Ditching the “One of Everything” Mentality

I like closure. Completeness. I don’t collect many things because my urge to acquire one of each available item is very, very strong. And I know now how counterproductive that urge can be.

When I first became interested in expanding my wardrobe, I was rather obsessive about slowly gathering one of each. And by “each” I don’t really mean every possible garment, shoe, and accessory. It was mostly limited to basics. If I was going to bother with dress pants, I might as well have a black pair, and brown pair, and a gray pair. Come to think of it, that triad covered most of my “one of each” tendencies: Black, brown, and gray skirts, pumps, boots, blazers, tees, etc. And I never put myself in financial risk by amassing these items, but I did spend quite a bit of money acquiring them over the years.

And it really did take years. And then it took even MORE years for me to realize that my black, brown, and gray dress pants were collecting dust because I don’t wear pants that often. And then I realized that, yes, it was nice to have thrifted that flattering gray wool blazer but the stiff wool and lining made it so uncomfortable that I hated wearing it. I hung onto that damned blazer for years and years because it filled some imaginary hole. Then I finally admitted that filling that hole did me no good at all.

I have been in a state of purging for many months now. Friends and family have received many gifts, thrift stores have received many donations, consignment shops have seen me come in again and again with armloads of stuff to pass along to new owners. And it feels so liberating to have a (slightly) smaller but carefully honed wardrobe. I always knew intellectually that attempting to acquire a complete set of clothing was not only impossible but also destructive. But, if I’m being honest, I attempted it anyway. It’s a fool’s errand, and no matter how close I got to creating a complete set of black, brown, and gray basics, I never felt any more complete myself. Paring my wardrobe down to items that I actually use and enjoy has been a genuinely rewarding experience.

I don’t think I did anything intentionally stupid or evil by applying a collector’s mentality to clothes. In fact, as someone who cared not a whit about clothing for most of my life, became interested very suddenly, and felt completely ill-prepared to attempt a stylish existence, I believe my actions were somewhat logical. If you want to dress well, you need the proper tools to do so. I focused on these basic items as the proper tools and set about buying them over time. But it took living through that cycle, observing my use patterns, and finally concluding that having something and using it don’t always align before I could accept that brown dress pants aren’t a tool I need in my toolbox.

Does anyone else feel driven by the “one of everything” mentality when it comes to clothes? Especially basics? Or shoes? Or any one aspect of your wardrobe? Or did you once feel this way, and then move on? Does it apply to other areas of your life instead?

*REMINDER: As with all things related to shopping, spending, and finances, I expect you all to express your opinions respectfully. Constructive comments are always welcome, spiteful ones are never welcome. Be courteous and kind as you explain your views or they will not be published here.

Image courtesy Gap.

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  • Genevieve

    I do this and now, as a pregnant lady living out of thrifted, inherited, and carefully purchased clothes am struggling to see that I have a complete wardrobe without brown and grey pants. It’s silly to buy one of everything for regular life but it’s even more ridiculous to do so for a wardrobe that will only last a limited time. This impulse is so strong it feels like wisdom. Thanks for the advice to keep fighting it.

  • http://260daysnorepeats.blogspot.com Iris

    I can’t say I ever thought I needed to have “one of everything” but, I do think I wanted ALL the things which ended up with me buying many things that weren’t great quality or didn’t look the best just because they were on sale. Now that I’m better in tune with what I have/need and what works for me I have a better handle on my urges to acquire everything. If not, I think I would have gone broke with my own personal style challenge of wearing no repeated outfits to work for a year :)

  • http://www.mischiefmydear.com/dramatispersonae Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

    Oh god yes! It was a very brief period, and luckily blogging helped me break out of it. But when I started my first professional job, I thought I needed just that. So I’d buy brown heels, even though I had no brown clothes, because I needed brown heels since I owned none. So brown I bought, instead of the grey ones, which I ACTUALLY liked better and would have worn.

    One of the best fashion habits a gal can break!

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    I haven’t been a “one-of-everything” collector, but you rang a bell with me just the same: I’m a “can’t have too many” collector. As in, black tees, knit skirts, et al. So I have done lots of purging recently too, and remind myself that a couple of black tees is really just as good as ten.
    BTW, I *never* wore my brown work pants either — what’s up with that? : >

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    I definitely have a “collect the whole set” mindset about certain things. Like, if I find a little top I like I’ll get it in all the colors. And certain pieces definitely appeal because they will fill some perceived hole. What I’m noticing though is that if you fill a hole it creates a different hole somewhere else.

    • Dee

      Doesn’t it though!

  • Amy K

    I can relate! It wasn’t until recently that I started believing that I was in control of my closet and wardrobe. I’ve only been out of college for a few years and before that the influence of family (mom) and friends weighed heavily in what I wore. I wasn’t the one with the purchasing power, so I had very little say.

    I was also heavily influenced by other outside influences, most notably the subtle marketing which goes along with the thrill of shopping. Of course stores want us to feel like we SHOULD have one of everything: there are ‘stock up sales’, ‘back to school’ sales, ‘spring into summer’ sales so that we can be prepared for anything….or so we can spend more money to make sure we have every single color cami from Old Navy.

    I’m trying to enjoy shopping as an experience; spending time with people, observing the world and, possibly, making a purchase of something truly special which fits a need. But, like you also said, it’s a process which takes time. I’ve formed some pretty strong emotional attachments to the clothing which is just gathering dust!

    This post is definitely something to think about.

  • Marie

    You’ve certainly described my failing. And the pants you show are precisely the kind of thing I’ve bought in that and 2 or 3 other colors to have a full wardrobe. As Cynthia says at 7:40, ” What I’m noticing though is that if you fill a hole it creates a different hole somewhere else. ” I’ve tried to limit myself to the 5 or 6 items I really need to complete my wardrobe, but then I see something that will be an upgrade or future replacement of the same kind of thing I already have, and go through the same cycle. Perhaps you can address the “upgrade” problem in another post.

  • http://www.rockthesilver.com Donna @ Rock the Silver

    When I first embraced my gray hair, I went a little crazy buying clothes to celebrate my new style. You’re right that you need basic tools, but I found that at some point you have to stop. Now I’m finding less is more in many aspects of my life. I don’t shop as a hobby anymore. I’m with you on the purging. Something liberating about getting down to basics.

  • Beth

    I’m with Patti. If I find something comfortable or that works for me, I buy a bunch. That means, for example, I have a bunch of tees in a bunch of colors… and they are all the exact same cut and fit (ho-hum). I’m in the same boat as Sal, too. I never cared about clothes, but recently I’ve decided that my clothing options are, as mentioned above, ho-hum. With my limited budget, I’m pretty stumped about what to do about either of these issues….

  • sigourney

    I can soooo relate to this. I had a tendency, whenever I spotted a “basic”, to snap it up. It was a basic, right? I couldn’t go wrong with it, could I? Well perhaps, but I didn’t go much right with it either. Who needs umpteen pairs of jeans? With only one pair of legs to clothe…

    I’ve had to think about these things very hard when participating in Jill Chivers’ “My Year Without Clothes Shopping” program which I have almost completed. Dealing with and sifting through my existing wardrobe for a year was eye-opening. I had so many boring basics – and wardrobe orphans that did not even go with the boring stuff!

    What I have learned among many other things is that basics are wardrobe workhorses and should be treated as such. Use them. And find special, more individual pieces to create different looks with one basic. You’re much better served.

    I also find that it pays to look for basic pieces with interesting but subdued detail. (I used to look for pretty generic stuff and got what I deserved …) A little pleat here, some tone-in-tone stitching there, a great cut make even basics classy.

    I don’t know where that “one of everything” idea came from, but it was definitely in my mind, too. Maybe it stems from the old dowry concept, you should have everything you need for every situation and occasion? But society is so diverse now, the only valid approach is to take a good unsentimental look at your life and determine what wardrobe you need. And then make that as enjoyable as possible.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Sigourney, my gosh, such wisdom! Your views on basics are absolutely spot-on. Subdued detail, a platform for the use of more special pieces, all of it!

      • sigourney

        Thanks, Sal, you make me blush! But then I’ve been through the process of almost one year of contemplating and working on my clothes, my style, my attitude, my shopping habits, my finances … My way with clothes has become much more informed and intentional. I also hugely profit from the questions you tackle here – I’m so glad we all learn from each other.

  • http://www.stylinstacy.com Stacy

    I think I had that mentality when I was amassing my work wardrobe right out of school. Luckily I couldn’t afford too much so I didn’t really overspend in that regard. When I buy now it has to be something that #1 I think I will wear often #2 I already have shoes/shirt/skirt that I can wear it with #3 It isn’t an impulse buy because it’s cheap/shiny/on trend #4 I can’t easily make for 1/4 the price.

    Right now I know I have way too many pants. I hardly ever wear pants to work. I just find skirts much more flattering, and they are easy for me to make. I am of the mentality that you cannot have too many black shoes, though.

    I am trying to convince myself to shop my wardrobe for an outfit to wear to my 20th high school reunion tomorrow. Not sure it will work, though. ;) I did try on a fun outfit at the store yesterday, but I knew it would get worn hardly ever if I bought it. I am really trying to curb that kind of frivolous spending.

    • jenny

      Hah, I have the same issue with black shoes! It’s like they multiply in my closet. Most of them I never wear for whatever reason (mostly they hurt my feet, but I just HAD to have them at the time). I have been varying my buys though and find that I really only do the one-of-everything buying when it’s involving t-shirts. I bought some of those Bella t-shirts you’d mentioned here awhile back and love them! I’m going back for more (especially BROWN – that color is hard for me to find in t-shirts)

  • Dee

    I think I used to have some of this mentality but in the last few years I have cut back on buying clothes for several reasons: 1) started working full time and don’t have the time to shop like I used to, but of course have more money now : ); 2) moved and closet space is greatly reduced : ( 3) Realized that shopping was pretty much a ‘hobby’ of mine, and I have a certain passion for clothes, but in the long run its not how I want to spend that much of my time and money. For years I had navy blue dress pants and shoes, and a few tops/blazers to make outfits and realized I never really wore them, so I finally thrifted them. Same with white blouses, everyone needs a few right? Wrong! They don’t really look that good on me, so I gradually gave them away and stopped buying them, I never wore them!!

  • http://DestrehansDaughter.blogspot.com Sarah

    I don’t know if I ever went through this phase exactly but I do often find myself in love with a specific color and trying to find every version of clothing like dresses, pants, or a sweater in that color. I have to hold myself back because I rarely ever wear the same color head to toe without variation. And then everything I own would likely be different shades of the same color, and I would be so bored. I try to be mindful of what I buy and get rid of what I no longer can use. It’s an ever evolving process for me but the more I read blogs the more I think that’s the case for everybody. I do like the idea of having my set of basics covered even if I know I won’t always wear that item. I have been wishing for a set of great patterned pants for almost a year now. I know it would be helpful to just pull them out of the closet when I didn’t feel like wearing a skirt. I know I can get along without owning them but I also think it would be a nice option to take advantage of. I have lots of things on my “list” like this. Hopefully patience will persevere.

  • http://becoming-gezellig.blogspot.com Sarah

    I can definitely relate to this post! In my case it’s not so much “one of everything” as accumulating categories of clothing that are “basics” but that in fact I never wear: chinos, button-up shirts, blazers. One could beat oneself up for that kind of shopping mistake (fortunately mine were all thrifted, but still–it’s hard to admit the waste of money), but I really think it is natural or maybe even close to inevitable to go down these little wardrobe cul-de-sacs when you’re trying to figure out what the heck you want to wear and how you want to dress.

    (I do think style blogs play a role in this–I’ve definitely noticed myself looking for items that I’ve seen bloggers wear who look stylish and well put together but who, it turns out have a style that’s different from mine. I’m thinking of the lovely ladies of the late lamented academichic, who are so well dressed and thoughtful about it, but much preppier than I am. I think I wanted to be similarly thoughtful about dressing, and mistook that for a need for blazers! That’s not at all to “blame” them or other style blogs for my mistakes, just noticing and articulating a dynamic.)

    I am sure you are already reading along with this, but I am finding Gracey’s forays into the land of Nosh Opping over at Fashion for Giants really useful along these lines.

    • Louise

      I love the term “wardrobe cul-de-sac”! What a great way to describe it.

  • http://elspethholden.blogspot.com Ellie

    I’m with Beth, I buy the same thing in as many different colors as possible. I am even guilty of buying new shoes in the same style before the first ones really wear out. It’s crazy and needs attention. It’s kind of like now I’ve found a style I am limiting myself to that. I think I need to do a purge and in future limit my repeat items to one or two colors that really suit my coloring. Mental note made, I’ll have to start a list! Thanks Sal.

  • http://missoulagrace.com Grace

    I’ve never, ever had that urge… (Maybe because I am not one for wearing businessy/workish clothes…that’s the category where people seem most strict and/or desperate to do it “right”….)
    But it’s so interesting to read. I will say that despite the fun of looking at fashion blogs and so on, I harbor a tiny amount of anti-fashion snobbery…..as in “yikes! that’s a lotta shopping”… However, thinking about your process I am more inclined to shush that voice, listen, and relate. I may not exactly do it with clothes, but I am certainly familiar with getting to know myself better by immersing myself in something that years later seems completely unnecessary. :)

    • Trudy Blue

      Interesting point. I wonder if the idea of wardrobe-template type items is more prevalent in a traditional office environment? Since I don’t work in one, I don’t feel that pressure. In fact, I don’t even know what the “gotta have” items would be, so reading this post was eye-opening. But I have definitely found myself standing in my kitchen wondering why I thought I needed all these specialty baking pans when I’ve never made a bundt cake in my life…

  • http://www.futurelint.blogspot.com FutureLint

    I do feel this way sometimes too, which is scary because there is no “complete” to a wardrobe. But I’m getting better as I age and hone my style. I’ve been getting smarter about purchases and it’s getting easier to let go of things that I don’t wear. But I’ve still got some work to do for sure!

  • chrissandra

    I think a collector’s phase is a perfectly logical mindset that occurs to most women at the point where they first become aware of and start acquiring clothes. If you can just get all the basics you need to create different looks, then you’ll have them, and your shopping can concentrate on those great, individual pieces to go with them. Sort of an Eat all your vegetables, then dessert idea. Then as time goes on, you begin to notice, hey, my body changes, the styling on those supposedly classic blazers does indeed go out of style, and white shirts ineveitably make me look blowsy. Plus the realities of storing it all and keeping the field mice, moths, and dust out of it sink in, and you begin to realize that the notion of “having” your wardrobe as some kind of static finished project is probably an illusion, and why would you want to? These days, I have a much smaller wardrobe that changes frequently, like my life, and I’m okay with that, but it’s taken me a while to get there.

    • Lisa W.

      So true! I’ve just come around to this in the past couple of years. How disappointed I was when I realized that my first interview suit, as plain and classic and well-made as it was, was out of fashion after a decade. I spent some serious money on it at Nordstrom thinking it would last me forever. Nope. I have a much more disposable view of my wardrobe at this point, although when I’m thrifting I do look for quality-made, not trendy, in the hopes that it will wear well and last. Seems kind of contradictory, but if it turns out to be a favorite, I want to use it as long as I can or is appropriate. As I’m developing my style for this chapter of my life, I realize that my lifestyle, my tastes, and figure will continue to evolve and change over time. And so will my closet.

  • http://www.flinthillskittykitty.com Kitty

    Great points for thought, Sally! Recently I have realized a different rule for me. Once I discovered that dark blues are my favorite basic, I have slowly allowed that I need more than one navy dress, more than one navy blouse, etc. Instead of collecting one brown, one gray and one blue – I now just look for three great blue items because I’ve proven to myself that these are the ones that will get rotated over and over.

    On my blog I talk about purging the corporate black that was my former closet. Some women wear black well, some of us just don’t! After the purge, it took another couple of years to accept that it’s okay to have five navy dresses if they each serve a different purpose and season.

    Also, I would like to suggest to other readers to think about the messages they receive that it’s so much easier to just use black as your neutral. For years, I believed it when experts said that I COULD choose another basic color to build on but it would be SO much more difficult. When a person is already strugglling with their closet, this message sticks. My experience has been that it’s no more difficult to work with gray, blue or brown as a basic. Blacks don’t “match” either, there are always different shades and dye lots.

    • Cat

      Thank you for this!
      I’m slowly getting rid of a “corporate black” wardrobe myself, as it’s no longer needed, and was afraid I’d turned into the Crazy Navy Blue Dress Lady. I find navy much more flattering and fun to blend but I still have lots of black purging to do.
      I’ve been inspired by this blog to have a bit more fun with clothes, and have also learned to highlight, rather than swamp my waist. (Thanks, Sally!)
      I think the buying in multiples thing comes from retailers. Maybe we’re all being brainwashed by wording like “collect them all!” (JCrew ballet flats, anyone?)

    • Lydia

      Thank you for this! I have been slowly purging the ‘black’ from my wardrobe items, and wearing inky or cobalt blue. I agree that black looks chic and lovley on many people, but it does not have to be a basic if you do not use it. Our basics are what we gravitate towards and wear the most — I have not worn a white shirt, or a pair of shorts for years! I prefer knit tops, and skirts. I agree it is important for women to know that there is no prescibed ‘basic.’

      • Daisy

        I, too, have switched to navy as my base color for my work wardrobe, and am so happy! Black is just a bit too much for my coloring, and navy looks better with the accent colors I favor- green, pink, and orange. I haven’t done away with all black, but having a color palette to focus on that I know looks good (and that I have shoes to match) keeps me from buying “basics” that I know won’t get worn. I have one long sleeve black t shirt that gets worn under sweaters in the winter and one black cardigan, but probably won’t replace them. My navy cardigan gets worn at least twice a week, year-round.

    • f.

      This is so interesting to me, as I’ve done exactly the reverse switch – figuring out that I prefer black and gray to navy and brown.

  • http://cwhf.livejournal.com Ericka

    I was more like this in my mid to late 20s. I had every color of khakis available from the Gap. I have moved on from this in all areas except cardigans—I want all of the colors! And since I truly do wear a cardigan every day and love color, I think it’s ok since they get worn lots.

  • Deb’s

    OH so… one of my favorite clothing stores has this beautiful sky blue color… and I LOVE this color! So I bought 3 pieces with this color… so I can add them to my basics list. Also, linen is very big right now and I LOVE linen! So I have 2 dresses in linen and one shirt. But I went with different colors in each… gray, green, and white.

    Most years I don’t buy new things, heck I have skorts that are suddenly 10 years old! I just realized I have no shorts! But at 53 I only wear them around the house, so not a big deal…

    So see! I need some things… bought things I really wanted… and will let the rest go! Not collecting so much as getting some things I love and not worrying if it is a basic or not… now if I could just get out of the habit of planning my clothes around how easy they are to pack!

  • http://www.thinposter.com Thinposter

    I don’t have such a problem with basics, but as a hard-to-buy-for size, I often feel compelled to purchase everything I think is cute, which fits me.

    This used to work for me because these items were few and far between, pretty much limited to what I could find to like at Lane Bryant.

    I’ve expanded my shopping range to Nordstrom, Boden (Oh, Boden!!!), and LandsEnd, and suddenly I have way too many options to suit my shopping style. This explains the existence of ten adorable, easy-to-pack summer dresses in my closet, when I really only need two or three.

  • Yolanda

    Interesting point. I do have that problem where I have a lot of clothes I like but don’t realistically get the chance to wear. Like this summer I’m working in a soil lab and can’t really wear fancy clothes because they might get ruined, and everyone else dresses down too so it would be awkward if I did. However, I love wearing cute skirt-y outfits, which fit great with my office job last summer… It’s not that I don’t have enough clothes, it’s just that the clothing criteria for my different jobs keeps changing and when I finally feel like I have enough of something the weather changes, or my job changes (pretty much a new job every summer in college) etc. etc…

    I know what you mean with the “must acquire ALL the basics!!!” mentality. I don’t particularly like wearing black, but it pairs so nicely with other things, and means less shopping/spending for all of the color alternatives, so those items tend to accumulate. Other than pants I still don’t wear them much though.

  • http://stacyverb.typepad.com Stacy @ Stacyverb

    I don’t really have a collector mentality. And when I sometimes see those lists like “30 Essential Wardrobe Items” or whatever, I usually find myself thinking that I have no use for half of those things, because they’re just not me (not everyone wants or needs a white button-down shirt). But I think everyone could make their own list of what seems essential to their own personal style, and try to fill that in. That’s what I’m trying to do with my Closing The Gaps project. The trick is not to get lured into thinking you NEED a bunch of similar things, because inevitably some won’t get worn very much.

  • Linda

    Hmm, I had no idea this was a Thing, but judging from the comments it seems to be. I used to have kind of the opposite mentality–that I should be able to find One Pair Of Boots that fulfilled 100% of my boot-wearing needs, for example. Then I felt like a disorganized failure if I had to break down and buy any additional boots. Thankfully I got over that and may have tipped over into “can’t have too many T-shirts/cute skirts/cardigans” mind-set, but I am far from trying to complete a set of anything. (And given my closet situation, I can definitely have too many boots.)

  • Geri

    I have a hoarding problem. It comes from being plus sized and suffering from the scarcity of clothes that fit me in my town. It could be months before the few shops that carry my size have have stuff I like, so when they do I want to buy ALL of it, just because I like it and its in my size. There’s just always this underlying fear that there won’t be any more good clothes. It’s resulted in many a refund to date.

  • Susannah B.

    What an awesome post! I’ve recently been exploring the concepts of usability in my own shopping. Sometimes we get trapped into these ideas that dress pants or button downs, or pencil skirts, or some other item advertised to us is an essential, and buy them, often for way too much money. How much more freeing to buy what you will actually wear! A neon skirt, an awesome denim jacket, cool sandals, whatever fits into your style. If you wear it all the time, it doesn’t matter if to someone else it seems impractical, because by definition, it is practical. That’s something I’m still trying to teach myself.

  • http://www.meganmaedaily.com/ Megan Mae

    I spent the first two years of my blog filling ‘holes’.. not the typical ones, but I always felt like I needed X or Y to complete this imaginary outfit of perfection. Now I don’t buy basics, even my “basics” have to be interesting. I don’t waste time with black pants or white collared shirts. I don’t like them, don’t wear them, or want to.

    I do still have the imaginary ‘holes’ that I’d like to fill, but I promise myself that unless it’s perfect – it doesn’t come home. I’m on summer #2 of looking for the absolute right pair of white sandals and still haven’t found them.

  • http://pacificrain.blogspot.com sarah

    I grew up in fairly straitened economic circumstances, and I think for me, there are some anxieties that just haven’t faded over the years – in particular, the fear of Living Without. This is especially true of shoes for me. When a pair of shoes really starts to wear down (and I have MANY and I think this is why), I become anxious and will obsessively shop for a killer deal on a new pair of shoes. The anxiety is: if these shoes wear out before I’ve found a suitable replacement at a price that I *can* afford, I will not have shoes!! (because I cannot afford full price/retail price.) So that has led to a serious shoe wardrobe for me. I think it is also linked to a fear of not being able to use my wardrobe to express myself, to being locked into one or two items and losing the opportunity to use dressing as a creative anxiety.

    I agree that the “one of each” mentality does not necessarily reflect idiosyncratic taste, proclivities, etc. My closet has more “special” items than “basics,” but that’s because I’ve learned over the years that I am an outgoing, romantic, slightly eccentric dresser. And I’ve been lucky enough to always be in professional environments where my level of play was acceptable, even encouraged/cheered by my superiors and colleagues.

    These days, I use the “one of each” policy to actually LIMIT my spending. I know I don’t need clothes. I just like clothes. If I find something and really fall in love (usually thrifting), I stop and think: do I already have a blue pinstriped skirt? Okay, then I shouldn’t buy this and I should just wear the one I have.

    That being said, I think I am going to actually create a drawer full of multiples this summer. It’s weird to think about. But most of my basic gap tanks (which I do wear as a uniform) are literally falling apart, and I’ve been wanting to experiment with lichen dyes (I’ve been brewing one for 3 months). So I bought some hemp jersey and am going to sew up my own Ts and tanks to dye. I actually feel kind of hesitant about creating a uniform like this, but I’m not working next year – just writing my diss. I know I’ll be at home and will be throwing on something simple every day. It’ll be interesting to see if I’ve accurately anticipated my style for this new – and temporary – phase of my life.

  • http://pacificrain.blogspot.com sarah

    sorry, “creative outlet,” not “creative anxiety”. freudian!!

  • Rebecca

    I tend to end up with multiples of X due to the “I love this and I look/feel amazing in it so I never want to run out of it” tactic. On the plus side, this has stood me in good stead sometimes- I still have a surviving pair of heels of a particular style I have been wearing since far too long ago :D I bought four or five pairs then.

    On the down side, that translates also to “this is what I’ve always worn so I’ll keep wearing it because I have it and it’s my comfort zone”.

    I am trying not to do that now as I am establishing a more grownup work wardrobe- I still love having options, but I’m realizing that I will always love black sling-back pumps, they will always be around, and I really don’t need three different black sling-back pumps in my shoe wardrobe.

  • Carol

    This post really hit home with me. I have no problem with buying a couple of pairs of jeans when I find a style and brand that fits well, but I’ve wasted too much money (and closet space) buying multiples of an item in different colors, and never wearing some of them. It borders on compulsive behavior! I’ve found that it’s especially dangerous to buy multiples of not so basic items – sometimes it turns out that I don’t really like wearing any of them! I tend to have favorites, and wear them most often. As several of you have said, I really need to think about what I enjoy wearing and what makes me feel good, color- and style-wise, and get rid of the rest. A closet purge may be in my not-so-distant future!

    • Debbie

      I can relate to the compulsive behaviour comment. I wrote a long comment (my first on this blog) but have refrained from posting it because I sound slightly (read, a lot) mad!

      Similar to you, I am plagued by the desire to buy multiple versions of ‘perfect’ items, either several colours or multiples of one colour (usually black, obvs). There is a rational aspect to this – if the item fits, and I feel happy in it and the price fits my budget, what’s the problem? And my wardrobe is actually pretty teeny (this has been corroborated by my partner, and if a man thinks you don’t have a lot of clothes, that must say something). But that in itself is interesting – I obsess over what to buy and how many versions but often react to this by buying nothing or returning it all. I think for me it somehow revolves around faulty notions of perfection and completion – didn’t Buddha have something to say about that?

  • http://ragsagainstthemachine.com Terri

    I had to laugh as I read about the brown pants–as they are the very thing I’m searching for now, and probably out of the very same impulse you describe. For me, blogging has created this felt need to have one of all the basics and yet, after almost two years of blogging I have no chambray shirt and no black cardigan, so in some ways I have resisted the urge.

  • M

    I am personally rather restrained with my purchases most of the time, but even I have acquired things because I didn’t have one and then never used them. You have to know yourself very well or have a very tiny wardrobe for that not to be the case, I think. I do at least know my color preferences very well, which helps eliminate some “hole” purchasing. I really can’t convince myself I need white or tan pants.. or really much white at all. There are some basics, like a conservative black dress, that I rarely wear, that I am super happy to have when I need them – like recently when I had to go to a funeral on short notice. I try to actually plan to fill holes that need to be filled. I really do need and wear about 5 different black skirts! If a black skirt is going to be part of my self imposed uniform, some variety in shape, length and thickness is ideal for year-around comfort and situations. I also do fill holes that I never knew I had at times, but mostly only because of sales or being in the thrift store.

  • Sarah

    I’ve recently needed to allow my ‘one of everything’ to expand beyond one. I used to have one pair of black shoes, boots. Because they were one black pair, I thought I’d filled that hole. But black boots don’t go with every outfit and don’t go where perhaps black heels would have. So I’ve needed to be a little more generous with myself.

    That said, if I find a cafe or restaurant I like I will want to try everything on the menu at least one (at different visits!) even if the first thing I had was perfectly delicious.

  • Nihongo Dame Desu

    I am tempted down this rabbit hole whenever I read one of those “what every wardrobe must have” articles, or a post somewhere about wardrobe basics. I own almost none of the things that appear on those lists.

    I generally dislike my body in pants, so I don’t own the basic slacks. I wear lots and lots of color, so I don’t have a selection of brown, gray, navy, and black pieces (and I admit that my wardrobe probably would be more versatile, or at least easier, with at least a few). My ginormous breasts make anything with buttons either impossible or ridiculously expensive after alterations. I could go on and on, but my wardrobe is pretty much the antithesis of those Lists, and yet whenever I read them I feel like they would be The Solution and I’d never again have Nothing To Wear. And then I’ll buy a white blouse that I don’t wear because it gaps at my chest, or a pair of pants that make me feel dull and gray because they are dull and gray.

    Those lists are great for people just starting out in a professional environment, or with very, very little money to spend yet still wanting to look pulled together, but they aren’t for me. If I could just remember that every time I read one…

  • Louise

    Yes, I can relate to collecting a favourite clothing item in all the available colours. I don’t collect all clothing items though – I stick to my personal style of skirts, scarves, necklaces & jackets (not all worn at once – he he) and I tend to buy only these clothing items many times over in different colours/patterns. I do get obsessive about getting a particular colour. I like the feeling of waking up and thinking, “what colour do I feel like wearing today?”, and then dressing in that colour skirt. That’s why I collect “my signature clothing staples” in different colours, because I dress to the colour I feel like that day. I like to hang my scarves in order of colour, I hang my skirts in order of colour, I hang my jackets in order of colour, and my necklaces all hang on hooks in order of colour. It makes me happy. Okay, have I said too much? :)

  • http://cronicasdobrasil.wordpress.com Malvina

    So true! I moved internationally less than a year ago (Brazil), and with it came a change of climate and occupations and local fashion tastes. I’ve now got a wardrobe full of things that I THOUGHT were my one-of-everything, and yet it seems I’m not using them. I’m absolutely kicking myself over the space they took in my luggage. The frustrating bit is that I’m still figuring out where my new holes are, so I can’t bring myself to get rid of anything and yet I’m equally embarrassed to add anything else to that pile of stuff.

  • http://dashingeccentric.blogspot.com/ tiny junco

    Congratulations Sal on honing your closet so it’s even more marvelous than before:)

    Saints preserve us from received wisdom! the bane of my existence……

    i think ‘one of everything’ is partly generational. i was a little girls in the 1960′s-early 70′s and ‘do yer own thang’ was the mantra (esp. in Berkeley). Wardrobe advice, planning, image consultants really didn’t start popping up on the scene until the early 1980′s, when i was technically adult.

    But we all have our bugaboos, the voices that got stuck in our heads when we weren’t noticing. Mine are very similar to sarah at 1:35 – growing up in hand me downs (moms would trade with families in different towns so kids wouldn’t be wearing clothing from kids in their schools and such) i never had a lot of clothing. One, maybe two pair of shoes, two pair of pants and one skirt. A dress i’d made. That was in high school, just when designer jeans, sneakers, etc. were really coming into style.

    Fortunately, so was punk! and i loathed designer duds from the start ;) Still, you get that panicky thinking that you’ll run out of clothes and never find replacements. I also tend to hang onto things that are just dated, worn out, and don’t fit way longer than i should. But i’m getting waaay better at getting rid of ‘not me’. Instead of being scary, it’s a big relief!

    The thing i love most about purging and being super picky about acquiring new things? Throwing on just anything in the morning rush, then catching a look at a stylish lady in a store window later in the day – hey! that’s me!

    While our closets are never ‘done’, it is possible to get to a point where you know what you need to get dressed for your life – what your own personal workhorses might be, what type of ‘frosting’ you like, the shapes and fibres and colors that work for you. You can also come up with numbers of these various items that work for you (how often you wear different pieces, how easy it is for you to replace pieces, laundering prefs and so on).

    For me having that type of worksheet is very very helpful and grounds my emotions vis a vis what is in my closet so i don’t panic about ‘not enough’. Recently, I’ve been working with this document by Sewing Plum:
    http://sewingplums.com/2011/04/29/your-personal-basic-wardrobe-plan/

    Her document helped me pinpoint and describe my own ‘basics’ (which don’t match the ones you find in Vogue, surprise suprise).

    Alison of The Artisanry of Acorn Cottage has a very personal and unique way of dressing, all self-made. It is uber artistic, bohemian, and handmade – yet also incredibly well thought out and even systematic.
    http://artisanry.blogspot.com/

    Here’s a great ‘flow-chart’ of her wardrobe:
    http://pics.livejournal.com/fjorlief/pic/000q5dw2

    and here’s an overview of her outfits:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/acorncottage/sets/72157624735238153/

    beautiful! I love to collect and work with all different ideas for managing our wardrobes and clothing lives – there is so much helpful info out there, and different info helps different people at different times. But the only “Rule” i abide by is ‘try it out for yourself!” Happy Weekend, steph

    • f.

      All those links are fantastic. I love that flow chart, it’s a perfect illustration of how I think of my wardrobe!

  • Debbie

    Bit late in the day coming to this post but want to say thanks for the discussion. So thought provoking and timely for me, gripped as I am by a desire for a black maxi skirt, plus grey version of same, and multiple t-shirts from the same range, all because of one purchase of a ‘perfect’ black maxi dress (I immediately bought another one of these, same colour, as a ‘back up’ – in case of what? It’s going back after reading this post!).

    I’ve been lurking round your site for a while and have often thought about commenting but this post has flushed me out at last!

  • Raqs

    Hm… I bought the same model of boots in blue, purple and cream because they were’t expensive and I just loved the colours, I wore them a lot of times for 1 year (2010-2011) but this year I haven’t worn them a single day and I bought new stuff, Oxfords shoes same model different colours. As long as I wear them it’s ok, my problem is that I wear those things only vfor a season and them I find new obsessions.

  • Anonymous

    I used to think I needed a variety of colors and shapes in my wardrobe. But then I started noticing that only certain colors and shapes looked really good on me. The rest of it might look o.k. And then I realized that I didn’t have to look just o.k., that I’d rather look as good as I can every day. And that meant repeating outfits or having a lot of similar outfits. And I realized that I am just fine with that.

  • f.

    Personally, I’ve found multiples in different colors to be a boon to my style, mostly because I’m so incredibly picky that I’d NEVER buy anything I don’t adore, I have a tight budget, and I am super-picky about the materials I buy (cotton, silk and wool only). This makes shopping into a bit of a chore because usually I go home empty-handed. So if I find a t-shirt or pair of pants that’s available in multiple colors, I’ve hit the jackpot! Within the past year I’ve bought the same pair of straight-legged chinos in black and gray, the same t-shirt in black and beige, and another tee in green and white.

    I think this works for me because I never splurge on multiples at the same time (I wait to see how the first item washes and wears before I go back and buy another) and because I strictly stick to a set of colors that are flattering to me & match the things I already have. Maybe the difference is that I’m never striving for a sense of artificially imposed wardrobe completeness, but just to have enough clothes that I only have to do laundry once a week and don’t have to wear things that are completely worn out.

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  • http://monkeyobsessions.blogspot.com alice

    I used to do this too! My thought was that if I like a style in one color, surely I would want several more colors for variety. However, in the end, I realize that actually, I only wear that one color and the rest of them just languish. Since strictly limiting my wardrobe color palette I’ve been able to abolish most of this mentality. I think I’m someone who does well with limits and boundaries, and imposing rules on myself ended up being freeing, if that makes sense. Now my closet is full of things I wear and it’s easy to see when something needs to be replaced.