I think that both pairs of pants would be essentials. I see them grounding your other items. Also, you could begin fresh by not counting these items since the 5 piece wasn't in effect at the time they were bought. I had just done a major jean refresh when I first started the 5.

Fascinating thread.
I have considered the 5 piece approach, but I also have been stymied by how to define essesntials. Still working on a plan that makes sense for my lifestyle.

Is it churn if one rarely gets rid of anything? I'm thinking I need to make a trip to BB&B to get a set of interlocking dress hangers so I can fit more dresses in my closet. . .

I really can't think of any absolute Essentials other than those I would describe in the most generic of terms. Jeans in different cuts. A few pencil skirts for work. Lots of stuff in gray. Black'n'white/cream patterns. I don't like to over pack, so after a trip I tend to be thoroughly sick of whatever I packed so I don't want to wear those clothes for quite awhile. And I've been known to go back to wearing something that I haven't worn for a year or two or three.

I can think of a few items I have that are maybe 7s or possibly 8s instead of 9s or 10s -- a blue and a white button front shirt to be exact -- but I'm not motivated to replace them and ditch what I have because I doubt that I would wear perfect *10*s any more often than I wear the ones I have.

But I am mostly drawn to cheap statement pieces. Okay, quirky ones. And footwear that will prove to be comfortable on my uber fussy feet. Footwear: The Holy Grail.

Thanks for explaining the 5-piece philosophy. I think I'm beginning to understand now

It dawned on me that one of the reasons this approach hasn't worked for me in the past is that my shopping/dressmaking strategies never really supported it. I still shop mostly opportunistically so my closet is made up largely of serendipitous finds, but what's changed in the last couple of years is that I'm focusing more on things that will pull the long-standing favourites into a coherent look, which means I have a much clearer view on what my YLF essentials (or 5-piece basics) ought to be.

My wardrobe is probably far too complicated by now to make the 5-piece work across the board, but I'm thinking it could be a useful approach to developing seasonal capsules in future. In fact, I think I may be doing this already on a subconscious level.

Reading this thread makes me realize why this type of wardrobe management has never worked for me. With my talent for rationalization, my $200 "statement" jeans could transform into an "essential" in a heartbeat when my eye spotted a new top which made my heart go pitterpatter.

And, if I started thinking of seasons and capsules, I could subdivide into infinity--"WOW, this jacket is PERFECT for a warm, rainy fall when I need something to toss over my opera-going outfit! Come to think of it, maybe this indigo jacket could be an ESSENTIAL in a new capsule of warm, rainy eveningwear, which opens up the possibility that I might want a few more current statement pieces in indigo for the capsule as well. I'm sort of bored with all black these days...".

My name is Gaylene and I'm an addict--with an enormous talent for rationalizing my addiction once I start down that slippery slope.

Raises hand in the seat next to Gaylene.

I don't know if I actually have to define essentials. As I said in an earlier post, I would only consider this strategy assuming my wardrobe was already in a good place. I think that means that my essentials are already fleshed out and in good shape. I would merely have to replace them as they wore out. So my five seasonal purchases would be those "special" pieces that elevate my wardrobe.

Hahah, Gaylene, me too!! Raises guilty hand!!

I am not sure this whole thing will work for me but it MIGHT if I did set a $ amount over which something would definitely equal a "statement" -- as Jenn has done.

Here's one other way it might help me, believe it or not.

I have a strong tendency to buy ONLY "essentials." I.e. backbone wardrobe pieces. Left to my own devices I am the opposite of Approprio and probably Shedev. I just don't buy statements! So my look becomes painfully boring.

Rather than seeing this as a constraint, for me it might actually be a liberation to say: I must by 10 statements this year! I could end up with a much richer and more fun closet and might also reduce "churn."

My comment has nothing to do with wardrobe planning. Rather, to assuage your feelings of guilt over buying too many things. For every factory that gets in the news for treating its workers terribly, there are more factories that treat employees well or at least adequately. Perhaps those people are benefitting from better wages and living conditions thanks to the overall globalization trend. It is easy to focus on the "worst." For example, right now one out of 12 employees at our restaurant is having a bad attitude, too much time on his phone, threatening to "turn us in for violations," refusing to do odd jobs when there's not enough kitchen work to do. And he's all I seem to think about, forgetting how many good workers we have. I really think that there are factories where the owner wants less turnover, so pays its employees better, and wants skill and experience, because they want to attract the best brands for their projects, who will pay more for workmanship. Along those same lines, you don't hear of egregious labor violations from better brands. They are from the lower end, like Topshop, Wal*Mart, was H&M in there? etc. So a way of feeling better about this is to buy better.

I have been all over the map on this topic, first buying only Made in USA and boycotting China. Now I actually prefer Made in China! to other imports, having concluded that they are not the worst labor offenders. I still buy a lot of Made in USA but come on, $135 for a t shirt (the Great ruffle hem tee)? It's not every day, every piece and I am willing to spend a lot on clothes.

Sorry I don't have any sage advice for wardrobe strategy, as I seem to be overflowing, and my brain is so full with other problems right now all I want to do is reach for things and not have to worry about how it all fits together. Suz I'm in that place you were recently with your Mother -- I've had a sick Mom, sick dog, and now the SO is sick too, he has MDS which has reached the stage of needing to visit UC Davis Cancer Center. Big sigh.

Oh, Denise. HUGS!!!


Also, I think you are so right -- there is some good that comes of all this, after all -- people have work, and may be doing better than in the past.

It's a lot to consider. Perhaps the sanest policy is simply one in one out. And for me, keeping in mind that all essentials and no statements makes for a no fun closet.

Denise, wow, so sorry about everything you are going through.

And yes, nothing is so simple. There are factories in poorer countries that are a lifeline for the people there.

As a practical matter, a clothing budget is probably the most straight forward way to limit churn if that is your goal. Ultimately most of us are fortunate to have far more than could be defined as essential, or even essential to maintain our socio-economic status in our affluent societies.

Nonetheless, the thought experiment of defining essential versus statement is very enjoyable (for me at least!). When fashion and style are your hobby is makes perfect sense to enjoy them on many levels including the intellectual. That is how I see it at least .

Firstly: Glad you shared on the thread, Denise. Your viewpoint is a good one to hear, and I want to say that I'm wishing you the best as you sort through some big challenges!

When it comes to avoiding lots of churn for ethical reasons, I've been given a different perspective from my friends in the mission field -- China, South Africa, Indonesia. They say that the work, even in bad situations, is often better than the alternative, and they encouraged me to consider financially supporting organizations that make life better in these regions. I believe they would say that money going to a positive outcome is better than boycotts meant to stop exploitation. I'm working toward a focus on not being wasteful -- avoiding a "disposable" approach to my clothing, and leaving some margin for investment in well chosen charitable causes.

As for my own closet, I think I should be getting rid of more things. I don't church enough, but some items go unworn -- often because they're, well, too worn. In the past two years, I've had pants rip on me, not because they were too tight, but rather because they were wearing out. I also have items that I've tired of, for example, a sweater that I bought two seasons ago, sleeveless shells that are 3-6 years old. If they're not ratty, I don't feel free to say goodbye.

And my holding zone is growing..........

Sorry to hear you are having such a tough time Denise. Sending my best wishes to you.

Denise, so sorry you're having a difficult time. Stay strong.

I totally agree with you on the other side of the argument. I've heard Beth Ann's view from people working in international development, and I share it. Industrialisation is a brutal process, but if it weren't for the garment industry, Bangladesh would most likely be under water by now. I've reached more or less the same conclusion as you over the years.

Nevertheless, more could be done to limit the environmental and human cost. One of my frustrations with fast fashion is that it delivers such a disappointing product and it feels like it's declining every year. From that perspective, it makes sense for us to consider our shopping strategies and seek out alternatives. Buy less, choose well, make it last, as Vivienne says.

Incidentally, I've noticed that the people I know who love fashion are by and large far more mindful of these problems than those who profess to sneer at it, and that goes for everyone here. And I sometimes wonder why we don't see the same scandals about consumer electronics in the press, because I'm certain the problems are just as bad, if not worse.

Hey Denise... sorry to hear of things around you. And you continue to care about others' conditions - wow. Sending wishes.

Liz, that is such a good point. We did hear about some scandals relating to Apple a few years ago, but as you say, I suspect the situation is as bad or worse than in the garment industry. And guess what? WHO buys and cares about fashion? WOMEN. Hmmm. Misogynistic standards again.

Beth Ann, thank you also for sharing that perspective. I think it's true -- being mindful and researching places to donate or companies to support is better than boycotting.

So, I finally have time to sit down in the comfy couch, next to Gaylene and Sterling and Suz...

But first, I'm sorry to hear what you are going through Denise. That's rough.

This has been the best thread in a long time, thank you Suz for starting it, and then for allowing/encouraging it to develop into more of a conversation. I've been following with great interest.

I don't churn. I collect. I have SUCH a hard time getting rid of anything that doesn't need to go, ie is worn out. And my wardrobe is big enough that this doesn't happen much. I did get rid of a lot of things when I realized what "my" colours were, and a few more things that are truly a bad style/fit for me... but otherwise, if it's still "good" and fits, I struggle, regardless how "me" it is, stylewise.

So I wondered if something like this may help slow me down, get my head into a place where I can better assess things that will really add value to my wardrobe, rather than just getting the next shiny thing.

I can relate a lot to what you said, Suz, about only buying essentials. I was there as well. And that's where I default to, when I'm tired, busy, feeling fat... so what I need is some statement pieces that are me, and just as comfortable to wear as some of my basics, but make me feel a whole lot better... because feeling better helps get one out of whatever slump you are in when you wake up. Some stylish FFBO's.

Suz, I think you can justify your denim culottes as essentials, for sure. Trendy jeans are essential for you. Angie says the same about herself.

No solutions, but I do need to make some changes in my purchase/purge habits. Good thoughts here to help the thinking process!

I've read this entire thread, and I don't know if I churn or not. Until just recently, most of my non basics (basics for me are jeans, tees, shorts, socks and underwear, and sneakers and snow boots) were thrifted. As Shevia noted, thrifted items are pre-churned. Recently, I've started buying more clothes new, especially footwear. A shocking amount of footwear, if I'm going to be completely honest. After I went grey I went crazy buying grey boots. I have another pair on order. I think I may have enough. I've also bought a lot of outerwear. My climate is harsh and we're outdoors in the elements, a lot. My husband doesn't mind because he knows I get cold easily, and if I get cold I want to go home. He's willing to stand in the snow for hours waiting that special bird to show itself.

One thing I do is donate my discards to a thrift store run by a nonprofit which I belong to. So I know the items will be used by someone else, and the money goes to one of our programs, such as a food pantry for low income seniors. So my guilt, if any, is somewhat assuaged.

Such an interesting thread!!

I will say I have an aversion to churn myself, because the concept tires me! I have a relative who at one points was buying lots from thrift shops and garage sales, and then she'd keep getting rid of heaps of them. Even small wardrobes that need refreshing seem exhausting to me - anyone remember forum member ClearlyClaire's (I think) 10 piece wardrobe per season? To me having to replace your entire wardrobe every season did not appeal! We replaced couches in one of our living rooms recently, and while I like the replacements, part of me is a bit annoyed that the old couches only lasted about 10 years (or only about 8-9 years before it started shedding, but we put up with that for a while!)

I also try to limit my buying so that the wearing out time equals the time I can wait until buying an updated replacement. This is very hard to get right of course, and of course there are the odd buying mistakes that get discarded early. But I work on the principal of for example, one updated casual sweater per year, and usually one pair of jeans (Unlike Suz, I don't wear jeans every day - only 3 days a week at most, and in winter only).

Budget is really my main constraint, and though it is much greater than in your 'lean years" it does really force me to make decisions.I spent half my budget on shoes this year (2 pair of running shoes, one pair of nude MJ for orthotics) and so I need to prioritize. A dress I bought for office wear in 2013, expensive for me then and worn nearly once a week in the first few years, is getting a bit boring to me now, and DD13 thinks it is too short. But it is still in good condition and gets occasional compliments, and the truth is that I bought office wear in 2013 and 2015 and this year a new dress isn't really a priority when I need to update my summer casual wear and my workout/ cycling gear.

In terms of your going forward, concentrating on statements sounds like a good plan. I'll be watching with interest.

Thank you Elizabeth P, Jenanded, Approprio, Sally, Beth Ann, Shevia and Suz for your kind words. I appreciate the compassionate women on this forum so much!

Beth Ann that is such a great idea to contribute to organizations rather than boycott! I have so much respect for people who do mission work. There is a local church, some of its members are poor -- they've grown up in trailer parks, no judgement meant by that term but rather to reflect the hardship that some rural Americans grow up in. Anyway the church sends (at no expense to them) young members to do mission work for a few months at at time, to places like Africa, and it truly changes the lives of these individuals.

Approprio -- it's not just electronics but if you look at a lot of things sold in big box stores like Wal*Mart, it's stuff that easily breaks and quickly ends up in the trash. I don't know what you call this stuff -- household implements, kitchen tools, toys, junk! Fast stuff?

I don't think I'm much of a churner. I rarely get rid of something just because it isn't "quite right" in terms of fit or color or because I'm tired of it. I'm mostly okay with living with my mistakes, unless they were very expensive. Items may fall out of favor somewhat, and migrate to chore clothes or loungewear, but most of what I get rid of has holes, stains, or busted seams. I do a small amount of consignment and eBay selling, which allows me to experiment a little bit with new silhouettes, new-to-me brands, etc, without feeling like I'm throwing a lot of money away "just trying" things.

I'm the same with housewares and gear, TBH -- I'll limp along with a barely-functional item for a long time, waiting for just the right replacement to come along at a comfortable price. See: my falling-apart laundry drying rack, my pots and pans with wobbly handles (I retighten them every now and then!), and the ugly Ikea chairs I've been saying I want to get rid of for two years, but which I'll probably just put on the covered porch instead once I bite the bullet on new, more comfortable ones (that way I don't need to buy patio furniture). When my running shoes run out of tread, I can't throw them out until I've used them for a couple seasons of yard work. I don't think this constitutes hoarding, since everything in my house gets used heavily, but it is perhaps extreme cheapskatery. I really do need to say goodbye to the Ikea chairs -- unfortunately DH is very fond of them now.