July Wardrobing Assignment

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I started doing this assignment last week, and it has really opened up my eyes regarding what is actually in my wardrobe vs. what I wear vs. what I believe I need.

When trying to lose weight, one is often told to keep a food journal. Often we do not see how much we actually eat until it is on paper. We forgot about the two bite-sized Snickers that we snagged from the candy jar at the front desk of our office, the bagels brought in for lunch with big dollops of cream cheese, the second martini at happy hour, the chips we nibbled on while preparing dinner. The same can be said for our wardrobe. Often that we wear most often comes to the forefront of the closet, and the other garments become forgotten, collecting dust. I know that many of my friends as well as myself have done an end of season wardrobe overhaul to put clothes in the attic, come to find two or three similar garments hidden in the closet. Even worse is buying for the new season prior to pulling out your seasonal clothing, finding out you just bought new white jeans and lo and behold you had a pair in the attic or cedar chest.

This assignment can be done on regular paper, but I am finding it works best for me on the computer so it’s easy to edit, keep it tidy looking and useable. I made categories for my clothing:


Then under each category I write what I own, be it if I like it, love it, hate it. I give it a good description so it’s easy to distinguish from other garments:


  • Ann Taylor Loft ivory wool blend trousers
  • Caslon white stretch poplin trousers
  • Express tan “Editor” bootcut stretch pants
  • etc…

I add everything that I have out in my drawers and in my closet. Then after adding all of them, I rank them with the best/most flattering items at the top. Those that I am unsure of (be they a bit too tight, a weird color, bored with them, wrong season) I but into italics. Those that need repairs to be wearable (needs button, lining torn, needs to be hemmed) I put in red. Those that are just plain awful (too big, too small, dated, unflattering, in bad condition) I put in gray:


  • Caslon white stretch poplin trousers
  • Caslon tan stretch poplin trousers
  • Caslon black stretch poplin trousers
  • Limited black “Drew” suiting trousers
  • Ann Taylor Loft ivory wool blend trousers
  • Ann Taylor Loft black wool blend trousers
  • Limited gray “Drew” suiting trousers
  • Express tan “Editor” bootcut stretch pants
  • Express gray ‘Editor” bootcut stretch pants
  • Express black “Editor” bootcut stretch pants
  • Gap black stretch twill pants

So I see my pant drawer overflowing with items, but in truth I have three pairs that I really find flattering, one pair that needs something other than safety pins to hold up the hems, three pairs that are not quite right now (one is 5 pounds from perfect, two are more appropriate for cooler months) three that need me to lose another ten pounds at least to look great, and one pair that catches lint and wrinkles so badly, I look a mess by noon.

The Gap pants are pointless. By having them accessible, they will be worn. I already have two pairs of black pants, the third pair isn’t doing me any benefit. I decide to donate the linty Gap trousers. As for the three pairs of pants from Express, they go up into the attic. Yes, the fabric is perfect for this season, but keeping too-tight pants in my drawer only complicates the getting-ready tine in the morning. Also having them around is not going to make me lose weight any faster. I carefully store them because they are nice pants that will look great when I get back to that size. I also store the Ann Taylor and the gray Limited pants with them; they are too heavy or wrong for this season and just wasting valuable real estate in the bureau.

I am going on a girl’s getaway this weekend and as soon as I started thinking about it, I started panicking that I had nothing to wear. I looked back at this list I had made, and realized that I had about six tops that would be perfect for our events planned, and three bottoms. By having everything on paper, admitting that which I wouldn’t wear and that which is wrong, it made wardrobing far easier.

This list, once 100% complete will be hung up in my closet, and updated regularly according to the season and the status of garments (need to go to the tailor, back from the tailor, ruined and had to be disposed of, lost weight, gained weight).

Many people keep cards or lists of outfits to wear. I remember my mom having a file box of outfits on cards – she would write the date and situation on the back to ensure she didn’t wear the same exact thing twice to a similar event. If you work better with uniforms, this is a great tool in addition to the list. I personally love the creativity every morning of making my outfit from my collection, and work best just knowing what I have to choose from.

Style and versatility comes not from a large assortment of garments, but a carefully chosen collection. If what you own fits well, is in colors that flatter and make you happy, are made well… then you need less. Simple pieces are less likely to go out of style and more likely to coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe. For my girl’s weekend I am taking a camisole I bought five years ago that still looks festive and fun today because it’s a cherry color, well-made out of a fabric with good drape, and has minimal adornments. Five years ago it may have been worn with colorful beaded chandelier earrings; now it may be worn with a simple bracelet to make it contemporary.

As you write down your list, be honest with yourself. Include the tee shirt collection, the five pairs of black yoga pants, the designer blazer that has never fit quite right but you can’t let go of, the rainy day jeans and the flannel shirts you have owned since your Grunge stage. If you feel guilty about something enough to not write it down, there is a problem just as if you lied in your food journal when trying to lose weight. You do not need to share this list with anyone but yourself. No one else needs to know how large or how small, how stylish or how damaged your collection may be. This assignment is for you to get real with your closet and take a step towards having a better and more honest relationship with it (and to gut out all those awful things you purposely forget).

If a category seems to have a very short list, think about your lifestyle before you see a reason to hit the mall. Do you REALLY need another pair of pants? I work in an office atmosphere and wear pants often outside of work, yet realize that I can live on 3-4 pairs of pants without issues. Often when you have more, you still resort to the same 1-2 items. When it comes to simple style, less is almost always more. Try a week or two on a shrunken wardrobe before you feel the need to replace or add to your collection. You may be surprised that by removing the gray and the italicized items and repairing those in red, you may have more choice each AM when you get ready.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I love this idea!

    I do something similar, but it’s all in my head. I go through my closet fairly regularly to figure out what I need and don’t need, and in the process I often try a lot of stuff on and see if I can come up with new combinations (sometimes I do write down a list of needs if it’s more than a couple things). What I don’t need I donate or freecyle.

    I can do it so well in my head because my closet is very well organized. It helps that I hang just about everything so I can see it. I have separate areas for pants, skirts, dresses, short-sleeved shirts, and long-sleeved shirts. I also use stackable hangers to organize my shirts vertically by color within those sections. One of my friends joked that maybe I have OCD, but with the stackable hangers it’s just so easy to put reds with reds, blues with blues, etc.

  2. I need to do this. I used to keep a log on the computer of what I wore daily, and it did help in remembering what items went well together and looked good on me. I gave it up eventually, feeling it was too vain and I didn’t have enough time to maintain it. However, with my job (and with anyone’s life, actually), it is important to look and thus feel good – and the time spent dicking around in the morning trying to find the right clothes is the true waste of time!

  3. That’s so true that even when I have more, I always fall back on the same few favorite items. This is a very helpful system, thanks for sharing! It’s no wonder you turned out to be such a stylish lady now that I know your mother was fashion conscious as well. 🙂

  4. Oooooo.. this will be a tough exercise for me. I’ve slowly tried to continue throwing out items and donating items to get rid of the excess in my wardrobe.

    I always resort to the same set of items, but things like full suits – I may not wear the blazers a lot, but I need to have them just in case….

  5. At the beginning of a season I turn the hangers around. When I wear something I hang the hanger the normal way. That way I can easily see what I actually wear and what just hangs there. It makes it easier to edit my wardrobe.

  6. I have a list of of outfits too! Its awesome in the morning, because I just pick out an outfit from the list and am ready, and looking nice and pretty. Keep your wonderful articles coming, dilly!

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