In my last post, I shared an update on “the state of my wardrobe,” specifically my at-home pieces and crossover items (things that I can wear both at home and out and about). I also introduced a new guideline that I’ve put in place called “the rule of ten.” When I published that post, I thought I had been fairly comprehensive in recapping how I’m doing with my wardrobe, but I soon realized that I had left out some key areas.
Since my wardrobe posts are typically popular with readers – and because we all need some distraction right about now, I decided to do a part two. Today’s post will cover what I’ve purged from my closet this year and why, and the state of my “holding zone,” and the out-and-about item purchases I’ve made thus far in 2020. If you like wardrobe analysis and number crunching, you’re in luck!
What I’ve Removed from my Closet in 2020 – and Why
Let’s start by examining the pieces that I’ve removed from my closet so far in 2020. I’m going to primarily look at out-and-about and crossover items here, as I’ve found that most of my at-home and workout items tend to stick around until they are worn out. The exception to this is when there are issues with items that weren’t readily apparent upon purchase, but this phenomenon happens to even the best shoppers from time to time, especially in light of declining quality and workmanship.
I have traditionally accumulated far too many out-and-about pieces and made far more purchasing mistakes with that segment of my wardrobe than with my at-home and workout items. Additionally, out-and-about pieces have been the largest proportion of what I own, although that is gradually shifting over the past year, as I focus on having my wardrobe better match the way I actually live my life.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the 28 out-and-about items that I’ve passed on so far this year:
I feel that it’s helpful to examine why we let go of closet pieces, as it can assist us in avoiding future buying mistakes. I found that there were seven key reasons for my 2020 purged items. Included below are photos and explanations for why I decided to pass on the items in question.
I liked the look of both of the tops below, but not the feel. They were both somewhat scratchy and the top on the left was also a bit too stiff. I allowed my love of how the tops looked, as well as the fact that both tops were on sale, to influence my decision to keep them (they were both purchased online, so I wasn’t able to feel the fabric before buying). We often allow one aspect of a garment to sway our point of view, but that’s a mistake. If something isn’t a “hell yeah,” then it really should be a “no”!
I no longer resonate with the styles of the skirt and dress shown below. I will be writing an entire post about personal style soon that will shed more light on this topic, but for now I’ll just say that these items skew too “boho” for my current style aesthetic. I had the skirt since 2008 and likely wore it hundreds of times, but it just wasn’t “me” anymore. The dress was only a few years old, but I just wasn’t feeling it anymore this year. Additionally, it was never quite maxi length on me and I’m just not willing to settle for “almost” fits any longer (more on that later in this post).
Don’t you just hate clothes that won’t stay in place and you have to fuss around with them all day? Well, that was the case with the three tops below. I think the problem was that they were all just a bit too big on me and didn’t have any stretchiness in them to keep them in place. It’s too bad because I liked the style of all of these tops, but I’m just not willing to wear clothes that I have to adjust multiple times throughout the day. I guess I need to do better at testing things out before I commit to keeping them. This includes moving around in the fitting room and simulating the type of movements I’ll likely be doing while going about my day-to-day life.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the items that I purged had some sort of fit issue. Here’s a look at the garments that I passed along for that reason:
Because I can be hard to fit, I have a tendency to “settle,” particularly when it comes to things being too short (pant lengths, sleeves, etc.), but there were other fit issues with the items above. I decided to classify the fit issues to better understand what was going on. Here are the tallies that I came up with (NOTE: some items were included in more than one fit issue category):
- Too Short: 6 items
- Too Small: 6 items (all except one were many years old and used to fit me well)
- Too Large: 6 items
- Too Long: 2 items (“hand me down” skirt and top)
- Just Poor Fit Overall: 3 items
I don’t regret purchasing three of the items (black knit coat, black metro slouch capris, and burgundy tank), as I got a lot of wear out of all of these items, even though the capris were always just a bit too short. Because the coat and the tank were purchased a long time ago and my body has changed in recent years with menopause, they are no longer flattering on me. If these two pieces looked good on me now, I would still want to wear them, as they’re still in line with my style preferences.
As for everything else, I would classify them as purchasing mistakes, even though many of the items were worn multiple times. I need to hold out for pieces that either fit me close to perfectly off the rack or can be easily transformed via a straightforward alteration (i.e. not the type that I outlined in this post!). I’m doing a lot better in this regard, as I’ve passed up many more items in recent months because the fit was “off.” I need to continue on this trajectory, as well as only buying items that are in line with my current lifestyle and style aesthetic.
Three of the items that I passed on were for reasons other than what was detailed above:
The cobalt cardigan still makes me sad today. I purchased it last summer and wore it probably ten times before it became a “pilly” mess. I loved the look and feel, but clearly the quality was just poor. It only cost $18, but the cost-per-wear was probably still around $2 (I would prefer a cost-per-wear of $1 or less) and I also miss having a vibrant blue cardigan to wear.
I purchased the purple capris at a consignment store. I liked the black zipper details and buttons down the sides, but the pants smelled like laundry detergent. I’m very sensitive to chemical smells, but I thought I would be able to remove the smell. Sadly, I just wasn’t able to do so. I thought that I could tolerate the smell because the pants weren’t close to my face, but my eyes, nose, and throat still burned horribly the one time I tried to wear them. The pants are now in my donation bag, but if you’re aware of any good tips for removing stubborn odors, please let me know.
I bought the red cardigan on Poshmark because I liked the blue one so much (this was before I knew about the pill issue). It was supposed to be “new without tags” and the same size and silhouette as the blue one, but the sleeves were both tight and short. Additionally, the color ended up being more of an orange red than the blue red that I desired. Even if the fit and color were right, though, the cardigan probably still would have pilled like the other one.
I didn’t have good luck with shopping on Poshmark during my short stint of doing so last year. I have a friend who does very well with Poshmark purchases, but she’s shorter and easier to fit than I am (and also less sensitive to fabrics and smells). I think I’ll stick to buying items that I can see and touch – and can also return if necessary – from now on.
The Holding Zone
As you can see, I’ve gotten rid of a lot this year (I also purged many more items during the second half of 2019 as part of my “half project,” but I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too much data in this post). But I still have some pieces in my “holding zone” that I’m pondering on whether to keep or purge. As you may recall if you were following along with my “wardrobe half project” last year, two of my rules for that challenge related to garments that I was holding on to:
- At the end of the challenge (4/30/20), all holding zone items should either make their way back into my active wardrobe or get passed on for consignment or donation. I can hold on to a maximum of 10 holding zone items after the challenge.
- I may keep a maximum of 10 items that don’t currently fit me after the end of the challenge.
When I first launched the “half project,” my holding zone consisted of the closet in my home office (which was almost completely full!), but I gradually pared it down to one plastic storage bin. I also had another storage bin that I called my “skinny box,” which was where items that didn’t fit me (but that I still liked) were stored. I’m now down to a single bin for both categories of items. This bin is stored in my garage, and the remainder of my wardrobe is housed in my main closet, with the exception of coats and outdoor jackets that are stored in our hall closet.
Let’s look at the holding zone first… I now have just seven items stored away that currently fit me but I’m unsure about:
Below are the reasons for why these seven items are “on the bubble” in terms of whether or not I plan to keep them:
- Black Athleta Trekkie hike pants: I don’t love the fabric of these pants. I would never wear them for hiking or walking because I prefer stretchier pants for that purpose. I bought these pants for out-and-about wear, but I have typically reached for an alternate pair of black pants instead of this pair. My hesitation in letting them go is that they fit well and weren’t cheap.
- Black Cabi “clipart” blouse: I loved this blouse on another woman I know, but I don’t feel the same way about it on me. I’ve put it on a few times in recent months and taken it off, but since it’s never been worn, I put it into my holding zone rather than the donation bag. I’ll revisit it in a month or two and decide upon its fate.
- Black/fuchsia print skirt: This skirt isn’t quite maxi length on me and the waistband isn’t all that comfortable, but I like the print. I also don’t have many good tops to wear with skirts at present, and the ones I do like are all printed and won’t work with a printed skirt (I’m not really into pattern mixing). Additionally, I now prefer wearing dresses over skirts, so I may not hold on to many skirts if I continue to feel this way.
- Black cropped Lululemon pants: The issue with both this pair and the dark red pair is that they’re too big for me. I sized up to get additional length (the hem on the smaller size hit me too high on my calf) when I should have instead realized that this style wasn’t right for me (it wasn’t offered in a longer length). So I’m now trying to decide whether I should pay to get the pants taken in or pass them on. I’ll see what my tailor thinks and how much it might cost before making my decision.
- Black velvet detailed skirt: This was a semi-recent thrift store buy that I’ve never worn. In theory, I like the style, but again I haven’t been as into skirts as dresses lately. I also don’t think I own any tops that would work with this skirt. I’ll try it on again in a month or two and decide whether or not I want to keep it and try to find tops to wear with it.
- Black and white print A-line skirt: This skirt was my mother-in-law’s and it fits me well, but there are two divots at the waistline that I think were from a bad hanger. So if I opt to keep it, I’ll have to see if that flaw can be fixed. I like the design, but it skews dressy, just like the previous one does. There are no dressy occasions in my life at present and few even when there isn’t a pandemic going on.
- Dark red Lululemon cropped pants: Same comment as for the black pair.
Upon examination, I think it’s likely that many of these pieces will be passed on. The pants have the greatest utility for my life, but they all have issues. If it makes sense to take in the cropped pants, I’ll do so, but one pair at a time to see if I actually end up wearing them. I’ll likely hold off on a decision for the full length pants until the weather cools off again.
The “Skinny Box”
As I mentioned above, I no longer have separate boxes for my “holding zone” and “skinny box,” but I do still separate them out for tracking purposes. The rules of my “half project” dictated that I should only keep a maximum of ten items that didn’t fit me by the end of the challenge term. At present, I have only four such items, so I reached that benchmark. These items are shown below:
I could technically wear all of the above items now, but they’re too snug for both my personal preferences and physical comfort. I like my clothes to skim my body but not to fit tightly or show lumps and bulges. Here are some notes about the four items that don’t currently fit me but that I’m still holding on to (for now):
- Black Cabi coat with ruffle collar: I had this coat taken in last year, but the tailor (someone working for my usual seamstress) took it in too much, such that it’s now snug in the hip area. The coat really only looks good if it’s fully buttoned up and that doesn’t work on me now. I’ll try it on again in the fall and see what I think, as there will be no occasion to wear it for months now with the warmer weather.
- Black tailored vest: This vest used to be a favorite of mine back in 2015/2016, but it doesn’t have the same sort of streamlined fit on my post-menopausal figure. I’ve worn it a few times in recent years, but I don’t really like how it looks now. I’d love to find something similar in a size up, as I liked how it was a nice completer piece for long-sleeved tops and jeans outfits.
- Burgundy knit pants: I have this same style in black, but for some reason this pair fits more snugly. I’ve been hesitant to let go of any non-basic pants (i.e. black or denim), as they’re so hard for me to come by, but if I don’t like how these look and feel come fall, they will be gone.
- Mid-wash straight-leg jeans: I have this same style in a size up, but the denim on this pair is softer. Therefore, these jeans would be more to my liking if they weren’t so snug. Again, it’s hard for me to let go of pants because they’re so difficult for me to find, especially in long enough lengths, but I’ll revisit them when temperatures cool down and make a decision on their fate.
I’m proud of myself that I’ve managed to significantly pare down my stash of garments that are “on the fence.” They all comfortably fit into one storage box with room to spare. I plan to continue confining my holding zone items to a single box, which will include both items that don’t currently fit and things I’m unsure about. I intend to go through my holding zone at least twice a year and preferably every quarter to make sure I keep this area of my wardrobe to a minimum.
Now that you’ve seen what I’ve passed on this year and the small number of items that I’m on the fence about, I want to share the out-and-about clothing purchases that I’ve made thus far in 2020. As a reminder, one of my wardrobe goals for this year is to purchase a maximum of 36 out-and-about items. My main reason for instituting this item limit is to cut down on the closet churn that has been a common occurrence for me for quite some time. I often do a great job of cleaning out my closet, but if I keep buying far too many new items, I’ll continue to have a wardrobe that’s larger than what I need or want.
How did I come up with the number 36? Well, I believe that most of my closet pieces should last three or four years and I set a benchmark of 118-137 items for my out-and-about wardrobe (see the second half of this post to see how I came up with those numbers). Consequently, if I buy 36 items per year, I’d be replacing roughly a quarter to a third of my items, which sounds about right. However, now that I’m leaning more into “crossover” items that I can wear both at home and when I’m out (I wrote a lot about that in my last post), I’ll likely lower my benchmarks for the number of items in my out-and-about only wardrobe and how many new such pieces I should purchase each year.
A New Target Number?
Using “the rule of ten” that I wrote about in my last post, I currently have 89 out-and-about only garments. This number actually feels a bit high and I could see bringing it down to 75. But even considering my current number and the likelihood of my replacing a quarter to a third of those pieces each year, my new yearly purchase target would be 19-30 items. I would likely “split the difference” and settle upon 25 new out-and-about only items per year, which rounds out to roughly two per month.
But can I meet this revised target this year? Well, that partly depends upon whether or not I want to include shoes in the number. I did include shoes in my 36-item limit, but I didn’t consider shoes in my “rule of ten” or my current out-and-about only item number of 89. I do think it would be practical for me to own ten warm weather shoes and ten cool weather shoes, however, and that wouldn’t be too far off of my current shoe total of twenty-five pairs. I could probably let go of five pairs of shoes that I rarely or never wear.
I don’t have to figure all of this out now and I expect that I will revisit and refine my wardrobe benchmarks in the coming months. However, I wanted to let you know where my thoughts are now, after shifting my wardrobe and shopping perspective considerably as a result of the pandemic and staying home all the time for the past ten weeks. I can definitely see buying far fewer items that I will only wear when I’m out and about. I should have shifted my behavior a long time ago, but better late than never, right?
What I’ve Bought So Far This Year
So now let’s take a look at the out-and-about only items that I’ve purchased this year:
There are 17 items there, broken down into the following categories:
- 1 sleeveless top
- 1 short-sleeved top
- 1 long-sleeved top
- 5 toppers (4 cardigans, 1 kimono)
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of pants
- 5 pairs of shoes (3 open-toe, 2 closed-toe)
All of these items were purchased prior to the coronavirus shutdown, in the following ways:
- January end-of-season sample sale: 6 items (3 tops, 2 cardigans, 1 pair of jeans)
- Consignment store: 3 items (2 pairs of shoes, kimono)
- Retail online: 4 items (2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shoes)
- Brick-and-mortar stores: 4 items (2 cardigans, 2 pairs of shoes)
Updated Shopping Priorities
A lot of these items haven’t been worn yet due to the shutdown and my not going out, so I can’t say how many of them were good purchases. I did, however, buy the following items from the shopping priorities list I made earlier in the year:
- Blouses in lighter/brighter colors (2)
- Black straight-leg pants/trousers
- Dark-wash straight-leg jeans (2)
- Printed pants
- Printed topper
- Gray booties
- Silver/pewter peep-toe booties
Since I don’t want to buy too many more out-and-about only pieces, I have amended my shopping priorities list and will focus on the following items when shopping during the remainder of the year:
- Turquoise short-sleeved top
- Burgundy short-sleeved top
- Black straight-leg jeans
- Red or red print dress
- Tanks or short-sleeved tops to pair with skirts – black, solid colors (2-3)
- Red topper
- Replacement black flat sandals
When I shop for out-and-about only items, I want to be highly targeted in what I will buy, as I’d like to keep those numbers low – definitely within the 36 item target and preferably more like 25 items. I’m not limiting how many at-home and crossover items I can purchase, but I have my clothing budget to keep me in check with my overall purchases. I’ve already spent more than half of my budget, so I’ll need to continue to be mindful and careful with my expenditures.
Conclusion / Your Thoughts?
I feel good about how I’m doing with my wardrobe this year. While I bought too much at the beginning of 2020, my shopping has leveled off considerably since then. Yes, a large part of that slow-down was due to the pandemic, but I’m still happy to be buying less and placing my focus on what I actually wear on a day-to-day basis. I’ve revamped my undergarment collection, bought some more comfortable pants to wear both at home and when I’m out, and added some great shoes and scarves (not pictured in this post, but I bought two red print scarves and a pink print scarf) to my wardrobe. I’m also doing a lot better at dressing for my real day-to-day life and I feel happier in my at-home outfits now that I’ve embraced wearing crossover items.
I know that many of you commented on the state of your wardrobe in response to my last post, but perhaps this additional recap has sparked further thoughts and considerations. As always, you’re welcome to share your insights, either about your own wardrobe or on what I shared here regarding mine.
I hope you’re all continuing to stay safe and will be able to get back to at least some semblance of “normal” in your lives soon. Although I’ve adjusted to the shelter-in-place life, I do hope to be able to resume some of my pre-pandemic activities this summer, including seeing friends and walking on the boardwalks by the water. Shopping, movies, and eating in restaurants can wait a while longer, but I definitely need a haircut and hope that will be possible before too long! Wishing you all the very best and I’ll be back soon with another post.