Style Lab III: Data Mining

One of my ongoing objectives is compiling meaningful data about what's in my wardrobe. This is the tip of the iceberg. I may post a detailed analysis complete with graphs and charts on my personal blog sometime.

Numbers: ±250 items, not including accessories, underwear, lounge wear or sports gear. Around two thirds has been acquired in the last six years and half since 2013.

Shopping: Around a third of my wardrobe was bought on the high street. Main suppliers are Uniqlo, M&S and H&M, the latter for designer collaborations and subsidiaries Cos, Weekday, &other stories. Around a quarter is evenly split between vintage and self-made, 5% online purchases and up to 40% sourced from independents.

Basics: Around a quarter my wardrobe could be described as menswear classic and normcore. This seems like a solid foundation of basics.

Wear and Usage: ±70 items are what I’d call kingpins, and ±90 are in regular rotation, but up to 40% is not getting enough wear. I could probably get rid of half my closet tomorrow and still get dressed successfully.

I’m already making moves to fix this. I want to bring back a few of the better pieces, some of whom are excellent and should not be neglected. I also need to set some clear objectives for culling.

Problem areas are:

T-shirts: I buy too many concert shirts. Enough said.

Shoes: Is it so wrong to have 30+ pairs? I don’t know if I could ever have too many shoes, but I’m only wearing around half of them at the moment. Some are benched because they need repairs, others because I ditched the heels in favour of platforms. There are quite a few awkward children among them, see below.

Skirts and dresses: According to the numbers, I am very good at wearing pants and I suck at dresses and skirts. I need to address this in my day to day style. If all goes to plan, many of these will be brought back into service by a pair of OTK boots I ordered at the weekend.

Trophy pieces: There are a few items on the bench which I don’t think I want to get rid of, such as international textiles, rarities and pieces with sentimental value. Suz, I’m liking your suggestion for a dedicated history closet.

Eclectic items are the most frequently benched. I fully expect some of these to make a comeback in future, because past experience suggests that if I like something enough, I’ll find a way to wear it one of these days.

Awkward children: There are a number of things that I like but just don’t seem to work for some reason. It could be the colour, the style or the fit, or it doesn’t suit my current style. I need to be brutally honest with myself about these.

Worn out favourites: I’ll be honest, if something I love dearly is worn out, I have a lot of trouble getting rid of it for some reason. Some of these are waiting for repairs, others I need to phase out or replace.

My immediate plan is to bring some of the benched items back into my day to day style, and ask myself how I feel about them. If something isn’t working, what do I need to do to make it work? And how do I feel about all this variety? Is it fun and enriching, or guilt-inducing and tiring?

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.


  • replied 5 years ago

    1) The answer to the shoe question is an emphatic NO.

    2) worn out favorites must be lovingly retired. I will admonish myself as well.

    3) Awkard children sometimes just need more time, but you may need to select your favorite children. Unlike with actual children, you can admit which are your favorites and there are no hurt feelings.

  • replied 5 years ago

    Oh!  Here's a new Style Lab.  I just saw it.  

  • El Cee replied 5 years ago

    I agree with delurked -- 30 pairs of shoes is NOT too many... not even close to Imelda level. ;-) I love your idea about bringing benched items back into play. I did a lot of this last winter and fell back in love with a number of pieces that had been previously orphaned. Regarding the question of variety and whether it is fun or guilt producing -- the answer should be a very personal one. My own need for variety (due to my eclectic style) means that I have had to make peace with having a larger wardrobe than some other people... and to accept that I fall in and out of love with certain trends and items in my closet at a more rapid pace than others might. I have a rather large holding zone where I put garments that are in great condition that I am just not "feeling" at the moment. These items often cycle in and out of my working wardrobe. I do analyze and cull these items on a regular basis. For me, this process of cycling things in and out is not at all tiring. I see it as part of the fun of tweaking my style as my moods change. But I realize and respect that this same activity could be absolutely maddening for another individual who craves more stability and desires a smaller, tighter, more manageable wardrobe.

  • replied 5 years ago

    First, I love a woman who uses terminology like "meaningful data."  

    Great analysis and very meaningful.  You learn a lot from these exercises.  I learn a lot by following closely in your footsteps.  I took great comfort in knowing that ~2/3 of your wardrobe was acquired in the last six years.  This allows me to come out of the dark and announce that probably more than 90 percent of my wardrobe was acquired in the last six years. 

    I am a self-proclaimed minimalist and I own ~30 pairs of shoes.  So no, I don't think 30 pairs of shoes is all that many.  There are 365 days in a year.  I wear at least one pair of shoes each day (sometimes three pair/day). I don't wear socks so I like to let my shoes air out between each wear.  Then there are the special occasion shoes.  My entire shoe wardrobe gets used throughout the year.  

    I don't need or want a lot of variety, but I sill have clothes that are guilt-inducing and tiring.  They are the pieces that I spent too much money on and yet rarely get worn because of one reason or another. I like that line of thought as a means of culling.  

    You commented on El Cee's Post that you might consider a purchasing fast next year.  I laughingly said I would just DIE at the idea, but the truth is that my purchasing fast has been really beneficial.  (1)  I am wearing my existing wardrobe in new and interesting ways.  (2)  I am wearing items that had been pushed to the back of the closet.  (3)  I saved enough money to plan a trip for the Holidays.  

  • El Cee replied 5 years ago

    Also -- Laughing in solidarity with you on concert tees. Have thought of repurposing some of my own as fun wall art... but haven't had the guts to try that yet.

  • replied 5 years ago

    El Cee -- there are UTubes that show how this can be done with scarfs.  It might be worth your time to check them out because it seemed more complicated to me than it should be.  You want to think ahead.  

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    You do a LOT of walking and biking in Europe - if you can store 30 pairs of shoes - good call. You have my blessing to keep as many as you can store. 

    No more tees. 

    Wear more skirts and dresses.

    Pass on worn items. No buts. 

    Trophy pieces can make you smile just by looking at them. Keep. 

    Awkward children need to find a home elsewhere. 

    Get going! Good luck. 

  • Ledonna N. replied 5 years ago

    Well of course this is not to many shoes says the woman with 200+ shoes and boots. It is really interesting reading your style labs. I had to go.bak to.catch up but really interesting.

  • Sara L. replied 5 years ago

    Great analysis!  I love reading these sorts of posts but I have no desire to do any deep analysis of my own closet.  30 pairs of shoes is minimal if you ask me.  I have probably 3x that number (maybe 4x - I'm scared to count).  

  • bonnie replied 5 years ago

    I love reading your Style Labs and learning from you about how to manage a wardrobe. The comments your readers make are very helpful, too.

  • replied 5 years ago

    I agree with Angie regarding awkward children.  This is hard to implement.  

  • LaPed replied 5 years ago

    I love reading other people's wardrobe audits. They are almost universally enabling for me, since my wardrobe hovers around 130 items *if* I include gear and loungewear. Even so, I can't claim to have a "curated" wardrobe and I always have an assortment of awkward children. I tend to grow too attached to them. I know how hard it can be to get rid of those oddballs. This is the hardest part for me. And getting rid of well-loved stuff that shouldn't be in heavy rotation anymore but is -- I know all about this. Sometimes you find just the right thing, wear the heck out of it, and the proper replacement never turns up. I can also commiserate with you about band t-shirts, or just graphic tees in general. I have more of them than I can ever actually wear, especially since I'm on something of a t-shirt fast lately. I probably have to rethink my concert schwag strategy: maybe more posters and beer coozies, and fewer wearables? Your Style Lab series is giving me lots to think about!

    Oh -- and Grechen over at Grechen's Closet is in the process of a similar wardrobe audit. She posted a set of five questions the other day that may be useful to you (or anyone thinking about a full audit): 

    1. Why am I doing this?
    2. What is my ultimate goal in completing a wardrobe audit?
    3. What do I have enough of?
    4. What do I think I still need in my wardrobe?
    5. What can I get rid of?
    I find questions 3 and 4 particularly useful, in figuring out how to achieve greater balance, cohesion, and sense of variety/versatility all at once. 

  • Lynn replied 5 years ago

    Your style labs posts are terrific. I am another one drawn to  "meaningful data" , being of the analytic sort myself.  I am learning a lot about how to assess one's wardrobe from you. I especially love your categories of clothing.  This is something I need to undertake myself as soon. 
    Thanks for posting these. 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thank you all so much for your wisdom and sound advice, as ever. Very relieved to know 30 is not too many shoes.

    delurked: that's always the problem with awkward children isn't it? Some things need time to settle in and find a place, other things are never going to work. But how can I tell the difference?

    El Cee: I've been thinking along the same lines about my eclectic collection. Maintaining the variety requires a larger closet, and some of it will inevitably be benched from time to time. That's OK, it's just part of the deal. I guess I'm looking for a sweet spot where I know I have the flexibility I need without the burden of too much dead wood. And I'm glad I'm not the only one with a concert shirt habit!

    Sterling: I'm glad you're enjoying the posts! Like you, I always rest my shoes between wears for at least a day or two so it's very useful to have a selection. Regarding wardrobe longevity, in my experience not much industrially produced clothing will last longer than about five years with regular wear and tear, but some of my older vintage pieces are positively heroic. I guess that's one of the reasons I've cultivated such an eclectic style over the years.

    Angie: but but but... :D You're so right. I've lately limited t-shirts to excellent prints on black or white only and it seems to be working, but I'll probably always want a few to wear under blazers in summertime. I'll keep you posted on the awkward children.

    La Pedestrienne: thanks for the link! I'll definitely check that out. My main motivation for this is to get a view on making my wardrobe work better for me. I love the variety but I fear style creep. Sometimes I feel brilliant in what I'm wearing, but other times I feel like the proverbial librarian who got dressed in the dark. I need a handle on what's really in there and what I can do with it.

    Lynn: I don't think YLF needs my comprehensive data report ;) but I might push it out elsewhere once I've finished the process. Glad you're enjoying it and finding it useful!

  • DonnaF replied 5 years ago

    For the loved but worn out items, have you considered taking photos of them on or off your body, then passing them on?  You'll still have those memories. . .

    For concert Ts you love for their memories but don't love to wear, have you considered turning them into quilts/comforters?  I think Etsy has examples.

    You need more shoes/footwear.  30+ pairs is NOTHING.

    Those awkward children need to be analyzed more closely. . . .

  • replied 5 years ago

    Approprio?  I'm sorry to bother you, but what does "high street" mean?  I have seen the term many times and I don't know the meaning.  

  • Sal replied 5 years ago

    Not Approprio but high street means mid market chain retailers, which in the UK often appear in the high street.  In the US where malls dominate I think they would include Banana Republic, Anthropologie, and many others I don't know.  

    Not department store, not designer, not boutique, not cut price retailers...

  • Liz replied 5 years ago

    Also not Approprio, but I've gathered that "high street" is a British term that seems to refer to the central street running through a town that has all the shops on it, similar to the street we'd call Main Street for an American town. I"m guessing that "high street" is not a literal term -- meaning, all those chain stores aren't literally on a street named High Street, just like in a US town the stores are usually in a mall or shopping center, not actually on the street named Main Street. (But I could be wrong about all this, not having bothered to quiz an actual person living in England about the term!)

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    Another with way more than 30 pair of footwear. You are inspiring me to get some numbers but I probsbly have that many in rotation in one season. I wear and enjoy them all or they are passed on.
    An eclectic style means a large closet. Just adding a new color can mean several new additions to form the outfits that I want. ( because I'm short, I like to wear a column of color).

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Clearly 30 pairs of shoes is minimal, even ascetic.

    The items that gives me the most pause are the awkward children. Why are they awkward? Do they represent challenges yet to be met, or are they just ill fitting? Would they be perfect for someone you are not, or do they represent a part of you yet to be? How many such children are there? How many can you handle? Perhaps you could show us some examples?

  • MovingFashionForward replied 5 years ago

    In Britain, "high street" fashion is that sold in shops on the high street (i.e., in most town centres), including, for example, Topshop, H&M, MissSelfridge, River Island, Zara, Primark, M&S, Hobbs, Cos, & Other Stories, Madewell, etc. Not designer.


  • jenanded replied 5 years ago

    I am surprised at a few comments about your wardrobes are 6 years or so old. I have trouble having things last 1 -2 years before they look worn. I wonder if that is because they are lighter weight warm weather clothes that get a lot of washing. I guess my winter clothes can be in the 6 year band. I feel like I am always buying and getting rid of things even though I think I am pretty fair in terms of what needs to go...

    BTW I LOVE these kinds of posts too - thank you!

  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    I love these posts.  30+ pairs of shoes is not enough.  I wish I could find that many pairs of shoes that worked for my very difficult feet.  Enjoy them and buy more.  :)
    I don't see a problem with concert Ts.  Scratches head.
    Awkward children.  Yes I have had some of those.  After much agony I got rid of them.  But I have a storage problem.  But I still have more lurking about.
    Loved and worn out items.  Guilty.  I have a long sleeved T shirt that is the perfect brown, perfect weight of cotton, perfect shape, etc.  And it is thread bare.  I can't bring myself to get rid of it.  I think it still has some life left in it.  And I can't find another like it.  On it goes.

  • replied 5 years ago

    Thanks for the information, Kiwigal, Liz, and MovingFashionForward.  Very helpful explanations.  

    I think Jenanded described my problem with wardrobe churn accurately.  I too live in a warm climate.  I skew toward lighter tops (optic white, if I can find it).  I wash these garments frequently during the Summer months and yes after a couple of years they do look quite tired.  Do I blame them?  No.  They did their job.  

    One note.  I bought multiples of GAP's white tee shirts in 2012.  The GAP tee shirts at that time were opaque white.  Perfect length.  GREAT fit.  They are still in rotation in 2016 after constant wear and frequent washing during the summer months.  GAP no longer offers those same tee shirts.  It is a shame.  I wish I had known.  I would have bought many, many more.  

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks again for all the feedback. Have to be quick because I'm busy, but hopefully I'll be back later.

    Sterling et al: "High street" is indeed a generic British term for large chain stores such as H&M, Zara etc. I mentioned it because diversity in fashion is important to me, so it matters where I shop. Is there an equivalent term for these kinds of shops in the US?

    Sarah: thanks for pointing out the difference between high street and department stores. I needed a new tag for that and I picked up a few other mistakes in the data while I was about it.

    Correction: high street purchases account for about a quarter, department store and online purchases combined are around 10%.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Sterling: have you tried Uniqlo tees? Their pima cotton always washes well and they pay attention to their cuts.

  • LaPed replied 5 years ago

    I think the American term for "high street" might be "mall brand".

    And, Sterling, I second Uniqlo for t-shirts. They provide garment measurements online, so you could actually measure one of the Gap t-shirts that is perfect for you, and see if anything at Uniqlo is similar.

  • shedev replied 5 years ago

    I was thinking mall brand too.
    I don't think 30 pairs of shoes is too many, but it also isn't minimal. I have about 40, and Hedev thinks it is too many.
    I read something recently that said to keep an item if you would wear it. I don't think there is really anything wrong with having a larger closet.

  • llamasally replied 5 years ago

    I learned something, thanks.  Never knew what High Street was and I'm 65.  I think most of my clothes are High Street.

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