There is no one wardrobe size to rule them all because of all the variables involved. I listed seven important ones last week: climate, lifestyle, need for variety, closet space, purging guilt, budget, and the degree to which fashion is a hobby for you. Even so, I do believe that being intentional about the size of your wardrobe can make wardrobe planning, shopping and closet editing much easier. 

The key words when talking about the optimally sized wardrobe are serviceable and manageable. A wardrobe has to be large enough to service all your dressing needs, but small enough so that it’s easy to manage. Again, there is no single correct approach. Minimal wardrobes can be serviceable, and large wardrobes can be manageable. Wherever you are on the continuum you can strike a balance that’s right for you.

Like most people, I’m somewhere in between. I strive to maintain a moderately sized wardrobe. Apart from the coats in the coat closet, and underwear and workout wear in a small dresser in our bedroom, my entire wardrobe is stored in a small walk-in closet that I share with hubby Greg. I occupy a little more than half of the closet because my wardrobe pets (handbags) take up more space. I do not swap out seasonal items, nor do I use the closet in the guest room to store extra items.

My approach to maintaining my wardrobe size is twofold: I have a fixed number of items and a fixed monthly budget.

Managing the number of items is made easier by the design of our closet. The racks have a separate little partition for each hanger. This keeps the number of hangers fixed, and allows adequate spacing between wardrobe items so that they don’t get creased. Limiting the quantity of hangers also keeps things neat and makes items more visible.

Keeping the number of items fixed means that I operate under a strict one-in-one-out principle. Of course, I could still buy up a storm and churn through items while maintaining a constant sized wardrobe. By restricting the size of my wardrobe I would just be trading unmanageable size for unmanageable churn. So an important complement to the one-in-one-out principle is my monthly budget, which keeps the turnover in my wardrobe at an acceptable (to me) level.

I thought I would make this more concrete by showing you the actual numbers. The relative mix changes over time, but here is the breakdown in my wardrobe right now (four seasons):

  • 16 shirts
  • 9 blouses
  • 50 pullovers (27 hanging, 23 folded)
  • 4 sweatshirts
  • 13 pairs of trousers
  • 12 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 7 dresses
  • 8 skirts
  • 19 jackets
  • 2 suits
  • 1 vest
  • 23 bags
  • 29 pairs of shoes
  • 4 sets of loungewear (2 Summer and 2 Winter)
  • 4 scarves

In some areas my breakdown is quite different to the others I’ve seen. I have a lot of pullovers because I wear them year round instead of T-shirts and knitted tops, which I do not wear at all. Wool and cashmere in the colder months, and cotton and linen knitwear in the warmer months. I have a lot of jackets because I don’t wear cardigans (the number includes leather jackets, which I don’t keep in the coat closet). I live in a climate that requires a third piece most of the year, so having a good selection of toppers is practical. I have a lot of bags, relatively speaking, because they are like collectibles to me. Some are more than twenty years old. I love them very dearly, and frequently swap out my beloved wardrobe pets.

I’m not comfortable sharing something as personal as my budget, but to give an indication of the turnover in my wardrobe, I added an average of between 4 and 5 items per month last year.

My approach works very well for me. My wardrobe is smaller than most of the others I have seen, but I don’t mind repeating outfits and I love being able to easily see all of the items. Most of the items get worn regularly. I’m happy with the steady turnover of items from season to season.

How do you manage the size of your wardrobe?