When Suzanne at Agent Athletica did her Closet Clean-Out Project series about how to pare down a brimming activewear wardrobe, I knew I needed to participate. Last year I devoted a spare room to my activewear, and the four-drawer chest I bought for it is now completely full, with other off-season items in storage bins. While many people sell their used Lululemon and other activewear, I’ve never gotten rid of anything, not even clothes that no longer fit me.
I went through everything in my activewear wardrobe, even trying most things on. I ended up giving a huge bag full of activewear I no longer wear to a friend, who gave some of it to her friends. And I have a small pile of gently used Lululemon that I plan to sell. While I whittled my wardrobe, I learned some important things in the process.
Buying expensive clothes saves me money.
Yes, you read that right. If I’m spending a lot of money on an item, I carefully consider before I buy. How often will I wear it? Does the color go with most of my existing palette? Can I wear it for activities other than running? Do I know the brand and fabric and have reason to believe it will be durable? Is it functional, with pockets for gels and media cord openings for my MP3 player? Is it warm enough for winter or cool enough for summer? Is it comfortable? Do I like the fabric? Will it chafe me?
If, on the other hand, it’s on sale or just cheap, I’ll often buy it on a whim without careful thought. When I went through my wardrobe, I realized I had way too many items that I bought simply because they caught my eye and they weren’t expensive. They were the items I didn’t wear and are the ones I gave away. I realize it was actually a waste of money to buy the less expensive things since I didn’t wear them much and ended up giving them away. The more expensive items were the ones I continue to wear a lot and are an essential part of my wardrobe, likely because I put a lot of thought into purchasing them.
Fabric is very important to me.
My most-loved activewear pieces are those with fabric I love–either soft and cushiony like Lululemon’s Swiftly Longsleeves, silky soft like Splits59’s Devon and Alana Tanks, or luxe and flattering like Michi’s Hydra, Vyper, and Stardust Crops. I think this is why I rarely wear race t-shirts–the fabric is usually awful! If I really love a fabric, I’ll wear it a lot and thus am willing to pay more for nicer fabric.
I also realized that while I love some brands, I just don’t like their fabric and will likely not buy from them again. Yogasmoga is a great example. I love that they’re a small, independent company with US-made clothes, and I love the fit of their tights. But their Aurum fabric is the worst at attracting pet hair, and that doesn’t work for me!
Future purchases should focus on running clothes and casual wear.
I justified keeping plenty of yoga pants and tops that I wear casually and for light activities because I do wear them, but I don’t need any more. Because I run six days a week when I’m training, I actually do need lots of running gear. While I have a lot, I wear it a lot, so I know that I’ll get a lot of return on any investment I make in running gear. There were very few running items that I got rid of. Plus, I didn’t throw out some of my beloved pieces with issues–the tanks with sunscreen stains and or with pilling from water belts . Those things are barely noticeable so I’ll continue to wear them, but I know I’ll soon have to retire some things.
The other pieces I could use more of are those that I can wear to work or out to dinner. I wear activewear so much that sometimes I’d like to look like I’m not wearing activewear, but I still want the comfort and sweat-wicking benefits. For example, we live close to Downtown and walk there to go to dinner when the weather’s nice. If it’s hot, I’ll probably sweat a little on the walk, so I need clothes that can keep me comfortable while walking but be dressy enough for a nice restaurant. All my Alala pieces (Weekender Dress, Shadow Dolman Hoodie, Mesh Longsleeve Tee) fall into this category. I’ll be on the lookout for more of these pieces.
While brands have changed, my style has stayed the same.
It was fun to look back at how my activewear changed over the past few years. When I first started running in 2011, I had a single outfit: black Lucy capris and a purple Athleta tee. In 2012 I added a longsleeve red Nike top that was a gift. It wasn’t until 2013 that I became interested in what I was wearing. I built my wardrobe mainly with Athleta and Lululemon, but over the years and especially more recently have been interested in trying new brands. Now I have a wardrobe made of very different brands but with common themes. I didn’t recognize some of these themes until I did the clean-out project.
I like solids over prints.
I love the look of printed tights. But as much as I drool over unique patterns and pretty color palettes, my wardrobe is testament to my more understated style. Most of my leggings are solid colors. The few patterns I have are stripes or spacedye. The prints I do have are usually in tops.
I mix pretty colors with a neutral palette.
My core color palette is white, black, and grey with shots of color. Most of my color comes from the purple family, but I also have a lot in the pink and coral family as well as green. I don’t like bright and bold blues, and that shows because the blues I do have are either greyish and muted, light, or teal.
I love details.
From the very first Athleta running skirt I bought that has a ruffle at the bottom to my most recent Michi purchases with sexy mesh cutouts, details are a central feature in my wardrobe. Maybe it’s because I only wear solids and a lot of neutrals, but I’m just really attracted to little details that make a piece pop.
I love my activewear wardrobe!
I started out the clean-out project intending to get rid of a lot. While I did get rid of some clothes and have another pile set aside to sell, I also still have a very full chest of drawers and equally full storage bins. I realized that I love my activewear so much, and I wear it so much, that I just can’t get rid of it! Of course, I also realize that if I want to keep so much of it, I need to continue the process of paring down. My winter running wardrobe has served me well function-wise, but I’m now in the third season of wearing it, and I’m not sure I can go another winter wearing the same things. After each season, I’m going to make it a habit of paring down to make way for some new additions.
What about you–did you do the closet clean-out project? How did it work for you? Was it easy for you to get rid of stuff? Did you learn things in the process?