What are you still wearing, 5 years later?

Last weekend I decided to play a small closet game (please pandemic go away I’M BORED): I tried to find every clothing item I have owned for more than 5 years. And then I tried all those clothes on. Here are some lessons I learned about why I keep things…

Wear it out: Does 5 years seem like a long or short amount of time to keep clothes, for you? The results on Instagram were mixed, but most of my followers in a very unscientific poll said that about 1/3rd of their clothes had been in their closet for 5 years. And that’s pretty amazing, considering the average lifespan of clothing is 3 years of active wear!

So faced with this depressing statistic…the best thing we can do for the environment is wear our clothes to their max limits to prolong that life and reduce waste. And the first thing I realized was that a few items have been sitting in my closet, unloved, because I DO love them and I’m afraid of them getting worn beyond use. This Old Navy dress is that exact item. As I wrote last week, the last time I put it on I got so sad about its inevitable demise I went browsing for a replacement and found…that there are like 50 of them on Poshmark. Secondhand wins! So now I’m wearing and loving this dress again, knowing that if the pilling overwhelms it or it gets deodorant stains I can pick up another one.

Break old patterns: This sweater. I LOVED this sweater when I bought it. I love a long layer in general, and this was the first sweater that taught me that. But I haven’t worn it in a couple years. I realized over the weekend that when I reach for it, I think about styling it the way I did when I bought it–with skinny jeans, ankle boots, and a chambray top (this would have been my cartoon character outfit in like 2016).

But I threw it on over the top of my weekend outfit and thought…whoa. This sweater is built for 2021! I am using this as inspiration to recognize when I always style something a certain way and should try to mix it up.

I will also say this sweater (and chambray shirt) embody my more recent closet clean out philosophy, which is that if I LOVED something once, I will probably love it again later. I am overenthusiastic about closet clean outs and love to get rid of things. And when things are just “meh,” I think it’s reasonable to let go of them. But when an item used to be my FAVORITE item, I’ve decided to keep it for a while in case I feel renewed interest. This sweater is back on a hanger in my closet this week!

Fit is queen: Ok, remember when I said I keep things I used to love for longer now? The exception to the rule is clothes that no longer fit, because why keep something if it makes you think “I wish my body would ____.” Whatever that blank is. So, I ditch things when they don’t fit. The inverse of that rule is, if something fits really really well, it’s worth GOLD, even if it’s no longer trendy. Colored dress pants that are my favorite pair ever? They can stay as long as they want. Same with the tall length denim jacket I’m about to show you….

Keep something different: Last up is this Zara lace dress that I bought in Greece in 2012. I do think finding clothes I love that remind me of travel is a pretty good souvenir (better than a fridge magnet, for me!). I have almost parted with this dress many times because 1) it’s short (I mean not really short but I don’t wear anything above the knee these days) and 2) it’s not teaching appropriate and I have a hard time with anything I can’t wear to work.

These preferences mean my wardrobe pretty much all fulfills the same work appropriate needs. And every once in a while I have some event to go to where I think “shoot, I have nothing for that.” (In this case, I’m clearly planning for some spring garden party. SEND YOUR INVITES!). So, keep something different!!

Ok, those are all my closet game ramblings. What’s been in your closet for more than 5 years? Why is it still around??

7 thoughts on “What are you still wearing, 5 years later?”

  1. This is such a great post. What a great idea! Your comment about your 2016 cartoon character made me laugh. Mine would have been similar. How interesting that we move past patterns of dressing and don’t realize we’ve moved on until we look back. On a diff note, wow, when you switched up that sweater for 2021, it looked so good! It’s amazing what slight tweaks can do for an outfit. I also really like your fit is queen rule. Sometimes that’s why I tend to want to splurge on designer stuff. I feel the fit is even better and it means the item has more staying power. Also interesting, that we always trying to buy stuff to last forever in our closets, even though statistically we get bored with it after 3 years. Hmmm……

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    1. I know I feel like the pressure to “invest” and “upgrade” clothes and our need for novelty are just not compatible haha. In some areas of my closet I’m kind of committed to embracing boredom at times! But if every once in a while something can feel fresh that’s a win for me 🙂

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  2. Really like your thoughts on keeping “favorites” and encouraging creativity with old items. Funny enough, I had a very similar thought this morning getting dressed for work. I put on this old floral, oversized blazer that I bought 4-5 years ago (that I’ve almost decluttered half a dozen times) and LOVED it. I’m something of a minimalist, so having a really streamlined closet appeals to me, but my blazer today is pretty good proof that it’s a good idea to hang on to things sometimes! (Also, I too tend to dress like a cartoon character, ha.)

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  3. Really like your thoughts on keeping “favorites” and encouraging creativity with old items. Funny enough, I had a very similar thought this morning getting dressed for work. I put on this old floral, oversized blazer that I bought 4-5 years ago (that I’ve almost decluttered half a dozen times) and LOVED it. I’m something of a minimalist, so having a really streamlined closet appeals to me, but my blazer today is pretty good proof that it’s a good idea to hang on to things sometimes! (Also, I too tend to dress like a cartoon character, ha.)

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    1. I have this happen too! I think that many bloggers have “cohesive” closets and I feel some pressure when I have an item that doesn’t match everything else I have. But having one or two romantic, frilly, or edgy things around really breaks things up for me!!! Also, I want to know your cartoon character outfit now. Maybe I’ll do a whole post on them. I can’t decide my 2021 cartoon character look!

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  4. Fun post! Almost all the clothes in my closet are now more than 5 years old. That’s because I bought them before or when I started my PhD in 2014. I didn’t buy much during the program, because of little time and lower budget and little social interaction that required nice clothing. (Also I did Econ and think bad dress of mostly make colleagues rubbed off :/).
    I had this big plan of completely redoing my wardrobe after graduating in May 2020 by thrifting and buying from cool sustainable brands in NYC, London, Berlin etc. during my post-PhD travel. But obviously that din’t happen. I’m at a point where I literally need new pants to be able to wear more than 2 pairs because my old pants are either completely worn out or have become super uncomfortable.
    Since I’m also 5’10 I’m using your blog to find sustainable pants for tall women 🙂

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    1. Thank you! That is such a fun wardrobe revive idea, I hope you get to do some of it at least when things open back up?? Finding sustainable tall clothes is SO TOUGH. I have actually been thinking this week about my frustration at the lack of tall tops/sweaters (my arms are tall too!!!). I wish you luck on your wardrobe adventure!!

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