How to Avoid the Fashion Pareto Principle


Pareto’s Principle, applied to a woman’s wardrobe, essentially states that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Think about it. Isn’t it true? We all have items shoved into that dark back corner of the closet that haven’t seen the light of day in years. And our favorite items, the ones that get worn again and again, seem to wear out long before we’re ready to part with them.

Yet what do we do? We go shopping and end up with more of the items that fit into the 80% category. How do you get off this hamster wheel?

Well just like diamonds have the four C’s (cut, carat, clarity, and color) I’ve found that applying the four F’s (fit, feel, flatter, and friend) are key to avoiding the Fashion Pareto Principle.

So before handing over you credit card, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does it Fit?

Most of us would love all our clothes better if they fit perfectly. It’s one of the reasons why celebrities look so good in what they wear—-their clothes are often tailored to fit them just right. So does it fit or do you just love the fabric, the pattern, the style, etc.? If it doesn’t fit perfectly, are you willing to fork over the cost to tailor it? Or will it sit in your closet indefinitely?

2. How does it make you Feel?

We all know when we try on a garment and it makes us feel like a million bucks. We feel we can take on the world. We know we look good. Start setting your sights so that every item in your closet makes you feel that way by not purchasing even one more item that doesn’t.

3. Is it Flattering?

Not all of us were made to wear every trend that comes along. I’m petite and if you put me in a lot of ruffles, I look more ridiculous than Seinfeld in his pirate shirt. If wearing short skirts make you self-conscious or draws attention to your thick calves, pass. If wearing a Victorian blouse makes you feel (and act) like a little girl, pass. But if that 40s-style coat makes you feel like a princess or a celebrity, grab it and wear it with glee even if the 60s happens to be the season’s hottest trend.

4. Does it have a Friend in your closet?

There’s nothing worse than a Lone Ranger—you know that piece that you just love and never wear because you just haven’t found anything to wear it with or haven’t had an occasion to wear it to. I’m all for being creative—combining beads with jeans, different eras, different fabrics. Put some thought into how you’ll wear the item BEFORE buying it. If it’s something you’ll only wear occasionally, ask yourself if it’s something worth buying and hoarding now or if you can find something similar, for a similar price, when you actually need it.

At Zuburbia, we encourage you to buy quality over quantity and surround yourself with beautiful vintage clothing that expresses your unique self and will have a home in your closet for many years to come.

Just start applying these questions to your purchases, and you’ll find yourself complaining less and less that “you have nothing to wear.”

Mary Kincaid has been buying, wearing, and collecting vintage clothing for over a decade. Visit her website at Zuburbia, to shop in her online vintage clothing boutique and join an online community of vintage clothing lovers.

Copyright 2005, Mary Kincaid. May be reprinted in its entirety with full credit given to Mary Kincaid and a link to

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© Mary Kincaid 2006-2009