Stumbling on old abandoned computer files can be fun and insightful. A few years ago, I was exploring the idea of a costume specific portfolio and these were done as I was generating ideas. While I liked the overall layouts and style concepts, I never gained momentum on them because the design development process was still vague to me at the time. I was focusing on a final product and not the process that would lead me there naturally.
Even after gathering loads of reference, I was relying so much on aesthetics that I wasn't able to see how the costumes could have more story in them, and I was missing the mark on the most useful visual troubleshooting to present. In the end, it would've just read as a book of illustrations rather than an advertisement of concept and visual development skills.
If layout and presentation drive the process, you'll just end up with some fun eye candy. Someone might appreciate the aesthetic of the final work and ask to see more, but you can empower yourself more than that. You don't have to just rely on hope that someone will like your aesthetic taste.
Once I started letting the story and practical production needs drive every step of my process, things began to click into place. And every time I learn more about how a production works as a whole, I'm able to further clarify and refine that process. Things just lead into the next and the enjoyment of the process increases. It's pretty boss actually.
I feel completely blessed to be able to work as a professional artist/storyteller every day now, and I'm passionately trying to improve my process so that I can add clear value to everything I work on. Hopefully this helps someone out there who might have gotten stuck in a similar stage as I did :) There's light at the end of the tunnel.