Wardrobe Ethnography – What’s in your closet?

Wardrobe Ethnography

The study of people’s accumulated clothing in their wardrobe.

Wardrobe Ethnography is a way to understand people by simply looking what’s inside of their closets. It reveals consumer behavior such as why people buy certain styles and patterns. It also reveals character traits of a person and certain beliefs and values of a person.

My Wardrobe Ethnography Test:

How many items do you have (shoes, jewelry, bags, and clothing)?

Clothing: T-shirts = 23, Blouses = 19, Skirts = 5, Pants = 4, Jeans = 5, Dresses = 18, Jackets/Blazers = 11, Kimonos = 4, Vests = 3, Jumpsuits = 2, PJ’s = 7, Loungewear = 8, Swimwear = 6

Total Clothing: 115

Shoes and Accessories: Shoes = 16, Bags = 9, Scarves = 25, Jewelry = 42

Total Shoes and Accessories: 92

According to Closet Maid in 2016, the average American woman has 103 items of clothing in her closet. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3564177/The-struggle-real-Infographic-reveals-average-woman-103-ITEMS-closet-laying-REAL-reasons-never-wear.html

How often do you wash your clothes and how do you wash them?

I wash them weekly with basins and then hang them on the balcony to dry. 

What is the oldest item in your closet and how old is it? Why do you still have it?

My purple peacock kimono given to me from my grandma as a souvenir from her many travels to Japan. I’ve had it since I was about 8 years old so it’s 19 years old and still in immaculate condition. Though it doesn’t fit around me anymore so I wear it open and wear the belt as a head band or necklace.

What is the newest item in your closet and when was it purchased?
A taupe kimono blouse. I purchased it secondhand at Toy Market in Nairobi in April 2018.
How often do you purchase new clothes?
Three times a year.
How often do you donate old clothes?
What is the most sentimental piece of clothing in your closet?
My purple peacock kimono given to my from my grandma as a souvenir from her many travels to Japan. I’ve had it since I was about 8 years old. 
What percentage of the items do you wear regularly?
If an item is ripped or torn, what do you do with it?
I use my sewing kit to sew it back together. In some cases, I modify it so that it looks that way on purpose. 
What color dominates your wardrobe? Why?
I pretty much have an equal amount of every color but I wear black and gray the most.
What percentage of your clothing is made of patterns or bright colors?


Describe your top three favorite outfits.

1. Light-wash, ripped jeans that are frayed at the ends with a black scoop-necked t-shirt tucked in and my charcoal colored Mahatma Gandhi quote, sleeveless, transparent blouse over it. The blouse has two slits on the sides so that it favors an Indian-style tunic blouse. I like to accessorize with my black and pink floral tie-belt which I wear as a necklace tied in a bow. The shoes are my black velvet sandals with one strap below my toes and one strap around my ankles. 

2. High-waist, dark-wash, denim skinny jeans with a white v-neck, sleeveless blouse, and either my maroon floral kimono or my purple peacock kimono. I like to wear my brass Ethiopian cross necklace but I shorten it so that the bottom cross hits the v of the neckline. I also wear my brass Egyptian ring. The shoes are my black velvet sandals with one strap below my toes and one strap around my ankles.  

3. Black, ripped jeans that are frayed at the ends with an over-sized denim blouse and a black scoop-necked t-shirt over it, tied into a knot on the side. I like to wear my black paper bead and lava bead necklace with it and my brass Egyptian ring. The shoes are my black velvet sandals with one strap below my toes and one strap around my ankles.  

My Wardrobe Ethnography Findings:

Travel Effects:

My wardrobe is based on my travels. I’ve lived in three different countries within the last two years so I’ve had to make drastic changes to my wardrobe including how I care for the items.


My wardrobe is eccentric. I modify my clothing items and wear things differently than how they were made to be worn and I mix and match new things on a consistent basis because I get bored with what I have.


I reuse and fix things when they become ripped or torn. It’s difficult for me to throw clothing items away. I also have a deep attachment to certain items because they represent different moments in life for me, much like a photograph.

What does my wardrobe say I value?

I believe it says that I value different cultures. The items I wear represent different cultures of people from the styles and symbols and patterns and textiles. I have items that represent Egypt, Ethiopia, Japan, India, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, the Cherokee Tribe, Nepal, Guatemala…just to name a few.

It also says that I value individuality. I’m always changing how I wear things and not necessarily using a dress as a dress or a belt as a belt. I like to experiment and see what looks good together and what looks like me. I often buy secondhand because more than likely no one else will have it. One time while in undergrad, I bought a black and white vertically striped blazer, before it was popular, at a thrift store. It was the most outlandish thing I’ve ever bought but I wore it occasionally when I went through my Janelle Monae phase.

What’s in your closet? What does your wardrobe say about you? Comment below
with pictures of your closet and what you believe it says about your values.

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