As I wrote about in my last post, I recently completed a closet reorganization. I separated out my summer tops into three distinct sections: “standalone” tops, tops that I only feel comfortable wearing with an accompanying topper, and tops that are designated as workout or lounge wear only. My goal is to eventually eliminate the second category by means of attrition, as well as no longer purchasing tops that I don’t want to wear on their own. Additionally, I’d like the majority of the tops I buy from this point forward to be “crossover” pieces that can be worn for a variety of occasions.
Rearranging my closet alerted me to another wardrobe issue beyond my owning too many tops that I’m only comfortable wearing with a sweater or jacket over them. In today’s post, I’ll share what that issue is, why I think it happened, and what I plan to do about it. I never thought I’d learn so much from a simple closet reorganization, but I hope my lessons will also be helpful to some of you.
My Love Affair with Black Clothing
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I love to wear black clothing. Not only is black versatile and slimming, it also suits my cool complexion and my personal style aesthetic. Black pieces are often in line with my style guideposts of “dramatic, polished, and elegant,” and they also add a bit of “edge” to my outfits.
Those are all good points in favor of my owning a lot of black items. But no matter how much I love black, there can be too much of a good thing. Rearranging my tops really highlighted the fact that there are just too many black ones in the mix. While this can also be said about my black pants and black toppers, I’m only going to focus on my warm weather tops today to keep things simple – and also because this topic follows on nicely from my last post. I’ll likely dedicate future essays to those other sections of my wardrobe.
Too Many Plain Black Tops
My overabundance of black tops is mostly confined to short-sleeved and sleeveless tops, as my collection of black long-sleeved tops is fairly minimal, as shown below:
I don’t believe there’s redundancy with the above tops, as one is V-neck and ruched, one is a space-dyed crewneck, and the third is a plain black crewneck. However, I have quite a few plain black short-sleeved tees and tanks, and they’re all quite similar. Yes, they have different necklines, fabrics, and sleeve lengths (short-sleeved vs. sleeveless), but it feels like overkill at this point. I mean, do I really need nine plain black tees and tank tops (as shown below)?
Before my recent closet reorganization, I didn’t realize that I had this many similar black tops, as they used to be fairly evenly distributed between my at-home and out-and-about closet sections. However, the bulk of them are now part of my Category 1 section (standalone tops), and I can clearly see the duplication! I have three plain black crewneck tees, three plain black V-neck tees, and three plain black scoop-neck tees/tanks. Only one of the above tops is in Category 2 (tops that I only wear with toppers), but the others can all be comfortably worn on their own, so that’s one positive element to this duplicate area of my wardrobe.
Another positive is that I ended up returning two black tops after noticing the high degree of duplication following my closet restructuring. Below are the two tops that I returned, both from Athleta. I own these tops in other colors, but I thought that I could benefit from also buying them in black. Fortunately, I decided that I didn’t really need these tops while I was still within the return window.
“Detailed” Black Tops and Black Tops for Skirts
In addition to my plain black tees and tanks, I also have eight additional black tops that include some type of special details, including neckline details, gathers/ties, buttons, sequins, and color-blocking. These tops are easier to wear than the plain black tees and tanks shown above because they don’t require much accessorizing in order to create a complete look. They pair well with many of my pants, and at least half of them even look nice with plain black trousers.
Finally, I have two black tops – a tank and a tee – that I wear only with skirts. These tops are shorter in length, so their proportions work well when worn untucked with a skirt (I’m not a tucker because I’m very short-waisted). However, these tops haven’t seen much wear in recent years, as I have purged the bulk of my skirt collection. I currently own only three skirts, and two of them are solid black. Both of the above tops are at least five years old, but they’re still in good shape and fit well, so held on to them. They don’t take up much space, and I’m hoping to purchase a black printed skirt this summer that would pair nicely with these solid black tops.
Why the Duplication?
I’m not too worried about the detailed black tops or the ones designated for wearing with skirts, as I don’t see much redundancy there. I’m happy wearing a lot of black, and the tops are all different enough to add visual interest to my ensembles, even monochromatic ones. The plain tops, however, are a different story. They’re taking up a lot of space in my closet, and while I wear some of them regularly, others have rarely been worn.
You may wonder how I ended up with such a large collection of plain black tops. I can think of a few key reasons:
REASON ONE: I believed that I needed at least several basic black tees for both my at-home and out-and-about wardrobes to make sure I always had one available to wear.
REASON TWO: I’ve fallen prey to a “more is more” attitude when it comes to wardrobe basics, so if I found a “good black top” on sale, I picked it up.
REASON THREE: In a few instances, I had also purchased a particular style of tee in a different color and justified also adding one in black since black is my key neutral.
REASON FOUR: Some of the tees were “just okay,” which had me continuing to look for other options that might be better.
All of the above reasons played a role in my black tee duplication (and with my duplication in other wardrobe areas as well), but reason number four was probably the biggest culprit. Of course, we can’t always know from the get-go whether or not there will be issues with a particular garment. Sometimes pieces can be “fussy” or they might not wash well. It’s a shame when that happens and we may just have to cut our losses, but there are also times when we simply settle for a “less than” garment when we shouldn’t have.
A Few Examples…
Case in point… The scoop-neck tee at the left in the image below is cut too low and that was obvious from the start. I kept it because the retailer (Old Navy) no longer offered the V-neck version that I preferred (on the right). I liked the fit and fabric of both tops, but the scoop neckline is too bare for my personal preferences (it looks more low-cut on me than on the model). I should have returned the top to the store, but I justified keeping it because it was inexpensive. I don’t wear it very often and usually only at home.
I also should have refrained from purchasing the two tops below or I should have returned them. Both tees are low quality and don’t hold their shape well. Although I probably couldn’t have foreseen the latter issue at the time of purchase, I think the lower quality level was fairly evident. But I let myself be dazzled by low prices and a perceived need for lots of basic black tees. I didn’t spend all that much money on these two tees, but I now have the problem of owning too many similar options, which I could have avoided with smarter and more restrained shopping.
What to Do Now?
My overabundance of black tees is definitely a “first world problem” and not too troubling in the grand scheme of things, but I’d like to address it and avoid a reoccurrence. I’m not going to get rid of any tops unless they’re definitely not serving me, so I plan to give all of my black tees and tanks a fair chance. I already know that a few of them are favorites that I wear regularly, but I’m unsure about the rest of the group. My plan is to wear all of them within the next month and evaluate their workability for my wardrobe.
If I find that a particular tee is “fussy” but it’s still in good shape, I may choose to downgrade it to sleepwear, as the fussiness factor is much less annoying when I’m asleep (obviously). I may also reclassify one or two tops as Category 3 garments, those pieces that I only use as lounge or workout wear. I’ve already decided to do that for the scoop-neck tee due to the lower neckline, and the Caslon and Target tees may meet the same fate after evaluation. Just because most of my black tees could be comfortably worn without a topper, it doesn’t mean that they all belong in my out-and-about wardrobe.
I’ve always found that the best way to decide on the fate of a wardrobe item is to take it for a “test drive.” Simply trying something on and looking in the mirror isn’t always sufficient, as a piece can look and feel good when standing still but be extremely annoying when we’re going about our lives. I like to wear a questionable item for at least an hour or two to see whether or not it will work for my day-to-day life. I’m conducting these test drives for my Category 2 tops (those that I only feel comfortable wearing with a topper), so I’ll add in the black tees and tanks as part of my pre-summer evaluation process.
I’m sorry it took me so long to finish and publish this follow-on essay to my closet reorganization post (some very difficult life stuff got in the way), but I hope you found my insights interesting and helpful. Many of us have areas of duplication in our wardrobes that we might not be aware of until our focus is shifted in some way. While for me that focus shift resulted from reorganizing my closet, packing for travel or preparing for a move may lead to your personal “aha moment.” Regardless of how we become aware of a closet challenge, our awareness presents us with an opportunity to make changes that can improve our wardrobes.
As summer approaches, I plan to continue working on getting my wardrobe in order for the warmer weather. I find it more challenging to dress for hot days, and those times are when I’m more likely to be unhappy in what I’m wearing. The two-part series that I wrote about “third pieces” last fall (see HERE and HERE) got the ball rolling, and my last post and this one are furthering my effort to be more satisfied with my summer ensembles.
I know that I’ll continue to wear a lot of black all year round, as I still love the color and it suits my personal aesthetic. But hopefully I’ll get to the point where I have more “special tops” and fewer similar black tees that don’t do much to expand my wardrobe versatility, especially when I also wear a lot of black bottoms and toppers. I’ll get to those other closet areas soon, but for now I’m happy to be gradually getting my tops in order. One step at a time…
Now it’s time for you to weigh in, if you choose to do so. While I welcome your feedback about any of the content of today’s post, I’d especially like to learn about your wardrobe challenges. Here are a few questions to help you gather your thoughts:
- What types of items do you tend to duplicate in your closet?
- At what point do you consider that you have too many like pieces?
- What reasons have you identified for accumulating a lot of similar items?
- What tips do you have for those of us who tend to purchase too many duplicates?
- What lessons have you learned from the following activities: reorganizing your closet, packing for travel, or preparing for a move?
- What are your goals around dressing for summer this year (or winter if you live in the southern hemisphere)?
Thank you for supporting my blog. I look forward to reading your insights!