How to dress with just six pieces

Photo by: JC Penney
Little black dress-
Stick to a simple silhouette and a length that falls just above the knee. The key is for it to be casual enough for work, but dressy enough to wear in the evening... more 
Photo by: JC Penney
Little black dress-
Stick to a simple silhouette and a length that falls just above the knee. The key is for it to be casual enough for work, but dressy enough to wear in the evening with heels. less 
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Thu, Oct 6, 2011 4:23 PM EDT
Getty ImagesGetty ImagesDuring this time of recession and "fast fashion" from stores like H&M and Forever21, many women in America are starting to evaluate their overstuffed closets. Trinny Woodall, the original co-host of "What Not to Wear," and "Making Over America," told that most women wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. In reaction to this excess and extreme consumerism, websites have been popping up that challenge women (and men if they're interested) to follow "shopping diets." All you really need, it seems, are six key pieces to form the basis of a reliable wardrobe.

[Read about: How to look great without breaking the bank]

The New York Times has profiled sites like, an experiment where each participant may only wear the same six garments over the course of one month. encourages pledges to not buy any new clothing for one year. Both sites have attracted over 100 enthusiastic men and women willing to participate. Humble beginnings, but they are paving the way for a greater understanding of our fashion culture as it moves forward. We all have and want more than we actually need, but why? Pressure to keep up appearances amongst peers, materialism channeled through pop culture, and retail therapy are all to blame. Recent decades fueled with credit cards also have us living far beyond our means. Yet somehow, with closets bursting with tees, jeans, dresses, skirts, pants, and jackets, we can never find anything to wear.

Rather than become the next subject of a "Hoarders" episode, we've come up with some helpful tips to help you purge your closets, shop more constructively, and properly access what you really should own. And for those interested in trying out the "Six Items or Less" experiment, we've selected six wardrobe staples that can easily get you through 30 days with the aid of accessories.

Here's how to purge what you already have:
  • Get rid of an item if it hasn't fit you in two years--except one dress and/or pair of jeans you aspire to wear again.
  • Eliminate anything you haven't worn in two years. You can make an exception for formal attire as long as it still fits.
  • Get rid of trendy items that you wouldn't want to wear today. Don't wait for it to come back into style.
  • Get rid of anything that is uncomfortable. You will always reach for the one that fits nicely instead.
  • Toss items that are damaged beyond repair. This seems obvious, but we tend to get sentimental about well-worn garments.
  • Don't keep something just because it was expensive. Sell it on eBay or to a resale shop if you're not wearing it.
  • Don't keep something just because it's pretty. Give it to a friend who may appreciate it more.

[Read about:Smart new tips to clean your closet]

When shopping, here's how to avoid bad purchases:
  • Don't buy something because it's on sale. When shopping ask yourself if the item is really "you," not if you're getting a good deal.
  • Don't go desperation shopping. If you hit the mall just because you have the urge to get something new or because you're in a bad mood, you'll end up overspending on items you don't need.
  • Think about what you already have. Don't spend money on duplicates or items that won't go with anything in your wardrobe.
  • Don't buy an item that requires alterations aside from a simple hem. It will sit in your closet, cost a lot to mend, and the result may not be what you want.
  • Don't jump on every trend. If you really love animal prints and can see yourself wearing a leopard coat five years from now, go for it. Otherwise pass.
  • Know what suits your figure. Is it showing off your assets and hiding your flaws? Just because something is in fashion, doesn't mean it's flattering on your body type. Spend time in the dressing room, and assess from every angle.
  • If you're not 100% sold on something, think about it. If you're still thinking about how much you want it, you can always go back.

Remember to donate gently-used items to charity if you are not reselling them, and stop being fooled by fast fashion that ends up ruining the environment by taking over junk yards. Once you have only what you need and love left in your closet, selecting an outfit will be less stressful because anything you put on will suit your body and style. What a great feeling that will be! [NY Times][CNN]

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