My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

I have now passed the two month mark with my “half project,” so it’s time for another update (see my first update here). I don’t have as much to share this time around, but I will feature the swaps I’ve made and some thoughts about my summer wardrobe and potential purchases I may make during the coming months.

What I Swapped Out in July

I decided to swap out 12 items this month:

  • Pants: 3 (all cropped)
  • Cardigans: 3 (2 cropped, 1 long)
  • Jackets: 1 (long and tailored)
  • Sleeveless Tops: 3 (all short, for skirts)
  • Dresses: 2 (1 midi, 1 maxi)

These items are all shown in the photo below:

items swapped out - july19

I swapped out these 12 items in July, mostly items from my summer wardrobe. 

Most of these pieces are part of my summer wardrobe and I haven’t worn them since last fall. I took some time last week to try on all of my summer items to assess their fit and how I feel about them now. In doing so, I discovered that some things that I originally included in my active wardrobe are not working for me for various reasons. Here are my reasons for swapping out the 12 pieces above:

  1. Black cropped pants with white side stripe: I still like these pants, but they are very similar to a plain black pair I own that I like more. The plain black pair is a tall size, so the length is better and they’re also more versatile without the side stripe. I will see if I miss these pants and opt to swap them back in this summer.
  2. Black cropped drape cardigan: I actually have three very similar black cropped cardigans and I decided that I like another one better than this one. This cardigan is a bit too cropped in the back, which I feel accentuates my larger bottom half (which I’m self-conscious about).
  3. Another black cropped drape cardigan: Yes, there is some definite redundancy here, but sometimes I buy similar pieces in my quest for something that works better for me. Interestingly, my recent try-ons revealed that my original cropped black cardigan is still the best one. It will need to be replaced soon, but I don’t think this one or the one above will meet that need.
  4. Burgundy long tailored jacket: Although I like the style and the shape of this jacket, the color is not very flattering on me. While I love burgundy, this piece is more of a brown-toned burgundy and I prefer (and look better in) cooler tones. I may explore the option of dyeing it, but I also may opt to sell it, as it has never been worn. If you have any insights into dyeing clothing pieces, please share!
  5. Burgundy embellished tank: This was a favorite of mine for many years (I’ve had it since 2010), but it now feels snug and my midsection is not as narrow as it used to be (thank you, menopause…). I have put it in my “skinny box” for now, as I would still enjoy wearing it if it fit me well, even though it’s also somewhat warm-toned.
  6. Cobalt asymmetrical dress: I still love this dress, but I don’t think it looks good in the back at my current weight. It fits, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it now, so it’s in my “holding zone” and I will revisit it later this year.
  7. Cobalt maxi-dress: Same comment as for the dress above.
  8. Navy print cropped pants: I had hoped that these pants would prove to be as versatile as the black and write print pair I wore frequently last summer. Unfortunately, the fit isn’t quite the same and I also don’t have many tops that coordinate well with this pair.
  9. Olive print cropped pants: The situation with these pants is similar to the ones above, except they are also somewhat uncomfortable due to the stiff linen fabric and wide waistband. I should have been more selective towards the end of last year in adding additional printed pants to my wardrobe. Neither these pants nor the ones above were expensive (they were bought at end of season sales), but I shouldn’t have kept either of them.
  10. Purple open cardigan: I like the color and texture of this cardigan, but it’s a bit too big for me in the body and the sleeves. It was an inexpensive consignment purchase, but it was a mistake for me to buy something that wasn’t a good fit.
  11. Red tank with lace straps: I’ve had this tank since 2009 and have worn it often, but like the burgundy one mentioned above, it’s somewhat snug on me now. I’m going to hang onto it for a while in case that situation changes, as I would definitely wear it if it were looser.
  12. Teal tank with lace straps: Same situation as the red and burgundy tanks.

Since the summer weather only just started this month where I live, I’m going to wait a little while before making any final decisions on what to do with my swapped out pieces. In a month or two, I will revisit them and will likely opt to pass some of them on, while others will probably make their way back into my active wardrobe later in the year (hopefully the two cobalt dresses).

What I Swapped In

Doing my summer wardrobe review helped me to decide which pieces from my holding zone to add back into my active wardrobe. Although I swapped out 12 pieces, I only elected to add 10 items in. This is because I’m able to get back to shopping for “out and about” items now that my two month shopping pause is over. More on that later, but here’s a look at the items I swapped in and my reasons for doing so:

items swapped in -july 2019

I swapped the 10 items above back into my active wardrobe this month.

  1. Black tie-waist cardigan: This is the older cropped cardigan that I mentioned above. I’ve had it since 2011 and I’m sure I’ve worn it over a hundred times at this point. It no longer looks pristine, but it still has some life in it and I like it better than the two potential replacements I’ve found at resale stores. I would still like to find a suitable replacement, but I’m not going to buy anything unless I feel it’s as good as or better than this one.
  2. Black scoop-neck tee: This tee is shorter in length and I wear it with skirts. Since I now have three black printed skirts in my active wardrobe, it makes sense to add this one back in as an alternate choice (and a more basic option) for the black lace-up tee that’s already there.
  3. Black tie-bottom tunic length tee: This was sold as a workout top, but I tie it lower and looser and wear it with my summer pants. I already wore it last week after swapping it back in and was happy with it.
  4. Black twist hem top: I had thought this top was too tight, but it fit well when I tried it on again last week. It will pair well with my two pairs of black printed pants and maybe with jeans.
  5. Black linen full length pants: These are a good summer pant option, but I worried that they weren’t flattering on me, plus they need to be worn with flat shoes and I usually wear heels. However, I tried them on with various tops and discovered a good number of pairing options that I liked, including the next top…
  6. Black and white striped tee with black neckline: I had previously left this one out because I thought it was tight at the bottom, but I like how it looks now. Hopefully that means that I’ve dropped a bit of weight (I never weigh myself, so I have to go by my clothes). This top looks good with jeans and looser-fitting pants.
  7. Green twist hem top: This is the same style as the black one mentioned above, and I also thought this one was too tight. I now like how it looks and plan to wear it with my black and black print cropped pants, as well as potentially with jeans.
  8. Black watercolor print tank: This top is shorter and works well with skirts. I originally left it out in favor of the brighter tanks, but since those don’t fit well at the moment, this one is back. I plan to wear it with my two black skirts and various tie-waist cardigans (I have four – black, gray, cobalt, and purple).
  9. Navy Henley tunic tank: I have a black version of this same tank that was part of my original active wardrobe. I left the navy one out because I didn’t think it was as versatile, but I actually like how it looks with my black printed pants.
  10. Red and black striped high-low skirt: I’ve had this skirt since 2013 and have worn it frequently, but it was too tight for me to wear last summer. I can only pair it now with my two shorter black tops, but I can see myself wearing it enough even with that lack of variety.

Swaps by Category

As you may have noticed, I didn’t always swap “like for like” this time around. In my original rules for the challenge (in this post), I mentioned that I would try to do so as much as possible, but it’s not always feasible given what I have and what fits me. After all, part of why I’m doing this challenge is to better understand what I have and what I need – and to ultimately cultivate a workable wardrobe.

Here’s a look at what I swapped in by category versus what was swapped out (in parentheses):

  • Pants: 1 (vs. 3 swapped out)
  • Cardigans: 1 (vs. 3 swapped out)
  • Jackets: 0 (vs. 1 swapped out)
  • Short-sleeved tops: 5 (vs. 0 swapped out)
  • Sleeveless tops: 2 (vs. 3 swapped out)
  • Dresses: 0 (vs. 2 swapped out)
  • Skirts: 1 (vs. 0 swapped out)

It often doesn’t matter if I swap in the same types of items that I swapped out, as I may have more than enough of particular types of items in my active wardrobe. Since my overall wardrobe size is too large, my preference is to use the swaps to pull together a workable wardrobe that is comprised of the right number of pieces in various categories. While it would be ideal for me to be able to do this for all categories, the reality is that I have too many of certain types of pieces and not enough of other types.

If I find I don’t have enough of a given category, that’s where strategic shopping will come in, but I didn’t want to jump in and do that right away, as I might just buy what’s easiest and also make a lot of mistakes. The two month shopping pause allowed me some time to work with what I have and evaluate what I might need to round out my wardrobe.

About that Strategic Shopping…

I’m now allowed to shop for “out and about” items again and it’s critical that I don’t go back to overbuying. After all, it doesn’t matter how well I do at paring things down if I still bring too much in! The first two months of the “half project” have helped me to identify what will make the biggest difference in my wardrobe in terms of new additions. I’ve also realized that I need to replace a few closet staples that are becoming worn out. Since the summer season only just started for me and will likely continue into November, I’m going to focus only on warm weather pieces for now. As it gets closer to when the cool weather usually begins, I’ll re-evaluate that portion of my wardrobe and update my shopping list accordingly (although I think I need less in that area of my closet).

Here is my tentative shopping list for the coming months based on what I’ve learned thus far during the “half project”:

  1. Midi dresses (2 – one bright and one print)
  2. Maxi dress (bright color or print)
  3. Black mid-length skirt (replacement item)
  4. Tops to wear with skirts (2 – would love for them to be red and cobalt)
  5. Loose-fitting pants or jeans (2-3 pairs – including cobalt and maybe another black print)
  6. Red items (tee or tank, cardigan)
  7. Short-sleeved cardigans or vests (I like to wear a third piece even when it’s warm out)

That’s probably more than I need right now and more than I will have the budget for (both monetarily and in my item allowance), but it’s good to have a list to keep me focused on what to look for – and what not to look for. It’s a good start in any event and will help to prevent mindless shopping and buying whatever’s easiest or whatever catches my eye in the moment. I don’t need a lot of “more of the same,” as all that does is beef up my wardrobe size without adding much outfit diversity to the mix. Then I just end up being bored with what I wear even though I have a relatively large wardrobe, which is something I want to get away from!

In case you’re curious, I have not shopped the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS) this year. The sale only just started last week (for cardholders only) and will continue into early August, so I’m not out of the woods yet. The only way I could see myself buying something from the sale would be if there are items on offer that I can basically wear right away. Since the sale is focused on fall merchandise, that’s not all that likely, although there has been some crossover in the past.  I sometimes purchase undergarments, sleep wear, and lounge wear at the sale, but I have recently enhanced those capsules, so I don’t plan to use NAS for that purpose this year. I will admit to having perused the NAS offerings online out of curiosity, but I have already saved myself many hours over what I did last year in terms of shopping the sale in person, buying things online, and doing countless returns. Hopefully I will be able to stay the course and focus more on other things beyond NAS, for which my track record hasn’t been great.

Conclusion and Coming Attractions

coming soon

I don’t know if I will do a dedicated post each month on my “half project,” but I will keep you posted on a regular basis as to how I’m doing. If any of you are doing the half project or something similar, I’d love for you to weigh in on how it’s going for you. Even if you’re not doing a wardrobe challenge, feel free to share how you’re feeling about your clothes and your style and what your goals are for that area of your life.  Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and evaluate how things are going, especially at the beginning or end of a season. I know that I have always benefited from the wardrobe analysis I’ve done. My numbers crunching may feel like overkill to some of you, but even a little bit of introspection can help you to move forward in a positive way with your shopping, wardrobe management, and style.

In my next post, I plan to revisit the “normal-sized wardrobe” exercise that I wrote about on Recovering Shopaholic back in 2016. One great thing about that exercise is that it helps us to determine how many items we truly need within each wardrobe category, based upon desired frequency of wear, climate, lifestyle, and clothing preferences. I probably should have done this before beginning my “half project,” but I still think that aiming to pare down my wardrobe by half is a worthy goal. It will be interesting to see if my calculations put me in the same ballpark anyway.

I also plan to write more about the concepts from Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism. Last month, I wrote about the importance of solitude and how our attachment to our digital devices can lead to solitude deprivation. Well, I have now finished Newport’s book and feel that there are many other concepts that I can highlight and explore on the blog. So look out for more posts in the category of information and technology (see my previous posts on those topics here), which is especially relevant given my freedom theme for 2019 – and to all of us in this digital age. Stay tuned, and as always, I welcome your thoughts on the topics explored within this post.

14 thoughts on “My Wardrobe “Half Project” – July Update

  1. Julia says:

    I sew most of my clothes and have been dying fabrics for many years. Natural fibre – linen, cotton, silk, viscose and wool – takes dye very well. However, polyester or other synthetic thread is increasingly used in the construction of shop bought garments and this does not take dye, so that you end up with very obviously lighter coloured stitching – which mostly does not look good! Probably the only exception to this is if you use a denim colour dye and end up with contrast stitching which looks intentional.

    The item in question it would have to be professionally dyed and, whilst I can only speak for the UK, think it would be a) difficult to find a professional dyer these days and b) hard to guarantee a particular colour and c) prohibitively expensive.

    So I would say, cut your losses and sell the jacket!

    Thank you for all your inspiration over the years; your journey has been so interesting and I love the direction your blog is taking. Off topic, but can I just say that although it was clearly a very, very traumatic process for you, your grey hair is just stunning and brings out the colour of your eyes and lovely complexion. I would lose the dye in a heartbeat if mine would turn out the same but I am that mousey ‘salt & pepper” type, as my Mum’s generation would have called it !

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on dyeing fabrics, Julia. I really appreciate your insights! I have had a few items dyed previously (at a place that is no longer around, unfortunately) and I remember one skirt having the stitching issue that you mentioned. It wasn’t too bad in that instance, but I can see how that might be a problem. I think your advice to sell the jacket is wise and that’s what I will plan to do. I will have to just take what I can get for it and move forward with the lesson to be more careful about color and not be dazzled by styles (or vice versa, as can also happen to me from time to time).

      I also appreciate your kind words about my hair. I’m very glad that I decided to stop the dye and even though I wish the path had been smoother, I do feel that my natural color is more flattering (and healthier, too). I sometimes wish my hair were more silvery or steely gray, but I will take what I’ve got and do my best to be grateful. I often think that salt and pepper looks good and I have been able to brighten my color by using certain shampoos (I currently like Aveda’s Blue Malva). You’ll know when the time is right to make the transition. My mom just did it at age 74 and her hair is fully white and looks lovely. I inspired her instead of the other way around 🙂 She did have one start and stop earlier because she wasn’t ready yet, but then she went forward and was happy. Her hair is short, so it was easier, but I think almost everyone’s path to gray is easier than mine! I’m glad you like the direction of my blog is going, too!

  2. Tara C says:

    I agree with Julia and would sell the jacket, too risky to attempt dyeing it. As for me, I have bought a bit of loungewear (discovered I only had one pair of sweatpants, one pair of pajama pants and no shorts after my big pack-up and purge at the Montreal condo) and bought myself a throw blanket at NAS with my Nordstrom notes, so I technically spent nothing there. I am avoiding even entering my favorite clothing stores to avoid temptation as this year I am spending $$$ on furniture and window covering replacements. As always, my worst category of temptation is perfume, and it’s a constant struggle as I always want to add to my collection. I should just stop and never buy another bottle but it is one of my few pleasures. I’m very bored and uninspired the past few years, and that leads to shopping desires. I think about going back to work, but I remember how boring and unfulfilling that was, which also led to more shopping. Sigh.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yeah, I think you and Julia are right, Tara. I thought that maybe dyeing it black would be fairly straightforward, but clearly there is more to it than I originally thought (glad I asked!). It sounds like your recent clothing purchases have been wise ones. It must be challenging to maintain wardrobes in two different locations… It seems like you did well at NAS, too, and bought something you will really use (bonus that you were able to do it with notes!). I know you really struggle with perfume. I don’t think you should deprive yourself of something that is a pleasure, but I understand all too well how difficult it can be to moderate purchases. I also very much identify with feeling uninspired and wrestling with whether or not a job might be the answer, but my experience has been very similar to yours. I wish I knew what the answer was… I’m trying to take things one day at a time and try to incorporate more joy into my days, but I also need more purpose, so that’s something I’m going to try to cultivate. I hope we both can figure out a way to find more fulfillment moving forward.

  3. Terra says:

    Good progress Debbie.

    Also congratulations on completing your two month shopping pause. Summer weather has only just begun here too. But instead of wardrobe management, which I do need to get going on, I’ve been on this journey figuring out how to live peacefully (and not look like I’ve turned into a wild-child with my newly curly hair that has arrived after a lifetime of not having actual curly hair. I’m discovering that my hair looks best with a more bohemian style, which is so different from my usual Eileen Fisher style. Though adding a few accessories is helping me transition without needing many new clothes. Looking forward to your updates on the book you finished reading. I am a great fan of stillness and solitude.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Terra. I remember you telling me that you periodically do one-month shopping pauses, so I kind of got the idea from you! I thought I needed a bit more than a month, though, so that’s why I did two months. I’m glad I did it, as it was good to take a few steps back and gain new insights. Kudos to you for embracing your natural hair texture! That’s something I’d like to do, too (at least part of the time), but that’s scarier to me than going gray ever was. I can see how it might be necessary to shift one’s clothing style to a different vibe. I can imagine you would look just as lovely in bohemian clothes as in your Eileen Fisher style. It’s great that adding in a few new accessories has made a big difference. It usually doesn’t take as many new things as we think, which is part of why I’m working on moving more slowly with shopping and wardrobe changes. It’s challenging for me, but most worthwhile things are 🙂

  4. jenn says:

    Congratulations, Debbie for going two months without shopping. I was only able to go 27 days and it was tougher on some of those days than others. My stepson is here for an extended visit and we are preparing for a trip—good things!—but both take me out of my comfortable routine and bring on some anxiety, which resulted in an online order (not from Nordstrom). However, during that 27 days, I did get a much better view of my mistakes, what I have too much of, and a few items to add that can—as you said—add some diversity in outfits.

    I may be going about my “half project” in a slightly different way, but you have most definitely inspired me to give my closet what is probably its most significant culling.

    Of the clothing items in my closet three months ago:
    25% have been set aside or already taken for consignment/donation
    6% have been “demoted” to wear only at home.
    3% have been placed in holding
    66% currently remain in my active wardrobe

    And I’m not done getting rid of stuff. In fact, I just finished trying on each bottom piece with any top that might work with it and logging the results. So in the future, when I look at a specific piece and wonder what I have to wear it with, I’ll know.

    The most common reasons for my discards are:
    A less than perfect fit
    Styles I admire—but on someone else.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and ideas with us. I’m always so happy to see your blogs appear in my e-mail.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on taking a pause from shopping, Jenn! I didn’t pause ALL shopping, just for “out and about” clothes. It was still difficult, but I’m glad I did it. It sounds like you experienced some of the same benefits that I did from taking a few steps back. You’re doing great with transforming your closet! How wonderful that your active wardrobe is now 2/3 of what it was just three months ago. I have been trying on outfits lately, too, and it has helped a lot. Sometimes pieces that we thought weren’t working can still work well for us, but in different combinations. I used to take outfit photos, but now I’m just making a log like you did. My discards are for similar reasons as what you mentioned. I admire a lot of things on others that just don’t work for me for many reasons. I’m glad you’re finding this series and my blog in general helpful!

      1. Alice says:

        I think logging combinations that work is really helpful. I started last year with selecting 4 ‘key pairs’ per season, ie favourite blazer/pants combinations. This avoided me panicking eg the following winter that I had nothing nice to wear, and also helped consolidate a style. This year I revisited the pairs, trying each out, in a few cases improving on them or deciding to swap an item across seasons. I also adding some alternatives (eg 2nd choice trousers for each of the 4 key jackets, building up to about 12 favourite combinations). I also always log what I wear but this is becoming increasingly irrelevant – I may abandon this in favour of the smaller and more focussed spreadsheet.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I love this system, Alice, and I thank you for sharing it with us here. Most of us don’t need as many items and outfits as we think. I find myself repeating outfits often this summer and I’m fine with it. It’s great that you’re finding that some of your items work across seasons. I can see that 12 favorite combinations would be plenty for many of us, especially if you’re not seeing the same people all the time.

    2. Jayne says:

      Hi Debbie.I must admit I miss the regular posts your did as with your old website. But this means you are busy living your real life. I am still struggling with buying too many shoes. Wishing you all the very best. r

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        I miss posting more often, too, Jayne, but I also wonder how I ever did as many posts as I did back on “Recovering Shopaholic”! If you saw my most recent post, you know why I went so long between posts this last time. Yes, I’m trying to better live my real life, but I’m still struggling there, as well as with shopping and clothes. Wishing you the best, too, with shopping and everything else!

  5. RoseAG says:

    We always go on vacation in late July and that saves me from the NAS — I’m too busy getting packed, and then I’m far away from the store.
    You know what? I don’t miss it.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That’s a good time to go on vacation, Rose, and I’m glad you don’t miss NAS. I ended up shopping it a bit towards the end, but it was quite minimal both in terms of time and purchases (I mostly bought for my husband and a bit of lounge wear for myself). The sale is mostly overrated IMHO.

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