches my skin, even with a long-sleeved shirt under it (I’m very sensitive to wool). The only reason I’ve kept it is because I feel guilty about the money spent and because my husband gave it to me as a present. But I only wore it once during the entire year! Maybe if I sell it on eBay and recoup some of the money spent, I will feel better about letting it go. Consignment is also an option, but sometimes the pay-out is very low, and I never know in advance how much it will be.
- Orange anorak: I love this jacket except for the color, which is why I don’t wear it. I used to like the color but don’t anymore (too bright, not in my color palette). I believe I would wear the jacket if it were black, burgundy, or another dark color. I am considering dyeing it or having it dyed, but worry that it won’t work due to the fabric content (nylon). I’m going to look into the dyeing option to see if it makes sense. If not, I will likely pass the jacket on.
- Polka-dot cardigan: I didn’t wear this for the same reason as the two knit blazers, weather. It was also a bit took big at the sides, which I noticed when I finally went to wear it in November. I ended up having it taken in, which I’m not sure was the right thing to do. I’m going to see if I reach for it during my “Love It, Wear It” challenge to see if I should keep it or let it go.
- Striped tank with lace overlay: I think I don’t wear this top because it reads “dressy” to me. I like the way it looks, but I don’t have much occasion to wear it given my lifestyle. I’m also unsure if the ruffle down the front is too much for me. Like the black long blazer, I’ll probably try wearing it once to see how I feel. I don’t want to force myself to keep anything, but since I haven’t worn this top in a while, it might be worth at least giving it a try.
A Closer Look – The Shoes
Now let’s look at the shoes that were worn only once or not at all last year:
It was helpful for me to formulate my thoughts on my benchwarmer clothes, so I’ll do the same with the shoes:
- Black sling-back peep-toes: I’ve written about these shoes before. My mom bought them for me back in early 2013. I wore them quite a few times that year, but then I started to become more aware of the “church vibe” in my outfits and wanted to tone that down. These shoes just look too dressy and conservative! Someone mentioned trying shoe clips to dress them down and I may look into that. I don’t really want to let them go because they were expensive and my mom doesn’t have a lot of money (hence a large serving of guilt for moi). At this point, they’re mostly a “just in case” item for dressy events. I’m okay with having a few such items, as I mentioned above, as long as the number stays in the single digits.
- Black cross-strap sandals: I’ve had these sandals since 2009 and wore them often back in 2012 (and a few times during 2013). I didn’t wear them last year because I was really focused on dressing more casually and in line with where I live (very likely the casual capital of the world!). However, they are fairly comfortable for heels and would probably work well with the two pairs of slimmer jeans I’ve started to wear recently (both 2014 purchases that were in benchwarmer territory). I’m going to give that pairing a try to see what I think, as I still like the shoes and can see myself wearing them.
- Black Coach pumps: I bought these back in 2011 because they were on sale and I thought it would be good to have a pair of pumps in my closet. Not so much… The patent leather makes them look even dressier and they aren’t very easy to walk in for any length of time. I’ve already decided to pass them on for consignment.
- Black Coach sneakers: I wore these shoes 23 times in 2013 but not at all last year. I used to change into them after working out if I needed to run an errand, as my athletic shoes were white and not at all stylish. But then I purchased black athletic shoes and never changed into the Coach sneakers anymore. I still like them and sometimes I cycle in and out of wearing my shoes, so I’m going to keep them around for at least a while longer.
- Black Ecco boots: I didn’t wear these much after I dyed my Paul Green boots from brown to black. But now that the Paul Green boots have gotten worn out (I wore them a lot in 2013 and 2014), I’ve started to wear these boots again. I likely will keep these and pass the dyed boots on.
- Leopard print peep-toes: I only wore these once last year, on Thanksgiving. I liked the way they looked but they weren’t very comfortable. I have leopard print sandals that I like better and are more casual, so I’ve decided to pass these shoes on. Very easy decision to make…
- Metallic sling-back sandals: I bought these shoes to wear to a formal event back in 2010. I’ve worn them only a few times, as I have very few formal occasions in my life. They are reasonably comfortable (for heels), but at present, I have very few other pieces in my wardrobe with which I would wear them. So I’m not sure whether to keep them as part of my dressy capsule or pass them on.
- Black wedge Maryjane’s: I’ve had these shoes since 2011 and wore them a lot during the first two years (and a reasonable amount during 2013 as well). They are very comfortable, but due to the higher heel, I can only wear them with a few pairs of pants. Since I still like them, I’m going to keep them around and see how it goes during the “Love It, Wear It” challenge. Perhaps they will work with my slimmer (skinny-ish) We’ll see…
Lessons from the Analysis
It was very interesting to write about my 17 wardrobe benchwarmers from 2014. I noticed a few themes that came up more than once in my analysis:
- Items that are too dressy/formal for my lifestyle. Ten of my benchwarmers fit into this category and it really doesn’t make sense for me to keep them all.
- Items that are “close but no cigar.” The charcoal and orange jackets are great with the exception of one feature (length or color) that prevents me from loving and wearing them. While I may be able to fix the orange jacket through dyeing it, the charcoal jacket is probably just a “miss” that should be passed on.
- Gifted items that don’t work for me which I’m holding on to out of guilt. The black sling-back sandals and the green coat match this description and I’m not sure what to do about them. I may be able to rescue the shoes by means of shoe clips or I can retain them for dressier occasions, but the coat is likely a dud due to the itchy wool issue. I need to think about how to avoid this type of problem in the future, as I feel terrible about both of these items!
- Things I used to like but may not anymore. I used to love the cross-strap sandals, Coach sneakers, and black Maryjanes, but may not anymore. I feel like I still like all of these shoes, yet I didn’t reach for them last year. While I do sometimes cycle through closet items, I may have simply moved on from some styles.
While it’s clear that I should let some of my benchwarmers go, I’m less certain about other items. I actually like some of my benchwarmers more than other closet items that were worn more often last year. Many style experts say that if we haven’t worn something in a year, we should get rid of it, but I’m not sure if such a hard and fast rule is the best way to go. I think we need to delve a bit deeper and consider why certain things aren’t being worn. Sometimes it makes sense to let items go and other times it’s more prudent to hang on to them. Maybe one doesn’t wear a suit or little black dress very often, but it sure comes in handy on rare occasions.
As for my wardrobe, I believe that I will downsize quite a bit this year. I’ve already opted to purge quite a few things this past weekend and I feel more items will be on their way out as I see that I don’t reach for them as the months go by. Also, if I wear something and feel that it’s ho-hum, fussy, uncomfortable, or no longer my style, it will go into my consign/donate bag instead of back into my closet. Life really is too short to wear things we don’t love!
So there you have it, my wardrobe benchwarmer analysis for 2014. Sure, it’s not what I hoped it would be, but I’m okay with it. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m aiming for progress, not perfection, and I believe that I continue to make progress with my wardrobe as the months go by. That’s good enough for me, especially since the true end goal is a happy and fulfilling life. That goal deserves more of my focus this year, so I’m going to tone down the wardrobe navel gazing. Of course, I will continue to write about wardrobe management and share what I’m learning along the way, but I’m going to refrain from flogging myself today for my 2014 foibles. I’m taking my lessons and moving forward and I hope you will do the same.
Now it’s time for you to chime in, either about my wardrobe benchwarmers or your own.
- What did you learn about your wardrobe – and yourself – last year?
- How many wardrobe benchwarmers do you think it’s okay to have?
- Do you ever hold on to items that you haven’t worn in an entire year? Why or why not?
- What criteria do you use to determine if something should stay or go?
I invite you to share your thoughts on this often troubling issue. I learned so much from what everyone shared on my last post, and I’m sure others did as well. I’m sure your comments on this post will be equally illuminating.
Before You Go… A Few Things to Share
- Compulsive Buying Research Study: I was recently contacted by a graduate student who is doing her dissertation research on compulsive shopping and is looking for research participants. The participants need to live in the United States and will be asked to keep journals about their shopping behavior and be interviewed periodically via Skype or similar technology. If you’re interested in learning more about this opportunity to advance knowledge about compulsive buying, click here for further details. The researcher has agreed to share her findings via a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic” at the conclusion of the study.
- Interviews with Shopaholic Authors: April Benson, the author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop,” interviewed three former shopaholics who have written memoirs about their compulsive shopping problems and recovery. These interviews are available via her downloadable “Stop the Shopping Insanity” program. I recently listened to the interviews and really enjoyed hearing three very different perspectives and lots of helpful tips and advice for recovery. You can learn more about this program and listen to an audio sample via April’s website.