There are fewer than three weeks left in the year, so I’m going to start doing some 2022 wrap-up posts (which will likely extend into early 2023). I’ll begin by looking at my “wardrobe benchwarmers” for the year. When I first coined this term back in 2013, I defined a benchwarmer as anything that was worn just once or not at all during a given year, but I’m being more strict this time around. My new definition for a benchwarmer is an item that did not get worn at all within a twelve-month timeframe.
Fortunately, I have far fewer benchwarmers now than when I started blogging about my wardrobe ten years ago (has it really been that long?!), but I still have more of them than what I feel is reasonable. I don’t think most of us can completely eliminate benchwarmers, unless we have a tiny wardrobe or are really ruthless with closet purging. While I don’t have a wardrobe as large as I did a decade ago, I do like to maintain what I would consider a medium-sized garment collection. I also tend to do a good job with paring things down as necessary, but there can be certain circumstances that make that process more difficult, such as the weight changes I wrote about back in June and October.
For the purposes of this year-end benchwarmer review, I’m only including pieces that currently fit me, not the contents of my “holding zone.” I’m also only taking into consideration my “out-and-about” wardrobe here, as I have very few unworn items in my at-home collection. Although I’ve expanded the number of pieces that I wear at home since the start of the pandemic, most of them get worn on a regular basis. This is one of the recent wardrobe shifts that I’m most proud of, as what’s in my closet now better suits how I actually live my life. I still have more out-and-about items than I truly need, but the proportions have vastly improved, which I’m happy about.
2022 Benchwarmer Overview
After conducting a review, I learned that there are 36 items in my closet that I didn’t wear at all this past year. This count doesn’t include garments purchased within the past couple of months that haven’t been worn yet, but there are six 2022 purchases represented among my benchwarmers for the year.
Here’s a snapshot of the 36 benchwarmers, but I’ll delve more into specifics later in the post:
My 2022 benchwarmers are equally distributed between my summer and “not summer” wardrobes, as shown below:
Because I live in a temperate climate, it was a judgment call for some of the items as to which “season” they belong to, and some pieces could probably be worn throughout most of the year. The bottom line, however, is that they were not worn, which is an even worse fate for those items that are not season specific.
I’m going to discuss the benchwarmers by category in the following sections, but here’s a quick overview of how it all breaks down:
- 5 cardigans
- 5 coats / blazers
- 5 dresses
- 1 pair of pants
- 9 tops for pants (3 sleeveless, 1 short-sleeved, 5 long-sleeved)
- 7 tops for skirts (4 sleeveless, 3 short-sleeved)
- 4 pairs of shoes
Below are the cardigans that I didn’t wear at all this year:
I’m not necessarily going to review every single item one by one in each category’s section, but I will do so for the cardigans. I’ll share why I believe they were benchwarmers, as well as what I have decided regarding their fate for 2023.
- Black Duster Cardigan: I think I didn’t wear this cardigan earlier in the year because it was too big for me and had long side slits. I bought it at last year’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, before I became clear that side slits are one of my wardrobe “don’ts.” I recently had the sides of this cardigan taken in and the slits sewn shut, so I don’t think it will be a benchwarmer any longer. However, it’s quite lightweight, so it’s too cold to wear it now. I believe that I’ll wear it next year with both pants and dresses.
- Black/White Chevron Stripe Cardigan: I don’t love the way this cardigan looks on me, and there have been multiple times when I put it on, only to take it off and wear something else instead. I think the fact that the stripes widen toward the bottom of the cardigan has a broadening effect, which I don’t want on my already bottom-heavy figure. I plan to either sell or donate this cardigan soon.
- Black/White Textured Tweed Cardigan: This cardigan is more of a cool weather piece, and I know I wore it in the later months of 2021. I’m not sure why I didn’t wear this cardigan in the early months of this year, but when I tried to wear it recently, it was too big for me. I still feel that it’s in line with my personal style aesthetic, so it’s currently being taken in by my tailor.
- Black/White Speckled “Coatigan”: I bought this coatigan on eBay in the spring as a replacement for a tailoring casualty from last year (taken in too much under the arms). It was too warm to wear it for a while (it’s quite heavy, and warm weather started earlier than usual this year), but when I put it on recently, I didn’t like how the front pockets “poked out.” That’s probably something that wouldn’t bother most people, but it’s an easy and inexpensive fix that I believe will turn this benchwarmer into an “all-star.” Fingers crossed…
- Blue Pranayama Wrap: I bought this in early 2021 but didn’t end up wearing it because I felt it was unflattering on my lower half. It was a case of buying something because of the bright color and soft fabric, as well as potentially “skinny mirrors” in the store that told a different story than what I later saw at home. Unfortunately, I missed the return deadline, so I put the cardigan in my holding zone and thought I might sell it. However, I recently rescued it because I feel it looks much better on me now with my weight loss. Hopefully I will wear it multiple times in 2023, if not sometime before the end of this year.
Most of my cardigan benchwarmers earned that title due to fit issues. Alterations saved three of them, and weight loss saved a fourth. I plan to purge the fifth benchwarmer cardigan (black/white chevron stripe) soon.
Coat and Blazer Benchwarmers
These five coats and blazers hung in my closet gathering dust this past year:
As with the cardigans above, fit issues were mostly why I didn’t wear these garments. Again, I’ll review them individually because I have specific comments to make about each piece.
- Black Ponte Blazer: I thought this was another alteration casualty that had been taken in too much under than sleeves last year. It looked “off” on me last fall/winter, but upon trying it on again recently, I like how it looks. I’m about a size smaller on top than I used to be, and the oversize blazer trend is still going strong. This blazer is only slightly large on me now, but I like the long length and the stretchy fabric. I’ll need to dress it down for my mostly casual lifestyle, but I also have a funeral to attend later this month, so I might opt to wear it then.
- Black Velvet Coat: This coat has been in my wardrobe since 2014, but it was too tight on me for several years. I didn’t have the heart to let it go, though, because I love the style and it was one of my best consignment purchases. I’m glad I hung on to it, as it now fits me well. Again, I don’t have many occasions when I can wear it, but it’s a timeless piece that I’m happy to own.
- Cobalt Mid-Length Coat: I bought this coat not long before the pandemic, so I didn’t have much of an occasion to wear it for over two years. Now it’s too big for me and I think it would be too expensive to alter it properly. I’ll probably hang on to it for a year or so and consider either tailoring it or letting it go if my size remains the same. I love the color, but it really needs to be worn closed, which isn’t ideal for me, as I prefer to mostly wear my coats open (it’s not too cold where I live).
- Fuchsia Mid-Length Coat: This coat was a favorite of mine in 2019, but then I didn’t wear my “fancier” coats much during 2020 and 2021. I kind of got out of the habit of wearing these types of coats, but I still really like this one. I plan to wear it later this month, and I hope it will get back to being a favorite again in 2023.
- Navy Ponte Blazer: I bought this blazer on sale earlier this year, but it was too warm to wear it until the past couple of months. By that time, it was too big on me and now needs to be tailored. I plan to do so soon so I can hopefully wear it in early 2023 before the temperatures warm up again.
I plan to keep all my benchwarmer coats and blazers for now. The only one I potentially see myself letting go of in the near-term is the cobalt mid-length coat, but because there’s a lot that I like about it, I’m placing it in my holding zone for the time being.
I didn’t wear the five dresses below at all during 2022:
The two maxi-dresses used to be favorites of mine, but I’ve cooled off on the maxi silhouette in recent years. I’ve gradually pared down my maxi collection, such that all that remains are these two dresses and one skirt (which I did wear a couple of times this year). I could potentially shorten my two maxi-dresses, but I think I’ll wait and see if I feel like wearing them when next summer rolls around.
The cobalt Eileen Fisher dress was in my holding zone for a few years because it was too tight in the hip and thigh area. When I tried it on again recently, it fit me pretty well, but I now prefer a narrower silhouette in my dresses. I may opt to have it taken in at the bottom next spring/summer, which is what I definitely plan to do with the black gathered-back dress. Both of these A-line dresses were favorites three to five years ago, but my style preferences have shifted, as can happen for all of us. I like these dresses enough to have them tailored, but since it’s too cold for them now, I’m holding off on the alterations until at least the springtime.
The final dress that I didn’t wear was the royal blue elliptical midi-dress. I purchased it at the end of summer 2021 on deep sale, and it has never been worn. I love the color, but the dress is now too big for me and will need to be tailored if I elect to keep it. Again, I’ll wait and see how I feel next year when the weather warms up, but I suspect that I’ll decide to get the tailoring done.
I don’t see myself purging any of these benchwarmer dresses before next summer, and I likely won’t pass them on until the end of that season if I haven’t worn them by that time. My dress collection is not all that large, but I also have several additional dresses in my holding zone box. The dresses pictured above could all be worn “as is,” but I wouldn’t be happy wearing the three mid-length dresses without narrowing their silhouettes.
Pant Benchwarmers – Just One!
Of the pants that remain in my closet (there are quite a few pairs in my holding zone box), just one pair wasn’t worn at all this year. The jeans shown below have been in my wardrobe since late 2015, but they haven’t fit me since 2017 due to the menopausal weight gain that plagued me for years. I only pulled them out of my holding zone a couple of months ago, as they now fit me once again.
I liked this style of jeans enough to purchase the next size up in 2017. I wore that pair enough times such that they became worn out and were purged last year. I held on to the smaller size for a very long time, as it’s so difficult for me to find pants that fit me.
That said, these jeans (and their successor) have always been “borderline” in terms of length. They don’t work well with most of my shoes, but I did take some time yesterday to investigate which footwear pairings might be successful. I’ve identified three pairs of shoes that look good with these jeans, so I’m going to keep them and try to start wearing them again soon.
Pants Tops Benchwarmers
Because I don’t like to tuck my shirts in (I have a very short torso), I wear different tops with pants versus skirts. The nine longer-length tops pictured below have not been worn at all this year.
I’ll briefly cover them one by one, as there are varying reasons for why they didn’t get worn.
- Black Long-Sleeved Crewneck: This top was in my holding zone box, but I brought it back into my closet recently. However, it’s too loose under the arms and I don’t like how it looks as a result. I don’t know if it’s worth tailoring, but I don’t have another top that serves the same purpose at the moment (I have a scoop-neck version, but not a crewneck one). I may hold out to see if I encounter a black crewneck that fits well off the rack, as I’ve been doing a lot of alterations recently and I’m becoming weary of the cost.
- Black Long Knit Tank: I may repurpose this tank for at-home wear, as it’s fairly loose and long. I don’t love the way it looks for out-and-about wearings, but I could see potentially putting it on for a hot day at home. We’ll see if I wear it next summer…
- Black Sheer Striped Long-Sleeved Top: I loved this top the few times I wore it, but it was too tight on me for many years. It’s still quite fitted now, but it’s wearable. It’s a tricky piece, though, because the sleeves are sheer and don’t keep my arms warm at all. It cannot be worn alone during the cooler months and needs a topper, which kind of defeats the purpose of its appeal. It’s also a dressier garment, so I don’t have many occasions for which I could wear it. If it’s still a benchwarmer as we move into the summer months, I’ll likely sell or donate it.
- Burgundy Cross-Front Tank: I wore this tank multiple times in 2020 and 2021, but I didn’t reach for it at all this year. I love the color and style, but I didn’t love the curved hem, so I had it altered into a straight hem not long ago. But then the weather got cold and I haven’t been wearing any sleeveless tops, even as layering pieces. However, I believe that I’ll wear this top once the warmer months roll around.
- Cobalt/Black Shortened Tunic: I wore this top as a tunic for years, but then it became too snug for me in the hip area. I had it shortened either in 2020 or 2021 and wore it a few times back then. However, it was too loose on me this fall, so it didn’t get worn. Since it was a longtime favorite that I still love, I recently had it taken in on the sides, so I believe I’ll start wearing it again now.
- Lavender Print Long-Sleeved Top: I bought this top in the spring, but then it was too warm to wear it for months. I’ve had multiple opportunities to wear it recently, however, but didn’t opt to do so. This top is intended for athletic wear, but I feel that it’s a “crossover” piece that can also be worn for out-and-about purposes. The fabric is kind of “utilitarian,” though, which isn’t ideal. I do better with short-sleeved versions of these types of tops, which I actually do wear for walks and working out. But I get too hot in the long-sleeved versions, so I don’t plan to purchase any others moving forward. I think I will wear this top, but if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have bought it.
- Pale Green Striped Tank: I think it was a mistake to buy this tank. Not only did I need to have the side slits sewn shut (because I don’t like them), I haven’t even worn the top in the ensuing months! I think it’s because the color doesn’t coordinate well with my summer pants. I guess I could wear it with jeans, but I mostly wear jeans in the cooler months and this is a sleeveless top. I’m going to keep it and try to wear it in the spring, perhaps with cropped jeans or maybe navy pants.
- Purple Twist-Front Long-Sleeved Top: I purchased this top in the late spring, and it was too warm to wear it until probably October. I’m not sure why I haven’t worn it since then, but it’s likely because it needs to be ironed or steamed, and I can get lazy about doing that. I like the color and style, though, so I just need to take the time to get it in ready-to-wear condition.
- Rose Short-Sleeved Crewneck: This is another athletic brand top that I bought to wear for out-and-about purposes. However, because of the fabrication and length, I now believe I’d be better off repurposing it as a workout/walk top. I could always opt to wear it for non-exercise purposes as well, but I think I’ll try it out for a walk sometime soon and see how it goes.
I don’t plan to get rid of any of my tops for pants just yet, but a few of them are “on the bubble.” If I don’t wear the long-sleeved tops by May, I’ll likely pass them on. However, I’ll give the sleeveless and short-sleeved tops until October, and hopefully I will have worn them at least a few times by that point.
Skirt Tops Benchwarmers
These seven shorter-length tops that I pair with skirts were not worn at all this year:
I don’t need to review these tops individually because the main reason they weren’t worn is because I’ve purged almost all the skirts in my closet over the past few years. For a while, I thought I might stop wearing skirts altogether, but I found a few that I liked this year. However, they were purchased late in the summer season, so I haven’t worn them much yet.
But even when I start wearing skirts again in the spring and summer months, I still see myself letting go of at least two or three of the tops above. The two short-sleeved tops in first row of pictures are good candidates for passing on because they’re either flimsy or fussy. I also don’t really need two polka dot tops, and I think I like the tank better than the tee.
I have a few other shorter-length tops for skirts that I did wear this year, and I don’t need a large collection of such tops. The two tanks in the bottom row are kind of fussy, and the snake print tank is snug in the bust area, which leads me to only want to wear it with a topper. I love the way the purple print tank looks, but it has two layers that don’t stay in place well. I’ll try these tanks on in the spring and see how I feel then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up purging one or both.
I didn’t wear the four pairs of shoes pictured below at all during 2022:
Footwear is another wardrobe category that I am reluctant to purge pieces from, as shoes tend to be expensive and it can be difficult to find comfortable and stylish options. Here are my thoughts on why the shoes above are benchwarmers:
- Black Chelsea Boots: I’ve owned these boots for a long time, but I haven’t worn them at all in recent years. They’re comfortable, but they don’t look good with most of my pants. I did discover today, however, that they work well with the benchwarmer jeans shown earlier in this post, so I think the key is to wear them with wider-hemmed Most of my jeans and pants are narrower at the bottom (straight-leg styles), but I do own two pairs of bootcut jeans that coordinate nicely with these boots, so I hope to take them out of benchwarmer territory soon.
- Black Open Weave Peep-toe Booties: These were an ill-advised thrift store buy from late 2019. I like the way they look, but the heel is probably about an inch too high for me to wear comfortably. Because I have better options that serve the same purpose, I’m going to pass these shoes on. I really need to stick to heels that are around two inches high, not three.
- Black/White Low-Heel Sandals: I like these shoes, but I don’t have much to wear with them. I prefer to wear a higher heel with most of my pants, skirts, and dresses. I usually only wear flatter shoes with maxi-length skirts and dresses, and I’ve really pared that collection down, as I wrote about in an earlier section. That said, I have a pair of wider-hemmed lightweight pants that will work well with these sandals after I have the pants hemmed an inch or so (sometimes tall sizes are too long for me). I have another pair of flat sandals that would look nice with those pants, too, as well as with the maxi-length skirts and dresses that I still own.
- Metallic Peep-Toe Low Wedge Shoes: I have the same problem with these shoes as with the sandals I just wrote about. I like these shoes, but I haven’t known what to pair with them. They don’t work well with most of my pants, but after doing some try-ons, I discovered a few good pairings for these shoes. So, I’m going to hang on to them for now and try out these newly identified combinations in the coming months. Although I like the look of the crisscross straps, they can cut off my leg-line with ankle-length pants and midi-length skirts and dresses. The pants that I feel work well with these shoes are full-length with hems that are wide enough to cover the shoes without “catching.” I will continue to experiment to see if I can make these shoes work before I elect to pass them on.
At this point, I plan to keep three of the four pairs of shoes shown above, but I’m also open to letting go of all of them if the new pairings I’ve identified don’t end up working out. Sometimes potential combinations are better in theory than in practice, so I’ll just have to wait and see what I think when I experiment with actual outfits.
That was a lot to cover, and I didn’t think I would write as much as I did (that’s often the case here!). I hope you got something out of the review of my 2022 wardrobe benchwarmers. At this point, I plan to keep probably three-quarters of these items, but they’re sticking around on a “provisional” basis to see if I end up wearing and liking them in 2023.
I hope to have fewer benchwarmers next year, but this was a weird year with my weight loss and resulting wardrobe changes. Things have been very much in flux in recent months, with some items coming out of my holding zone and back into my closet and many more pieces moving from my closet into the holding zone. If my weight remains stable, I can primarily focus on wearing what I have and filling in just a small number of closet gaps as they reveal themselves to me over time.
While having 36 benchwarmers is far better than the triple-digit figures I experienced back in my early days of wardrobe blogging, it’s still more than I would like to have. My goal for 2023 is to cut that number at least in half, which should be doable as I continue to hone what does and doesn’t work for me.
Coming Attractions – and Your Thoughts?
In my next post, I’ll share some of my wardrobe “all-stars,” which are more fun to write about than the benchwarmers. Other 2022 wrap-up posts will cover my best and worst purchases of the year, as well as a review of my wardrobe goals and what my goals are for next year.
If you have any thoughts about what I shared today, or if you’d like to comment on your own wardrobe benchwarmers, I’d love to hear from you. Thank you for reading this very long post! I appreciate your readership and support, and I wish you peace and happiness this holiday season.