A couple of weeks ago, I read about an exercise that could help us to pare down our wardrobes. The instructions are simple: select the top 100 items in your closet. The idea is that once you separate out your favorite pieces, it will be easier to let go of at least some of the things that didn’t make the cut. Since I love to do wardrobe exercises and am always up for a challenge, I decided to take this exercise on. In today’s post, I will share how it went for me, what I selected, and what I learned from the process.
The Number 100 Isn’t Written in Stone…
Now, 100 items may seem like too many for some of you or far too few for others. As with Project 333 and other capsule wardrobe concepts (like this one for example), the number is not nearly as significant as the challenge itself. If you have a small wardrobe but are intrigued by this exercise, perhaps you might want to select your top 50 or 75 items (or whatever number feels right to you). On the flip side, if you have a very large wardrobe and find the idea of paring it down to 100 (even just “on paper”) extremely anxiety-producing, you can of course select a larger number. The point is to stretch yourself and get to thinking about what you really need – and truly love – in your closet.
I decided to just look at clothes and shoes with this exercise and didn’t consider jewelry, scarves, purses, and other accessories. I may do the exercise again with accessories at a later date because I got so much out of applying it to my garments and footwear. I recently used the “KonMari Method” with my jewelry collection and culled a decent amount, so it would be interesting to see if doing the “top items” selection with my accessories would enable me to pare down further.
The Selection Process
Since I have photos of all of my clothes and shoes, I actually did the exercise on my computer rather than in my closet. For each wardrobe category, I selected my favorites and copied the item images into a new computer folder. It took me about an hour to single out what I considered to be my 100 favorites. It was actually a lot easier than I thought. The most difficult category was long-sleeved tops, as I have a large number of those and found it hard to narrow them down. Shoes were a relatively tough category as well because I had to consider comfort, versatility, and heel height in my selection.
I have to share something funny, though. After making my selections, as I wrote down my item numbers by category, I noticed that they didn’t add up to 100. I thought that I had ten rows of ten in my “top 100” folder, but it was actually nine rows of nine. Here I was thinking it wasn’t too difficult to select 100 items and I had only selected 81! Upon noticing my error, I went back and added an additional 19 items to the folder, but I’m sure I could have left it as it was, too. While I don’t think I’ll ever be a wardrobe minimalist, I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the idea of living with less, even if my wardrobe is still medium to large-sized (it’s all relative – I know some of you consider my wardrobe huge and others think it’s on the small side).
My Top 100 Items
I’ll get into the individual categories shortly, but first let’s look at the breakdown of the 100 items I selected:
- 15 bottoms (6 pants, 9 skirts)
- 9 dresses (5 maxis, 5 knee length)
- 26 toppers (12 cardigans, 4 coats, 6 jackets, 6 vests)
- 39 tops (14 long-sleeved, 11 short-sleeved, 14 sleeveless)
- 11 pairs of shoes
Here’s a bird’s eye view of my top 100 items (I know it’s hard to see everything – category images are included below):
In case you’re curious, there were 63 wardrobe items that didn’t make the cut in this exercise. Here’s how those numbers break down:
- 9 bottoms (7 pairs of pants, 2 skirts)
- 6 dresses
- 14 toppers (7 cardigans, 2 coats, 3 jackets, 2 vests)
- 23 tops (11 long-sleeved, 6 short-sleeved, 6 sleeveless)
- 11 pairs of shoes
Some of these items are things I’d be sad to part with, while others I’d be perfectly fine moving along (and may opt to do so when I revisit the KonMari Method in my closet soon). I would guess it’s probably about half and half, but we’ll see. Although the focus of this post is on the pieces I did select, here’s a quick look at those that were not included in my top 100:
You may be surprised to see a few of the above items there, but in most cases it was either due to a fit or comfort issue or the fact that I don’t need many dressier pieces with my casual lifestyle. As I’m sure you know, a lot of clothes and shoes are better in theory than in practice. Sadly, we don’t often get to find this out until we have worn them and they cannot be returned.
Now let’s look at the items I included in my top 100, starting with the 15 bottom pieces. Here’s a look at the pants and skirts that I selected as part of my top 100:
Yes, this section of my favorites is very much dominated by black and denim with only a bit of color thrown in. I do like black and denim and both are quite versatile, but I would like to include some other colors in the mix as well. The reason I have so little diversity in this area of my wardrobe mostly has to do with availability. There just aren’t as many options out there for tall women, especially in terms of jeans and pants. I often see colored or patterned pants that I would love to buy, but they’re typically only offered in standard lengths. Although that will likely continue to be an issue, I plan to work on at least finding finding more skirts in brights and patterns. Having more variety in my bottom pieces will help me to switch things up more and will likely increase my wardrobe satisfaction.
Here are the 9 dresses that I included in my hypothetical pared down wardrobe:
I included more color and pattern in my dress selections, but black and patterns with black in them still factor pretty heavily here as well. I’m fine with that for the most part, although a bit more color would be nice, especially since I wear dresses mostly in the warmer months. That’s another issue that I have with my wardrobe, as I would actually like to wear dresses year round. Yes, I live in a very temperate climate, but I feel the cold more than most and wouldn’t be comfortable wearing sleeveless dresses in the cooler months, even with a topper over them (and maybe tights). I haven’t made purchasing heavier weight dresses with sleeves a priority as of yet, but I would like to pick up one or two this year if possible. I’m happy with my dresses during the summer (which lasts 4-6 months here depending on the year), but I’m sure I would like wearing a dress occasionally in the other months, too.
One thing you may have noticed is that I included a large number of toppers in my top 100 wardrobe. That’s because I wear some sort of topper pretty much every day, again because I have a tendency to run cold. Also, since I wear a lot of solids, I find that including a “third piece” in my outfits makes them more interesting and “complete.” Here’s a look at the cardigans, jackets, coats, and vests that made the cut:
There’s more color here, too, although all of my vests and most of my jackets are either black or denim. There is more diversity in my cardigans and coats. Although I like black and enjoy wearing it often, I would be well-served to hold back on buying more black jackets and vests since that area of my wardrobe is already well covered. Adding a few colors or patterns here would help me get more mileage out of my other closet pieces, especially since I have so many black and denim bottoms. I wear my bright coats and cardigans a lot, so I would imagine the same thing would be true of bright jackets and vests. Not that I want to buy a lot at this point, but this is something to keep in mind for the shopping that I do down the line.
When I started this blog, I had 129 tops in my closet! I now have less than half that number (62, not including those tops that I only wear at home and for workouts), but it still seems like a lot, especially if I want to wear everything in my closet at least five – and ideally eight – times per year (see my 2016 wardrobe and shopping goals). Because I have so many tops, this was the most difficult category to whittle down for the top 100 exercise, but here’s what I selected:
As you can see, there is a lot of color here. My tops are actually the most colorful area of my wardrobe and I love wearing all of the jewel tones in addition to my beloved black. Interestingly, the weakest link in my top collection is short-sleeved tops. This isn’t good because these are the tops that I actually wear most often! The main reason why this section of my closet is weak is due to quality issues. I wear a lot of knit t-shirts and they just don’t last as well as they used to. I have continued to buy tops from what previously were “tried and true” retailers and brands, but I’ve been less satisfied with my more recent purchases. I’m going to need to find alternate options moving forward.
A lot of my tops are actually too basic, such that my outfits don’t feel “finished” without a topper. This can be a problem in warmer weather when it’s too hot for a third piece. When I add more tops to my wardrobe as the current ones wear out or are purged, I plan to focus on finding more prints and solids with interesting details so they can stand on their own. I’m thinking of things such as texture, ruching, and asymmetry. Again, I’m not planning on buying a lot right now. These are just things to consider for future shopping. Basics are great, but there can be such a thing as having too many of them.
Here are the 11 pairs of shoes that I included in my 100 items:
My shoe collection is very black-heavy, as I have written about in previous posts (including this one). I also have quite a few pairs of metallic shoes, two of which are shown above. The one non-neutral pair of shoes in my 100 items, the burgundy boots, was purchased this year. I definitely want to add some color and pattern to my footwear wardrobe this year. I do have two pairs of leopard print shoes in my closet, but I’m moving away from that warm-toned print, as it doesn’t jibe well with my refined color palette. Also, one pair of those shoes is very worn out and the other isn’t all that comfortable. The two pairs of colored sandals that I own are not favorites, as one is too shiny and high-heeled and the other is not really in line with my current style. (You can see these other shoes in this post).
The Bottom Line – What I Learned
This was a fun and useful exercise for me to do. It showed me that I could definitely live with less and taught me about the strengths and weaknesses of my wardrobe. Since this post is already quite long, I will likely do a follow-on post on that topic within the next few weeks. I think that if we push ourselves to select our favorites, we will be better able to identify the “low-hanging fruit” that can easily be passed on. Somehow, this top 100 exercise was more helpful in that regard than when I did Project 333 (see all my Project 333 posts here). I believe this is because 100 items feels more like something I could live with year-round and was actually the number would be ideal for me back when I first started this blog (but it felt quite unreachable for me back then). I may not get there this month or even this year, but doing the top 100 exercise makes me feel that I can do it if I elect to do so.
It may seem like I was being critical of my wardrobe in this post. While I did learn some things about the limitations of what I have through the top 100 exercise, I do love a lot of my pieces and wear them regularly. I could probably be quite happy living with the items shown above if I needed to do so. There’s a nice assortment of colors, styles, and silhouettes that could be mixed and matched to create a lot of outfits that I’d enjoy wearing. I would eventually like to have more variety in my bottom pieces, more color overall, and increased diversity in top shapes and styles, but this doesn’t have to happen overnight. It’s good to have a direction we want to move in, but this evolution can happen over time, as we make wardrobe replacements and fill in some gaps little by little.
Patience is by no means my greatest virtue, but I’m going to try to resist the urge to make my “perfect wardrobe” take shape post haste. It’s a moving target anyway and we will never be “there” and no longer need to buy anything new. As a recovering shopaholic, I want to slow down closet churn, but it will never come to a complete stop. We will all need to buy new things from time to time, but it would be nice to buy less and focus more on enjoying what I have. Of course, emotions often come into play and get in the way of all of this wonderful logic, but that is a subject for another day!
Now it’s time for your feedback, either on what I’ve shared or on your own wardrobes. I hope that some of you opt to do the top 100 exercise and are willing to comment on what you learned. While I welcome your comments on my process and selections, it’s always great when you share your journeys, too. We can learn so much from each other and I have benefitted tremendously from readers’ insights over the years. Feel free to chime in and interact with each other.