Wednesday, 30 December 2020

A Wardrobe Review: 2020

For the last three years at least, I've written one of these wardrobe reviews and said something like "this has been the best year ever!" at the end of every year. Truthfully though, every year since I started this process has genuinely been a little better than the last from a wardrobe perspective, and despite everything bad about 2020, this year is no exception.

For most of this year, due to the whole 2020 thing, I've really stuck to my casual/at-home wardrobe, and tried to maintain and/or refine that. I've broken it out here into: (a) continuing to work on refining my colour choices; (b) making good functional choices for the life I actually lead and making sure my wardrobe is the "right size"; and (c) working on durability/reducing discards.

(a) COLOUR: My colour palette is basically navy, grey and white neutrals, with other shades of blue, turquoise, green and patterns that mix these colours for accents. Over the last few years I have gradually discarded, mainly through wear, garments that don't fall into those categories in my main, everyday wardrobe. At this point, I have just 3 older, non-compliant garments left. I still wear them because I like them and they still fit into my wardrobe quite well, so they'll stay in until they wear out.

I've been near this stage for a couple of years, but I really am now at a point where, in theory at least, there are nearly endless combinations of outfits in my wardrobe, and I have no orphans and very few outliers. In practice, sometimes there is still a clash of shapes/styles, and I don't always love every single shade of my chosen colours next to every other. Those are pretty much insurmountable problems unless I were willing to get even more restrictive with my wardrobe and either limit the shapes of the garments I wear or be more strict about colour, and I am absolutely not willing to do either. 

My future plans on this front are therefore mostly just maintenance -- I love these colours and see no reason to change anything at this point. My fabric stash is nearly 100% in line with my colour palette, so really this should be very easy to accomplish. When (if) I get to make my work wardrobe in 2021, it will follow exactly the same colour scheme -- the aim is to make my whole wardrobe completely cohesive and work together seamlessly.


By functionality, I mean: does my wardrobe contain the right clothes for the climate I live in, the day to day activities I actually perform, and the life I actually lead in general? My biggest, dumbest breakthrough on this front was asking myself: what if I didn't pretend to myself I am ever going to wear a lot of skirts or dresses at home as casual wear? I'm not saying there's no place in my wardrobe for skirts or dresses, especially at work, but in my casual/at home wardrobe I basically never choose to wear a dress, and only wear skirts a few times in high summer. I needed to abandon the idea that I'm suddenly going to find the perfect style that is going to change my mind about skirt/dress wearing: it doesn't exist. I wore the skirts I already owned on a few very hot days, just like I do most years, and that was fine.

Size: Overall this year my wardrobe decreased in size by 11% this year. There were a handful of extras throughout my whole wardrobe that I got rid of for various reasons and didn't replace. If 2021 is the year I go back to work, I anticipate that this number will grow again quite significantly. This year I only added 20 items -- the smallest number since I started planning -- 15 of which were made by me. My RTW purchases were knitwear and activewear, neither of which I want to make myself.

One completely new functionality/size statistic I thought up this year was looking at how many things I wore at least once this year. Initially I thought this was an obvious and easy calculation: if you count every unique garment I wore at least once, I wore 95 different things in 2020. On average I wore each of these items just under 10 times (9.6, to be exact), with a range of 1-55 wears.

However, this overlooks the fact that some of those unique garments were direct replacements that I wore consecutively, not concurrently. So, if you pick a garment type, like "navy short-sleeved t-shirt" where I had one, it wore out part-way through the year, I recycled it and then started wearing a completely identical new one, and count those two things as a single garment, I wore 85 garments at least once, and the average wear number shifts upwards just a bit to almost exactly 10. 

The thing about this is: is 85 a good number, is 10 wears a year a good number? Who knows! Given the seasonality I experience where I live (about 20 weeks of summer, 20 weeks of winter and 12 weeks of mid-season split between the two changes of season) it means on average I wear anything seasonal about once every two weeks. That seems pretty reasonable given my laundry cycle.

Beyond the average number though, there are an awful lot of things that I actually only wore 1-3 times this year on that list: 19 things, to be precise. And there's another 12 things in my "casual/at home" wardrobe I didn't wear at all this year. How many of those 31 items would I even miss if I didn't have them?

Looking at what those 31 garments actually were, there's a mix of reasons I didn't wear them. Some are down to the 2020 effect: there are some things that I just didn't need this year because lockdown was a whole new level of not going out, even for me. A second category is garments that I keep for rare periods of very hot and very cold days: by design I don't have frequent opportunities to wear them, and that's OK. I definitely have too many hot day items, due to an excess of enthusiasm for sewing them a few years ago, but I like them all and they don't take up much space so I live with it. These and other excuses take my "why do I own this" list down to 11 items. Would I notice if I didn't have those 11 things? I think I would notice if I didn't have ALL of them, but I could probably consolidate my numbers. If I own 4 woven summer tops that I collectively wear 8 times in total, could I have just one that I liked much better and wear 8 times?

Overall I tend to think the problem with most of those 11 less-worn items -- and actually this is specifically the case for those 4 woven tops -- is that I like them least of everything in my wardrobe. That's not to say I don't like them at all, because then it would be easy and I'd just get rid of them. I just like them a lot less than other choices. In a few cases this is because there is a good reason to prefer and reach for other things -- mainly that they have small fitting and sewing flaws that annoy me just enough to put me off wearing them.

On the one hand, since I am not, and will never be, an absolutely perfect fitting master, and I'm human and I'm going to make mistakes, there's probably always going to be something in my wardrobe that isn't 100% right and that I like least. On the other hand, I probably could stand to be more ruthless about getting rid of things I don't like enough to wear but that I'm hanging on to for some reason, probably because I liked the idea so much and/or it represents hours of work.

Another function/wardrobe size issue I have though is that I definitely got very bored and annoyed of my summer wardrobe by the late summer this year, even with all those tops I didn't wear, and I am already sick of my winter wardrobe with most of the winter still to go. But again, that could just be a 2020 problem. Am I bored and annoyed by my wardrobe or just generally fed-up? Would making my wardrobe even smaller make me more bored and annoyed, or just the same amount of bored and annoyed (since last time I was apparently not bored or annoyed enough to wear little worn items or buy/make anything)?

As you can probably tell, I have no answers at the moment for these questions, but I will possibly report back at the end of 2021 with further thoughts.

(C) DURABILITY: This is the big one! For the last few years I've talked about discards in my end of year summaries a lot. As I've said frequently in the past, when I first saw the statistic that women in the US/UK throw away 65 garments on average per year, most of which went goes into landfill, I truly believed  that I could not possibly be one of those women. In 2016 I decided to track what I discarded to prove it to myself. I was then suitably horrified to discover that I was, in fact, absolutely average, if not worse, and had discarded almost 90 garments. I've been trying for several years to try to reduce the numbers of clothes I discard each year, but this is the first year I've really seen a big impact of the things I've been trying to do on both the numbers of things I've discarded, but even more importantly, how many times I wore things before I discarded them.

The reason for this is that most of the effort goes in at the acquisition stage, and only a little bit at the point of discard, and as a result I'm only just now seeing the effect of changes I made 2-3 years ago as those are the things that are finally wearing out. I worked on making sure I never bought or made things that really didn't fit or work with my wardrobe, to reduce the numbers of things I discarded almost unworn. When I made things I tried to pick construction methods that would be sturdy and long-lasting. I tried to choose better quality fabrics for both RTW and handmade, especially knits. I tried to look after my garments more effectively, particularly in the laundry, and tried to repair things and/or remove marks and stains more. The only thing I did at the latter end of the process was try to see if something could be worn some more e.g. as active wear even if it was no longer suitable for everyday wear. 

In 2020 this all seemed to bear fruit: I discarded a total of 42 garments which is the smallest number since 2016 (last year was my previous low, at 59 items). Of these just under three quarters (30/42) were discarded because they were worn out or, in the case of 4 of these items, damaged beyond repair (3 wool items that had been eaten by moths D: and a cardigan that was smeared with tar). 

Of the 26 things that I discarded because of wear, I had worn them on average 46 times, with a range of 22-130 wears (both ends of the range are outliers -- the 22 wear item was a poor quality knit that pilled and faded horribly within the first 5 wears, the 130 wear item was a pair of ponte knit trousers apparently made of iron that I only discarded because the seams at centre back and inner thigh went shiny). Without the highest and lowest values, the average number of wears was 43. Even at the lower level, this is another big improvement on last year, when the average number of wears was 33. I previously said I wore my clothes on average 10 times per year, so in effect I got an extra year worth of wear out of my clothes compared to last year.

The other 12 items were: "Size/Fit Problems" - 8 garments; and "Why Did I Ever Own This?" - 4 garments, which I wore on average 5 times each. I'm disappointed I had any of these, but again these are my lowest numbers ever in these categories and hopefully they will continue to decrease over time.


1. I'm a giant nerd with a lot of spreadsheets. 

2. I like my wardrobe so much more than I did 5 years ago, and if that took being a giant nerd with spreadsheets, then so be it.

3. It would be hard for me to go back to not having a plan for what I want my wardrobe to look like. I really considered if 5 years of tracking my wardrobe etc was enough and if I should go back to "normal", no-spreadsheet life and call my experiment over. However, I feel like my wardrobe spreadsheets give me so much discipline, they are worth the minor hassle of keeping them updated.

4. I'm probably going to go round and round the problem of "what is the right size for my wardrobe" forever and never reach a conclusion.

5. There is one elusive thing I wish for my wardrobe, and that's for the kind of X-factor that would take me from "has a plan" to "has a style". I do think quite often that there's a danger that my kind of planning makes for a very bland and conservative wardrobe, and I wonder how I could add some really one of a kind pieces it, probably things I make myself. That is one of my 2021 goals, in fact, to try to add just a few really interesting things to what I own, although it's hard to get enthusiastic about it in the short-term because we're all going to be locked down here until spring by the looks of things. :|

6. If you have any questions about anything I've written about, please ask, I love this stuff and nobody in the real world would listen to even 1 minute of me talking about it. :D


  1. I more or less stopped reading blogs this year, but when I saw you'd posted your year-end round up I had to check it out. We have opposite wardrobe philosophies (if I notice I'm low in a color, it means I should acquire more of it, except for yellow which sadly looks terrible on me) but I find your planning so interesting.

    Are you into jewelry? I feel like that's a good option for "style" with a really simple wardrobe, and one or two nice pieces can see you through a lot.

    1. This is Carly/breakdownhat on Instagram btw.

  2. There's nothing better than a giant nerd with spreadsheets! Why aren't there more of us? 😆 I could not sew this last year (sewing room repurposed due to people working at home) so I consoled myself with wardrobe, fabric, and pattern inventories, and creating huge planning spreadsheets.
    I see that your colors are almost the same as mine - I wear navy, grey, and ivory with blues, greens, teal and turquoise. Have you noticed that it's impossible to find any two navy fabics (or garments) that actually match? Same with grey. I have to keep reminding myself to always get a swatch and buy 4 - 5 yards of any fabric if it actually matches something I already have.

  3. Yay for a great year!! Perfection doesn't exist but you did an awesome, job this year!

    I am definitely in the camp of "you should keep doing it if it works for you"!

    As for style, I think, if you can find that POP, you'll be there. Maybe it's accessories, maybe it's jewelry, maybe it's a topper. I have looked for awhile for a style blogger/IGer whose style I like and no luck. I do have a few retail stores that I check out for style inspiration!

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