I recently started using the Cladwell app. If you haven’t heard of it, Cladwell, available on iOS and Android, lets you upload images of your wardrobe and helps create looks and wardrobe capsules. The app also gives you style analytics and shares information like how much of your closet you actually wear, a breakdown of your predominant wardrobe colors, necklines, and sleeve lengths, while also recording how many times you wear each piece and your different looks. Cladwell has been around a few years and the reason I downloaded it (because why would I need it?) is that Cladwell recently launched a beta version called Cladwell for Stylists and asked me to join early. With a Cladwell Stylist account, I can connect with a client who is a Cladwell user to access and noodle around in their virtual closet, create looks and outfits and study what my client puts together.
To get myself familiar with the app before using it with clients, I decided to create my own closet and upload image of all the pieces in my wardrobe. Despite having a small assortment of clothes that I can pretty much list in my head, I found this process of seeing each piece laid out in front of me quite helpful. The app has a long way to go, and I have been assured from Cladwell that new updates will continue to roll out, which will include things like the ability to upload accessories like bags, jewelry, and scarves to your closet, something you currently can’t do, and I’ve already sent the company a laundry list of updates I’d love to see in the future. I’m also not convinced that’s Cladwell’s styling algorithm is tweaked well enough yet to make their generated outfit suggestions totally worthwhile without the help of your stylist gaining access to your account. However, at the same time, despite the questionable automated styling suggestions Cladwell made using the pieces in my wardrobe, I did find value in taking the fresh perspectives Cladwell offered when they styled outfits using some of the pieces in my wardrobe and tweaking them slightly. Even I get in that familiar slump of always wearing one piece one way over and over again.
DEFINING WHAT A BALANCED WARDROBE MEANS TO YOU
As I loaded my 5th pair of jeans into the app, I noticed that I only own two dresses, no skirts, a bunch of t-shirts, only six tops that aren’t knit, no prints except for stripes, one pair of pumps, some flats and loafers, and five pairs of Aquatalia booties. In addition, I have a wardrobe consisting solely of grey, tan, olive, navy, teal, shades of brown, burgundy, white and splashes of coral and red in my shoes. The majority of what I have are basics, I own little novelty and without context, there would be a question as to whether my wardrobe would be considered balanced. However, after nearly two decades of styling clients I have learned that a balanced wardrobe is completely individual.
A Balanced Wardrobe is a Balance of Your Life and Personal Preferences
To add that needed context around the pieces in my closet, my life is incredibly casual. I am a work-from-home veteran who has been doing it for 19 years. Pre-pandemic, I spent more time in stores and even then the physicality of my job required comfort, particularly when it came to my shoes. It was also a few years into my career that I embraced what was authentic for me and realized that I am a jeans person and soon after that stopped trying to portray myself as something I wasn’t. I started wearing jeans in stylish ways instead of inauthentcally wearing things to client appointments that didn’t resonate with me and my style. Since the pandemic, I see clients in-person much less often so my time working from home has increased. Given my lifestyle, pumps and heels aren’t all that necessary so I have one pair, in tan suede, that are universal enough to work with everything. I know enough about myself to know that I don’t feel like myself in a printed top, I won’t wear woven tops on most days because if I am working from home, I’d sooner grab a knit or a tee, so I keep blouses to a minimum for when do need them and these tops are always solid. I don’t need to get dressed up often and when I do I’d rather rent a dress vs. buying something interesting that will just hang in my closet, and the two I have are simple, evergreen, and manage to cover the times I might need a dress for professional and dressier events at the last minute.
As a result of this, I have a total of 62 pieces in my closet for all seasons, not includng accessories, like bags, jewelry and scarves and while I’m not opposed to adding more, anything that will be added will be considered with the same scrutiny that all other things that I have purchased. And this is my point, for me, this is what a balanced, realistic wardrobe looks like. I’ve closely examined my personal preferences, accepted and embraced them. I’ve looked at my life realistically and instead of seeing these parameters as limited, I’ve built a wardrobe I really like based on these very specific needs. I can own less because what I own I actually want to and need to wear.
My Outfits for the Past Six Days
Cladwell let’s you save the outfits you create each day. I thought I’d take advantage of this feature and show you my outfits for the past six days to further clarify how I used my wardrobe realistically in my life.
On Wednesday, my cleaning lady was coming for the first time since the pandemic began and as much as I love my cleaning lady, I also like to make myself scarce when she is cleaning my apartment. I find somehwere else to work off-site and I chose a casual look of my Quince merino cardigan, a J.Crew vintage v-neck t-shirt, J.Crew slim boyfriend jeans and old poppy coral J.Crew suede loafers. I carried a very old colorfully striped LeSportsac backpack with my laptop in tow.
While this outfit is super simple, it’s very me and for the day I was having, perfect.
This was a very casual work from home day. I had a quick Zoom session which would only show me from the waist up and the rest of it would be spent behind my computer working. Unlike those who are new to working-from-home, I can’t work in clothes just one level up from pajamas. I’ve been working this way too long for this not to feel depressing. Instead, I wore a very comfortable pair of easy jeans that are a skosh roomy, another J.Crew Vintage v-neck tee, the same merino cardigan from Quince in grey and my favorite Melanie slip-on sneakers from Frye that I just keep replacing when my current pair gives out. The outfit is literally just a variation of the last look. It’s not breaking any new ground but I can’t imagine needing a work-from-home look to do that. I felt pulled together and stylish for the day ahead, and comfortable.
And here we are again, another day spent similarly to the day before and I am wearing a third version of the same outfit. I wrote a post a few years ago on times when it is smart to have duplicate items in your closet and one of those times is when buying basics. I bought the Quince cardigan in three colors because it is an incredibly affortable, high quality cardigan for layering that I want in several shades. I also can’t have enough of this J.Crew t-shirt in my basic neutrals: white, grey and navy. I styled this loook with a pair of Everlane kick crop jeans, long sold out, and my Harmony783 Giraffe loafers.
And then the weather turned cold. Welcome to New York autumns. The day started out in the mid-sixties and I was originally wearing a t-shirt. A rainstorm came through and the temperature dropped 10 degrees in 30 minutes. Needing to run some errands, I wore a pair of slim dark wash jeans, an old Vince cashmere sweater that I would probably not wear beyond casual things, a S’Max Mara parka and grey Chelesea style Aquatalia booties in grey.
Sunday was even colder and despite the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt and cardigan the week before, I needed wear a coat on Sunday to services. Given the Unitarian Universalist “come as you are” attitude, it makes sense that this extends to what we wear. It seriously doesn’t matter. I enjoy putting in a little effort and as a UU (short for Unitarian Universalist) it has nothing to do with God but more to do with my enjoyment of the effort. I spend much of the week pretty casual —most days wearing minimal makeup —so I usually create looks with a bit more style. My church is also a mile away from my apartment with no good subway line that gets me there directly, so I walk, making shoe choice a big factor in the rest of my outfit. The Aquatalia booties are the highest heel height I can get away with wearing for a mile walk.
This outfit isn’t necessarily breaking any new ground either but it is very me. It’s simple, capturing a spectrum of warm neutrals, classic and chic as a look. The coat is a wool/cashmere style from Uniqlo, a wool blend turtleneck, skinny J.Crew jeans and those Aquatalia booties. What isn’t shown is a cognac crossbody I carried.
Mondays are always work-from-home days with no interruptions. I don’t see clients, don’t open schedule for appoitnments and I use this uninterrupted day to format all blog posts and my newsletter for the week. It’s still cold and once the cold weather hits, I primarily wear pullover sweaters and jeans primarily. I am wearing this super soft affordable sweater from J.Crew because it feels like cashmere but is acrylic/nylon/elastane/wool and is machine washable. If you want the sweater to look like the photo, I recommend sizing down. I get to feel cozy while not worrying about wearing something precious to basically sit at a desk. I am wearing my slim boyfriend jeans that I wore last Wednesday and when I plan on running some errands at some point, I will break out a faux-leather jacket I got a few years ago and my waterproof chelsea style sneakers from Blondo.
Of course, this only captured a snippet of my life and the pieces I have but it still remains a very comprehensive view of what I wear on my most casual days. When I dress mid-casual, however, I will often break out my navy blazer, a pair of Theory pants or a Vince silk blouse and those pieces are basic and multi-functional enough that I can wear them multiple ways and cover all of my needs with less in my closet.
Figuring Out Your Balanced Wardrobe
What a balanced wardrobe looks like is highly individual and that includes the amount that you need in your closet. My having 62 items should not be seen as some sort of goal or magic number. Some of my clients have much more and other clients are perfectly contented with much less. What is important is you drill down on things like your personal preferences and your lifestyle. One way to do that is through elimination, which I blogged about here, being super critical of the things you don’t feel good wearing vs. forcing them to work and being clear on how you live your life and what the wardrobe needs and your preferences for those needs are. I wrote once about creating a lifestyle pie chart to help you breakdown the percentage of how you live you life to help you with this exercise. You can read it here. What is key is to not force something that doesn’t feel right for you or to believe the pressure that comes from the concept of needing to own certain things in order for you to achieve a balanced wardrobe. It is okay to distill your wardrobe down to a few select colors, a few select silhouettes, and key versatile pieces because, after all, the only way to wear the clothing in your closet is to have clothing in your closet you will actually wear.