Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Wear Your Favorite Clothes, Don’t Save Them.

Photo by Salt Water New England

You are heading out the door.  It is a bit chilly so you reach for a sweater.  You have to make a split second choice between your favorite sweater or something less precious.  Which do you take?

Far too many of us far too often reach for the lesser item.  We want to save the best examples.

This is, most of the time, wrong.  

Wearing an item is a great way of testing it.  You think you like something?  See if you are right.  You may find that you don’t like it as much as you thought.  Some items we love in theory, even how other people wear them, but they just don’t work on us. It is also a way of evolving your tastes.  You want to learn from experience to make your next purchase more intelligently.  

And clothes are not always like fine wines or a great scotch.  If you are not wearing an item, it seldom gets better with age.  

The items we love and don’t wear today end up clogging up the closet within a few years.  Pretty soon we can’t give them away.  In other words, the rule of thumb that you should get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in one to three years is true.  (Society is more interested in listening to thoughts on cleaning than on clothes but the message here is the same.)

I do have a few exceptions.  When I find clothes I really like, I tend to do some gentle stockpiling,  especially if they go on sale.  I have backups, and backups of backups, of various shirts and trousers that I currently wear.

And I do have a handknit Aran clan sweater still in its box, but even now I am thinking I should just wear it.

The truth is that we change.  Our tastes evolve.  We find better or alternative examples.  We more comprehensively understand what works well with what we want to do.  We move.  Our hobbies change.  Our bodies change, even if they don’t get thicker.  Our skin tone and hair color changes.

So wear what you love.  Take pleasure in getting every stitch of value from it, not in archiving it.  It will improve your world in more ways than you think. 



  1. Wonderful advice. I’ve noticed that just because something fit me in my early fifties and I can still wear at sixty four doesn’t mean it still works well, alas:) I believe in the rule if you haven’t used it in three years donate it. I feel the same way about fine china or crystal , use it and enjoy it by all means.When eating alone set a nice table yourself, enjoy your things, you are worth it! BTW I love the colors you are wearing in the photo.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Muffy! And along the same note; use the china, silver and crystal every day. Don’t just drag them out on holidays. Life is too short not to enjoy the finer things.

  3. This really is a beautifully written piece. Spare, smart, and entirely relevant—even moral. Well done, and true.

  4. Nice post. Good common sense. Actually got the idea that moderate stocking up is not obsessive from this blog years ago. When Brooks Brothers closed their factory and then stopped making traditional fit (they now lie and call Madison “traditional”), I found more than a few button-down oxfords on ebay. Still have them in the bag. Loose fit khakis are another thing to savor when one can find them at two-figure prices.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. My late father in law used to chastise my late mother in law for "saving the hell" out of pretty things. I came from the other end of the spectrum, a household that used the silver and good china most every night. My father even put the silver in the dishwasher when he lived alone after mother died! (We don't.) It does not wear out. That same silver and china are now used by the fourth successive generation. Even a few precious articles of clothing and even a few sheets and blankets (!) have stretched back to my grandparents. Personally, I am extremely fortunate to have tastes that have varied very little since I got out of short pants. The only downside to using things you love is saying goodbye to them when their time comes. When my grandfather's last silk pongee handkerchief wore out it was a sad moment. Fortunately memories are easy to keep and do not cause clutter.

    Thank you for this reflection and encouragement.

  6. Good advice. I agree that one should wear one's favorite clothes regularly. Another problem is that many people have too many clothes and buy too many clothes. Most people don't need backups to backups of a particular item of clothing. I would add that one should be selective about what one buys and try to limit the amount that one buys. This also helps solve the problem of having to get rid of a lot of clothes. As Vivienne Westwood said, "buy less, choose well, make it last".

  7. Thoughtful, insightful ruminations on our relationship to what we wear, and how we wear it.

    Now I must confess I am also guilty of this “saving-the-better-stuff-for-a-rainy-day-or-for-a-more-appropriate-time” mindset. Should I wear my best sweater, jacket and trousers when I take the dog for a walk through the woods where it’s doubtful we’ll encounter anyone? (Kind of like if a tree falls, and nobody sees or hears it fall did it really fall?) In such cases, lesser items will do, and the worry is also less – damaging a second-string item is sure better than harming your best.

    As mentioned above, I think there’s always a who-will-see-me element influencing our dress decisions. For example, it’s okay to run down to the mailbox in unflattering (often ridiculous) attire when you consider yourself temporarily invisible, but not so when others (whose opinion you value) are present.

    And I think we all suffer from the subconscious erroneous idea that we, somehow, will live forever – even though we know better - it’s still difficult to grasp that someday we won’t be needing any of our beloved clothes. Still, and to contradict what I just said, like Muffy I also believe in stockpiling, and backing up my favorites (hey, one never knows, perhaps science will soon unlock the key to aging, and we’ll be rid of this pesky mortality?) If that happens, I want to be well-dressed and looking good as I journey down the eternal highway.

    I must admit that so far as clothing is concerned, I’m something of a dinosaur – I haven’t changed in, if not millions of years, then at least since my childhood and youth. I like what I like and see no reason to change (something I’m not a big fan of). Yes, in a way clothing evolution passed me by - but I don’t feel I’ve lost out.

  8. I completely agree with this, and this is something I'm trying to incorporate into daily life as well. I have a toddler, and a large collection of vintage sweaters from Trimingham's and the English Sports Shop that were passed down to me by my grandmother and her best friend. I'm always tempted to leave them be unless I know I'll be able to keep them pristine, but that's not what they are there for! They need to be loved, too, so I've been slowly incorporating them into my daily wardrobe again.

  9. What an enjoyable read. I, too, am a proponent of getting at least one backup of a well-loved item. I often buy favorite shirts, trousers, chinos, and even jeans in pairs because if one is stained or becomes somehow damaged beyond repair, I'll at least have another to see me through. (I don't do this for shoes, jackets, suits, or outerwear, as it gets far too expensive.) There is a problem with this mindset in a way, as I recognize it comes from a sense of scarcity. In a world that is inundated with a hyperabundance (if you will) of clothes, mainly synthetic fiber-laden landfill-bound fast fashion, most of us don't really *need* new clothes. But we need the kinds of clothes we actually love to wear and that are made, as much as possible, to last. I'll heed this call to don my favorites more often. There are a few new favorites in my closet that I haven't even worn yet. I suppose it would be a good idea to try them out in the real world, just to be sure. If they don't end up being right for me, there's always eBay.

  10. I agree, within the broader rubric that the clothes should fit the activity. There is little point in wearing one’s favorite sweater on a muddy trail.

  11. So I'm not the only one who stockpiles favorite clothing articles. I recently turned 70 and doubt I'll live long enough to wear out my hoard of khakis and Shetlands. But I recently did the math and I'm on board with the concept of this piece.

  12. It took a massive heart attack and 9 days in the hospital for me to realize I was wasting the opportunity to wear my best things. I was given a 50% chance of making it through the following year (19 years ago!) and, when I came home and opened my closet, I was driven to wear all those clothes that were going to waste because I was saving them for "special occasions." Believe me, EVERY DAY became a special occasion because every day I have been a survivor. I do not want to die and leave behind a lot of unworn beautiful clothes I was too reluctant to wear. I want to wear them now, before it's too late!

    1. So glad all went well for you!! We should treat every day and ourselves as special.

  13. “Take good care of your feet.” Well maintained, well favored, leather shoes and boots
    can last for decades, even when worn regularly. I’ll be often wearing Barries for
    the rest of my life.

  14. Here, here! Well spoken Muffy! Thank you once again!

  15. Amen! I look forward to more postings of this nature -- so well stated. Bring us into the holiday mode with more thoughtful inspiration.

  16. Somewhere I read that Virgos favor pairs and I guess it's true because being an August 30th I have always bought two suits, two shirts, two sport coats, two khakis, two pairs of shoes, and on an on. Retired now and not so much in need of that many things (good timing vis-a-vis Brooks bros) I still can't walk out of a bookstore with one book.

  17. My personal tastes and habits have not changed much, if at all, over the last 20 to 30 years. Thankfully, the extra lockdown pounds have been shed too and I'm back to my normal size and weight.

    Over the last few years, however, several of my favourite brands have -

    a) Gone bankrupt (sometimes due to Covid lockdowns) or been bought by owners who have changed them for the worse.
    b) Moved production to Europe and/or Asia.
    c) Lowered the quality or altered the fit/design of "classic" items or even dropped them altogether.
    d) Raised prices by ridiculous amounts, e.g. over 25% in two or three years.

    These events have significantly reduced my choices and led to stockpiling in the seasonal promotions/sales. They have also increased my reluctance to wear favourite clothes and footwear that can't be replaced or repaired at a reasonable cost. It's not a matter of archiving, just looking after what you value most and a bit of economic sense.

  18. Enjoy yourself it's later than you think!

  19. I've often been guilty of 'saving it for best' when it comes to clothing. But just what is 'best'? How often do you attend weddings, christenings, parties, balls? The pandemic has really taught me that life is far too short to save clothing for best. Every day should be best.

  20. I collect things for my kitchen. I have over a half century's gems, but I also have a one year rule. If something goes past a year without being used, it is time to let it start a new life somewhere else. (Watch We Bought a Zoo.). It might make sense to have such a rule for clothing. Of course the pandemic was a spanner in the works, but hopefully we can get back to wearing everything from dark suits to our Christmas pants.

  21. Great post. I've heard people say that when they were stuck at home during the early days of the pandemic, they found themselves wearing the same 5 outfits over and over. I can honestly say I wasn't one of those people. Why should looking good be limited to trips out of the house and only certain trips out of the house? Don't get me wrong, I have my bad days as well and days where I look far from great (today was one of those days) but your clothes are meant to be worn and enjoyed. As are other things in your home. I'm in the process of doing a major clean out house wide and the three year rule is a fantastic way to decide if something stays or goes. As a friend of mine who did a similar thing said "If it turns out I got rid of something I later needed, oh well, I'll just have to buy it again. Chances are slim that I will though and the space gained was worth more regardless."

  22. I do wear my favorite clothes. They just might not be my best clothes.

  23. I'm definitely guilty of this, I must take heed! Jewelry too!

  24. As a believer in minimalism and for the sake of the environment, I keep my wardrobe very limited. I have a core group items that I wear all the time, supplemented for seasonal needs. I work outdoors a lot all year round and wear lined pants in colder weather. I recently inherited some gold jewlery that had sentimental value. It was a gold charm bracelet...not my style, but I took a couple lockets off it and made necklaces that I wear every day. I had the jeweler make the bracelet into a bangle that as well, I wear every day. I have gotten rid of 2/3 of my belongings in the past year, with some going to family, some sold, and some donated. What a relief! Others may need it but I don't anymore. I have read a lot about fast fashion and plastic waste and avoid it like it is covid.

  25. Could I just bring attention to the fact that your pearl bracelet is absolutely gorgeous? Fantastic luster. As someone who also lives in pearls, I'd love to see a post on classic jewelry!


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