This week, I’m filming a fashion post for my July Vlog. We’ll be talking about some of the ideas in The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth Cline. Specifically about how much of our wardrobes we actually wear.

Cline says that the percentage of our closet most of us wear will surprise us. She says that we greatly overestimate how many of our clothes we really wear, that we are in fact “highly deluded” in that respect. Ha. She also says that we overestimate the number of clothes we really need to “make getting dressed more delightful, instead of a chore.” The number of clothes we need to be a happy camper is what Cline calls our “Magic Wardrobe Number.”

I'm holding Elizabeth Cline's book The Conscious Closet. She's helping me to calculate my magic wardrobe number.
On the deck with Elizabeth Cline.

So while Hubby was off golfing on Friday, I counted my clothes to find out how much of my seasonal closet I wear. But I’ll let you watch the video to find out what I found out.

This one was a bit long, I admit. I edited out a ton of stuff, too It seems I do like to blither on and on and on. Ha.

So the upshot is that I added up the clothes in my closet and in my drawers that I wear regularly. Some of those pieces I wear more frequently than others, of course, depending on weather and occasion. I added my “do wear” pile to my “should try harder to wear” pile to come up with my magic number. I did not include the pieces I don’t wear; obviously if I’m not wearing them I don’t need them. This is the size of my wardrobe with which I feel very comfortable. I don’t feel as if I have any holes, and I don’t feel as if pieces are unnecessary. My magic wardrobe number is 46 pieces. This includes jackets, tee shirts, sweaters, pants, skirts, blouses/shirts, dresses, and jeans.

And that number is individual to me. Based on how I feel about what’s in my closet. Not on how anyone else feels.

Of course, strictly speaking, many people would tell me that I could manage fine with only one white tee shirt. But could I? One of my white tees is sleeveless and loose, one is sleeveless and more fitted, two are short sleeved, one more fitted, one loose, one is long sleeved. They all serve slightly different purposes. The same goes for black tees, although I only have two of those. Do I need two navy blazers? Probably not, but since I bought them fourteen years apart, I wouldn’t say that buying my Veronica Beard suit in 2016 was too much of a splurge. Like I said. The size of my closet is for me to determine.

Now… if you’re interested… it’s your turn. See if you can come up with your magic wardrobe number. Have a really good look at your closet. I mean REALLY look. And actually think about what is there, what you wear, what you don’t. If your “do not wear” pile is the largest, ask yourself why. And how you might change the proportions so you wear most everything in your closet. Then the number of pieces in your wardrobe should be your magic number.

Elizabeth Cline says that we overestimate how many clothes we need to make getting dressed fun. That a smaller wardrobe with quality versatile pieces in it will make us happier than we think.

In the end it’s not important exactly what your magic number is. It matters if your closet makes you more happy than frustrated. That’s the important thing.

Of course Cline’s book explores many more ideas and issues beyond how many clothes we own. I’m looking forward to chatting with you about other lessons I’ve learned from her book, like Michael Kors’ “meat and potatoes rule.” I love that one. But I’ll save it for another day 🙂

P.S. Many of my pieces are older and not available anymore. But here are links to some of my favourite things that are still available.

P.P.S. The clothing links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.


Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required


Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required

From the archives


Musing About White Jeans

It's almost summer and I'm musing about white jeans. White jeans I have known and loved, past and present. They're always a harbinger of summer for me

Love Me, Love My Wrinkles

I may not love my wrinkles, but they are part of me. I don't want to erase them. Like Vogue did with the cover models on the September issue.

Luxury in the Time of Corona Virus

I think that the pandemic has changed how we define the term "luxury." It's more about small pleasures to be savoured, than extravagant purchases.

33 thoughts on “What’s Your Magic Wardrobe Number?”

  1. i have this book and am about to start reading it. the idea of the magic number is interesting. i need to review my wardrobe as i have more or less retired and really dont need as many clothes as i own

    1. I gave away lots of my work wear when I retired. But the jackets I kept, and some of the other pieces that I can wear with a tee shirt and sneakers, or a casual sweater and boots. It was fun, actually deciding what to give away. I invited several young teachers who were more or less my size to come and shop my closet. That was really fun!

  2. Container is *finally* arriving into Lisbon on Wednesday (the global shipping crisis is real, friends), so the lion’s share of my wardrobe will be here in a week or so. I pared before we left LA, but it will be interesting to see what of what remains I’ll be wearing, and whether another purge is imminent. Looking forward to having some summer clothes to wear before summer is over (black tank dress – how I’ve missed you!), and seeing what fits with my ongoing weight loss. Hopefully by your next post on The Conscious Closet and ethical clothes shopping, I’ll have something to report.

    1. Imagine how much fun it will be to be able to wear your whole wardrobe. Like coming home from a long trip when you are well and truly tired of your travel wardrobe.

  3. I am reading that book right now (!) and your post is a good reminder that I need to do more than just read it. Time for some closet evaluations. Thank you.
    I volunteer for a small nonprofit thrift store and the amount of clothing donations is staggering. It certainly has made me think more about how some clothes hold up to wear and the fact that donating what we don’t wear is not an endpoint or a positive solution. Case in point: About a third of our store’s clothing donations seem to be jeans and/or black pants. Neither sell as well as other thrift items so they get thrifted to another store and if not salable there, they get shipped to who knows where.
    So with that in mind, I am now on a mission to buy the perfect forever jeans, keep only the one pair, and make them last until I’m 90!

  4. I love the fact that you did this vlog today, as I am half way throught the book, and have not been physically keeping up. I am going to get started on the count and am rather afraid of the numbers. I am also a list maker, and am a bit worried about the outcome. I do believe that there will be a major cleansing due to the fact that I used to buy for a life that I do not live. The travel and cruise section is going to have to be whittled down quite a bit even though I have been trying to blend some of those into what I have been wearing, I really do have far too many clothes. I can see her point that we really do only wear a smaller percent that feels familiar and easy so wish me luck. Thanks for this, you have given me inspiration, even though I do wear many more skirts than pants. My numbers will never be as low as yours however.

    1. Good luck, Diane. A good closet cleanse is so… uh… cleansing. I have a friend who has a guest room closet literally stuffed with “cruise clothes.” Seems a waste to not wear some of those dresses for other occasions.

  5. I’ve read that book one and a half times. Cover to cover, then parts of it again to refresh my memory. Pulled a pile of clothes that I’m going to try and sell on Poshmark for the first time to see if it gets better results than consignment. Thanks fir the recommendation.

  6. I clicked on several of your links to favorites. After looking at them, I can’t help but wonder how these prices work with a retired teacher’s budget!

    1. Well, I like what I like. And I like to shop quality brands. Not the extremely high-end designer brands, but well made clothes that actually fit me. Ove my lifetime I have had lots of trouble getting sleeves long enough, or fitted enough, jackets big enough in the shoulders, jeans that fit my shape etc. So I don’t mind paying when I find something that suits. Having said that, many of my more expensive pieces have been purchased at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, like that Lafayette 148 white shirt in the post. So I make a wish list before a big sale like the one at Nordstrom to see if I can find something that suits. Otherwise I limit my shopping to what I need to work within my wardrobe. I don’t impulse buy… or very rarely. The only pieces in that shopping widget that I’ve purchased this year are the Everlane tank top, and the black cashmere crew. The rest are from last year, 2019, 2018, and the Veronica Beard jacket from 2016.

  7. Your numbers are really good,Sue,and your closet well curated
    I’ve read 3/4 of the book and,although a lot of facts are well known to me,some things about treating the fabrics are unbelievable
    So,what should I wear after all? 99% of my closet are natural fibers,but it seems it is not good enough…I’m very good in buying less,excellent in maintenance…but I still have too much. No excuses…..but,weather and climate can vary a lot (as well as my weight),so,there are summers when I wear only dresses and summers when I need more jeans,trousers and sweaters in the evening. There could be a spring or a fall when I wear trench coats every day on repeat, and same seasons when I wear only jackets or coats. Not to mention pre-covid ,when I went out 2-3 times a week in the evening ,and now, two years with little more than 2-3 times at all!
    I have miles to go…….and a lot of work to do!

  8. Mary Lou Hartman

    What a timely post! I am in the process of evaluating my closet. Still trying to have my closet reflect the life I have and the style I want to project. I have a difficult time making the decision to eliminate something that may fit okay when I try it on but if I am honest with myself I would not be comfortable wearing it all day. Not sure why it is so difficult to focus on the things I love to wear, look good and that I enjoy wearing- why do I keep the other things? I enjoy your insights and our monthly chats- Mary Lou

    1. Thanks, Mary Lou. I used to feel the same. I’d let a piece guilt me into keeping it. I now try to put things away when and if I’m not wearing them then bring them out next season and see if I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes I have. Sometimes I still won’t wear it and then I give it away. There are enough sources of guilt in our lives without letting shopping decisions we regret add to them.

  9. Well…I just worked up a sweat trying to pack for a camping/getaway trip. My husband and I plan to sleep in the camper, but mostly eat out and wander around the northern part of the state for a few days. In the course of all this packing, several t-shirts will have to be donated if the daughters don’t want them. Packing is a good cleanse, if I can’t wear a shirt alone instead of hiding it under a cardi or jacket…off it goes. My number is probably 35-40 %. Not good, but I have a lot of “just in case”…not that dressing up happens lately. 😅

    1. So you estimate that you wear 35-40% of the clothes in your closet? That’s better than the 18% that Cline says most American women wear!

  10. I recently counted my black pants and stopped counting at 20 and excluding exercise bottoms of various types.
    However, like you and your white tshirts, I can rationalize most of them…dress summer/winter, casual long/cropped/seasonal, choir pants, glam pants, straight/wide leg and so it went. I did get rid of the “uncomfortable” ones. Now down to 18 collected over the years. Still too many! In the black pants category, my number would now be 70.

  11. Like you I am recently retired, housebound by covid (and major back surgery) and at a bit of a crossroads. The clothes I have are for the life I had and I do need to take a close look at what I have kept hold of. To be honest I thought retirement would be different and I have clothes for my expectations rather than my reality. Perhaps the first step is to sort out the piles into Goodman bad and ugly and go from there. Thanks for giving me some perspective.

    1. Don’t rush to adjust your wardrobe too soon after retirement, Kenzie. While you’ll have fewer occasions to wear some of your clothes if you will wear them once or twice a season, I say hang onto them. One thing I did during the first months of the pandemic was get myself some better “wearing around the house” clothes. Just a couple of new tees and some new sweatpants. But it helped my mood.

  12. This WAS an interesting exercise. I counted all of the categories you did, regardless of season, and got 85 items, 15 of which are not worn. Four of those are dresses, and I simply haven’t had occasions to wear them. Let’s hope that changes! Three of my five skirts aren’t worn either, a combination of a more casual retirement lifestyle plus the difficulty I have in styling them for the winter. I’ll keep them regardless because they fit, and I like them.
    Overall, I’m really pleased with these numbers.
    Now, if you asked me to count and evaluate shoes or handbags, that might be another story…

  13. I really enjoyed sitting in your room whilst you looked through your closet, Sue. 😊
    Really interesting vlog, that highlights for me what deep down I know … that I could say goodbye to around 30%+ of my clothes and in a practical sense, not miss them! The ones I don’t wear I still like, but they simply tend to not fit me very well ( if at all 🤣) anymore. Or quite simply I don’t need them and can make do, quite happily, with less.
    I love packing for a couple of nights away with a small selection of clothes, realising everything works well together and will cover all occasions. So simple!
    I think I need to sort my wardrobe, imagine that you’re peeking over my shoulder, advising me … I’m going to try that next month!
    No time at the moment with my sons wedding is next week!
    Have a lovely week Sue … I’ve learnt so many positive things from you over the years.
    Rosie xx

    1. If they don’t fit and make you feel good, store them, or take them to Goodwill, Rosie. Otherwise they just hang there making you feel bad. I hope the wedding goes well and that you have a blast… being mother of the groom this time. xo

  14. I haven’t done the adding up . We’ve been so busy outside recently I’ve not had any clothes time . Soaring temperatures plus periods of heavy rain are turning the garden into a jungle . I’ve been good lately though & have only bought a couple of items in the last eighteen months . I’m shopping my closet now . I think Ms Cline would be proud of you with your thoughtful, methodical attitude to your wardrobe . I think she’d tick me off but I’ll get round to clearing a few things out again soon .
    Those loose cargo pants really suit you .

    1. Our garden was a jungle when we came home from camping. For the same reasons. When we were fishing Stu and I could not believe how green and lush everything is this year. And at time it felt exactly like being in the jungle. But with deer flies instead of snakes. 🙂
      P.S. I am loving my loose cargo pants. I think I’m embracing not being as skinny as I used to be. Feels great.

  15. Interesting. I will most likely get rid of some clothes when I switch the wardrobe for autumn but most of my clothes are regularly worn. This year I put some summer clothes aside because – for the first time ever – I have enough to make selecting a possibility. Not because I don’t like them but because I set a capsule scheme for summer and they did not fit the category. Again, a first. Next year they may well form the capsule. But some winter clothes will be going. They just are not me any longer. Best that they find new homes with people who would like those styles.

  16. I’m about half -way through reading the Conscious Closet and I have learned so much. I just wish I had read it a few years ago before I made a Lot of wardrobe mistakes. As I read the book, I realize I am a mess! I love clothes, and style has always been important to me. Several years ago I retired, and about three years ago I finally got busy and lost a considerable amount of excess weight I’d been carrying around since my kids (now in their 30’s) were little. I’m proud of myself that I converted to a much healthier lifestyle. But it meant major wardrobe changes. I just started buying things- I needed things that fit. and now I had a bunch of “outfits” and not a cohesive wardrobe. Last winter I started to turn it around a bit, thanks to your influence. We’ll see how I do

  17. Now I can’t wait to read that book. It would have been such a good guide for me! Last year I decided I would try to wear everything in my winter closet. I started at the top left and just went through in order – what ever was next on the hanger was what I had to wear that day. Of course if it totally went against the weather or occasion I could adjust, but for the most part I kept to it and really focused on the piece. Was it comfortable, flattering, did it (to borrow from Marie Kondo) spark joy? I ended up with four bags of donations. One was just shoes and purses! I’m in the process of doing this with my summer closet, but the weather has been so off this year that I’m having trouble appreciating those items that save you from a stretch of hot humid weather. Only one donation bag so far!

Comments are closed.