Defining my uniform

As you all know, I put an ix-nay on the clothing spending for July and decided to continue that into August. I was buying random clothing pieces without considering how they fit into my overall wardrobe. I’m now starting to think about which pieces I reach for regularly and what I wear the most, which I’m realizing has definitely changed with my new job.

I would say that the general dress at my last job was dressy casual, i.e. nice jeans and a nice t-shirt. At my new job? It’s more old jeans, old/free t-shirt. As a woman in tech, I tend to dress in a way that doesn’t make me stand out any more than I already do and so the shift in what my coworkers wear has caused me to reconsider what I want to wear to work. In addition to that, the temperature in my current office is much warmer than it was in my previous offices AND my size has changed yet again. I had been size X from about age 2001-2013. In 2014, I went up to size X+2 and now in 2015, I’m down to size X in some clothes and size X+1 in other clothes.

One thing I find with buying clothing is that you generally don’t know how you will feel about an item until you have it and wear it. For example, I love the t-shirts that I bought from the Gap in 2014 (minus the white-ish ones, though those are comfy around the house) and absolutely hate the ones I bought this year. They’re the same size and the 2015 versions are way tighter and the v-necks lower. The material isn’t as nice either. I bought a few shirts from a store in 2012 and absolutely love one of them, summer after summer, and hate the other two. You don’t always know. I also find that my spring/summer style tends to be a bit different (more feminine mostly) from my fall/winter style. I do have a rule though that if I don’t wear an item outside of the house within two weeks of buying it, I have to return it. And I am really good about returning things!

I’ve done a huge purge of my closet this year and it’s looking really empty! Huge, as in “It’s Deductible” tells me I’ve donated approximately $2,000 of stuff this year. I’ve been iteratively going through clothes, meaning that once some are gone, I have been finding more to donate. We’ve also been donating items that my boyfriend and I have duplicates of since he moved in. Some of the clothes I’ve been donating I bought in high school or elementary school and I haven’t worn in a few years! Also, ahem, my donations pile was taking up about a quarter of my boyfriend’s closet and growing over the last 3+ years and I hadn’t given him that closet space back since he moved in, oops…

Here’s my current inventory:

Item Ideal Have Need
Shorts 1-2 0 1-2 would be really nice to have 1-2 pairs of shorts
Skirts 2-4 3 0
Crop pants 1-3 1 1-2 have one pair jeans, would like a pair of khakis as well
Jeans 2-4 4 0 have 2 pairs skinny, 2 bootcut, 2 dark, 2 lighter
Cords 2-4 2-4 0 have 2 that fit great, 2 that are a little big
Leggings 1-2 2 0
Pajamas 3 3 0 have one pair shorts, 2 pair pants (1 light, 1 flannel). My light pair are totally worn down at the ankles, but whatever.
Robes 2 2 0 have 1 winter, 1 spring/summer
Socks 15-20/5 15/5 5/0 have 15 ankle, 5 boot. up to 20 ankle would be nice
Bras 5 5 0 but they don’t fit, so I need to find new ones in September
Shoes 9 8 1 1 pair running, 3 pairs flats, 1 pair slippers, 1 pair winter boots, 1 pair leather knee-high boots, 1 pair leather ankle boots, 0 pair sandals (would be nice to have a pair of sandals…)
Dresses several several 0 I generally allow myself to refresh my closet with 1-3 new dresses per year.
Outerwear solid solid 0 I have a solid rain jacket, a solid insulation layer, a solid vest, and a solid wool coat. I’m not a denim or leather jacket person and tend to buy good, long-lasting outerwear, which means I don’t refresh this section very often.
Sleeveless 5-9 9 4 3 of these I would not wear to work and 3 are almost worn out, so I will plan on buying 4 more somehow to refresh my closet.
Short-sleeved 10-15 7 3-8
Three-quarter sleeved 5 1 4
Long-sleeved 5 1 4
Camisoles 5-7 solid 0
Cardigans 5-7 solid 0 My grey and black ones are getting a little worn, so they will probably get replaced next year.
Sweaters 5 solid 0

*Note that this list doesn’t include the house clothes that are of indeterminate age and aren’t worn outside of the apartment.

What does this put into my need column?

  • 1-2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of crop pants
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • up to 4 sleeveless tops, 3-8 short-sleeved tops, 4 three-quarter sleeved tops, and 4 long-sleeved tops

I’ve given myself an approximate budget of how much it’ll cost to acquire these items and started shopping! I’m looking forward to having some more clothes to choose from as I’ve definitely been running low on clothes all summer and it was only my combination of sleeveless + short-sleeved shirts that got me through the summer. I don’t have enough short-sleeved, three-quarter sleeved, and long-sleeved shirts to get me through the fall, let alone winter.

Readers, have you done a closet purge and inventory recently?

28 thoughts on “Defining my uniform

  1. I took a carefully chosen capsule wardrobe to paradise, but didn’t realize that our washer/dryer would be a destroyer of clothing. So I hit up the end of season Loft sales for some replacement t-shirts.

    • That sucks! I hang dry all of my clothes except for sleepwear and I find that helps to keep my clothing happy. What the heck did your washer/dryer do your clothing?!

      • Small holes, lots of pilling, and it doesn’t actually get anything clean. DH did spend some time deep cleaning the washer and that seems to have helped a bit, though it still doesn’t look like we actually ever wash DC2’s clothing.

        We do hang dry my delicates. But either that didn’t happen or it’s the washer.

  2. “As a woman in tech, I tend to dress in a way that doesn’t make me stand out any more than I already do ”
    I feel the same way. I have some nice skirts that were appropriate at my last job, but they are both too dressy and too feminine for me to feel totally comfortable in them at my more casual job.

    I personally hate sleeveless tops though!

    Good luck on filling out your wardrobe!

    • Thanks! I’m excited for all the deductions this year from the huge purge. I have a black maxi skirt that I wear fairly often and I feel okay with that, but not my more colorful skirts.

      I find sleeveless tops are the best compromise for commuting outside in the summer. The ones I tend to buy cover up most of my shoulders – they aren’t tank tops by any means.

  3. I love closet purges! I just keep a donate box in my closet. And as soon as I decide I don’t absolutely love something, I put it in the box. One of my tricks is I use black (or grey) as my base for work clothes… no navy, no brown, no tan… that way I only need black shoes, or belts! Makes my life easy!

    • I’ve had such a box in my closet for the last, oh, three years! I’m finally donating the stuff this year so that my boyfriend can have that part of his closet (the donate box went in his closet back when he wasn’t filling it out…).

      My office is super casual, so I don’t need to have separate work and non-work clothes :) I love it!

  4. Not sure if you have one, but our family uses (heavily) the banana republic visa card and the rewards are great. I pay it off each month and don’t shop unless they’ve a 40% off promo, so that with the rewards $$ really adds up, bringing the cost of our wardrobes down sharply!

    • Sounds like that works great for your family! I’m not a huge fan of store credit cards as they make things more complicated in my head. I also don’t get any promotion emails from any store! This way, I find I only go shopping when I need something and not just because there is a sale.

  5. I was just thinking about this exact thing since Jessica at Settle Your Finances was writing about her hard time with a clothes shopping ban. I do only replace things, basically, instead of adding to my wardrobe, so I bet I do have an allotted number for each item. It’s pretty funny, as I’ve learned exactly what fits me, I stick with it. After a few years I have replaced all of my pants with Banana Republic pants, and soon I’ll probably be replacing the worn out ones with more of the same.

    • I liked your point on Jessica’s post: “I think shopping bans, especially clothing shopping bans, are dumb and that you should drop it. I’ve never banned any type of spending and I’ve only recently started setting annual spending goals.” I am with you here!

      I definitely noticed over the summer that I was running low on some items and I was making myself feel guilty about considering buying more. For example, I haven’t bought a new sleeveless top since 2012… Things are just bound to need to be replaced at some point. This spreadsheet approach might turn out to be good for me! I’ve done it in the past, but I got out of the habit. I find that each year, a different store/style/etc. seems to work better for me and my body. The other problem I find is that sometimes, you change sizes! And then you need to refresh your wardrobe, even when there was nothing wrong with the old items. I really struggled with that when I went from size X to size X+2 a few years ago.

  6. I’ve decided recently that I like wearing dresses to work since it means I don’t have to wear pants. So I need to buy more dresses. Other than that, I’m happy-ish with my wardrobe. Everything is okay, maybe one or two standout pieces, but would be a significant expense to completely overhaul (which I’ll have to do sometime though since new parent company is MUCH dressier than the old firm).

    • That sucks since your new parent company is much dressier than the old firm! I’m mostly just overhauling tops and that’s largely because I haven’t bought any that I’ve been happy with in several years now… Oops!

  7. I’ve been meaning to do a closet purge. I am intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, or even the ’10 item wardrobe” (google it) but have yet to take the plunge. Partly b/c my office is fairly formal and I’m way more casual outside of work.

    • It’s been really fun! I’m a bit of a hoarder, but it’s been quite interesting clearing out this many clothes and rebuilding my wardrobe ;) I’m intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe – I definitely need to get better at hiding away my off-season clothes and bringing them back. I still have some purging to do I think as my dresser is still pretty full, but my closet is looking so much better than it was!

      Adina’s blog at might be interesting for you. She has a fairly formal office and wears relatively casual clothes outside of work and is in her 30s!

  8. I’m not allowed to do a real purge for another three months, I think, because if I do, I’ll get rid of 90% or more of the closet since nothing quite fits me again yet. Four tshirts, most from Target, nice maternity jeans, and otherwise bopping around in old t-shirts will just have to hold me through the end of the year. I love your list, though, and may be using a close duplicate to guide me when I can reasonably go through and purge.

    • Good plan on waiting! It’s so frustrating when you’re changing sizes and have a variety of sizes in your closet. Definitely feel free to use my list!

  9. I love the chart you made — that makes me want to do a similar one! I get rid of clothes on a pretty regular basis, though have never done the master purge. I do find, though, that I wear the same 10 things or so for business travel, and another 10 things for regular wear, so most of what I’m hanging onto is not getting much use. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to going through all of it.

    • Interesting! I have acquired the number of short-sleeved shirts I wanted to now and I’m realizing that they are all a very similar style! I guess I have a very specific style. It makes it frustrating to shop at times when you’re looking for something so specific though…

  10. This is a great idea, Leigh.
    I often argue with myself about buying clothes when in reality, I desperately need them. I think I might have to do this purge and inventory and then set a little budget for some staple items!

    • Thanks Jenna! It’s working really well. I just pick the first item in the closet of the sleeve length I want that day and I’m done! And I’m not trying to buy new clothes so far since I have plenty that I like!

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