I seem to turn over a significant portion of my wardrobe every five years. Not my whole wardrobe, but somewhere around half of it. I can think of three factors that drive this rate of turnover. 

  1. Many clothing items don’t last much past five years these days.
  2. I enjoy refreshing my style with trendy pieces each season. 
  3. I like to keep my wardrobe a certain size which means that items need to be passed on before I can add new pieces. The one-in-one-out wardrobe principle works well for me. 

The biggest factor, however, seemed to be the category of the item.

Tops have a shorter lifespan than my other clothing items. It’s hard to find knitwear that doesn’t pill after a season or two. White and light woven shirts and blouses tend to discolour after a couple of years. Darker woven shirts and blouses tend to last a little longer, but few make it to the five year mark when you wear them regularly. T-shirt, cotton-rich jersey, and sweatshirt type knitted items tend to last a year or two at best. Items made of polyester on the other hand, can last longer than five years. 

Outerwear, like coats and jackets, frequently make it past the five year mark. My trench coats are eight years and five years old respectively, and still going strong. I’m sure that my tweed equestrian Smythe jackets will make it well past the ten year mark. And my denim jackets seem indestructible. I’ve had one of them for thirteen years, and it still looks new.

Some bottoms, like faded blue and dark jeans, can make it past the five year mark. But white jeans seldom do because of discolouration and the occasional stain. My wool and silk trousers sometimes make it to five years, but start to show a lot of wear. My dresses and skirts tend to make it past the five year mark because I don’t wear them that frequently and because they are, for the most part, quite classic. So the styles don’t date too quickly.

Underwear, loungewear and socks seldom make it past two years. My footwear usually lasts between two and five years, but I’m also wearing footwear that is older than that. The lifespan of my handbags runs the gamut. I will have my Valentino and Chanel handbags for life. My other designer bags last at least five years. But my fast fashion Zara bags and less expensive bags only have a year or two in them before quality issues start to show themselves, or the style is too out of date. 

Given the wide range of lifespans, I don’t think the average tells us a lot. But generally speaking I think it’s good going when you’ve worn a wardrobe item regularly for five years. If it hasn’t dated or worn out by then, you might be ready to pass it on to its new home just because you’re ready for a change.