The Outfit List Revisited

It’s been many years since I first posted about my trusty outfit list. Much has stayed the same over time. I still spend a big chunk of time – three or four hours – every couple of months going through my closet and assembling outfits. Shoes, tights, bottom, top, and some larger accessories if I can think of them at the time. And I still feel that this practice helps me to utilize, appreciate, and be more creative with the contents of my wardrobe. My visual style journal has more or less been replaced by my Pinterest account, where I add visually inspired outfits to my various boards.

And a few other things have changed. I’ve upgraded to digital, as you can see from the screenshot above. For ages I refused to transfer my lists to electronic documents because I loved being able to bring my little notepad over to the closet with me and jot down ideas as they were sparked by viewing my clothes in person. But now that I’ve made the change, I can’t imagine ever going back because:

  • I’ve now got one document for each season. When I see a photo of a great winter outfit in the middle of July, I can commit it to the winter list immediately.
  • I never wore every outfit I dreamed up, and some of those unused outfits were good ones. But since I did my longhand lists seasonally, there was no easy way to transfer summer to fall, or stash a summer idea until next year. With the four seasonal lists, ideas can stick around.
  • I can use the “find” function in Word to search for specific items. If I want to wear an outfit with pants, I can quickly locate all instances of “pants” in the current season’s list. (This is the biggie.)
  • Everything is SO MUCH NEATER. No more scratching out worn outfits, no more copying pages over once they’d become illegibly marred with scribbles. I can read everything. Woot!

Someday I may attempt to digitize my entire closet through one of the multitudinous apps available for such purposes, but for now, I’m happy with this middle ground. I like that this version of outfit listing forces me to think about what I have, hone my mental inventory. It helps me when I shop. I nearly always know the answer to this all-important clothing shopping question: Do I love this because it’s perfectly “me” or because it’s incredibly familiar? I know what I own and wear, so I know what would constitute a wardrobe duplicate.

Originally posted 2012-06-25 06:04:00.

Next Post
Previous Post

35 Responses to “The Outfit List Revisited”

  1. Mia

    My closet is horribly disorganized currently, plus I’ve recently lost a bunch of weight (yay!) so I have a lot of clothes that no longer fit taking up precious space. I probably need a serious intervention! I just signed up for “Go Chic or Go Home” which seems like a really cool site, so thanks for the link!

  2. Nihongo Dame Desu

    This concept is new to me, and I love it.

    I can picture meeting with girlfriends at each other’s houses and doing this, which would be a perfect way to get new insights and to come up with outfits that we might not find on our own!

  3. Osprey

    That’s awesome! Pen and paper is romantic and all but I’m glad you went digital. I have a spreadsheet of every single wardrobe item and it just makes me so happy to see all my stuff catalogued in one place.

    When I read your original outfit list post I tried to make one myself but ended up with about six outfits, all variations on a theme. That’s when I realised I was a uniform dresser. Thanks for helping me gain that insight!

  4. Amy

    I’d never thought about a journal/inventory for my clothes. But I do similar things for my recipes, menus,class plans, etc in Evernote. So this should be just a natural extension. I’d could do it for my kids clothes too. Would help when I shop for them. Could have pictures of all the items in Evernote too. Thanks for sharing the idea!

  5. Cynthia

    The blog is about all I’ve got. I tried using Go Chic or Go Home for a while, but damn that’s a lot of work to deal with every item in your wardrobe and get it in there. I applaud your list-making energy but I just don’t have it in me.

  6. adventures of a mad scientist

    I can’t believe I’ve never done this! Thank you so much for the idea. 😀

    After losing some weight and cleaning out my closet of old things, I should really take an inventory of what’s in my closet. It would not only help me figure out what I have left, but I would be able to fill in gaps in my wardrobe a lot faster. I’d like to find an easier way to take photos of everything so I can visualize on my computer, but I haven’t found an efficient solution yet (other than busting out my camera and doing it one by one).

    This sounds like a fun weekend project. Woohoo!

  7. Nihongo Dame Desu

    After thinking about this some more, I think this would be great in Excel. Then you could search based on the piece if you want to wear a specific item, or even a couple specific items (burnout white tee, olive tank). And you could add a notes category, which could include anything you want (date night, vacation, wedding, summer, conservative, sexy, military-inspired, Husband’s favorite, etc.)

    • Sal

      Totally. Excel isn’t my favorite program, but for someone more familiar with it, a list in there would be SO fab!

    • Cleo

      Excel list: that would be me! I started a closet challenge at the enf od May–I took everything out of my closet except the same number of pieces (and about the same type of pieces too) as a semi-minimalist blogger whose blog I had just happened upon (I cannot remember who, I am sorry). I’ve put everything on an Excel list, and everyday I mark what I wear: this part helps me see what will get used as well as with what.
      I have also added another page, where I note everyday what I wish I had had to make the outfit better (if anything, and whether it’s something I own which has been stashed away or something I do not have. This has been so illuminating.
      Initially I thought the list was just for these few weeks, but I am definitely going to keep it well after July 1st rolls around!

    • pope suburban

      Ha! This was my first thought too! I have no love for Excel, but I have to use it a lot at work, and yeah, it totally would be excellent (har har) for this. One could even access it from one’s smartphone, if one had cloud storage and/or Office on there.

  8. Kaffesoester

    I tried the Stylebook app for Iphone, but i didn’t work because of the small pictures. I was just unappealing to look at. Then I started downloading pictures from the internet of every new item i bought. Even thrift items (I buy all thrift items online too since the shops are far from where I live). Now I have pictures of everything on my computer, and I can organize it any way I want. I’ve divided my wardrobe into capsules of different colours that are kept in individual folders, and I keep stock of how many dresses, knit tops, skirt etc. that I have, in separate folders. That means the same item can appear in several folders. I can combine pictures for outfit suggestions in sub folders, or create a mood board in Photoshop.This works very well for me. I can sit at my computer and shop my wardrobe or I can easily check if new items will go with my old clothes. Last but not least: This solution is free!

  9. Dee

    Hi, I dont have an inverntory of my whole closet but what I have been doing for years is keeping a journal of what I wear each day. I have a small notebook in my nightstand where I jot down what I have worn that day. I also keep a separate list of what I buy. I think I started this list years ago when I didn’t want to wear the same outfit too soon – so many times I could not remember what I had worn just a few days or a week before! Also its nice to refer to when you are getting together with friends for a special evening or outing and you want to make sure you don’t wear the same outfit as yuo did the last time! Some people might not care about that, but its a bit of a pet peeve of mine when someone wears the same outfit too often. (its “too often” if I remember it!) Especially if I know they have a closet full of nice clothes.

  10. giedre

    i should totally do this! Try to avoid taking about an hour and a half to get dressed before a nice event, lol.

  11. Aziraphale

    I have no inventory or style journaling tools to contribute, I’m afraid — I just look in my closet and can pretty much see all of it right in front of me. As for accessories, I have a tiny box of jewellery and I wear the same pieces nearly every day. I own six or seven belts and exactly three scarves. A spreadsheet is not exactly needed. 🙂

    I’m wildly curious about your closet now, though. I’ve got to ask — and I mean no judgment in any way — how many articles of clothing do you think you have? How many skirts? Dresses? Pairs of pants? You must really have a collection!

  12. Frenchie

    I have been told that my closet looks like a store set-up. Tops with tops, dresses together, skirts together–all colour graded from white on the left to black on the right. I love the organization when I (blurry-eyed) need to find something to wear in the morning. What I don’t wear (oh, the guilt) I consign and recoup some money wasted.

    While I don’t have any “outfit system” record like you, I do have an “inspiration” wall in my sewing room. It started as a bulletin board, but that got discarded pretty quickly when I realized I could thumbtack directly into the drywall. One entire wall is covered in magazine pages of inspiring outfits, colour combinations, even words. When I need to feel inspired to make a new dress, I sometimes just sit there and ask myself what I like about these photos I’ve chosen. Currently, I’m looking for a solid, dark turquoise-y colour to make a dress.

  13. Jackie

    I have an outfit journal, inspired by you! First, I took inventory and wrote down every piece of clothing in my work wardrobe. Then, I wrote down every outfit I wore to work for the past school year (I’m a teacher). This summer, I am planning to use it to to see what I wear a lot, what my favorite outfits and pieces were, and what I might need to replace in the near future.

  14. Jane

    I am a recent convert to Pinterest. which I use to inspire and inform my style.

  15. Susan

    I’ve started using the PocketCloset phone app. You can add photos but I haven’t yet – I more of a words person than a pictures person anyway. You add items of clothing and can create outfits of clothing. The important feature for me is the calendar. After entering each day’s outfit, you can search on items or outfits. That is the feature that’s important to me. I’m very interested in frequency of wear and whether something was a good value.

    • Barb Ballenger

      I use Pocket Closet too, and just use the text function. I wish I could add some personal notes to it, like “this works great on my bike.” It does allow you to categorize outfits by season, and you can keep building new outfits once you’ve entered the clothes you wear all the time. I like being able to shake my i-pod touch to suggest one of my preset outfits when I’m stuck on what to wear.

  16. Megan Mae

    I do this on occasion. I stopped because my closet was in a big flux, but I think committing to a shopping ban and indulging in all the clothes that for once – lay forgotten I plan on starting back up again.

    My best way of wearing things is to snap a photo. I tend to try on because a lot of the time doodles or even listed ideas don’t work out when I physically put them on, but usually I can snap a photo and examine if I actually like the idea or if it’s disproportionate or could easily be tweaked. I also save some outfits of others if I know I have specific pieces. Much faster than scrapbooking, but keeping documents organized is a lot easier than note-book binders imo. Just not a creative feeling/pretty as you can make a fashion binder.

  17. Lauren

    I find that my greatest outfits come from inspiration when I am on the street, thinking about my wardrobe. I write down fun outfit ideas into my phone using the “notes” app and transfer it all to electronic when I have a chance. I also have separate lists for “work” “casual” “beach” etc which helps to categorize even further!

    Finally, Pinterest is amazing and always helps with inspiring new outfits 🙂

  18. Judy


    I am just getting started with this idea, but my twist is I take my iPad into my closet! I use Evernote (free app) to not only write down my outfits but what I NEED! Then, due to the fact the Evernote uses a Cloud for storage, when I am shopping, there are my “needs”…right on my iPhone! So awesome!

    I am nowhere near organized but this spring and summer I have totally avoided buying things that don’t match anything else I have, and that, for me, is huge!

    Love your blog. Thanks so much!

  19. Marie

    For a couple months I kept a handwritten list of what I wore, but aside from playing with Polyvore once or twice, I’ve never kept notes about ideas. Choosing my outfit and getting dressed is the last thing I do before leaving the house, and I never give myself enough time. I’d probably benefit from spending an hour or two in front of my closet, finding new combinations to try.

  20. Debbie Roes

    I try to spend a few hours each month creating outfits, too. I take photos of them and store them on my computer. I have folders for each bottom (skirts, pants), jacket/cardigans, and dresses. I don’t have folders for tops because I have SO many and a lot of them are interchangeable. I go through my photos periodically and maintain “Wear Soon” folders for both skirts and pants.

    This method works well for me because I am very visual. I don’t think that just writing the pieces down will work for me, although it’s great that it works for you. I do keep track of how often I wear things (both on tags I put on my hangers) and on a spreadsheet I update periodically. I try to push myself to wear everything I own so that I know what to keep and what to donate. I still have too many clothes, but my tracking methods and outfit photos have helped me to improve in this area.

    By the way, I just finished reading your book and I really enjoyed it! I plan to go back and do some of the exercises (many of them I’ve already done in the process of my own style journey) to deepen my learning. I have read a lot of books about style and yours is definitely one of the best!

  21. K-Line

    You’d think this would totally be my kind of thing, but I actually like winging it (except on the bad mornings!). I often wonder, though, when I stumble upon a nice new way of styling something, whether I’ll remember it 3 weeks later.

  22. patni

    wow! i am in awe of you ladies!!! seriously.
    I do have a large closet, i do know everything that is in it. I think about what goes with what when i buy it, and for the most part when I am broke i glean from it every item that does not fit me right or does not fit my style, and sell it. But I would never have the energy to sit down and write it all down. When i buy something i have a pretty clear idea usually in my head of how I am going to wear it. I tend to make outfits out of what is clean and good lord how can i find some way to tie a top that is clean with a bottom that is clean. O dear. that does not sound very sane or organized but it is actually a kind of fun process for me. Also when i fall asleep i like ot make outfits in my head. I struggle with wearing things that are not perfect in my head, but I also realise that often the best combinations, for me are born from necessity. For instance, in my imaginary world i would probably match everything, but that is not realistic so i am forced to find something that would some how some how work… I have trouble with my feet, so I am forced to wear dresses with cowboy boots or flats instead of ladylike heels. I find necessity gives me the edge that my own lacking imagination just does not. This may not make much sense, but it works for me. I love your ideas of lists and spread sheets and stuff, but just the thought of that kind of organization blows my mind!

  23. Angela

    Inspired by you, this past December I started keeping an outfit list in Excel. I’m not very diligent about it–I only add outfits occasionally, when I’m wearing something I like and when I happen to be by my computer and thinking of it. I’m up to 90 ensembles now. Here’s a little snapshot:

    Lately, I’ve taken to just snapping a cell phone photo in the bathroom mirror at work when I’m wearing an outfit I really like. That way, even if I forget about the outfit before I can jot it down in my list, I can sit down later and transcribe the outfits shown in my cell phone photos.

    I have to thank you for encouraging me to just get started on it, and not feel like I had to spend hours getting everything down at once. Little by little, my list has grown and become quite helpful. I must say that it it’s most helpful for when I’m trying to dress for a special occasion–it helps ward off those “I have nothing to wear!” panic attacks because I can just peruse the list and remind myself of all the ensembles I’ve put together that make me feel great.

    Thanks, Sally!

  24. Gracey at Fashion for Giants

    I absolutely do this. In part because I struggle with utilizing a lot of my closet. Although I don’t repeat outfits, I have a tendency to repeat certain items and ignore the rest. Right now I’m on my use-it-or-lose-it kick and having a list of outfits has really helped me get through my closet so far.

    I also have a spreadsheet of items I’ve worn during this time so I can document what gets worn most. I have an idea, but I like to see it in writing.

  25. Sallie

    I try and do a seasonal try-on/create outfit session (or two!). I use Excel to record the outfits. I have a column for use – everyday, work, travel, out to dinner etc. – and it’s great to be able to sort on that as well as sort on specific pieces. I also use Excel to record what I pack for vacations and big business trips. I then make note of what worked/what did not work and what I wore a lot, it helps a lot for future trips. I just started using the Cloth app on my iPhone – I have been taking daily outfit snapshots and that has been enlightening.

    Also, I just finished reading your book! I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to going back through it and doing the exercises. For now, I am very much taken by the concept of of ‘underutilized’ clothes that you brought up.

    Thanks for all you do!

    • Sally

      Oooh, will have to investigate the Cloth app – thanks for the tip!

      And thanks so much for purchasing my book, Sallie! I’m thrilled to hear you found it interesting and helpful. Have fun with the next steps!