My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, so I wanted to check in. I’ve felt a bit stuck and blocked as far as what to write about, so I’m going to get back to posting with a series of updates on some of my previous topics (you can see my full blog archive HERE).

We’ll start today by checking in on a few posts I’ve written about the tops in my closet. I’ll update you on what’s going on with my “category two” tops (those tops that must be worn with a topper), my overabundance of black tops, and the poor-performing Caslon tees that I accumulated in recent years. I’ll close out the post with some wardrobe-related goals for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.

time for an update

Update #1 – Category Two Tops

In late April, I shared that I had classified my tops into three categories and organized my closet to reflect those groupings. Here’s a brief reminder of the new top classifications:

  • Category One: “Standalone tops” that can be comfortably worn without a topper (in terms of my emotional comfort, a topic I discussed in detail HERE).
  • Category Two: Tops that I only feel comfortable wearing with a topper (cardigan or jacket) over them, usually because they’re either too tight or too short.
  • Category Three: Tops that are worn only at home or for exercise, either because of the style of the top or its condition (i.e., somewhat worn out).

I set a goal to eventually eliminate category two and to keep category three relatively small. I decided that I wanted the bulk of my tops to be “crossover pieces” that are appropriate for a variety of activities and don’t need to be worn with a topper.

When I initially categorized my tops, I had a total of seventeen pieces in category two, as shown in the photo below:

category two tops - April 2022

These were the category two tops that I originally identified in April 2022.

The above was a rough classification, as I tried on all the tops with the same pair of pants. Since it was possible that some of the tops might be more appropriate with alternate bottom pieces, I committed to spending more time in the coming months to see if I could make any of them work. I also committed to purging any tops that either couldn’t be worn as a standalone garment or that I didn’t like enough to hold on to despite their limited utility (needing to be paired with a topper).

Fast-forward to four months later… Here’s an update on the fate of the seventeen tops that were placed in category two back in April:

  • Two of them are now part of category one (standalone tops), as I identified pants that I feel comfortable pairing with them.
  • Three tops (all Caslon tees – more on those later) have been downgraded to category three and I now wear them only at home. These tops are all somewhat stretched out and aren’t in line with my out-and-about wardrobe standards. However, they still have a bit of life in them as part of my at-home wardrobe.
  • Seven tops have been purged from my closet, either due to fit issues or sub-standard condition. Two of these tops were too short for pants but too long for skirts (I don’t tuck in my tops due to being very short-waisted). The others were either too “fussy” (needing to be adjusted too often) or too worn out. Sadly, one top that I really liked didn’t survive a recent laundering, although that was far from the first time that I had washed it.
  • One top is in my “holding zone.” It’s in good condition, but it’s too big for me after my recent weight loss and I’m not sure I want to spend the money to have it tailored. Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, I have put this top in my holding zone box for the time being.
  • Finally, four tops remain part of category two. I still only feel comfortable wearing these tops with a cardigan or jacket over them. They’re not being worn at all right now, as we have moved into the warmer months when I almost never wear a third piece in my ensembles, but I will hopefully wear them later in the year.

Shown below are the tops that I still consider to be category two “must wear a topper” garments:

remaining category two tops - August 2022

These are my only remaining category two tops in August 2022.

I plan to keep them separated from my other tops to make it easier for me to get dressed. That way, if I grab one of the above tops to wear, I know that I need to pair it with a topper, and the temperature that day/evening needs to be cool enough that I’ll be able to keep that topper on.

Update #2 – Black Tops

About three months ago, I wrote about my overabundance of plain black tops, especially short-sleeved and sleeveless tees. At that time, I had nine very similar black tees, as shown below:


These were the plain black tees and tanks that I owned in May 2022.

I also showed photos of my more detailed black tops and tees, but those garments weren’t problematic for me because they’re different enough from each other and are worn regularly. The more detailed tops also work much better as “standalone” garments without the need for a lot of accessorizing or layering. In contrast, the plain tees need to be “livened up” with accessories and/or toppers in order to create an interesting outfit.

In the post, I shared some reasons why I ended up with so many similar-looking pieces, the most prominent reason being a “more is more” attitude when it comes to stocking up on wardrobe basics. I decided to address the issue of having a lot of black tees by pushing myself to wear all of them in the coming month or so and evaluate their workability for my wardrobe. I wanted to determine which tops might be more appropriate as part of my at-home or sleepwear capsules, and which ones don’t really serve me in any capacity and should be purged.

After wearing all nine of my plain black tees/tanks, here’s what happened to them:

  • Two were purged. Both tees were of poor quality and weren’t in good condition despite not having been worn all that many times (definitely fewer than the 30-wear benchmark).
  • Three were downgraded to at-home wear only. One tee had developed quite a bit of pilling (which is sad because it was a favorite that had been worn many, many times), another has a too-low neckline, and the third is looser-fitting than I usually prefer for out-and-about wear (it has stretched out quite a bit since I purchased it).
  • The four tops/tanks below are still part of my out-and-about capsule:
plain black out-and-about tees

Only these four tees/tanks remain part of my out-and-about wardrobe. 

I had to get the second top from the right taken in a bit at the sides, but it’s now a nice tunic-length tank that pairs well with more fitted pants for a hot summer day outfit (the hotter days just started this week).

Now that I have worn and reclassified my plain black tees, I’m getting a lot more wear out of them than I did when they were all grouped together. I found that I was only wearing the “tried-and-true” black tops previously and the others were simply gathering dust. I certainly don’t need to add more black tees to my closet despite my love of black, but since I’m wearing the ones I have more now, the time I took to analyze this section of my closet was well spent.

Update #3 – The Caslon Tees

Finally, let’s look at the Caslon rounded V-neck t-shirts that I wrote about in late June. I had accumulated a large assortment of these tees over the past couple of years because they were inexpensive (especially at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale) and were offered in many different colors and patterns. They were good comfortable casual items at first, but after being laundered multiple times, they began to look stretched out and shabby-looking. Sadly, I had amassed fourteen such tees (shown below) and many of them started to look “worse for wear” at around the same time.

caslon tee collection

These were the fourteen Caslon tees I owned as of June 2022. 

In the month and a half since I published the post about my Caslon tees, I have purged five of them. These tees all looked fine when I first put them on after they were washed, but they became very misshapen within a short timeframe. I need my tops to at least too good for a full day, so I opted to let the ones shown below go. I was especially sad about the two black-and-white printed tees, as they were among my favorites. Fortunately, they had been in my closet for a while and were worn more often than most of the other Caslon tees. It seems as if the quality of these tops has declined over time, as some of the more recently-acquired ones have deteriorated more quickly.

purged Caslon tees

I purged these five Caslon tees from my closet since June. 

I still have nine of the Caslon tees that I posted about in June, and almost all of them have been demoted to my at-home wardrobe due to the “bagging out” issue. The only two that remain in the crossover section of my closet are the leopard and red-and-white print versions that were purchased last year. Those two tees have only been washed a couple of times, so we’ll see how they fare with additional laundering. I always wash these tees in cold water with mild detergent and hang them to dry, so there’s not much more I can do to prolong their lifespan.

remaining Caslon tees

I still have these Caslon tees, but most have been downgraded for at-home wear. 

I think a lot of t-shirts tend to stretch out, especially if they don’t include any spandex in their fabric composition. Because of this tendency, I’ve taken to buying tees that are on the snug side in order to help mitigate the bagging and belling out issue that has been so frustrating to deal with. I prefer for there to be some spandex in my t-shirts if at all possible, but such tops also tend to be more fitted, and I sometimes like a looser silhouette, especially for wearing at home. I will be more careful when buying tees in the future after my Caslon tee debacle, and I hope the remaining tees from that group will last at least a little bit longer.

Some Wardrobe Actions and Goals

Now that I’ve given a few updates on some of the issues I’ve written about this year, I’d like to share a handful of short-term wardrobe-related goals/actions for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.

1. Reorganize the tops section of my closet now that I’ve mostly eliminated category two tops.

This is how I plan to divide up my tops:

  • Out-and-about-only tops: These tops will be arranged by sleeve length and then by color, with patterned tops organized by their dominant color.
  • At-home-only tops: The tops that I wear only at home or for exercise will be hung in their own designated area and arranged in the same way as the previous category.
  • “Crossover tops”: Fortunately, this is the largest category of tops in my closet, and thankfully almost all of them (except for the four pictured above) can be comfortably worn without the need for a third piece.
  • Skirt tops: This is a relatively small grouping, but I do wear separate tops with skirts versus pants. These tops are shorter in length for better proportions when paired with skirts.

One issue that I sometimes have with my tops (mostly the out-and-about and crossover ones) is which bottom to pair with them, as either tighter or looser-fitting tops work better with specific pairs of pants. Accordingly, I will divide my crossover tops into two sub-sections: those that are very fitted and those with a more streamlined fit. I don’t wear any truly boxy or baggy tops (despite their being very much in style recently), but whether a top is snug or glides over my body can make a difference in terms of what pants I pair with it.

I realize that this may seem like a lot of nuance and classification for some of you. You may be blessed not to be as “picky” about the fit of your clothing as I am, but I’ve learned to work with my tendencies (i.e., pickiness) instead of trying to ignore them. I would rather take the time to arrange my clothes in a way that will result in better-proportioned outfits than experience select days wearing ensembles that feel really “off” to me. I like to do the work upfront so that I can easily grab and pair pieces when I’m pressed for time to get out the door. One of the goals I’ll outline later in this post will further facilitate that process.

2. Limit my top purchases and only purchase tops that are “standalone” and include special details.

I don’t need any additional plain tops, as I have plenty of them now. If I do opt to buy new tops in the coming months, they need to offer something different from what I already have. If I see something I like in the stores or online but it’s already well-represented in my closet, I need to pass it by and focus on wearing what I own instead of acquiring new garments.

When I look at pictures of my tops, I see a lot of basic tees, even though some of them are in eye-catching colors or patterns. Basic tees are harder to style, especially during the hot summer months. Since I mostly wear plain bottoms, too, that can make for a boring outfit unless lots of accessories are used. Sometimes it’s too hot to wear a “third piece,” scarf, necklace, or bracelet, so my tops need to carry the load of making my ensembles interesting.

3. Create a list of twenty-five go-to summer outfits. Do the same for fall/winter.

Last September, I wrote about the power of twenty-five good outfits.  It can be difficult and time-consuming to put together attractive outfits that we feel good in, especially when one has a large wardrobe. This often results in either wearing the same few looks on repeat or stepping out in uninspired ensembles when we lack the time or creative energy to pull together something that we love.

I used to do outfit creation sessions and photograph them so that I’d have ideas for what to wear later. I stopped doing that a few years ago because I was too judgmental about the pictures, but I miss the results of those sessions. So last summer, I started writing down outfit possibilities to try and/or ones that I wore that worked well for me. While I came up with a list of twenty-five outfits back then, my size and style have changed since that time. Many of the pieces that I wore last year are now too big for me, and I’ve acquired some new pieces that I want to fully utilize.

So, I plan to create a 2022 summer outfit catalog of looks that are figure-flattering and suit my personal style. I’m not sure if I’ll take photos of these outfits or catalog them some other way (in writing or maybe a wardrobe app of some sort). I still firmly believe that twenty-five good outfits are more than enough to suit most of our needs, particularly those of us who don’t have a whole lot of out-and-about occasions. I also plan to create a catalog of good fall/winter outfits when that season rolls around.

4. Resume keeping an outfit journal.

Over the years, I have periodically kept an outfit journal in which I write down what I wear, where I wore it, and my feelings about each look. I first shared about this process back in 2014 on Recovering Shopaholic, and I wrote an entire series about lessons from my outfit journal. I’m not sure how much I’ll share my outfit journal on this blog (although I’ll do it if there’s interest), but I do plan to resume the practice, at least for a while.

I always learn a lot when I keep an outfit journal. It helps me to clearly see what is and isn’t working with my ensembles, and I’m able to make shifts to improve upon what I’m wearing. I always include a section in the journal about what I could do to make the outfit better if I were to wear it again. Sometimes that involves switching a piece out, styling something differently, or wearing alternate accessories. The outfit journal also helps me to shop smarter, as I often identify potential purchases that might go a long way toward improving my style.

I plan to log at least thirty out-and-about outfits, but I could go on longer if I feel like the process is especially helpful. I also might take a quick selfie of each look (even though I’m terrible with selfies!) so it’s easier for me to look back on the outfit later and maybe add new pieces of information to the mix. A picture can speak a thousand words, as the saying goes, but what’s most important is that I increase my awareness of my likes and dislikes regarding what I’m wearing. I always want to continue improving my personal style, and journaling is very helpful with that pursuit.


I think that’s enough wardrobe-related actions for the foreseeable future. I was originally just going to outline actions and goals pertaining to my tops, as that was the main subject of this post. However, I thought it would be helpful to identify overall wardrobe actions that I could take for the remainder of the year (I can’t believe it’s almost three-quarters of the way behind us!).

I’m glad I pushed myself to write and publish a blog post after a weeks-long hiatus (which was unintentional – I’ve just felt uninspired after a few very difficult months). I hope you found my updates and action steps interesting. I plan to do some additional updates in the coming weeks, including about my recent birthday (56!), my theme for the year, and my summer wardrobe. Hopefully I can get back to at least some semblance of regular posting soon…

I welcome your comments, either about what I wrote in this post or about what’s been happening with your own wardrobe and the actions you’d like to take before year-end. Also, if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see me write about – or any questions for me, please feel free to weigh in (either in the comments section or privately via the Contact page). As always, thank you for your readership and your support!

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35 thoughts on “A Few Wardrobe Check-ins – and Goals for the Rest of 2022

  1. Littlemiss says:

    I so appreciate your posts! I was doing a similar black tee assessment. My tees are usually grouped by color (and sleeve length). But I noticed the many black tees gathering dust. So I rearranged by alternating/interspersing color and black tees. This gave me a new perspective. If I passed by a black one twice, it was gone.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      What a great idea to intersperse the black tees among the other colors! I think I might try that, too, to see how I fare with it. Sometimes rearranging our closets can really make a difference, which is part of why I do it regularly. At different points in my life, different arrangements work. Plus I love to do wardrobe experiments, as readers of this blog know well!

  2. Jenn says:

    The changing styles in jeans threw me for a loop, but I think my eyes have finally adjusted. The skinny jeans that once looked so “right” for me, now look wrong (for me). This change in silhouette impacts my choice of tops too. I’ve also realized, now that I’m getting back out in the world, that I have too many casual tops and not enough smart casual tops. These modifications in my style preferences and realizations have led to more shopping, but also eliminating. And maybe, just maybe, more clarity. We shall see. Thank you for writing, Debbie. Here’s hoping this post leads to more inspiration, more writing, and future posts.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It can take our eyes a while to adjust to new silhouettes, Jenn. I tend to be a very slow adopter of new styles, and sometimes I pass them up altogether. I have the same issue with not having enough smart casual tops, but they can be hard to find (ones that fit and flatter)! I always end up with mostly knit tops, as the woven ones just don’t seem to fit me well at all, especially lately with the more “boxy” styles. I hope you will gain more clarity with your wardrobe and style in the coming months. It’s tough when our lives keep changing (and the WORLD also changed so much in the past few years!), but eventually we figure it out.

  3. Terra Trevor says:

    Nice to read your updates Debbie. Although I don’t always leave a comment, I’m reading and following along. As you know I love duplicates but I think of it as a style formula. I will buy a handful of tee shirts all similar if not identical and wear them all frequently for a good long while, and then when my taste or preference change, I let them go and move on to anther style. For a few years I was all into v-necklines. Then I tried the wide scoop neck, like you did, and I also decided it wasn’t for me, so I let those go. Lately I’m into higher neck tees, and currently have about 15 that I wear regularly. I’m also really into Frank and Eileen “Barry” shirts right now and I have six of those I’m wearing constantly. And I have let all of the old tee shirts I’m no longer interested in go. All were in good shape so I know someone bought them at the thrift store, and it fills their need, and in my mind it’s not churn. Life is fluid and I believe our wardrobe needs to change when our lifestyle needs change.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you continue to follow along, Terra. No need to comment except when you feel called to do so 🙂 I love how methodical you are with your wardrobe and how you don’t hesitate to let go of pieces that are no longer working well for you. You’re do right about the fluidness of life and the need for our wardrobes to change with our personal and lifestyle changes. I like multiples, too, although some style experts will warn against them – and they CAN be problematic if we run into quality issues (like I did with the Caslon tees). I’m glad you have found new styles of tops that are serving you well, and I’m sure a petite woman was very happy to run across your pristine donated tees at the thrift store!

  4. sewtypical says:

    Your way of looking at tops is really interesting. I’m due for a closet refresh in a couple of weeks – I do one every 3 months and will think about the tops I have, to see if any of them are ‘with topper only’ tops. Thanks for the idea!

    You’ve done such a good job weeding out those Category #2 tops. I was thinking, why don’t you donate those last four ‘with topper only’ tops and be done with it? (Don’t mind me. I tend towards minimalism, since I have very limited closet space.)

    Always enjoy your blog posts!
    🙂 Chris

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good idea to just donate the remaining category 2 tops, Sewtypical. I’m giving them a bit more of a chance by hanging them together “front and center,” but if I try to wear them and am not happy in them, I will for sure pass them on. Like Terra said above, someone else will enjoy them, as they are in good condition. And for someone else, maybe they will feel just fine wearing them without a topper. Good luck with your upcoming closet refresh!

  5. sewtypical says:

    hi, Debbie – I had a quick idea for your outfit pictures. I don’t like taking selfies either. But when I browse Instagram, I see pictures of outfits, where the clothes are laid down on a plain white background. For example, sweater on top of pants, jacket on the side, shoes at the bottom, etc. Hope that made sense!
    🙂 Chris

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Flat lay photos are a great alternative to selfies, Chris. Maybe I could either lay the clothes on the bed or hang them up next to each other. I just want to capture the outfits and they don’t need to be ON for me to do so.

      1. Sue says:

        Sometimes, I see second hand clothes/tailor’s dummies for sale and I think one might be useful for photographing my outfits. Maybe an idea for you?

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          That’s a great idea, Sue. I have seen some eBay and Poshmark sellers use those types of dummies, and they showcase the clothing pretty well. I’ll check it out – thanks!

  6. Katrina B says:

    Hi Debbie – very nice to see an update from you! I hope your mental/emotional/creative block dissolves soon. It looks like you were very successful in dealing with the category two tops. I think I actually have more category two tops than I did four months ago, unfortunately.

    I have to say that NOTHING this year has gone according to plan for me, including my wardrobe. I am still dealing with a completely unexpected weight gain, and now have a completely unexpected home demo/reno in progress that prevents me from sewing, so if I need clothes I have to buy them. Almost everything in my carefully curated closet is too tight and I’ve moved most of my former category one tops into category two. Hope that’s just temporary! I’m not making any rash decisions until I get to the bottom of the weight thing. I did buy three dresses to get me through the next couple of months of really hot days, and I love the dresses but I’m annoyed about spending the money when I could have made practically the same ones if I had access to my sewing room. At some point, if my life settles down, and I really hope it’s soon, I want to make a serious effort to go through the closet and find a new twenty-five outfits (or even ten!)

    In terms of other topics to write about, what are some things that interest you or that are on your mind these days? You have shared your photography hobby and your household purging and home buying journeys with us in the past. Or if it’s not uncomfortable, share some of your everyday struggles and successes. I find myself overwhelmed from all directions these days – between hobbies and projects that I really want to do but seem too big to start, and the continuous disintegration and repair of my house, and the demanding job that overshadows everything, it’s all I can do to just keep myself and my animals fed some days. Very often the world and national news triggers a depression swing, but other times I read a funny book or hear beautiful music and I feel actual joy. What kinds of issues would you like to talk about? What gives you joy?

    Thank you for keeping your blog going, I and many others really enjoy it. But it’s a lot of work and I hope you don’t feel obligated to us. Take care of yourself! Sending hugs. – Katrina

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had so many unexpected situations in your life, Katrina. I hope things will stabilize for you soon, as I know it can be unsettling to experience SO much uncertainty and change. I experienced unexpected home renovations three years ago when we had a flood in our kitchen. It was a lot of chaos for a while there… You seem to be handling the unexpected weight gain issue well by just buying what you need for the current season. You’re probably right that just TEN outfits would probably be enough for many of us.

      Thank you for the topic idea suggestions. I did enjoy sharing my photography in the past, but those posts didn’t seem to be very popular with readers. The household purging posts always seem to be of interest, though, and there may be more of that to share in the coming months. I have to give your great questions some thought… There are a lot of things I’m interested in, but I’m not sure if I want to write about them. I also don’t want my blog to be all over the map, although I do have a bit of leeway with the “myself” part of the title. Sometimes I’m not sure how personal I want to be on the blog. While I have a lot of wonderful and kind readers, there are still critics and trolls out there who make it hard to be super vulnerable online. I still enjoy blogging, even though I’ve heard it said that blogging is a dying medium. I just don’t see myself doing video, though. I’ve considered audio/podcasting, but that market is pretty overloaded at present and it would be a whole new thing to learn. Never say never, though…

  7. Maureen says:

    Great to see another post from you! :).

    Slightly off topic, I wanted to let you know that your Recovering Shopaholic posts about the 30 wears initiative and wardrobe tracking have been super helpful to me, and so far have saved me about $120, haha! I started tracking wears for all of the items I have bought this year, and thinking about trying to hit 30 wears discouraged me from buying an unnecessary dress and pair of shorts :). The #1 all-star of this year’s purchases is a pair of shorts that i can wear for both lounge/sleep and out-and-about activities. It’s already at 28 wears!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad my old Recovering Shopaholic posts have been so helpful to you, Maureen! I have thought of revisiting some of those old topics here, so maybe I will do so, especially when I’m not coming up with as many NEW ideas at the moment… Good for you for already wearing your shorts 28 times! How great it is to not only reach the 30-wear benchmark, but to do it in the same year! I don’t track wears anymore (but I may do it again next year – considering it…), but I think I rarely end up wearing something that many times in a single year. Some of my at-home pieces fit that category, but that’s rarely the case of out-and-about items. Crossover pieces like your shorts are the best type of garments to have, though!

      1. Maureen says:

        Yeah, it’s pretty rare for me to wear an item so many times in one year too. My second-most worn purchase of the year (sunglasses) is only at 9 wears. (Of course 9 wears is still a good amount, but it’s just much less than 28!)

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Yes, I would say that 9 wears at this point in the year (or even for a full year) is pretty good, but it’s always nice to have those often-worn pieces like your shorts. I’m wondering if any of my at-home pants have been worn that often. That kind of makes me want to track again next year. We’ll see how I feel in December…

  8. Meghan says:

    Debbie it’s been a long time since I commented but I followed along from beginning and we met once in Irvine (together with Terra if you remember). Just like you I am very “picky” about my clothes and over the years I also learned to accept my tendencies instead of self-judging or imposing some external standards. For example I do a lot of returns/purging due to my picky-ness, but I am much happier and effective now than before when I was trying to control my purchase/return and agonizing over clothes that don’t feel right. Now I only keep clothes that works well for me in my closet so that I am reinforced of what works for me in terms of color and silhouette. I learned that I am forgetful and would buy things that catch my eyes without remembering the fact that I have already tried and failed so many times on that color/material/silhouette. It is tricky for you as you are sharing your journey publicly and the world is full of judgement. It is very brave of you to keep doing this.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Of course I remember you, Meghan! I’ve often wondered how you were doing, so I appreciate your checking in here. It sounds like we are very similar when it comes to our clothing. I wholeheartedly agree with you that it’s better to accept our tendencies and work with them rather than trying to be something that we’re not. I don’t think most people are as picky about their clothes as we are, but so what really? There isn’t one right way to be… I do a lot of returning, but I agree with you that it’s better to do that than to end up with a lot of “wardrobe benchwarmers” simply because there’s some aspect of the items – however small – that bugs us enough to not want to wear them. I have that sort of “forgetfulness” that you wrote about, too, in regards to buying things that I should know don’t work for me. It helped me a lot to revisit my “do’s” and “don’ts” last year, and I need to review those lists regularly to keep on top of things. Thank you for your comment about my bravery 🙂 I hope you’re doing well overall and I hope you will comment again.

  9. In these days of the ultra-minimalist ideal and bloggers flogging the perfect One $200 White T-shirt to Rule Them All (that they were gifted) etc., it’s refreshing to read a blog that admits that *not every top you own is going to work with every bottom* and *not every top you own is going to look great without a topper layer*. Some people have a personal style or uniform, body type, and/or willingness to futz around with their clothes to make a top work for every occasion, but realistically, most of us will need to have different tops for different outfit situations, and THAT’S OK!

    I think there are HUGE gains to be made by figuring out which pieces work with which other pieces in your closet and making note of it (for those of us without a perfect memory) either through how you organize your closet or by documenting it. Whether you want to document your 25 great outfits as fully accessorized or simply know that *this* black T is the one that looks great with *these* 3 pants but this *other* black T looks great with *those* 2 pants is highly dependent on the individual (and any individual might benefit from a combination of the two approaches).

    This reminds me that when my dad was teaching, my mom and I organized his closet so that he had clusters built around each pair of pants. So when he wanted to get dressed, he could pick a shirt and know what pants to wear or pick pants and be able to select from several shirts. My dad isn’t a fashion guy, and his color vision is not very good, so faced with a pair of pants (to his eye, in an indeterminate color) he would have to just pick a shirt and hope for the best.

    I could totally see some variant of this cluster concept working as an alternative to a capsule wardrobe (which is intended to be highly mix-and-match-able and often with a minimum number of items) or to the closet chaos that most people have (where they really don’t know what pieces work with what so they stick to the same few combinations). For my dad, these were color based because that was his downfall – he always wore a shirt tucked into a pair of pants with a belt, so he had a very consistent uniform where he didn’t have to worry about silhouettes or lengths. For others, this could be built on silhouettes, lengths, and proportions – like a cluster with a pair of black skinny pants and another cluster with a pair of black wide leg crop pants – they might have very different tops to pair with them. Or what have you. They wouldn’t have to be based on the bottom pieces, but I do find that the selection of bottom piece can have a big impact on what top (and topper, if worn) looks and feels right in an outfit, esp. if you are targeting outfits that rate 8+.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I always appreciate your detailed comments, Sally. Yes, there are bloggers out there who show beautiful capsule collections with ostensibly tons of mix-and-match capabilities, but I always question whether each top truly works with each bottom. I guess it depends on how picky one is and how they style their clothing (tucking, belting, etc.). I appreciate your acknowledgement that most of us will have different tops for various situations. I like to organize my closet to help me remember what goes with what, but I also like to have lists to drill down into more detail (i.e., full outfits with accessories). I enjoy “playing in my closet,” though, as I know you do, too. A lot of people either don’t have the time or the inclination to do so and/or they’re just not that picky about what they wear.

      That’s great how you and your mom helped your dad to organize his closet into clusters. I love the way you outlined the cluster concept in your last paragraph. This may be something that I will experiment with (and perhaps write about). If you have blogged about it, please point us to the posts you’ve done so we can check them out! I usually do base my outfits on my bottom pieces, as those tend to be the trickiest for me, but sometimes I start with a top and work from there. But I’ve learned the the more fitted tops tend to work better with more streamlined bottoms and vice versa. There is some nuance to that, but it’s a good rule of thumb to start with.

  10. maggie says:

    Hi Debbie,

    Thank you so much for sharing! I always learn something new. Last week, I color-coded my hanging t shirts from dark to light followed by prints. I ended up with at least 5 short sleeved grayish tees (slightly different in color, fit, fabric, etc.) I had to laugh at myself at having been so judgemental about you and your black tee “collection.”

    I remember reading about people who have super sensitive taste buds. I think I have super sensitive fashion, fit, and feel requirements. I dress from the bottom up since I tend to prefer patterned pants and more of a tonal look if I am wearing jeans.
    (I will tell you that I could go on at length on how one grayish short sleeved tee differs from the next and why I prefer one over the over with a certain bottom.)

    I will say that I ended up hanging up all of my tees and all of my bottoms on a rod underneath and it makes mixing and matching much easier and more enjoyable. It is also easier for me to identify colors that I am missing this way.

    For some reason, wearing prints makes me happy right now. Maybe because I am in a rental apt for the next few months and can’t decorate.

    I have made it a priority to buy things that I definitely need, such as new underwear and sandals with support, so I am trying to do a 2 to 1 ratio of things I buy as in buy 2 things I really need and then 1 thing that I just want/like. I will let you know how it goes – it has only been 2 weeks so far!


    1. Maggie says:

      Hi Debbie, I wondered if you had seen the article on Apartment Therapy website, “Will This 3-Word Decluttering Mantra Be the One that Finally Works for You?” about the “Best, Favorite, Necessary” criteria? I came across it a few weeks ago so I thought I would share it with you.

      Warm Regards,

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I definitely think I have super sensitive fashion, fit, and feel requirements, too, Maggie, so we’re kindred spirits in that respect. Even though my black tees all looked pretty similar, I could go on and on about the ways in which they are different (but I opted not to do that on the blog because my posts are already long enough!). That said, I didn’t need SO many of them! Your closet organization sounds very helpful. I could probably do something similar, but I currently have a long hanging section where my pants (and dresses and longer toppers) are hanging. I may give it a try, though, as I like to test out various closet organization methods to see what works best.

      That’s great that you’re enjoying wearing prints. I would like to wear more printed bottoms, too, but it’s not always easy for me to find ones that fit (the whole tall thing…). I like your 2 to 1 ratio of what you’re buying. Yes, please keep us posted on how it works for you. It seems to be a good balance, though, as many people either buy almost all needs (which can get boring) and others buy almost all wants (which can lead to a disjointed closet). Best wishes to you!

      I just looked up the Apartment Therapy article. It’s from 2018 and here’s the link for those who might be interested:

      I like this variation on the “sparks joy” way of decluttering. I always preferred to use the motto of The Minimalists, which is to “keep only those items that serve a purpose or bring you joy,” but “best, favorite, necessary” is an interesting way of looking at it, too. I could see myself getting caught up on what’s the best among a given category, though, and also having multiple favorites. But I do think using these criteria could help us to pare down our wardrobes as well as other areas of our homes. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Maggie says:

        Hi Debbie, The closet in our current apartment has double rods so I decided to get open ended pants hangers on Amazon and thin black hangers for my tops. I must say that I really like having everything visible. It inspired me to put a necklace display stand that I got at the thrift store on the table in the entry and hang all my necklaces on it. I definitely am wearing my necklaces more. It occurred to me to buy some magnetic jewelry clasps to convert all my necklaces with lobster claw and ring closures so I don’t need my glasses (or patience) to throw on a necklace.

        Warm Regards,

        1. Jayne says:

          Hi Debbie. I hope you never stop blogging. You help so many of us with your posts You’ve helped my thought processes re overshopping over the years. I also enjoyed your photos as you have a really good eye for photography. Take care. Jayne.

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          I appreciate your kind words, Jayne! I’m so glad my posts have helped you with your overshopping issues. It has helped me to write about the various topics I cover, and I’m always happy when my musings are beneficial to others, too. I need to delve back into photography more, as I haven’t been taking as many photos recently.

        3. Debbie Roes says:

          Sounds like you’re doing great with your clothing and jewelry organization in your apartment, Maggie! After reading your earlier comment, I did some more closet reorganization. My pants are now hung similarly to yours (but I probably don’t have as many and there are still tops hanging from the bottom rod, too). So far, so good! I may do an update on my closet and jewelry organization soon, as I keep tweaking my storage in both areas. Good idea to update your necklace closures! It’s not always easy to operate those lobster claws.

  11. Sarah says:

    This post has been so helpful! Creating 25 good outfits and keeping a journal since I read this has been a real eye opener! I’ve realized the times I’ve felt good or even great about my wardrobe have been the times I’ve put outfits together ahead of time and wore those outfits consistently. As much as I would love to endlessly mix and match the perfect capsule wardrobe, I’ve been trying for seven years and it’s not working! So I’m going with what does, and you writing about it made me recognize all of that. I’m so grateful! The journal has been illuminating, too, especially for what I wear around the house on days when I’m making spaghetti sauce and doing laundry. I DO wear those things like graphic tees that I say I’ll never wear. I’m learning a lot about myself (yikes) Thanks so much for this post!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, Sarah! Keeping the outfit journal and coming up with some great go-to outfits has made a big difference for me, too. I think that having some outfits that we feel good in is much more valuable than having the perfect capsule wardrobe (which may not even exist anyway). It sounds like you made some excellent progress in a very short period of time, and I’m elated to have played a role in that. I wish you more wardrobe clarity and wardrobe happiness!

  12. Rachel says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a lot of black tops! It means you know what you gravitate to, what your style comfort zone is. They’re not 100% identical…there are slight variations between them…and if you know black works for you – as it does for me (can be dressy or casual, instantly elevates an outfit, doesn’t immediately show stains and sweat, etc) – then why not have 9 versatile black tees instead of, say, 3 black tees and 6 tees in colors you’re just “meh” about. Why not?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Rachel! I think I will always have multiple black tees in my wardrobe, as black is my most frequently worn color. But doing the analysis that I did with my black tees helped me to eliminate a few bad ones and wear the ones I kept more often. You’re so right about the benefits of black tops! And for those for whom black isn’t their best color, there’s probably another dark neutral (i.e., navy, charcoal, brown, cognac, etc.) that will make them as happy as black makes us. 🙂

  13. Katrina B says:

    Debbie, I think a lot of people share your interest in black T shirts!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Katrina! I see myself in that cartoon for sure, especially the part about the one tee being like two inches longer. I’m glad I don’t have 100 black tees, but sometimes those subtle nuances in length, shape, or neckline really DO make a big difference. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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