The 100-thing wardrobe

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Is it really possible to have a wardrobe of only 100 things? It might be fun to try, if only as a mental exercise.

It is a curious fact, but cutting down a wardrobe to 100 things – my own personal ‘100-thing’ challenge – is somewhat easier than trying to cut it down to 10 of each kind of clothing. Why that should be, I just don’t know. Maybe it’s the same reasoning that in a house fire would make you grab your kids, your pets and your photos and leg it out of there. 

I should state from the outset that I have no real intention of actually cutting my wardrobe down to this sort of size. I am no Miss Minimalist (who has one top, one skirt, one pair of jeans…), and I have also collected vintage clothing for years, much of it simply because I find it beautiful rather than because I actually wear it.

But I do think these days that my general uniform could usefully be curated down considerably on the 80/20 principle that you wear 20 per cent of your things 80 per cent of the time, and the other 80 per cent only 20 per cent of the time. 

Making my list (in order of preference) looked like this (or you can skip to What this tells me):

1 All my knickers (I think it’s OK to have knickers as a batch item, as you need at least seven pairs, but mine are mostly Sloggi maxi briefs these days – pants that don’t head for your butt crack as soon as you start walking. I have given up on most other styles.)

2 All my bras (ditto, as you need at least three. Mine go-to’s are two Ahh bras, a soft bra from Spiedel and an uplift jobby from Playtex).

3 All my socks (though I’ve already done my curating here and now have only nine pairs, all mohair and all from Corrymoor: two Sportsman, two Explorer, two Companion, two Woodlander, and one Woodlander Plus 4 that come up over your knees. The different weights are different colours because I’m completely anal).

4 Navy Emreco stretch jeans (3 per cent lycra rather than 2 per cent. They were formally pink but I dyed them. I might do them charcoal this year).

5 Turquoise Eddy teeshirt (a dense merino teeshirt from Finisterre that can be worn in all but the hottest weather and doubles as thermal underwear, and also has just the right depth of neckline)

6 Grey cashmere v-neck boyfriend cardigan (just the right length and weight, and has pockets)

7 1 set of Five Seasons Superwoman thermal underwear (a poloneck and longjohns in Climate Control microfibre)

8 Eau de nil cashmere poloneck

9 White cotton shirt with embroidered front

10 Black cashmere poloneck

11 Black cotton Lands’ End poloneck

12 Black fleece Lands’ End poloneck

13 Blue Eddy tee

14 Navy and white striped Armor-Lux matelot tee (thick, soft cotton and a generous length)

15 Navy Burberry polo coat with wool zipout lining (can be worn on all but the hottest and coldest days)

16 Lands’ end khaki lightweight trekkers (the shoes I’ve worn all summer, light and comfortable, with a memory foam footbed)

17 Aigle wellies (invaluable neoprene-lined boots, 17 years old and still going strong)

18 Lands’ end winter trekking boots (for rambling)

19 Lands’ End walking shoes (which look like trainers and have a memory foam footbed)

20 Magenta pashmina (almost fluorescently bright for a pop of winter colour)

21 Charcoal blue-grey Uggs (worn instead of slippers)

23 Gloves of some sort (probably my rabbit fur-lined leather ones from Liberty)

24 Blue corduroy hat from Lands’ End

25 Black Lands’ end stretch cotton trousers

26 Black Wall baggy trousers (fine cotton and rayon drill pants with a cashmere feel)

27 Pale blue linen Orvis shirtwaist (heavy, quality linen)

28 Red vintage seersucker striped shirtwaist (a perfect fit and beautiful detailing)

29 Black pintuck cotton jersey Wall skirt (great basic stretch skirt in Pima cotton)

30 Black Wall lantern dress (Pima cotton jersey with an unusual drape)

31 Pink cashmere poloneck

32 Grey cashmere v-neck sweater from M&S

33 Grey cashmere Lands’ End crewneck

34 Second set Superwoman thermal underwear

35 Grey stretch cotton Land’s End pants

36 Charcoal long cotton Lands’ End jersey Starfish tunic

37 Cream ramie collarless Liberty shirt (a long, collarless shirt in almost banana-like fibre)

38 Taupe cotton vintage Aquascutum trenchcoat (a generous cut, quality fabric and leather buttons)

39 Navy wool ganzy (a long handknit, and with pockets)

40 Black Lands’ End fleece pants

41 Same again in charcoal 

42 Black merino knitted pencil skirt (17 years old, from John Lewis, with a grown-on waistband)

43 Black stretch velvet pencil skirt (from Asda, of all places, but a lovely lustrous velvet)

44 Black leather M&S Footglove ankle boots

45 Primrose pashmina

46 Primrose vintage cashmere cardigan with gold buttons (thick, strong 3-ply cashmere)

47 Cream floral linen dress that doubles as a nightie (bias-cut Per Una, with no zip)

48 Pale grey cotton summer cardigan (because grey goes with everything. From the local supermarket)

49 Mint green mock-croc patent leather handbag (huge, glossy and a lifts a plain outfit)

50 Pink floral backpack (used mainly for swimming but also works as a day pack, with lots of different sections)

51 Black Squall Stadium coat from Lands’ End (fabulous winter coat – waterproof and lightweight, with a hood)

52 Navy fleece hoodie from Land’s End

53 Teal cotton Land’s End poloneck

54 Navy polka dot Land’s End poloneck

55 Shadi bathrobe (striped cotton velour from Habitat)

56 Navy Land’s End down-filled dressing gown

57 Raffia hat (worn every day in summer for the past eight years, and folds into a handbag)

58 Navy stripe cotton Land’s End poloneck

59 Black polka dot fleece pyjamas (because a girl needs warmth in winter)

60 Pale blue pashmina

61 Black fleece-lined tights from Japan

62 Black lace-edged camisole (M&S)

63 Turquoise cotton cardigan

64 Denim-blue pintuck chambray dress (home-made, a copy of a Hobbs dress and exactly matches my eyes)

65 Navy Orvis float dress (loose, thin cheesecloth, it was cream but I dyed it)

66 Black lambswool fitted cardigan (gives me an hourglass shape)

67 Pearl and garnet drop earrings (a present from my husband when we first met)

68 Turquoise and silver stud earrings (a present from my husband, and my perfect colour)

69 Turquoise bead necklace (home-made, for a shot of colour)

70 Pearl necklace (because pearls bring light to your face)

71 Three long strings of fake pearls (ditto)

72 White linen South African jacket with pintucked shoulders

73 Black evening stole covered with crystal beads (the perfect weight, with a shaggy look like glass fur)

74 Navy and gold brocade evening coat (great for gallery events and to make an entrance)

75 Turquoise pashmina (for a shot of colour)

76 Pink cashmere Berk cardigan (very long, very thick and very heavy, with pockets)

77 (Black Eddy tee) (items I don’t own yet, but intend to as soon as they’re available)

78 (Charcoal Eddy tee) (items I don’t own yet, but intend to as soon as they’re available)

79 Black Wallis cardi with pewter beading (the perfect evening cardigan and goes with everything)

80 Cream cashmere poloneck

81 Regatta fleece thermals (which double as pyjamas)

82 Turquoise vintage swingback coat (amazing colour and shape)

83 Pale grey Issy cotton jersey dress from Wall (a summer-weight sleeveless dress with asymmetric detailing)

84 Teal lantern dress from Wall

85 Jade cashmere ribbed-neck polo (was cream but I dyed it)

86 Speedo clipback legsuit (if I had to pick just one costume)

87 Black wool Next pencil skirt with lace hem (the perfect going-out length)

88 Charcoal fleece Lands’ End gilet

89 Navy fleece Lands’ End poloneck sweater

90 White linen long summer coat from Hobbs (with long vents for wearing over dresses, skirts or trousers)

91 Sage green 1970s Jaegar wool trench (a lovely weight and drape, and most unusual colour)

92 Grey Craghopper microfleece (for rambling – and has a pocket)

93 Black Lidl walking trousers (for rambling)

94 Charcoal cotton Lands’ End poloneck sweater

95 Denim blue wrap Hobbs linen dress (a two-part dress that wraps back to front and front to back)

96 Pale grey Lands’ End Starfish tunic (really long, and has pockets!)

97 Black suede Lands’ End winter boots

98 African mud-print fabric trousers (home-made and bias cut, in very thin damask)

99 Grey pima pintuck trousers from Wall (lined cotton jersey trousers with slimming details and pockets)

100 Pale pink pashmina 

What this tells me

Well, clearly I like my comfort, because there’s barely a single tailored item in here. In fact, there’s only one skirt and one pair of trousers that even have a zip. I have no need to be smart (though I still like to look elegant). Most of my clothing now is either stretch fabric or bias-cut (therefore with natural stretch), and occasionally things button but more often, they go on over my head, pull on, or wrap and tie. 

There is almost no pattern, only block colour, and for me, as for most women, black remains the most useful colour, followed by navy, grey, white and then my ‘pop’ colour – turquoise. The only other colours are pastels (baby pink, baby blue, primose yellow…) and the occasional taupe or beige, though less of that than I expected. There’s nothing red, saffron, brown or khaki (other than in footwear where I’ve sometimes had no choice), and a number of things do double-duty, such as thermals or a linen dress you can sleep in. Above all, fabric quality is key for me: I love pure cashmere (especially vintage); linen; thick, soft cottons; velvet; and modern microfibres and stretch fleeces with a peachskin or velvety feel. 

V-neck sweaters mostly don’t make the cut, as they’re not warm enough in winter, while there are polonecks in abundance because nine months of the year I’m trying to stay warm (in fact, almost all this clothing is designed to either keep cool in blazing temperatures or keep warm in freezing ones). I love pockets. And I most definitely do not have a shoe fetish. 

So what to do? After pratting about making this list (which I admit to finding a tad too restrictive), I started another of 100 winter things and 100 summer things, and I quickly realised that I ran out of top-grade items at about 140 all told. The truth is, many of the things I own are really also-rans – too long, too short, too small, not quite the right colour, not quite the right shape, a bit tired from over-wear, or have picked up a stain in the wash. However, I find it particularly hard to get rid of ‘perfectly good clothing’ which I’ve also ‘paid good money for’ (since I am also a tightwad), so the house is littered with the stuff.

It is a mistake, because it is all taking up space, which is precious. So my aim this weekend is to bag up those also-rans and put them into deep storage. Anything that has not been worn in a year should hopefully be easier to kiss goodbye to, and I can once again reclaim some space – along with benefiting from a simpler and more streamlined wardrobe. 

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