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Our style columnist Esther Walker explains how to re-focus your wardrobe and concentrate on the hero pieces


OK, let’s get real. The fact is that you only wear 5% of your wardrobe. Isn’t that the figure? Maybe it’s less, maybe it’s 0.1%. Sometimes I feel like I only wear 0.5% and the other 99.5% looks at me kind of sadly/accusingly when I pick out those shorts and that shirt, again.

“Why did you buy me if you aren’t going to wear me?” says that weird check blazer I convinced myself would go with everything. “Why do you string me along?” says the impulse-purchase ‘folk’ dress. “If you don’t love me, set me free.”

My friend Sebastian has the right attitude. He spends an hour every 2 January putting a little yellow sticker on all his clothes. The following year, any time he wears something he takes the sticker off. Anything that still has a yellow sticker on it come the next 2 January has to go.

This would cause me huge anxiety because it would really hold up to the light how little of my wardrobe I actually wear, and it would mean I would have to get rid of armfuls and armfuls of clothes that I want to keep because... why?

It’s a good question. Why do I keep things that I simply do not and will not wear? I’m worried that the answer might be that they make me feel secure – that if I opened my cupboards and saw only what I really wear (two T-shirts, one linen shirt, three pairs of jeans, one dress and a navy sweater), I would feel untethered to the Earth. I might literally float away and never be seen again.

But perhaps something else would happen. Perhaps it would be… freeing?

This summer, I made a point of taking very little away with me. Rotten Instagram has turned what ought to be a relaxing holiday into a fashion show-slash-photoshoot so I decided to reject it. I took one pair of shorts, one shirt, one sleeveless T-shirt, swimsuits and one dress. No high heels. A bag of clothes pegs so I could wash things and then hang them up somewhere to dry.

It felt a little weird, I must confess, but I had all my favourite things with me.

[Continued below]


The perfect dress-up,
dress-down piece
Team with bold sandals
for sunny days
This bag will take
you anywhere
Add an oh-so-versatile
denim jacket


“Look for something in a dark colour, or maybe a classic shade of red, that you can wear with your largest and most ugly underwear. Get it with sleeves and make sure you can machine-wash it.”


There was no time on the holiday where I had nothing to wear and I was unburdened by the guilty feeling that there were things I had brought with me that were going to go straight back into the suitcase, unworn. I was also unburdened by choice. If it was daytime, it was the shorts and one of two tops. If it was the evening, it was the dress with one of three necklaces.

You really do only need one dress. Once upon a time, everyone basically had two dresses unless you were the Baroness Elsa from The Sound of Music. There was one for every day and one for best. And the fact is that most of us, despite owning all these armfuls of clothes, only really have two outfits – one for every day and one for best.

For an entire year when my kids were small, I wore the same black dress every time I went out for dinner. No one noticed. My friend Jemima even challenged me when I said I had worn the same dress for a year. I changed my jewellery and my shoes, but not the dress. She

couldn’t believe it. “I’m sure I’ve seen you wear other things!” she cried. “Nope. Just this dress. Every time.”

People don’t notice! That is why for years we all got away with not really having to have any clothes, and people in the 1940s were able to pack using those little cardboard suitcases and didn’t need to have giant reinforced things that are so heavy they need wheels just for us to be able to transport them about the place.

Of course, if you’re only going to have one dress it’s got to be the right dress. No one buys a dress thinking, “I’m probably never going to wear this.” We all think that this dress is our forever dress. And yet, we get it home and don’t wear it for a year. To reduce the chance of this happening: look for something in a dark colour, or maybe a classic shade of red, that you can wear with your largest and most ugly underwear. Get it with sleeves and make sure you can machine-wash it.

Try it, you won’t look back.


Shop dresses    Shop new in


Try this super-comfy flowing style
Cinch it in with a leather belt
Extra points for stylish suede details
Gold hoops work with every outfit

Styling: Chloe Forde / Make-up: Karina Constantine / Hair: Ben Cook / Nails: Charly Avenell

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