Yes, it’s another wardrobe-related post! I seem to go in waves in terms of the types of essays I write for this blog… If you like the wardrobe posts, you’re in luck. If you instead prefer my articles on other topics, stay tuned, as I have a few of those in mind to do soon. It’s just that as I worked out my wardrobe, shopping, and style goals for 2020 and am also nearing the end of my wardrobe “half project,” I’ve been spending more time contemplating the contents of my closet and what I am – and am not – wearing.
In today’s post, I decided to revisit a topic that I wrote about on Recovering Shopaholic back in 2015. Back then, I shared statistics, photos, and information about the pieces that had been in my closet the longest. I also looked at the characteristics that those items had in common and revealed some lessons to carry forward from having examined my longtime wardrobe favorites.
Below is a 2020 update on that classic post. As with the 2015 version, I’m only including the garments, shoes, and purses that have been in my closet for a long time. Although I have many jewelry pieces and accessories that have also been around for a number of years, I don’t have purchase dates and photos for many of those items. Therefore, I’m leaving them out and just concentrating on the clothes (my “problem area” in terms of overbuying), shoes, and purses that I own.
By the Numbers – Purchase Year
A word to the wise… this post is going to be very data and photo heavy. I don’t geek out on statistics as much as I used to, but I do still enjoy delving into the nitty-gritty of my wardrobe from time to time, and today is one of those days! I’ll start off by sharing some numbers regarding the purchase year of my longstanding pieces. For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to concentrate on items that were purchased from 2008 through 2016, as I don’t consider things that I bought during the past three years to be “old” or in any way remarkable related to longevity.
My goal is for most of what I own to last at least three years – and hopefully up to five years or more. Of course, there will be exceptions to this regarding item quality, purchasing mistakes (still making too many of those, but improving), and shifts in lifestyle, weight/shape, and style preferences. But for the most part, I aim to hold on to what I buy for three years or more.
Here’s an overview – complete with photos – of my older pieces by the year of purchase:
2008: 2 items (1 coat, 1 purse)
2009: 2 items (1 skirt, 1 top)
2010: 4 items (1 cardigan, 3 tops)
2011: 5 items (2 cardigans, 1 jacket, 2 pairs of shoes)
2012: 2 items (2 tops)
2013: 5 items (2 tops, 1 dress, 1 purse, 1 skirt)
2014: 9 items (3 pairs of shoes, 4 tops, 1 dress, 1 coat)
2015: 14 items (5 tops, 2 cardigans, 2 purses, 1 vest, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt)
2016: 23 items (4 pairs of shoes, 1 skirt, 1 vest, 5 pairs of pants, 7 tops, 1 jacket, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 dress,1 cardigan)
TOTAL: 66 items from 2008-2016
I suspect that some of these numbers would be higher if it wasn’t for the menopausal weight and shape changes that I experienced after going through “the change” almost four years ago. A number of the pieces that I passed on in recent years were for fit-related reasons. Even in light of this, I’m happy that I still own 66 items from more than three years ago.
By the Numbers – Item Categories
Now, let’s look at the items that have stood the test of time in my closet, separated out by category. Where applicable, I’ve included some notes about certain categories regarding patterns I’ve noticed and lessons I’ve learned.
Pants: 5 (all Athleta brand and all purchased in 2016)
Jeans: 3 (all Lucky brand and all purchased in 2015-2016)
Part of why I don’t have any jeans from before 2015 is because I changed the silhouette I liked wearing from wider boot-cuts to narrower styles (mostly straight-leg, but they often look like skinnies on me).
Skirts: 4 (2 maxi length, 2 midi length)
Dresses: 3 (2 maxi length, 1 midi length)
Sleeveless Tops: 4
Short-Sleeved Tops: 7
Long-Sleeved Tops: 13
As you can see, I have more than twice as many long-sleeved tops left in my closet from over three years ago than both short-sleeved and sleeveless tops combined. Many of these long-sleeved tops are mostly just worn at home these days, but they are still in excellent condition despite many, many wears (probably more than 100 for most of the waffle tops and tees). My older short-sleeved tops haven’t held up nearly as well by comparison, perhaps because the material is thinner and there is little to no spandex in the mix.
I’ve found that tees that include some spandex tend to wash better (I always launder my clothes in cold water and hang them up to dry) than those that are either all cotton or a cotton and synthetic blend without spandex. Case in point, the black and white striped short-sleeved tee in the short-sleeved tops photo includes some spandex and is still in great condition five years on. But sadly, that particular brand and style is no longer available. I’m still trying to find good quality t-shirts despite trying many different brands, so I would appreciate any recommendations you have. I wrote a post about finding quality tees back in 2016 – compiled by asking for readers’ feedback, so I’m going to revisit some of those suggestions as well (although I know quality can change for given brands as time goes by).
Shoes: 11 (6 sandals, 4 booties, 1 Mary Janes)
The above shoes represent almost half of my total shoe wardrobe. Although I used to overbuy shoes (and started Recovering Shopaholic with 55 pairs!), I’ve really slowed down in this area in recent years. I’ve also found that my shoes tend to last a long time, provided that I make good purchasing decisions. Most of these shoes will be around for at least another year or two, but I do plan to replace or retire a few of the more worn out pairs later this year or early next year.
These purses are half of the ones I own at present. I used to be more into changing out my handbags on a regular basis, but now I tend to carry one for a month or more before alternating for a bit of variety. Like with the shoes I wear, I prefer carrying either a black or metallic (pewter or silver) handbag, as those colors work well with my black-heavy and cool-toned wardrobe.
By the Numbers – Color
I thought it would be interesting to look at the tallies for the colors of my long-standing items. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that black items are well represented among my longtime wardrobe pieces. But let’s look at an overview of the colors of my 66 items from 2008-2016, categorized by the predominant color in the case of patterned pieces.
Black: 31 items (includes striped garments that are mostly black)
Blue: 15 items (includes denim)
Burgundy: 6 items
Gray: 4 items
Metallic: 4 items (shoes and purses)
Other Colors: 6 items (off-white prints, green, purple, red)
Black, blue, and burgundy continue to be among my favorite colors, but I’ve also started to incorporate more red, pink, and purple items into my wardrobe. I continue to love metallic shoes and handbags (as well as silver jewelry), but I’m not so into gray garments anymore since I transitioned to my natural salt-and-pepper hair color. I still like the gray items pictured above, though, as they’re all of a darker, cool-toned gray that still works for my coloring.
By the Numbers – Solids vs. Patterns
While I was investigating colors, I also thought it would be fun to look at my long-standing items in terms of solid hues and patterns. I may be known for my love of stripes, but I still default to solid pieces more often than not (this is true for my newer pieces as well). Here’s how the numbers break down for my 66 older items regarding solids vs. patterns:
Solid Items: 40
Twenty-four of these items are black, four are burgundy, eight are blue or denim, and the rest are metallic/gray.
Striped Items: 13 (mostly tops)
Nine of these garments are either predominantly black or include black. Five include blue (two are blue and black striped). Only one item doesn’t include either black or blue.
Other Patterns: 13
Represented among these patterns are polka dots, subtle prints (the two pairs of pants), watercolor prints, and geometric prints. I’m not really a fan of larger prints or florals (on me), so if I veer away from my signature stripes, I usually go for something more subdued.
Older Items I’m on the Fence About
I suspect that some of my 66 items from 2008-2016 may leave my closet this year, as they are currently in either my “holding zone” or “skinny box.” Here’s a look at those items:
Holding Zone: 2 items (both are skirts)
I’ve had these skirts since 2009 and 2015, respectively. The black piped skirt, which I purchased for a very low price at a resale shop, was a favorite of mine for many years and was probably worn over a hundred times (I only tracked wears from 2011 through 2018, but I wore it 60 times during those years, for a cost-per-wear of $0.28). But my style and silhouette preferences have since changed and I’m not as enamored of A-line skirts these days.
It’s more likely that I will hold on to the narrower and longer tie-dye skirt, which I mostly haven’t worn recently due to a lack of suitable tops to wear with it (I’ve purged a lot of my summer tops because they were too snug). As the weather warms up, I will re-evaluate whether or not this skirt – and the black one – will work for me now. Since I have “tanks or short-sleeved tops to pair with skirts” on my shopping priorities list, I will hopefully find two or three good options to wear with the tie-dye skirt (and others I own) should I opt to keep it.
Skinny Box: 7 items (2 coats, 2 pairs of pants, 1 tank, 2 pairs of jeans)
Four of the above items are pants/jeans that are currently too snug for me to wear comfortably. With the jeans, it’s more about physical comfort, whereas the issue is more emotional comfort for the burgundy and gray pants. I own both pairs of jeans in a size up and wear the larger versions regularly, so I was only holding on to the snug pants in case I drop some weight. I also have similar versions of both pairs of pants that I can comfortably wear now, so I may choose to pass the ones shown above on for donation. However, since pants are so difficult for me to find and I’ve been gradually dropping weight (especially since I dramatically reduced my sugar intake, which I may write about soon), I may hold on to the jeans and pants for a while longer.
The parka, knit coat, and burgundy tank are a bit snug on me, but I would still love to wear them if they fit me well. I’ve hung on to them in the hopes that they could be wardrobe staples again as they once were (the parka was worn over 300 times, the knit coat over 100 times, and the tank about 50 times!), but I may have to pass them on soon. Even though I’ve lost some of the weight I gained with menopause (I don’t know how much since I never weigh myself), my proportions have shifted such that things don’t look the same on me anymore. I guess this is just part of getting older and we have to change some of the silhouettes we wear as a result. It’s taking me a little while to figure it all out, but I’m settling more into a new way of dressing for my post-menopausal years.
My commitment is to get my “skinny box” down to ten or fewer items by the end of my “half project” (April 30th). There are currently 17 items in there, including seven that were purchased during the 2017-2019 timeframe, so I will need to make some tough decisions soon.
Revisiting Common Elements
In my 2015 post, I shared some of the common elements among my long-standing items at that point in time, particularly the ones that I was still wearing regularly. Here are the common elements that I mentioned back then that still hold true for the pieces that have stood the test of time in my 2020 wardrobe:
- Black – I’m still wearing a lot of black and I think I’m even more partial to this color than I was back in 2015. I like the chicness and simplicity of black and I think it looks good with my coloring, probably even more so since my gray hair transition (which I plan to write about again soon). Most days, I wear one or more black pieces in my ensembles, whether I’m at home or out and about. I like black shoes, purses, and accessories, in addition to black garments.
- Jewel Tones – I continue to love wearing jewel-toned items, especially those in blue and purple tones. I’m not as into green as I used to be, but I still like to wear teal.
- Burgundy/Purple/Fuchsia – Burgundy has long been a favorite color of mine, but purple and fuchsia were less prevalent in my wardrobe in recent years. However, I’m bringing those colors back in now, along with red, which is my color theme for the year (as I wrote about in this post).
- Metallic Accessories – Many of my shoes and purses are in cool-toned metallic shades, as I mentioned above. I continue to love the versatility of silver and pewter accessories, as they pair well with pretty much everything in my wardrobe.
- Knits – I still strongly prefer knit items over woven ones, mostly for the sake of comfort. I also like that they are easy to care for and rarely require ironing (which I hate to do). The majority of my pants are still of the woven variety, but they usually include at least some stretch for comfort.
- Cotton/Natural Fibers – I much prefer natural fibers over synthetics, but I’m open to fabric blends, especially when they include spandex (which I find helps garments to fit better and hold their shape over time).
- Solids Over Prints – As I mentioned above, I wear solid items far more often than patterned ones, but when I do wear a print, it’s most liked striped.
- Open Cardigans – This style continues to be a go-to for me and I especially like the longer duster styles that have become more popular lately.
- Long Fitted Coats – These were part of my “uniform” for years, but I purged all of the ones that were included in my 2015 post due to fit issues and shifting style preferences. I brought a few new long coats into my wardrobe last year and am enjoying wearing that style once again.
- Henley-Style Tops – I still own most of the Henley tops that I wrote about five years ago, although they’re mostly worn only at home these days. I’m opening to purchasing more of this style, as I find it flattering on me.
- Knee-Length A-Line Dresses – Even though I’m not into A-line skirts anymore, I still like to wear dresses with a bit of flare to them. I do like much less of a flare now, though, than I used to, and prefer more of a straight cut to a slight A-line.
- Low Embellishment – Although I’d love to replace the burgundy embellished tank that’s in my skinny box, I mostly shy away from much embellishment on my clothing. A little bit is okay, as with the tank, but I don’t like to wear clothing that includes too many bells and whistles.
Between 2015 and today, some of my sartorial preferences have shifted. This can be accounted for by both body changes and style preference shifts. The following types of items have mostly been removed from my wardrobe:
- Gray Clothing – Although some darker, cool-toned grays still look good on me, most gray shades now clash with my hair and make me look washed out.
- Short, Fitted Blazers – Such pieces are mostly too formal for my casual lifestyle and I now prefer to wear various types of cardigans instead. I’m open to adding a knit jacket or two to my wardrobe again, but I don’t have much desire to wear actual blazers anymore, with the possible exception of a knit boyfriend style.
- Short, Fitted Tanks – While I used to love wearing very fitted tops, I now prefer more of a streamlined fit that skims my body rather than clings to it.
- Leopard Print – Unless it’s a cool-toned leopard print, I don’t think this pattern works well for my coloring anymore. It’s too warm-toned and even though my skin has always been cool-toned, I was able to wear standard leopard print when I had auburn dyed hair. Now I steer away from this print because it just doesn’t look good on me anymore.
As you can see, many of my style preferences remain the same as they were five years ago. A few things have shifted, but a lot of what I liked then I still like now. My style leans toward classic and I don’t adopt a lot of trends. This means that when I find an item that I like and that is of good quality, it tends to stay in my wardrobe for a relatively long time. As the data in this post shows, when a garment, pair of shoes, or accessory manages to stick around for longer than a year, it’s often still in my closet a number of years later. Mistakes are often weeded out relatively quickly, whether the issue was poor quality, fussiness, or just that the style wasn’t really “me.”
Doing the type of exploration that I did in this post can be helpful, as once we become clearer on what types of items stand the test of time and why, we’ll be more empowered to make better choices when shopping. Of course, there are always variables that can lead to purchases not working out (i.e. things not wearing or washing well, or trying a trend that we don’t end up getting fully on board with), but the more we’re aware of what does and doesn’t work for us, the better we’ll fare at having our closet pieces hang around for a longer period of time.
Some of us like to experiment with fashion more than others and we should do so if that’s what makes us happy (as long as it doesn’t manifest in compulsive shopping). However, it’s always a good idea to tread lightly when it comes to new styles and trends. A little can go a long way! There are probably lots of cold-shoulder and flared-sleeve tops in secondhand stores now because many women bought too many such pieces while they were all the rage. I know I’ve done something similar far too many times, as well as purchased multiple colors of the same style just because “if one is good, five is better!” Live and learn…
I don’t think most of us will ever get to the point where we’ll make zero shopping mistakes, especially since some of those missteps are out of our control (i.e. poor quality that isn’t always discernible at first glance – check out what to look for HERE). We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves when an item doesn’t work out; we should instead look for the lesson that will help to prevent future purchasing errors. Once we see patterns for what does and doesn’t work out for us in terms of our wardrobes, we should focus our shopping efforts on the positives.
Sticking with the tried and true will help us to remain happy with what’s in our closets, at least for the most part. There’s always room to try new things, but maybe the 80/20 rule applies here. If we focus 80% of our shopping efforts on what we know works for us and keep our experimentation under 20%, we’re likely to keep our mistakes to a minimum and move from closet chaos into the type of streamlined wardrobe bliss that most of us are aiming for. That’s what I plan to do moving forward and hopefully my purchase success rate will dramatically improve and I’ll be able to buy less and experience less “closet churn.”
Hopefully you found this exploration of my longstanding wardrobe items interesting. Even if your wardrobe is a lot different than mine, perhaps you gained a few useful “nuggets” or aha moments that you can apply to your own closet. As always, I’d love it if you would share your thoughts related to this post, especially if seeing my pictures and reading my insights prompted you to examine your own wardrobe. Here are a few questions to help focus your comments, but feel free to share whatever you’d like:
- How long do you usually hold on to the items in your wardrobe?
- Are there particular wardrobe categories that tend to last longer? Why do you think that is?
- Do some types of items tend to be passed on more quickly? What reasons do you see for that?
- What colors, styles, and silhouettes do you continue to reach for year after year?
I look forward to reading your thoughts! Have a wonderful weekend and for those in most parts of the U.S., enjoy the extra hour of evening daylight that we’re going to get beginning on Sunday. I’ll be back soon with another post. Upcoming topics include some thoughts on my “enough” theme for 2020, an update on my wardrobe half project (description HERE and last update HERE), and an update on my gray hair journey (see previous posts here).