How many clothes do I need? When is enough enough? How many clothes should a woman have in her wardrobe?
A Lifestyle Fifty reader messaged me recently with these questions – to which I very much related. Do we place too much emphasis on the clothes we own, are we in danger of being like the Emperor in The Emperor’s New Clothes?
In the West, most of us have as much as we need of most things to sustain our lives in a comfortable way. But it’s easy to tip over the top from enough into too much, especially when it comes to clothes. They become much more than just fabric to cover our bodies, and have all sorts of connotations relating to self-confidence, and wanting to improve our image.
So how many clothes does the average woman have? And how many clothes is too many clothes?
How many clothes is too many?
In her message to me, my reader said:
“Ashamedely I have a serious dilemma. I have way too many clothes, like say perhaps 50 pairs of jeans, pants, good pants, and casual pants – but what is reasonable? How many jeans does a girl typically have? How many white ones, black ones denim? How many good pants or old pants? How many summer dresses – the ones to go to the shops, or to the beach or to go out in, and then for each season?”
“I had around 90 T-shirts, and 90 blouses, before I began to give some away, so you can see my dilemma. I’d like to know what’s a reasonable amount so I have a foundation to work towards.”
“The problem with someone like me is that every item you love is beautiful, or it cost a lot, or was purchased with good intentions. I think as women we find it very hard to give them up because we are in love with them. They can bring us pleasure and make us feel good.”
“At the height of my clothing addiction I spread my clothes into the wardrobes of 3 bedrooms and then onto rails. I couldn’t possibly wear them all and over time they wear out just hanging there.”
“Since then I’ve given many of my clothes away to friends and charities. But I think I still have too much.”
“What does a normal woman have in her wardrobe space? How many clothes do I need, what is reasonable and what is normally typical?”
How many clothes do you have?
So how many clothes do you have? And how do you feel about the clothes you have?
In response to a Lifestyle Fifty survey readers answered a set of questions (anonymously), and this is the result.
“How many hanging clothes overall do you have hanging in your wardrobe?”
“How many pairs of Jeans do you own?”
“How many pairs of Pants/Trousers (not including jeans) do you own?”
“How many tops, blouses and shirts do you have?”
“How many bras?”
“How many coats and jackets do you own?”
“How many pairs of shoes and boots do you own?”
“How Many Dresses do you own?”
How many clothes do I need? What do Lifestyle Fifty readers think and how many clothes do they have?
Comments ranged from …
- I have far too many clothes.
- I can’t part with my clothes even though I don’t wear them.
- I keep a range of sizes in my wardrobe – ie larger and smaller in case I gain or lose weight.
- When you feel overwhelmed by your clothes, pare them down until you feel satisfied.
- I like to cull my wardrobe to make room for new purchases.
- I find it hard to part with my favourites.
- Too many clothes makes dressing confusing.
- I’ve been trying to cull and not buy new things, but failing.
- I have way to many, most of which don’t fit – I hang on to them for sentimental reasons.
- I end up wearing only the most comfortable, the rest just hang there.
- I’m comfortable being seen in the same outfits repeatedly, and this releases me from the need for an expansive wardrobe.
- I have so many great clothes but I wear the same 15 or so items, or maybe cycle through sets of things, never taking advantage of the chance to wear everything.
- I have more clothes than I could possibly wear in a year, but still struggle to find something to go out in.
- I see something, think that’s nice, try it on, and mostly I used to buy it.
- I wish I had less clothes. Everything is jammed in and I end up wearing the top three things on the pile.
- I don’t own any dresses.
- I don’t own any trousers.
- Now that I’m retired my wardrobe has contracted to reflect my lifestyle.
- My clothes go from being worn outside the house, then demoted to being worn around the house.
- I just can’t resist a gorgeous dress.
- Where I live we need three wardrobes – summer, winter, spring/autumn.
- Tend to gravitate to a handful of favourites all the time.
- I made a tough decision to part with two dresses with designer tags. I struggled with them for a couple of years. They were great, but not on me.
How many clothes should a woman have in her Wardrobe?
“I have enough clothes and shoes I don’t need to go shopping said no woman ever.”Unknown
Personally I believe that this really is going to vary from woman to woman and her lifestyle.
If we ask the question “How many clothes should the average woman have?” is assumes that we are all average – which we are most definitely NOT!
And let’s be truthful most of us have said at some stage or another: ” I don’t care how many clothes I have, I have nothing to wear.”
According to a survey of a 1000 USA women, ClosetMaid found that the average women has 103 items of clothing in her closet. But she only wears around 10% of them and considers 21% to be unwearable 33 % too tight and 24% too loose.
Consider the 80/20 rule which means that 80% of the time you’ll probably only wear 20% of your clothes. So it makes sense to let go of 80% of the things you don’t wear anyway.
Recovering Shopaholic says in her post How many clothes are enough that “Enough” is an individual and a moving target: “Enough is a very individual concept and it can also be a moving target. I know it was for me… My initial target was 250 total items (clothes, shoes, purses, and scarves), then 150 garments. Now I’m leaning toward 100-120 garments and 25 pairs of shoes, as that feels right to me at this point. But if someone would have mentioned those numbers to me back in January, I would have felt anxiety creeping up my sides. I would have been scared that I wouldn’t have enough.”
How to maintain a wardrobe that works for you
Important considerations when decluttering is to decide which clothes work for your lifestyle.
- Do you go out to work and need a work style wardrobe?
- Do you play sports?
- Do you have an active social life?
- Do you attend many evening events?
- Do you need four seasons of clothes?
- Do you like getting cost for wear out of your clothes or is having choice important?
- Decide what exactly you need clothes for and throw out things which don’t serve you anymore.
- Have you given up a sport – then get rid of the gear because you’ll probably not take it up again and by then fashions might have changed.
- How about evening events? Do you go to many or in truth very few?
- If you’re retired you may no longer have to attend work functions – so that ‘work’ wardrobe can now go too.
What do you need for a basic wardrobe?
In reality we probably need a basic wardrobe consisting of 3 of everything which would cover us under the basis of one clean, one in the wash and one dirty. But this presumes that everything in your wardrobe goes with something else that matches.
Although it is very hard to achieve (and requires discipline) I do believe in the power of a capsule wardrobe, which has one or two extra show pony pieces to spice things up a little.
A basic capsule wardrobe is one which covers the essential days and evenings of your life with clothes that fit well, mostly in block colours of white, black, ivory, cream, navy blue and grey. A crisp white shirt and blue jeans will actually take you most places, and a little black dress can be accessorised beautifully with prints or colours or jewellery to give it punch.
So your capsule wardrobe should consist of items which you can wear anytime, and all the time, which can be jazzed up if necessary either with show pony pieces or pretty accessories.
It’s much easier to get dressed when you don’t have too much to choose from, but when mostly everything in your wardrobe matches everything else as well as your lifestyle.
Video: How to Create A Minimalist Wardrobe
The excuses we tell ourselves
It’s very hard for most people to have the philosophy of one item in, one item out when it comes to our wardrobe space and buying clothes and shoes.
Because most of us will always find something existing that the old item matches with, or we’ll find a reason that we just have to keep it.
These are some of the things we might tell ourselves …
- I bought it with Mum on a happy shopping spree, but Mum is no longer with us and it invokes memories of a happy time – so I can’t chuck it out!
- I bought it to console myself after something bad happened and that piece of clothing has become such a comfort to me.
- I spent wayyy too much on that piece of clothing and therefore can’t possibly get rid of it!
- It matches something else in the wardrobe that I just can’t chuck out either.
- I will slim down to fit into it again one day.
- It will probably come back into fashion.
- It looked great on the model in the photo. I still might wear it one day.
How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
When it gets to the stage that you think it’s not the number of clothes you own, but the number of closets that you don’t own, then you probably have too many clothes.
Because your house is not a landfill for unwanted or unused garments!
Now comes the hard part; deciding what to keep and what to throw away.
It pays to be ruthless so that you’ll end up with a closet in which each item of clothing has space to breathe, and in which you can easily see each piece of clothing without having to shove half a rail of garments to one side.
Being ruthless is going to take some resolve. Give yourself a set amount of time to declutter, and don’t spend time agonising over every decision.
Once you’ve decided what you are going to give away or sell, put those items in another closet and don’t look at them again unless it’s to give them away or sell!
Believe me – look at them again and they will most likely find their way back to your wardrobe!
11 tips on how to reduce your closet
Take an inventory of everything in your closet.
Make a list of how many blouses, shirts, T shirts, jeans, jumpers, jackets and so forth that you actually own. This will make your understand how much you really have, and what might be superflous.
Touch each item of clothing, look at each piece carefully and consider do you really love wearing it, and does it go with something else in your wardrobe? Do you wear this piece often? Is it frayed or worn out?
Immediately throw away the first offenders – those things that look tatty, that are stained, or clothes you don’t like anymore.
Go with the seasons
Sort your clothes into seasons. If there are any clothes from the previous season that you have not worn, then it’s time to bid them farewell.
Consider your lifestyle
Take an honest look at your lifestyle now. Has it changed? Do you work from home now? Have you become a homebody? Do you need 10 cocktail dresses anymore?
Try the Hanger Trick
Turn all the hangers around to face one way. When you wear something then turn the hanger around the other way when you put the item of clothing back. After 12 months if there are hangers still turned around the original way then it’s time to part company with those pieces.
Throw away clothes that don’t actually fit anymore
Throw away clothes that don’t fit. And not just clothes you don’t fit into. It’s time to say goodbye to clothes that have stretched, or that have always been too tight, and those that show too much bust, or gape at the front (those beautiful blouses you keep making excurses for) all those clothes that you actually don’t feel very comfortable wearing for one reason or another.
Take photographs of sentimental items
For those items of clothing which you just can’t bear to part with, but will probably never wear again, my tips is to take a photograph of them and stick them to your closet door with a written memory attached.
Or go one step further and create a photo book of your most loved clothes and write short memoir paragraphs to go with them to remind you of the past and people you love.
Do I love it?
Ask yourself, “Do I love this piece of clothing?” If the answer is “Yes”, then follow this up with “Do I wear it?” There’s a difference to loving a garment and actually wearing it! If you don’t wear it, then no matter how much you love looking at it, it has to go!
Does it feel uncomfortable?
If the garment scratches you, or makes you feel a bit itchy, then you’re going to avoid wearing it. So too if it’s a little tight.
Ask yourself, “is this garment uncomfortable in any way?”
Does this piece of clothing reflect who I am?
As we go through life we project different images. In many instances our clothes can define us.
You might want to be viewed by others in a particular way. Or perhaps you couldn’t give a fig, and that’s okay, but if you want to project a particular image to the world then cull your wardrobe. Is it full of Bohemian, hippy style clothes when really you want to look smart casual? Ditch the clothes that no longer serve you.
Do these clothes look good or not?
If your clothes are balled, or need stitching, or if they are stained, or faded, you are probably not going to keep on wearing them except in the garden. These superfluous clothes need turning into rags or dishcloths or binned.
Have a regular declutter
If you have a six monthly or seasonal declutter you’ll get much better at it, and your wardrobe will be clean and full of clothes you wear and love, rather than packed to the rafters with stuff you no longer wear.
My take on the problem of too many clothes
I believe that many of us enjoy buying clothes. It’s the dress-up-girl in us from childhood, and dare I say it’s that age old fairy tale of the Princess in the castle.
I love clothes and fashion, and like many other women have too much in my wardrobe. But having said that I do cull regularly giving clothes away to friends or charity shops.
Many of us really do derive comfort from clothes and some of them have sentimental value too even if we don’t wear them anymore. Just touching them and looking at them can bring back warm and fuzzy memories for all sorts of reasons.
We have to get over the fact that some clothes possibly helped us through difficult times, and that in its own way the buying expedition provided solace.
When we realise that we have too many clothes, or we can’t find things in our wardrobe, or we spend too much time planning an outfit, and that many items just don’t serve us moving forward, then it’s time to declutter.
When it comes to your clothes, I think if you reach a decision that you have too many clothes for your closet or your lifestyle, then you probably do! And then it’s time to declutter for your sanity and your wardrobe space.
Other Great Posts in This Series
Over to you?
How many clothes do you have?
How many clothes do we need?
Any tips for decluttering?