How do you guys feel about another wardrobe statistics – are you with me? Good. Be forewarned, this one is going to be heavy on numbers. I was inspired to write it after reading about Emma Watson’s Met Gala outfit, which led me to discover the #30Wears movement; it’s been around for a while, but this would not be the first time I’m behind the times, so please bear with me. The premise is solid – making purposeful clothes purchases guided by ethical and sustainability principles – but what really intrigued me was the question that it poses and from which the hashtag is derived: would you wear a particular piece at least 30 times before disposing of it? That sort of thing is practically catnip for this numbers nerd. I was really curious to see what answers the question, applied to my existing wardrobe, might yield.

The short answer is: no, for the most part. The slightly longer answer is: no, with the exception of bags, coats, shoes, and black cardigans/blazers. For the really long answer, read on.

Let’s start with a quick inventory of the things currently in my closet. These numbers are ever-shifting targets, because I acquire new (to me) things all the time. Bad Adina! But also: good job, Fun Closet Adina. (I’m sure Emma W. would disapprove of Fun Closet Adina. I guess I’m Team Slytherin, or something. Moving on.) Here’s what I’ve got, along with the most worn item in each category:

Category      Total items     No. of items worn at least 30 times     Item most worn
Tops                      34                0                                striped top (26 times)
Jackets                   21                0                                 black blazer (28 times)
Outerwear              14                4                                 camel coat (223 times)
Pants                     23                2                                 skinny jeans (81 times)
Skirts                    33            1                                 black skirt (44 times)
Sweaters               26                3                                 black cardi (71 times)
Dresses                 52                0                                 black dress (27 times)
Bags                      25                8                                 black (commuting) tote
Shoes                    56                10                                black pumps (87 times)

This looks pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? I always knew that my closet sees a lot of turnover, but these numbers are quite stark. Let’s delve a bit deeper, though. How long, exactly, do clothes hang around (har har!) in my closet?

Vintage                    No. of Items
2010 or older             10
2012-2014                   64
2015                          57
2016                          74

Put another way, about a third of my clothes are more than 2 years old, and about a third are less than 1 year old, with the remaining third falling in the middle. I’ve been, um, busy this year. As far as trends go, it looks like coats and sweaters tend to keep the longest, with the remaining categories turning over almost completely about once every two years. It could be argued that the last 3-4 years may not represent the best data set, because of life changes and fluctuating weight (two pregnancies, two mat leaves, etc.), but I have a suspicion that the results would be the same regardless.

I think it all comes down to this: I like variety and I like bright, colourful things. I also get bored, periodically, of those bright colourful things, and want to exchange them for new ones. The basics tend to stick around much longer, usually until they fall apart. But “basics” in this context mean all the black things: black sweater, black cardigan, black pants, black blazer, black skirt, etc. And skinny jeans. The exception is coats/outerwear. Because I hate to buy coats, and because I also actually need to wear coats for a large part of the year, coats tend to get a lot of wear and stick around for a long time, regardless of style, colour, etc.

(Please note that the stats above do not include shoes and bags, which would probably skew the numbers a bit towards the older side. Also, “vintage” means years spent in my closet, rather than since production. I buy a lot of things secondhand, as will become apparent in a moment.)

I also decided to look at the composition of my closet, because there has got to be some good news in there, somewhere. Right?! So, I decided to look at the provenance of my clothes; due to time constraints, I looked at this only at a very high level. Ideally, I would like to tally the actual country of manufacture for each piece in my closet, but because I don’t currently track this in my closet worksheet, it would take a long time to tabulate at the moment. It’s definitely something I’m considering tracking on a going forward basis. For now, here goes:

Provenance                         No. of Items
New/Retail                                  59
Thrift                                            64
Consignment                               72
Swap/Gift                                     8

This, I feel good about. Over 70% of my clothes are pre-loved, which means that, although my environmental footprint is by no means small, it’s not quite as large as it would appear at first blush. I’d like to be able to say that the majority of my clothes have, in fact, been worn 30 or more times – if not by me, then by their previous owners – but I actually don’t think that’s true. Most of the clothes I thrift or buy from consignment (or eBay) come to me either brand new (some with tags) or very nearly new. A lot of clothes leave my closet (their second home, at the very least) only barely worn. It is entirely possible – and I hope it’s true – that they get their third lease on life in another closet. In my experience, however, the biggest driver of the rapid cycle of clothes production is not poor quality. Most clothes that end up in thrift stores are perfectly fine (fit excluded, which is a separate issue perhaps). Other factors are in play here, including the thrill (and relatively low personal cost) of novelty. I know that’s my weakness, for sure. And it’s a big reason why I’ve become an increasingly dedicated thrifter.

I want to hear your thoughts! Tell me if you’ve ever considered the #30Wears challenge (and question), and whether you think your closet would pass it.

14 Comments on Wardrobe Statistics

  1. Mostly, I’m impressed in fascinated with your amazing tracking system. I’d love to know these facts about my closet, especially since I’ve started making my own clothes, but I don’t have ANY of this data and it feels onerous to collect it all. I will say that when I was thinking about the direction of my closet & sewing for the spring, it was really helpful to look at old blog pictures and see what silhouettes and colors looked best, but I’m not even taking blog photos anymore… maybe I should go back to it?

    • It’s not onerous at all once you start, I promise. If you want to keep things easy, you could just make a list of everything you own, and only record the other data (price, year of purchase, origin, etc.) going-forward as you buy or make new things. Once a day, update the spreadsheet to record what you wore that day — it takes a minute, honestly. I just add a checkmark next to each item right after I’ve re-hung everything in my closet.

  2. How do you track how many times you’ve worn something? In general, I suspect most of the items in my closet wouldn’t pass the 30 wears challenge. There are some things that I like and wear all the time but others that I like yet never wear.

    • See my reply to Sherry re tracking.

      I was not surprised to see that most of my items failed the 30 wears test, although I am determined to work on changing that. With a closet as extensive as mine, 30 wears can mean up to 5 years. There are relatively few items I love that much, which is not to say that I don’t love my clothes — I just love them and get tired of them fairly quickly. Buying secondhand mitigates my fickleness, I hope 😉

  3. There are a lot of things that I have worn more than 30 times as pieces (some from high school) and others I have realized do not work on me and I have gotten rid of.

    How do you track all this stuff? I’m curious because I might start.. Can you share your method

    • The system is really simple, although it does take a bit of time to set up. But once it’s set up, keeping it up is pretty easy. I made a list of everything I have in my closet, divided up in categories as you see them in the post. Then, for each item, I record the year I bought it and the cost (out of pocket). Then, every time I wear the item, I put a check mark next to it (every 5 checkmarks, I replace it with the number so it’s easier to keep track of). I don’t specifically record where I bought the item, because I can remember that off the top of my head. I will probably add a column for country of manufacture going forward.

      I update the page/spreadsheet once a day, recording everything I wore that day. It takes, literally, a minute.

      I just use the Note function in my iPad, which means that it’s not as easy to manipulate the data as it would be in Excel, but super easy to update and keep handy. Excel could work, or even old-fashioned pen & paper — there’s no magic to it, really.

      As a separate note, I also record every item I purchase (by month), along with the MSRP (if I can find it, or an estimate) and the price paid.

  4. I keep a similar spreadsheet, though this is inspiring me to include country of origin! And I am a big fan of the #30wears movement – it is lead by Colin Firth’s gorgeous wife Livia and she has done a ton for sustainable fashion! She really practices what she preaches!

    • I have only just heard about it, but it seems like it. I think the #30wears movement is an achievable goal for most people — even someone as addicted to variety and novelty as me can get there for a lot of items. I still think clothing “lending libraries” is the way of the future, LOL!

  5. you had me at statistics. as a kindred stats nerd, I’m fascinated by data you have on your wardrobe and I’m inspired to do my own tracking. As for #30wears, I know that there are items that I wear almost weekly so I would have a few that make the list but it’s not a larger percentage of wardrobe. Something to think about.


  6. Love this! I really need to start tracking my items because I love these statistics. I believe that my wardrobe items would fall into two groups: maybe half would hit (and far exceed) 30 wears, and the other half would be stuck at 10 or less wears. I’ve been working hard to only acquiring things that I will love and wear over and over again but there are always missteps. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. I did some number crunching – I’ve bought 18 items this year, 9 from regular retail and 9 from consignment, ebay or thrifting. I would say the clothes I get secondhand are in good but not pristine condition (and prices reflect that) so I’m fairly confident that they won’t get to 30 wears with me. I’m okay with that because someone else loved them first. As for the new items, two have already been worn 30 times and they both look like garbage now. The jeans are completely misshapen and the tee is threadbare, and I’m someone who washes clothing as little as possible. The items are both from a mid-range mall brand

    So I think I disagree that 30 wears is possible based on the construction and quality of most clothing that most people buy, even setting fast fashion aside. I track my wears too, and looking at my closet and my spreadsheet I’d say that it’s generally somewhere in the low 20s that my items (from all kinds of mall store and department store brands) seem to start breaking down. It’s too bad, because I’m someone who almost always parts with clothes because of their condition but before I’m done wanting to wear them.

    • It’s really interesting that you say that — in online discussions I’ve seen, people seem to be split on this issue so you are definitely not alone. I do find that t-shirts tend to get “worn out” the fastest (I don’t wear many, so that’s based on my limited observation) regardless of brand. But otherwise, I would still have to disagree based on my personal experience.

      Apart from the coat, all of the clothing items that fell in the 30+ wears category for me (which, admittedly, were not many) came from mall stores. My black cardigan from the J. Crew Factory store (which often get a bad rap) has been pretty much indestructible. It’s showing wear now, but after countless wears. As for my RACHEL Rachel Roy skinny jeans, I only replaced those because they are the wrong size now. I don’t know if I’m just lucky with the specific clothes I buy, or what, but I definitely have not encountered the same level of quality issues that other people have. I would be interested to hear from other readers as well to see what sort of trends would emerge.

  8. This is quite interesting and has prompted me to go to my own clothing spreadsheet to crunch some numbers of my own. My most worn item is a pair of grey jeans from Gap – bought Boxing Day 2014, I wore them 52 times during 2015, or once a week. I usually go through jeans pretty quickly from wear, so I have been trying to diversify my casual pant wardrobe. The only other things to approach that level of wear are various work pants – not quite 52 times per year but up above 30. Of course, winter boots and outerwear definitely gets more than 30 wears per year – our winter is certainly a lot longer than 30 days! I have no tops that approach the 30 wear mark (per year); a casual cardigan comes close at 22 wears per year – that’s my most worn top! Other tops in general range between 15-5 wears per year. I think I wear pants more than anything else just because I have less of them so have to rotate through them faster. Then I mix it up with lots of top options. Generally, though, I find casual clothes get more wear just because I have less options. Given that I don’t like to spend a lot of money on weekend wear, and that I wear them a lot, I do go through casual clothes (pants especially) fairly quickly – but definitely after at least 30 wears!

    Overall, this is an interesting way to think about your clothes. While I’m trying to be a little bit more intentional with my clothes, there are still lots of things that seemed a good idea at the time. On the other hand, there are items I bought on a whim that have become powerhouses. It’s a good reminder that I should really try to winnow down my tops so I can approach a better wear number.