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Do you have unworn clothes clogging up your wardrobe?

messy wardrobe

It’s been recently reported that shoppers in the UK own £10bn worth of clothes they never wear. Is it something you’re guilty of?

I resolved to avoid the sales this Christmas. With a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a hall cupboard crammed with clothes, shoes and accessories, half of which I rarely wear, I knew the temptation to add to this collection would prove too much if I hit the high street.

I gave in, eventually – escorting a friend to Marks & Spencer in her search for a winter coat. She didn’t find one. I did. A black, mid-length wool affair for an all-time bargain price of £36. I didn’t even know I needed it.

Room for more

What this does mean is that I’m going to have to find space somewhere for it to hang.

I’d like to say I’ll give my clothes cupboards a spring clean, perhaps donate a few garments to charity, take the ones beyond repair to a clothes bank or flog those complete with store tags on Ebay, but attempts to do that in the past have usually failed.

I’ll create little piles of clothes on my bed, give each item careful consideration and then, more often than not, put them back in the cupboard, sending just a small bag to charity. Most of those I put back don’t even fit or are so out of fashion that I’d look like a museum exhibit if I tried to wear them. Even so, I keep them – just in case.

The great unworn

I’m not unique. According to a new survey by Weight Watchers, 55% of the clothes in an average British woman’s wardrobe and 47% in a man’s are never worn, with 11% refusing to throw out or give away redundant clothes.

Added up across the country, women spend more than £5.4bn on more than 365 million items of clothing they will never wear. Meanwhile, men spend more than £5.1bn on more than 223 million unworn clothes. As the UK shopping population comprises about 50 million, that means the average person owns about £200 worth of unworn clobber each.

When asked to give a reason for not wearing items in their wardrobe, 30% of the survey’s respondents said ‘not fitting’, with 25% believing they would one day lose enough weight to fit into their old clothes. Another 8% said they were waiting for the clothes to come back into fashion.

All are reasons I identify with, but when I think about what I could do with that £200 I may have stashed in my wardrobe, I reckon I can afford to be a bit more ruthless with my spring cleaning…

Do you have clothes in your wardrobe that you never wear? What stops you from getting rid of them? What sort of items are most likely to go unworn?

What do you do with your unworn clothes?

Donate them to charity (69%, 800 Votes)

Keep them in my wardrobe (17%, 204 Votes)

Take them to a textile bank (7%, 77 Votes)

Sell them (3%, 32 Votes)

Turn them into rags (2%, 21 Votes)

Swap them with friends or family (1%, 16 Votes)

Bin them (1%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,166

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My problem is even worse than that. I am constantly buying new clothes and shoes and then when they arrive I put them away and continue to wear the clothes I was wearing anyway. It’s not good – and I don’t even want to think about how much money I am wasting. That’s a big part of me saving money – don’t buy clothes you don’t need!

I too will wear the same clothes until they are so worn that hey only fit for the rag bag I have one suit which I was made to buy when I got married decades ago ( it still fits ) I also have the shoes and shirt very rare worn since I change clothes but the same ones will last for years (indeed some have) Years ago I knew a man| ( an accountant so I remember ) who wore the same shirt until dropped off his back but changed the collar for a new one every day ( some shirts had detachable collars )Not a modern trend for men to wear the same sort of clothes all the time and make them last for ever I have wardrobe space for hire !!

Hmm, I’ve never heard of a detachable collar bishbut, so I’ve learnt something new there!

I am amazed that you can still wear your wedding suit- that’s great. When was the last time you had to wear it?

Detachable collars were the norm in the ’40s and earlier, I believe. Think they died out in the ’50s, but I do recall a Chinese laundry in our area where they seemed to do a lot of them.

It was common to have round leather boxes to contain collars (some were celluloid) when they had been washed and starched. Collar studs fixed then to the main shirt. I believe you could also get spare cuffs – indeed, prompted by this I find you still can http://www.rjwshirts.net/cuffs
I assume in olden days, detachable collars and cuffs saved washing (they didn’t invent detachable arm pit areas though) wherease now it seems to allow mix and match.

While on shirts, we needed several decent white shirts for a wedding and the friendly chap in a well known department store said “don’t buy ours, go to Ch….. Tyr…. in M….w. They had exactly what we needed – a great variety and in all shapes and sizes. But the strange thing was their pricing policy. Although they were all available ready made from their warehouse, if you bought 4 shirts they charged less than buying two – and they could be any mixture of style and size. It suited us as we wanted 7 – all at the “reduced” price.

Most of my clothes are well worn by the time they are disposed of, but I do have an accumulation of wooly jumpers that became forgotten about because they had been stored in plastic bags in suitcases to protect them from moths. I have invested in plastic boxes with close-fitting lids and stored these in the wardrobe so that it’s easier to see what is in stock.

I have quite a few pairs of trousers that no longer fit since my waist reduced by a couple of inches. But just in case I put weight on again…….
Why are they not called a trouser? Once, apparently, pantaloons were two separate leg covers (a pantaloon) tied at the waist, hence pair of pants, but did we ever have a trouser? I can’t visualise how that worked effectively around the nether regions but perhaps someone has a picture? Another explanation is that it is a plural word – like other two-part objects such as scissors, tweezers, but I don’t see one half of these having a similar function, glasses OK (monocle perhaps).

Half of a scissor would be a small sword? I was watching a silly programme at the weekend and they were using huge scissors instead of swords (it was a comedy).

I’ve never thought about trousers being plural.There are other words for trousers which are also plural; pants or jeans, for example. I suppose it’s because they have two legs. A one-legged trouser is not something that appeals to me, personally.

Some disabled people might find a trouser useful Alex, as they would a single shoe 🙂

It reminds me of a saying “you three are a right pair of no-goods if ever I saw one”.

What happened to slacks? When skirts, frocks, dresses and suits were the norm for ladies, slacks were the alternative for casual wear. Denim ruined everything.

In recent years I have started to receive scarves as Christmas presents. I don’t think I have worn a scarf since I was at primary school. A quick review of the scarf collection shows that they moths have shown no interest. Maybe if I put one next my coat I might get into the habit.

I would suggest you do try wearing a scarf when it is a little cool. I never did (since my university striped affair) until a member of my kind family bought me one, no doubt desperate for ideas. I now wear it when going out, even without a top coat, and find it quite warming. Just as we should wear a hat to prevent losing heat from an over-productive part of our body. I was bought a woollen (actually acrylic)) beannie hat for Christmas for when I spend days on an airfield, and thin gloves. Essential items of cold-weather wear.

I wore a wooly jumper and ski jacket during the Christmas break and the only time I felt cold was when standing holding a light while a young lady with small hands tried in vain to replace a headlight bulb on a poorly designed car. I wear a hat for sun protection but as long as I keep moving I don’t seem to feel the cold.

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I suppose the thin ones have a higher metabolic rate and others have a layer of insulating fat. What I don’t understand is why some have cold hands and don’t feel very uncomfortable.

I don’t feel the cold and neither does our eldest. My wife, OTOH, and our youngest both feel it.

Its the wind chill that makes you feel more cold. I often see elderly gentlemen walking about on a cold frosty morning wearing a jumper and no coat, some walking their pet poodles and I sometimes wonder whether they are trying to induce pneumonia as a means to an end! On the other hand, it could be due to all that BAT sitting around their upper torso that women have less of.

I do hang onto my clothes as I usually go for mostly classic designs that don’t date. I have a stack of woolly jumpers that I have knitted myself in the past which last much longer than the machine knitted ones you buy in the shops. I recently updated a two piece woollen tweed suit that I knitted about 35 years ago by replacing the worn out elastic at the skirt waist with new and then washed it in soft cashmere laundry liquid to refresh it, and it almost looks brand new again and lovely and warm! My weight has fluctuated in the past with four pregnancies so I have hung onto different sizes, along with wedding outfits (not mine, my children’s) for sentimental reasons and the jackets can still be worn with various dresses or trousers on formal occasions with matching scarf or jewellery.

It usually takes me ages to find and select something new and suitable
to wear, so for that reason alone I would prefer to choose something I already have that I know suits my colouring and shape and, more importantly, feels comfortable.

I believe living in over heated central heated dwellings does not help Have any younger people had to scrape the ice from the inside of the windows before they could see out I know many of us older ones had to do just that Are we now breeding a soft generation Put another jersey on my mother used say if I complained of feeling cold Turn the heating up that is the answer today

I see nothing wrong with being comfortable, and if that means using the central heating then why not – why avoid the available means? But adding a layer will add to comfort without using as much gas.

Hands up to that bishbut! I remember the lovely patterns the ice use to make on the windows in our unheated house. My father was usually first up at the crack of dawn to get the fire going in the breakfast room which used to just heat the water and one room . As young kids we bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire. When we were ill my mother used to carry buckets of coal up the stairs to light the fire in the bedroom fireplace to keep us warm.

I always had cold feet in bed that stopped me from sleeping so I would creep out of bed when everyone was asleep into the bathroom and fill the basin with hot water and soak my feet to thaw them out. Of course I never let on that my feet had been where they all washed their faces the next morning!

Many will have memories of things like that Beryl The good old days or ??

When we had a particularly cold snap in November last year I couldn’t find any scarves although I knew I had some. So I bought a couple of new ones [I have since found some of the old ones]. I am not happy with the new scarves though as they are far too long. They are designed for this ridiculous modern trend of putting them round your neck like a double noose. I like a scarf to go once round the neck and then across the chest – one side over the other – and tucked under the arms thus providing an extra couple of warm layers under the top coat or anorak and over the upper body which faces into the wind. I also like a top coat or anorak to have enough length to cover the hindquarters adequately as a chilly draught in those regions can be unpleasant. I have a range of hats of all types from bowlers to beanies but prefer a flat tweed cap for warmth and protection from the rain. My ears get cold but I cannot bring myself to get a trapper hat or any other style that has ear flaps. A small extra scarf around the neck plus the coat collar turned up helps. I remember as children we had a scarf tied over our heads and then topped with a bobble hat; very sensible really.

I resist wearing hats, and will not wear any that cover the ears. But in 2010 when our temps bottomed out at -15C for more than two weeks, I did dig out my old uni scarves and found them very useful.

It’s my ears that get cold rather than my head or neck. My waterproof coats have hoods and I sometimes put up the hood to keep my ears warm.

I have four waterproof coats that are no longer waterproof, thanks to washing. I use them when it is windy but dry and the oldest one is kept for gardening duty. I have tried various waterproofing products to no avail.

You need to re-proof outdoor gear about every 4 -5 months and we use Nikwax TX-Direct Wash-In – a wax-like elastomer – which works perfectly but you do need to either tumble dry the clothes or iron them lightly. That gives the best results.

Thanks for that, Ian. I treated two coats with Nikwax several months ago. I wonder if it’s too late to iron them. 😟 Last time I used it I did have a tumble dryer.

Get an Indesit dryer to create a lot of warmth.

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I never usually wear scarves but my mum knitted me one this winter and it’s very good, although it does go narrow in some parts and wider in others. I was very grateful on the couple of occasions that it snowed in the past months.

Thermal underwear – long pants and a vest – are hidden away and extremely sensible when it not only cold, but windy. I am told in the olden days people covered their upper bodies in goose grease (or similar) and then added layers of newspaper. Has anyone tried that? 🙂

Which? could test cold weather clothing – from underwear to hats scarves and gloves – for everyday use, not just “outdoor pursuit” clothing. Trouble is we are so conditioned to sitting in warm cars and making a dash for a centrally heated building we’ve forgotten how best to deal with the great outdoors.

I did a lot of mountain climbing and walking some years ago and used to employ the layer system; two thin items of clothing work better than a single thick one. But when climbing you don’t seem to get that cold. It’s when you stop, or when you start a descent that things can become dodgy, to use a technical term.

A bit of activity makes all the difference. You probably won’t feel cold walking for a bus but standing there waiting can be unpleasant even when well wrapped up.

Years ago when I helped on a milk round it was when is cold you could move faster to keep warm but when its wet all you could was get wet and did

Currently in my house we have rooms ranging from 7C to 18C as we have do not have central heating – and no plans to fit any. Therefore we dress for the weather starting with the thermal underwear and add and take-off as necessary.

I am sure Which? at one stage did do a survey of Damart etc, and of electric blankets, and with people struggling with electricity bills perhasp it needs to provide some useful advice.

Hi Patrick, we’ve got this advice on how to keep a warm and healthy home:


We do also have reviews on electric blankets etc, as well as advice on how to cut down energy bills.

For me, if my feet are cold then I find it very hard to warm up, so my personal tip is woolly socks!

I am afraid the quality of the article is poor. It is recent but for at least two years I have been pointing out the benefits of air exchange units. A Which? staffer reported on the effectiveness of the Drimaster in her very damp house last year. This is not mentioned directly despite it being a cheap and sensible permanent solution.

Dehumidifiers are a poor solution for excessive moisture. ” A dehumidifier can help cure damp issues.” – It can remove moisture but it is in no way a cure for the underlying problem.

Also not mentioned is the existence of the humidistat connected extractor fan which is so very useful for shower and bathrooms. They have been around for a couple of decades and work until the humidity is down to reasonable levels unlike extractors working on a timer or lighting.

The exchange circulation rate necessary for healthy air is not mentioned, nor the effects of excessive moisture, or carbon dioxide on human health. This report is quite useful

It references high CO2 levels – as in an indoor pollutant and here is the underlying research:

As for the electric blankets there are eight tested in 2011 and the number of complaints about the Which? Best Buys suggest that the area needs some more work or at least research to see how many are in members beds and the complaint rate. Curiously Which? lists all the eight brands/models coming to the market in January 2011 which seems unlikely.

If I am not wearing an item of clothing it does soon find its way to the charity shop. After retiring 14 years ago I tend to wear short-sleeved shirts most of the time so I have quite a collection of long-sleeved shirts, most in good or very good condition, that rarely get worn, yet I cannot part with them. They do come in handy when going out for the evening or to meetings and semi-formal occasions where a jacket and tie are worn but I think I have too many. Since I have always preferred plain shirts with no stripes or patterns they will last for years so on that basis they will remain in the wardrobe.

Trousers tend to go through a cycle of wearings depending on how smart they remain; eventually they are used for DIY or gardening work until the point where one more wash would be a waste of detergent and pressing time, and then they go in the bin. Jackets are more problematical as I tend to like them for ever. I still have a dark green corduroy jacket that I haven’t worn for over thirty years but I still like it, it still fits, is in good condition, and looks OK. Perhaps I should bring it back into front-line service.

Some items only get an outing a few times a year like formal wear, blazers, leather coats, and heavy winter coats but it would be silly to discard them as their time comes round again at some point each year.

I have a number of suits which I wear fairly frequently but it seems almost impossible to find on the high street these days what used to be called ‘weekend suits’; all suits now seem to be dark or very dark grey or dark blue and I have enough of those. I’d like a couple of nice leisure suits for Saturdays and summer evenings without having to pay for made-to-measure or bespoke tailoring [if you can even find that these days outside of major cities]. It is possible again, at last, to buy country suits in heavier fabrics on-line, but you can only wear them in the country – which is fine for me – because they look ridiculous in town. That doesn’t matter much in Norwich, though, where anything goes and the more well-worn the better. A few barley ears sprouting from the top pocket and some baler twine around the waist add that certain je ne sais quoi.

I agree with you JW. My clothes go through the process new to rags and that can take a very long time indeed. My oldest item is a CD greatcoat dated 1952 – which I bought second-hand in the 1960’s.

Admittedly not worn very often at all now but who knows when I will have need of something sober for attending an Armistice wreath laying or a funeral. I always hope my black suit will always be little used.

Thankfully, funerals have evolved from sombre and emotional events to the celebration of a life, judging by the ones I’ve been to in recent years. I never did have a black suit and the dark grey one went a few years ago.

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I don’t know about reincarnation but unless money, greed and selfishness are unknown concepts in a future life, I don’t think I’m interested.

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I just don’t see the point of reincarnation if you come back as someone or something else. I do however believe your atoms and molecules return to their original source but wherever that is remains as elusive as does the vast expanse of the universal cosmos of which we are all very much an essential part of.

All the evidence seems to point towards the fact that, collectively we never seem to learn and historically the same mistakes are repeated over and over as Wavechange alludes to above. We have now reached a critical point where our own annihilation is a distinct possibility but mind games have replaced physical global warfare and are now the new threat to world peace.

I don’t see what all this has got to do with hoarding old clothes!

Nothing at all Beryl. 🙂 The Lobby is the place for this, and also for quite a few of my old clothes – coats the rarely have an outing, old shoes (for the garden perhaps), forgotten scarves and gloves and hats – why keep my panama with a split in the crown? Well, it might come in handy.

In any case, if you are reincarnated, none of your clothes will fit you.

Like all storage places (try my garage) we sometimes just have to attack it with a tidy up to uncover things that really should be consigned to the dustbin, or elsewhere. But, well, if there’s room, and they are not worn with holes, they might come in useful…. If only people would stop the practice of buying me a new new shirt, jumper, gloves, socks (no, they are always useful and odd socks are in fashion, well they are here) for birthdays and Christmases I might then make some headway.

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We are all different, Duncan, and I don’t think that anyone has suggested otherwise in this discussion.

My mother had Reynauds phenomenon and her fingers used to go black when very cold. My late son inherited the same condition and always carried a hand warmer in his pocket when attending football matches.

Our daughter took a firm hand with my wife’s clothes. My wife used to be a keen dressmaker. I had to take two loads to the charity shop. I think her wedding dress is still in the loft.
She then looked over mine and decided I could keep them….

From Weightwatchers January 2017 survey of 2000 people. Just goes to show how giving vested interest surveys away gets wider coverage. Picked up in FashionNetwork in January 2018 and Which? two days later.

Interestingly the definition of unworn is unclear other than ” New research out today reveals that 55 per cent of the clothes in an average woman’s wardrobe and 47 per cent of clothes in a man’s wardrobe are never worn”

Never is a very big word and to be honest I simply do not believe it. If I were told that 47% of men have an item of clothing they have never worn – that would be believable.

Basically I find a survey like this unworthy of serious thought as without more details it seems PR have been busy concocting something they can use for the undiscerning media.

And if you wish for more survey claims where the basis of the claim is dubious then look here and figure how many per city given a 2000 sample and presumably the rest of the country covered. Also bear in mind the spurious accuracy of the averaged figure.

The top ten cities or towns that are the biggest wardrobe wasters are:

Glasgow, 55 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £211 per person
Norwich, 53 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £212 per person
Birmingham, 53 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £217 per person
Nottingham, 53 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £214 per person
Sheffield, 52 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £226 per person
Edinburgh, 51 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £239 per person
Newcastle, 51 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £193 per person
Cardiff, 51 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £208 per person
London, 51 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £216 per person
Leeds, 50 per cent of clothing unworn, worth £226 per person

I was wondering if there is the elements of a game here. What question would you ask to get the responses provided.

For instance the answer is 47% was the survey question :
” How many of your clothes have you not worn in the last six months?”
” How much of your wardrobe has been unworn and was chosen by your wife? ”


Been watching Mock the Week, by any chance? 🙂

: )
… and I even buy the books!

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I wonder how many people put their unwanted clothes in recycling banks thinking they are going to charity for those in need?

Textile banks are big business making money out of our charitable donations.

Our unwanted clothes will get sorted and anything that is sellable gets shipped to places like Africa. The sorting company, the country receiver, then the market seller will all make money from them. Judging by a film I watched, the first 2 do very well out of it.

The downside of this is third world countries not developing their own textile and clothes industries that would provide much needed employment.

I no longer put anything decent in those recycling banks. I pass on what I can, the rest goes to a local charity shop that exists to support a local charity. Only worn out fabrics go into recycling banks these days that should be made into industrial cloths.

I have read that much of the clothing put in charity bags is recycled. It would be good to know which charities do sort out donations and ensure that as much as possible can offered to those who need it or at least sold via charity shops.

Before we moved five years ago we had a good clear-out and sent a large amount of clothing and accessories to two local charities which each have several shops – several large box loads. When I received the annual Gift Aid statements I was astonished to see how little was achieved by reselling what were all good-condition garments, some with top labels, most not out of fashion, and all in popular sizes.

I was so concerned that one of the charities was not doing justice to donors’ contributions that I wrote to the chief executive who sent me a spreadsheet showing what each article raised. In the first place the spreadsheet was far from complete and I had the suspicion that many items had been diverted away from resale. The prices obtained were generally in the £2 – £5 bracket even for the very best clothes that a year or two previously had three-figure price tags.

I think the charities get so much stuff they can’t shift it quickly enough so it is either marked down for a quick sale or sent to a textile trader at so much a kilo regardless of quality or style. I think we could have done much better selling the best clothes ourselves and giving the proceeds to charity. I wish now that I had kept an inventory of what we had consigned so that we could have challenged the results.

I think the basic problem is that there are far too many clothes in circulation for the population’s reasonable requirements so they mostly get dumped. If the charity shop workers were paid a wage the shops would be unsustainable, so effectively the system is letting down the donors, the workers, and people who cannot afford decent clothing but don’t get a full choice, only the cheaper, poorer-quality clothes that the traders don’t want.

Depending on the charity shop, workers might get first choice at the pickings and pay nothing or next to nothing for them. Perk for the unpaid perhaps?

If we sell our old clothes ourselves, how do we do it?

I did a car boot sale once, good quality clothes all freshly laundered and hung on a rail. Practically zero interest, I sold one item.

There is a second-hand clothes shop not far away, but they keep 60% of the sale price, and I consider that too high.

We could try ebay, but that is a flooded market and probably more hassle than it is worth.

So we donate items to a local charity hoping they make the best they can out of them.

I think that just about sums it up, Alfa – there’s no mileage in trying to sell clothes on-line or at a boot sale. My wife tried selling some clothes through a local dress shop but, as you say, the shop wanted too much and then didn’t sell everything so the charity didn’t get much more than if they had sold them through their shops.

The only answer is to buy fewer clothes and make them last. Wearing things once or twice only – or not at all – should be a social crime [unless they no longer fit, of course].

Is the answer to reject the idea that it is a problem to wear the same clothes repeatedly? Older men seem to have no problem in doing this. If you have clothes that you like and are comfortable, why not keep using them until the combination of wearing and washing them means that they are no longer fit for the purpose?

When moving home I found that I had several pairs of unworn shoes that had been forgotten about because they were in boxes at the back of a wardrobe. Now I keep all my shoes together except from a couple of pairs that are in frequent use, so I can see what I have and avoid buying more if I don’t need them.

I had that problem, Wavechange. I have discovered that I have more pairs of unworn shoes than worn ones. I found one pair in a box where the soles had become detached from the uppers! Shame, because they looked quite good, but perhaps they were a bad buy originally and would not have lasted long the way I wear shoes. All my shoes tend to crease badly and the welt splits long before they are no longer presentable. A few weeks ago I paid about £30 pounds to have a pair of leather shoes re-soled and heeled; two weeks later the welt split on the left shoe so no good in wet weather [plus looking a bit disreputable] so only good for the garden now. I am determined to get my money’s worth from that repair! I wouldn’t wish my old shoes on anyone, even if they live in the desert or the jungle, so they all go in the bin.

I can relate to that, John. Often I have spent money or time on sorting out one problem only to discover another fault. One of my cupboard finds was a pair of Clarks sandals, unused and still in the box. They had leather uppers and synthetic soles and the receipt showed that they had not been cheap when purchased five or six years earlier. I put them on with a pair of two-tone socks and within a day, both soles had cracked so badly that one had broken into two parts. In contrast I have two pairs of Clarks sandals of a different design and they have had a great deal of use in the past eight or ten years.

I have seen many examples of plastics that deteriorate irrespective of whether they are used or not that it would be difficult to predict durability.

Stitching can deteriorate on shoes and leather goods and just this evening I have had an old projector case fall apart without warning.