Some Style: Lessons from Tracking my Outfits in 2020

Since as early as 2010, I’ve been keeping, in some form, records of what I wear. Over time, these have evolved from tiny sketches in the margins of notebooks to maintaining an Illustrator file, where I’ve turned each item in my wardrobe into a graphic (going more for representation than accuracy) and then use these elements to document my daily ensembles – think of it as a more crude, manual version of Stylebook or other closet apps, where you upload pictures to create/track outfits. Coupled with this visual diary, I also keep a less visually-appealing, but equally important spreadsheet that serves as a wardrobe directory. In it, key metrics about my garments are collected and stored, with the “number of wears” updated on an ongoing basis.

The practice of documenting outfits is nothing novel. While I have perfected my own, sometimes cumbersome, methods, the same effect can be achieved through written lists in a journal or photographing outfits-of-the-day for Instagram. Personally, I think it’s an interesting exercise in self-ethnography alone. Functionally, this allows me to plainly see what gets worn in my wardrobe, and what doesn’t.

While most people are mentally looking forward, I see the start of a new year as an opportunity to look back and perform a little year-end analysis – to see what lessons can be gleaned from all this data I’ve saved, and how these insights might influence how I approach getting dressed and building my wardrobe in 2021.

The Outfits

First, a couple of notes on the format:

The rows of outfits represent Monday-Sunday in a week, with pink bubbles indicating a change in month. These visuals are, for the most part, an exact representation of what I wore each day, but sometimes I did change my clothes throughout the day. They also do not necessarily capture how I styled these items or the outerwear I wore with them to go out (I don’t have a very exciting outerwear collection so you’re not missing much). You will also see a number of grey boxes – these represent days where I did not properly “get dressed”, meaning I spent the day in pyjamas or loungewear. Admittedly, there were a lot more of those days than usual in 2020 due to the pandemic (you can really pinpoint the start of shutdown in March on the second row – left of page 2; the appearance of shoes in my outfit log dwindles after that point).

Finally, there are some clothing pieces in the outfit logs that are not included in the wardrobe overview above. These items are either things that I decluttered during the year or pieces of loungewear/activewear that ended up in the outfit mix. I included these latter pieces in the illustrations, but I don’t keep track of how often I wear them. Another pandemic-induced trend has been the mixing of my “at-home” wardrobe and my everyday wardrobe, especially since a lot of my loungewear collection is made up of old, “retired” items. It begs the question of whether these wardrobe categories are even necessary, but for now I’ll keep my ratty t-shirts and running tights out of the main catalog.

Insights

A good analyst would have to disclose that any conclusions derived from this dataset contains a level of unreliability due to the, shall we say, abnormal conditions of the past year. For instance, I’m not going to throw out pieces of business-wear that didn’t get worn because in-person meetings were not a thing. But perhaps it does raise questions about the versatility of my wardrobe and whether what I have really suits my needs.

Did I wear all my clothes?

Despite 50 grey-box days of not getting properly dressed and many uninspired days of “half-dressing”, I managed to wear 58 out of the 62 items listed here at least once, and 41 items more than 5 times. When I look at these metrics, I’m definitely glad to be working with a smaller closet. While I think my wardrobe has some excess, the fact that I got reasonable use out of 66% of my closet is not too bad. As usual, the pieces I wore the most times (aside from shoes and coats) were pants. My pair of black jeans is not an item I get very jazzed about, but they got the job done with 30 wears. In contrast, some of my favourite pieces got very little wear due to being unpractical for wearing at home. A constant closet battle for me is balancing sentiment and usefulness – in the future, I hope to add pieces that can be both exciting and wearable, or find ways to make the cool pieces I have more functional for everyday.

Comfort in Clothes

While I never quite got to the level of tie-dyed sweats, my outfits in 2020 were definitely more relaxed than usual. As someone who prefers trousers to jeans, my style is a little on the dressier side. Yet, during most of lockdown, I wanted to wear nothing but the slouchiest fleece or the stretchiest spandex. Luckily, a good portion of my wardrobe, especially my summer clothes, are loose, elasticated garments that fit the mood. However, a lot of the structured and formal items in my closet saw very little wear, if any – including my grey wool shift dress, my navy shirtdresses, my black lace dress, and my black trousers. Some of these pieces I typically save for special occasions and would have felt silly wearing them at home. But even if I wanted to put them on for the sake of changing things up, it would have been a disaster being in close quarters with my two sharp-clawed, shedding cats. My goal is to wear these pieces as often as possible in the post-COVID days, whenever they come. I must acknowledge that I have more than enough fancy pieces in my wardrobe for my unexciting lifestyle, but once that vaccine rolls out, you bet I’ll be going to the coffee shop in my finest lace and silk.

Seasonal Capsules

For many years, I’ve kept very distinct seasonal wardrobes: I have sleeveless tops and skirts for summer, buttoned shirts and jeans for spring/fall, sweaters and wool pants for winter. Cycling my clothes in this manner has worked well for me and even though it’s not the optimal method to get the most out of my clothes, I justify it by the fact that where I live has extremely polarizing seasons. Plus, I like the novelty of bringing out fresh things after a couple of months. This past year’s cycle was a little disrupted by the pandemic shutdowns. There wasn’t much of a bridge between winter and summer due to my building’s insane heating schedule and staying at home in the colder months has negated much of the need for super warm winter wear, although I still like to get out for walks when I can. 

Functionally, I’m pretty satisfied with my winter wardrobe: it’s succinct and I can always find something to wear, but it could use a little more visual interest. Sometimes I try to be creative by borrowing items from other “seasons”, but most of the time I just throw on one of my neutral sweaters and call it a day. My summer wardrobe has a few more unique pieces, but this year I really felt a gap for better basics, easy things that are not too fragile and make my core items more cohesive. 

Stray Observations

  • I have too many warm sweaters that are not layer-able. Living in Canada has perhaps fabricated this need inside me to have all the chunky sweaters in the world. In reality, I don’t spend that much time in the cold outdoors, even before the pandemic. It would be great to have some more thinner, layering knits that would allow me to wear other non-seasonal items in the winter.
  • There’s quite a bit of cohesion in my wardrobe’s colour scheme. I think these greys, blues, and creams suit me well, but I’m happy that have a few unexpected items of contrast like my bright red top and purple patterned skirt. They remind me that I don’t have to follow the “minimalist” wardrobe formula.
  • I wear separates more often than dresses. While I romanticize the idea of having a go-to dress that I could wear for three months straight, I gravitate towards tops and bottoms that can be combined into a variety of outfits. I would be open to trying out a jumpsuit at some point, though.

Looking back, 2020 was a weird year of dressing. I feel like I’ve unearthed some meaningful insights, but these sheets are definitely not a reliable picture of how I use my wardrobe. In addition, endless days of working from home have largely dissolved my motivation to look good or to use dressing as a form of creativity. Overall, I am pretty satisfied with my clothes – I just wish I got to wear them more.

2 thoughts on “Some Style: Lessons from Tracking my Outfits in 2020

Add yours

  1. Do you pack away your ‘out of season’ clothes and only leave the current season hanging in your closet?

    I’ve been going through my closet about every 3 months, or so. The first time, it took all weekend. Lately, I can do it in a few hours, because it’s been fairly well weeded out. I have one plastic bin with some clothes packed away, but most of the wardrobe is hanging up.

    I guess it’s because I live in Southern California and the seasonal differences aren’t that pronounced. Also, I like having a fairly small wardrobe. Somehow that’s less confusing!
    🙂 Chris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris! I have a very tiny hanging rail where I store most of my dresses and jackets year round. I keep my in-season clothes in a set of drawers and out-of-season stuff in a box under my bed. I usually do a switch every 3 months, but will trade things in/out as needed.

      It’s awesome that you can make your small wardrobe work across seasons!

      Liked by 1 person

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