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