Fashion For Real Women

How Many Clothes Should You Have?

Every now and again, I get a client who wants to know what, exactly, should be in her closet. She wants a precise list of pieces so that she can figure out what she has, determine what she needs, tick off the list, and never worry about the matter again.

When I tell her that no such list exists, she gets annoyed - as if I'm trying to be coy or am withholding vital information for no other reason than to torment her. Truthfully, I'm not.

The reality is that everyone's needs are different. Heck, your own needs today are probably very different from what they were ten years ago, and what they will be ten years from now. Lifestyles change. So do your wardrobe needs.

Instead of asking yourself: "What should be in my wardrobe?" perhaps the more appropriate question is, "Can I go everywhere I need to go with what's in my closet now?"

For most women, the answer is, "No."

Most tend to spend the bulk of their clothing allowance on their work wardrobes and then look rag-tag during off hours. Many women who work at home or stay at home tend to short-change their own wardrobes and spend the money on their kids or in other places instead. When either group is faced with a new situation like travel, a special function, or a dramatic weather change, they're totally unprepared. That's when they go looking for a list so they won't be caught short again.

So how can you develop your own list?

By taking a few minutes to jot down your needs and then compare that list to what's in your closet. You'll find those gaping "holes" right away. Here's how:

1. Write It Down

Jot down a basic list of activities you do in an average week, month, and year. You might also include occasional activities.

Here's an example:


Take kids to their activities
Eat out


Volunteer at library
Association meeting
Host dinner party
Luncheon with friends
Go to the movies


Association Conference
Cross-country trip to in-laws' house
Beach vacation
Ski vacation
Autumn weekend in the mountains
Summer stock theatre tickets

Occasional Activities

Going to the ballet or opera
Weddings, graduations, funerals
Seasonal stuff like swimming, hay rides, skiing, berry picking

2. Check Your Closet

With list in hand, go flip through your closet and compare your typical activities to the contents of your wardrobe. Do they match? Or are they way out of balance? Chances are, they're somewhere in between.

3. Identify the Holes

Put a star by those activities where you're hard-pressed to come up with something decent to wear from what's in your closet right now. Is it your casual wardrobe? The evenings out? The funerals? How about your outerwear wardrobe? See any holes?

4. Brainstorm Mix and Match Possibilities

Before you head to the mall or start clicking away online, determine which pieces you have that could work for multiple activities. Could you pair some of your dress work pants with a casual top for a great weekend look? Could you wear a dark suit skirt with a beaded or lace top for a snazzy evening outfit? Could that dark suit also work well at a funeral? Could you pair one of your work blazers with a sweater and jeans for a great fall weekend ensemble?

Write down (or snap a photo of) whatever you come up with, put it in a small clothing reference notebook, and keep that notebook in your closet or some other handy place for easy reference.

5. Confirm Your List

Now you should have an idea of what you REALLY need to fill out your wardrobe. Start with the items that will have the biggest impact FIRST (weekend wear if you have no casual clothes, a winter coat if you have none), and then move on to the other items as your budget allows. Before you know it, you'll have everything you need to see you through.

Building a functional wardrobe takes a little time and thought, and is subject to change as your needs change. Whether you're in school, in a demanding career, staying at home, or enjoying your retirement, you need to build the wardrobe that's right for YOU, that will take you wherever you need to go. There is no magic "one-size-fits-all" list. You alone can accurately determine your needs, so take a little time to see what you have, what you need, and how to get from Point A to Point B in the most cost-effective manner possible. Remember: you don't need to have a lot to LOOK like you have a lot. You just need the right pieces to get the job done.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of "Wardrobe Magic," an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at  .  Wardrobe Magic - budget

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