How many clothes do we have, do we need, and do we want?


A bulging wardrobe - too many clothes, or just the wrong clothes?
A bulging wardrobe - too many clothes, or just the wrong clothes?

Right now I'm trying to get to grips with my clothing. Not a clear out or - horrible term - a purge. Not yet anyway. But rather an inventory with the aim of discovering exactly what I have, how much I have, what I wear and what I don't.

If I'm to avoid repeating all the clothes buying mistakes I've made so far (and there are many of them!), then I think it is essential to have a really good overview of what I have right now at the beginning of my Journey to Style. I have to admit that I'm also intrigued to discover how much I have: how many items of clothing, how many pairs of shoes, etc. And in this I'm clearly not alone - you don't have to look far on the Internet to find that there are an extraordinary number of people discussing how many clothes they own, and questioning how many they should own.

Of course there is no universal 'right number' (although plenty of people seem to think, or hope, that there might be). What's right for you - say, a high profile business woman who goes out five nights a week and takes regular luxury breaks - is not going to be the same as what's right for me: a work-at-home mother who likes walking, adventurous travel and family days out, and goes to parties and formal events only occasionally.

Interestingly, in all this online chatter (and there's a lot of it - search for How many clothes should I own? and you get more than half a billion hits on Google!), the one thing that nearly everyone seems to agree on is that they have too many clothes. It's a rare person who says they want more. Hence the mass urge to clear, prune, clean out and purge our closets.

This urge, though, can go too far. I've come across several people so obsessed by the concept of minimalism that they seem to be in a race to the bottom, gripped by a joyless mission to 'get by' with as few items of clothing as possible. But clothes, surely, should be fun! Where's the joy in scraping through with the bare minimum?

Obviously it's technically possible to survive with just a single set of clothes (I'm thinking of Buddhist monks who traditionally are permitted a single robe, or travel writer Rolf Potts who travelled the world in just the clothes he stood up in in his No Baggage Challenge. Then there's the Uniform Project (wearing a variation on the same dress for 365 days) and the Six Items or Less experiment, which has become not just a creative challenge but a life philosophy for some. This may be great if you truly have no interest in clothes (it might suit my husband!), but otherwise... how boring! After six weeks of wearing the same clothes even Rolf Potts found himself 'craving a little fashion variety'. I dread to think what it would do for my self-esteem!

Just six items of clothing: could you manage for a month?
Just six items of clothing: could you manage for a month without going crazy?

So as with everything, it's a case of finding the middle way: a happy medium. We need to find what works for us individually, the clothes that we love to wear, that suit us and make us feel great. If we have clothes to makes us feel well dressed for any occasion, and everything we have is loved, worn and - importantly - fits in our wardrobes, then surely the number of items we have doesn't matter one bit.

My wardrobe inventory is my first step along the path to this wardrobe full of clothes I love to wear. And as for an estimate of how many clothes I have right now, well at a wild guess, perhaps 200 (or 300?) items of clothing and 15 pairs of shoes? But frankly I have no idea.

I'm off to find out, and I'll report back when I know!

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