Replicating Success, Avoiding Redundancy
During my appointment this weekend, the issue of replication vs. redundancy came to the fore. We've all had that moment when we feel in a bit of a rut - only to realize we've bought essentially the same perfect gray tee shirt, like, thirty times over. Replication is an excellent and essential strategy for building a satisfying wardrobe, because the best predictor of future success is past success. But too much of the same thing can lead to boredom, clutter, and a far reduced return on the wardrobe investment (e.g. when you bought enough pieces for 5 outfits but only effectively generate 1 outfit). But how can you tell the difference between replication and redundancy?
One Control Variable at a Time
The easiest rule of thumb is to only replicate one stylistic element at a time - be it color, silhouette, or item type. For example, if you're over the moon for a new red shell and decide to make red a signature color in your closet, it would make sense to maybe add a red cardigan or a red button front shirt - not another red shell. If you have fallen in love with a tunic and want to wear them more often, try varying the fabrics so that you maybe end up with a dressy tunic as well as a casual tunic.
Use a Formula
Another strategy I love using with my clients is to distill their favorite look into a head-to-toe formula. The elements of the formula will be different for everyone based on how they think about their image, but the key is to break it down into the elements that are most essential to you feeling the most like your authentic self. For some people, this will mean creating a formula based on body proportions, as shown in the Polyvore above (a boxy top with a long, flared pant). For others, this might mean a formula based on color (like monochromatic tones plus one accent color). Still others might require a formula to express a very specific point of view (like all classic garments with avant-garde jewelry). In any case, using a formula will help force you to see variables as... well, variables - which will then help ensure that you have enough variety and versatility.
Quit While You're Ahead
Most people (especially women) enjoy enough variety in their outfits that they don't need too many versions of the same thing. If you have just 4 versions of a button front shirt, you have enough stock to wear a completely new version every single week for a month. This leaves little room for other variations like blouses, sweaters, shells, knit tops, tunics, turtlenecks, and so on. Having too much of the same can be boring, and people often find that they prefer the original version the best, anyway - and in the case of shoes, wearing the exact same footbed every day can be physically harmful. Definitely beware of the temptation to buy every color sweater a store offers simply because you love the black one.
Last but not least, there is absolutely nothing wrong with repeating an entire outfit! In fact, remembering and recording a successful outfit is a fantastic way to be ready for a frantic morning before it happens - you go right in and replicate your favorite look, and you're out the door. I don't know how our culture ever got so enamoured with excess that repeating looks gained a negative connotation, but demanding a whole new look every single day is a crying shame. I say, wear those clothes over and over until they get worn out - that gets you the best ROI and also makes sure you are wearing your best looks every single day.