Review: 30 Wears App

This is an unpaid and unsolicited review; I just wanted to share my experiences after using it for two years since it’s been so helpful in getting a handle on fabric and pattern purchases and the number of garments I sew.

TL/DR

Thanks to this lovely little gizmo, I now know that I should think about making 2-3 pairs of pants (jeans, leggings, work, whatever), 1-2 skirts, one pair of shorts, a sweater/sweatshirt, and a couple each of short- and long-sleeved tops in any given year. Basically, a garment a month, and the purchase of one piece of fabric a month. Yay for numerical targets and indicators!

Proof

The 30 Wears app is based on an idea that, to be sustainable, you should only purchase (or in our case, make) a garment if you believe you will wear it at least 30 times. There’s a lot of things that can interrupt that, of course: you get pregnant, you lose or gain weight, or say a global pandemic sets in and you spend two years working from home in a completely different kind of wardrobe. And then also gain weight, because you spend most of your time sitting down and avoiding people now.

This was my experience: I downloaded it and started to use in January 2020, and three months later, well, you know what happened.

It’s still been hugely helpful.

The app has basically two functions: you  enter your clothing items in the ‘wardrobe’ tab, classify them as to what kind of piece it is (top, bottom, dress, etc.) and attach a photo to it; and then in the ‘wears’ tab enter which pieces you’re wearing on any given day. The wears are tabulated and you can then see how often each piece of clothing has been worn.

The first and least surprising thing I figured out was that I had no need for tailored wool pants while working from my couch with a small dog who sheds everywhere all the time and whose fur form soft fluffy burrs that can only be removed from any textile with the most persistent effort. I didn’t need the app for that, but I did spend the spring and summer of 2020 making clothes more appropriate for my new ‘office’: leggings, elastic-waistband shorts, loose shirts that are nice enough near the neck to Zoom in, you know the drill by now.

I Have How Much Clothing?

The next thing I learned was from simply logging things as I wore them: I have a LOT of clothes. More than I would have guessed. I have currently 33 bottoms, 56 tops and nine sweaters in the app (I’m not going to count dresses since I’ve worn them so seldom that most aren’t logged). Some of those are office wear that made it out of the house a few times in early 2020 and not since, and of course there’s seasonality to consider: ‘bottoms’ includes skirts, work pants, leggings, shorts, and jeans, and ‘tops’ includes t-shirts, long-sleeved, blouses, tunics, and concert tees. Still. It’s not exactly minimalist.

I Am Terrible At Guessing What I’ll Actually Wear

This is my favourite part of the app: you actually have a hard number attached to how often something gets worn, so you can’t fudge to yourself about how useful or practical something is.

I mean, the leaders aren’t surprising: since March 2020, leggings and loose shirts! Look at those numbers. 

But I had no idea how often I was wearing my first mimosa, since I had it in my head that the looser style wasn’t really ‘me’ and I didn’t wear that kind of shirt much. Surprise! I earned it out faster than any other top.

I thought the blue floral blouse was something I wore ‘all the time,’ that the renfew with ruffles was something I ‘hardly ever wore,’ that I would get a ton of wear out of the yellow bow-sleeve tee, that I would probably never wear the pink ruffled blouse after making it as a pattern test, that I never wore looser short-sleeved shirts and there was no sense in making any: wrong on all counts.

I thought the black rayon shorts were ‘just’ a tester version, that I would probably not often wear the scrappy jersey shorts as they were so silly. Also wrong.

It Takes a Really Long Time to Hit 30

Now that I have numbers, I know that when working from home and not seeing humans, I really do wear leggings “all the time,” and thus I earned them out faster than any other make. It still took most of a year for the two pairs I made to hit 30 each. I also managed to get past 30 for the three sweaters/sweatshirts I owned prior to the pandemic, but I only have nine such shirts. For tops, my old mimosa is the only one to have passed 30–in two years!–though some others are close.

It Is So Great to Have These Numbers

Knowing what I’m actually wearing and how often has been so helpful in figuring out sewing plans.

I know I’ll wear leggings All The Time For Real and that they will be earned out in a year, at least until I’m back in an office full time (if that ever happens); I know I will wear sweatshirts and sweaters A Lot. I know that Jalie’s Mimosa is something I really will wear All The Time, and have consequently made three, though with scrap fabrics and to fill that “I never wear loose t-shirts” gap that existed in my wardrobe. Since I had numbers attached to how often I wore leggings, I felt fine about getting nice fabric to make two more (which have since both passed 30 wears each). Aaaaand since I know I already have a surfeit of nice, woven tops with interesting details, I can resist (sadly) the temptation of making more when something interesting shows up in my Burda subscription.

This is much more useful than Me Made May for this purpose. It’s all year, all seasons, all events, purchased and handmade.

Why 30?

So, look, it’s not like the app zaps you with an electric shock if you don’t hit 30, and you can always choose another goal. I like 30, though:

  • Every bit of fabric, used or not, takes time, fertilizer, resources, energy, and human labour to grow, harvest, process, weave, print, dye, ship, store, sell, etc.
  • Every garment I make takes time for me to sew

If you assume you wear a garment for about 12 hours in a day, then 30 wears is 360 hours of wear. Given everything that goes in to any garment, 30 seems reasonable to me. You could pick a different number.

But what I want to avoid is a situation where I put, say, fifteen hours of my own labour, not to mention the human and environmental costs of producing the fabric, into a garment that I wear for only 30 or 40 hours. That seems like a terrible return on investment and not particularly sustainable. The app is giving me actual numbers I can use to plan.

The Plan

To sew, on average, one garment per month, with obvious exceptions for things like “going back to the office full-time” (though I went through my closet and I still have enough work pants that fit that I really don’t need to right away) or “changing size” etc.

To not buy more than one piece of fabric per month, on average, and to favour knits as I wear them more.

To favour the fits and styles of those garments that hit 30 wears fastest.

To take more time with the garments I do make, through things like making creative use of leftovers, adding embellishments and embroidery.

I feel pretty good about this, and it’s something I’ve fallen in to more or less without thinking about it, as I keep using the app and figuring out the numbers and their implications. My stash has never been smaller and it’s required no self-control. I haven’t bought any patterns since before the pandemic.

There was this sense, before, that I was often serving the sewing rather than the sewing serving me: I had lists of patterns I wanted to make, a huge stash of fabric to sew through, and it became a whole other to-do list, and often a source of stress and guilt. All the money I was spending on fabric and how hard it was to manage and store, and the feeling that I couldn’t! keep! up! for something that was meant to be a hobby. It was neither healthy nor fun.

It is nice to feel like sewing is a hobby again, rather than a punitive list of projects I need to make quickly in order to justify the financial outlay for the fabric I’ve bought, regardless of whether or not those projects have a chance of being worn much beyond the initial photo. If that’s not where you are, and the whole ritual of purchase-pretreat-store-dream-destash-repeat brings you joy, and you’ve never felt the twinges of guilt or regret that I’ve had over the money I’ve spent and the environmental costs of fabric production and shipping, then this might not be of much value to you.

But if you have, this has been a very helpful tool for me.

6 thoughts on “Review: 30 Wears App

  1. I have a spreadsheet – without the pictures, that I’ve just started running the third year on, so I have cumulative totals for those three years, a daily count of what I wear, with more and more automatic counting and using the spreadsheet tools. It’s fascinating actually seeing what you actually wear, compared with what is sitting in the wardrobe. Lots of which I have no guilt about as much of that is stuff I’ve had for years, wore hard when I was at work every day rather than at home. and am pretty sure they’ve mostly had their 30 wears (or they are second hand, from the charity shop, so even if I only wear it a few times, it’s better than buying new).

  2. Fascinating, and I should try it. I may even do it. Just FYI, in 1991 I went with my family to visit our daughter in Zimbabwe. While I was there I bought a pair of loose cotton trousers. I am still wearing them. Do you know the joke about the ladies of Boston? When asked where they bought their hats, they sniffed and said, “We HAVE our hats.” Conservation, yes indeed.
    I love hearing about your wardrobe, although I miss that fantastic yellow dress you danced in. Ah well, maybe someday again.

  3. I’ve been playing with the idea of tracking what I wear, but haven’t reached a good solution. In the past I’ve tried using a spreadsheet, but it quickly turns overwhelming. This app looks like a good tracker, unless there’s a limit on how much clothing you can put in there (I have too much!). Guess it’ll take a while to fill, as I plan to add the items as I wear them, no mass-photography here. And yes, working from home do affect what I wear.

    Great review!

    1. I do the same–add a garment when I haven’t worn it before. At this point it’s an app that takes about ten seconds a day to click open, click what I’m wearing, and then close. I don’t think there’s a clothing limit, but I make no promises. 🙂

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