Year in Review: 2018

When I first decided to do the whole ~find a style, curate my wardrobe~ thing in 2016, I didn’t have much of a style to speak of, I didn’t know what I had, and I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. Heck, I didn’t even know what I actually looked like in most of my outfits since I didn’t photograph them regularly.

But after taking and scrutinizing hundreds of outfit photos, stewing over Pinterest boards, meticulously accounting for what I wear, I’m really happy with how my outfits have become more polished, intentional, cohesive, and fun to wear. But everything will always be a work-in-progress and I’m excited to see where things go in 2019!

✨Now with a Table of Contents✨

Favorite Pieces

In addition to looking at what I actually wore throughout the year, I think another interesting thing to record is which pieces I consider core items. To figure that out, I did an exercise where I pick which items I’d keep if I were to theoretically downsize. This would need to cover all events and seasons, but doesn’t need to include loungewear, activewear, accessories or pure functional items like puffer jackets and sneakers. I don’t put a max item limit just to see what I think I’d use.

After going through the exercise, I ended up with 52 items. I expect that with loungewear and activewear capsules I’d end up with about 75 pieces, which is way less than my current wardrobe size.

Things I apparently value:

  • variety of silhouette (mostly through bottom pieces)
  • comfort
  • color (specifically earthy tones – new this year, lol)

Stuff that didn’t make it:

  • stuff that doesn’t work with voluminous bottoms (mainly the green field jacket that was previously in heavy rotation),
  • graphic tees (this one makes me sad. I have so many but I’ve only figured out warmer weather outfits. Hopefully next year I get better about working these in),
  • long non-drapey sweaters
  • flats

Other things to note are that I definitely don’t think anyone needs six beige/cream sweaters, but I’m currently loving and wearing all of mine, so I included them. This is weak on spring/summer pieces, but considering how I work in an office with A/C that isn’t dire.

Idealized top items:

screencapture-airtable-tblhjtmb1pn18r9te-viwqqaht1dbtuon6p-2019-01-06-22_05_24

What I actually wore the most of (same number of pieces per category as above):

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Lots of overlap, which is good! In some ideal world where I have more space in my tiny apartment, these would overlap exactly and then it would be easy donate a ton more stuff.

Specific Styling Takeaways

What Worked

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Balloon sleeves  – This is probably my favorite kind of sleeve at this point. Drama, but with a cuff that means you can still be practical and push it up! They’re also great at balancing more voluminous pants like culottes.

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Midi skirts! Especially heavier ones in cotton twill or corduroy, which don’t blow around as easily and have larger pockets that won’t end up looking super lumpy. They play well into the vintage aesthetic and can be really flattering at the right length and paired with the right shoes.

Pointy shoes – another item that works with more voluminous bottoms. Sleeker shoes are a great way to have a polished bookend to an outfit and keep the lines from getting too frumpy. They also feel so much more intentional. No one aimlessly meanders into an outfit with patent-leather pointed-toe cuban-heeled lace-up boots or 1460s docs.

Rings – I got a bunch of cheap rings (mostly boho style) and I have been wearing them pretty much every day. Easy way to add more small sized elements to outfits and I don’t have to think about them much – just gold or silver today? and then throw them on.

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Orange – I never would have thought I would be into orange clothes, but I am so into the burnt orange / rust color that’s been very popular this year. I think it suits my complexion and is a great warm cozy color.

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Graphic tees – they don’t go with my general proclaimed aesthetic, but I do have some vintage computer/tech tees that I’ve mostly been keeping in a bin or wearing as loungewear, and I finally came up with a few ways to style them (basically treat them like band tees and go for a vintage rocker sorta vibe) so I can wear them out like they deserve!

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More variety of fabrics – this has been great for adding more dimension to outfits. Instead of just stretch denim + thin cotton jersey or polyester crepe, I now also have cotton twill, wide-wale cords, thin cords, linen, velvet, chunky cable-knits, sleek but structured knits, leather, and metallic textures in my outfits and I love it.

What Didn’t Work

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This sums up a lot of styling details I didn’t like this year.

Round toed wide-shaft booties – the other side of the coin of “pointy shoes”. Round toed booties often look cute with long skinny bottoms, but have a much less flattering effect on outfits with the opposite silhouette.

Paperbag pants and shorts – I’ve got a lot of pins on Pinterest featuring paperbag waists, but I’ve realized that while I can make them work, I find them a lot harder to style than normal waist pants because they emphasize a high leg line which with most cuts looks very extreme on my petite-sized torso.

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I appreciate the color and interesting knit of this stiffer sweater, but I just have found myself not reaching for it.

Boxy sweaters (anything with a straight-ish neckline and less drape) – I wear a lot of looser fit bottoms and don’t wear cropped tops to work, and I’ve come to accept that even though boxy cuts are still pretty popular, I don’t like how they sit on my shorter torso + 38″ bust. In that vein, I can still appreciate an oversized knit, but I prefer ones with more drape to them, which I find more flattering especially as they show more of your actual shape when you move.

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Loungewear styles (flat soft smooth fabrics, open sweaters) – I donated a lot of items like soft waterfall cardigans in this category. They’re comfy, but imo there’s really nothing as comfortable and convenient as an old giant t-shirt and sweatpants with pockets. I realized that I’ll never wear all the “nice but I don’t think it’s smart enough for going out” items that I downgraded to loungewear so I donated them.

Hats – this one’s more of a “work in progress” rather than straight-up “no”, but while I’ve liked a lot of my outfits with hats (especially beanies during my Boston trip in December), I still feel weird wearing them (and honestly part of it is I find them hard to photograph, which makes me suspicious that they don’t look as good as I think they do in the mirror) and brimmed ones just really don’t go well with a lifestyle that involves a lot of time in windy subways and cities.

By The Numbers

My data is so dirty that I was reluctant to even bother doing this section. It’s good enough especially in recent months when I had intentions of doing Wardrobe Round-up blog posts, but not so clean that I’d want to extrapolate much from the full year. But I figured I might as well get some half-assed lists for my own contemplation out of my logging attempts so here we are.

But first, a list of why I’m not taking any of this Super Seriously:

  • For the first half of the year, I was not as consistent about logging outfits (starting my Instagram account helped a lot)
  • I generally tend to get the accessories less correct than core items if I’m logging a few days after the fact.
  • I did a wardrobe overhaul over the last six months of the year also means that many of my items haven’t even been around for a year.
  • I haven’t been logging the date of donation in airtable, so I can’t include items that were donated within the past year in the summaries without what I think is more work than it’s worth
  • On that note, there are probably a few things that were donated that I didn’t update the status of in Airtable
  • Item categories are fuzzy. I filter out items counting as loungewear, exercise wear, and thermals. but occasionally I might wear exercise leggings in my outfit for the day, etc. Ideally I would only have each item categorized by what it is, and not what it’s for, and then do a query like “all items worn in outfits labeled as non-loungewear and non-exercise outfits” to get the counts, but Airtable doesn’t provide quite that level of control and I don’t care enough to grab it through alternate means.
  • The “accessories” category has far more subcategories than any of the others
  • I have ~20 loungewear items, 10 thermals, and ~15 activewear items that weren’t counted here.

I wore 189 items, 128 of which were clothing or shoes. Month to month, I wear somewhere around 40-50 pieces of clothing (not including shoes).

Category # of Items Worn Average Wear Count Standard Deviation of Wear Count
All 128 10 14
Tops 36 6 6
Bottoms 28 11 16
Dresses 12 4 2
Outerwear 11 21 18
Layering 21 6 4
Shoes 20 20 21

Most-worn items

I did a wardrobe color overhaul in July and also picked up a bunch of sweaters for fall/winter so I feel like this is not representative of what I now consider ~my wardrobe~. The November round-up and December round-up are more of my current jam with the added color and texture. But this was interesting to see nonetheless. I believe there were a few items like a pair of skinny jeans that wore out and a rib-knit top which didn’t make it here.

There are a lot of other stats that I think would be more valuable or informative to look at, like wear rate, change in wear count from previous year, and number of wears before donating/wearing out but are not feasible due to my not recording stuff like purchase date universally.

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For accessories, there was a very long tail of wear counts out of the 52 items. The top three were:

  • watch, Timex easy reader, 164 wears
  • gold crescent earrings, Forever 21, 101 wears
  • silver rings, Forever 21, 66 wears

Less Worn

I only had 4 items (that I still have) that I didn’t wear at all this year. 2 of them are in the “needs a trip to the tailor” limbo and 2 are clubby party/going-out items I didn’t get around to this year. I take this as more of a good sign of my regular purging than wearing of everything I owned this year.

On the other hand, I had 72 clothing and shoe items that were worn 1 to 6 times. If we go down to 1 to 3 times, it’s still 38 things. Most of those are newer or are more rarely required (formal stuff, rain boots), but it adds up. I think if I were moving and downsizing (although probably wouldn’t downsize, as my current apartment is a bit north of 400 sq ft and I share it with my boyfriend), but as that is not happening, I’m okay with the number and volume of my things as I continue developing my style.

Purchases

I started being diligent about tracking my clothing and makeup purchases in July when I decided to do another wardrobe overhaul. (I definitely was still shopping in the first half of the year, but not nearly as much).  From July – December 2018:

  • I bought 89 items (59 clothes/shoes, 27 accessories, 3 thermals)
  • at a total of $3431.25 and an average price of $38.55 per item.
  • I bought then returned 34 things.
  • Of the stuff I bought, 9 didn’t work out and have been donated.
  • The returns percentage is pretty bad at ~28% of all purchases (although many of this was from online orders that didn’t fit),
  • but the miss rate on kept stuff isn’t quite as bad at ~10%. I’d like to get the miss rate on kept stuff down to zero next year, but realistically getting it to like 2 items would be good.

I also donated/sold-to-consignment at least 30 items this year from July – December. I also bought an under-bed storage bin to make more space for off-season stuff or things in donation limbo.

For context, I make $140k/year in San Francisco before taxes and have no kids, pets, or debt (and am very thankful of this 🙏🏼).

Best purchase is hard, because I love so many of the new items, but if I had to subjectively pick two I’d choose the pointed-toe lace-up boots and the doc martens. The two combined are a much improved foundation to a lot of outfits. Worst purchases I think would be the pairs of oxfords I ordered and spent money on half-soles but then later realized didn’t fit or were defective 😥 because they were relatively expensive and I Should Have Known Better.

Goals for 2019

Sprint planning meetings are leaking because this section is reminding me of the sort of “start, stop, continue” exercise. #iammyownscrummaster

One in one out policy – I purged a lot of stuff this year, but I also bought a lot of stuff. I did a major reorg of my closet after a furniture reshuffle in the apartment and I’m calling it: my clothes are currently taking up as much space as I’m comfortable with. I could def buy more under-bed storage or another clothing rack and still have a very livable apartment, but at this point I think I value having breathing space more.

Each item should increase the average visual interest of its category – I noticed I just have more fun with my outfits that are more extra. You can see my full style goals over on the newly-updated My Style page, but basically I want to move my wardrobe towards a fuller, more vibrant storybook-inspired aesthetic.

Take fit videos of every item before taking the tags off – I realized that I find it much easier (and actually more helpful) to just take a short fit video (like the ones they have on a lot of online shops now in addition to stock photos), and that this should help preemptively filter out things that are not to my style preferences or unflattering for whatever reason.

Wear shoes in the house for 2-3 hours before removing tags and wearing outside – common sense stuff but as noted I’ve gotten too excited about some things that ended up as flops.

Keep trying new styling – Can’t grow if you don’t try new things. I want to consciously wear new combos of my existing items, more accessories, and new types of items. I spend December generally with the goal to wear more hats and scarves and was able to follow through, so I think focusing each month on creating a handful of outfits to a theme like “include socks/tights as an accessory”, “wear a ‘third piece'”, or “create an outfit using _____ concepts” would be a good way to do this.

Fallback outfits should be favorite outfits – the other side of the coin is that if I don’t know what to wear, I should default to one of the outfits that I’ve spent so much time tracking and photographing and I know make me feel great. If there are going to be more duds from trying new stuff, there have also been great combos and I definitely have enough of those that I should pretty much never need to schlub it.

Better organization and maintenance of stuff I already have – including cleaning up my personal grubby Airtable base to match the published one with purchase dates and wear rates and fabric/color/season tags on as many things as possible and also tracking donation dates of items somewhere besides the wardrobe round-up blog posts. I’ve got an extensive list of action items in Small tasks, big changes: 64 things to do to improve your wardrobe.

Conclusion

Thanks to everyone who’s followed along this far! I really appreciate all the little discussions I’ve had on there about outfit styling and wardrobe curation. I’ve been having a lot of fun with my daily outfit posts and plan to continue chugging along there, as well as get through a big backlog of post ideas I’ve had for styling particular types of items, organization and shopping tips, and more thorough examples on styling outfits with a general goal in mind.

Bonus

As a reward for getting this far, here are some “before” photos from my original 2016 inventory when I first decided to make my wardrobe a hobby. I favored a very different silhouette (these were not worn tucked in, and I also wore exclusively black or dark-wash jeggings and leggings), and it’s pretty amazing how different the effect is from my current outfits considering that my measurements have been pretty much the same.

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