2015 By the Numbers: Wardrobe Benchwarmers and More Statistics

Earlier this week, I shared the good news portion of my 2015 wardrobe review, my closet “all-stars.”  I appreciate all of the wonderful and detailed comments I received on that post.  Some of you asked such great questions and made such insightful points that I now have several ideas for future posts. I really do get some of my best post ideas from readers.

Before I delve into the flip side of my wardrobe numbers for last year, the “benchwarmers,” I would like to share some more statistics about my 2015 closet tracking that I probably should have included in my last post.

2015 wardrobe benchwarmers

A Missing Piece of the “All-Star” Equation…

I was a little disappointed not to have more wardrobe “all-stars” last year than for 2014, but one reader raised an issue that I should have considered and written about but didn’t:

  • I’d be interested to see an update on how many items are in your wardrobe now and what percentage of it is new clothing purchased in 2015, as this will have affected your all-stars information.

I’m planning on doing a closet inventory post soon (see the last one here), but I was curious about this reader’s question, so I counted up the number of new pieces I bought in 2015.   I came up with 50 new items of clothing and shoes.  While I didn’t also count up my entire wardrobe, the new pieces make up roughly one third of my total closet contents.   What’s more, I added 31 of these items to my closet in the second half of the year, which definitely impacts my “all-stars” number.   In fact, just five of my all-stars were 2015 purchases and all but one (the sandals) were bought in the earlier part of the year:

All-Stars Bought in 2015

These five 2015 wardrobe “all-stars” were added to my closet last year. 

Clearly, if I want to increase the percentage of all-stars in my wardrobe, I need to cut down on “closet churn,” the flow of items in and out of my closet.  Now of course, this is what common sense would dictate, but clearly that’s not a trait that usually governs shopaholic behavior!   My focus on the “shiny and new” (and often, a lack of self-discipline) has led me to have fewer all-stars than what I would ultimately like.  At the end of my last post, I shared my goals for 2016:

  • Wear 2/3 of my clothes and shoes 5 or more times this year.
  • Wear 1/3 of my clothes and shoes (a sub-section of the group above) 8 or more times over the course of this year.
  • Aim for at least 30 “ultra all-stars” (items worn 12+ times), double my number from 2015.

The “elephant in the room” with these goals is that I need to buy much less and focus a lot more on shopping my closet and wearing what I have.  I have worked extensively on refining my style over the past year-plus, so it made sense to have more wardrobe turnaround, but at this point I really need to just make strategic purchases and far fewer of them.  As I mentioned in my post on balance, my primary emphasis for shopping this year will be on my at-home wardrobe, and those pieces get worn a lot anyway. As long as I keep my “out and about” clothing purchases to a minimum, I will have a much better chance of meeting the goals above. I will be writing more about this topic in a future post.

A Few Words about “Benchwarmers” in General

But now it’s time to look at the downside of my 2015 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 lenient characterization and you may wish to classify your benchwarmers more stringently (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.   I may up this number to two in the coming year or at least report on that data when I do my 2016 benchwarmer update.

No matter how we define a benchwarmer, it’s probably normal for most people to have at least a few, especially in the areas of formal wear and clothing we keep on hand for things like job interviews and tropical vacations. Many of us have pieces that we like but have very little occasion to wear.  I think this is perfectly okay, as long as our benchwarmer count doesn’t go too far into the double digit territory (I would actually prefer to keep my benchwarmer number under ten).

Before I started this blog, over half of my very large wardrobe fell into the benchwarmer zone!   I realized it was ridiculous to have so many clothes that weren’t even making it outside my closet and that was a big driver in my starting this blog.   Fortunately, I improved my numbers quite a bit during my first two years of the blog and ended 2013 with only 28 benchwarmers and 2014 with the slightly higher number of 33 (in both cases, roughly half of the benchwarmers were new purchases from the same year).   I hoped to close out 2015 with a lower number of benchwarmers, but did I?

The 2015 Benchwarmers At a Glance

I actually did decrease my number of benchwarmers last year!  I ended the year with 22 wardrobe benchwarmers, 9 of which were not worn at all and 13 that were worn just once.  My 2015 benchwarmers can be broken down into the following categories:

  • 1 short-sleeved shirt
  • 2 long-sleeved shirts
  • 2 cardigans
  • 5 jackets
  • 2 vests
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 skirt
  • 6 pairs of shoes

Here’s a snapshot of my 2015 wardrobe benchwarmers:

2015 wardrobe benchwarmers - all

These are the 22 items I either wore once or not at all during 2015.

Of these items, five were purchased during 2015, all in July or later:

new in 2015 benchwarmers

These 5 wardrobe benchwarmers were all purchased during the last half of 2015.

The items above were all worn once except for the black shorts, which I bought at the tail end of the summer season and didn’t end up wearing at all.

The good news is that I had 11 fewer benchwarmers in 2015 than in 2014, but the bad news is that I still had too many!   I would really like to have my benchwarmer number be in the single digits and I believe that is definitely possible.

A Closer Look – Toppers

Let’s take a closer look at my benchwarmers.  We’ll start with the clothes, which I am going to break down into “toppers” and everything else.

Nine of my 22 benchwarmers could be classified as toppers:  vests, jackets, and cardigans.  Here’s a look at them:

2015 benchwarmers - toppers

These 9 toppers fell into “benchwarmer” territory last year.

I’m not going to go through them one by one, but I will make a few comments as to why I feel they weren’t worn (4 were worn once, 5 not at all):

  • We had a very hot summer such that I almost never wore a topper. I usually have to wear one at least in the evenings, but not last year.
  • When I did wear a topper in the summer, I typically chose one of my tie-waist cardigans over the styles of toppers shown above.
  • In past years, I generally wore these types of toppers with skirts and dresses, but I think I may do better wearing some of them with pants instead for better proportions. This is especially true of the two cardigans, which tend to look kind of dowdy (I hate that word, but it fits) with skirts and dresses.
  • The vests were a new wardrobe addition and I often take a while to wear new styles. But when I did finally wear the vests towards the end of the year, I really liked them.
  • A few of the pieces are on the dressier side (long vest, long blazer, mixed media jacket) and I very rarely have occasions for such things in my life. What I need to do is dress them down by wearing them with jeans. I have already done that twice with the vest and was very happy with the look.
  • The black knit moto jacket was too big, so I recently had it taken in and it fits me better now. I need to experiment with how to wear it with jeans so it will get some use this year.

I don’t think I will pass any of these toppers on at this point. I would like to experiment with them over the next few months to see if I might enjoy wearing them in alternate ways.   The most likely toppers for culling would be the following, with reasons given:

  1. Black long blazer – This blazer only works with pants because of its length. I have been saving it to wear with trousers for potential job interviews or business-related events. However, I haven’t worn it in three years!   I can see the validity of having a black blazer in my closet, but I don’t think this is the one. The ruched sleeves are a bit too short, plus I don’t even have any black trousers that fit me now (my old standby pair is now far too large), so it’s very unlikely the blazer will be worn.
  2. Denim blazer – I don’t really like how this looks with skirts and dresses anymore due to proportion issues. It could work with pants, but pretty much all of my pants are jeans at this point and I’m not really a fan of the “Canadian tuxedo” look!
  3. Orange knit blazer – This was a favorite for years, but I don’t love the color as much now and I also don’t like wearing blazers with skirts and dresses much anymore. I’m not sure if I would like this jacket with pants. I think I’m just not much of a fan of blazers these days, which is why I passed three of them on last month.

A Closer Look – Other Clothes

There were 7 other items of clothing that I either didn’t wear at all or only wore once last year:  3 tops, 2 dresses, a skirt, and a pair of shorts. Here’s a look at those items:

2015 benchwarmers - other clothes

These 7 garments also fell into the “benchwarmer” category last year. 

I believe these items were benchwarmers for the following reasons:

  • Most of these pieces are benchwarmers because they fall into the “dressy” category and I very rarely do anything that even calls for “smart casual” attire. I keep hoping that might change and I would like to go out in the evenings more often, but it hasn’t happened much for a few years now.
  • The maxi-skirt was a replacement for a very similar skirt that I purged late in the year. I believe it will be worn regularly this coming summer.
  • The shorts are a bit of a “wild card” in that I haven’t worn shorts in years. However, given the extremely hot summers we’ve had the past two years, I can see the need to have at least one pair of shorts for when it’s too warm for jeans and I don’t want to wear a skirt or dress.
  • I love the black sheer stripe top, the black and white short-sleeved top, and the dress at the bottom (which came into my closet in August). I definitely plan on keeping and wearing them this year.
  • The dress at the top is still good but the length is off (too long). I plan on shortening it a few inches and dressing it down for warm weather wear.  It’s also a good dress to have for when I need to be more formal.
  • I may purge the chevron striped top because I think I have other striped pieces that I like more. I may try to wear it sometime soon to see how I feel about it. If I don’t feel happy while I have it on, I’ll let it go.

A Closer Look – The Shoes

I have quite a few benchwarmer shoes, mostly because I have a hard time purging shoes from my wardrobe. But many of these shoes were also benchwarmers in 2014, so how long do I want to keep them around?   Here are the six pairs of shoes that were rarely or never worn last year:

2015 benchwarmer shoes

I either wore these shoes once or not at all during 2015. 

I’ve already decided to pass on the pewter bow flats, as they are no longer my style.   I really haven’t been wearing flats very often, plus the bows are a bit “twee” for my refined sense of style.   The leopard flats used to be such a favorite that they became worn out. I had actually planned on replacing them, but I’m glad I didn’t at this point.   I’ll wait and see if I feel inspired to wear flats this year. I feel like I’m in somewhat of a shoe rut in that I wear black boots with jeans most days.  Perhaps I should try to mix it up and wear these and my black flats (not a benchwarmer but only worn twice last year!).

I’m in a quandary about what to do with the other shoes pictured above.  I like the red ones but they are a touch too high to wear for very long.   I like the idea of having red – or another bright color – shoes, but the ones I have aren’t ideal due to the heel height.   The black cross-strap sandals are also on the high side, although I like the way they look.   They would look nice with slim jeans for going out, but as I mentioned above, that’s a rare occurrence.

The two other pairs of sling-backs haven’t been worn in over two years!  The black ones were a gift from my mom, so I’m hesitant to let them go (they were expensive).  Yet these shoes are simply too dressy for my life and that’s why I don’t wear them.    The question is, should I keep them “just in case” the right occasion comes along or should I let them go?  The black sling-backs are very comfortable, but they are hard to wear with pants because my pant hem often catches on the strap.   As for the metallic pair, I have almost nothing in my current wardrobe that I could see wearing them with.  They just look too formal for the clothes I wear these days.

I really need to make decisions about my benchwarmer shoes, but I have other shoe issues, too, so I may do a shoe post in the near future.   I have pared down my shoe collection a lot since I started the blog, but I basically wear the same eight pairs of shoes over and over again while the remaining 17 pairs are rarely worn (4 times or less in 2015).   I definitely need to focus on my shoes this year to add a few strategic pairs, wear the ones I like but aren’t wearing, and let some others go.


I really didn’t have that many benchwarmers last year. While I would prefer to keep the total under ten, 22 isn’t that bad of a total, especially since five of them were new 2015 purchases.   In order to minimize my benchwarmers for 2016, I need to do the following:

  • Figure out ways to wear my shorter toppers with pants and jeans.
  • Dress down some of my dressier pieces so they get some use.
  • Make some tough decisions about the shoes that haven’t been worn due to too high a heel or too formal a style.
  • Don’t buy anymore of the problematic types of items that often fall into benchwarmer territory!
  • Purge anything in my closet that I find that I’m not loving and wearing!

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 saw more wears last year.  Many style experts say that if we haven’t worn something for a year, we should get rid of it, but I don’t always agree with this hard and fast rule.   I think we need to delve a bit deeper and consider why certain things aren’t being worn.  Maybe one doesn’t wear a suit or little black dress very often, but they sure come in handy on rare occasions.   If we become too rigid about wardrobe benchwarmers, we may find ourselves in a bind, especially when there’s short notice for certain life events.

I’m happy that I made progress over 2014, but I still had more benchwarmers than I’d ultimately like.   I believe that I will continue to improve this year, as I have a much better understanding of my style and what works best for my life.  I may never have no benchwarmers at all, but I believe I’ll be able to keep the number to a minimum as a result of what I’ve learned through blogging over the past three years.   I’m still not where I want to be with my wardrobe, but I’m quite proud of myself for how far I’ve come.   Onward and upward!

Your Thoughts?

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 feels it’s okay to have?
  • Do you ever hold on to items that you haven’t worn for 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 these often troubling issues.  I learned so much from what readers shared on my last post, and I’m sure others did as well.  I have little doubt that your comments on this post will be equally illuminating.  Have a wonderful weekend!  I’ll be back next week with more year-end analysis, as well as a very interesting guest post on the value of Debtor’s Anonymous for compulsive shoppers.

44 thoughts on “2015 By the Numbers: Wardrobe Benchwarmers and More Statistics

  1. That is good news Debbie, 17 bench-warmers is definitely an improvement! It’s also good to take a pause and think through what you’re going to do with them, instead of chucking them out of the door in one sitting!
    I just realized that I’ve never analysed my ‘bench-warmers’ from the year before (also because 2015 was my first year of tracking); I have 4 things that I’ve never worn (a pair of shoes almost new, a skirt with tags attached that is way too small, and I’m selling both; a dressy apple-green sheath dress, which is so formal I have very few occasions of wearing it, and a red maxi-dress that is beautiful but too loud and particular to wear it everyday).
    If I were to analyse things worn only once, though, I’d have 24 of them! 4 of them are dressy items, 3 are stained or uncomfortable items, 5 were bought in December. I’m definitely throwing out a large ring which I can’t wear, selling another unconformable shoe, and paring down my belts, which are rarely worn anyway (I hate the constricting feeling they give me when I’m wearing them with trousers or skirts).
    As for the rest of the bench-warmers, I will keep them for the foreseeable future and see if I can make them work; if not, I will be giving them away. All in all, I’d say that for having such a large wardrobe, I don’t have many bench-warmers, but I definitely have too many ‘on-the-fence’ items, and I need to get rid of them… I think I will be doing some culling this week-end!

    • It was actually 22 benchwarmers, Maria. I made a mistake at the end of the post, which has now been corrected. But yes, I have definitely made an improvement and I’m happy about that. Thanks for sharing your benchwarmer update. I would say you are doing very well overall (I wouldn’t even count the 5 items you bought in December). You seem to have a good plan for addressing your benchwarmers. I hope things went well with the culling you planned to do over the weekend and were able to let go of your “on the fence” pieces, or at least some of them.

  2. Debbie, you don’t really have that many benchwarmers, because some of these really belong in a special occasion capsule and should be exempt from judgement. You mention trying to dress down some of the items and I would like to suggest an alternative way of thinking about it: instead of diminishing their dressiness, you can think of it as making your overall outfit more special to you (even if it doesn’t look more dressy to others):
    If I have anything remotely special about a day — we’ll go out to dinner to mark something — however small and however casual the dinner — I’ll reach for one “special item” and add it to my otherwise everyday outfit. If the event is casual, I might have to stick to adding earrings that are a bit bling-y, while keeping my clothes smart casual. I feel so good because I am wearing something I don’t get to wear often, I am not too dressed up, and I get some more use out of the dressy things. I like the idea of a dressy capsule that has one of each category of items (skirts, toppers…) and then I don’t often mix them with each other, although I can theoretically if someone wants to invite me to a gala of some sort.

    • This is a great perspective, Ellie. Thanks for sharing it with me. I do think that there is room for both dressing up and dressing down my benchwarmer items. I think that it depends on the item and the occasion, but I like the idea of reaching for one special item when I am going something that is even a little bit special to me. I am probably going to revisit my “dressy capsule” concept again now that close to a year has gone by. I don’t have many dressy occasions, but I can definitely pull a piece here or there into my standard outfits, as long as I still love those pieces.

  3. Debbie, I was thinking the same thing as Ellie about keeping some of the dressier items set aside to make an otherwise ordinary outfit more dressy. So rather than a special occasion capsule per se, these items could just be the Special Pieces which only get to come out and play when you want to feel special. And doing this you’re not going to feel either overdressed for the occasion, or pressed to “dress down” an otherwise special item. For example, I have a brown cardigan with a good amount of bling on the front, it has coral and cream embroidered swirls up the front beside the snaps, and it has wooden beads and rhinestones. I loved it when I bought it and it went unworn for a long time (this was before I was wardrobe tracking!) until one day I threw it on with a pair of very casual cords, and it just clicked. I now wear the sweater about 5 times a year. It’s not an all-star, nor does it need to be. It’s a Special Piece, and my outfit always feels special when I wear it. I would equate my bling sweater to your black sheer top. I always look at that top and think how it could really jazz up an ordinary outfit and make some outfit feel really special.

    • Holly, I agree. This is what I also do.

      And Debbie, I see very few benchwarmers here. Instead you have “special occasion” wear that might, or might not, see wear each year depending upon the weather or the occasion. You can reduce your special occasion wear to include only the items you love and hope to someday wear, if you prefer. Yet I do not see any reason to be concerned with the amount of wear each special occasion piece receives. Benchwarmers, on the other hand is a whole other category, and if you can identify items that you could be wearing on any average week, but don’t reach for and are never your first choice with LIWI, then those are the pieces that you might want to consider letting go of, because they are dead weight in your closet.

    • Holly, your cardigan sounds lovely and I’m glad you have found a good place for it in your wardrobe. I agree that it doesn’t need to be an “all-star” but it can help you to feel more special when you want to. I think I have some pieces like that, too, including the black sheer top (which I loved wearing on Thanksgiving).

      Terra, I think you’re right in the distinction between true benchwarmers and special occasion items. I do need to look at whether I wear something when there is an opportunity to do so. It makes me think of Bridgette Raes’ question, “Under what circumstance would I wear this rather than something else in my closet that I prefer?” If the answer is “never,” then that item should go.

  4. This post really speaks volumes about my own wardrobe. I am the queen of ‘wardrobe churning’, constantly buying new items and getting rid of items I end up not liking or simply not worn. I only have 8 items that were purchased before 2015 and most of my current wardrobe was purchased the 2nd half of 2015. I have a very slim wardrobe now (40 items including 1 coat, 1 jacket and 4 pairs of shoes) but I bought and got rid of A LOT – more than 40 items over the course of the year. At this point, I have all that I need and just need to stick with not purchasing more or at least considerably less than I did last year.

    • Good to see you commenting here, Wendy. I have wondered how you’ve been doing with everything. I have a lot of wardrobe churn, too, and it’s a real problem. I don’t purge as much as you do, but the fact that I keep bringing so much in is why I keep having “benchwarmers.” It’s good that you feel you have all you need right now. I wish you the best of luck with buying less this year. I’m going to try to do the same and will share my plan in a future post. It did help me to have an item limit in 2014, but I’m going to do things a bit differently this year.

  5. My problem is not too many benchwarmers, it is that I have too few in a still much too large wardrobe. I am doing what you mention with respect to your chevron striped shirt. I am wearing my neglected items to see if I still want them. I wonder if I am just creating reasons to hold on to stuff. I am trying to do the ‘spark joy’ test but so many things only do so in combination with other items. A plain white t shirt is only okay but with my favorite jeans and black cardigan it feels perfect. So does the item spark joy or the outfit? Would I be just as happy with any other t shirt? T shirts are by far the most over represented type of garment in my wardrobe, I have close to 70, mostly for this reason. Any advice?

    • I think it’s good that you are wearing your neglected items to see if you still like them, Misty. But the part about creating reasons to hang onto things makes me wonder if you either feel guilty about letting go of things or feel a sense of security in having a larger wardrobe. Do you hang like with like in your wardrobe? That can often help us to see if we have too much duplication and we can also better identify our favorites there. Your comment made me think about a Bridgette Raes post that I just re-read this morning (very timely!): http://bridgetteraes.com/2015/08/11/how-to-purge-your-closet-when-you-love-everything-in-it/ I had some “aha moments” when re-reading it and I hope you will, too.

      • Yes and yes to guilt and a sense of security. I can’t stand regret. After reading the article, one thing she mentioned stands out… I still don’t know how to put together an outfit. Or at least not consistently. I think I would feel more confident purging if I felt more confident in my personal style. I have been doing a lot of experimenting which I have found is not always a linear process. I will visit and revisit items I like trying to figure out how to use them. The frustrating part this year is that whenever I seem to be onto something, the weather changes and I have to make changes. Your library has a lot of guidance about limiting color pallets and silhouettes which has been helpful. I even chose a couple of representative words for my style. I’m thinking of trying Marie Kondo’s technique but modifying “spark joy” to sparking my two words. Hopefully this will lessen the guilt and fear.

      • You are coming to some important realizations, Misty, and I think that’s great. I have trouble with regret, too, which is why I sometimes agonize over letting things go that would be “n0 brainers” to some other people. I think that modifying Marie Kondo’s technique to be about sparking your style words is a brilliant idea! I may take that on, too, but I need to narrow down my words. Some things may not spark joy per se, but if they conjure your style words, they could be very good items to have in your wardrobe. I wish you the best of luck with the process. Please let me know how it goes for you.

  6. Debbie, take a step back and admire what you’ve accomplished – in one year, you went from 33 benchwarmers to 22! You decreased that number by a third! I think that’s something to celebrate.

    When I look at your nine benchwarmer toppers, the top two rows look very ‘you’, as you have refined your style in the past year, and I wasn’t surprised to see the orange jacket and the denim jacket are both in your sights for purging. You use “don’t like” and “don’t love” in the orange jacket description. You also said “not a fan of” when you described the denim jacket. Obviously, neither jacket isn’t sparking joy.

    I feel like you have mixed feelings about the long black blazer. I think it would look pretty sharp with jeans and your boots, and a tank or cami underneath. It’s got a retro 80’s vibe, and makes me think of Theory pieces from a few years ago. Or if it doesn’t suit your life and your climate, and makes you feel uneasy that you’re not wearing it, pass it on to someone who will 🙂

    Re: shoes: I say make a clean sweep of everything except the red ones, and possibly those dressy black ones. Put them away, and don’t worry if they’re benchwarmers. If your feet are hard to fit, when an occasion does come up, you’ll be able to pull those shoes out and wear them. I’d save the red ones for one of those events that are dressy, but you know you’re going to be sitting a lot, such as going to a show, or a dinner party.

    I’d also hang onto those shorts, if you love how they fit and look! I say this, because I have a hard time finding shorts that fit the way I like. Even if it doesn’t get hot enough to wear them in 2016, they can be part of your swim/resort/warm weather vacation capsule. IF you love them, that is!

    I’m pondering your questions now, and I think I’m going to write a blog post about them…

    • Aha! I remembered what else I wanted to say: I don’t think you’re in a shoe rut. I think you’ve gotten specific and deliberate about your style, and it’s showing in your choices of what you actually wear.

      • I second MaryBeth on her “shoe rut” comment. I actually think that wearing the same shoes over and over is telling what you really wear and also what is appropriate for your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being “that gal” who only owns 6 pairs of shoes!

        I like the idea of a dressy capsule that can be whipped out for special occasions. I actually ended up doing this myself and it got rid of a lot of clothes that I was keeping for “what if” occasions. It was very helpful to have a small set of clothes just for wearing to weddings, dressy dinners, etc.

      • I just remembered your dressy capsule post. https://recoveringshopaholic.com/dressy-capsule-wardrobe/

        I noticed at least three items on today’s post that were listed in the dressy capsule wardrobe post. Since they’re tagged for the dressy capsule, wouldn’t it follow that it’s okay that they won’t necessary see a lot of wears? (seeing as how you described your lifestyle as more casual)

    • Agreed about the dress-up shoes! If you’ve got black dressy shoes that are high quality, comfortable to wear, but not pulled out much for lack of an event, I say keep them. Getting rid of them will almost guarantee an invite to something formal and you’ll be out buying a replacement.

      I think the black shorts look too short, they aren’t athletic wear are they?
      For a trim gal with a nice figure you have modest style with maxi-shirts and dresses. I would consider shorts that are a little longer. Black shorts are definitely a nice warm weather item, casual, but a bit more polished for dinner out or times when you want to look nice.

    • Very insightful comments in this thread – thanks, all!

      Mary Beth, good catch about the third row of toppers. I am on the fence about the two jackets for sure, but don’t feel ready to get rid of them just yet. I may try to make outfits with them and see how I feel. The same with the long black blazer. I like the ideas you presented and will definitely try them. With the shoes, are you suggesting I get rid of all of them except the black ones at the top left and the red ones? That makes sense… I don’t know why I am so resistant to get rid of shoes. Those and pants challenge me the most, probably because they are harder for me to find.

      Good point about my not being in a shoe rut. Maybe I am just used to wearing a lot of different shoes and it feels strange for me to only wear fewer than ten on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean it’s WRONG…

      Jane, I think I need to revisit my dressy capsule idea, as I have gotten rid of a lot of pieces since I wrote it (especially from the skirt/dress capsule). But yes, a few of my “benchwarmers” are in there and would serve me well if something dressier came up. Maybe I won’t even include dressy capsule items in my benchwarmer count for 2016, or I will report on them separately.

      Ginger, you’re probably right that I would kick myself for getting rid of the black shoes. They are comfortable and a pretty timeless style, so there’s really no reason to get rid of them at this point. The shorts are actually not all that short, but probably too short for a dinner out, especially since I’m tall and stand out anyway. I’m going to try them on again and go with my first impression. They were from Nordstrom and could still be returned if I decide I don’t love them.

      • I’m six days late replying, I am so sorry! Okay, I went back, and re-read what you had to say about your shoes. I would keep both black pairs – I missed what you said before, about how you liked the way the cross-straps look. I would keep the black slingbacks and the red pair, and put them away with whatever fancy, cocktail, semi-formal (is there a difference between cocktail and semi-formal?) or formal stuff you keep. Ginger is right – if you get rid of those shoes, sure as anything, you’ll find you need them for something.

        I vote to purge both pairs of flats, and the silver slingbacks. I don’t know if it’s the contrast heel or the bows on the silver shoes, but they look like too many ideas were pulled into one pair of shoes. The fancy black ones are neutral, and the red have that pop of color, but I don’t think either would distract all focus from your face or upstage the rest of the outfit. I think the silver ones would do both.

        And there are always always always cute flats in shops, from Nordstrom to Marshall’s. The leopard flats are cute, but if they’re worn out, you’ll be wearing one of your really beautiful, cared-for, carefully planned outfits…with sad-looking shoes.

      • No worries about taking a while to reply, Mary Beth. I am not always the most prompt in responding to comments, either, but I always think it’s better late than never! I think that what you wrote about the silver slingbacks is right on, which is why they don’t go with anything in my wardrobe at present barring one black dress. But I have multiple other pairs of shoes that I can wear with that black dress. The leopard flats are still wearable, but I was just not into wearing ballet flats last year for some reason. I didn’t wear my black ballet flats much, either, and I LOVED those back in 2014. I think we sometimes just go through phases with our shoes. The leopard flats don’t look either sad or fab at this point and I’m not sure I want to replace them until I see if I feel called to wear ballet flats again. At present, I’m all about boots, so much so that I am thinking of adding a pair of non-black boots to my wardrobe. Thanks so much for your feedback!

  7. Great post! It made me realize that I wear my clothes in phases. Right now I’m in a black, white and grey phase. Who knows how long it will last but it will end at some point and then I’ll want color, color, color.

    This makes it hard to track bench warmers as the clothes that aren’t in my current phase won’t get worn. Should I move those clothes to another part of my closet? I don’t want to pass them on because at the start of a new phase I could need to replace them.

    I wanted to mention that your slingbacks can be worn with skinny jeans rolled up to the ankle. Your blazers would be great worn with a white shirt or tee, jeans and boots/heels. Again, roll up the sleeves of the blazer to give it a more casual feel.

    • I’m glad my post helped you realize that you wear your clothes in phases, Diane. I think it would probably be helpful to you if you moved the clothed that aren’t being worn (but that you still like) to another part of your closet or even another closet. What you are doing is similar to a capsule wardrobe but it wasn’t really planned. Just enjoy your black, white, and grey clothing until you are ready for something new. Thanks for the styling suggestions for my shoes and blazers. I’m going to try what you and others are recommending before I decide whether to keep certain items or pass them on.

  8. It’s been a while since I commented, but here is my recap: I purchased 13 items and each of them have made it into regular rotation as all of them are to be worn to the office, and this is where I will continue to spend my clothing budget. My benchwarmers include mostly shirts that are a bit casual for the office, and often on weekends I will dress very casually. Mostly I can get away with my weekend wear being cast-offs from office wear and look just fine. Items that are worn only a few times are those in a bright color or with a pattern. I still buy them occasionally, but I continue to feel that they wear me. However, no pattern or bright color has entered my closet these last two years… but sometimes they look like fun but the cost per wear is probably too high.

    • Good to see you commenting here again, Cornelia. I’m always impressed that you buy so little and so deliberately. I don’t know if I will ever buy as little as you do, but I definitely want to move more in that direction (and I think I can now that I have a better sense of my style). I think it’s great that you can cycle your work clothes to casual as they start to wear out. Good for you for not buying bright colored or patterned items these past two years once you learned that they don’t work well for you.

  9. Hi Debbie, I just found your blog last week, and I’m really enjoying it. You have kept up an ongoing, honest and detailed analysis of your wardrobe, and that’s great. I have found that so many of your thoughts and observations resonate with me as well.

    About benchwarmers… what a great way to describe those clothes we don’t wear! I found that a lot of my benchwarmers came from buying the same thing in groups of two or three. If I found one thing that I liked, I used to buy two or three of the same thing in a different colour or brand, just so that I wouldn’t be caught without. I also have a habit of buying one more thing, just to make the shopping trip feel more worthwhile. Over the last year I’ve tried to buy the one thing that I like, and leave it at that. It’s working so far.

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

    • Welcome, Mel! I’m glad you are finding my blog helpful. Good observation about your benchwarmers. I have found the same thing to be true for me. I will often buy two or three of the same item in different colors, but it has a tendency to backfire on me. I did that a few weeks ago, but I decided to return the second item and I’m glad I did. Your plan to buy the one thing you like and leave it at that is a good one. I’m trying to do the same thing… Best wishes to you!

  10. A Denim jacket with jeans is a Canadian tuxedo? What a stupid comment and totally disrespectful to the many Canadians who read your blog, especially those who are well dressed and read your blog in support of your efforts to look good not because we need help.

    • My comment was meant as a light-hearted joke, Sondra, not as an insult to any of my Canadian readers. I am well aware that many Canadians are well-dressed and are not looking to me for fashion advice. I apologize if you or anyone else took offense at my remark.

  11. I think you should always keep shoes in good condition and are not extreme fashion. I do have a big collection myself with probably more than half that are not part of my general day-to-day shoe wardrobe. A lot of them are more than 10 years old. However, many of those shoes are worn for special events – for example I have silver, gold and black heels that always work no matter what year we are in. I have Prada and Miu Miu shoes that are years old but they are works of art and timeless. I would never throw them out unless they are worn out beyond repair.

    • Thanks for your recommendations on shoes, Carolyn. I have generally felt the same way, but my “benchwarmers” concept has had me re-thinking things. I guess how I feel now is that I should keep shoes that are comfortable (or at least reasonably so), in a style that I like, and that I see myself wearing at some point. Terra commented above that if I have the occasion to wear the benchwarmers and don’t, that’s a good case for passing them on. I think that is true for both clothes and shoes.

  12. Hi Debbie, I’m a Canadian and thought the “Canadian tuxedo” was funny. By reputation, we’re supposed to have a self-deprecating sense of humor (i.e., the SNL MacKenzie brothers skits), but I guess we all have our moments. Anyway, I just wanted to say how helpful your blog has been to me. I hope this doesn’t sound like an attempt to justify one’s shopping addiction, but I really do think that our judgment about what looks good is profoundly affected by the cyclical nature of silhouettes, hemline lengths, etc. So, like me, I think you tend to prefer contemporary yet classic looks, but “classic” in fashion doesn’t mean that an item of clothing won’t start looking somewhat tired and dated after a few years, simply because minor style features will have changed and our eyes will have adjusted to a new norm. I think the same applies to color. Like you, I love jewel tones, but some seasons they just seem “off” to me and I find myself less enthusiastic about my clothes. I really think that people who are visually sensitive will be affected more by these things. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections on your own challenges, which so many of us share.

    • I’m glad you found that comment funny as a Canadian, Dianne. I would never want to insult or offend any of my readers by what I write! I’m glad my blog has been helpful to you. You’re right that I prefer contemporary but classic clothing like you do. While many people will talk about “classics that last forever,” it just isn’t true. Everything will start to look dated eventually, but classic styles do have more longevity in our wardrobes. I think that most of us will need to buy at least a small number of new items each season to “refresh” our wardrobes. It’s all about balance and moderation, which I haven’t had with shopping pretty much ever. I hope this will finally be the year that I can achieve that goal. If you are similarly challenged, I wish that for you, too!

    • Thanks so much for sharing that link, Alice! I had never heard the Bing Crosby story before, but I liked reading it and agree that there was no insult to Canadians in the phrase. I’m glad because I certainly meant no offense by using it. I’m happy that you liked my post!

  13. If benchwarmers bother you–they seem to–don’t keep them! I would be bothered by them, too, if I had any. Another thing you can do is buy not so over-the-top dressy clothes for fancier occasions. Then you can wear them also at other times when you want to be a little dressier than khakis or jeans. I try to avoid extremes: my gym shirts are older polos from daily wear; my dress outfits are my black pants with various nice but not frilly or sparkly tops. You get the idea. Alas, having to wear orthopedic shoes all the time, my show wardrobe is usually 2-3 pairs for all types of occasions. That said, if it doesn’t bother you, then keep the large wardrobe and the warmers of the bench. To each her own! (I know–it is sometimes hard to know what you want and what will make you happy enough to forget about clothes and live. I think it is a female burden.)

    • I do get bothered by benchwarmers, Helen, but the commenters here have led me to rethink my views on some of them. Perhaps it’s okay to have a small “dressy” capsule that I keep around for more formal occasions even if they don’t occur very often. Of course, I’d ideal like to have less dressy clothes that I can wear for more casual occasions as well. Most of my benchwarmers actually fit into that category and I just need to re-think them, but handful (mostly shoes) do not. I agree with you about the female burden of not knowing what we want sometimes. That is certainly true of me, but my readers help me a lot to figure things out.

  14. Hi, I recently discovered your blog and wanted to let you know how interesting this is. I’m not a shopaholic and don’t really have an issue with clothes other than I’m not sure how to “create a wardrobe”. Your methods have really intrigued me and I am not thinking about my clothes in a much different way than before.

    I just wanted to let you know that this blog/discussion is helpful for people outside of those with shopping issues.

    • I really appreciate your comment, Gay. When I started the blog, I thought only shopaholics would want to read it, but I’ve been delighted that my reach is wider than I originally believed. I’m very happy that my blog is also helpful to you as someone who doesn’t have a shopping problem. I do try to write about a wide variety of topics and I have found that my wardrobe management posts are the most popular (which is good because I like to write about that topic!).

  15. Hi Debbie,

    I’m coming late to this, but I wanted to say that I agree with other commenters that items that get infrequent wear because they are dressy are not necessarily benchwarmers. I really like what some people were suggesting about creating a capsule of “special” clothes and then just adding one “special” item to your outfit when you go out and such. I think that’s a really great solution for folks (like the two of us) who work at home and live in a very casual area.

    I hope I’m not reading between the lines too much, but it seems to me like you feel some guilt about having those dressy items in your wardrobe because on some level you are drawn to them but feel they are “inappropriate” for your lifestyle. I wonder if some of this is also tied up with frustration/disappointment about your health struggles that of late have prevented you from getting out as much as you might like? Maybe there is a way to look at this from a different perspective. Instead of feeling bad about some of these clothes being unworn, could you think of them as being there as a physical expression of your hope and conviction that you will improve your health? And then when you have an opportunity to wear one of your “special” pieces, it is really a celebration of the hard work you are doing to take care of yourself and get better.

    Finally, from more of a dry, statistics-nerd perspective, I wanted to mention that you’ve set out two goals for yourself that sort of cut against each other: wear your ultra-all-stars more frequently, and wear 2/3 of your clothes at least 5 times this year. I’m not sure if by 2/3 you mean the second third, or the remaining two-thirds aside from your all-stars — but in either case, wearing your ultra-all-stars more will also leave you with fewer opportunities to wear your occasionally-worn pieces. (You could probably even reduce this to an algebraic equation depending on the actual number of garments in your closet.) Anyway, I think they are both really good goals, but I wanted to say that because I think it might be frustrating if you found you were not able to meet both at the same time, when really it might just be that the arithmetic is against you.

    • I really appreciate your detailed and thoughtful comment, Sarah. I definitely feel some guilt about having dressy items in my wardrobe that I’m not wearing very often, if at all. And I think you are right on about the guilt being tied up with my frustration and disappointment over my health issues. I like your reframing of my having those items being a representation of my hope for healing. That is a much more positive way of looking at things!

      As for the statistics, I see your point, but I also want to clarify a few things. I don’t necessarily want to wear my existing “ultra all-stars” MORE – I want to have MORE ultra all-stars. But I agree that if I wear a subsection of my wardrobe more often, that will mean that I am wearing other items less frequently. As for the 1/3 and 2/3 numbers, the 2/3 that would be worn at least 5 times per year would include those items that are worn 8 times or more. But you are probably right that it will be hard for me to accomplish these goals, especially with the current size of my wardrobe. Math has never been my best subject! I think I will be happy if I improve considerably over 2015, even if I don’t meet my 2016 goals. I may do a future post in which I do some of the math and perhaps refine my frequency of wear goals. You have given me a lot to think about for sure – thank you!

  16. As I was initially looking at your bench-warmers, before I read the comments, I was thinking that so many of these items do not look like “you.” Some of them also look a little dated. I recommend going through them with an eye on whether they are still your style, even if they are dressy and will not be worn frequently. Consider when you bought them originally, and ask yourself if they still look “current.” I got rid of about 10 items at the end of last year because they were in the dressy capsule category, but when I looked at them closely, they were out of style (bought in 2009) or no longer met my style words.

    • You raised some good points, Barb. I think that fact that you have your style words has helped you considerably. I definitely think I need to finalize both my style words and my “not style” words like you did. That would help me a lot with deciding what to do with my benchwarmers. I may do a future post on this, in fact. Just looking at the items in this post quickly right now, I can see at least a few that are either dated or just not my style anymore.

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