My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

This is part two of a three-part series about the oldest items in my wardrobe. In my last post, I wrote about all the pieces that I’ve owned since 2013 or earlier. There were just twelve items that held that distinction: nine garments and three purses, but many of them are still being worn/used regularly ten-plus years later.

Today, I’ll review all the items purchased between 2014 and 2016 that are still in my closet today. I’m only going to cover clothing, shoes, and purses, as I didn’t do a great job of tracking my jewelry and accessory (e.g., scarves and hats) purchases. I plan to do a separate post or series about my jewelry, in which I’ll write about my favorite pieces, as well as which ones have been with me for many years. Leaving the jewelry and other accessories out of this and the next post will also help to keep these essays from becoming overly lengthy.

wardrobe longevity: 7 to 9 years

How many items have been in your closet for 7 years or longer? 

This will be a very picture-heavy post, and since I’m writing about a larger group of pieces, I won’t go into as much detail about each one. I also won’t delve much into cost-per-wear information, as that data takes a lot of time and effort to compile, plus I stopped tracking wears at the end of 2018 and can only guess at wears since that time. I will, however, share my most-worn items from this second group, the ones that continue to be favorites today, and some additional data points and thoughts about these “oldies but goodies.”

Items I Still Own from 2014 through 2016

Here’s a “bird’s eye view” of the 25 wardrobe items that have been in my closet for the past seven to nine years:

closet items from 2014 through 2016: ALL

These items can be broken down by category as follows:

  • 5 toppers (2 cardigans, 1 jacket, 1 coat, 1 vest)

closet items from 2014 through 2016: toppers

Except for the gray tie-waist cardigan, all these toppers were in my “holding zone” for several years due to menopausal weight gain. I considered selling the cobalt anorak, but I recently brought it back into my closet after deciding that I like the way it looks and feels on me now. It’s possible that I might purge the black draped cardigan soon, though, as I have several other black cardigans that I typically reach for instead of this one.

  • 4 bottoms/dresses (2 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 pair of pants)

closet items from 2014 through 2016: bottoms and dresses

I once had a large collection of maxi-length skirts and dresses in my closet, but the few shown here are the last ones remaining. Because the skirt is very stretchy and forgiving, I continued to wear it even with weight changes. However, the other three items were in my “holding zone” for several years and were only brought back into my wardrobe last year following my weight loss.

  • 4 warm weather tops (1 sleeveless, 3 short-sleeved)

closet items from 2014 through 2016: warm weather tops

Two of these tops (the first and third ones) are shorter in length to be worn with skirts, while the other two are longer and are paired with pants. At one point, I considered letting go of the black-and-white-striped tee, but I decided to keep it and like the way it fits again now. Three of these four tops (all except the striped tee) were purchased at resale stores, and they’ve all been wardrobe workhorses for me.

  • 5 long-sleeved tops

closet items from 2014 through 2016: long-sleeved tops

The two waffle tops are from Eddie Bauer and like the ones I wrote about in my last post, are now only worn at home. I wouldn’t purchase them again today because I don’t find curved-hem tops to be all that flattering on my body (see my list of wardrobe “don’ts”), but I still like them enough for their current wearing purposes. Because the waffle-weave fabric is thicker and the tops are relatively long, the curved hem on these tops doesn’t have the widening effect on my hips that I notice with many other garments with this feature.

The black-and-cobalt-striped top was an old favorite that I was able to retrieve from my holding zone last year, and I once again love it. I had the cobalt-and-black tunic shortened by several inches in 2021 to make it more wearable (I’m not a big fan of tunics these days), but it’s now too big on me, so it may not stick around for much longer. The navy-and-white-striped tee is a good staple item, but I don’t wear navy nearly as often as I do black.

  • 5 pairs of shoes

closet items from 2014 through 2016: shoes

These shoes have all been closet favorites at one time or another, and three of the five still are. I don’t wear the black caged sandals as much these days, but that’s mostly because I’ve changed the types of dresses that I like to wear and these shoes don’t work well with many items in my closet. I also really like the burgundy boots, but I don’t own all that many burgundy garments to pair with them. I’ve continued to hold on to both pairs of shoes because I still like them, and hopefully I’ll find ways to coordinate them with future outfits.

The black wedge booties were worn so often that they’re now pretty worn out! They were resoled at least once, and I was happy to be able to find a replacement for these boots recently on eBay. The 2015 version of the boots has been one of the most worn items in my closet by far. When I stopped tracking wears over four years ago, I was already at 184 wears! Hopefully, the new boots will serve me for as long and as well. As for the peep-toe booties, I still hope to replace those, too, but they’re still in good enough condition to continue wearing them. They were purchased in late 2016 and had already been worn 54 times by the end of 2018 (and many, many times since then).

The pewter Taos sandals were also a 2016 purchase, and they got up to 36 wears before I stopped tracking. These sandals continue to be a favorite (I also own them in black and have replaced the original pair with a very similar option), but this may be my last year with them due to signs of wear. I know that none of these “oldie but goodie” shoes are on the cutting edge of fashion, but they’re what I love to wear, and I think they look fairly classic. I sometimes jump on board with shoe trends, but because I have fussy feet, if a style works well for me, I tend to stick with it.

  • 2 purses

closet items from 2014 through 2016: purses

I used to own a lot of purses, but now my collection is fairly small. I don’t use either of these purses all that often, but the black studded purse on the right used to be a favorite. I love the silver stud details on both purses, but the quality of the bags is not up to the standards of my Brighton favorites. The purse on the left comes in handy sometimes, though, as it’s a small size that works well as an evening bag. The larger bag was a gift from my mother from a store near where she lives, but the lining has had to be repaired twice. I still use this purse on occasion, but I usually like a bag with a bit more structure these days.

Where I Bought These Items

Although I covered brands in my last post, I’m not going to do so here. Almost all the pieces shown above are from different brands. In fact, the only brands that are repeated among this second set of “oldies but goodies” are Vince Camuto and Eddie Bauer, with two items each (a top and a jacket from Vince Camuto and two tops from Eddie Bauer).

Pretty much everything in this group of items was purchased through an online or brick-and-mortar retail establishment as well. Only six of the 25 items were bought at a consignment or thrift store:

closet items from 2014 through 2016: resale items

I haven’t always had the best of luck with resale purchases and I rarely shop that way these days (mostly due to my chemical sensitivity issues), but I consider the six items above to be among my successes. They’ve all been worn often, and have all held up well and stood the test of time.

What Has Been Worn Most Often

Now let’s look at which of my 2014 through 2016 purchases have been worn most often over the years. Though these pieces are not necessarily my favorites today (I’ll cover those in the next section), I used to reach for all of them regularly. Here are the 18 “all-stars” that I bought seven to nine years ago:

closet items from 2014 to 2016: worn more often

As I mentioned earlier, the three pairs of shoes shown have really been wardrobe workhorses for me, and the purse was also carried a lot over the years. I’m sure you’re not too surprised to see a lot of black and black-printed items in the mix here. Black continues to be my favorite neutral, and I like when black is combined with another color in a garment. There are really no surprises among these “all-stars,” and I feel that most of them adhere well to my “style guideposts” of dramatic, polished, and elegant, too (you can read more about that concept in this post from 2020).

Although I’m not sure exactly how many times the above items have been worn since I bought them, I’m confident that almost all of them are in the one dollar or less cost-per-wear range at this point. The only possible exception might be the black Eileen Fisher long vest, as it was an expensive purchase. It also has a limited season for when I can wear it, as it’s too long to be worn under a coat. It’s a very dramatic and fun piece, but the weather must be warm enough to wear just a long-sleeved top under the vest, but not so hot that I would be sweating in such an ensemble. Even if the cost-per-wear is higher than I’d ultimately like, I’m still happy that I bought the vest. It’s the type of special piece that I love to wear, and I think there’s room in our closets for a few such items.

My Current Favorites from 2014 to 2016

My style continues to evolve over time and even though many of these longtime purchases saw a lot of wear over the years, many of them are no longer among my favorite pieces. Fortunately, however, over half of this group of “old-timers” are still highly beloved wardrobe items. I would buy any one of the items shown below again today, and I see myself wearing all of them for the foreseeable future.

closet items from 2014 to 2016: current favorites

As you can see, there’s some overlap between this group and the one above (most worn items). Again, it’s not surprising that black and black prints feature heavily. My most-loved prints continue to be stripes, polka dots (which I just heard on a podcast are “hot” for Spring 2023), and abstract watercolor-style patterns. In terms of fabrication, I mostly prefer knits, but the black velvet coat (a “steal” from a consignment store in early 2014) is an example of a woven piece that I enjoy. My preferred silhouettes are either fitted or “streamlined,” and I don’t like the extremes of either super-snug or overly boxy.

I included the black wedge boots in this group, although I’ll probably be letting go of them soon now that I found an exact replacement in better condition. I also included the striped maxi-dress because even though I tend to prefer “midi” lengths these days, the tie-waist silhouette of this dress is very flattering on my shape and I feel great in it. I also love that I can wear flat shoes with maxi-dresses and skirts, which means that I will likely keep at least a few of them around for that reason. I know that I can also wear flats with other skirts and dresses, but for some reason I feel frumpy in them and prefer to wear at least a small heel.

Conclusion – and Your Thoughts?

As someone who has experienced a lot of “closet churn” over the years, I’m happy to have a decent number of “oldies but goodies” that remain in my wardrobe. So far, I’ve covered 37 such items between this post and the last one, and I’ll be addressing at least that many more in part three. If I’m only considering my out-and-about wardrobe, I would say that around half of the pieces I own are at least five years old (but perhaps I’ll do an actual calculation in my next post).

The numbers aren’t as high for my at-home wardrobe, as those items are worn a lot more frequently and wear out sooner. Of course, some of my previous out-and-about garments have been downgraded for wearing only at home, such as the waffle tops that were shown in both today’s post and the last one. This isn’t always something that I can do, but it’s nice to be able to get more life out of some of my clothing this way.

It’s been interesting for me to examine which of my closet pieces have stood the test of time – and why. The more that I become clear about my personal style and what I most enjoy wearing, the more likely I am to have items with good longevity. Of course, the quality of my pieces has some bearing on that, as well as how often I wear them. However, over the years, my reasons for purging things usually had a lot more to do with my not loving and wearing them. Everything will wear out eventually, but it’s nice for that to be my reason for passing closet items on, rather than my having made mistakes in purchasing them.

Thank you to those who weighed in last week about the oldest items in your closets. If anyone else would like to share what you’ve owned the longest and why, I know that many of us would like to read about it. I also welcome anything else you’d like to share in response to the topics discussed today. I’ll be back soon with the third and final post in the series (unless I opt to do a “wrap-up” post, too…), in which I’ll cover the items in my wardrobe from 5 to 6 years ago (2017 and 2018).

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10 thoughts on “The Oldest Items in My Wardrobe: Part Two

  1. Amber says:

    What a great topic this is! I think having a lot of older items really speaks to knowing what you like and what works for you, that’s great.

    I have quite a bit of clothing from the 90s and some of it was purchased at thrift stores and was vintage already back then. I love vintage and it really does seem to last longer. I have jeans from the 70s (in style again!) and cotton and linen dresses from the 60s. I regularly wear a wool coat from the 1950s that I purchased at St Vinnies in 1993. It’s pristine.

    In the 2000s, I had a bit more money and stopped shopping at thrift stores. I shopped at mall stores then and not a single thing survives from that era. I probably also followed trends more.

    I do have quite a few items from the around the 10 year mark though as that is when I started buying quality, not quantity and got to know my personal style more. I also only buy natural fibers (linen, wool, hemp, bamboo, leather, cotton) and focusing on that exclusively sometimes goes hand-in-hand with higher quality. Not always cotton though, plenty of cheap cotton around.

    This is such a good thing to have in mind when I chose to buy something in the future, asking myself if I see it lasting 10 years. Obviously, you can’t always predict, but I think that will help me be honest with myself about whether the item in question is quality and not just a trend or not.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Amber. I’m glad this post resonated with you. That’s amazing that you have so many items in your closet from back in the 90’s and even earlier! I totally agree that quality for clothes in general used to be a lot better, but I’m glad that you’ve been able to find some quality pieces in more recent years, too. Yes, cotton clothing can really vary in terms of quality. I love cotton, but I’ve had mixed success with such garments lasting. I love the idea of asking ourselves if we can see something lasting for 10 years before buying it. In my experience, the items that are LEAST likely to make it to the benchmark are knit tops. I fare a lot better with shoes, purses, pants, and toppers (as long as size issues don’t get in the way with the clothes, as has often been the case for me). We can’t always predict size, lifestyle, and style changes, but it IS helpful to ponder if we see things standing the test of time.

  2. NATALIE K says:

    I love your burgundy boots!! I have DocMartins one pair black with floral lining that shows at top when rolled down and another pair brown DocMartins with a different light floral lining that also shows when top is rolled down. They were made to roll down at the top. I have owned these boots since the Christmas I was 34 or 35. I’m 56 and still adore them!!! There will be years and sometimes many years I don’t wear them but I find myself going back to them over & over because they are so me!!! Keep the things you love wearing because you will go back to them!!!!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Your Doc Martins sound fabulous, Natalie! I’m glad you still love wearing them after all of these years. I agree with you about holding on to things that we still love even if we’re not currently wearing them, especially if we understand WHY we’re not wearing them. I love my burgundy boots, too, and I think I WILL wear them more often once I add a few burgundy garments to my wardrobe. If I didn’t like burgundy anymore, that would be a different story, but my old burgundy clothes either wore out or there were sizing issues with them. I hope you enjoy your boots for years to come!

      1. NATALIE K says:

        Thank you!!!

  3. Katrina B says:

    Hello! I’m back and having a lot of fun catching up on all your recent posts. It’s great that you have so much historical data and I love these analyses. I have tried a few times to track purchases but my attempts ended up the same way as my gardening journals and sewing project planners: forgotten after a few months. So I only have a vague idea of the age of most of my clothing, and for the oldest items I can only pin it down if I can associate it with something else I was doing at the time.

    I have three pairs of jeans that I bought around 1998 (I had just moved from SF to Phoenix and was reveling in the lower cost of everything – about 20% lower back then, now closer to 40%!). I wore the jeans in regular rotation for about 10 years, until they started getting too faded and stretched out. At that point I re-dyed them and took in the waistbands and demoted them slightly so they were more grocery shopping jeans than lunch date jeans. After another 10 years the topstitching was coming loose and they had really lost their shape, so they were all demoted again to gardening and dog washing pants. Maybe they will make it to 30 years!

    The other very old things are pretty random, for example a Gottex swimsuit from 1997, which I didn’t even like that much when I bought it, but it’s been worn in chlorinated water at least 400 times without losing its elasticity, and has fit me at all my sizes from 8 to 16 and back again. Truly a miracle suit! I have boots from 2000 (rarely worn because Phoenix), a trench coat from 2001 (memorable because I purchased it at the World Trade Center just two weeks before 9/11), some cardigans from Casual Corner (so must be pre-2005), and a few things I consider luxury items like silk dresses and a velvet jacket from the early 2000s.

    I can’t pinpoint any particular purchases from the 2006 – 2016 era since I was retired and actually spent much of that time getting rid of clothes – I’m sure I’ve mentioned that at the height of my corporate career I had four closets and numerous storage containers stuffed full of clothes and shoes. It took a VERY long time to winnow that all down to one small closet. I know I did some sewing during that time and I do still have a few dresses and tops I made.

    I’ll have to give some thought to purchases during 2017 and 2018 in preparation for your next post. I think it will probably be mostly work clothes since that’s when I went back to work.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      So nice to see you comment again, Katrina. I’m glad you like my analytical posts. They take longer to do, but I always glean useful information from the process, and it’s good when they help others to do similar introspection, too. Even having a vague idea of how old our items are can be helpful. I don’t do the level of tracking that I used to, but I still have a sense of what’s being worn more often than other pieces. I’m amazed that you have jeans from 1998! It’s great that you were able to re-fashion them once and repurpose them twice. Your Gottex swimsuit must be of excellent quality to withstand THAT many wears! I doubt current swimsuits would fare as well. Yes, it’s very much a miracle suit if it can fit you well across so many sizes.

      Wow, you had A LOT of clothes at one time! So did I, as you know… (and I still did even after I wasn’t in the corporate world any longer). Yes, it can take a long time to winnow things down, and I’ve had some “closet creep” multiple times along the way. It’s great that you still have so many pieces from before 2005! The only things I have that are that old are some of my jewelry pieces (but I don’t know the specific years for any of them – I think I can do some good guesses, though, so I’ll write about jewelry later). I look forward to your sharing additional input after my next post.

  4. Debbie, you inspired me to look into my own wardrobe for my oldest clothing items and I found 6 from 2014 that I still wear. I wrote about it on my blog if you are interested. Thanks for the encouragement to consider this topic!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m happy to have inspired one of your blog posts, Sally! I enjoyed reading about your clothes from 2014, as well as seeing your outfits featuring those items. I especially like the way you use scarves in your ensembles, and you inspired me to wear my scarves more often. I’ve been more into necklaces in recent years, but one thing that’s so great about scarves is how they can tie colors together and make an entire look more interesting. I encourage others to check out Sally’s great blog if they haven’t already done so (click on “Sally in St Paul” above).

      1. Thanks for the referral to my blog, Debbie! I really enjoy being part of the community here.

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