Well it doesn't really come up for me, but tanks do not change that much so I guess I would be keeping an eye out for a backup or two. But my wardrobe's theme is backups much unlike yours Jenn .

I wear rags… lol. But I have this problem with my bakery clothes - light weight tees for summer and good thermal tops for winter. I just keep wearing them as tatty as they are until the right thing comes up because the suffering is great when the top is not right for the temps.

Jenn, for me it depends upon how hard it is to find the right replacement. The hardest essential item for me to buy is white boots. I need a low heel, good fit and comfort. I only like buying shoes in store because my narrow feet are fussy. With such a hard to fill (and easily worn out) essential, as soon as I spy white boots that work for me - I buy them, no waiting for sales etc. Last time I bought white boots was 2 years ago, I am finding them harder to come by and are always on the look out.

I'm still trying to work out my essentials and that is the problem. I have bought duplicates and then changed my style/size and had to give away perfectly good clothes. I prefer to have a small wardrobe like yours, but I'm not that good at wardrobe management so still making mistakes. The only way I can see is duplication of those items that are essential or as others say know in advance by checking for wear and tear. I do have some things that I can wear across the wardrobe like long black tanks. I sleep in these and can use them as slip under dresses. They can also be used as tank under skirts and jackets. Too long for trousers though. So if one is in the wash, I can always wear the one earmarked as sleep wear I always find those minimalist youtube clips interesting as people show how they can get away with so little clothing. I think they have pieces that are really versatile.

I manage by having a metal list of what is in its third year and will need to be replaced and buying it when I see it, often trying to upgrade. A few things bite the dust sooner than 3 years but I usually do not wear new things that much the first year. Things get worn the most the second year. The third year varies. Usually I am tired of something after three years and ready to update to a more modern version. If I really love something it stays in the closet longer but does not get worn as much. I may still get a newer version and wear it. I change the closet by the season or even part of a season.

So interesting...I am an essentials-heavy dresser but by and large a non-duplicator. Or at least a non-exact-item duplicator...uh, with a few notable exceptions.

I don't wear a lot of tank tops but if I did, that would be an example of the type of item I might well duplicate exactly and for exactly the reasons you give, Jenn. Necessary component to many outfits and needs careful laundering.

This is getting way off topic but I realize that I do have quite a few duplicates in different colours and most of these are what Angie might call "completer" pieces -- neither essentials nor statements. Hmmm. I don't know what, if any relevance this might have to you, Jenn. I'm just musing aloud because I often think our wardrobes are constructed along very similar lines except for different climates and you keep a smaller, tighter closet. Yet the overall conception is quite similar.

Anyway -- back to the issue of essentials -- I agree with Irina— I rarely duplicate those exactly because by the time the thing wears out, I want a slight update to it. Agree also with LaPed and Carla that sometimes something slightly different can be subbed in and that results in a welcome style shift -- but that might be more true (for me) when the item is a completer piece than an essential. Carla's sweater example is a case in point -- I can imagine subbing a green for a red but nothing really subs for my core navy.

ETA: I have no idea why that sneaker shows up in my post! But, coincidentally, it is a duplicated item, one of the rare examples of an item I actually "backed up" because I know it works as a walking shoe for me. It's not an essential in colour but is an essential in function, so....

Jenn, I picked up on duplication because so many people mentioned it. And like I said, it’s something that really surprised me when I first heard about it. But I don’t want to derail your thread.

I do what LaPed & a couple others have said—have multiple similar, but not identical pieces. Long-sleeved white tops, for example: I have a T-shirt that has a little folded fabric detail near the bottom, a near-white 3/4 sleeve top with sort of ridges from the same fabric, like stripes, a very stretchy T-neck….

LisaP, if preference for process vs product isn’t it, maybe you can explain it to me somewhere else.

I am not good at all at replacing things in time, mainly because I do not like shopping, therefore I postpone until I am in troubles.
Recently I thought that I should buy duplicates when I find something that I like and that works well. I like cat2's strategy. Will try.

Have just moved to an even *smaller* place (where I had half a wardrobe before, I have a 'full' one but it's a much thinner & shallower closet lol) so this is even more pertinent for me. I'm not ashamed to admit to duplicating items - think I posted about my many Easel tops (cotton long sleeved tops) & Vanessa cardigans (cotton 3/4 sleeved open cardis) from Seasalt Cornwall.

I've bought them in different colours because I know my priorities in this way won't change (elbow covering tops in natural fibres).

I don't think anyone has mentioned what a time-saver essentials are - if you have to get out the door in the morning, having clothes that you absolutely know will work is, well, essential.

Jenn - I like you and Suz have lynchpin essential without which "things fall apart, the center cannot hold." I always "build redundancy into the system." If something is absolutely essential I have multiples. The minute it becomes a total need I begin the stockpiling process. I personally have many exact duplicates in my holding zone. I often find similar but different is different enough that it does not function for me. Essentials are not the area that I look for for variety so exact same works fine for me. It's not about rut or laziness, it's about extremely specific weight, length, fabrication, style requirements that can be extremely difficult or impossible to find. So this is one area, I follow my own drummer. But whether you go similar or same, the concept is to ALWAYS have a back up, never have all your essentials in rotation - that's what works for me.

If after a few wearings I decide something I consider an essential will have longevity, I try to duplicate or even buy multiples of that item. This has included black t-shirts for layering under jackets, striped long sleeved mariner-type shirts, etc. Sure, I’ve made mistakes shopping this way but it mostly works for me. It seems I’ve had plenty of backups this way and can’t really remember any “emergency” holes.

But I have a bigger wardrobe than you, Jenn …it gives me a measure of comfort that I never had before coming to YLF many years ago. Before that, it seemed like I never had anything to wear (I prefer an essential-heavy closet). Now I truly feel I can put together outfits easily (as long as my weight remains stable).

Oh, this is a huge problem for me. Despite having a relatively large wardrobe, my need for specific proportions* (e.g., I don't tuck, so I need different tops to wear with skirts than pants) means that losing one essential can make a whole bunch of other things functionally unwearable.

Keeping an exact duplicate in reserve has occasionally worked for me. Most often I go without and just kind of limp along until the right item turns up again (this can take years!). I think that a periodic assessment of wear and tear with an eye towards shopping slightly ahead of need is a good idea.

I relate a lot to what gryffin wrote: "I often find similar but different is different enough that it does not function for me. Essentials are not the area that I look for for variety so exact same works fine for me. It's not about rut or laziness, it's about extremely specific weight, length, fabrication, style requirements that can be extremely difficult or impossible to find." (So interesting, because while gryffin and I have very different styles I always feel a kind of philosophical kinship in our approach to our wardrobes.)

Since I'm on a philosophical streak now, I'll say that I am finding it so interesting that although some posters are saying that by the time an essential wears out they want something a little bit different, a lot of us seem to feel that the fashion industry's constant tweaking and changing is not actually serving us well. How much time, energy, money, and environmental resources have we spent trying to find a replacement for something when what we really wanted was just...the original something?

*at the risk of derailing with more duplication talk, I think that I have a high affinity for color and pattern mixing, but a low affinity for proportion mixing/play -- by which I mean that I like to wear a small number of silhouettes, and find that I often cannot recombine items from one silhouette to wear in another. I think this drives my penchant for duplicating the same item in different colors and/or prints (which is a different sort of duplicating from the duplicate-to-hold-in-reserve strategy described above). I'd much rather enjoy the process of trying out new color/pattern combinations than be endlessly frustrated by necklines that fight, hemlines that are just a little off, sleeves that don't layer, etc.

SarahDB -- what you say at the end there makes perfect sense to me.

As someone with a higher affinity for proportion play/ mixing, I think that's why a "similar but not exact" replacement can often work better for me -- I'm evolving into a slightly different silhouette and that satisfies some need for change/ variety. I also have a high affinity for pattern mixing -- but a quite restricted affinity for colour mixing. I have the colours and neutrals that I love, and that's it. C'est tout. Which sort of explains why I'm so sunk if I lose an essential in a core neutral. Hmmm.

Also, not to speak for gryffin, but she, much like you, has a specific set of proportions she aims for. So it becomes more important to stockpile while that silhouette is trending. Colours and patterns come and go quite quickly but basic silhouettes and proportions seem to change a bit more slowly -- so once they are gone, they can be gone for a while!

This is really a de-rail for Jenn -- sorry, Jenn! But I find this extremely interesting overall!

I think it's interesting to note how we can identify similarities in "philosophy" or "approach" with one another, even if the look of our wardrobes might be quite different! I've noticed the same thing. And of course we overlap in different ways with different members. Fascinating! My style is like so-and-so's in this way, but like so-and-so's in that way...

That’s certainly a great contribution SarahD8! I relate to what you’re saying there, and I did actually buy a second top exactly the same shape as one I had enjoyed, but in a totally different print, about a year later. The first one has 40 wears and the second now 37 wears. But they’re not essential I suppose.
This is where some sort of ongoing “Essential” or “Basic” or “Signature” range that brands could keep constant for at least a few years would be so helpful!

Dealing with a family emergency today, so I'm not able to respond to everyone individually, but you've given me some food for thought. I don't think purchasing duplicates in advance is the right solution for me, but I think that having more than one similar option in my wardrobe would be helpful, so that one can step in for another when necessary.

I love my linen Eileen Fisher tank in the summer, so I've ordered two alternatives in roughly the same shape--one is organic stretch cotton and the other is silk (that one purchased used from Renew). Hopefully, the different fabrics will both offer some versatility and make them less likely to fail at the exact same time in the future.

I’ll test drive these in context before deciding whether to keep or if I need to look for an alternative shape. And in the future, I’ll try to inspect even things I’m not putting away once a season and keep a list of upcoming replacement needs.