Last week, I gave an update on how I’m doing with my “20 for 2020” goals. I also shared the ways in which I’m modifying these goals to meet my changing life circumstances. Some of my 2020 goals relate to my wardrobe and style, as I outlined in this February post. Although I highlighted my progress with all of my 2020 objectives in my last essay, there’s more that I want to say about my wardrobe today. I also want to debrief the year-long wardrobe challenge that I took on last May, my “wardrobe half project,” and introduce a new rule/guideline that I’ve put in place for my wardrobe.
“Out and About” Outfits – Some Cold, Hard Facts
For all of us, this year isn’t going the way we originally thought it would. This is true for many aspects of our lives, including our wardrobes. At the beginning of the year, I decided to track how often I got dressed in “out-and-about” outfits each month. I had estimated that I wore such clothes maybe half of the time, but I wanted to compile some cold, hard facts rather than just guess at what was going on.
Here’s how the numbers have turned out thus far:
- January: 9 “out-and-about” outfits
- February: 12
- March: 7 (all before March 15th)
- April: 3
- May: 5 (through May 12th)
My January number was low because I was sick for a long time in the second half of the month (with at least the “regular flu” and potentially even the coronavirus if it started earlier like some people believe). My February number was probably pretty consistent with “normal,” as was the first half of March, so I’d say that my guess of wearing “out-and-about” outfits roughly half the time is spot on. I think 40-50% of the time is how often I typically get dressed in my “out-and-about” clothes.
At Home “Uniforms”
Of course, that all went down the tubes in mid-March with the shelter-in-place order that remains in effect where I live. With nowhere to go besides my daily walks and weekly anxiety-ridden grocery store trips, I’ve been living in my at-home clothing pretty much all of the time. Before the pandemic set in, I had already made an effort to create a cool weather at-home “uniform” for myself that was both physically comfortable and in line with my style aesthetic. This uniform mostly consisted of long-sleeved waffle tops, loose-fitting black athletic pants, and bootie style slippers.
Here are some of the pieces I wore at home for the first few months of the year:
Most of the tops had previously been worn out and about, and some of them continue to be used for that purpose on occasion. They’re all casual, comfortable, and reasonably warm. The pants are for wearing at home only, as most of my out-and-about pants aren’t sufficiently comfortable for sitting in front of my computer all day long. Because I suffer from several chronic pain issues, including nerve pain, I make a point of wearing pieces that maximize my physical comfort whenever possible. It continues to be challenging for me to marry comfort and style, but my patience and diligence have paid off, such that I feel relatively happy with my cool weather at-home uniform.
But, in addition to life looking and feeling very different this spring, the weather has also varied from what we usually see this time of year. Although I typically wear my cool weather clothes well into June, higher temperatures this year resulted in my starting to wear my warm weather items over a month ago. Now I’m working on coming up with a warm weather uniform that will serve me well in the coming months. During this process, I’ve come to some important realizations.
The Beauty of “Crossover” Pieces
For years, I’ve had very distinct at-home and “out-and-about” wardrobes, with little to no crossover between the two. Although I’ve spent the bulk of my time at home for years, I mostly gave little thought and attention to what I wore for that large sector of my life. I had a small capsule of lounge wear that was “serviceable” but didn’t spark joy or make me feel particularly pretty or stylish. I took the attitude that it didn’t particularly matter what I wore when I was at home, as hardly anyone ever saw me there. I didn’t look sloppy or unkempt at home, and my husband didn’t complain about what I was wearing, but sometimes I felt frumpy (the real F-word, in my book!) and unattractive.
A few years ago, I decided to start cultivating a better at-home wardrobe and allocated more of my clothing budget and shopping efforts toward that goal. That increased attention definitely resulted in nicer and more flattering lounge wear, but there continued to be a distinct separation between my at-home and out-and-about wardrobes, and the latter continued to be my top priority.
Enter the pandemic and the complete obliteration of any and all occasions for wearing my large out-and-about wardrobe. As the weeks went on – and especially once the warmer weather set in, I found myself growing increasingly bored with my relatively small at-home specific wardrobe. So I decided to challenge myself to see which warm weather items would work well for wearing at home. As I expected, most of my cropped pants weren’t up to the task because they lack sufficient stretch and comfort to wear all day long, but I did designate a few pairs that work perfectly well for wearing at home. As for my tops, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the majority of them are comfortable and casual enough to work as part of my at-home wardrobe.
I haven’t evaluated all of my warm weather items as of yet. For one, it hasn’t really been hot enough to pull out my sleeveless tops, so I’ve been primarily wearing short-sleeved tops. If necessary, I wear one of my open knit cardigans if I find myself needing a topper. For shoes, I’ve been wearing the black plastic slides that I bought for wearing around the house last summer. They’re sufficiently comfortable for walking on our ceramic tile floors and they pair well with most of my at-home clothes. I may want to add another pair of nicer-looking slides to the mix this summer just to give myself some variety and a more upscale option.
Here’s a look at my warm weather at-home capsule thus far:
Some of the tops were part of what I originally wore at home last summer, but many of them were pulled from what I previously considered my out-and-about wardrobe. They’re all tops that are casual in nature but can be dressed up if desired by means of what I pair them with and how I accessorize them. I will likely add a few of my sleeveless tops to the capsule as the weather warms up, and I’d like to potentially add in some more pants as well, but I’m mostly happy with what I have and feel that it’s sufficient. I’m pleased that I have many more “crossover” items than I thought and I’m happy to be wearing more of my wardrobe during these times of sheltering in place.
So, What about the “Half Project”?
This all brings me to giving an update on the wardrobe “half project” that I launched last May. Although it may seem like I’m taking a 180 degree turn with this shift in topic, I promise you that it will all come back together!
When I decided to launch the half project, here are the reasons I gave for my decision:
- I had too many clothes and felt overwhelmed by my wardrobe.
- I felt a lot of guilt for having purchased too many items.
- I wanted my closet to consist only of items that I feel good in and look forward to wearing.
- My theme for 2019 was “freedom” and I didn’t feel that my wardrobe was in line with that objective (interestingly, my 2020 theme of “enough” dovetails well with the challenge, too).
Basically, what I did with the “half project” was select just half of the items within each wardrobe category (outlined in the introduction post) to use for creating my out-and-about outfits. I moved the remaining items that didn’t make the cut to another closet in my house. I allowed myself to swap items in and out of my “working closet” as needed in order to determine what was and wasn’t working for me, with the goal of culling out the lesser pieces to end up with only my favorites at the end of the challenge. It got a bit unwieldy to keep track of all of the swaps, so things got to be a lot more “organic” as the year progressed.
Taking on the “half project” helped me to pare down my wardrobe and learn a lot more about what I need for my current body and lifestyle, as well as what I most enjoy wearing. I didn’t quite reduce the contents of my closet to half of the original numbers, but I’m a lot happier with my wardrobe now and find it much more manageable. I’ve also organized my closet in a way that makes it easier for me to get dressed every day.
Additionally, through navigating being at home all the time over the past two months, I’ve had a shift in perspective with my wardrobe that I’ve found extremely helpful. I’m now wearing more of my clothes on a regular basis when I’m at home, rather than waiting to put them on only when I have special plans outside of the house. This has resulted in a much smaller out-and-about only wardrobe and a much larger crossover wardrobe that can be worn both at home and when I’m out. This means that my wardrobe is much more workable overall, which was a big part of what I was hoping to achieve with the challenge.
A Few Numbers and Statistics…
I don’t keep track of numbers and statistics as much as I used to, but I will share some numbers here. I went through and sorted my entire wardrobe into three categories:
- Items that I only wear at home or for walks/workouts – These items are very casual in nature and are mostly stretchy knit pieces.
- Crossover items that can be worn at home and when I’m out and about – These items are also quite casual and are primarily knits, but they are a bit more upscale than the at-home only pieces. They tend to be more fitted and polished and often have special details to them.
- Items that I can or will only wear out and about – These items may be dressier, more fitted, or too fragile to wear at home around cats who like to be on my lap. In terms of bottom pieces, they tend to be less stretchy and less comfortable, such that I don’t want to wear them all day long.
Here are the numbers I came up with:
- Category 1 (home only): 45 items
- Category 2 (crossover): 80 items
- Category 3 (out only): 89 items
When I tally it all up, here’s what we’re looking at:
- 125 items that I can wear at home.
- 169 items that I can wear out and about.
- 214 total items (since there are 80 crossover items).
This is probably still too many items and I’d likely be better served if the top two numbers were reversed, since I spend the bulk of my time at home (even when it’s not a time of shelter in place). I’d like to see Category 3 (out-and-about only items) decrease over time, as I don’t go out enough to justify having that many items that are only for that purpose. Given my actual lifestyle, at-home and crossover items should make up the bulk of my wardrobe, so that will be my focus moving forward.
Introducing “The Rule of Ten”
As I went through my wardrobe in preparation for this post, I came up with a new guideline for my wardrobe, which I’m calling “the rule of ten.” In order to ensure that my out-and-about only wardrobe size stays manageable, I’m going to limit the number of items in each category to ten or fewer. Ten is a starting point and I can see myself lowering that number to maybe five or seven, depending on the category.
Below are the categories that I’ve designated for the rule of ten, followed by the current number of items I have within each category (in parentheses). Remember, this only applies to my out-and-about only items, not the crossover pieces that can also be worn at home.
- Sleeveless tops (5)
- Short-sleeved tops (8)
- Long-sleeved tops (12)
- Cropped pants (6)
- Long pants / jeans (16)
- Dresses and skirts (10)
- Tops and toppers for skirts/dresses (9)
- Toppers for pants – mostly cardigans (13)
- Coats and vests (10)
- TOTAL = 89 items
The way I’ve designated these categories probably needs a bit of explanation. Since I’m very short-waisted and don’t like to tuck my tops in, I have different tops for pants versus skirts. However, I don’t wear skirts all that often anymore, as I prefer dresses, so I combined the two into one category that will probably mostly consist of dresses as time goes on. Additionally, since I’m not as interested in skirts anymore, I won’t need that many tops to wear with them, and I can wear the same toppers with both skirts and dresses. I included long pants and jeans in the same category, as I feel that it would be reasonable for me to have just ten of both types of items combined. I don’t love all of the jeans and pants that I have, so I can see paring things down in the near term. I may also decide to combine long pants and cropped pants into one category.
I may shift these categories over time, but the bottom line is that I want to contain the size of my out-and-about only wardrobe. For the categories that are already well within the limit of ten pieces, I don’t see the need to add any new items. I’m using the number ten as my benchmark now, but I definitely see myself edging that target downward in the future. I think that the rule of ten will help me to get a better handle on the size of my wardrobe, and I like that it provides a useful framework from which to consider future purchases. Hopefully, having this guideline in place will help me to pause and reconsider buying items that can only be worn out and about, as I already have plenty such pieces.
So that’s basically the state of my wardrobe as it stands in mid-May 2020. I originally planned to discuss my personal style in today’s post as well, but in the interest of not publishing book-length posts, I decided to table that discussion for another day. I hope that reading about my wardrobe revelations helped to produce some consideration and “aha moments” for you.
I’d love to hear how things are going with your wardrobe and how you’re doing with your goals.
- What has changed in terms of your wardrobe in light of being at home a lot more in recent months?
- What would you like your wardrobe to look like as the year progresses?
Feel free to chime in on these topics or anything else you want to share regarding your wardrobe. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.