When to Keep Duplicate Items In Your Closet

duplicate itemsMy friend emailed me last week wanting to know if it is ever okay to have duplicate items in her closet.  With the trend in wardrobes leaning more towards minimalism, you probably think I told her no, that having more than one of the same thing is a mistake.  I didn’t.

To all you hoarders out there, slow your roll.  I didn’t just give you the green light to load up on every color you favorite sweater comes in.  Duplicate items in the closet requires strategy and thought.  It’s also highly personal and subjective.  Truly there is no right answer.  If you aren’t sure if having duplicate items is a smart thing, here are ways to help you figure it out.

The basic fit is perfect

Having a large chest, finding button front shirts that don’t gape is harder than finding a needle in a haystack.  When I found a chambray style that had shape and didn’t gape I couldn’t buy it fast enough.  I wore it constantly until I got a stain on it.  Devastated, I went online to order another one.  To my pleasant surprise it was on sale for an obscenely low price.  I bought two.  Chambray shirts being incredibly classic, I never wanted to be without this shirt again and I had no idea if this particular shirt would be available once it sold out.  I had also proven to myself that this shirt was already a staple in my wardrobe.

Finding your perfect fitting pieces can be incredibly difficult and once you find yours it’s not a bad idea to have more than one in case the one you do own gets soiled, lost or damaged.  But you need to prove to yourself first that this will be a staple that is already in heavy rotation.

 It’s a weekly basic or a staple

I have lived in the same rent stabilized apartment for the past 20 years.  What this affords me is incredibly low rent in an absolutely beautiful (and expensive) neighborhood in Brooklyn.  What it costs me is a lot of amenities that most take for granted, one of which is easy access to a washer and dryer.  I don’t even have one in my building.  I drop my laundry off once a week at a laundromat to be done.

When I first moved to Brooklyn from the suburbs where I grew up, it took me a while to get used to not being able to just throw a load in the wash on a whim.  Two decades later, I have learned how to plan out my clothes so I have what I need to wear when I need it.  It’s not uncommon for me to have more than one of my very basic pieces so I have “one in the hamper and one in the closet,” as I like to call it.  I just bought this basic top from Lush in ivory and immediately bought another one when it became very apparent that this was going to be a staple in my closet this season.

If you wear one piece at least once a week and it’s basic and non-specific enough to be worn multiple ways, it might be worth having more than one in your wardrobe.

You wear a uniform or a ‘you’niform

Despite having duplicate items in my closet, I’m actually more of a minimalist with my wardrobe.  I don’t do well with a lot of choices.  I also have the luxury of not seeing the same people regularly given that I see clients and don’t go to a workplace.  Therefore, I prefer to have less pieces that I can wear multiple ways.   This also heeds the reason for having more than one of particular things.  Yet, despite having duplicate items I probably have a much smaller wardrobe than the average person.

If you are someone who has to wear a uniform look to work or prefers the ‘you’niform  of creating a variety of singular looks, like I do, then finding your basics and having more than one is a smart move.  After all, successful people tend to wear the same thing regularly.

Pants

When I was a fashion designer we used to say pants are about fit, not fashion.  We would run the same classic pants over and over again and then introduce one or two fashion forward styles a season.  Once you find your best pants fit there is no reason to stray.  After all, finding them can be a huge and daunting task.  Last spring, I found the most perfect side zip pants from Lauren Ralph Lauren.  I raved about them so much quite a few of my clients and friends bought them.  I own two pairs in navy and have worn them both enough to warrant having two pairs in my closet.

If you have found your best fitting pants there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.  You don’t need to load up on the same color either.  Had the navy pants come in another shade that I liked I probably would have forgone having two navy pairs for one in another color.

When it isn’t smart to have duplicate items in your closet

While it can be smart and strategic to have duplicate items in your closet, there are also times it isn’t.  Be careful of these pitfalls to avoid too much duplication.

Your lifestyle doesn’t call for it

Having duplicate items only makes sense if your lifestyle calls for it.  All of the duplicates that I own are hard worn pieces because they fit my lifestyle and get worn into the ground.  If you have several blazers and nowhere to wear them having duplicates makes no sense.  You probably need one.

I will give you an example.  I have one pair of nude suede pumps.  They are the only pumps I own.  I bought them in nude because I have a razor thin need for them in my life.  Being nude, I know they will go with everything.  Compare this to my need for two ivory tops  that are duplicates.  The tops I wear at least once a week.  My nude pumps I wear two to three times a year.

It was on sale, so you bought several

I can’t tell you how many times a client has shown me one sweater in four different colors.  Their justification?  It was on sale.  Seriously, the only reason they stocked up was because of the price.  They hadn’t proved the need for more, they’re weren’t even sure they liked it, and maybe one of the four has signs of slight wear.

Watch out for the sales that lure you in to buying more than you need.  In the end you wind up wasting money, not saving it.  At least prove to yourself first that something is a staple before you go whole hog, and even then proceed with caution.  Rare is it that you need more than two.

You just want to buy something

Sometimes money is burning a hole in your pocket and the need to shop is just there.  Nothing is worse than an itch that can’t be scratched and you can’t find anything to spend your money on.  When you have money to spend and nowhere to spend it, it’s not uncommon to go back to the same watering hole and load up on what works.  This is how people wind up with too much of one thing and not enough of what they need.

This can also happen when you have an easier time finding some needs in the store and struggle to find what you actually are looking for.  I ran into this with cardigans a few years ago where I would be out shopping for tops, a task that seemed impossible, and kept finding super cute cardigans.  I wrote about this experience here.  Don’t get lured in by what you don’t need while searching for what you do.  You’ll wind up with an out of balance wardrobe.

You are splitting your wears

Splitting your wears is a phrase I came up which means to have multiple items in your closet that do the same thing.  If you have too many similar wardrobe pieces and not enough reason to wear all of them, you have diluted the value of each one and will be left with unworn clothes and less options.  This can also be a huge waste of money.

Going back to my nude pumps.  Let’s say I fell in love with a few pairs of heels simply because they were gorgeous.  Given my lifestyle, I’d get less value from each pair simply because my lifestyle doesn’t call for that many.  My wears would be split over several pairs of shoes and money would be wasted despite my closet full of options.

Before you load up on duplicate items in your closet, look closely at your lifestyle to determine how you spend most of your time and what your clothing needs are for these purposes.

 Duplicate items in your closet is highly personal

In the end there is no black and white answer to having duplicate items in your wardrobe.  For some people, the desire to have more than one of something comes from a desire for an easier to navigate wardrobe. For others it has more to do with function and lifestyle.  Determining what is right for you is what’s key.  With these tips I hope you will be able to pinpoint when it is smart to load up on and when it is smart to pull back.

 

  • Jaga

    Perhaps not “true duplicates” but i have found that the drape-over style tops work perfectly for me. I just feel comfortable and professional in these. I have 4 such tops. But they are from different brands and slightly different in style (long sleeve, cap-sleeve, asymmetrical…etc).They are also in 4 different colours. I thought someone at work might comment on this one day…but no one has caught on yet! 😉

  • Patricia

    Just clicked on the lush top you mentioned and it’s on sale for $27.90 at my local store. I’m going to go try it on today. Like you, I’m busty so always on the look out for something other than the standard top. Thanks for this post!

    • Yes! I got it on sale too! The ivory is a bit sheer but I just throw a tank underneath

      • Patricia

        I tried it on in black and also ordered in ivory. At that time, I’ll make a choice to keep one or both since they’re classic colors and style. It’s flattering on my larger-on-top frame.

    • LoriM

      I have four of those – 4 different colors! Wear them mostly as tunics, but they tuck in easily, too.
      And hm, they’re down to $27!!!! Maybe it’s time for another color. Of a dupe color…

  • Sisty

    Do tell what brand the chambray shirt is. Like you, I’m busty and have a horrible time finding button down shirts that don’t gap. Like sticking with a pants manufacturer once you find one that suits you perfectly, finding a shirtmaker you can stick with would be a joy! (I had a similar experience with a cotton jersey James Perse button-down shirt I found at TJMaxx a few years ago — perfect fit, got stain on it, and by some miracle found another one on the rack).

  • Deb Durham

    I just love Majestic tops so when they go on sale, I buy one for my closet and one “in the trunk” where I keep off-season clothes in my garage. That way when the original starts to show wear and tear I have a replacement at the ready.