Wardrobe 101

What Do You REALLY Wear?

Find Out!–Working Wardrobe Challenge

Happy day, reader dear!

May I ask you a personal question…

Do you know what you wear?

I mean really wear? Not what is in your closet or what you own the most of, but what you actually wear from day to day? What is creating value in your closet?

Many women don’t know the answer! When I start working with a new client (especially if we are working virtually or for a series of months (Like in the Closet Play Style Subscription group!) we start with a Working Wardrobe Activity/Challenge. It’s the best way I know to open your eyes to what you REALLY wear! Besides taking selfies every day for a month. Why should you take a selfie daily?

When I can look (IRL) into a client’s closet, it’s easy to tell what she isn’t wearing… Those pieces are shoved to the back, or have dust on the shoulders, or are rumpled from being squashed between other clothes, or are hidden under other items on one hanger. Shudder… Please, your clothes don’t deserve that.

Why do a Working Wardrobe Activity/Challenge/Inventory?

Read on… To find out what you REALLY wear!

Working Wardrobe

People say I don’t have a working wardobe; I don’t work anymore. OR I only work from home. That’s not the kind of Working Wardrobe I’m talking about. Your Working Wardobe is the clothing you wear day in and day out. Wardrobe workhorses are the pieces you reach for time and time again that work for you, not against you. Your working wardrobe might be work (AKA: employment) clothes OR whatever clothes you wear for the work of living! Your Working Wardrobe sees the light of day. Regularly.

Getting Started

Intrigued? Start any day. There’s no need to wait for the beginning of a month! Every day is a fresh start! Why not start understanding your wardrobe better today?

Clear a small space (about one foot/30 cm) on your closet rail. (If you have more clothes packed in your closet than you can shift to create the space, maybe it’s time to get your out-of-season pieces out of the way?) Mark the cleared spot where your Working Wardrobe (WW) will end up. I have the nifty rod markers below, but tying ribbon on your rail works just as well. See?

Don’t put anything in that space yet! You are not selecting a capsule or choosing what you think you will wear. The first pieces to go in your WW space will be today’s clothes. Then, tomorrow’s. And the day after that…

What Next?

For the next month, each time you wear a piece of clothing, you move it into the Working Wardrobe section of your closet rail. You’ll slide your markers to create more space as needed. Easy, right?

Keep at It!

After a few weeks, you may find yourself regularly drawing from your WW and not much from the unworn section. That’s fine! It’s no surprise. Even if you own 31 tops and 31 different bottoms to wear with them, you don’t wear your wardrobe that way. Odds are that you wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time. The extra 80 percent you don’t wear regularly fills your closet creating the illusion of choice rather than actual choice. (No judgement. We all need different things from our wardobe.)

If illusion is what you need, no worries! Illusion is okay. Style Budget Note: You might want to refrain from adding to the illusiory choice part of your wardrobe…

I need to take a few days off and paint the inside of my closet… It needs a refresh!

Voila! The ribbons and what I’ve worn so far in December! The empty hangers are for today’s outfit.

Extra Credit

Super Inspired? Combine the Working Wardrobe Exercise with a shopping fast! Refrain from adding anything new to your wardobe this month! I know how easy it is to slip an item or two into your shopping bag/cart when holiday shopping for others… A shopping fast is a great way to get more value out of the pieces you already own and lower their Cost Per Wear.

One Month Later

Knowlege is power, friend. You now have data!

Which helps you make better wardrobe decisions to shop and dress more mindfully.

Look at the Working Wardrobe section of your closet. Take a photo. Inventory it. How many Tops are there? Bottoms? Dresses? Sweaters? Jackets? Toppers? What Building Blocks make up your WW? What Building Basics do you see? Style Staples? Wardrobe Wonders? What colors have you been wearing? Do you like them? Do they make you glow?

Ta DA! You now know what you ACTUALLY wear. And what you don’t. You can choose to find those answers liberating or depressing. Your WW is a fabulous start for a seasonal Capsule Wardrobe if you are into that kind of thing and if you aren’t, your WW helps you find the Wardrobe Balance that works for you! (For the season at hand.)

Looking at a month’s worth of Working Wardrobe helps you see if the way you are showing up in the world is the way you WANT to show up. If it’s not, the evidence is in front of you. Have you been living in yoga pants and old tees and want to be seen as pulled together and modern? Are you wearing a dark suit five days a week to look professional and want to add approachable and openhearted to your image?

Now take a look at what you haven’t worn… Is it out-of-season? Doesn’t fit? (If so, you might need to read this.) Are the colors there unflattering? Do you see expensive pieces that you keep out of guilt? Nostalgia? Are your unworn clothes from another life or lifestyle? How do you feel about that? There’s money, emotion and memory tied up in your closet. It’s okay for the answers to be messy and complicated.

How About You?

What percentage of your wardrobe do you think you wear? Have you ever done a Working Wardrobe type inventory? Are you ready to find out what you wear? (If so, YAY!) Do you have expensive pieces you keep but never wear? What is it? What’s your history with that piece? Do you keep it because of the percieved value? Emotion? Memory? Like I said, it’s okay for your relationship with your clothes to be complicated… But they should NEVER make you feel bad or guilt you. Clothes are like people… Toxic ones shouldn’t be allowed to stay.

Do let me know if you’re joining me this month! I love to hear your thoughts…

Stylishly yours,


  • Lise

    This is such a real question. As of 1 January this year I made a list of all the clothes I own (far too many accumulated over many years) and have been tracking wears every single day. Wow, what an eye – opener! First the actual list surprised me, I did not know I own so much black. And then for someone who owns and loves patterns and colors I wear alot of black and taupe. Also I considered each piece carefully and asked myself if I would buy that piece now knowing what I know about it (fit, cut, fabric content,color, etc). Turns out I would only but about half of what I own now. All this info is hopefully going to help me going forward as one who really wants to decrease the size of my closet without radical purging. For one I will carefully consider before buying patterned items in the future. It seems I like to look at them more than I like to wear them!

    • Liz K

      Tracking for a year is an ambitious project, Lise! I like to repeat the Working Wardrobe activity each season to make sure I cover the year… Years ago, I remember inventorying my wardobe and found it depressing to see how much I owned and never wore. Your would-I-buy-it-now question is an important one to ask! I use it myself and with clients to help weed out those items we keep just because they are there. I think building my capsules each season also helps answer that question. It shifts the question from “What do I want to purge?” To “What do I want to keep, wear and care for?” Very different emotions…

  • Sally in St Paul

    This sounds like a very easy way to get started understanding what you’re wearing and what you’re not. I can see this working better for some people than the “turn the hanger around” method. Between wear tracking and outfit planning, I don’t have any unworn items because I prioritize items with a high cost per wear when planning my outfits (but I am an anomaly, I’m sure!). If I didn’t plan outfits, I’d probably grab the same 20% of things over and over like everyone else.

    • Liz K

      I find turn-the-hanger-around frustrating and way too long term a project, Sally! Good idea to priortize those high CPW items to get your money’s worth from them. It would be interesting to see where the two strategies overlap…


    Liz, I have a complicated history with my clothing!! Most of my clothing I have purchased in the last 3 years but not accessories. I LOVE accessories!! I find I dress more for comfort now that I’m living with such chronic pain. Pain is a constant now in my life!! I feel I’m letting myself down not dressing better. I’m truly struggling!! I’m not sure what the answer really is.!! I’m beginning to realize just trying harder may not be the answer anymore!! Struggling!!

    • Liz K

      Of course you dress more for comfort, Natalie! That is honoring your body and yourself. You can enjoy your accessories, no matter what else you are wearing!

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