The 100 Item Wardrobe Challenge (Part II)

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 3.23.03 PM(Here is Part I of the 100 Item Wardrobe Challenge)

I recently made the decision to pare down my wardrobe to 100 items.  It seemed like a reasonable goal; 100 is enough that I could have endless mix-n-match combos, but few enough that my closet would never feel jammed full.  This goal is part of a general commitment I’m making to reduce the volume of my possessions and get rid of the things I don’t want, need or use.

Unfortunately, Phase I of the 100 Item Wardrobe Challenge has been a dismal failure so far.  Our cross-country move was the inciting incident to get rid of clutter and clothes and logically I should have used the move as a time to get rid of stuff BEFORE relocating, but that didn’t happen.  Instead I tried to do it as I unpacked — my plan had been to only put away the clothes that I love, and to not even bother unpacking the ones that I don’t.  Those would go straight to the donation center…or so I figured.

As I unpacked, I attempted to use these three rules:
1. Get rid of it if it doesn’t fit, I don’t wear it, or it’s damaged
2. Pick a color palette so that everything goes with everything
3. Replace cheap clothes with classic, high quality pieces that you can wear again and again

Somehow, despite doing my best to follow those rules, I still have something like 400 articles left!  By the end of a few days of unpacking, my closet was a jammed and jumbled mess:
2013-10-02 20.23.42 2013-10-02 20.23.50

Sorry for bad photos.  We desperately need to get some lights in our bedroom.

I have been thinking about how much money this closet represents; how much I have spent on clothes over the years.  If I added it all up, it’s close to down-payment-on-a-car dollars.  Not because I buy expensive stuff, but because there is so damn much of it.

Money is one of the reasons I find it hard to get rid of things.  I see an item of clothing and I think about how much it cost, and then I start to rationalize that it would be a “waste” to get rid of it.  Luckily, I think I have to found a way to get over this mindset.

It goes something like this: I have a high-risk job, and have had many close calls while working.  In essence, I get compensated financially for managing to do my job and survive dangerous environments.  I tend to buy clothes when I get home from a job, as a reward to myself.  Therefore, I am risking my life for clothes.  And not even good clothes!  I am risking my life for the sake of cheap, socially irresponsible, disposable clothes, like the ones from H&M, Forever 21, Old Navy, Target, etc.  I’m a total impulse buyer, and “fast fashion” is my weakness.


This is reason enough to reconsider my spending habits.

Out with fast fashion, in with slow style.

Slow fashion, slow home, slow food, slow everything!  Here is a great explanation of what “slow fashion” is.

I clearly need to try a different plan of attack for the next round.  I have decided to take a step back and think a bit about what my actual style is and to take a good hard look at the clothes that I’m holding on to because I want them to look good on me, versus the ones that actually look good AND fit my own style / shape.

I know I’m probably never going to wear that weird one-piece Lena Dunham-esque sparrow-printed onesie or the high-waisted shorts that I bought at Forever 21.  And I’m never going to wear that lady executive business suit that I’ve been hanging on to either.  I’ve haven’t worn a suit since I left the PR business 10 years ago…I’m probably not going to start wearing it now.

The blog You Look Fab has a really great overview on how to dress for your particular shape — the author really breaks it down into specifics.  Here is her advice for the hourglass shape.  I also realized that the “one color palette” does not work for me.  I like colors and patterns too much.  So, like any good procrastinator, I took to Pinterest to get organized before tackling my closet again.

If I had to sum up my style, it would include the same colors and hues worn by Joan on Mad Men…


In today’s world she would be wearing an iPhone around her neck instead.

Combined with a love of cheerful patterns…florals, stripes, polka dots…
ModelKarma Floral Fashion_0

I love mixing textures — cashmere with leather, silk with denim, etc.

1002 cashmere

This lady is unreasonably long but I love the cashmere sweater and the leather skirt.

I like fitted clothes, v-necks, backless details, lace.

Things I don’t like: any pattern that’s also a brand (Burberry plaid), obnoxious logos, paisley (ew, amoebas), empire waist, short-waisted clothes (I have a long torso), pastels, button down shirts, or scratchy sweaters.

My failure on Round 1 was due to two main factors.  1) I simply don’t want to stick with one color palette.  Yes, that would be easy since everything would go with everything, but I know that I would get bored quickly.  2) replacing items with high-quality pieces would be nice but I’m not in a position to do that right now.

I started a Pinterest board which you can see here with my “dream list” of what my 100 items would be, making sure that (almost) everything fits into the style and colors that I like.  Then I posted a blank sheet of paper in my closet — this is where I’ll list the items that I’d like to slowly add in to make up my 100.  The thinking is that if I get rid of the stuff I don’t want, I can make room (literally and figuratively) for the things I DO want.  So there will be no impulse buying because every item will be something that I have carefully considered.

With all of this in mind, my new rules for the next round are:
1. Only keep the clothes that are colors and styles that look good on me
2. I can keep a few items that are “good enough” but that I would like to replace eventually.  Example: I have a green sweater from Old Navy.  It’s okay, but nothing great.  I’d rather have a beautiful soft forest green cashmere sweater, but I can’t afford that right now.  I can keep Old Crappy but add “dream sweater” to the wish list.
3. Dressy “occasion” dresses, coats / jackets and workout clothes don’t count towards the 100 items
4. Most important for this next round: ask myself “could someone benefit more from this X than I do?” and if answer is YES, then it goes away

With these rules in mind, I’m heading back into my closet for the next round…

4 thoughts on “The 100 Item Wardrobe Challenge (Part II)

  1. Teresa

    I feel for you. I had a very large wardrobe and came to terms with the fact that I love clothes and I really really love handbags and shoes, but my happiness had to come from a nonmaterialistic place. So I purged my closet. I gave clothes and handbags to my friends’ teenagers, sold some things on eBay and had some things tailored so I could wear them. The rest I gave away and come tax time it was a nice deduction. But mostly it was like a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t go down to 100 and maybe that is unrealistic for you. But if you make it manageable mentally you can get rid of a lot. What I did after the major purge and I still had a lot of stuff was do three items a day. It was so easy to pick out two things I could do without, every day. Don’t stress out about the time it takes, give yourself a break. It will get done and you will be so much happier. I have posted some capsule wardrobes on Pinterest they may inspire you: . Good luck with everything !!!

  2. mmmartino

    Teresa — thank you so much for your response! That is great advice. Two or three things a day does seem very manageable. I’m currently on the road for about two months and I’ve had to buy some things for work. Well, actually, if we are being honest, I got bored with what I brought. I am definitely going to throw away an item for every new item I bought once I get home — my goal is to have my drawers and closet empty enough that unpacking will be a pleasure. I will definitely check out your Pinterest page for inspiration!

  3. Teresa

    When I was purging I bought a large commercial garment rack and it has been life altering. I live off that garment rack and use my closet for off season storage. So my foundation pieces are black white navy and khaki, and my colors are shades of green gray and blue. I would say my foundation pieces are 60% of my total, colors are 10%, and the rest are accessories. I purged most prints because they aren’t versatile. I limit other colors to a few accessories – scarves, belts, bags, shoes. It is a whole lot easier to get dressed now because my entire wardrobe can be mixed and matched. And to the outside world I look pulled together. I also limit new purchases to six items per year just to replace something worn or update my look. This still allows me to shop, but I shop differently now. No more impulse shopping. But you have to do what works for you and stick with it!


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