Sizing up the wardrobe - Why we keep clothes that do not fit

Elizabeth Bye, Ellen McKinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A wardrobe is the sum of clothing, both worn and unworn, that women consider each day to construct their visual self. While there is little practical reason to keep clothes that are physically impossible to wear, there may be other connections that prevent their discard. This study investigated reasons for keeping clothes that do not fit the current body and women's feelings about these clothes. Responses from forty-six women, 35 to 65 years in age, were collected using a web-based questionnaire. The women were clients of image consultants and contacted because of their interest in clothing and appearance. Participants described up to four garments in their closets that no longer fit, the reasons they did not fit, and their reasons for keeping them. Open coding was used to examine the responses, and generated four themes for keeping clothing that do not fit: Weight Management, Investment Value, Sentimental Value, and Aesthetic Object. The results suggest a process for separating the self from the garment and the garment from the closet. This process occurs over a variable period, may not be linear, and may skip stages. A model for the separation process from garments that no longer fit is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-498
Number of pages16
JournalFashion Theory - Journal of Dress Body and Culture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Divestment
  • Fit
  • Identity
  • Wardrobe


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