The FoMO Closet

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When I used to regularly perform closet makeovers, the most common issue I saw was women stockpiling clothing. They’d find a sweater they liked, and would purchase two in black, three in other colors, and often have a few still with tags on stored carefully for the time when the ones in rotation needed to be retired. They’d have ten pairs of jeans, all the same cut from the same designer. The entire closet would be the same exact silhouette of jacket, just in different prints and fabrics. Most of the time, such closets were often full of garments with tags still on and dust on the shoulders.

While buying in multiples can be quite sensible, a lot of times such stockpiling and over-buying is a waste of money and a killer of personal style. Women often do this because they find themselves hard to fit and shopping a stressful and unpleasant experience. By purchasing multiples, they feel they can shop less often and have a wardrobe full of pieces that fit and flatter. They fear that if they return to the mall they won’t have such success, so they stock it up.

carrie bradshaw closet fomo

FoMO, or Fear of Missing Out is a hot phrase these days, and usually used for people who seem to have a Smartphone surgically attached to their hand. But it can also be used for many clothing shoppers. Fear that your favorite company will discontinue that cut of jeans, that your signature lipstick color will be retired, that you will no longer be able to find that certain style of sweater that you love so much. Such fear, that you hoard pieces, even if they aren’t in your favorite color or quite the right fit, just because anything similar may end up no longer in existence.

FOMO definition fear of missing out
Wikipedia's Definition of FoMO

The thing is… fashion is fluid. What seems to be a “classic” in 1993 isn’t in 2003 or 2013. Not only that, your body is also fluid. No matter how many hours you put in at the gym, age and life experiences will change your figure. Finally… YOU are always changing. With life events, education, experience and exposure to new things your brain and personality and soul will change. When you force yourself into a very specific wardrobe and stockpile pieces, you’re actually making fashion more complicated and frustrating.

When I started this blog, almost my whole wardrobe was from Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic. I bought v-neck merino sweaters and wide-leg lined trousers with tab waistbands by the truckload because I felt they were classic, versatile, and flattering. Eight years later, I don’t own either type of garment because they just aren’t right. While such pieces can still fit and flatter, they seem too old, too dowdy for my current self. If I had stayed the same size, I likely would have stuck with those pieces instead of spending money on more and therefore missed out on truly honing my personal style.

caroline herrera
Carolina Herrera is known for her crisp white shirts, but the details change to stay current and flattering.

Now I know many of you will bring up style icons who have uniforms – Carolina Herrera and her white shirts, Michael Kors and his black blazers with jeans and a crew tee shirt. The thing is that even these individuals with signature uniforms change it up with the years. The cut is slightly different, the wash on the denim may change or even the length to adjust the break. Classic pieces change ever so slightly from season to season – a turtleneck may be a bit taller or looser, a cuff may be more pronounced, a pencil skirt a tad more tapered, a heel width more narrow or the shape more curved.

Shopping is scary, no matter your age or figure. But insulating yourself with a bulging wardrobe of dated “classics” and not-quite-right-but-better-than-nothings isn’t any better of an existence. It’s more stylish to wear the same great outfit every day for a year than have months worth of ensembles that aren’t quite right and don’t give the right message.

I’m not saying purge your entire wardrobe, but realize you may have a FoMO closet. Take a serious look at your wardrobe – do you really need all of it? Does all of it fit and flatter the current you? What small steps and simple garments can take your current closet and make it feel fresh and stylish? Try on what you own, and stand in front of a full-length mirror with good lighting and be honest with yourself and your shopping habits. You may realize that some things are discontinued because they honestly aren’t that flattering or appropriate any more.

You can’t know who you are or what you want if you’re hidden under a FoMO wardrobe. Be it a closet full of tweed blazers and knee-length skirts or sequined cocktail dresses and leather leggings, shopping in such a manner will not help your style, your sanity, or your soul. It’s scary to let go, but you can’t fly if you never leave the nest.

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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. That’s really interesting about your own style evolution from the beginning of your blog until now. I know that my own style has changed as I’ve learned more about fashion and have grappled with various style questions and challenges. This used to make me feel like a fraud…but thinking of your own growth (and the wealth of experience and knowledge you have) makes me feel a lot better. XO

  2. Sadly, I am a cardigan junkie. I wear one almost every day. When I find a style I like, I do buy multiples. However, I am not afraid to try different style cardis: cascade front; cocoon style, boyfriend, etc. I wear them with everything from skirts to skinny jeans. I wear them with tanks and ts. Blouses and alone. I layer scarves and jewelry with them. Am I guilty of FoMO? I have found as I get older, I am most comfortable with a layered look. I do force myself to try different articles of clothing, even pullover tops (gasp!). Cardis and jackets are my bag, baby. 😀

  3. All I can say is “Girl You Be Killin’ Em” loved this post. And that you admitted to falling into the FOMO trap yourself. Well written, humorous and useful. What more can we ask for in a blog post!

  4. I rarely buy multiples unless the multiples are black t-shirts from target, which are my every day around the house and running errand uniform, but recently I found the New NYDJ super skinny jean. They fit me so perfectly and looked so great that I went crazy and bought three, one in dark denim, one in black and one in a print. Normally I would agree with you on the multiple thing, but I do understand it, especially when it’s something that’s difficult to find like the perfect skinny jean.

  5. This is some good advice. I’ve seen more talk around on the blogs about this subject and it is influencing me to let go of some old clothes this week. Excellent article!

    blue hue wonderland

  6. Allie,

    I see many examples of FoMO everyday. I didn’t know there is an actual name for this condition. It does help explain a lot.

  7. I feel like I have 1/2 a closet that’s truly ME and 1/2 a closet that’s sorta me, but is for work. And, unfortunately, I tend to buy in bulk for the stupid work side:(

  8. To be honest, I wish I had done a bit more of this when it comes to jeans and trousers. If I could have predicted it would become nearly impossible to buy non-dowdy petite pants that sit at the natural waist and have regular leg widths, I would have stocked up before fashion went in the opposite direction. I will concede that this situation has allowed my style to shift direction — more toward skirts and dresses — but I still wouldn’t mind being able to find pants without sales associates reacting as if I have requested something made of unicorn feathers.

    1. I hear you there, Julie! It’s also difficult to find tall plus pants that sit at the natural waistline and look decent. I do OK with regular fit men’s jeans but have yet to find decent black, tall, suit pants.

  9. Allie,

    I have to partly disagree with you on this one. What I do agree with you on is buying multiples only to let them languish in the closet is not a wise idea. But if a person finds a favorite, buys multiples, and then wears the heck out of all of them, I see that as a positive thing. I have a favorite style cardigan in 4 colors. I like them all and I wear them all, often.

    I figure if it was good enough for Einstein, it is good enough for me. Not that he was a style role model nor do I have nearly the cerebral wattage that he had! I think the point is to minimize the time spent on fiddling with one’s wardrobe so that one can maximize the time devoted to what one is most interested in.


    1. I do this, too, and it works well for me. I am nearly impossible to fit, and am really picky, so when I find something I like, I buy 1-2 in black and 1 each in other colors it comes in and wear them all to death for the entire season. I don’t actually buy a ton of stuff each season, so I end up wearing out a lot of stuff within a year or two because it gets worn so much.

  10. You’ve got my number today…I definitely hoard because something similar may not be in existence later, even though I have wasted TONS of money on multiples that, when I am ready for them, don’t fit anymore, or are hopeless out of style. I caught myself on this this week and pulled myself back…I’m just getting back into my gym habit after a (much too long) break and needed a new pair of yoga pants. I’m losing weight already and plan on losing more. I hit the jackpot, finding a (pricey) pair that fit well and felt good. I immediately ordered THREE more pairs without even thinking, since (you got it), they may not be in existence later, when I need them. I told myself that by the time I need a new pair, they will be too big and besides, there will be many happy yoga pants to choose from then, and sent them right back. I only feel a small tug of fear of later scarcity. Yay for me!!

  11. Allie, were you looking into my closet before you wrote this? It is loaded with multiple copies of the styles I feel safe in. I doubt that I will discard very many of them, but I’ll certainly try to introduce some variety. Your keepin’-it-real blog is a big help. Thanks!

  12. I deeeeeeefinitely have FOMO closet, although it’s less a “fear of missing out” problem and more of a “this is on sale! I’ll buy both colors for the price of one!” and then I realize I didn’t really need that purple anyway and I’m barely going to wear it.

    But it was $30 off of $60!


    Ugh. I am actually about to go through a pretty big wardrobe purge – I’ve been working slowly on it over the course of the year, but I’m going to FLOOD my local Goodwill with my closet in early December because there is so much in there I am realizing I don’t need. Or I’ll hold off of buying the things I DO need, because “I already have one of those” – only I don’t have what I NEED, I have a really cheap, not-right version that I never wear instead of the right design that I WOULD wear, but can’t bring myself to spend money on because that cheap one is still in my closet. I’m getting rid of a lot of those “buy it in multiples” items, too; they’re good quality, good brands, but I just don’t wear ’em.

    I think FOMO becomes a big problem too when it comes to having all these sale emails coming into your inbox each morning; it can’t be tough to ignore the pressure to BUY BUY BUY while the sale lasts! And I have to remind myself… there will be another sale. There’s always another sale.

    In short – love this post. Spot on.

      1. Ooooh, good point. Thanks for the links! There is a battered women’s shelter in the county I work in that is painfully undersupplied. I’ll go look up their number.

  13. Oh, I’ve been guilty of this…it’s a hard habit to let go but I’m learning not to fear shopping quite so much (and that alterations can make a big difference!).

  14. Funny, I thought your post was going to be about exactly the opposite thing– about either trying EVERY trend that comes down the pike (fear of “missing out” on the fun), or AVOIDING every trend because it’s too hard to pick (thereby, missing out.) And, a corollary, fear of not picking up on a new style until it already looks dumb and dated. (For example, I am FINALLY getting brave enough to tuck my jeans in every once in a while. Been admiring it for years on skinnier women.)

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