The 80/20 Wardrobe Challenge

November 20, 2014

Now that I have completed The DH Closet Challenge and put the boutique out of business, I think it’s time to start another wardrobe challenge, don’t you?  I’ve already spent the past year figuring out what my threshold for my wardrobe size was, and then promptly added to that total.  So I am once again a little overloaded with extra clothes.  Yikes!

Again and again I’ve heard the same rule of thumb about the use (or really lack of use) of one’s wardrobe.

People only wear about 20% of their clothes

And here are number of links reinforcing this observation:

And for many people, including myself, this is a pretty accurate percentage!  So this got me thinking, if I want to continue to pare down my wardrobe, why not flip the scale and focus on wearing 80% of my clothing instead?  And hence the 80/20 wardrobe challenge was born.

The 80/20 Wardrobe Challenge


  • Sport 80% of my wardrobe regularly

Ground Rules: 

  1. One in/One out new purchases.  If an item cannot be designated for purging/donation a new item cannot be purchased.
  2. Focus on sporting items across seasons as much as possible.
  3. Reevaluate every month to assess how frequently items are used.
  4. 20% clothing category: to consist of capsules that are not frequently used (special occasion, formal business etc) and items that are worn infrequently throughout a season
  5. 80% clothing category: items worn throughout the season, regularly.  Regular use defined as at least two times a month for the given season.

And here is how I am starting off:

That leaves me with a current wardrobe total of 138 items.  To use 80% of this wardrobe only 27 item should sit unworn.  However, this is across seasons.

Taking a closer look at the current season (which is fall/winter in my area), I have 61 fall/winter wardrobe items and 5 pairs of boots for a total of 66 items.  This means that only 13 items can sit unworn for the entire season.

However, these totals do not include my other wardrobe capsules.  And since my wardrobe consists of many capsules and not just my fall/winter and spring/summer items, the bulk of the items in these capsules will be a large chunk of that 20% clothing category.  By adding together my entire wardrobe for the 80/20 wardrobe challenge I’ll be forced to evaluate the impact the lesser worn capsules have to my wardrobe.

It’s easy to let these other capsules fall to the side, and sit ignored, while I focus on the clothes I wear the most.  But if I allow many items to sit unworn in my frequently worn capsules, I’m going to have a lot of unworn clothing among my entire wardrobe!  Including all of my clothes into one bucket will let me further pare down the clothing in my most used capsules (fall/winter and spring/summer).

Do you regularly wear only 20% of your clothes?




  1. I have thought about the percentage of clothing that gets high, medium and low amounts of wear. I’ve tried challenges like months of wear every XXX – skirts in August for instance – with varying success. Depending on how you define success.
    I found even subtly forcing myself to wear items didn’t translate into how I would organically choose to dress. I suppose I should track, without trying to guide wear evenly, to see my true repeat threshold. As it stands, I count by visually reviewing pics of outfits – not a great system lol. I would guess that I wear 10% as faves, weekly or almost weekly, another 20% regularly, twice a month or so, and 60% maybe 2 or 3 times a year. 10% likely gets one or less wearings per year. These are guesstimates but I think they’re pretty on target for me.

    1. Sixty percent is a great starting point. I do think that it’s an individual preference as to how much of a wardrobe should be worn regularly. As I continue to try to shrink down the size of my wardrobe, it’s becoming more and more important that my pieces can cross over into multiple seasons. Of course, shorts are just never going to work for my winters, nor will a sweater work for the summer. But a t-shirt may work well as a layer for underneath a sweater, thus doing double work. Of a blouse from my business capsule may work well mixed into my fall/winter wardrobe. These are my initial ideas anyway. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I started tracking what I wear (excluding accessories) in April this year so have had a look at what I’ve worn so far. It seems I’ve worn about 60% of my clothing, and expect to wear another 10-15% over the next 4 months with winter and xmas. The 25-30% I haven’t worn consists of 5% occasion clothes for weddings, black tie events, which I haven’t had this year, 10% smarter office clothes, which I haven’t needed this year but may need next year, about 5% waiting for the right item to go with them, 5% queries I am debating whether to keep, and 5% spare old clothes for gardening, DYI etc. I find I wear half the items regularly, and half a couple of times for about 4 months, then the season and weather changes and I swop them out for other items. A few items are worn all year- like jeans, denim skirt, cardigans- and I could layer up my summer dresses for winter use, but would rather keep them fresh to enjoy them each summer for years to come. How many items? – about 200. I could reduce this number significantly and remain clothed, but suspect I would get bored and dissatisfied with what I wore.

    1. Sixty percent is a great starting point for using one’s wardrobe. Bravo! I also have a small capsule of clothing that is rarely worn, but still essential to own (especially my business capsule). I’ve had too many times when I’ve had to rush out the night before a meeting to purchase an outfit for the next day. Since then I’ve learned that owning these smaller, less used capsules are still an essential part of my wardrobe. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I wear the majority of my clothing regularly. I’ve made sure everything is mix and match and when I wear something I move it to another section of my closet. I generally won’t wear those items again until I’ve cleared out that section of my closet. I do keep some special occasion clothing for when needed. I consider those items similar to swimwear. I know I will need it eventually but I don’t need it everyday. So I don’t stress about that portion.

    1. That’s wonderful that you already sport the majority of your clothing regularly. And I really like the idea to shift your clothes as you sport them, to ensure that everything is pulling it’s weight in your closet. As I continue to streamline my color palette I think it will be easier to have pieces work across the seasons. Thanks for stopping by!

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