It’s Not The Size Of The Ship

Oh, I am not going there. I’m talking about our wardrobes.

In my youth I was hung up (ha!) on quantity and shopped for clothing nearly every week. This was the dinosaur ages, before the Internet and electricity, so I had to go into actual stores, with my feet. One of my favorite places when I was working in downtown Boston, was Filene’s Basement, the original (Rest in Peace). I scarfed up a lot of bargains there, and withstood the teeming crowds. Ah, youth.

I miss you, Filene’s Basement.

At that point in my life, more was more. And to be fair, I had to wear business clothing every work day, and be ready for disco dancing every weekend. So my wardrobe needs were more demanding back then. Silky black jumpsuit, yeah.

Many moves, to Washington D.C., and then to Florida, and many house-moves after that, taught me that a big wardrobe is a lot of work to maintain. Then my career change to mental health made work-wear much easier. No more suits, hose or heels. And disco moved on.

I went through a phase a couple of years ago of experimenting with how little I could own and feel content. It turns out I don’t need much, but I still enjoy the stimulation of the new. I played with the ten-and-six-and-33-item theories, but mainly in my head.

Now I keep a small – by my standards – closet. Yes, I have five black skirts, but I like each one and don’t want to part with any of them just yet. And really, no one can confuse my tutu lace black skirt with my wool pencil skirt. They are totally different!

Black wool pencil skirt – I need this!
Black tulle skirt – I need this too.

This quote is from one of my many style books, and it’s a good guideline for my wardrobe: “I don’t need endless variety. It’s not how many, it’s how fabulous.” So that’s one of my shopping principles: If it’s fabulous, I want it to come live with me. Size (of the wardrobe) does not matter.

Do you have guiding principles for how large, or small, you like your wardrobe to be? No wrong answers, of course, the heart wants what it wants. xo

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  1. I like both your outfits, with a little personal preference for the top one. As I am myself a pencil skirt lover. For my figure a wide skirt is better, but I love the femininity of that pencil skirt look. I looks very high quality too. Great how you thought of wearing that belt with it. I have to remember that. Makes an interesting statement.

  2. Well Patti, I like your guideline so much "It's not how many, it's how fabulous" and finally purchased the perfect necklace today simply because it just had to come live with me. So thank you dear friend for the little encouragement.

  3. As I'm losing weight I'm trying to keep my wardrobe more defined. I admit to having several black skirt–each one is different. a ponte pencil, swirly maxi, crepe one with bias ruffle and one with a box pleat ruffle. Still want a knife pleated one.
    It's what works for you. I'm finding limiting myself color-wise makes it easier to dress and thrift.

  4. I think since I began style blogging I've become more of a collector of fashion than ever before.

    Yes, I have large closet.

    I equate it to when I create anything in my life. As a painter I want every colour of paint. It gives me complete creative freedom. I simply want to have choices when I go to get dressed. If I have an idea in my head I want to be able to create it from pieces I own in my closet.

    I am to the point now though that in order for me to really want to buy something it has to be utterly unique. I don't want something everyone else is wearing. I think that is why I am now turning to vintage.

    I don't want my closet to grow any more than it is now. So I am trying to curb my buying and also practise more one in, one out.

    Great discussion.


  5. I have a lot of black skirts as well, but I wear all of them regularly and they serve different purposes. I guess if I were smart, I'd find a skirt silhouette that works with multiple tops and limit myself to one black skirt.

  6. It's a good philosophy to follow, Patti – our wardrobes should be all about the fabulousity factor! It's also true that variety is fun, albeit within realistic limits of budget, space and our general style/preference. Your example of the black skirts is a good one – those two are completely different, yet both work perfectly for you. I have a LOT of dresses, but they are all different, and therefore meet different needs. I'm trying to weed out those that are underworn or duplicates of better-loved others. It's a looooong sloooow process, with no clear principles – organic, you might say. Haphazard would be another way of describing it! xxxx

  7. I have no words of wisdom whatsoever except only to fill your wardrobe with what makes you feel fabulous – better to only have a handful of quality stuff than oceans of mediocre dross.
    I've only been to the States once and I went to Filene's Basement. Nothing for me but Jon bought some cheap jeans (made by a British label, bizarrely enough) x

  8. oh yes, I love that quote (thanks for sharing) and love your attitude. After some movings and changes, I'm ready to look for Fabulous Factor when purchasing clothes!

  9. Hi Patti,

    I totally agree with you, a big wardrobe is hard work – The more i read about it the more i could give a try – I 'm trying to purge these days, trying to keep only what i like best, but i still have problems with the amazing deals i find all the time – Like the Disigual dresses and top i found last week – I paid all togheter $50 for 4 dresses and 1 top –

    But like i said i'm trying to downsize a bit – It drives me crazy to figure what to wear!



  10. Presently my personal wardrobe is in a wrecked state. I live out of 3 plastic bins (so unromantic!) and my go-to outfits include a Karina dress. I need to "curate a capsule" wardrobe so I can not dress like a homeless person- I'm in need of a good edit (so I can find my clothes) and a versatile, realistic wardrobe. I don't have room for a large wardrobe (ironic since my past has included a very large – never wear the same outfit twice- history) since the space goes to vintys and goodies to sell. But I love the It's not how many, it's how fabulous." quote- I could wear a very limited wardrobe but still look/feel fabulous. Thanks for the reminder, matey! xo!

  11. Now that I have a decent sized walk in closet and the closet organizer to go with it, I'm trying to limit myself to only what fits into that closet and shelves. I'm a little over right now – coats take up so much more room than tops – but I'll be working to pare down this next year and will weed out those items that I do not end up wearing. I still work so need to hang on to quite a few 'dressy' pants and skirts but once I retire this year I'll easily be able to pare it down.

  12. I feel so honored that in my lifetime I got to go to Filene's basement…but quality over quantity is a new concept in my life and I love it! I do only want fabulous in my wardrobe!

  13. I really never thought so much about clothes until I started reading blogs. I had one thing of each basic, and a variety of tops. Now I have a lot of new (to me) things, and it's sometimes hard to decide what to wear!

  14. I have gone from having a very large closet to only a rack that holds two skirts and a coat…the rest is Yoga pants, jeans and long sleeves t's. Right now, I have signed up to sew my wardrobe for the new year, so I am sure this will change :D) m.b. at

  15. I have never thought about the size of my wardrobe …. it is always the content.

    since I can sew since teenager days and I've always been curvier than the industry standard, I have never bought a lot of clothing.

    but over the years I have collected dresses for every conceivable occasion 😉

    because I prefer a timeless style they will be wearable even the next few years……

  16. LOL! I love the comparison though. I have tried convincing myself I only need one pair of black shoes and one pair of black boots, but it always goes awry.

    Like Paula, I tend to let my 'closet' (er, tenuous clothing rack) and set of drawers dictate how much stuff I own. Once I run out of space, I either have to give stuff up or stop shopping.

  17. Love this post and the quote you gave, Patti! After years of having an extremely large and mostly underutilized wardrobe, I'm still trying to figure out the optimal wardrobe size for me. I don't believe is an optimal wardrobe size that applies to everyone; we all have to figure out what works best for us.

    As I am buying less and working to better use what I have, I've been paring things down to a more manageable level for me. I'm guessing the somewhere between 100 to 120 garments will become the "sweet spot" of wardrobe size for me over time, but I'm making the changes gradually. Instead of buying a lot of "okay" or "almost" garments, I'm focusing on buying fewer but higher quality pieces.

    I'm still making mistakes but fewer and fewer of them as time goes by. I hate to consider how much money I've wasted through my compulsive shopping habit over the years. I know I can't turn back the clock, but I CAN work to do things differently moving forward. I will always love to shop, but I'm working to cultivate other hobbies and to spend less time shopping in stores and online. I'm becoming happier and more satisfied with my wardrobe and my life as time goes on!

    You look stylish and lovely in both of your black skirt outfits!

  18. In theory I would just like what I own to fitin the actual wardrobe, but in reality I am a thrift shop addict and the two are mutually exclusive! I need a lot less than I have! But you definitely need both of these skirts!

  19. I think because I gained weight and didn't shop much that I am now in overdrive making over a complete wardrobe and loving variety. I have slowed down my acquisitions and now am going to focus on specific wish list items, now that I have a good amount.

  20. I really thought you were going to get dirty. That header is a real tease. Great to see the Filene's reference — I used to work there! It was a part-time job I could walk to during high school.

  21. I haven't thought of assigning a number to things, but I am experimenting with only having pieces I love in my wardrobe. The happiness factor decides what comes in and what stays.

  22. I have never consciously tried for a size of wardrobe. I find it admirable and so organized and forward-thinking in concept.

    Rather, I find beautiful things I like, and sometimes they work and sometimes they do not. Blogging's a great way of looking at photographs of myself and finding out why I don't wear certain items, and then into the donation pile they go!

    I am finding as time goes on that when I find my idea of perfect for that item, I'm done. No need for any others. Of course sometimes the item is specific, such as a tulle embroidered skirt in cream (yay!) or it can be a more general item like a trench coat. I definitely have my pieces I'm not parting with now.

    Since I have one non-walk-in closet and one bureau, I consider my wardrobe medium-sized. I think I would love a walk-in closet some day if I could get one, but not much clothing beyond that. I think the guilt would get to me. (;

  23. Oh, I love that quote! I only want fabulous things in my wardrobe. My wardrobe is large, but I love the endless experimentation, and I rotate things out regularly and donate them and give them to friends. It's a good way to support my community and to help my friends play with different clothes too.

  24. Do you remember the gong at Filene's basement? At nine, the gong would signal the opening and throngs of shoppers would rush through the doors!

    On quantity, I leave the size of my closet to determine quantity; I have a medium size walk in and vow NOT to graduate to another closet. I have employed the principal of one in-one out, but have lapsed recently and find that my closet is a bit "tight".

    What seems to be the problem is I have collected too many items that I love, but I find I may only wear them on occasion. I can't bear to part with them because, hey, I wear them! Anyway, I'll sort it out.

    Have a great week~xoxo

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