I gave away a ton of clothing.

Rebuilding My Closet

I gave away a ton of clothing. Two weeks ago, I talked about the beginning of my journey to clean out and revitalize my wardrobe. The purging has been done, but now the task of rebuilding it has begun. It all started with the concept that life will be better if I have less stuff. Compared to some people, I didn’t have a lot of clothes, but I had more than I need and far too many that didn’t fit right or that I never wore. So, those items are gone. But, now I have fewer clothes than I need, thanks to the not fitting right bit. Or, I should say, I don’t have the right clothes that I need.

What is left

I’m breaking the list down into casual, professional, and special occasion. Currently, most of the casual doubles as professional thanks to a Developer’s dress code, but I want to dress more professionally. More on that later.


  • 6 solid-color fitted t-shirts: (purple, black, white, gray, yellow, blue)
  • 2 fitted t-shirts with a design (ivory, green)
  • 3 long sleeved shirts, one green, two black, one with a design on the left breast
  • 2 v-neck sweaters (cranberry* and pale green)
  • 1 cowl-neck sweater (beige)†
  • 2 hooded sweaters (1 green, 1 white zip-up)†
  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair denim shorts
  • 1 pair black knit wide-leg capri-length pants
  • 1 white linen button-up


Photo of my professional clothing

Here are all seven items of professional clothing that I own. The browns look like they match a bit better here than they do in real life.

  • 1 pair of black pants
  • 1 pair of brown pants*
  • 1 pair of khaki slacks*
  • 1 brown knit 3/4 sleeve shirt*
  • 1 light gray v-neck sweater*
  • 1 brown half-button-up shirt
  • 1 gray striped button-up shirt*

Special Occasion

  • 1 magenta shirt
  • 1 black dressy tank top shirt
  • 1 LBD
  • 1 black silk georgette shrug
  • 1 brown dress with pink dots that is my go-to wedding guest dress
  • 1 white dress with brown and salmon flower design

Other (sports, outerwear, etc…)

I thought about leaving out my cycling clothes and things like that, but for full disclosure, I feel like I should include them as well. So, here’s the other stuff. Wardrobe minimalists are cringing at this point.

  • 5 camis (black, gray, brown, tan, ivory)—required under some of my sweaters, but not exactly intimates.
  • 2 pair cycling shorts
  • 2 short sleeve cycling jerseys
  • 1 long sleeve cycling jersey
  • 2 hoodies
  • 2 fleece pullovers
  • 2 pair sweatpants
  • 3 pair pj pants (this may be a bit overkill, yes)
  • 1 black wool winter coat

* items that I would like to replace
† items I wear but that fall into a category that I could do without. These may or may not be replaced once they’re worn out.

What will join

A new trend on blogs I read is the “six item challenge” where participants choose six clothing items (generally excluding intimates) and wear only those six items for 30 days. I’m not willing to be that drastic, but the  concept is very much in line with the decluttered lifestyle: have the basics; you don’t need anything else. So, as I begin to rebuild, that is the goal I’m aiming for: basics that all work together. From here on, if it is joining my wardrobe, it has to fit these guidelines.

  • I have to like it, maybe even love it. I can’t just be lukewarm about it.

    In the past, I ended up with things I didn’t like because I was forced to go buy something for a specific need, usually with short notice. One goal of this wardrobe revamp is to have the basics that will suit pretty much any occasion, removing the need for last minute “I have nothing to wear” shopping.

  • It has to fit correctly.

    I vowed not to wear clothing that is ill fitting. I will allow myself to buy things that need slight tailoring, like say, shortening pants legs or skirt hems, but I have to tailor as soon as I buy it. No “I’ll get around to it.” It enters the house, it gets tailored right then. If I change weight or body shape, clothing needs to be tailored or tossed.

  • It has to be quality.

    Not that decent quality can’t come from cheaper stores, but if I’m buying it, it needs to last. That means things like a suit, if I buy one, likely won’t be from a discount store. If I can’t afford it, I can probably make it. Sure, that will still be more expensive than a discount store, but I know the quality will be better. In the long run, quality items will last, whereas I will spend just as much money having to repeatedly replace cheap trendy ones.

  • It has to match multiple items that are already in my wardrobe.

    I once bought a dressy/professional jacket that I loved and fit well, but never wore it because it clashed with all the bottoms I owned. Even if it matched one pair of pants, it would still be a waste because it would be limited. The idea of having a small wardrobe requires that things can be mixed and matched. Creating that requires not buying things that don’t already match things you own.

Other goals:

  1. Treat my clothing better. I have a bad habit of tossing stuff on the floor of the bedroom when I take it off. It will lay there for days, then get thrown into a large load with no paying attention to like colors, special needs, or whether it should be dried or not. A merino wool sweater that I loved got dried, making it about the right size for a ten year old. And that’s only one example of many. I vow to treat my clothes with the respect they deserve so that they’ll last.
  2. Dress more professionally. By day, I’m a web developer for a local small company. Our office dress code is basically “don’t look like a slob, and try not to wear jeans when we have clients coming to the office.” Most days, I wear jeans and fitted tees to work. But, I think that puts me at a disadvantage. It makes me look like a developer. Sure, that’s what I am now, but I don’t plan on being a code monkey forever. I have management experience and the desire to do something with that. I have the want and competence to do something that doesn’t mean sitting in a cube all day. Dressing like I am in a position like that now, and being comfortable with it means I’ll be that much more comfortable and ready to take on what I aspire to.
  3. Look more put together. This is kind of a mashup of the first two items on this list. I have a habit of leaving the house in clothes that have stains or tears that I don’t notice until I get to work. If I took better care of my clothing, I would realize this and get them cleaned properly or repair them. And looking like a slob doesn’t look professional.

Ok, so “what will join” still hasn’t been answered. That’s because I don’t entirely know. To start with, I’ll pinpoint problem areas.

What is currently wrong

True minimalists out there are probably thinking that I still have too many clothes. They might be right. But it seems like I don’t have enough to wear, because there’s a major issue with my professional clothes: the black/brown clash.

I can’t argue that I’m set for casual clothes. But if you take a look at my professional clothes, it turns out that I really only have 5 outfits, rather than 12 if all the tops and bottoms matched. And what’s worse is that of those five, I only consider two of them to be on the more business end of business casual.

This issue isn’t restricted to the professional clothes either; it extends to special occasion. My two non-LBD dresses are both non-sleeved and brown-based, but my only dressy jacket/shrug is black. Part of the reason I have so much brown-based stuff is that I like brown. But brown doesn’t match black very well. Also, brown has a bad habit of not matching other browns. My brown shirts and pants are all different shades. Some of them go okay together, but others don’t. That is severely limiting. I need to either stick to wearing browns just casually (they go great with jeans), or find shades that don’t clash with black pants. They do exist, they’re just rare.

Another issue is that with the exception of my black pants, the truly professional clothes I have I don’t like, and the others are pretty casual. So everything new for the next little while will be professional. The goal: tops that will work with black, gray, brown and khaki pants. That way, I can mix up the pant styles, but not be limited to a specific shirt and pant combination.

What’s on the shopping* list

I have two lists: high-priority and low priority. The first is short, simple and rounds out my wardrobe basics. The second is icing on the cake or replacing things in the non-professional section that I’m not entirely happy with.

High Priority

  • 1 pair of pants. I’m not sure if they’ll be black, brown, gray or khaki.
  • 2 non-sweater dress shirts (preferably that can be worn with or without a jacket), that will work in any season (if layered with jacket or cardigan).
  • 1 v-neck sweater

The pale green sweater I listed under casual can be professional with professional bottoms. Between that, my existing black pants and the four items on the shopping list, I will have eight professional outfits. While that’s only three more than I currently have, it is accomplished with two fewer clothing items. The four purchased items will replace six other items, only one of which I actually like–and it needs to be replaced because of wear.

Low Priority

  • 1 more night-on-the-town shirt. I kind of want to sew up the one in this image. Image of satin wraparound shirt This would be new, not replacement, and slightly dressier than the magenta shirt I have.
  • 1 more casual/business casual sweater to replace the cranberry one I have.
  • 1 cardigan that matches all the business tops, or at least any that could be worn with a cardigan (will replace one of the hooded sweaters in the casual list, likely the green.) Extra points if it can go with the two brown dresses as well.
  • 1 pair of comfortable, non-jean casual pants to replace the black knit ones. I’m thinking linen with a drawstring waist. In fact, I have the linen and pattern, I just need to get my butt in gear.
  • 1 shirt in the exact style of the brown knit one listed under professional. I want to copy it, because I love it. It’d be a casual shirt though, and replace one of the fitted tees. It’s perfect for fall/spring.
  • Replacing undies and bras. I have enough that fit, but some are showing their age.

I also want to get a suit, but it’s not top priority. I’ll probably save the money and look around until I find one that I really like in a classic style. I’m thinking jacket, pants and pencil skirt. For now, black pants, dressy shirts and sweaters will suffice for professional use.

*At least for the low priority list, if it’s not a sweater, it may be made instead of purchased, so not exactly “shopping.”

What’s on your list?

So, enough about me… are you working on minimizing your wardrobe? Amazed that someone can exist with so few clothes? Think I’m redefining “few” with something closer to “too many”? What do you define as basics?

My next project? Getting Carl to let me do the same thing to his wardrobe. He has few enough clothes, but most of his pants need replacing due to wear or being too large. (Have you ever tried to find 30/31″ x 34″ pants? I’m starting to think it’s not possible. If you know where they’re hiding, please let me know!) Injecting some professional into his wardrobe wouldn’t hurt, either. It really all hinges on pants that fit and are a style he likes. I’m in love with a sartorially-picky beanpole.