Newsflash: I really DO love a medium sized closet

Inspired by Peri, as well as Beth Ann, who rolled up her sleeves and got to work in response to her post, I decided to do the same and count what I actually wore this summer. 

It was pretty interesting. I counted from June through September. That's four months vs. the 3 of the "333" idea and includes two transitional months for me in my climate.  

During that period I rotated: 

8 pairs of pants
5 pairs of shorts
3 skirts
3 dresses
20 tops
9 toppers (this includes lightweight sweaters) 
4 sandals
4 shoes
3 bags

That's 48 items if you count toppers but don't count footwear, etc. 

Of course this doesn't count PJs, workout wear, or special occasion wear, which I also wore. 

If you take out the rarely worn or annoying/ hard to style items (3 pants, 2 toppers, 2 shorts, 2 or 3 tops) the total is closer to 40, including the toppers, which I don't wear much in high summer. 

Some of the rarely worn items represent shopping mistakes. Others weren't worn much because of different than expected weather or infrequent occasions for wear. Example: a very light silk top that I really only wear on the hottest days. Seersucker short shorts -- ditto. 

With this wardrobe, I pretty much felt prepared for anything that came up. I didn't run into laundry bottlenecks. I did sometimes get a little bit bored by my combinations. So I was happy by the end of the season to be able to inject a bit of energy via a new VC skirt. 

If I had fewer clothes, I would certainly get bored. I also wouldn't feel "covered" for all my activities, if you know what I mean. I hold quite a few different roles and require (or at least enjoy) different kinds of clothing for the different jobs I do. I think this is about the minimum for me to feel prepared for my life. I could perhaps pare back just a little bit by avoiding mistakes...but then I wouldn't be having as much fun because it's only by trying new things that we make mistakes. So all in all, I'm happy with what I've seen here and hope to keep my fall/winter closet to a similar standard and size.

Although -- truth be told, given my summer experience  -- I might plan to inject some energy with a few key purchases at sale time mid-winter, since our winter is so very long. 

If you have read this far, thank you! And what did YOU actually wear this summer? Will your winter wardrobe be smaller or larger? 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Peri replied 7 years ago

    Cool follow up! I feel honored.

    And I also have to say that we aren't that far off from each other. I counted no transitional months, because for me those would be April/early May which I don't remember, and October which hasn't happened yet. My count was only heat of summer wear. If I added in transitional months my tops at least would probably double, plus I would count a few toppers.

    Cool idea to save some spending for mid-winter fun. Ours aren't long, but I love cool weather clothes so much more I bet my count is higher for those months.

  • Mo replied 7 years ago

    I am pretty much in line with you, Suz.  I pared down from probably around 200+ items to under 150 over the last few years.  That is including shoes and outerwear.  Not including those, I'm right around 100.  I'm finding that's my sweet spot.  And mind you, that includes the very different Tahoe to FL climates.  
    For me, finding a few key pieces that fit just right and mix with others is what made the difference.  For instance, I wear my green cargo skirt and purple shorts most out of my summer bottoms.  They are just grab and go.  No issues, no struggles.  And 80% of my tops go with them both.  
    I do wear more shoe variety than you do, but that is where I get my 'pizazz' when it's so hot out that you are stripped down to bare minimum.  
    I'm thrilled to have found my sweet spot and am now just honing in and slowly purging the 'almosts' for better replacements.

  • Diana replied 7 years ago

    Hm, maybe I should do this.  I am curious!  I'm not sure I remember all my outfits though.  I suspect my numbers are something like yours.  I *did* get a little bored over the summer, but it's because summer dressing is so simple, just one or two pieces max, no layering, so it's harder to keep up the interest.  I resorted to insane pattern mixing there for a while to break the ennui.

    I am pretty sure my winter wardrobe is larger, if only because I can wear so many more pieces each day!  Although the need for laundry is less. 

  • AnnieMouse replied 7 years ago

    I have 73 days/ outfits worth of data, spanning from memorial day (end of May) through today. There are some bits missing, from trips or whatnot, where I didn't record, because I was camping.

    In that span, my results were:
    48 bottoms (32 pants, 11 skirts, 3 dresses)
    49 first layer tops
    31 second layer tops
    15 toppers
    44 pairs of shoes

    Given the data set, I don't think I'm buying much or getting rid of much. Clearly, a small wardobe won't cut it for me.

  • Lisa replied 7 years ago

    This is a great exercise.  Last summer I did a similar exercise in this post.  (the twist part of the check in is more than halfway down in that post)  I took a photo of everything I had for spring summer (photos 1-3) and then kept only what I had worn thus far (photos 4-6).  I ended up purging quite easily from this exercise.  I should do this again this year to see if my closet size has crept up on me. 

    My winter wardrobe is always larger in size, because I run on team cold, so I tend to sport many layers, which increases the size of my wardrobe for that season.

  • catgirl replied 7 years ago

    I'm hoping to do this too. Thanks for sharing your always helpful thoughts! I suspect I'm in this category too, and I need to assess in terms of my new life in which fewer items are needed for work but need to be versatile and interchangeable.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Thanks, all! And thanks, Peri, for the idea. It was really useful. 

    Lisa, I did purge easily based on this exercise. One pair of rarely worn pants is going to go (just too much trouble for me and not truly right for my climate anyway). One topper also went and another may go in the spring. (One was rarely worn; one was worn so much I will be sick of it!) A couple of pants I'm keeping to turn into shorts next year. And other than that, I was glad to see that I really was wearing most of it and could even have used more!

    Mo, I think I need more footwear, too, LOL. Seriously -- I do. Especially more winter footwear. Footwear rules. 

    Annie, wow -- that is an amazing wardrobe! It just goes to show you that people's thresholds and needs really differ and what works for one will not work for another. 

    Diana, I had photos of most outfits and many were repeats so I remembered them. I think I missed a couple of tops in my original count so my numbers might be a bit higher. 

    Peri, it's interesting that we're not as far off from each other as I had supposed. And it does make sense you would need to add more in your transitional months. In my high summer months my clothes basically consisted for about 10 or 12 of the tops, the 3 skirts, 2 of the dresses, the 5 shorts, a denim jacket and a black kimono. 

  • Beth Ann replied 7 years ago

    It was really helpful to see what I actually wore.  I actually found I was wearing more of my items than I thought, which means I'm doing better in my purchasing.  I also realized that, at least in warm weather, I'm managing to wear a lot of skirts and casual dresses.  I'm like you, and I count at least 6 seasons (two transitional ones --- warm Autumn, cool Spring). 

    The review also helped me see what I was tiring of, and is fueling my plans for fall/winter, which are still forming.  Like you, Suz, I'm need variety -- mostly to keep me feeling vibrant and creative -- but I don't do well with endless choice.  This year, I'm planning a mid-season refresher, too!

    The most important thing about your Summer wardrobe is how amazing you looked!

  • AnnieMouse replied 7 years ago

    Suz, in fairness, I do a LOT of thrifting and am a super-sale hound. And a goodly chunk of my thrfting is by-the-pound.

    It's a lot, but I also wear a lot (...obviously). While I sometimes have guilty twinges about how many items I own, tracking the data in a spreadsheet daily has done quite a lot to alleviate it. I also know that I go through major purges 2-3x a year, getting stuff that's no longer a good fit for my life/ current style/ current body back into the thrift cycle (or, alternatively, to friends where appropriate, though few of my friends are the same size range). I feel like I winnow down then swell back up, then winnow.

    Oh, geez. I just realised I'm a binge/ purge shopper/closet curator. *slaps head*

    Wow. Thank you. That's an entirely new perspective for me that is actually really useful

  • Elly replied 7 years ago

    I think I fall somewhere in between you moderation Suz and some of our true minimalists like Claire. I am one who loves to wear her favorite outfits, pieces, and shillouttes and will reach for the same pieces over others even if I have to do laundry! That said, I do have a life that requires having occasional capsules with important but seldom-worn pieces. I also want a clean top everyday and several changes of toppers and bottoms and footwear for every week. I do get bored with the exact same uniform, but small changes in colors, silhouettes, and fabrications or 1-2 new or trendy pieces added into the mix is enough to keep me happy. I have to balance being able to buy nicer pieces but fewer with the need to have enough pieces that I am not sick of or wearing out everything every season.

    This summer I wore:
    2 skirts
    1 dress
    2 pair of shorts
    2-3 pairs of jeans
    8-9 tops
    3 toppers
    3 pairs of shoes

    This amount of clothing worked fairly well for me. However, the actual clothing items themselves could definitely have used some updating since I was mostly wearing odds and ends from the last time I lived in a hot climate ('09). It is time to refresh these things, and update with what is practical for my climate.

    Fall/winter is my dominant season with probably 8 months of cold weather where layers are important. Usually this means this part of my wardrobe is bigger. However, with this grad program and potentially spending more of my time doing fieldwork my casual/smart casual needs could shrink dramatically since I'm basically wearing gear to work. On the other hand, doing contract work means I often have long "vacations" between jobs. Having enough clothes for a 2-3 day weekend and having enough for those longer periods off are generally not the same thing. I guess I will refresh as needed after December (I have several areas in need of replacements) an see how it plays out, while keeping things small in the meantime.

  • unfrumped replied 7 years ago

    Sounds great! I guess that's rotating for seasons since you have severe winter weather. I still haven't counted yet.

    I probably have too many sweaters, even though many are nice wools, because I run cold and overbuy when the weather turns chilly. I  have been trying to go eeny-meeny to see which ones should stay or go, and wear the best ones more often.
    My newsflash for cashmere-type sweaters is that since you have to wash or dryclean them carefully at least once a season (or more) and store carefully, I'd be better off having fewer. Otherwise if I wear  a sweater only once a month in cold weather, then I still have all the care and feeding--wear once or wear 10 times, still needs to be freshly cleaned before storing.
    This isn't such a big deal for cottons & synthetics.

    Plus as per some of the other threads, they may be less "timeless" than I thought so now want to budget for annual updat--  boxy or less boxy,   a new length, textured or smooth, even a trendy color, but fewer overall.

  • rae replied 7 years ago

    Oh, wow, this retroactive capsule post is a fab idea! And easy to do with our WIW archives at hand. 

    It's interesting, because when I see these 333 capsules on other blogs, I always feel like so many of the outfits look the same. Not that they are repeats, but it seems like there are 10 cobalt and white outfits, for example. I never felt that way with your outfit posts... I wonder if the difference is in the capsule or in seeing the capsule posted all together beforehand.  

  • Ingunn replied 7 years ago

    Suz, I think we are on the same page here. The size of my wardrobe revolves around 75 pieces, depending on the season. This includes footwear, too. I think I have more than enough, but I crave variety, just like you. Do you purge at the end of a season, or the beginning? I aways worry that I'll regret it when next year's season comes around if I purge too early.

    I loved reading all the comments in this thread.

  • Isabel replied 7 years ago

    Like so many other, this is inspirational to me. You seem to have a large wardrobe, because every, single piece looks amazing...and that is what I notice. Thank you !

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Ingunn, I purge both at the end of a season, and at the beginning of the next one. If I'm certain that I'm ready to let a piece go (i.e. it is too worn, too impractical, didn't fit the way I'd hoped, etc.) then out it goes at the end of the season. I discarded a few tops, one topper, and one pair of trousers, plus a pair of sandals this way. 

    Then there are the items I am unsure about, but keep. They go into storage (if they are not trans-seasonal) and I make a decision about them the following spring. 

    I also edit within a season if items are not working out and I am certain of this. Sometimes things (esp. summer tops) show their wear all of a sudden, you know?

    Rae, I really did a TON of repeats. If you saw my WIW posts all together, you'd see a sea of VC skirts and a simple shorts with tops outfits. And I wore identical outfits at least once every ten days or so. 

    I didn't even take WIW pics for most of my repeat days. But repeats of outfits don't bother me, per se. Or at least they don't bother me in theory. It's just that eventually I'll get bored. Not sure if that makes sense. 

    I don't actually think a larger wardrobe would be the solution for me. For one thing, I don't have room for it, and for another, I feel too guilty if there are unworn items. So I need to give myself permission to "retire" a certain percentage of items every season and invite new ones to take their place on the one-in-one-out principle. 

    Unfrumped, yes -- this was a 4 month capsule. I actually consider myself to have 6 seasons, but I do a big closet switchover twice a year (with smaller ones in between). Some of my items are cross-seasonal (some dresses, pumps ,jeans, a few toppers, a light cotton sweater.) So I will wear them all year. 

    Elly, it's going to be really interesting to see how your wardrobe needs change in grad school. I have found with each life transition, the changes can affect me much more than I expect! You are wise to consider that your needs might change. 

    Annie, I think thrifting and consignment shopping is a great way to add to your wardrobe without negatively impacting the planet, and I love to recycle my clothes. I also buy at thrift or consignment sometimes. 

    Beth Ann, thank you! And you are right -- this was such a great and reassuring exercise. I felt a lot less guilty about "unworn" items when I realized that A). I actually HAD worn them, even if not often; and B). I wore everything more than once and really did need what I thought I needed. 

  • donnat replied 7 years ago

    This post has been most enlightening. I did my count am at just under 50.
    Now, does this mean i can purge the other 50 summer pieces that I didnt wear?

  • donnat replied 7 years ago

    Woops ...I hit submit too fast. My next ponder was i noticed that my tops dont necessarily match more than one bottom. It seems i have about 30 outfits that i rotate. My wardrobe needs much more work.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Donna, good question!  :-) 

    If it were me, I'd purge them, yes -- unless they are earmarked for special occasion wear or you had bizarre weather patterns this year that don't reflect your usual needs. Or unless your lifestyle is going to change radically and those items would suddenly seem much more useful. 

    But everybody's different. I think for some people, having them in the closet (even if unworn) feels like insurance for making more interesting outfits in the future. Whereas for others with pea brains like mine, extra unworn stuff just spells confusion! 

  • cobaltblue replied 7 years ago

    Oh, this was a helpful post! I spent the summer changing sizes after the new baby and wearing the same things over again. The last few weeks (almost back to normal weight), I've been in a crack between seasons and rotating through four tops and two pairs of long shorts, basically, for my daily casual wear. Boring!!! One top is an all-time-favorite, at least, and another was a much needed wardrobe refresher.

    I'm really waiting to shop so that I'll be able to get what I need when the cold weather hits, but I've a feeling I'm going to be ultra bored again in early Fall. I hate to spend a bunch on cheapies just to keep myself entertained, though.

    I need to go count and then try to figure out what I really need. A medium sized closet as you describe sounds amazing; I think I need to work towards that size so that when my occasions to go into public (requiring more outfits) increase, I'm not caught with an embarassingly low number of options. Or freezing because stuff is in the laundry, leaving me with nothing to wear! Slow and steady.

  • ManidipaM replied 7 years ago

    I find I constantly experience a ridiculous tension between preferred closet size and practical bottlenecks--budget, boredom and laundry.

    I prefer smaller though maybe not as tight as Queen Claire. More than 7 or 8 skirts + pants TOPS has me staring into the closet, paralysed by indecision. 5 or 6 is better. More than a dozen tops starts to add stress. About 9 to 12 shoes for the whole year is my sweetspot (only thing I really enjoy shopping for).

    Like Suz, I can happily repeat... ad nauseam (read: boredom). I can do 33 for 3 readily in selection or use in most seasons but 33 for 2 is better boredom-wise and to replace stuff worn into the ground.

    The trouble is laundry and ironing. Too often, that is what makes me think I need more. In winter, my shortest season in Homebase 1 (Calcutta), the lack of drying space and delicate laundering of woollens plus running cold ramps up the numbers frustratingly high. In summer, my favourite natural fibres get too crushed and take several sweaty changes a day... and vegetable dyes require sorting by colour, not just pales and darks. One solution may be too buy fewer things that need ironing...which militates against my love of weaves. Not sure winter has a solution.

    So I end up at medium despite myself.

  • dakotacheryl replied 7 years ago

    Suz, I think if I added up my "actually worn this summer" clothing items, my total would be very similar to yours. 

    I have been purging items right and left all summer, and have another pile on my guest room bed right now.

    I do like your reasoning that, with a smaller number of items, you feel free to update/replace these items as needed or desired.

    Thank you so much for your well though out and detailed post.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    You know what's funny, Cheryl? For me, this is a LARGER number of items! 

    I was coming at this from the perspective of someone who used to have a closet about the size of Claire's (if that). 

    And I really felt frustrated, and then angry with myself for being frustrated. But the truth is, I really didn't have anything to wear, I wasn't imagining it! One pair of shoes, one boots. Five or six tops...tops! One or two jeans. A sweater or two. And that was it. 

    Moni, the practicalities really do make things more difficult, don't they? I can only imagine the added issue of washing (and drying) for baby. I seem to remember we were doing laundry All. The. Time. and even in our relatively dryer climate (with a dryer, in addition) we always seemed to have little things hanging up to dry...

    I wonder if finding a different organizational system for your skirts/ bottoms/ tops would help mitigate the indecision and paralysis? 

    Becky, slow and steady is definitely the way to go. You will get there. 

  • lyn* replied 7 years ago

    This was really interesting for me to calculate out, Suz, thanks for inspiring the exercise :3 

    I excluded things that I only wore once.

    • Blazers: 7 - Winner: Cropped pink blazer (RW&Co)!
    • Cardigans: 5  - Winner: Coral cropped cardigan (Forever21)
    • Footwear: 1 pair flats, 1 pair bone pumps, 1 pair bone patent pumps, 1 pair sandals - Winner: Bone patent round toe pumps (Le Chateau)
    • Skirts: 10 - Winner: Denim pencil skirt (Ricki's)
    • Dresses: 10 - Winner: Dog print dress (Anthropologie)
    • Blouses: 8 - Winner: White pussy bow top (Dorothy Perkins)
    • Watches: 1 - Winner: Rose Gold with round face (Fossil)
    • Bags: 4 - Winner: Bright pink legacy wristlet (Coach)
    • Accessories: Multiple - Winner: Crystal drops (Ruche)

    Interestingly, my jean jacket won hands down - but maybe it would be the most obvious because it was such an easy summer topper, I could just grab it out the door.

    Also, they are all of various price points :) Yay ... the cheapest would probably be the wristlet from Coach ($20) and the most expensive is probably the dog print dress ($80).

  • amiable replied 7 years ago

    Great exercise!  Here's what I wore in the past four months:

    11 shorts 
    6 jeans
    1 pair trousers
    9 skirts

    32 tops
    6 toppers

    2 dresses

    For 67 pieces.  Many of these are cross seasonal, and this represents just over 1/4 of my wardrobe (I'm currently around 160 pcs - so 1/4 of my wardrobe covered 1/3 of the year)

    If I limit it to just the "hot weather" clothes, it's 11 shorts, 7 skirts, 19 tops and 2 dresses, for 29 pieces.  Just about perfect for one season.  Except that a season is rarely "all hot".  There's plenty of cool days scattered through it.

    What's interesting to me is that I have clear favorites: only twelve pieces were worn more than three times.  Twenty-six pieces were only worn once (though some of that's because they're not really in season).  The max that I wore any piece of clothing was 9.  

    I look forward to doing this exercise again in a few months - I'll bet it'll come in handy for purging!

  • Sveta replied 7 years ago

    Interesting...I think my summer counts is close to yours (around 40) but I am sure I have more clothes in total that you do. My "cool season" closet is approximately twice that count and I think it is expected as you have coats and need more layers in one outfit...
    I was keeping my spreadsheet since April marking how many times I wore what and it really helped me with the purge: I was all ready for NAS!  I find it really handy in figuring out what I don't wear that much and then I can try to understand why.

  • rae replied 7 years ago

    Oh, that totally makes sense! And I like the way you do it, too. I don't mind repeating an outfit head to toe, but then in the next outfit I want it to look different. :)

    I dutifully went back to look, and combining work and casual wear, summer used about 80 pieces. Although like you, some of those got purged as mistakes. Now that I see how rarely I used some things, and how easily I could sub in a more versatile item, I see I'm going to purge some more!

  • Nova replied 7 years ago

    I am going to start working on this.  What a great idea!

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Sveta, I think I do have more pieces for F/W, especially if you include coats, which I didn't count in my S/S wardrobe (but do have a few of). 

    And I suspect that one of my problems with my fall/ winter wardrobe is that it is still not really large enough to get me comfortably through our winter without extreme boredom/ frustration. I have enough items, technically, so that I have stuff to wear. But I'm missing some special something that makes it all cohere in the way my summer wardrobe did, and also I'm missing some essentially variety or "zing." I have to figure out how to inject that. In the summer I did it with one key signature colour, plus white. That is harder to achieve in winter. 

  • Susie replied 7 years ago

    I loved reading all of these responses and it inspired me to do a count. I may have missed a few and I think there were some pieces that I might have worn once or twice but have already purged so those aren't included. I wore:

    6 pants
    3 dresses
    1 skirt
    6 jeans
    19 tops (blouses, sweaters, nicer knits)
    4 toppers
    16 shoes

    That was my Mon-Fri wardrobe for work. For very casual weekends, I wore:

    12 shorts
    10 casual knit tops
    6 shoes

    So for 'real' dressing, only about 40 pieces. That is surprising to me. I would have guessed it was more. Even adding in a few purged pieces or ones that I wore in spring but not summer, it would still be at 50.

    It will be interesting to see what fall/winter looks like. As others have said, more layers will likely mean a higher total.

    Good post!

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Susie, I count workday and weekends all together. So that would bring you closer to 60. Which is still moderate by many people's standards. And huge by other people's standards!

    I think so much depends on lifestyle and climate. Thinking about Mo, for example, and how many changes of clothes she might require in the Florida heat each day. What works for one will not work for another! 

  • Vickie KY replied 7 years ago

    This was a great topic to bring up. I am in a constant state of  purging my closet. The last few years it has gotten way out of hand. I feel overwhelmed.It expanded from a room to 4 other closets.   I got rid of 126 items in August. I group I don't know items together and try to work with them. Sometimes with success and sometimes not. The bad thing about this is that I am wearing items I am unsure about instead of using those I really love.  I am always open for tips and suggestions in this area. I read all of yours.
    One question I ask myself when deciding to keep an item is: If you did not have this item would you repurchase it new? If the answer is no then it needs to go.

  • Sarah A replied 7 years ago

    Love the by the numbers Suz! I had gotten very down on myself for feeling like i had "too much" ... but this post help me to realize I really am in the middle of the road as it were (at least by YLF standards!) I have just started a spreadsheet so I really can say how much wear things are getting over a 3 or 6 month period. I look forward to adding my tally's to the next post like this! :)

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Vickie, I think that's a great question to ask when purging. And Sarah, I'm so spreadsheet averse, yet I am actually considering making one and tracking -- not to much for CPW but to see what I actually have for colours/ neutrals/ patterns, etc. 

  • Sarah A replied 7 years ago

    I am amazed you can do your numbers without a spreadsheet! ... I cant remember with I wore last week ... LOL

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