Wardrobe Confessions

The three books on ethical fashion I’ve read:


In To Die For, Lucy Siegle goes through her wardrobe in order to calculate how much clothing she has compared to the average woman, and how much clothing of different fibre types.

After a bit of digging one Saturday recently, my back was at that point of needed me to do something that wasn’t strenuous or involved sitting down too much either. So I took inspiration from Lucy and counted everything in my wardrobe.

Afterwards I tallied up the numbers. I have about 556 items of clothing (this includes counting every pair of stockings or underpants – and all those socks) 32 paris of shoes (including gumboots and thongs) and 16 bags (not including the accumulation of totes). I didn’t bother counting the scarf, glove and hat collection since I make those, so I have kept many favourites. 5% of my clothes are vintage or second hand, 15% are handmade, 7% have been refashioned.

Lucy told of how most women have garments in their wardrobe that they’d never worn. I’d thought ‘no way is that true for me’. I was convinced I knew every item of clothing intimately. Um… yeah. Ate a few slices of humble pie, first with the shower-proof jacket I got at a Snowgum sale, then the dress I haven’t found an occasion to wear it at yet, but the worse was the pair of pull-on jeans I can’t even remember buying.

I was expecting my big weakness for socks would stand out, but 120 pairs? Really? And only 39 of them are handknitted by me. And I culled them before moving a year and a half ago.

A quick google bring up estimate of the average number of shoes a woman in owns is 27 in the US and 21 in the UK. I have 30. Including slippers, thongs and gumboots. I can blame plantar faciitis for some of that. I bought 7 pairs of new shoes in the last two years, which is more than usual for me, in order to have pairs that cushion my feet properly. However, I culled waaaay more that between moving house and getting rid of pairs I couldn’t fit cushioning insoles into.

Having gone through my shoes, I decided to polish the leather ones. This meant I examined them closely and found two that need repairing – one old and one recently bought pair. Two other pairs looked fine until I turned them over. They were so old that the plastic soles were crumbling. That made me realise something about my wardrobe.

The contents aren’t a result of a shopping addiction, but a slow accumulation over many years and a determination to wear most things until they fall apart. When I cull, I rarely throw things out. They’re refashioned, sent to the op shop if they’re good enough, and at the worst, turned into rags (which may end up in a rag rug). Looking through everything reminded me of what I have (including those forgotten jeans) and of the story behinds some pieces. It was actually really nice to reconnect with everything.

I’ll save the stats on the ratio of different fibres, and their ethical and environmental impact, for the next post.

6 thoughts on “Wardrobe Confessions

  1. I realised this morning that I no longer wear trousers and there are two boxes of ones I made in the wardrobe. I best repurposed them as skirts!

    • I’ve done that with shorts that didn’t quite fit any more. Didn’t need to adjust the waistband, because the conversion made them roomier.

  2. I make most of my outerwear – not undies, socks or shoes – and every now and then I get the urge to sew something. Then I look in the wardrobe at what I haven’t worn in the past year, and suppress the urge. Problem is, although I may have my clothing stash under control I have a fabric stash. If I counted every garment-sized piece of fabric in the boxes under my bed that would be a more honest assessment of my wardrobe, and highly embarrassing.

    • Ah, the fabric stash. I used to have one that took up several tubs. But I got a bit tired of sewing in the late 90s, and eventually at lot of the fabric was very dated, so I gave a lot away. Just kept the really nice pieces.

  3. Three items from my fabric stash–teal velvet, greeny-blue checked wool, fine blue wool– are off to be refashioned into workwear. Specifically, a bustle skirt, for a talk on Fergus Hume. I am channelling his contemporary Agnes Murphy, who was one of the first female journalists in Melbourne.

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