I am trying to keep up a certain basic level of sanity over here folks, but our (only) car has been in the shop since last Friday and I think today might be the day I start to get a little stabby with certain people involved in the situation, none of whom have been trapped in the house with these two children for six days. SIX DAYS I JUST WANT TO GO GET SOME LIBRARY BOOKS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Also, for future reference, when you have one rather old car and you are planning to buy a new one? Shortly? It’s a really terrible plan to wait for your one old car to break down.  How did I think that was a good plan? Now we have 1. no car to go look for a new car with and 2. to pour money into the old car just so we can trade it in.  Rarely have I had such bad plans that I felt so confident in.

Anyway, in order to keep myself from really losing it and running down the street stark naked, I will now share some nonsensical consumeristic ramblings about clothing.

I always know things are going badly in the State of the Closet when I start stealing my husbands clothes.  This means I have given up and embraced my inner schlub because I have nothing I want to wear.

I’m not sure if I want to get into why I have nothing to wear when my drawers can barely be closed, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I buy clothes as insurance against that terrible feeling I got as a kid when I arrived at outdoor school and all the other kids were wearing Guess jeans and I had two pairs of elastic waisted pink corduroy pants.  And so I tend to throw nondescript t shirts in my cart at Target because I can pass them off (in my own mind) as part of the “Random Crap I Bought At Target) budget and it’s easy and it lacks intention. If you don’t try, no one will know you care, right?!

I can dress myself up for an event like no body’s business. I think because in my head that’s “allowed”? It’s ok to be seen as “trying” for events that you are supposed to look nice for.  But most of the time I am not attending a fancy dinner, and it’s the day to day stuff I am really having trouble with. If I am going to the grocery store or the park or preschool pickup, I won’t let myself wear a necklace or heels. I always feel over-dressed. I always feel stupid.  I feel like something is going to think “Why is she even bothering?  She looks so stupid.  That effort sure failed!”

I am pretty sure I have never thought any of those things about anyone wearing cute shoes or a nice necklace in the preschool pick up line, so I have no idea why I hear those things in my own head.  I never think those things about anyone! (But me.) I really just don’t want to look like I am I am trying and I failed. I don’t want to look stupid.  So instead I just give up.  Which is ridiculous, because really?

Somewhere along the line it just became easier to not try, to put all my extra money into clothing for my kids or into patio furniture. But the truth is that if I weed out all the things that don’t fit and the things that don’t quite zip up and the things that fit but look awful or that are too see thru, I’d have almost nothing to wear besides some fleece pants and some ribbed tank tops.

I kind of have a new plan though. Want to hear it?

A few years ago, I think, I read on Jordan Ferney’s blog that she tries to limit her kids clothing to 5 items.  So they each have 5 t shirts, 5 pairs of pants, 5 sweaters, etc. At the time I dismissed this as INSANITY, but I think about it all the time, and I’m kind of wondering if the solution to my “every day schlubby stay at home mom” look isn’t in making myself buy more floofy shirts or skinny jeans, but instead if I just need some kind of uniform, for lack of a better word, 5 pieces each of some basic things, all of which fit, look good, and which I am confident in.  If something is too small or too see through or a zipper breaks, then I buy another one, always keeping the number of pieces to 5.

It would be something like this: (all in shades of navy, white, tan, or orange so I mix it and match it).

5 plain T shirts: 2 navy blue, 2 white, 1 navy blue polo shirt

5 long sleeved t shirts: 2 navy blue, 2 white, 1 in a different color

5 tank tops

5 sweaters

5 other shirts that I probably won’t wear: 1 long sleeved button down, 1 fancy blouse type thing, 2 “fancy” t shirts

5 longish bottoms: 2 pairs of regular jeans, 1 pair of trouser jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 1 pair of khaki ish pants

5 shortish bottoms: 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of denim capris, 2 pairs of work out shorts

3 skirts plus 2 dresses

5 misc extras: 1 belt, two scarves, 2 chunky necklaces

So I would clean out EVERYTHING and get rid of it unless 1. I like it and wear it and 2. it fits into my plan. And then I would slowly buy stuff that works and fits into this schematic until I had all these pieces, and then I wouldn’t buy anything else unless I need it, because I have to get rid of something.

I have to say I really like this idea. I once knew a kid who had a spreadsheet to tell him what shirt to wear on what day and I made so much fun of him, you don’t even know, but I am really feeling this. None of this would be fancy or accessorized or something you’d see on a fashion blog, but it would be clean and it would match and it would fit and I think in a certain preppy California way it could even be kind of cute. It’d be a damn site cuter than “here I made no effort at all to do anything besides throw on my husbands wrinkled Detroit Tigers shirt so please don’t judge me”.

(Here’s an idea of some of the stuff I’m of, if you want to check out my Pinterest board.)

Is this something else everyone else is already doing? Do think this is the worst idea you’ve ever heard? Although trust me it can’t be any worse than that whole “wait until the car breaks to a buy a new car” idea I had.


29 Responses


    I NEVER wear nice clothes anywhere. I feel ridiculous. I’d rather schlub, but I HATE looking schlubby. Also this is complicated by the fact that I somehow feel ridiculous unless my hair is freshly washed. If my hair isn’t freshly washed, FORGET about the nice clothes. Why is this? I can’t wear nice clothes and have washed-last-night-not-this-morning hair. I CAN’T.

    Let’s get together and shop for ourselves. Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?!

  2. I like your idea. I recently threw out a good 50% of my wardrobe. It was hard, but I was merciless about throwing (giving) away things that I never wear, even if there wasn’t anything wrong with them. It’s so nice not to have an overstuffed closet and drawers.

    I also had the wait until the car breaks idea, but my husband managed to convince me of the error of my ways at the last minute.

  3. I don’t think I could pare myself down to just those things … but I think it’s a great idea. I’ve been doing sort of a modified version of this, ridding my closet of anything that doesn’t fit or that I don’t wear and trying to be mindful of anything new I buy instead of throwing random stuff into the Target cart without trying it on. (I never return things, so if it doesn’t fit, I just wear it. How ridiculous am I?) I also have given myself permission to spend a little more on better-made items or items that will get a lot of wear.

  4. I really like this idea. I’m not sure I could limit myself that much, but I definitely need to do something. And I don’t think “wear clothes that fit poorly until I lose the baby weight and not buy anything new because I just want another baby in a few years anyway” counts.

    • Yes! That is also my strategy! And it’s really not working over here either!

  5. I find the idea of building your wardrobe around a “uniform” SO appealing. Imagine how easy it’d be to get dressed in the morning! Plus, I feel like I generally have more fun shopping for jewelry and accessories anyway (less fitting room angst), so that is a definite bonus. Now, off to dispose of a good 60% of my clothing…

  6. This is a GREAT idea. I would say I’m doing a version of this, only because in losing a crap ton of weight over the last year my wardrobe has become…errrr, LIMITED. Since I can’t afford to replace everything I have definitely done a modified version of the 5 things. But the idea is super awesome. And so is the idea that you don’t have to have a million ill fitting things in your closet. I’ve been thinking a lot about my shoe philosophy with repsect to that ever since you posted about investment shoes. Why do I need 20 crappy pairs?? I DON”T.

    Anyway, similar to this idea, I read this post the other day and thought to myself immediately that I NEEDED my inventory in spreadsheet form:


    And so — I did it! (Loserville. haha!) And you know what — I LOVE IT. Some people can just be all naturally stylish and organized and fashionable — I need spreadsheets and lists and pinboards and help from the internet. But whatever. I’m probably going to post about it next week. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll keep it our dirty little secret.

  7. I did have a uniform, of sorts, and basically it consisted of jeans and various v-neck tops and never wearing any accessories and I got tired of it and that’s how I started #wys and now I get dressed nearly every day and I’m HAPPY with my closet and the things in it and I am almost never tempted to just by random crap at Target.

    I also found that forcing myself to take pictures every day really helped motivate me because what I see in the mirror and what I see in a picture are two entirely different things the majority of the time.

    • I have been totally inspired by #wys! Because I wanted to do it too and it made me realize that I don’t or can’t wear any of the stuff in my closet. I need stuff around that I want to wear, I think, and then I think I can accessorize it and put it together in cute ways but I think I have to start with clothes that I can actually wear. Does that make any sense?

  8. It absolutely does!

    I’m lucky that I have a bunch of crap in my closet that I can wear. I also have a bunch of crap in my closet that #wys has inspired me to stop hanging onto (ill-fitting, tiny holes, never going to wear again, etc) so being able to HONESTLY assess what I’m facing in my closet and my drawers? BEST THING EVER.

  9. yes! I do this! I wear a uniform even though I am 20 years out of Catholic school.

    Last fall I purged nearly every single item I had worn for the past five baby-making years. (I still need to lose weight, but I couldn’t take the stained and ill-fitting stuff that comprised my wardrobe.) My winter wardrobe is not all that pretty because of my need to wear only sweatpants, but essentially, I have five pairs of black cotton knit pants, one pair of gray knit pants, 8 of the same longsleeve cotton shirt (I just bought it in every color plus extra white ones), 5 sweaters (4 of them go with every single shirt I own)…..and that’s pretty much it. Every item goes with every other item, except for one purple shirt and purple sweater that I bought to go together.

    I have two pairs of jeans that fit and look nice, although I go out of my way to avoid wearing them.

    My summer wardrobe consists mostly of dresses, although I also have four pairs of knit capris and four t-shirts.

    I love decorating my house. My body, not so much.

  10. I’ve kind of done this, too. I have the opposite of Holly’s problem – I’ve GAINED a bunch of weight in the last two years, and I haven’t wanted to expand a whole wardrobe in my current size. My uniform is jeans, t-shirt or shell, and cardigan. Black and grey feature prominently, so it’s super easy to mix and match!

  11. I don’t think I could roll with a spreadsheet, but I did do two things recently:

    I did a tough love the on the closet and got rid of ANYTHING that was too big or too pinchy. If I needed to gain or lose 10 pounds to have it look good, I yanked it. It felt really good afterwards to then look inside my closet and know that everything there fit pretty well.

    The other thing I instituted was if I buy something to put in, I have to take something out. My closet is smallllll but it also helps me know that whatever is in there is relevant and being worn.

  12. I’m astounded by this because how could you limit yourself to five scarves?!?! I have approximately a million. Tshirt, jeans, and a scarf! I’m done. If I leave the house, a single-toned dress with awesome fun tights and a scarf is my uniform. I could probably limit myself to tshirts, jeans, and dresses to five pieces but never my scarves or socks. I’m kind of panicky just thinking about it!!

  13. I have two thoughts on this post:

    1) I love this idea. A lot. It sounds like it would be manageable, cute, and help you to feel in control and completely yourself.

    2) All the different hang-ups we have are so interesting to me. I am no fashion blogger and I stopped wearing make-up consistently years ago, but I don’t often worry about my wardrobe. Sometimes I dress up, and 50% of my closet consists of cardigans, but it’s not something that I fret about. However, I started playing that stupid Draw Something game and two people rejected me outright and I have been thinking about it for days! How stupid is that?! I follow these people on Twitter and read their blogs, but they don’t know me. If they would rather not play an internet game with a stranger, that is completely understandable. I need a uniform for not having my feelings hurt in completely normal, acceptable situations.

  14. This is such an awesome idea. I already got rid of all my ugly clothes, but have been struggling with figuring out how to create a new wardrobe. I love your list, and hope to copy it to make my own. Thanks so much for the inspiration and guidance!!

  15. Oooh, I find this so intriguing. 14 years of Catholic School and I love the idea of a uniform. I think I sort of do this, but not as well thought out. Jeans or corduroys and solid v-necks sweaters or tees. But, I think if I had more of a plan, I could really make this work – it would be so much easier to add cute accessories or fun flats.

    I have the same mentality about looking nice. One of my friends always looks super cute and pulled together, but whenever she comes over I am in yoga pants and a tee because I “just got out of the shower” or “just worked out.” But really I’m thinking, even if I try, I won’t look nearly as good as she does, so why try? Sigh.

  16. I think this is not all together a bad idea. Obviously, items that are considered classics are that for a reason: they are stylish no matter the era and trends. You will not go wrong incorporating those in your wardrobe.

    Because you are talking about really slimming your wardrobe down, I would suggest investing in the main staples so the quality is good and the items will last. Once you have a good base of wardrobe staples established you can use accessories that are at an afforable price point (Forever 21, H&M, Target) to freshen up the looks and add even more variety to your key looks.

  17. I have never posted a comment before but your post struck a heartstring. I know exactly how you feel about not wanting to appear like you are making an effort and not pulling it off. Like someone is going to make fun of you for trying…. Your post could have been written in my journal and I just wanted you to know that I GET IT. I would never look at anyone else like that so I’m not sure why I expect others to judge me but you arent alone and your arent crazy! Love the blog and good luck with the closet.

  18. Whoo, that sounds tough to cut it down to so few items! I think if you do, don’t forget some color! Maybe have green, pink, teal, and purple t-shirts/polo/long sleeve shirts

    Do you think you’ll tire of wearing the same thing? I’m the type of person that really doesn’t like to wear things multiple times. But, my mom on the other hand would wear the same 5-7 outfits everyday to work.

  19. Yes to this. Get rid of any clothes don’t fit you (or at least box them up). What I’ve found is that you don’t need a LOT of clothes you love, because you will love them so much you will constantly want to wear the same pieces. It’s really nice. It’s taken me about a year to have a closet of stuff I love (and that fits) (and to admit that I am not a size What I Used To Be), but it has brightened my day pretty much every single day. And I second taking photos. 1) I would looove to see them, and 2) external motivation helps me.

  20. Dude. I want to buy you a drink and talk clothes. And cars (mine’s in the shop too. and they made that highly questionable call about a problem *I’ve* never had). But mostly about clothes. I think we were similarly scarred by those Guess jeans.

  21. I feel like I would be happier if all I owned were five white t-shirts and two pairs of jeans that fit.

  22. Sometimes when I read your posts I think I’m reading about myself! I’m a stay at home mom and have been for almost 11 years. Never have I been someone who gets dressed up. Jeans and tee shirt girl is who I am and what I am comfortable in. Only dressing up for “ocassions”. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m tired of looking so plain! I look fairly young and want to look a little more my age and put together. I’ve recently started putting together outfits everyday even though I don’t go anywhere important. I just want to feel good about how I look. I’m still struggling with thinking I look silly or overdressed too. I think its a process to feel confident in what you wear. Stick with it and in no time you’ll be the best dressed mom with style others want to steal! I started putting my outfits on my blog too. Maybe once you get your wardrobe you should too!

  23. Feeling like a stained-shirt, yoga pant mamma big time. I am intrigued by this plan. Question……do you replace said five items as styles change? I think part of the reason I feel like a sloppy mom is bc I am never in style. By the time I buy skinny jeans, I just know everyone will be wearing flares….my clean t shirts are always the wrong length….. Are your five items so classic and good quality that they always look tres chic? I think when you don’t have to buy work clothes, you are screwed bc it is hard to justify the purchase. Well, that is my excuse

  24. I love this idea. I want to do it myself, except I am in the “I will lose weight and that good stuff will fit again” mode, even though I know it’s totally wrong.

    I need to throw it all away. But first, off to look at your pinterest.

  25. […] Elizabeth posted about her summer uniform a few weeks ago and while I LOVE Elizabeth's idea and plan it is just not for me because […]

  26. I need this too. SO MUCH. I stand in my closet every day looking at the five items that are on Repeat in the rotation…and the 55 items that just hang there, either waiting to fit (or, rather, waiting to fit and then be discovered that while they may “fit” again, I just don’t like them anymore…and yet I can’t seem to let go of them until I KNOW that I won’t like them anymore. So there they hang.) or waiting for an appropriate time to be worn (to Mass, or to work). And when I find what I want (same thing I wore the day before) then I head over to the accessories drawer, put on a pretty necklace or earrings, walk over to the mirror and rip off the pretty necklace or earrings because they look exactly the way you describe. Like I’m trying too hard. Like who needs to wear a pretty necklace to drop off her kid at kindergarten. Like I’m trying too hard. But then. THEN! I go to kindergarten drop off and I see the moms who are put together (and not just the ones who are headed straight into an office, but the ones like me who are headed home for laundry or out to Target or to the park) and my only thought is, “she looks so cute.”

    We’re too hard on ourselves with these silly things.

    But I really think you’re on to something here with the summer uniform. I think it’s time for another closer purge over here. Thanks for the inspiration!

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