Earlier this year, I started a new feature in which I review my purchases a year later to see how well (or not) they have worked out for me. Although I periodically reviewed past purchases previously, I got the idea to review things from a year ago from Mette of “The Yogastic Shopping Planner” (see her most recent edition HERE). Sometimes my purchase updates will cover just one month (as my last one did – I bought a lot in April 2015), but most of the time they will encompass two or three months – or even longer, as was the case with the 2014 review I published last week.
Today I’m going to look back at the items I bought from May through July of last year. Those were fairly moderate shopping months for me, so it made sense to cover them all together. I will share some basic numbers, let you know what I still own, and reflect on which purchases were good and bad and why. I’ll close this update by encapsulating the lessons I learned from reviewing the items I purchased a year ago. I hope that reading this update will inspire you to take a look at your purchases from a year ago to see how well they’re serving you. Taking the time to do such a review can be quite eye-opening and is well worth doing.
The Basic Numbers – May through July 2015
Let’s start this analysis with a few basic numbers (undergarments and sleepwear are not included):
- Items Bought During May 2015: 3
- Items Bought During June 2015: 5
- Items Bought During July 2015: 11 (the month of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale…)
- Total Items Bought May through July 2015: 19
- Items I Still Have: 13
- Items Returned: 3
- Items Purged: 3 (this includes one item that was lost)
The photo below shows all 19 of my May through July 2015 purchases.
What I Still Own
Before I explore which purchases were good and which were less than ideal, let’s look at what remains in my closet today. As I mentioned above, I still have 13 of the 19 items I bought in May, June, and July 2015, which is just over two-thirds (68%) of the total purchases from those months. Here’s a snapshot of those pieces that have stuck around:
What I Returned and Why
Three of the items I bought during May through July 2015 were returned for refunds in later months:
All of these items were Nordstrom Anniversary Sale purchases from last July. Here are my reasons for returning the three items pictured above:
- Black draped collar jacket: This was a cute and comfortable jacket, but I ultimately chose to return it for two reasons. First, it only looked good when worn closed and I like to be able to wear my jackets open. Also, it looked a bit too dressy for my skirt and dress ensembles and I felt it was too short to pair with jeans and trousers.
- Blue striped open cardigan: This was probably one of the most comfortable garments I’ve ever tried on. I love the way it felt, but the color and print combination just wasn’t the best for me. I have quite a few printed tops (mostly stripes, as you might guess), so a solid cardigan is a better bet for me. If this cardigan style is part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale this year and is offered in a solid that I love and is flattering on me, I will very likely pick one up. If nothing else, it would be perfect for wearing at home on cooler days.
- Dark wash pull-on jeans: I really wish these jeans would have worked out, as the pull-on style is quite comfortable. Sadly, the length was off by close to an inch. I thought I might have been able to make them work or stretch them out when wet, but I decided not to risk it. I really wish more jeans and pants styles would be available in tall sizes.
I want to point out that these were not the only purchases from a year ago that I returned. If I return pieces within a given month, I don’t include them in my accountability updates. Most of the returns I do happen shortly after my purchases are made. Since I order quite a few things online, it’s to be expected that some of them won’t work out. With e-commerce purchases, I don’t feel that I have fully committed until I’ve tried them on when they arrive. Even though I read online reviews and consider what I order fairly carefully, there’s a large margin of error when buying online. I accept this as part and parcel of this type of shopping. It may be annoying, but it can’t be totally avoided.
What I No Longer Have and Why
Three of the items I acquired last May through July are no longer in my wardrobe – one bracelet, one pair of jeans, and one t-shirt:
Here are my thoughts on why I don’t own these pieces anymore:
- Black studded bracelet: I loved this bracelet and enjoyed wearing it, but one day I came home from an outing only to realize that this beloved piece was no longer on my wrist. I tried to retrace my steps, but wasn’t able to find it. The snap must have come undone at some point. This happened around one month into getting the bracelet and I was very sad to lose it. It wasn’t expensive, but it’s not easy to find such a bracelet that fits my small wrist well. I do hope I’ll be able to replace it sometime this year. I have two other black bracelets and wear them all the time, and I feel there is space for another black bracelet in an alternate style in my jewelry box.
- Light-wash boot-cut jeans: I bought these jeans during an online sale because most of my jeans were too loose after having lost some weight (most of which I’ve since regained). These jeans were the same style as my existing pairs, but they had virtually no stretch in them and ended up not being comfortable enough for me. They were only worn a few times before I passed them on. Luckily, they weren’t expensive, but I still should have returned them when I realized the difference.
- Pink print t-shirt: This shirt was also bought on sale shortly after purchasing a turquoise version (shown below) the previous month. I thought both tees would be good for wearing at home and on walks. Unfortunately, the pink tee didn’t fit quite like the turquoise one, despite the fact that they were supposed to be the same size. In addition, that shade of pink was not the best color for my complexion, as it was too “dusty.” I never felt fab in it, so it left my closet after only a few wears.
The Good Purchases
Now let’s take a look at the good purchases I made a year ago. These nine items have all served me well over the past year and I’m still happy with most of them today:
Of my purchases from May through July 2015, I consider 47% of them to have been wise buys. The tops are all comfortable knit pieces that are in my defined color palette and work well for my casual lifestyle. The two pairs of shoes have already made it into wardrobe “all-star” territory and were among my best purchases from last year. The vest was a bit of a “wild card” in that I hadn’t worn such a piece in many years. I hesitated to wear it at first, but it’s now one of my favorite items. It looks great paired with my casual long-sleeved and short-sleeved tops and adds great visual interest to a simple ensemble. It’s another one of my best purchases of 2015.
The only one of my “good purchases” from last year that I haven’t been as thrilled with is the magenta tee. While I’ve worn it many times, it hasn’t washed as well as the other three tees I bought at the same time (striped, white print, and green). It now has a few snags in it and has been relegated to either at-home wear or as a layering piece only. I still consider it a modest success, however, as its cost per week is under a dollar at this point. Still, I think it should have lasted longer than just one year.
Here are some photos of outfits that feature my good purchases from May through July 2015:
On the Fence…
I’m on the fence about four of my purchases (21%) from a year ago in terms of whether they were good purchases or not:
- Black straight-leg jeans: After finally purging the black jeans I wore into the ground since 2007 (!), I really needed to find a replacement. These were the tall version of the black jeans I had bought in April last year and returned because they were slightly too short. The problem with both these and the other pair is that they are just too high-waisted and thus uncomfortable for me. I have a tendency to “settle” when it comes to pants because they are just so hard for me to shop for. I’ve worn these jeans a few times, but usually don’t reach for them. I still would love to find my “holy grail” of black jeans, but these aren’t it!
- Denim jacket: I see many great casual outfits on others that include a denim jacket, so I wanted to have one, too. This was probably the fourth or fifth denim jacket I bought over the course of two years (most were returned, but one was purged because I couldn’t remove a chemical odor that irritated me). It’s definitely the best denim jacket of the bunch, but I haven’t worn it much. I only like it with dresses and skirts (it’s too short with pants and I don’t like the double denim look anyway) and we had a very hot summer last year such that toppers weren’t usually needed. I hope that I’ll have more occasions to wear it this summer and that it will become a closet “all-star.”
- Lavender workout top: This was a duplicate of a turquoise workout top that I liked a lot. As with the pink tee I wrote about above, the fit is not the same as the original. This top is just too long and hits me at an unflattering point. It’s also not really my best color in that it’s a fairly pale pastel. Why didn’t I just return it?! I can’t try to shrink it, as the shoulders might end up being too tight afterwards. I’ve considered having it shortened, but that might be “throwing good money after bad” (see my thoughts on that issue here). I wear it occasionally, but usually reach for the turquoise version if it’s clean and available. It’s so frustrating when items that are supposed to be the same size vary so much! It’s also frustrating when tops are too long on someone who’s as tall as I am!
- Turquoise tank top: Can you handle yet another version of the same tired story? This tank is supposed to be the same size as the cobalt one I included in my “good purchases” above. However, it has a snugger fit that’s more obvious given its lighter color. I feel self-conscious in it because it makes my bust (which is already larger due to menopause) look bigger. I know some people would love to have that “problem” or have it much worse than I do, but I’m used to having a smaller chest and felt comfortable that way. I’m finding that I don’t like to wear my tops as tight as I did in previous years, so I don’t plan to purchase any more ribbed tanks in the future. I’ll see if I end up wearing this tank top this summer (our warm weather has just started this week).
Two of these items (denim jacket and turquoise tank top) are pictured in outfits below. What do you think? I actually like the outfit on the left, but the top is tighter on me this year since I’ve regained some of my lost weight and my hormones are all over the map. I know it’s hard to see the fit of the denim jacket due to my crossed arms, but I couldn’t find any other photos that included it (I don’t take photos of all of my outfits). If you have insights on these pieces, please share them with me.
What I Learned
I like to close out these purchase updates with a few lessons I learned by looking back on what I bought a year ago. Here’s what I see as the key lessons from my May through July 2015 purchases:
- Be careful with “duplicates.” Two of my purged items and two of the pieces I’m on the fence about were supposed to be duplicates of existing garments in my closet. It often seems like a “no-brainer” to either buy another color of a loved item or to order a replacement online for something we love. However, sizing can be very inconsistent, as can fabrication. When I saw that my duplicate versions didn’t fit or suit me as well as the original versions, I should have returned them! I also need to be careful with color and not buy anything that will end up washing me out.
- Never settle, even with hard to find items. Yes, it’s frustrating that it’s taken me a long time to find good black jeans, but now I have an expensive pair in my wardrobe that I don’t love and rarely reach for. It would be far better not to have a pair of black jeans now than to feel guilty every time I see the “less than” version hanging in my closet. If I don’t absolutely love something and can’t wait to wear it, I should either not buy it in the first place (ideally) or return it to the store once I realize I’ve settled for second best.
- Don’t cling to the same styles year after year. I’ve long been a fan of fitted tank tops, but they aren’t as comfortable or flattering as they used to be. My body is changing, as are my style preferences, but when I look in my closet for tops to wear with skirts, I’m mostly faced with a sea of ribbed tank tops that I’m not as excited to wear anymore. If I would have stuck with Mo of MOderate Wardrobe’s “rule of three” for avoiding oversaturation, I wouldn’t be in this pickle. I really need to stop buying the same types of pieces over and over again and instead integrate new styles and silhouettes into my wardrobe when I shop (I also need to buy less, but we already know that!).
Why Review Your Purchases
I firmly believe that the time we take to track and analyze our wardrobes is time well spent, especially for those of us who are working to overcome compulsive shopping and “closet chaos.” You may not photograph all of your pieces like I do, and you may not remember exactly when you bought something. However, you probably have a good idea of how long something has been in your closet. Guess if you need to, but look at what you bought roughly a year ago and see how you feel about it today.
- Do you still love it? Did you ever?
- Is it being worn regularly? Why or why not?
- Would you buy it today?
- What lessons can you learn from your purchases from a year ago?
Many of us often spend several hours or more trying to find the perfect item online or in a store. So why not invest a little time to review how well you did with your shopping after a year or more has passed? Analyzing your purchases may not be as enjoyable as shopping, but in the long run it can save you from having a closet full of clothes you don’t wear, as well as inflated credit card bills!
I hope you found this post both interesting and helpful. I also hope it has motivated some of you to do purchase analyses of your own. If you do, I’d love for you to share what you learn!
Now it’s your turn to offer your thoughts and insights.
- Have you ever done a purchase analysis? If so, what did you learn?
- How do you feel about the clothes, shoes, and accessories you bought a year ago? How many have become wardrobe workhorses versus “benchwarmers”?
- How many of your May through July 2015 purchases would you buy again today?
- How do you ensure that you make fewer mistakes when you shop?
I invite you to share your practices and methods so we can all learn from each other. Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with my June 2016 “useful links” installment (see previous versions here) and more posts on shopping, wardrobe management, personal style, and living a fuller life.
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