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Why You Have Nothing to Wear and What To Do About It

A closet full of clothes but nothing to wear … why does this happen, and what should you do about it? Keep reading to find out!

I’m Jen, a reformed shopaholic turned minimalist and simple living advocate. BUT before you roll your eyes and click away, know that I love fashion and believe getting dressed can be a fun way to express yourself. 

The key is finding that elusive balance: a closet full of clothes that look AND feel good. (And if you can do it without wasting a ton of money on clothes you never wear, all the better!)

If this resonates, stick with me. Whether you’re interested in embracing a minimalist wardrobe or not, I’ve got some tips to help you understand why you have nothing to wear and, perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.

"Why You Have Nothing to Wear and What To Do About It" on a black overly with a picture of a woman looking at a capsule wardrobe in the background

Why do I have lots of clothes but nothing to wear?

The number one reason you have lots of clothes but nothing to wear is that there’s a massive difference between what you admire on a hanger (or someone else) and what you genuinely enjoy wearing.

This is why you ‘love’ that dress when you see it in a magazine, on a shop mannequin, or even your best friend. But it never feels right once you buy it and bring it home.

I was guilty of this for years. I have a soft spot for vintage fashion (my pulse races when I see tea dresses from the 50s paired with cute little cardigans), and I used to have a closet full of them. And yes, I would wear them occasionally, but they never felt ’me’.

There was always a lot of resistance to getting dressed, and it’s almost like I had to force myself to wear certain outfits—which didn’t make sense because I loved the style!

But now I know why.

You can love something in the same way you’d love a piece of art in a museum, but that doesn’t mean you want to hang it in your living room. 

There are, of course, other reasons why you have clothes you love but never wear. However, I genuinely think this personal style mismatch (between what we genuinely love and only think we do) is the number one culprit.

Some other things to look out for include:

  • Buying lots of items that don’t suit your lifestyle. For example, I love tailored pieces (shift dresses and pencil skirts are my personal favourites). Still, they don’t fit my lifestyle as someone who is self-employed and works from my sofa most days.
  • Buying lots of stuff that doesn’t suit your body. And to be clear, I don’t mean this from a fashion standpoint. I think rules are made to be broken, and any body can wear any item! BUT you aren’t going to wear things if they aren’t comfortable. For example, I really struggle with bloating, so a wardrobe full of tailored styles (see above) isn’t going to get worn.
  • You get swept up in trends. I am not anti-trend. Life is short, and it’s fun to try new things! But unless you enjoy wearing bold, quirky styles, embracing too many trends at once will leave you with a closet full of random items that don’t go together.
  • You don‘t have the right basics. This is the flip side of only buying trendy clothes — if you don’t have the right staple pieces, you have nothing to pull different styles together, and it’s hard to get dressed. (This is also a problem if your size fluctuates, but more on that in a bit!)

This sums up most of the practical reasons why we have lots of clothes but nothing to wear. But speaking as a reformed shopaholic with a long and complicated relationship with my closet, I think it’s important to mention one more.

Many people, especially women, wear their clothes almost like a suit of armour. If you wear the right outfit, dress in the latest trends, and shove your feet into the highest heels, then maybe, just maybe, no one will notice all the things about yourself that you don’t want them to see.

Maybe this resonates, maybe not, but either way, know this. 

If you are relying on your clothes to “fix” you somehow (especially if you’re comparing yourself to over-edited models on social media or in magazines), then there’s a good chance you’ll never feel happy with your wardrobe. This is because what you’re really looking for — self-acceptance, community, confidence, connection, love, and more — can’t be found in the back of your closet.

So be kind to yourself, practice a little self-love, and maybe seek out a therapist because all these things are actually as essential as a good closet cleanout.

Now, on to my practical tips!

How to create a functional wardrobe you love and wear

As I mentioned, I consider myself a minimalist and dress with a pretty simple wardrobe most days. But here’s the good news: You don’t have to be a minimalist, give up bright colours or your love of fashion in order to love your closet.

But you should start with wardrobe essentials…

YOUR wardrobe essentials.

Throw out any preconceptions about wardrobe basics or capsule wardrobes. Instead, think about your favourite outfits. What do you always wear on repeat (or what do you feel best in), and what’s essential to create more of those outfits?

For example, I love short, flowy dresses, which I wear with shorts underneath to avoid flashing everyone (ha!). They are comfortable on my stomach (see my above comment about bloating), show off my legs (my favourite feature), and are fun to wear. They work for my lifestyle, and I know I’ll feel good in my clothes.

Now, instead of reinventing the wheel every day, I simply repeat this style.

My “basics” are shorts and easy layering pieces, and a good chunk of my wardrobe is a collection of dresses.

This allows me to be minimalist without sacrificing fun and variety—in a sense, I have created a personal uniform, which is what I actually recommend for everyone.

If you enjoy fashion, you can still experiment with fabrics, prints, accessories and more. Still, the core of your wardrobe is tried and tested. This means you can pull anything out, feel good, and go about your day without stressing out.

Note: The key to making this work is focusing on what you genuinely love wearing, not what you think you *should* wear. Resist peer pressure; instead, think about how you feel in your clothes.

Also, you can update this core outfit each year for those who want to. For example, another one of my uniform styles used to be skinny jeans with simple tops tucked in, but I am gradually accepting that the wide-leg pant trend is here to stay.

But it’s a shift, not a rewrite. I know my signature style, and it evolves with the seasons, which means I get more wear from my clothes over the years.

Next, figure out what you don’t wear.

This is where we do a bit of closet decluttering. In the same way you figured out your closet essentials, you also want to put some energy into figuring out what you don’t wear. Are there specific colours, prints, silhouettes, waistlines, etc., that you just don’t find yourself reaching for?

If so, stop thinking that the next item you buy will be the exception. Of course, rules are made to be broken, but for the most part, there are certain kinds of clothes you like and certain kinds you don’t. Stop convincing yourself to wear things just because you see them on someone else.

Again, I say this with kindness because I’ve been there. When I browse Pinterest, there are so many styles that I want to wear because they look great on others. I want to be effortlessly cool in graphic tees and a leather jacket or ultra-minimalist in mom jeans and a black turtleneck. After all, these are the key pieces every woman should own (or at least that’s what the magazines tell me).

But honestly, it’s so much effort trying to keep up when you could just wear what makes you feel good instead.

The Simply + Fiercely Show With Jennifer Burger

The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW

Finally, shop with intention.

Once you create clarity, meaning:

  • You’ve got a few “go-to“ outfits that you love and can mix and match in different ways with different accessories, colours, etc.
  • You know what you don’t wear (and can tell the difference between what looks good on other people and what you enjoy wearing)

Then, you can shop with intention to fill in the blanks and or expand on your closet. (Although you might be surprised. Once you have this clarity, you might not find you need a full closet after all.) But regardless, use what you’ve learned to be discerning.

One of my biggest “ah-ha” moments was realising I could walk into a shop, love and appreciate all the new looks and styles, but walk away because I had such confidence in my own style.

I also think it’s incredibly powerful to recognise when enough is enough. We are so conditioned to always be shopping and looking for new clothes. Still, right now, the real reason you might feel like you have nothing to wear might not be because you don’t have outfits. 

Instead, you’re just not used to wearing things on repeat.

And look, I know it might feel boring at first. But here’s what I remind myself — I’d rather have a few outfits that I know make me feel good and wear them on repeat than always trying to squeeze myself into trends that leave me feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

Related Post: How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear

The One Day Closet Cleanse

If this article resonates with you, but you need help figuring out where to start, I invite you to check out the One Day Closet Cleanse.

The One Day Closet Cleanse is my closet decluttering program, but it’s so much more than that. I walk you through, step-by-step, how to do a wardrobe audit (so you can figure out the difference between your style and what you think you should wear!) and then help you create your unique Style Standard.

This helps you declutter efficiently and enables you to create outfits and shop with intention. You‘re clear on what you will wear and what you won’t—saving you time AND money.

With happy tears, I can say everything fits in my closet!!! I made it through that damn tunnel! Thank you and bless you for helping me conquer what seemed like an insurmountable task.” — Kristin after completing the One Day Closet Cleanse.

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