Last week, I shared the good news portion of my 2016 wardrobe review, my closet “all-stars.” In compiling the information for that post, I was pleased to see that my frequency of wear numbers had significantly improved over my 2015 statistics. Now it’s time for the flip side of the equation, my wardrobe “benchwarmers.” As with my last post, I will share numbers and photos, as well as my thoughts about the lesser worn – or not worn at all – items in my closet.
What are “Benchwarmers” and is it Ever Okay to Have Them?
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 (read more HERE). I realize this is a fairly lenient characterization and you may wish to classify your benchwarmers more stringently than I have. But for those of us who have histories of shopping too much and amassing overly large wardrobes, it’s a good place to start in terms of our commitment to do better. The whole point of designating all-stars and benchwarmers is to increase our awareness and make improvements, so there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Many of us want to get more wear out of the items in our closets and knowing our numbers can be an important piece of that puzzle.
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 the clothing we keep on hand for things like job interviews and tropical vacations. Many of us have pieces that we like or even love but have very little occasion to wear. I think this is perfectly okay, as long as our benchwarmer count doesn’t comprise too large a proportion of our wardrobe (the absolute threshold numbers are of course individual).
Back when I started this blog, I thought I would be able to reach a point where I have zero benchwarmers, but I now realize that’s not a very realistic goal. Sure, there are people who do it and more power to them, but it’s probably not going to happen for most of us.
Reasons for Wardrobe Benchwarmers
Here are a few reasons why we may continue to have benchwarmers in our closets:
1. Weight Changes
Many of us experience weight fluctuations that get in the way of our wearing some of our clothes. This has been the case for me recently, as I will detail below. If it’s realistic that we’ll be able to wear an item again in the near future (like before it goes out of style), it makes sense to hold onto it. However, I recommend that you store these pieces somewhere other than your main closet. In addition, it’s a good idea to evaluate such items periodically, like once a year, to make sure you’d even want to wear them should they fit you well again.
2. Formal Wear
We may not wear our “little black dresses” and other such pieces very often, but they definitely come in handy when we need them. Although using a service such as Rent the Runway can eliminate the need to store rarely worn dressy items, if we already own formal wear that we like and that fits us well, it can make sense to hold onto them. Again, it can be a good idea to store such garments outside of your main closet, especially if you have space constraints.
3. Vacation Wear
Maintaining a small capsule of items for travel to locations with alternate climates can also be helpful. You may only travel to snow country every couple of years, for example, but you’ll need warm clothing and appropriate footwear when you do. It usually doesn’t make sense to purchase these items each time just because they aren’t worn every single year. It can be perfectly acceptable for your snow and tropical items to be benchwarmers some years. If you have the space, keeping a “snow wear” or “tropical wear” box can help you to easily find these items when you need them.
4. The “Hidden Holding Zone”
I have written previously about the “hidden holding zone,” a concept introduced by Angie of the “You Look Fab” blog. Sometimes we aren’t wearing certain items but aren’t quite sure we want to get rid of them. This is where the hidden holding zone can come in handy, as it’s a sort of “way station” between your day-to-day wardrobe and thrift or consignment. In most cases, I store my purged items for a month or more in an alternate closet in case I change my mind and to accumulate enough to take at least a full bag of castoffs to my local thrift or consignment store.
I don’t “rescue” things very often, but it does happen on occasion and I’m then glad that I didn’t act too hastily with my culling. This doesn’t mean that half of our wardrobes should be “on reserve,” but the holding zone can be a good place to store anything we’re not sure should stay or go. I generally review my holding zone every month or two so that it doesn’t become too large. I don’t want to be overly hasty in letting things go, but I also don’t want to hang on to too many “just in case” items, either.
As you can see, I have shifted my perspective on “benchwarmers” since the rigid take I had back in 2013. Time and experience has a way of adding nuance and shades of gray to concepts and that has been the case for me. I still want to keep my benchwarmer number reasonable (of course, that definition will also vary by person and situation), but I’m no longer striving to have that number be zero.
2016 Benchwarmers at a Glance
Unfortunately, I’m unable to report a lower number of benchwarmers for 2016 than I had in 2015. I will get into the reasons for that below (hint – the factors above came into play), but first let’s look at the numbers. If I just look at items that were in my closet for the entirety of 2016, there were 27 total benchwarmers, 10 of which were not worn at all and 17 that were worn just once. There items can be broken down into the following categories:
- 4 sleeveless tops
- 4 cardigans
- 3 jackets
- 1 vest
- 2 pairs of pants
- 7 dresses
- 6 pairs of shoes
Here’s a snapshot of my 2016 wardrobe benchwarmers:
Benchwarmers Purchased in 2016
If I add in items that were purchased during 2016, my number of benchwarmers increases quite a bit – to 46 items – as I had 19 new acquisitions that I only wore once or didn’t wear at all. While some of these items were purchased toward the end of the year, I had ample opportunity to wear most of them two or more times by year-end. Here’s how these new 2016 items can be classified, as well as a photo of all of them:
- 3 sleeveless tops
- 4 short-sleeved tops
- 2 long-sleeved tops (well, more like ¾ sleeved)
- 1 jacket
- 2 cardigans
- 3 pairs of pants
- 1 skirt
- 3 pairs of shoes
The good news is that I have started to wear several of the above items this year after having some standard alterations made and losing a bit of weight, but others were clear mistakes that I never should have bought. I’ll highlight the reasons for my benchwarmers – and what I’ve learned – in the next section.
Reasons for – and Lessons from – Benchwarmers
By far, the greatest reason for my 2016 benchwarmers was weight gain. As a result of menopause and health issues, I gained approximately ten pounds (I don’t know the exact number since I don’t weigh myself very often) over the course of the year. I’ve also been experiencing a lot of problems with water retention for reasons that are still unclear to me (it could be menopause, inflammation, or any number of other things). Since I typically like to wear fitted clothes, this led to my not being able to wear many of the pieces in my closet, especially dresses and pants. Some of my more fitted tops also didn’t look right with the additional pounds.
The 17 items below were benchwarmers as a result of my weight gain:
Fortunately, I have started to drop the excess weight through dietary changes (I was already exercising regularly and continue to do so) and some of the clothes now fit me much better. I just can’t eat as much as I used to and I accept that (although I don’t like it!). Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to my “happy weight” soon so I can wear most of the pieces in my closet again. Some of the items shown above probably won’t be sticking around, though, as I no longer love them for various reasons.
As a few examples, the black dress is old and not in line with my current style, the black jeans are too high-waisted, and the teal print dress is too girly and the waistline hits me too high. Even if I fit into these garments well again, I don’t think I’d want to wear them, so they will be going to donation or consignment. This is why I recommend that you review your “holding zone” items regularly even if they are in there due to weight changes. Our style preferences shift over time and there’s no use holding onto things that we don’t love and won’t wear regardless of our weight or size.
What Was I Thinking?
Some of my 2016 benchwarmers were things I probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place. Although I have made a lot of progress over the past four years (some of which I outlined HERE), I continue to make shopping mistakes, including the following:
- Buying things just because they are on sale or a low price at a resale store
- Having ill-advised alterations done (also see HERE)
- Purchasing too many similar items (such that I don’t have occasion enough to wear them all regularly)
- Buying too much overall
Fortunately, I don’t make any of the above faux pas as much as I used to, but I’m certainly not perfect by any means. Here are a few examples of items I never should have bought – or should have returned, as well as a brief explanation of each:
- Striped dress: It was way too big for me and too many alterations were needed. It has never quite hung right on me despite being altered multiple times.
- Draped vest: This piece was also too large and required tailoring, plus the length is “off” and doesn’t hit me at the right spot.
- Cream/red/black print dress: The waistline hits a bit too high on me. The dress worked reasonably well at a lower weight, but doesn’t look right now.
- Black jeans: Waistline was too high, but I “settled” because it was so hard for me to find black jeans that were long enough. I should have continued to look around.
- Blue sandals: I bought these on clearance last summer. They are comfortable, but the blue is too light and doesn’t coordinate well with my clothes.
- Grey linen capris: Another sale purchase… Waist is too big and I don’t love the wrinkled look.
- Denim jacket: I thought a denim jacket would be a highly versatile item, but I just don’t love the boxy look of this standard style. I this I would prefer more of a tailored blazer cut.
- Purple asymmetrical tee: This was a consignment buy from the summer. I love the shape and color, but the fabric is too thin and doesn’t quite hang right.
- Purple tie-dye print tunic: I know this is more of a “boho” look than I usually wear, but I would love it for summer if the sleeves were longer. They are more like half sleeves than ¾ on me.
- Red shrug: The red is more of a “tomato” hue than I usually like to wear.
- Striped cardigan: I love the stripes, but the quality isn’t great and the sleeves aren’t quite long enough.
- Teal print dress: I have written about this one before, but I haven’t yet passed it on. My husband bought this dress for me and it was pricey, but it’s not my style and I should have returned it. I only wore it once before I gained weight and it no longer fits me.
My continually evolving style is also responsible for some of my 2016 wardrobe benchwarmers. A lot of the items I didn’t wear last year are no longer in line with my aesthetic preferences. I mentioned most of these style issues above and many of the pieces in question will be heading out the door soon. Interestingly, a lot of shoes fell into this category, which is why I plan to add three to five pairs of shoes to my closet this year (and get rid of at least that many current pairs). Here are three pairs of benchwarmer shoes that don’t currently strike my fancy:
The shoes on the left used to be a favorite of mine, but I no longer like wearing flats in most instances. I like the look of even a small heel, so that’s usually what I choose to wear. However, I can see myself liking the black ballet flats again and they were expensive, so I’m going to hang onto them. The black sneakers, however, are going to go because they feel snug and are thus uncomfortable. I do see the need for casual sneakers that aren’t overly athletic in style, so I’ll be on the lookout for a pair this year. As for the sandals on the right, I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back around to wanting to wear them. I chose other sandals in favor of those last year and the same thing may be true for this coming summer. They look a bit “heavy” to me and I often prefer black or metallic shoes over the gray. I will keep them for now and we’ll see what happens this year.
Avoiding the Mistakes
I believe that my new shopping approach for 2017 will help me to avoid most of my typical mistakes, as I’ll only be buying one item every other week and will have to be much more thoughtful and deliberate about what I buy. Also, if a new item doesn’t quickly get integrated into my wardrobe, I’ll be more motivated to return it since I’ll be buying far less and each purchase will really have to count. While I may still buy things on sale, I will do so only if the item in question is something I would also buy at regular price and is on my shopping priorities list.
I don’t see myself shopping resale much this year, if at all, as it’s such an unpredictable shopping experience. It’s easy to buy things we don’t really need because the prices are so low and it’s tough to leave a resale shop empty-handed. I do think that thrift and consignment stores have value, as I wrote about here, but with my item limit for this year and the inability to make returns, I feel it’s just too risky. Plus, I already have a large wardrobe and a generous clothing budget, so it makes more sense for me to focus on shopping retail this year while buying less and aiming for quality. If you like to shop resale, my tips for successful resale shopping (which I haven’t always followed!) may help to increase your success rate.
I wasn’t pleased to learn that I had so many benchwarmers last year and I actually dreaded writing this post as a result. I felt that my higher 2016 benchwarmer number was a negative reflection on me and my progress. But I had good reasons for some of those benchwarmers and I learned a lot from doing this analysis. I also have plans in place to reduce my number of benchwarmers for 2017 through doing less but more deliberate shopping. I also plan to pass on the 2016 benchwarmers that I don’t see myself wearing again regardless of what I weigh or the occasions in my life.
I’ve long said that I’m aiming for progress, not perfection. Aiming for perfection just sets us up for disappointment, as it’s not possible for us to be perfect. But progress doesn’t always look how we think it will. Sometimes our progress comes from making mistakes and deriving powerful lessons from them, which I feel I have done. Over the past four years, I have had a lot of ups and downs. Many times, I’ve been ashamed to share my numbers here on the blog, but I have continued to do so in the hope that it would help others to feel less shame and learn from my mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned. I hope this post has served those purposes. I know that I have I definitely learned a great deal through taking the time to look at my lesser worn and unworn items from 2016.
Now it’s time for you to chime in, and here are some questions to help spark your thoughts:
- What did you learn about your wardrobe – and yourself – last year?
- How many wardrobe benchwarmers do you feels it’s okay to have?
- In what instances is it acceptable to hold on to items you haven’t worn for an entire year?
- What criteria do you use to determine if something should stay or go?
I invite you to share your thoughts on the above questions or anything else you’d like to say about this post. I wish you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back soon with an inspiring installment in my “stories of recovery” series as well as more 2016 wrap-up posts. In the meantime, here are a few articles from the blogosphere that you might enjoy reading:
- Tips for Updating Your Wardrobe (Putting Me Together)
- 25 Fashion Mistakes That Might Be Ruining Your Style (Bridgette Raes)
- Is Your Garment Really Sustainable? It’s Time to Find Out! (Eco Warrior Princess)
- Money Talk (Elizabeth Suzann)
I seem to have gotten a lot of wear out of most of my 2016 buys. Most. The ones that got no wear are a cashmere beanie (not a big hat wearer but thought I’d try it as part of a set with gloves) and a yoga tank. 1 wear was skirted yoga capris (never got a routine going to go to the class regularly), a grey cold shoulder dress bought for vacation, an impulse wrap dress worn for same vacation, and sport bikini. I bought a swim capsule of sorts all at once and wore the more fashion forward swimwear in lieu of the sportier workout style. lastly, I got an ombre/dip dye wool sweater that was worn once. In theory, it should have no reason to only be worn once, since it’s dead of winter. But then I’ve been mostly at work and home in this bad weather, not going ‘out and about’ much so that could be reason enough there.
Speaking of, my at home and work items are getting super all star status. And that’s awesome. But part of me longs to put together outfits instead of just donning a logo tee and jeans and heading off to shift. Alas, that’s my ongoing issue with uniform job requirements. All the more reason to watch how much I buy for ‘out and about’ since I don’t really get out as much as I imagine! I think the bi-weekly shopping rate will help curtail the impulses to grab things just because they catch my eye. So far, so good!
Thanks for sharing about your 2016 purchases, Mo. It’s great that you have gotten a lot of wear out of most of them and some reached super all-star status. I’m glad we are doing the every other week purchase plan this year. I think it has already stopped me from making ill-advised purchases (like for the type of out and about clothes I won’t wear very often) and it’s causing me to think more deeply about what I buy. It has definitely curtailed impulse buys. I look forward to seeing how it progresses for us as the year goes on.
This was really interesting Debbie! I love your breakdowns of what you have done.
I can relate to having benchwarmers due to weight gain. This happened to me in 2015. I wore most of those items again last year so that was good. I had 9 benchwarmers from my everyday clothing. I wore them only once with one not worn. (I have about a dozen dressy/formal that I may only a few of each year and officewear that I am not currently using) My reasons are; the weather was cooler in summer so 3 dresses only worn once (one is getting a bit old, one I usually wear quite a bit and the other is more dressy), 2 t-shirts (one I bought a few years back because I loved the style and colour but only wore it for the first time this year. The other I bought as a souvenir in Paris just for fun and it is white which I don’t usually wear.) I have 2 pair of leggings on the list too because I didn’t wear them as much last winter – I wore jeans more. Another I didn’t wear were some Ponti pants which I guess didn’t grab me so much either last year…the fit was not perfect either. Lastly my black wool coat only got one wear. I am ok with this though since I have had it for about 18years and have worn it a lot at times. It all depends on my lifestyle (I originally bought it to wear to work since I travelled on the train and it was cold in winter waiting at stations). So I have a couple of items I need to decide whether I keep or not, but most are still useful to keep for now.
I had an idea about your tie-dye tunic. Since the sleeves are not a good length, maybe you could make it short sleeve instead? Also, with your light blue sandals, if you had a piece of jewelery that matched them (ie bracelet) you might find you could wear them without them looking so mismatching. Just a thought to play with.
Thanks for sharing about your benchwarmers, Ruth. It sounds like you have good reasons for the few that you have. I think it’s a good idea to separate the everyday clothing from the dressier items like you did. Most of us don’t wear the dressy items all that much, but it’s good to have some of it around. Weather issues can’t really be avoided. I have years when I haven’t worn certain items due to it being cooler or warmer than usual, but it usually comes around the following year.
I appreciate your ideas regarding my tunic and sandals. Once the warmer weather comes around, I will try on the tunic and if I still like it overall, I will shorten the sleeves. I do have some turquoise jewelry that I can pair with the sandals and I will give that a try!
Guess what? Helen has a benchwarmer! I bought new house slippers since the old ones were shot; little did I know that they would be so noisy on our new apt’s laminate floors. I am using shoes to walk around indoors now–I am unable to stand just socks or barefoot with my 70-year-old feet, and the store will not let me return the slippers because I did wear them a bit in the old apt., where they did not make noise. They cost a lot, having the requisite arch supports, so I am going to have to do without slippers unless I want to awaken my sleeping husband by clomping. Purchasing error. The shoe store had carpets and tile–both made slippers appear silent. Now I feel your pain for poor retail decisions.. I have decided to donate them eventually, but for now I just regret.
I see your progress, Debbie. Love always, H
Thanks for sharing about your benchwarmer, Helen. I’m sorry the slippers didn’t work out for you and you weren’t able to return them. I usually wear shoes around the house to test them out, but I can generally return them after that if necessary. Yes, the pain about purchasing errors is real, but it can be hard to know that we’re making a bad decision sometimes, as it sounds like it was in your case. None of us is perfect and some of us have made many, many buying mistakes. We just have to forgive ourselves, try to learn from the situation if we can, and move forward. Hope you find some better slippers the next time around.
I don’t mind benchwarmers among my dressy clothes, which is good because all of my dozen or so dressy items would be considered benchwarmers! I have a few benchwarmers among clothes that theoretically should be worn more – so I think I will push myself to wear them and see if there’s a good reason they’re sitting out. One benchwarmer is a brown leather jacket that I love, but it’s not very warm, so I often pass it by for something that’s either cuddly or waterproof. Still, it’s so pretty and over 10 years old, so I feel like it’s okay to have it just for a few occasions.
I agree that it’s natural for many of us to have dressy benchwarmers, Murphy. I used to think everything needed to be worn at least semi-regularly, but I have come around to a viewpoint like yours. I neglected to mention in this post (but I have written about it before) that I designate all of my benchwarmers by clipping a small binder clip on the hanger. I then try to wear them as soon as I can and make a decision about them. I do end up liking many of them, but others get passed on and that’s okay. It seems like keeping the brown leather jacket is the right decision for you. Sometimes having those oldies but goodies around makes us happy, even if they don’t come out and play all that often.
I’ve just moved to a retirement community where I’ll be dressing up much more and attending functions. I also moved from a large walk-in closet to a much smaller closet so I’ve got a lot of reorganizing to do. Storing benchwarmers appeals as a technique. I bought almost nothing this year except replacing worn out items (preparing for this big move) but I’ve got plenty of benchwarmers from my past.
Got some planning and sorting to do.
Sounds like you’re going through transition, Patricia, so it seems to be a good idea to keep the benchwarmers you still like for now, as you don’t know what you might need and want to wear. You’ll see over time what does and doesn’t work for you. Good for you for not buying much last year and best wishes with the planning and sorting!
Thoughtful and interesting post…remember that body changes that come with age and affect how our clothes looks aren’t always weight related…..sad but true. Last year I found myself looking too thin in the face, arms and legs when I lost weight…10 lbs needed and 10 lbs probably not needed. However my overall shape didn’t change that much. My changes happened later than usual because I took hormone replacement from age 47 when I had a total hysterectomy until age 70 when my doctor insisted I stop. While I understand the risks, I sort of wish I hadn’t stopped because within 6 months my body shape changed. blah blah blah
Good point, Jan. I remember a friend in her 50’s years ago telling me that she weighed the same as when she was younger, but it had shifted around such that she had to switch out a lot of her wardrobe. That hasn’t happened to me all that much yet, but I know that it might as time goes on. I guess we just have to roll with the changes and make the best of them. If the hormones were risky, it’s probably better that you’re no longer taking them, but I definitely understand the angst and anguish that can accompany body changes.
99% of my closet is warming the bench these days. Weight gain, loss of job, poor purchasing, etc. The weight gain I am working on, job situation not likely to change since I have to travel out of state to help my elderly mother frequently, the poor purchases I need to just get over. But I’ve got to say I love some of you bench warming shoes! The blue Born shoes, these would be happy with jeans and summer dresses I think. So pretty. The Clarks, and the black Borns, I would figure a way to get those babies off the bench!
Sorry to hear that you have so many benchwarmers. Sounds like you have some difficult life challenges going on and I hope things will improve for you soon. You’re right that we have to just get over our poor purchases. I try to learn from them by asking myself what went wrong, but in the end I have to forgive myself and move on, which is what I think we all need to do. Yes, I like those benchwarmer shoes, too, and need to start wearing them! The Clarks are on the high side, so I can’t wear them if I have to walk very much, but I do still like the style. I think I will wear the black Borns more this year, as I got them later in the year last year. Sometimes it takes me a little while to integrate new items into the rotation even though it shouldn’t really be that way.
Hi Debbie and others.
I enjoyed the post and the comments. I think we all have benchwarmers. I must admit to having done a major purge just so I could avoid talking about most of my benchwarmers…but in the end, I still have a few. I looked only at items that have a higher CPW than my goal CPW. Otherwise I don’t really track items that have ‘earned their keep’ by coming under the goal. This meant I actually had a large group of tshirt and tanks that never got tracked and never got used either. So I finally, after several years of ‘hush hushing’ my inner guilt-finally purged the whole lot. Probably 12 items in one sweep. The root cause though, was a period of time when the t-shirt under a blazer was really popular, in fact as part of parisian chic. And I purchased (like a true shopaholic) many a plain white/black t or tank to get the look. But in the end, I never wore them because I didn’t quite like the other requisite part of that look, the scarf. I tried a few times but just couldn’t do the scarf and blazer look…just not me. So although a few scarves have found use with winter coats and sweaters….the t’s had to finally go.
Then there are the remaining benchwarmers from 2016…I had in total 29 items…but 20 of them were purchased late in 2016 and haven’t gotten a chance to shine, so I am not counting them.
The other 8 are all purchased before 2016:
1. dale of norway thick merino wool sweater – sporty – hard to wear in other than really cold weather – but have learned to style it for sport lux and am targeting 6 wears for 2017. It is a good style for me.
2. white cotton cable v neck – preppy. I knew better when I bought this that I don’t really like cotton sweaters. I feel they are too stiff and translate to summer since they are not warm enough for my winters. And in the end, I am not a “summer in sweater” type. The color is also more cream than white which is not good against my winter coloring. For 2017, it is getting a dye job to make it a color I love, lime, and then hopefully I’ll wear it more.
3. navy silk pinstripe blouse – preppy. This is a lovely top and I should wear it more. I tend to wear it only in summer, as it suits my summer clothes best. That leaves a limited set of opportunities for wear. I don’t think I’ll do anything about it actually. It can tolerate a longer life in my closet, used and loved 3-4 times a year.
4. clog boots with fringe – boho. These are on my list because I am stuggling with them. They are extremely high and have a big wood platform, so they are very heavy. I notice my right ankle is sore after every extended use! But I love the look and would like to be able to wear them more. I have actually considered having an inch taken off the platform to lighten the weight…I’m just too worried that they will be ruined. So probably not the smartest purchase and they languish looking lonely on the shoe shelf.
5. burgundy flowered french skirt – flirty. Another item with a short season. This and the skirt below are my fall skirts. I live in a COLD climate so once temps are under 6 deg C, I stop wearing skirts. Depending on the fall, sometimes skirts get worn, sometimes they don’t. This fall was very warm and thus not quite cold enough, and then just super cold right after. They are both loved enough to get more chances in 2017.
6. Hale Bob Sweater skirt – flirty – see above
7. black full legg pleated wool slacks – 70s. These are the only wide legged/bell bottom trousers I own. They have just the right swish for my body type. Being a special trouser means they are pretty special to style and I have only really found 1 way I like. That means limited wears. I have a plan though..see below
8. black leaves on white halter tank – summer tropic. One of my few summer only tops that are dressy enough for work but a bit too dressy for casual. I do wear it to work but under a blazer, and since summer here is only 2 months, I don’t have enough potential summer wears. This is a problem for all summer dresses and skirts….see below.
After the purge inspired by this post (in order to have eliminated some bench warmers before evaluation) I noticed that most of my items I am struggling to wear more are all very seasonal. I have a short summer and thus have a limited need for dresses. I also have long dark fall+cold spring which limits reusing any summer clothes in other seasons. I also enjoy the seasons and switching out items for each, to suit the colors and my mood! But that only excuses my summer items from not getting used. The other season items should really get covered. So after looking at these items, I decided to take action for winter/fall/spring and plan new outfits to boost wears.
I first considered getting a new top, to increase wears on my black bell bottoms and other black bottoms. But I don’t really need another top that would reduce wears of other tops. Then I considered new burgundy jeans to increase wears on my black sweaters…but don’t need or want another hero bottom to deal with. So I looked again at the winter wardrobe and tried a little Kon Mari on not items, but outfits..and found that I was avoiding some outfits entirely not because of fit, or the feel of the items, but because it is all so monochrome. Too much black basically! Aha. Add to this a little random discovery that I actually like wearing an old cobalt scarf with a navy sweater and I decided to retry all the outfits with a scarf. Suddenly those boring outfits have something interesting to give them life and now I actually want to wear them!
Down side, I now want to buy another scarf. See, woman logic, one scarf will increase wears of xx bottoms, xx sweaters/tops, and xx coats…Brigette Raes will be appalled that it took me this long to figure than out! Now I only have to wait two weeks for my next allowed purchase!
Thanks again Debbie, without your inspiration, I would never go through all this thought on my benchwarmers!
Great post, love your analysis and solution. Have you tried thermal tights and long boots with skirts? I find this combo better than trousers or jeans in snow and winter rain as legs dry quicker.
Jayne, I really appreciate your very detailed analysis and I enjoyed reading it! I’m also happy to see that you are joining me in the every other week purchase plan. I’m so glad that you figured out an easy way to get more wear out of some of your outfits! Sometimes the answer is simple but it takes us a while to come around to it. Interestingly, not all benchwarmers should be purged from our wardrobes and it can be useful to do the type of analysis that both of us have done. I like that you wrote paragraphs about each item and identified what type of item it is (boho, preppy, etc.). I think the time you took to write all of this out will help you in the long run. I wish you all the best and I’m happy that my posts have been helpful for you. I like Lynn’s suggestion, too. I would like to wear that type of combination, but all of my dresses and skirts are very summery in style. I hope to change that so I can wear dresses and skirts year round.
I made some interesting changes in the past month that I thought I would share. During Christmas break from school and work, I was cleaning out some paperwork and I came across some article about financial planning from a woman’s magazine. It said to ask yourself, “Would the 80 year old you tell you that something had been a good purchase?” (I will post the exact question when I find the article in the “keep” pile that I made!) This question made me think about the “Minimalism” documentary on Netflix and how one person had said that for him, “It was more a decision about financial freedom than financial gain.” The lesson from the documentary that I got was to become a conscious consumer instead of a compulsive consumer. I remembered seeing the famous marshmallow test featured on a magazine in a bookstore and thought about how achieving long-term goals (or even short-term goals) is all about delaying gratification. I mean, if I bought an item a week, that is 5 more items to fit into my closet! What if I saved up for one great item every month or so?
This got me wondering if I was in fact compulsive in shopping and where I could change my habits. I stared an experiment to allow myself to buy anything BUT fashionable clothing and see how long I could go. It has been almost a month and I will say that the fashionable clothing is the thing that is hardest to stop thinking about. (After all, I get immediate satisfaction when I purchase something on the internet but then I have to wait to get it in the mail.) I have started to go into my drugstore and buy things in the store that I would normally order on-line or buy at the supermarket. (This way I get the experience of shopping and the immediate gratification of buying just the toothpaste I need instead of making a trip to Walmart to save 50 cents on toothpaste and fill a basket with unrelated items.) I finished rereading “In the Red” and am now rereading “Not Buying It.”
The thing that I notice is that when I am thinking of buying something, I ask myself, “Does it look like something I already have and can use?”, “Would I be happy with this purchase a week or a month from now?”, “Do I feel really excited about getting and using this item right away and frequently?” This is making me appreciate what I have because my inner child will NEVER be satisfied. Also when I go to the mall, I make sure and eat a nice lunch first before I shop. I plan to go to the mall this week and buy more foundation for my face since I am almost out and get a neck and shoulder massage. (There is a top on QVC that I am coveting but I haven’t felt the need to buy yet.)
I hope everyone had a nice holiday!
Thank you so much for sharing your insights here, Maggie. I was fascinated by what you had to say and I think you have made some very useful observations. I remember writing about the famous marshmallow test in one of my earlier blog posts, so I went back and found it: https://recoveringshopaholic.com/sometimes-cheap-is-really-more-expensive/ Not surprisingly, I would have probably taken the one marshmallow right away instead of waiting for two. This type of mindset has been detrimental in various areas of my life, including shopping! I agree that it’s better to buy fewer really great items instead of a bunch of mediocre things. I love the questions you’re asking yourself and I think they would serve many of us well. I’ve been asking the first one and have found it helpful, but I will add the others as well. You’re right about the inner child never being satisfied, but you seem to have found some good ways to get the thrill of shopping without so much of the downside. Good for you and best wishes!
Really interesting, Debbie, as always.
I know that I have some benchwarmers-due-to-weight-gain in my wardrobe so I really feel you there — whether items that really don’t fit or that I just don’t reach for because they don’t fit the way they used to.
One observation, I noticed that one of your bought-in-2016 benchwarmers is a denim jacket, and you say that you would prefer more of a blazer cut…but you also have a denim blazer among your benchwarmers. It may be that the blazer is past its prime and you are really wanting to replace/upgrade it. But I also wonder if you *think* you need a denim jacket when in fact you…just don’t? I ask because I’ve noticed this pattern in myself too, buying/returning/buying/donating in search of the “right” version of the thing, when it may be that the thing itself isn’t right for me. Are there specific outfits you are wearing that don’t feel are quite on the mark where a denim jacket is what’s missing?
I haven’t been tracking my wears lately (I need to get back to it, I’m happier with how I dress when I plan outfits ahead of time) but I wanted to share an experiment I did recently. Inspired by your recent post about what is a “right size” wardrobe, I started wondering what is the “right pace” or “right amount” of wardrobe turnover.
So I took the number of items in each category from my right-size wardrobe calculations, and estimated how many years I thought items in that category should last (e.g., I think winter toppers should last longer than summer tops), then divided to determine how many items in each category I “should” buy each year.
When I added it all up, I was surprised to find that it worked out to just about an item every two weeks! I thought that was interesting given that is the pace that you and several others are aiming at for your purchases this year.
What was helpful to me about the exercise was that instead of giving me just a single number, it gave me some inkling of how I should allocate my purchases by category.
(I realize this is a bit similar to what Mette does on her blog, except I’m not assigning items to specific months.)
I’m not sure how strictly I’m going to hold myself to this scheme for shopping this year, but I do think it will be a useful “reality check.” I am also going to sit down and try to map out what my “top priorities” are in each category. Hopefully that all will keep me focused on purchasing things that really add function to my wardrobe, rather than buying what’s easy.
I agree with what you said about looking for the ‘right’ version of an item and then realising that it is not really ‘me’. Sometimes it is because my style or preference has changed.
Great observation about the jacket, Sarah. I think you’re right that I don’t really need a denim jacket. I used to love the blazer style that I have, but not so much anymore. Maybe I will come back around to loving denim jackets, but I can definitely do without one now. If I come across one that I love and can’t wait to wear, maybe I will buy it, but I’m not going to search for one at this point.
I love the exercise that you did and it reminded me of one that Mo of MOderate Wardrobe did a while back. I wasn’t able to find the post, but I remember that she did a similar calculation to help her figure out how to allocate her purchases each year and make a plan. I also remember the post that Mette did that you mentioned. I have never done something quite like that, but now I want to… I know that some types of items will last a lot longer than others. Very interesting that your calculations came out to buying an item every other week. Maybe I am on the right track after all!
If it fits, is in good condition, it suits me and I like I will usually keep it as I often items get a new lease of life when fashion changes, I buy a new item it goes with well, or suddenly find the right occasion for it. After 10 months on the bench the long jersey dress my husband bought me has been worn numerous times as evening lounge wear. The beautiful silk shirt dress that always feels too precious and dressy is going to be worn as a blouse this summer so it will actually get worn. My unworn red boots were dyed black and are now worn daily in winter. If your sandals are leather it is easy to dye them. I would be inclined to hang on to items you like in different sizes if your weight is fluctuating as there will be periods when they may be useful. Your analysis of style reasons why some items haven’t been worn makes a great checklist for future purchases. I have a mental one but think it would be worth me writing it out and carrying it with me.
I agree that it can be good to keep things if we still like them and they are in good condition, Lynn. I have come back around to wearing some of my benchwarmers over time, too. It’s great that you were able to re-purpose your long dress and your red boots. I have dyed two pair of shoes and it helped me to wear them and I may do that with the blue sandals, too, if I find I don’t wear them once the warm weather rolls around. As for the things that don’t fit, I’m starting to fit into some of them again but I’m keeping anything that I can still see myself wearing. I just store them in another closet so I don’t beat myself up when I see them. I like your idea of the checklist for future purchases. I did a “do’s and don’ts” post last year (https://recoveringshopaholic.com/what-are-your-wardrobe-dos-and-donts/), but it’s pretty long. I think that revisiting the list and bottom-lining it could be very helpful. I appreciate your feedback.
I did this too. I took some shoe dye to some older shoes I was going to donate. Now that they match my color scheme, I wear them pretty much every day.
Hi Debbie, the ruffled sandals in the picture are really pretty, but if you don’t like the “heaviness”, I wonder if you might like them better if there is a way to rip off the ruffles and dye the whole thing black. That said, with your decent clothing budget, I admit that it might not be worth your time.
Thanks for the suggestion, Jane. I already did a bit of DIY on the shoes, as I cut off the extra elastic strap towards the front of the shoe. That helped with the “heaviness,” but I still didn’t feel inspired to wear the shoes. I think a big part of the issue is that I mostly wear maxi-length skirts and dresses these days and pair those with flats (because the dresses/skirts are barely long enough on me anyway and I like the comfort of the flats). On the rare occasions when I wear a mid-length skirt or dress, I wear other sandals instead of these. Maybe I will see if they work with my slimmer pants and jeans. If I don’t wear the shoes this year, they will probably go, but I’m not in a huge rush to get rid of them just yet. I do sometimes come around to wearing benchwarmer shoes again.
A reason for keeping some of my benchwarmers… if I didn’t, I would probably end up buying a replacement. An example is formal business wear. I have a few formal blazers, I rarely wear them as dress codes have relaxed, but I know that if I had thrown them away, I would have been tempted by some very good bargains in the current sales. However, knowing that I have something very similar stops me from buying them – so they serve a very useful purpose, even if I could manage without them (make any sense?). I find that also applies to some brightly coloured or unusual items in my wardrobe – I don’t wear them much, but they stop me from buying e.g. another red sweater.
Looking forward to you further round up posts.
Very good point, Alice! I think it can be reasonable to hold on to some lesser worn (and even lesser loved) items for this reason, especially in the area of formal items. Sometimes we keep things as sort of “placeholders” and that can be okay. I think that if an item is something we really have a need for, though, it’s good to find a replacement that we will really love and look forward to wearing. But I have found that if I get rid of something and THEN try to find the replacement, I may be tempted to “settle” for less than great out of a fear of scarcity and needing to do without. So I typically will keep the item so if I really need to wear such a thing, I will have something in my closet. I’ve been doing this for TOO long with my black peep-toe wedges (not pictured here because I wore them several times last year) and I really need to make replacing them a priority. I don’t wear them often, but every time I do, I ask myself WHY I haven’t bought a more comfortable pair! Another round-up post should go live later this week. Those posts take me a long time to put together, but I’m glad people like them.
After re-reading this post I went to my closet and decided to remove every benchwarmer in there. Imagine my shock when I discovered that 50% of my wardrobe had not been worn at all in the last year. Some of the items had not been worn in several years. It really made me stop and think. I donated 75% of the items immediately and have hung onto the rest”just in case”. I tried on the unused items and spent hours making outfits with them from the remaining things in my closet. (and that is a lot of things)I really need to work on my “triggers” and stop wasting money and resources. What a tough road this is. I have whittled my fall/winter wardrobe down to 245 items, which is a victory for me. I have an additional 50-60 items in my spring/summer wardrobe that I will be switching out so hopefully that number can stay static and I will do another benchwarmer purge after a few months into my warm weather wardrobe wear.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience here, Lori! I’m happy that my post inspired you to take action with your benchwarmers. When I first started the blog, half of my wardrobe was benchwarmers, too, so I get it. I didn’t act as quickly as you did, though, so I applaud you! It sounds like you really put in the work the other day to get a handle on your benchwarmers and your wardrobe at large. I agree that it is a tough road to overcome compulsive shopping and “closet chaos.” I’ve been working on it for many years, even since before I started this blog 4 years ago. But we didn’t get to where we are overnight and it will take time to course-correct and everyone needs to go at their own pace. You’re doing great and should be very proud of yourself!
Great thought-provoking post. I think ALL of us have a lot more benchwarmers than we care to admit, even the minimalists. Even this guy in this article ( http://www.theminimalists.com/apartment/ ) probably has a t-shirt or a button-down that he doesn’t wear as much as the others.
I have a relatively minimal wardrobe (right now at 60 pieces including shoes). I still have benchwarmers in every category. I like everything I have and it all fits me perfectly. Even so, there appear to be a core set of pieces I currently reach for every time. I did analyze the pattern of what I reached for (I apparently do not like button-down shirts as much as I thought) so that’s good information for my next shopping trip. This could change though, so I haven’t yet gotten rid of my benchwarmers.
On a side note, I apparently do the rolling capsule technique and do the Vivienne Files outfit analysis (without realizing that was the names for that type of activity). This has helped me to cycle clothes in and out of my main (very small) closet to ensure wear for all pieces. In my case, it works very well. However, as in the case of the aforementioned button-down shirts, it’s still not 100%.
Just tabulated the results: 18 benchwarmers in my 60 piece closet. That’s a 30% benchwarmer rate!
Coats – 2 (1 I haven’t worn this year, and 1 I haven’t worn in 2 years). I noticed both are longer length jackets that I don’t currently need to wear but may need later. Keep
Jackets – 1 . I haven’t ever worn this. I love the fit and the color so I may try to incorporate it into outfit ideas before giving up on it.
Hoodies – 2. Haven’t worn for the last year. Probably will donate.
Cardigans – 2. Used to be all-stars, but I apparently wear them very little these days. Keep for now.
Button-down shirts – 8. Have worn each of these zero or 1 times this last year, and only because I wanted to keep them in rotation. Suspect I will eventually donate 7 of them.
Tops – 1 – The top in question is a little short, but I think I will try it under a sweater.
Pants – 1 – I love this pair of pants and use it as a pattern to alter my other pants. I think i’m mentally saving it, but I really should wear them because they’re my fave. Keep.
Shoes – 1 – I already know I’m going to be donating this pair. It was a trendy style that I am now tired of.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and numbers, Jane! Yes, even The Minimalists (who I follow and love) probably still have some a wardrobe benchwarmer or two. Most people do – see Helen’s comment below about her benchwarmer even with a 30-item wardrobe. I think that analyzing our benchwarmers can be helpful, but you’re right that sometimes our preferences cycle through and former favorites can be benchwarmers and then favorites again. But that is usually not the case for most people. What I usually recommend and try to do myself is to wear the benchwarmers as soon as possible, evaluate them, and make a decision about them. I may give something a second chance because I can be moody about my clothes and my body, but if I don’t feel good in something even once, I will often let it go. Since you don’t have many benchwarmers, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to wear them all relatively soon. Formal wear is an exception, as I mentioned, as most people don’t wear such pieces very often, but they sure do come in handy when we do need them. I think it’s good that you analyzed all of your benchwarmers and found potential ways to wear some of them again. All you can do is try. Good luck and good job on doing the work to learn more about your habits and thought process.