Items that are purchased but seldom worn are generally undesirable because they represent wasted time, money and closet space. Too many of them, and you’re left with a closet full of stuff and nothing to wear. 

But there are situations where seldom worn items are perfectly fine. I’ll use my own wardrobe to illustrate four of them.

1. Special Occasion Wear

You can’t expect all items to be wardrobe workhorses, especially with a moderate or large wardrobe. Special occasion wear is not intended for frequent use. You’ll wear these pieces a few times a year, or even skip a year from time to time, and that’s fine. I have fancy dresses, skirts, a jumpsuit, high-heeled sitting shoes, and a very impractical small clutch that fit into this category. 

2. Extending Longevity

There are a few items that I don’t wear often because they would be hard to replace and I want to keep them for a very long time. Wearing and laundering them shortens their life, especially when the pieces are delicate. So I deliberately choose to limit their action so that they continue to look pristine. My Valentino and Chanel bags, and white Anne Fontaine shirt are in this orphan category. So is my cream Jil Sander skirt because it’s delicate. And an eight year old designer belted leather jacket that was my first ever NAS purchase. The cracked patent is peeling off the belt and this is irreparable, so I only wear it very occasionally to prevent further damage. 

3. Temporary Hibernation

These are the items that I used to wear frequently at one point, but haven’t worn in a while because I’m in the mood to wear something else on the current leg of my style journey. I continue to love the pieces — they still spark joy — so I am not passing them on just yet. I’m sure that they’ll come back into rotation after a period of hibernation. 

My Rudsack mixed media black coat and Alexander Wang clutch are hard-edged pieces that I have to be in the mood to wear with the right soft support act. (I favour my soft and pretty colourful, ink and cream coats and clutches a LOT more than the same item in black). I had a huge run with Sporty Luxe a few seasons ago so I’m giving that vibe a bit of a break, hence the colour blocked jacket isn’t currently in rotation. I haven’t been in the mood for cobalt or masculine tuxedo shirts, so those pieces are resting too. My flared Kate Spade skirt took a back seat after I got my striped midi. Both pairs of shoes are too high-contrast on my feet for my current style preferences. And the faded blue boyfriend jeans feel too Tomboy this year. I’m only wearing streamlined white boyfriend jeans because they’re prettier and less tough.

4. Capsule Work in Progress 

You may have purchased an item with the intention of purchasing other items to accompany it in future. So although it’s currently orphaned, your plan is that the item will get a lot more wear when you have the right support act. When I first got my black silk harem pants six years ago, I only had one dressy way to wear them. But over the years I’ve managed to wear them with all sorts of tops and toppers and footwear, right up to the point that they’ve become a versatile piece. The collection below shows the harem pants together with all the items I now pair with them.

The last category is tricky because you have to be committed to finding the pieces to complete the capsule. There is little sense in holding on to an orphaned piece for years in the hope that you might find something to wear with it. 

Most of the items in your wardrobe should be ones that you wear quite regularly. From time to time you should review the seldom worn items and analyse why you aren’t wearing them. If there are only a few of them, and if they fall into one of the four categories above, you’re probably fine. If not, consider popping them into a holding zone or passing them on.