Last Updated on December 10, 2020
Those unworn clothes hiding in your closet? They can teach you A TON about your personal style and what types of clothing actually work for you.
Many women around the world only wear about 20-35% of their wardrobe (but believe it’s a lot higher). This discrepancy has a lot to do with our aesthetic and perceived style vs. our lifestyle and practical style – how we think we would like to dress, vs what we actually end up wearing day-to-day. Having a better understanding of this difference can not only allow you to shop smarter and buy clothes you will definitely use, but it can also help you figure out how to showcase your style preferences in your everyday outfits, or help find your personal style if you’re feeling a little lost with it.
What your Unworn Clothes are Telling You
It’s Not Functional for Your Lifestyle
This is one of the top issues I saw while working as a personal shopper and stylist – people buy clothes they love but don’t actually work well for their life.
I used to do this all the time – I love dresses and would buy fancy ones for all the imagined brunches and cocktail parties I was going to attend which never actually happened (I maybe have a handful of dressy events a year). It’s very easy to dress our “dream selves” instead of our more realistic selves. However it’s important to focus on what you actually wear the most and build your wardrobe around that.
This can also happen if there is a significant change in your life, maybe you switched jobs, graduated from school, had a child, took up a new hobby, etc. There are many life phases that require different clothing, so while you had pieces that worked before, they might not be right for you anymore.
Your lifestyle is an incredibly important aspect of personal style because no matter how much you love the style and look of something, if it doesn’t work for your life then it’s just going to be a waste of money and collect dust. I talk more about the role of lifestyle in finding your personal style in this video!
Something is Off
I think we’ve all owned pieces that just aren’t quite right.
Whether it’s too tight or loose, twists or rides up, or the colour just doesn’t make you feel good, no matter how you try it’s simply not a piece that’s easy or enjoyable to wear. These are the ones that typically only come out when everything else is in the laundry.
Make note of what in particular you don’t like or doesn’t quite work. Unless we’re aware of what exactly the problem is it’s easy to repeat these mistakes, so be mindful of avoiding the same issues when acquiring any new pieces.
It Doesn’t Work with the Rest of Your Wardrobe
This is another common problem, we have items we really like but they never go with anything and therefore always sit it our closet.
If you follow me you know that I think a capsule wardrobe is an incredible tool to build a wardrobe where everything works well together, however if you don’t want to commit to a minimalist wardrobe you can still take a lot of ideas and inspiration from the capsule concept to give yourself lots of outfit options.
I usually never recommend buying more clothing and accessories just to make certain pieces in your wardrobe work, so often these items are best to let go of, however if you really love the garment and adding one or two more items could make it much more wearable and those items can be worn with many other pieces then it might be worth keeping it.
There’s a Similar But Better Option
A typical wardrobe will have similar items and pieces that serve the same role or function. It becomes an issue when we either have too many of the same type of item or some that are more comfortable, fit better, or are more versatile than others.
Take a look at how many items serve a certain function in your wardrobe – which ones are worn and which aren’t? This is a great opportunity to understand some less obvious clothing preferences you may have. Maybe differences like the feel of fabrics, certain details, colours, or construction elements have you reaching for one over the other. Make note of these more subtle things you like and dislike.
Your Style Has Changed
As mentioned, your lifestyle can change which affects your wardrobe and style, but your aesthetic can also shift and change.
Looking at your unworn clothes is an opportunity to assess and redefine your personal style. Take some time to think about what styles and pieces you feel your best in and compare those to the unworn garments. You might also want to look for some outfit and style inspiration and consider how your current wardrobe fits with the styles you like.
Your Body Has Changed
This is normal and our wardrobes shift along with our bodies as we move through life.
If your body fluctuates a lot, look at which clothes you’ve been able to wear through body changes – often prioritizing adjustable and stretchy garments helps.
It’s also up to you whether you want to hang on to pieces that no longer fit – some people prefer to pass them on as they bring up negative emotions, but if you decide to hang on to them I think it’s always good to pack them away for a while so your working with a wardrobe of clothes that fit and you can actually wear.
Let Go of Guilt
Often looking at what we don’t wear comes with a lot of guilty feelings – we feel bad about the money we spent, maybe some items were gifts, or maybe we just feel guilty they aren’t getting worn. Guilt is normal, but try to refocus it into learning and lessons you can take away. The clothes we don’t wear can teach us a lot about ourselves, help us not make the same mistakes, and give us a path to build a wardrobe that works best for our style, body, and life! Try to let go of the guilt and instead focus on the things you can learn and apply to your wardrobe and future clothing purchases. 🙂
If you’re interested in learning more and some activities to help you analyze your wardrobe, find your personal style, and curate a more conscious closet check out my ebook Quit Fast Fashion & Build Your Conscious Closet.