My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

For many years, I engaged in the regular practice of spending several hours every month or two putting together outfits and photographing them. The objective was to come up with as many combinations as possible that I could wear, so I would try out lots of options. Some of my resulting ensembles looked great and others fell flat, but I typically photographed anything that I thought I might want to wear someday.

Taking the time to map out my outfits helped me to wear more of what I owned and get ready to go more quickly when I had plans, as I always had good ensembles close at hand. It also served to boost my sartorial creativity and improve my personal style.

outfit photos

Photographing favorite outfits can streamline getting dressed & enhance our style.

I stopped doing these outfit creation sessions a few years ago, mostly because I’d become increasingly self-critical. I didn’t like looking at photos of myself wearing the various ensembles, as I always found multiple aspects of my appearance to pick apart. The combination of gaining weight after menopause and going through a long and difficult gray hair transition process put the kibosh on my photographing my outfits, both when I was creating them and when I actually wore them out of the house.

I miss having a ready-made directory of outfits to wear, and I feel that my style has suffered as a result of abandoning my styling sessions. Much of the time, I find myself wearing the same combinations, and I neglect to reach for those pieces that are harder to style. While some of my “go-to” outfits are ones that I love, others feel pretty uninspired. Additionally, I feel bad about not wearing some items that I love simply because I’m not sure what to pair with them. I considered going back to my previous practice, but I’ve decided to do something different instead, which I’ll share with you in today’s post.

Drowning in a Sea of Possibilities…

When I used to do my outfit creation sessions, I’d usually pull out a particular garment and attempt to find all of the possible combinations for it in my closet. If I was working with a pair of pants, for example, I’d try on each of my tops that might coordinate with them, taking photos as I went along. I’d also pair various toppers and shoes with each combination, and I sometimes also took the time to include accessories as well. As you might imagine, this method could be quite time-consuming, and it also led to an over-abundance of possibilities.

It was fun to play around and get my creative juices flowing, but in reality, only a small number of the resulting ensembles ever got worn. There were just too many options, many of which were either sub-standard in some way or outside of my comfort zone.  Looking back, I don’t understand why I didn’t just capture the outfits that made my heart sing and abandon the rest as failed experiments. I think it’s because I was coming from a different place back then, a kind of “more is more” perspective. I thought it was important for me to mix things up a lot when getting dressed, to prevent boredom and also to appear more creative and stylish.

A New Approach

I now have a different outlook on my style and how I want things to work. I don’t feel the need to have hundreds of outfit combinations available for me to choose from, but I also don’t want to only wear the same few ensembles on perpetual repeat. Upon consideration, I decided that if I could come up with a list of about twenty-five outfits for each season, I’d probably have the right amount of variety to keep me satisfied while not becoming overwhelmed with too many options.

The key is that I want all of these outfits to be at least an eight on a scale of one to ten, and preferably a nine or ten if possible. My catalog of outfits should also meet the following criteria:

  • Physically and emotionally comfortable
  • In line with my style guideposts: Dramatic, Polished, and Elegant
  • All garments should be well-fitting
  • Appropriate for my lifestyle and activities
  • There should be outfit options for all of the main occasions of my life

At-Home Outfits Matter, Too

I originally intended to just create a list of my twenty-five best “out-and-about” outfits. However, since I spend so much of my time at home, I believe it would also be helpful to come up with a “cheat sheet” of my best ensembles for that portion of my life. Not all of my lounge and exercise outfits meet each of my three style guideposts, but I try to have them be in line with at least two. I strive to have all of my outfits be polished, regardless of where I’m wearing them. This often has to do with the fit of my clothes and how I put things together. Dramatic can be achieved by the colors and prints that I wear, and elegant often comes about as a function of the fabrics and silhouettes that comprise my looks.

Most days, I end up leaving the house in the outfit I’m wearing at home, as I typically take short walks around my complex at least once a day. I like to get outside and I find that it helps my mood to take a break and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. Since other people usually see me in my lounge wear, I want to make sure that I look presentable and reasonably well put-together.

If I have to take the time to change my clothes before venturing out, that can deter me from going on my walks, and I don’t want there to be any impediments there. Additionally, it makes me feel better when I’m happy in what I’m wearing around the house, and I also want my husband to think I look good when he’s at home with me (which has been more frequent over the past year and a half).

What I’ve Done So Far – and Next Steps

I haven’t completed my “outfit catalog” yet, but I’ve made a start on it. After I came up with the idea of putting together twenty-five (or so) great outfits, I took out a notebook and jotted down some recent combinations that I was happy wearing and that met the criteria mentioned above. I realize this is a very “old school” way of doing things, but the notebook method was just to get me started.

What I hope to do is find a wardrobe smartphone app to use for storing visual representations of my favorite outfits. I remember looking into this a few years ago, but all of the best apps seemed to only be available for iPhones, and I have an Android phone. If you have recommendations for apps that might serve my needs, I’m open to them.

It would be a bonus if I could also keep track of what I wear – and how often – via the app, which I know is possible with at least some of them. Although I stopped tracking wears at the end of 2018, I’d be interested in resuming this practice now if it were simple to manage. I continue to use “the hanger trick” as a simple means of tracking, but I can see the value of having additional data both for myself and for use on this blog.

App considerations aside, in order to come up with my favorite outfits list, I need to spend some experimentation time in my closet. But when I do so, I’m only going to capture the best combinations. No more saving the “this might work…” looks, as I shouldn’t have to convince myself to wear something. I don’t need to have twenty-five possibilities for each pair of pants! That many total options should be plenty for me, especially since I don’t have a very active social life at present, and I don’t even run a lot of errands or go to many appointments these days.

Having a Lot of Clothes Complicates Things

What I do have, however, is a lot of clothes, which makes it harder for me to get dressed. Many women think that having more clothes will help them dress better, but I don’t believe that’s generally the case. Having a jam-packed closet makes it more difficult to see and remember what one owns, and it also can be extremely overwhelming. Although I don’t have nearly as many clothes as I did back when I started Recovering Shopaholic close to nine years ago (seriously, where does the time go?!), I have experienced some recent “wardrobe creep” and my hangers are closer together these days.

It’s been said that most women wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time (the famous Pareto Principle – the 80/20 rule – applies to our closets, as well as other aspects of our lives). My percentages are much less grim, but that’s only because I’ve made a concerted effort to avoid accumulating wardrobe “benchwarmers.” Most of us have at least a few “benchwarmers,” and they’ve usually earned that status for a good reason. In some cases, we may be stumped as to how to wear a particular item, but more often than not, our unworn or rarely worn pieces don’t suit us in some important way (e.g., body, lifestyle, personality, or style aesthetic).

I plan to examine my potential benchwarmers more in the coming months (perhaps in the same way as I originally outlined way back in 2013), but for now, I just want to make the process of getting dressed easier while also expanding my outfit repertoire. I believe that my twenty-five (or so) good outfits will do just that!

Creating an “Outfit Catalog”

If you like the idea of having an “outfit catalog,” here are some tips to get started:

  1. First, make a pie chart of how you typically spend your time. Look at the activities you do, how often you do them, and what types of clothes you wear in each instance.
  2. Then consider how many outfits you’d ideally like to have for each type of activity. For example, if you work in an office five days a week, how long do you want to go before repeating an ensemble? If you want to go three weeks without re-wearing an outfit, you’ll need fifteen outfits.
  3. Next, either jot down or photograph some of your favorite outfits to get started. You can also do this as you go… Whenever you wear an outfit that you really like, include it in your outfit catalog.
  4. Consider how you’d like to capture your favorite outfits. I’m starting with a simple notebook, but since I’m a very visual person, I’d like to move on to using an app that allows me to save pictures of my ensembles.

If you live in a four-season climate or have varied activities that require highly different outfits, you may need more ensembles than my initial goal of twenty-five. This is a very individual type of thing, and your numbers and preferences may be much higher or lower than mine. What’s great is that we can all make adjustments over time as desired.


I’m going to start with twenty-five outfits each for my out-and-about activities and my at-home life. Since there’s not a lot of variation in what I do and the types of ensembles I need for the events in my life, I’m going to keep it simple and just create two basic “look books.” I’ll include a couple of dressier outfits for the rare instances when I need them, but the bulk of my ensembles will be casual in nature (although my version of casual tends to be dressier than what most women where I live tend to wear).

Even after my outfit catalog is complete, I’ll probably still wear other combinations from time to time. I’m not creating my list of outfits in order to limit myself. I’m doing it to simplify my life and streamline the process of getting dressed. If I have more time one day and want to play around with new looks, then of course I’ll do that. But what’s great is that I won’t have to do that when I’m short on time. I can simply consult my catalog of favorite outfits and know that I’ll feel comfortable, happy, and stylish in what I’m wearing.

Now I’d like to hear from you… Below are a few questions to help you gather your thoughts, but feel free to share whatever you’d like related to the contents of this post.

  • Have you ever created a master list of outfits? If so, what method (e.g., notebook, app, etc.) did you use for doing so?
  • What other suggestions do you have for making the process of getting dressed easier?
  • What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of style rut?

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43 thoughts on “The Power of Twenty-Five Good Outfits

  1. Dori says:

    I’ve seen recomandations for Stylebook app. I think I had “Your closet” on my phone and used it for adding photos of my clothes, tracking wears. Both are available for Androids, so maybe you can try them and see if they are adding value.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks, Dori. I just looked and Stylebook is still iPhone only, but Your Closet is available for Android. I also saw quite a few other options. Most of them are free, so I will pick something to try and if I don’t like it, I can try something else. I’ll definitely report back on what I try and what I like.

  2. Vildy says:

    This is not my exact issue but am very interested in what item people choose to start to build an outfit from. For me, it’s weather/temperature oriented. I hate feeling cold, hot, sweaty… Today it’s a cooler August day and my husband needs air conditioning and I wound up taking a nap under a blanket, my hands feeling like ice and wondering why I didn’t have a snowsuit. 😀 When I got up, changed out of my outfit into a navy cable sweater under a dark navy or maybe black (I can’t always tell the difference) tracksuit with white and lime accents and white retro keds sneakers with navy accents.
    Rejected the idea of thermal underwear underneath. 😀

    Long ago, my problem used to be Too Many Good Choices and I can’t remember exactly how I moved away from that. Might be that I now use the Cluster Concept that Vivienne Files wrote about. I don’t worry about how many pieces but hang together things I like to wear together. A woman once complimented me on how well a clutch purse I once had matched pieces of my outfit and where did I ever manage to find it. I explained that I buy what attracts me and I guess I tend to like the same kind of things and consequently they go together. Example: I have a dappled pattern cotton skirt
    in black, beige, cream and I have the exact fabric in a lightweight jeans cut pant – from two different brands – and I used to wear either of them with a tee shirt in the same colors but with a more regularized graphic small floral print. Until it ran in the laundry and couldn’t be restored. I didn’t wear either of the bottom pieces until I ran across a button up shirt in the same colors and in a stylized delicate animal print. So now I have about 9 pieces hanging together, including several print blazers and some additional print skirts such as a silky large beige and cream orchid print on black and a pull on pencil-ish skirt that looks like canvas and has assorted large beige flowers heavily outlined in creamy white, on a black ground. I haven’t hung solid
    pieces there like black, white camel blazers and skirts, pants. But I know I have them. Along with some thin stripe silky shirts. In my mind, though, the whole things hinges on having that one print button up shirt available. Sometimes I wear it as an overshirt/jacket. I also have available and hanging there a dark denim jacket with a large baroque pattern beige embroidery on the sleeves.

    I could probably use this one cluster along with its solid complements throughout maybe two whole seasons. But I won’t. I crave newness and stimulation and get it as often as I can from recombining items from my wardrobe but not always, of course. I do like the improvisational nature of this cluster concept.

    Can’t find the original post but here is a template

    At a later point she wants to define clusters as more like a small group that goes with a couple of bottoms and you know that I took her concept
    and ran full speed with it to build it out more. Maybe because she travels and packs and I’m not. 😀

    1. Vildy says:

      here is the original post where she uses this concept to organize a closet/wardrobe I have obviously just used it as a springboard and ignored the streamlining aspect. 😀

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I loved reading about the cluster concept, Vildy. I find it very intriguing because that’s not how I’ve done things over the years, with the possible exception of when I’ve packed for travel. Your patterned skirt and pants both sound nice. I’m glad you found a new top to pair with both of them and have been able to create a cluster around those two interesting items. It sounds like you have a lovely, unique, and versatile wardrobe.

      I’ve had “orphans” in my closet, too, when an accompanying piece became worn out or got ruined somehow. I don’t just get rid of things because I’m not wearing them. I need to evaluate WHY I’m not wearing things to see if they really need to go or not.

      I’m going to read more about the cluster concept (thanks for linking the original post), and maybe I will give it a try. I can see how it might work differently based upon whether or not it’s being used for travel, as we usually have less space available for more pieces when we’re packing (I still struggle a lot with packing, but I don’t do it very often).

  3. Katrina B says:

    Oooooh! I did this earlier this year! I think it was prompted by one of your Less is More posts. I just focused on middle of the road, work or brunch type outfits, although your point about outfits for all occasions makes me realize I’m not completely prepared for, say, an outdoorsy activity or a formal event. But it gives me a surprising sense of security knowing that I have about 30 outfits I can grab and put on and not go through the “hate it, take it off, start over” process multiple times. Of course right now it’s not exactly a problem, but there may come a time when I have to actually get dressed everyday. I have done this a few times in the past, either making notes or creating a spreadsheet, but this time I photographed every outfit and that made a big difference.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I remember you mentioning at some point that you came up with a list of outfits, Katrina. Maybe I got the idea from you and just didn’t remember the origin of it! Most of my outfits thus far are also “middle of the road” looks, but I do think it can be helpful to include ensembles for other types of activities, too, even if we don’t do them all that often. In my case, I might be less likely to commit to an activity if I think I don’t have something to wear that I’ll feel comfortable and confident in. So I’m going to include outfits for outdoorsy activities and formal events so I know I’ll be ready to do them if it comes up (or if I’m not ready, then I know what I’ll need to shop for). I definitely think having photographs of the outfits will help me to better implement the concept, but of course that will be more time-consuming.

  4. I look forward to hearing more about how you implemented this process and what you think of the result. I think a lot of people would benefit from something like this! I’ve read a LOT about how a capsule wardrobe makes it easier to get dressed…and I can see how that would be true. But between having a capsule and getting out the door (or, in my case, seated at my WFH desk) in the morning, you still have to make the outfit. I pre-plan my outfits in advance so it’s less of an issue for me, but I am intrigued by this approach that can be done with or without a capsule wardrobe. It will be interesting to see whether you end up with some “cluster” like combinations, similar to what Vildy mentioned above, where you have a cardigan and pants and more than one top that would work with it, for example. Also are there pieces you own that don’t make it into any of the Good Outfits? Are any of the “orphan” pieces ones that were always the problem in outfits you tried and maybe should go? Or are there some good pieces that just need a partner to become Good Outfits themselves? It would be interesting if this method would help identify gaps in your wardrobe.

    1. Vildy says:

      This worksheet (though of course you don’t really need a worksheet) makes it really easy to plan outfits ahead. It’s from Jennifer Skinner who use to have a wardrobe analysis blog that is now archived.

      The basic idea is to figure out 2 tops for each bottom piece. Tops can be twin set, blouse, blazer…

      Step 2 more thinking on how to do it, how to shop for it, thinking about pants, say, lasting longer than tops. Though in reality they may not for each person.

      1. Vildy, thanks for the links to Jennifer Skinner’s site. I am looking forward to perusing it!

      2. Debbie Roes says:

        Thanks so much for sharing these links, Vildy! I love what Jennifer Skinner has to say and I’m sad that she’s no longer blogging (but I plan to peruse her information via the web archive). I like the template because that’s often what I do when putting together outfits. Since it’s not easy for me to find bottoms, I usually have multiple tops and toppers that pair well with each one (which can sometimes become overwhelming and is part of why I want to create a more finite outfit list).

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I agree that something like what I’m proposing can often be a missing step when it comes to capsule wardrobes, Sally. It’s great to come up with a small (or even not so small) capsule of clothes for a given season, but we have to know how to best work with it! I applaud you for pre-planning your outfits. Part of why I wanted to come up with the outfit list is because I don’t typically do that.

      In answer to your questions, I DO have pieces that aren’t making it into my “good outfits” (the list is still in progress) and I do have some orphan pieces that I’m not sure how to style. I’m going to evaluate the orphans to see if I still like them. If so, I will either find a way to make them work with what I own or determine what I might need to buy in order to make them work. I may decide that some items aren’t worth the trouble, though, as one shouldn’t have to buy a bunch of new pieces if she already has a fairly large wardrobe. I’m sure I will be writing posts about all of this as time goes on… You’ve raised some excellent questions!

    3. Swedishseams says:

      Now *this* sounds like something I can and should do! I’ve read lots about capsule wardrobes etc and as you say, some combinations are ok, but don’t spark joy. I also find I buy pieces but then don’t know how to wear them because I haven’t thought about the outfit (even though they “go” with the capsule color palette and add variety).

      A few weeks ago I started photographing outfits I wore and liked, and have added them onto a private Instagram account. I find myself reaching for those outfits over and over when I’m stressed and need to quickly get dressed to go out. Building these in advance and photographing 25 for different occasions for my lifestyle — I’m shocked I didn’t think of it sooner. Thanks for great and interesting content.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Welcome, Swedishseams, and thanks for your comment! I hadn’t thought of using a private Instagram account to keep track of my best outfits, but that’s a great idea. However we do it, I can see that the idea of compiling a list or catalog of “go-to outfits” is resonating with people. I’ve appreciated the ideas that have been shared here and I look forward to trying some of them.

  5. sewtypical says:

    I enjoy your blog and love how you’re willing to evolve and change. I used to lurk on your shopaholic blog sometimes, too.

    Personally, I like the 4×4 method:

    I live north of Los Angeles, so our seasons are somewhat similar to each other. I created two 4×4 pages, one for the warm season and one for the cool season. There were some clothing items that are on both pages, like elbow length tees. I keep ALL the clothes hanging up in the closet for when there’s a cool day in summer, or a warm afternoon i winter. Anything not on my pages gets stored in bins.

    Looking forward to your 25 outfits!
    🙂 Chris

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I remember you commenting in the past, Chris. Glad you’re still around… Thanks for sharing that Vivienne Files article. I remember reading about the 4 x 4 method in the past, but it’s nice to revisit it now. I think I’m going to try doing what you did with one 4 x 4 page for each season (my seasons are much like yours, but L.A. tends to be a bit warmer than San Diego). The only issue I might have is that I don’t have a lot of items in a second neutral, but I do have quite a few prints that feature black (my mail neutral). I’ll have to play with it a bit and see what I come up with… I may end up doing a blog post about this (or maybe two – one for the warm season and one for the cool season). I’m not sure if I would store everything else in bins, but I could definitely separate my core wardrobe from the rest and see how it goes. Like you, I also keep everything hanging up in my closet, as we do have unseasonably warm – or cool – days fairly often. I’m grateful to have pared my wardrobe down enough to be able to do this!

      1. NATALIE K says:

        That sounds like a great idea! I would really enjoy your doing a 4 x 4 for warm weather and cool weather!

  6. NATALIE K says:

    I have done this in the past and I was just thinking about doing this again for this Fall 2021 earlier this week! Your timing couldn’t be better! I will do this along with you! I am also very critical of myself in pictures so I layout my outfit with jewelry, purse, shoes, and all on a sheet on my bed. I keep a catalog for myself on days I’m not feeling creative. Otherwise, I pick out my outfit the night before and have it hanging separately for the morning. I found this worked beautifully for me! I have never tracked my wears. I have no desire to! My life is hard enough these days! I’m disabled and just doing outfits will be really hard on me physically! So looking forward to doing this again!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad this was good timing for you, Natalie! Good idea to lay out outfits on the bed. I’ve done that in the past, too, but not recently. I don’t need to see the outfit on myself, but I do feel that I need to try things on to know that they work, as sometimes things SEEM good in theory, but they don’t work in application. I tend to be very fussy about my clothes and how I look in them, so I have to at least test outfits out to make sure I like them. Tracking isn’t for everyone. I did it for about 8 years and then stopped. I never thought I would do it again, but I might give it another shot for a while just to get more information (and to have more fodder for the blog).

  7. NATALIE K says:

    Let me add that I was taught to always pick two shirts for every bottom. A blouse, twin set, nice knit, etc. and a topper if at all possible to finish the outfit. In the hot summer, a kimono in Fall/Winter, a blazer, cardigan or a wrap. This really does make a difference. I also keep two outfits for evening wear at all times on the ready, especially during the holiday season! Being prepared makes me feel better and more confident! Something I always need! I’m sure you can understand.

    1. Vildy says:

      I agree wholeheartedly that “the third piece” makes the outfit stylish. It works in reverse, too. Sometimes we want to fit in, especially when others are very casual and less “dressy”. Leaving off the third piece can help a lot with that. I remember going to mail something at the postal substation that is in our community center, which holds a lot of classes for seniors. I knew my friend was there that day and went over to chat with her and see what she was working on. After I left, she told me later, many women had commented that I looked different than everybody else. European. Now a lot of these ladies do dress up. So what was the difference? My friend told them it was just the scarf I had on. That read “foreigner” to them. But a good way of
      fitting in to less dressed up occasions is a matching set of any two pieces: skirt and top or pants and top. And I suppose a plain jumpsuit would also work.

      And if we do want that third piece it can also be a spectacular “important” belt, eyecatching necklace, a scarf. 😀

      1. NATALIE K says:

        Interesting! People view us differently than we see ourselves! I always include the accessories except belts. That’s just me! I’m usually the dressiest one but I’m just being me so they understand! Thanks for the different way of looking at it!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I think the two tops for every bottom concept is a good one, and I love the idea of keeping two outfits for evening wear at the ready. One never knows when they might need this, and it’s often not easy to find dressier clothes at short notice. Like you and Vildy, I believe that adding a third piece really helps to amp up the style quotient. That’s part of what makes dressing for the hottest days more challenging. Jewelry and scarves can also help, but I enjoy adding some sort of topper to my ensembles as much as possible. And yes, being prepared helps us to feel more confident.

      I love what Vildy said about leaving off the third piece to fit in for more casual environments. I’ll have to keep that in mind, as it tends to be ultra-casual where I live. I usually don’t mind being dressier than most people, but there are those rare times (usually super casual outdoor types of events – I haven’t been to any in a long time, though) when I feel a bit conspicuous and would rather not.

  8. Sue says:

    I love Natalie K’s idea of laying outfits on the bed to photograph. After reading this post, I thought of perhaps doing that at the end of days when I’ve felt good in an outfit, and then copying the photo to a digital notebook with keywords like work/casual/party, winter/summer, inside/outside, hot/warm/cool/cold, so that I can find ideas when I need them.

    Right now, I itemise my clothes in a spreadsheet with columns for type, purpose, colour, etc. so that I can see what I have when I’m out shopping. I would love a simple app to input outfits each day so that I could track wears, mark successes and get ideas, but I have yet to find one. They all seem so time consuming. I am reluctant to spend the time inputting my wardrobe and run the risk of the app crashing and taking all my data with it. This happened when I organised photos years ago. I had a backup of the photos but many hours of effort were totally wasted.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Photographing or logging good outfits after the fact is a good way to go, too, Sue. It’s less time-consuming than doing outfit creation sessions, but you can still end up with a lot of outfit ideas to use whenever you’re pressed for time or feeling less creatively inspired. Including keywords is a great idea! I used to itemize all of my clothes in a spreadsheet, too, but it got very time-consuming for me to maintain (because I bought too much – it’s not THAT hard when one has a smaller wardrobe and doesn’t shop a lot). Good point about an app potentially crashing. I had an issue with a photo organizing app once, too, and it was very frustrating! I haven’t tried any wardrobe apps yet, but I would like to at least give it a go for a little while to see if it helps me. I’ll be sure to share on the blog if I find one that I’m happy with (and I’ll also share what else I try if I decide that an app isn’t for me).

  9. Jenn says:

    Lots of great ideas and resources here, in your post and in the comments. I did use Google Drive for a while to document my wardrobe. I liked that it was accessible from my iPhone and my Laptop. I now use Stylebook. I love that I can view my “closet” from my recliner. I also use the app to keep track of items I’m considering getting rid of or placing in a holding area–like necklaces I haven’t worn in ages. When getting dressed and have extra time, I “play” with these items that I’m uncertain about and gain some clarity.

    1. Vildy says:

      It seems to me that the key to coming up with a workable wardrobe is, as you mentioned and others have, too, devoting time to it.

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Good idea to use Google Drive, Jenn! That’s something I could easily do right away. I wish I could use Stylebook, but it’s still for iPhone only. there are lots of alternatives, though, so I just need to pick one and try it out. I like the idea of creating an area on the app for the “holding zone.” I do this with computer folders, but they’re not as easy for me to access (unless I put them in Google Drive – hmmm). I’ve also put “benchwarmers” at the front of my closet so I can play with them when I have the time and inclination.

      I agree with Vildy that devoting time to cultivating a workable wardrobe is key. Sometimes we think other women dress effortlessly well, but they usually put a lot more effort into it than we realize, or at least they did at one time.

  10. Nina B says:

    I’m right with you on this post, Debbie. I recently gave up the exhausting styling sessions to make every possibility for each item. What a relief! I now stop at three rated at 7 or above. (I’m so fussy, I rarely rate my outfit or item above 8.)

    I now need to clean out all my subpar looks from Stylebook because having every possible option was overwhelming. My outfit number per season is subdivided by relaxed casual and smart casual. Simply put, errand outfits and church outfits—which helps me visualize appropriateness—even though I wear the two categories elsewhere. I also have two business and/or dressy outfits that rarely get worn on standby.

    My home wear has its own number, but I’m really wanting to up my game there. I would love for you to write about your home wear for ideas. I’m experimenting with outfits that I can run out in and am in a bit of a flux with that. I get dirty at home with projects and cooking and don’t want to ruin a bunch of clothes. The performance wear I currently wear at home is so forgiving for that but isn’t flattering on me.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good to see you commenting here, Nina. Maybe the craziness of the past year and a half has us craving more simplicity… Having three good outfit options for each piece should really be plenty. I’m fussy, too, and sometimes what I thought was a highly-rated ensemble gets downgraded after I wear it (if I find myself having to readjust my clothes all day, for example, or if I feel less confident than I’d hoped). Like you, I really only need relaxed casual and smart casual outfits most of the time, but it’s helpful to have a few dressier options for those rare occasions when I need them. I’ve worked a lot on my at-home wardrobe over the past few years, as I finally realized that I should put more attention and effort into what I wear the bulk of the time. The pandemic upped my efforts there. It can be challenging to find ultra-comfortable clothing to wear at home that’s also flattering. I haven’t gotten it totally figured out yet, but I’ve made a vast improvement. Everyone’s mileage will vary with at-home clothing as well as with out-and-about items, but I will likely share more about what I wear at home in a future post (I’ll add it to my ideas list).

  11. RoseAG says:

    I think that’s a great idea!

    I’m a journal-er so I’d vote for a paper notebook with real printed out photos.
    Then it’s easy to go back and make notes about the outfits, check off wears, and just generally re-experience it all. To me it’s more real than having it all online, and realness is important to me in filling the hole in my life that my wardrobe fills. Shopping is real, something arrives, you hold it and feel it, smell the new smell of it. Going back through my wardrobe to pick out outfits is a hook to the thrill of the shopping event ‘shop your close’ and all.
    If you find that modeling the outfits for yourself in your photo causes you to be self-critical, then just do a laid on the bed shoot, or a hanger shoot.
    You can imagine your beautiful self, you know the one without the double chin and panty-line muffin top, in the outfit and go from there.

    I live in a VERY humid area and I have gotten into the habit of changing mid-day when I take my break to take my walk. Otherwise I”m spending the afternoon in clothes that are damp and sweaty.

    As we move past labor day into what’s a shoulder season in my area -still Summer warm but shorter days and ever so gently cooling highs- you’ve give me inspiration to see what I’m tired of and can put away until next Summer and what gems that I bought because I liked them await in my own closet.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I like the idea of a physical outfit notebook/catalog, Rose, as I’m still pretty “old school” with things. I don’t have a color printer, though, so that makes it more challenging. I definitely prefer laying out the outfits on my bed or on hangers for photographing now, but I do need to try them on to make sure they work (as some things work in theory but not practice). I feel for you with living in a very humid place. I’m sure you get used to it, but I find it much harder to dress well when it’s very hot and humid. I’m glad I inspired you to go through your wardrobe as you move into the “shoulder season.” Best wishes to you with that process and enjoy dressing for milder temperatures!

      1. NATALIE K says:

        Ladies, This is how I keep mine, real pictures and recorded in a notebook. I have neurological issues that makes it difficult to type on a computer. Writing is difficult as well, but I only read it! This has worked for me for years. I just find when it’s simple I stick with it! Don’t make it too hard on yourself!! I simple have too many clothes to count my wears at this time. Physically I have a difficult time.

  12. Maggie says:

    Hi Debbie, I can see the advantage of using a notebook and/or pictures to record outfits.

    When I was working professionally, I had 5 pairs of pants and 10 tops with 3 cardigans that I rotated. I think maybe I added 2 print tops just to mix up the numbers so I wasn’t wearing the same top and pants every Monday…

    I seem to find that 5 bottoms is about all I can handle daily. I seem to be gravitating back to 8-10 tops – some are prints, 2 cardigans and 1 pullover.
    When I get bored, I start to look for prints or a different shape such as cargo pants or joggers. Fit on the bottom is always a challenge so getting variety on tops is easier. I have jeans but that gets boring so I just bought a pair of gray jeans and might try a different wash than the midtone bootcut that I usually wear.

    If I really want inspiration, I watch the runway shows and that always gives me ideas on shapes, proportions and combinations.
    Also, I could definitely use a new pair of shoes or ankle boots.


    1. NATALIE K says:

      Maggie, I thought you would like to know that Nordstrom has a sale on leather winter shoes and leather booties that look quite nice. I only wear SAS shoes due to foot issues and they rarely run a sale, but I find them well worth the money. Pray you find what you need!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like you had a great capsule for your work wear, Maggie. Each of us has our sort of “sweet spot” in terms of what we need and what makes us feel “complete” and comfortable with our wardrobe. Like you, I have a much easier time finding tops that fit me well than pants, so I typically add more variety there. Good idea to watch runway shows for inspiration. I used to cut pictures out of magazines, but now it’s more about looking at Instagram and Pinterest. Good luck in finding new shoes/boots for fall/winter.

  13. Maggie says:

    I forgot to mention that I usually add a print jacket from Chicos that I find on Ebay (their size 0 always fits me) and work in a velvet jacket in a jean style into my Fall/Winter wardrobe. I haven’t tried to add a hoodie yet but I saw a gorgeous hoodie on Susan at Une Femme ( and that has inspired me to look for a print hoodie.

    1. Maggie says:

      I think the Johnny Was hoodie might be copying an Alexander McQueen Multicolor Floral Kaleidoscope Print top and dress that I have seen on Poshmark.

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      What a pretty jacket that you linked to, Maggie! There’s a Johnny Was store at my local mall and they always have beautiful prints there. I think a lot of lower-priced brands “borrow” ideas from the big designers, so it makes sense that you see similarities with the McQueen top and dress. I wish I could buy clothes on Poshmark, but I’m too sensitive to fragrances and was never able to remove those odors. So now I just buy retail and keep an eye out for sales (which seem to happen more and more often these days).

      1. Maggie says:

        I did remember that you have are sensitive to fragrances but I just wanted to show the image of the item as inspiration for you and your readers.

        I have an aversion to clothes that smell like smoke but the new at home dryer sheets seem to have removed most of the odor from a cardigan I bought on Ebay. It helps that I hang it outside inside out to air for a few days if possible. Most sellers don’t say if they have a smoke-free household – you have to ask.

        I wonder if clothes from the Real Real are checked for fragrance? I know that they have Johnny Was clothes sometimes.
        Also, I recently discovered the Knox Rose brand at Target. They look a little like Johnny Was, Free People, Young Fabulous & Broke, etc…

        There are Ross and Marshalls stores near me but I haven’t explored them yet.

        I will keep you posted.

        As always,
        Best Regards,

        1. Vildy says:

          I’m curious about the those dryer sheets. I am not bothered by most smells but am just nauseated by – I think it is – Gain laundry detergent smell.
          And it does not want to come out. After the apocalypse there will be cockroaches and Gain smelling clothing left.

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          I think that one bothers me a whole lot, too, Vildy. Maybe that’s the fragrance that just won’t wash out of resale purchases… I chuckled at your last statement, but it’s probably true!

        3. Debbie Roes says:

          That’s great that you’ve been able to remove odors from eBay purchases, Maggie. I’ve found that smoke smells are easier to get rid of than detergent and perfume, but it depends upon the fabric, too. I haven’t tried buying anything on the Real Real, but if they have all of the items in their possession (vs. eBay and Poshmark), they might have more quality control for those types of things. Thanks for the tip about the Knox Rose brand at Target. I think there are always good options for lower-priced items that look similar to higher-ticket garments. The quality might not be the same, but I’ve surprisingly had some Target items go the distance more than pricier items.

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