Sunday, 26 June 2011

Clothing Analysis

You may or may not remember that I like data analysis.  I read not long ago that Pauline at the English Organiser keeps track of her wardrobe in a spreadsheet.  So do I.  I like to play with that data:

I worked out the simplest way to get dressed.  I looked out how many outfits I could put together by colour.  I considered which of my clothes I wear the most often.  Then I really got serious and made a database that could answer all my questions (except for what should I put on right now...)..  One could do all this without a spreadsheet, but I wouldn't want to try it:

I have 146 pieces in my wardrobe that I wear or have worn in the past year or two.   I bought 56% (84) of them new; 40% (58) I bought second hand; 3% (4) were home made.  Mom or I each made two of those pieces.

Just talking about the used pieces, I got 29% (43) in a charity or consignment shop.  Ten pieces (7%) I regularly wear belonged originally to my Aunt Rita; she either gave them to me when she was clearing out or they came to me after she died.  Other sources of one or two pieces each (5 total) came from other family members or friends. 

Of the new items, I bought
68% (57) in the UK
17% (14) in the US
  6% each (5) in France and Australia
  2% (2) in Portugal
  1% (1) in Greece.

My current wardrobe is comprised of:

44 tops
24 pairs of shoes
20 pairs of slacks
17 cardigans
13 jackets
11 skirts
  8  jumpers (what they call sweaters here)
  6 pairs of boots
  2 coats
  1 dress

There isn't enough time left in my life - or yours - to tell you about scarfs or jewellery.

I have classified my clothes as being suitable for
slobbing around  - 4% (6)
casual wear only - 42% (61)
smart occasions only - 18% (27)
dressy occasions - 4% (6)
could be casual or smart - 25% (36)
any occasion - probably coats and jumpers - 7% (10)

In looking at how long I keep my clothes, I just did 5-10 year groupings:

0-5 years old - 44% (64)
6-10 years old - 47% (69)
11-19 years old - 5% (7)
20+ years old - 4% (6)

I was curious to see if I'd bought much clothing since I retired about 4 years ago.  Also, a blogger I read said everything 7 years old or older will be OUT of STYLE (I don't necessarily agree, but I'm sure she's far more stylish than I; also richer). 

< 4 years old - 26% (38)
< 7 years old - 76% (111)
7+ years old - 24% (35)

So that wasn't too bad.  Then again, if I estimate that my used clothing was probably at least 2 years old before I got it, the picture worsens:

< 4 years old - 14% (21)
< 7 years old - 61% (89)
7+ years old - 39% (56)

Now, you might think 146 items of clothing is too much, and you are probably right, but of course we're talking about all seasons here.  I grouped my clothes by seasonal wear and came up with:

cool weather - 28% (41)
warm weather - 40% (59)
mid-season (useful for bridging the gap, but not for one or the other) - 8% (11)
all weather - 24% (35)

What colours will you find in my closet?
21% (30) - black
10% (14 or 15 pieces each) - brown, navy, French blue, grey, white or 'other'
  7% (10) - purple
  4% (6) - tan or orange
  3% (4 each) - green or burgundy
  2% (3) - taupe
  1% (1) - cream

83% of my clothes (96) are a solid colour.  If I do buy prints, I tend to stick to what I think are traditional prints (there are 30 items for which I deemed prints not applicable, shoes & boots, though I realise they could be print...but not in my closet...):

30 % - Stripes (6)
20% - Floral (4)
15% - Tweed/Herringbone  (3)
10% - Paisley, Animal or 'Modern' (2 each)

Then, I quickly categorised my clothing by how much I like it:

A - It fits, it's comfortable, I feel great wearing it, it gives confidence, I would pay good money to replace the exact same or very similar piece.  I love it.  18% (26)

B - I like it, it's comfortable, goes with loads of things and I'm happy wearing it.  I would replace many of the these pieces, but probably most from thrift stores.  35% (51)

C - It's useful but not more than that; either the fit, the colour or fabric is somehow lacking.  I'm not inspired in the least.  44% (64)

D - These are not things I enjoy wearing anymore.  They are probably only kept because of sentimental reasons and I make myself use them now and then to justify keeping them.  3% (5)

The good news is that I like or love better than half (53%), but it did tell me I don't shop as wisely as I thought.

I wondered if I like things just because they are newer.  It sort of looks that way:

< 4 years - 64% of 'good' clothes (A or B)
< 7 years - 56% of good clothes
7+ years - 44%

And did I really like new clothes better than used?  Guess so.

I classed 84% of my New clothes as 'good' (As and Bs), but only 58% of my Used clothes as good.

However, 22 items of the not 'good' clothes (Cs and Ds) (32%) had been formerly loved.  They were just too old: an average of 7.5 years (range 4-18 years; median 6).  Also, the handmade items weren't in my favourites.

So, what did I learn from all this?

- I still LOVE data analysis - but only descriptive.  I've forgotten most of what I knew about chi squares and p-values and I no longer have the software to compute it for me.  No great loss, really.

- I have more clothes than I really need, but we both knew that before we started.  I'm sure it's a safe bet that you do too.

- My clothes are more formal than my lifestyle, a hang over from my working life.  I don't want more slobbing out clothes, but I definitely don't need so many dressy things.  I could attend a wedding, a party, a funeral or a working function (heaven forbid!) in every season, so I'm pretty well covered, not that I do any of those very often at all.

I hang on to my clothes for too long, even ones I don't love.  Mostly for sentimental reasons - something to do with Mom or Rita or when I was thin or young...silly, really.

- I have more clothes for warm than for cool weather, which is completely daft.  That is in part because I have visited the US in the summer and bought shoes that fit; summer styles are what are on offer then, you know?  Also, to be fair, a lot of Rita's clothes were for warm weather being as how she lived in Oklahoma.

- I get away with keeping my clothes for as long as I do because they are not trendy prints, which date very quickly.  I remember when I first started buying my own clothes feeling very annoyed that something was so out of date I was embarrassed to wear it, but not feeling I'd got my money's worth by a long shot.  I prefer classic styles for this reason, also because being petite they suit me better.

- Black became my go-to colour when I first came to the UK:  it survives travel on public transport better than anything else.  I never bought that much black when I lived in the US.  Dark colours seem to suit the mood here in the UK, I think; bright colours are for warm sunny places.  That said, the second group of colours were always my basics in Oklahoma and Utah...and I wore more red as a blonde.

- In spite of the fact that I do seem to love newer, newly acquired clothes, I wouldn't take this to mean I shouldn't buy second hand.  Only that I shouldn't buy something because it's a good price, something we all fall into at some point.  When I look at why I love the pieces I do, without fail they fit me to a T, which is easier said than done.  I need to hold out for the petite styled pieces that make me feel like I've come home instead of like a bag lady.  I clearly do still make shopping mistakes.  I'd far rather make a used mistake than a new one.

- I need to get rid of the clothes I really don't like (Ds and Cs are obvious candidates) and look carefully at why I'm hanging onto the really old pieces.  I have a trunk for sentimental clothes - the ones Mom knitted or sewed that no longer fit; they can go in there if need be.   Otherwise, why hang on to something that is over 7 years old if it's not an A or a B.

- If there are old or unloved items that I actually 'need' - I should go shopping and replace them.  I can afford to do that; it's the whole point of being frugal is to be comfortably confident that I can afford what I actually need.

- One thing I've been learning from my 'colour of the month' game is that it is in fact possible to wear taupe every day of the month in spite of only having 3 pieces (and, OK, a scarf).  I am certain I wouldn't want for what to wear if I got rid of everything old or unloved. 

- Having scrutinised the clothing inventory in so many ways, I  already know what I would replace them with!  But that's another post...


Frugal Scholar said...

Amazing info! I'd be afraid to find out.

The English Organizer said...

Ooh, what a truly fabulous post!

Yup, I do keep track of my clothes in a spreadsheet, but only really in a handy list format, nothing nearly as useful as the slicing and dicing you've done here.

I am pretty ruthless at getting rid of clothes I don't like (so many mistakes!!) and recently noticed how few of my clothes date from before my move to the US (2004). This year, being self-employed and on a tighter budget, I've made an effort to buy less expensive clothing... and I'm already aware that I like those things less and they are not lasting as well as other items.

My recent holiday in England (where I deliberately packed very light so I could buy a few treats while there) made me realise how much a I love having a very small wardrobe, in which everything is a pleasure to wear. I survived happily with 2 pairs of trousers, one dress, a cardi, a fleece and about 8 tops. Bliss! Mind you, I was lucky the weather was temperate the whole time...

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I don't do data analysis, but I am an inveterate list maker. You have more shoes/boots and cardigans than I do. Part of my color of the month campaign has been to get past my go-to grey color. I had 35+ pieces of grey when Rags began. This month of June I have worked with the white, red, black combination and I think I could do that one indefinitely--it's both classic and yet can be made funky when the situation calls for it.

I don't think I have any sentimental clothing left--except for a couple of items that still smell like my Dad.