Resale Shopping – How’s That Working for Me?

Years ago, I used to love watching “The Dr. Phil Show.”  I had watched him on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and liked the no-nonsense, tough love approach he used with people.   One question he posed frequently to guests who kept doing the same things over and over again was,

How’s that working for you?

That question really cut to the heart of the issue.   We often keep repeating behaviors out of habit or because we’re not sure what else to do, but how many times do we stop to ask ourselves if something is really working for us or not?

Resale Hits and Misses

Resale Shopping

Are those low-priced items in resale stores really “good buys”?

Today’s post represents me doing just that.  For a number of years, I have shopped at resale stores.  I love the “treasure hunt” aspect of it and the possibility of finding something beautiful and unique at an amazingly low price.    Of course, I shopped retail, too.  Let’s face it; I pretty much shopped all the time and few shopping avenues were not on my list.   But in addition to being a general shopaholic, I definitely became a “resale-o-holic.”

I knew that not all of my consignment purchases were “hits,” but I thought it was worth the risk for the few major winners that I found and ended up wearing into the ground (such as the black skirt I wrote about in my guest post for “This Kind Choice”).   I continued to take my chances with secondhand shopping, doling out a few dollars here and there for the possibility of “striking it rich” and finding a wardrobe “workhorse.”

Crunching the Numbers

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that I am big on tracking my wardrobe and calculating various statistics about what I buy and what’s in my closet.   My wardrobe “benchwarmers” update earlier this week is a good example of that.   But can you believe that I’ve never taken the time to analyze the success of my resale purchases?   Maybe in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” I couldn’t handle the truth!

Well, I am ready to look at the truth now and I’m sure it won’t all be bad.   In this post, I look at my resale purchases for 2012-2014.   I analyze which items were hits and which were misses and what might be the common characteristics of both groups.   I also look at the resale “workhorses” that are in my wardrobe today.  Finally, I compare my consignment shopping with my overall shopping to see if there is a difference in my success and failure rate.   Lots of numbers – and quite a few pictures – ahead!

Words for Those Who Don’t Shop Resale

Before I move on, I want to mention a few things.  Those of you who never do any secondhand shopping may feel as if you can’t relate to this post.   However, the type of exploration and analysis I’m doing here can be applied to other kinds of shopping as well.  Perhaps you buy a lot of your wardrobe pieces on sale or from a few particular stores or brands.

It might be worthwhile to take a look at your success rate in those areas, as I am doing for my resale purchases.  You may find that you’re on the right track, or you may learn that you’re striking out far more often than you previously believed.  In either case, the information you learn will help you to move forward more powerfully and purposefully, which is what I hope to do as well!

The Basic Numbers

Let’s start with some basic numbers relating to my resale purchases:

  • So far in 2014, I’ve purchased 22 items from resale stores. This includes 13 garments and 9 accessories (3 pairs of earrings, 2 bracelets, 1 necklace, 1 belt, and 2 scarves).
  • In 2013, I bought 23 items from resale stores: 19 garments and 4 pairs of shoes.  I did not start tracking my accessory purchases until this year, but I know I bought at least a few pieces of secondhand jewelry last year, too.
  • While I don’t have all of my 2012 data, I know I purchased at least 49 resale items that year (44 garments, 3 pairs of shoes, and 2 purses). The actual figure is likely much higher, but I can only go on the data I could find today.

2012 Numbers

Now let’s look at my success rates for these purchases, starting with 2012.   Of the 49 items I bought secondhand that year, 43 are no longer in my wardrobe!   Many of those items were either re-consigned or donated after only having been worn once or twice – or not at all.   Looking at the image below, you’ll see that these items are all over the map in terms of color and style.   Many of them were impulse buys that were not appropriate for my lifestyle (hello, corporate blazers, fancy tops, and itchy sweaters).   What was I thinking?  Or was I?  I definitely didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was buying and I know I didn’t ask Bridgette Raes’ tried and true question,

Where are you going in that?”

2012 Resale Mistakes

These 43 resale items from 2012 are no longer in my closet.

I still have 6 of my 2012 resale buys and they have all been worn multiple times this year (none of them are “benchwarmers”).   Four of these items are tank tops, one is a skirt, and one is a cardigan. They are all in my defined color palette and three include my favorite pattern, stripes.  They all fit me very well, but four of them required fairly straightforward alterations, such as shortening straps.

2012 Resale Successes

I still love and wear these 6 resale items from 2012.

2013 Numbers

As I mentioned above, I purchased 23 resale items last year.  I no longer have 15 of those items, including three of the four pairs of shoes.   While some of these pieces were in colors and styles I liked, many of them were risky purchases.   Some needed too many alterations or were just “off” in terms of fit, fabrication, or color.

Looking at the photo below, I probably wouldn’t give many of these items a second look today.  I have a much better sense of my preferred style aesthetic and what does and doesn’t look good on me, so I’m far more discerning about what I even try on in a resale – or retail – store these days.

2013 Resale Mistakes

These 15 resale purchases from 2013 should have never been bought in the first place!

Only three of the items I bought at consignment stores last year have been worn multiple times and could be considered successes.   These items all include black and stripes, my dominant neutral and dominant pattern.

2013 Resale Successes

Only these three 2013 resale purchases have been worn many times.

There are also five 2013 resale items that I’m on the fence about.  The four garments were included in my wardrobe benchwarmer update.  The shoes have been worn twice this year, but I don’t consider them to be an unequivocal “hit.”  Most of these pieces are relatively dressy, which is the primary reason they haven’t been worn much.   Of these purchases, my favorite is the polka-dot cardigan, which I believe would have been worn this summer had the weather not been so unbearably hot.

2013 Resale Uncertainties

I’m on the fence about these 5 resale purchases from 2013.

2014 Numbers

Of the 22 resale purchases I’ve made this year, at least five have been mistakes.   The items shown below have either already left my closet or will soon (in the case of the blue jacket).   The issue in all cases was fit, usually in terms of being too large (but the blue jacket was too small in that the sleeves weren’t long enough).

I definitely try to “make things work” too much when the price is very low.  In the past, I would have made risky alterations on all of these items, but I only had one tailored this year (the grey skirt).   Of course, it would have been better not to have purchased any of these pieces in the first place, but at least I’m not adding insult to injury as often as I used to.

2014 Resale Mistakes

I should have never purchased these 5 resale items this year.  One was just bought last month!

In terms of good news, I feel that I made the right decision to buy the six items (3 garments and 3 pieces of jewelry) pictured below.  Yes, the top and the coat are currently sitting in benchwarmer territory, but I really love both garments and believe I will wear them in the future (read more and see photos in this post).

The velvet coat may not get worn often, but I feel it looks great on me and is a classic style.  The top is more versatile and I plan to wear it regularly once the weather cools down.  The dress was a recent purchase, but I really like the style, fit, and comfort level.  I believe it will be a winner.   As for the jewelry pieces, they are already being worn regularly.

2014 Resale Successes

I am happy with these six 2014 resale purchases.

Most of the ten items shown below have not been worn yet and were all purchased fairly recently.  The geometric print skirt has been worn a few times, but I’m not sure about it at this point.   I liked it when I styled it for a dressier outfit, but was less thrilled with it for casual looks.   I’m not yet sure whether I will keep it or pass it on, so it’s in the “uncertain” group.  I can’t categorize the other items until I wear them, as we often don’t really know how we feel about something until we spend more than a few minutes with it on.

2014 Resale Uncertainties
I’m not sure about these 11 items I bought secondhand this year.

Resale Accessory Success           

Although I’ve only been tracking my accessory purchases since earlier this year, I do have quite a few accessories that were bought at consignment stores and are serving me well.   The photo below shows some of my favorite secondhand scarves and pieces of jewelry.   Many of these items have been worn countless times and are loved as much or more than many of my retail accessory buys.

Resale Successes - Accessories

All of these resale accessory purchases have been successes.

Although I don’t have the concrete statistics to prove it, I believe that I’ve experienced greater success with buying accessories at resale stores over garments and shoes.   Of course, I still need to be careful not to overbuy in general or purchase too many similar pieces, but I believe that it’s far less risky for me to buy accessories at consignment shops over clothing.

Retail vs. Resale?

When looking at the information above, it might be tempting to conclude that I either shouldn’t shop at resale stores at all or I should confine such shopping only to accessories.   But without looking at how I fared with my overall shopping, we only know part of the story.   To fill in the gaps, I did a bit of number-crunching about both my resale and overall shopping.

2013 Numbers

Let’s look at 2013 first.  I bought 76 total items last year.    Of these items, 53% were successful purchases; that is, things that I still own and am wearing regularly.   On the flip side, 36% of my 2013 purchases are no longer in my closet and can be considered shopping mistakes.   Finally, the jury is still out on 11% of what I bought last year.   Those items are among my closet benchwarmers and will either be integrated into my wardrobe rotation soon or passed along via donation or consignment.

My 2013 resale statistics are clearly worse than my overall shopping numbers.  A full 65% of the consignment purchases I made last year are in the mistakes column, while only 13% can be considered successes.  The remaining 22% are in benchwarmer territory and will be decided upon shortly.   It’s clear to me that I would have been better off staying out of resale stores last year, as my track record was not very good!

2014 Numbers

Moving on to this year…  I am happy with two-thirds of the items I’ve bought so far and I’m only dissatisfied with 14% of my total purchases.   The remaining 20% have either not yet been worn (I bought a lot during July and August and the hot weather has prevented me from wearing these things) or are “on the bubble” at present, to be decided upon shortly.  I have done much better with my shopping this year than in all previous years to date.   Clearly, the work I’ve done through this blog has helped me to become a more conscious and successful shopper.  Of course, I hope to continue to improve my success rate and decrease my number of mistakes in future months and years.

As for the resale shopping I’ve done this year, my success rate has not been quite as high.   I regard 27% of my 2014 consignment purchases as successful, while 23% of what I bought were mistakes that have been purged from my closet.  The remaining 50% sit in uncertain territory, mostly because they have yet to be worn.

My plan is to wear and evaluate all of my uncertain pieces within the next month and decide upon their fate.  I no longer want to hold on to closet items for long periods of time without wearing them, as I definitely want to get the most mileage possible out of my wardrobe.  If I’m not loving and wearing something, I want to pass it along to someone else who will.

So What Now?

The numbers show that while I’m improving upon my shopping success overall, I continue to struggle with resale purchases.  I believe that’s because I still have a tendency to “settle” for the sake of getting a lower price.   I also tend to veer off-course and buy items that aren’t on my shopping priorities list when shopping in consignment stores.

Does this mean I should stop shopping in resale stores completely?  Some of you would probably answer that question in the affirmative, but I am not an all or nothing person.   I don’t like to lay down strict edicts on myself and my behavior.   I prefer to learn to use moderation in what I do.   After years of eating disorders, starvation, and restriction, I no longer go on diets and I don’t forbid myself from eating any foods (except those things that give me migraines).   Instead, I allow myself to eat whatever I want but mostly choose healthy foods.  Occasionally, I eat so-called “junk food,” and I indulge my life-long sweet tooth in very small quantities (such as one piece of dark chocolate each day).

My peace with food was hard won and took me many years to reach.  I’d like to reach that same type of peace with shopping.   I started my recovering shopaholic process with a number of goals and rules, but I’d like to start easing up on some of these and focus less time and energy on “policing” myself.   I’d like to cultivate a sense of moderation with the shopping that I do, and that includes resale shopping.  So I’m not going to forbid myself from setting foot in a consignment store from this point forward.   However, now that I have the numbers in black and white about my track record with secondhand buying, I’m going to proceed very cautiously.

I’ll likely make most of my purchases in retail establishments and only drop by a resale store once in a while.  When I do visit such stores, I’ll be extra mindful about what I even try on, let alone buy.   I will only buy things that will add something to my wardrobe and are rated at least an “8” on a scale of 1-10.  I won’t settle for less just because an item is priced to sell and the risk is low.   All of those little purchases add up and I could have bought at least a few high-ticket items had I just said no to those “close but no cigar” consignment buys from 2013 through to now.

In Conclusion

It was very useful for me to review and analyze my resale purchases, as I’m now armed with information I didn’t have before.  I can no longer delude myself into thinking that I don’t do all that bad with my secondhand shopping.  I now know the truth – and I can handle it!   Not only can I handle it, but it will help me to improve.   When we know better, we can do better, and I intend to do just that!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful.   If you’re not a resale shopper, I hope you were able to apply my analysis to some other area of your shopping.    Part of why I share the bad and the ugly as well as the good on this blog is to normalize it.  So often, people only share the positives with each other, such that we can end up thinking we’re the only ones who falter.  Not true!   We all make mistakes, but we can all grow from our foibles, too.  We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives, and can learn a lot from each other.

If you’d like to share what you’ve learned about your own shopping through analyzing your successes and failures, I invite you to do so.  If you have feedback for me, you’re welcome to share that, too.   Just try to be respectful (most of you are and I appreciate that) and remember that I’m still learning.  I’m still a recovering shopaholic on the path toward shopping less and enjoying more.   There is now light at the end of the tunnel and I believe that eventually I’ll be able to trade my full closet for a full life!


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Comments

  1. Really interesting post, Debbie, thanks for putting it together!

    What sticks out to me is that although many people laud secondhand shopping as a cheap, low-commitment way to try out new styles (I’ve thought of it that way in the past, too), in fact your biggest resale successes are items that hew very closely to the core of your style (stripes, black, etc as you noted above).

    I guess that’s a bit tautological, since you have also been working very hard to refine your style over the last couple of years, so of course the items that remain will be those that fit with what you’ve landed on (even if you might not have had the same conception of your style when you actually bought the items, if you see what I mean).

    Still, it’s interesting food for thought, especially for me as an avid thrifter. I’m not sure I have the ‘raw data’ to perform a similar analysis, but I do have a sense that as I’ve gotten clearer about what styles I like (and actually wear), and limited my secondhand purchases to things that fit those criteria, I’m getting more ‘hits.’ (I also just plain buy less.) in the past I’ve definitely bought things because they were cheap and seemed fun, only to realize later that they weren’t the sort of things I wore in practice. Cheap thrills, but didn’t really move my wardrobe forward as a whole.

    I do believe that it is possible to shop secondhand in a way that does contribute to a functional wardrobe, and it sounds like you’ve got some good ideas about how to do that for yourself!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very good observation, Sarah! Actually, you were the one who inspired me to write this post in the first place, after your comment/questions in response to my 2014 purchase analysis. I do think I fare better with my resale purchases when I adhere closely to the styles I know I like and work for me. I know that resale can give us an opportunity to try new things at a lower risk, but most of my purchases like that are misses. I plan to proceed in exactly the same way as you are and hopefully I will be more hits, too!

  2. I shop at a resale boutique that I live nearby and I love it! They always have new things and you can get killer deals. They are very fussy about what they take on consignment, so they always have nice stuff. I also take quite a bit of stuff there as well. They recently have a $2 clearance rack, some brand names with tags on! So I tend to go overboard sometimes! But same as you, I don’t always make the best decisions and buy just because it’s a “great deal”. It is the treasure hunt aspect for me as well. I think it would be so much fun to own a store like that someday!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Sounds like you’ve found an excellent resale boutique, Bella! I used to have a couple like that, too, but they seem to have lowered their standards (or maybe I’ve just raised mine – it’s probably a combination, actually). It’s hard to hold back in the face of prices as low as $2, but it’s not good to end up with a packed closet. I hope to be able to find some balance. I think it could be fun to own such a store, too. Perhaps too much temptation, though…

    • Bella: You are lucky that you have a good quality resale that’s very particular about what they consign. I once frequented an upscale resale shop in a well-do-to community where I worked. After I pointed out a “dribble” stain down the front of a designer suede jacket (soup or maybe gravy?) they accused me of creating the stain while shopping in their store just to get a few dollars discounted. (The cost of dry cleaning suede around here starts at $40, so a $2 discount wouldn’t have helped much, especially if the stain couldn’t have been removed.) I was so shocked at their attitude, I left never to return. I’d prefer a store to be very choosy and very careful with what they accept. However, the lesson I learned is that I need also to be very choosy and hyper vigilant wherever I shop — you can’t except the store personnel to point out the pull in the sweater, the missing button, then unraveling hem if you don’t see them. (I always do in my retail job and I really look over the garment before the sale. But I think I’m in a minority here.)

      • Debbie Roes says:

        This story still blows me away, Dottie. Sounds like the person who said that to you wasn’t a rocket scientist, so to speak. Why would someone intentionally stain a suede garment just to get a minor discount? I could see some people doing that with a machine-washable item, but I’ve gotten leather and suede cleaned and it’s not cheap here, either! I don’t blame you for not going back to that store.

        • It was a shock, but, in retrospect, perhaps my “accuser” was the person who took the garment on consignment and was “angry” at being caught being sloppy in her work. I dunno. When I asked her if she actually thought I carried a thermos of soup to spill on clothing I wanted to buy, she said “Yes” in spite of the fact that all I had to carry said thermos was a small cross-body bag. I left but so did another customer who was equally disgusted at the employee’s attitude. So much for the old saw “The customer is always right.”

          Not only have I not gone back to the store, I’ve told that story to at least 8 other people who have shopped there in the past. I don’t know if they avoid the store but at least they know to examine everything very, very carefully and, if possible, avoid the employee with the soup conspiracy theory.

          • Debbie Roes says:

            I wonder what the store manager would think about what happened, Dottie. Did you ever talk to her (or him)? I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy that customers are staying away as a result of an employee’s stupid actions. Of course, some managers will back up their employees instead of the customer, which is sometimes the right decision. But I really can’t see ANYONE shopping with a soup thermos (much less in a small cross-body bag) to finagle small discounts on merchandise!

  3. I found your blog when I realized I had a big problem with resale shopping. I don’t have firm numbers but I know I went from one closet full to two closet fills before it dawned on me I had a problem.

    Thrift and ebay shopping did allow me to try different styles that I might never have tried: pencil skirts, fitted jackets, and even dresses. It also showed me the value of higher quality brands like Talbots, Liz Claiborne, and Chicos. But I also wasted a lot of money on “great deals” that didn’t work out to be so great.

    This year I have scaled backed my resale shopping to ebay only. I have a very carefully selected list of items I will buy: handbags, scarves, necklaces, cardigans and dresses (brands and shapes I know will look good). I have made very few mistakes and many wonderful purchases.

    So I think resale shopping is a way to help discover your style. You just have to be willing to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Good comment about kissing the frogs, Anne. I shudder to think of how many I’ve kissed! It sounds like you’ve found balance with your resale shopping. Perhaps eBay is a better way to go, but I know people get into trouble there, too. It seems that having strict standards and sticking to trusted brands and styles is the way to go with either brick-and-mortar resale or eBay. Congrats on the progress you’ve made! I hope to be able to report something similar very soon.

  4. As you said, Debbie, I think it would be very interesting to apply this kind of analysis to different areas of our shopping. Resale shopping isn’t much of an option where I live (Thankfully! I know I’d make terrible decisions.), but it could be valuable to analyze my sale purchases or purchases made on holiday, or even purchases from a particular store. I’d like to be more aware of my buying patterns in different situations to help prevent purchase mistakes.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I definitely think it would be useful to do a similar analysis with those other types of purchases, Kayla. I think that many of us have buying patterns that don’t really serve us. I know I will be much more careful with resale shopping moving forward and may even stay away completely for a little while. I plan to tread lightly in any event now that I know the truth of how it’s gone for me. If you do an analysis like mine, I hope you report back on what you learned.

  5. You’re so clever to track as well as you do Debbie, and I love your honesty. You have bought some great accessories so that par tis obviously a win for you. I do a lot of resale shopping and I can be swayed by the quality of the item for the price and did end up with a wardrobe that looked great but didn’t quite fit my real life. Like you I am scaling back to trying to buy items that are right (tho it is a bit hard to give up the idea that I have an outfit suitable for being swept anywhere, because sadly that never happens)

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Yes, I was pleased to see I’ve fared well with accessories, Cathy. That was the silver lining of my analysis, I feel. Like you, I’ve fallen prey to shopping for a fantasy lifestyle. I don’t think I have any trips to the French Riviera in my near future, either! I have to face the fact that my life is very casual and that I shouldn’t buy dressy pieces that will just sit in my closet. I have to continually remind myself that it’s only a deal if I actually end up wearing it!

  6. I occasionally visit a favorite resale shop (just did so this week) when I am looking for something specific — it’s one of the shops I visit during the “research” part of my planning for a purchase. As with any other retailer, I go in, look specifically for the garment I need, buy it or not, then leave. I don’t troll the store looking for stuff to buy to justify the slightly out of the way trip I made to this shop. It’s way too easy to get seduced by the “low” prices of resale and overlook the garments defects — poorly placed buttons, uneven hems, scratchy fabrics, funny odors, etc. And if the garment is the wrong color for your palette or is too formal or too casual for your current lifestyle then it’s too expensive even if it’s $1. You can’t return at most resale shops, so if you make a bad purchase, you eat it. The key to successful shopping wherever it occurs is to develop a critical eye, be very choosy, and limit purchases to what you really, really need and really, really will wear. I think resale works best if you already know what looks go on your body (or you take a long a trusted friend who can help you decide what looks good on you); if you know what will successfully work with the items already in your closet; and if you have your color palette under control. My sister does extremely well resale and scores high end clothing for a pittance. But she shops exclusively within her color palette, she knows what looks good on her, and she stays true to her personal style. She is extremely choosy about fabrics, fit, constructions, and style. And she only buys what she will wear and wear immediately.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I think that I will follow your method for any future resale shopping I do, Dottie. It’s a good way to go for ALL shopping, but all the more important when everything is final sale. I think that’s the main reason why my resale track record is so bad. I make some mistakes with retail and online shopping, too, but I’m able to return those items and get my money back. Of course, I’m working to eliminate mistakes overall and to develop the critical eye you write about.

      • I stopped buying sized clothing on-line (except for shoes from those great retailers with free 2-way shipping, so smart) after I bought a dress for a wedding that I and the entire wedding party could have worn together. It was clearly a sizing or labeling problem and I got the retailer to provide free return shipping (it would have been $12 to use their “pre-paid” shipping) but they wouldn’t refund the initial shipping charge I had to pay to get the tent sent to me in the first place. So I paid $12 (plus my time) for a bunch of nothing. Another retailer to cross of the list!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          At this point, I will only buy things online if there’s free shipping, as sizing is far too inconsistent these days. I’ve definitely had some experiences like yours in the past, as well as ordinary instances in which I had to “eat” shopping costs for things that didn’t work out for me. There are quite a few retailers now who offer free shipping (if not always, then at least for purchases over a certain dollar amount or as a special offer), so I don’t bother with any who do not. Sometimes it’s sad, though, as there are some stores I like that charge high shipping costs. But I’ve been burned too many times to take that risk now.

  7. I’ve never gotten into resale shopping. I love to go into a store and have everything presented in a very orderly fashion. As in, same shirt arranged from left to right and in size order from 0-14. I do not enjoy at all having to hunt through a rack of haphazardly arranged items. I even start to get overwhelmed at large department stores. I used to love Talbot’s because of their quality and the way their stores were arranged. I’m hoping the quality will improve these days. As for moderation, I learned I have a hard time with it. At least in regards to food. I can’t “eat just one” of my trigger foods. Like tortilla chips, guacamole, anything chocolate, sweets, etc. So, for me, it’s easier if I just avoid them. I’m glad moderation works for you Debbie! I can see how much improvement you’ve made with your shopping habits. Great job!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I get overwhelmed at large department stores (and places like Ross and TJ Maxx), too, Kim. The only large department store I shop at is Nordstrom because everything is organized well and is neat. I don’t know why, but it bothers me less to hunt through racks at resale stores, but I often prefer the smaller such shops that are more like boutiques. As for moderation, it’s taken me a long time to get these with food. At first, I had to avoid certain types of foods and I still struggle with a few things sometimes (chips and guacamole is one for me, too). I hope I can learn moderation with shopping. It hasn’t been easy thus far, but I’m still hoping I’ll get there. Thanks for acknowledging the improvements I’ve made so far!

  8. I think leveraging what worked for you with your food issues to your shopping issues is a good idea. It’s progress not perfection.

    Although the resale things aren’t so expensive, they’re still jamming up your closet and impose a cost to you as you work towards to closet of your dreams. The hit/miss nature of resale encourages a buy it now mentality, and I can see how that’s hard to cope with.

    It seems to me that purchases like the heeled shoes and velvet coat are winners. Those are the kind of things that I wouldn’t wear frequently but would still like to have in my wardrobe for special occasions. Why pay a lot for something that isn’t likely to be worn constantly.

    I hope the weather will change soon so you can try your new things out.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your second paragraph is right on, Ginger. There are definitely “costs” beyond the financial, although I had some of those, too, since those resale purchases really added up over time. I agree with you that it’s good not to pay a lot for things we won’t wear very often. A lot of people do the opposite of this in that they spend a lot for formal wear and then buy everything else at low prices. I’m trying to spend more on my wardrobe workhorses and less on those once in a while items. It’s still very hot here, but hopefully sometime in October, I’ll have at least a few days when I can wear my new items.

  9. I started to go crazy in resale shopping because of the price. Over time I have refined my style, fabric quality, and color palette. It’s a learning curve. Now I only buy 10’s from resale in brands that I know will fit my body type and carry the quality garments my new standards require. Resale was a way to do this with only a small outlay of funds. I look at this as a cheaper than retail even though it took longer. I don’t whip my self for the mistakes, but I also don’t bring less than super wardrobe items into my closet. Since you have honed your style, shapes and colors that work with your current wardrobe, I think you will continue to improve. The thing I refuse to do is alter any so/so garments. I might consider purchasing a garment for the fabric to be totally remade but since resale is often gently worn, I weigh the life of the garment with the total cost. I agree that this analysis can be used with retail shopping. Also love that you are so open and accountable. Will you be doing this analysis for your online shopping too. I haven’t done any of this so far since I find ‘lovely on the hanger but not on me ” items all the time.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I hope to get to where you are now, Kathy. I do think I will continue to improve in terms of all of my shopping as I get clearer on my style and the types of things I want to wear. I think your policy about resale shopping is right on and well worth emulating. I have “settled” far too often with that type of shopping and you see where that got me! I don’t know if I will do this type of analysis for online shopping. I tend to only buy things online when I can get free shipping and be able to either return things locally or free of charge. I don’t make as many mistakes there, at least not ones I can’t reverse through returns (although returns DO still take time). I’m sure I will do other analyses, though, as I see things I want to look at and learn from.

    • I have gotten some good stuff at resale shops (shoes, especially) and the key is, as you stated, Kathy, to stick to what works for you: fabric, construction, shape, style, color. Same with E-bay, etc. I don’t like “no returns ever” or “in-store credit only” policies because if I make a mistake, I’d like to recover my $$.

      • Debbie Roes says:

        That’s probably the biggest thing I’m learning, Dottie. As I’m working to become a better shopper, I need to have the possibility of returning things that don’t work out once I get them home. Final sale is just too risky. I can see why resale stores have that policy, but it’s definitely a drawback for shoppers of such establishments.

  10. I don’t do resale shops really. I have 3 items in my entire wardrobe (2 of them canvas belts for jeans) that came from a thrift or consignment store. But I sure do eBay. And I can take some of these purchase lessons to apply there. I realized even a $9 deal ends up not worth it when you can’t return once you find it doesn’t fit. I made one of these mistakes this year on a graphic tee shirt. I spied one in someone’s outfit and had to have it and hunted it down online. Was WAY too small. Gave it away last week after 5 months of trying it on every so often and putting back on the shelf unworn.
    I do have a lot of luck on eBay, though, as well. The trick is being selective, knowing fit of items well enough, or getting precise measurements, and not getting caught up in a bidding frenzy.
    In the future I think eBay will only account for 25% or less of my wardrobe going forward. I still shop discount when I can, and don’t mind waiting a few weeks or a month to save on an article. I’m not a need it NOW kind of shopper and stalking is a great way for me to get the kinds of quality items I want at prices I can afford. The difference is buying what I wanted all along once it goes on sale, not buying something I never knew I wanted (because I really didn’t want it!) simply because it is on sale 😉

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I think one can do well with eBay and resale shopping, Mo, if she is smart about it and adheres to some practical rules. But it’s easy to get dazzled by low prices and the internal pressure to act immediately or potentially miss out. I think your plan for moving forward is a good one, especially since you sometimes do very well with eBay shopping. Stalking items can definitely pay off, especially since so many people aren’t willing to wait. Your last sentence is really key and something so many of us need to remember when shopping!

  11. I’m not much of a resale store shopper, my biggest offender is online retail shopping. I’ve made numerous impulse and mistake buys via online. It was a few days ago I went back to my credit card statements to tally up all my fashion related purchases. Starting from Aug 2008-now and saw the immense amount of clothing I no longer own from the long list of purchases made. My shopping addiction started in Aug 2008, peaked at 2012, slowed down at 2013 and 2014 leveled off to a manageable level. Basically the amount spent between 2009-2013 can pay for a small apartment! 85% of my current wardrobe was purchased in 2014, therefore 90% of what was bought the previous 4 years has been sold, given away or donated! Talk about understanding mistake buying patterns…

    • Debbie Roes says:

      How brave of you to look at your shopping going all the way back to 2008, Wendy! I know it’s tough to face such facts. I feel I wasted a lot of money, too. Congrats on the progress you’ve made since last year. That’s what’s most important because we can only move forward and can’t change the past. You’ve done a great job in turning things around and should be proud of yourself that you’re now buying at a manageable level.

  12. My thing is Ebay also. The biggest mistake that I was making was buying things that couldn’t be returned. There are many sellers now that will accept returns so I need to stick with them. Once I take those items out of the equation, my success rate is almost exactly the same as it is buying retail. I just make too many mistakes overall because I buy too many things. The months that I’ve bought less I think that I tend to make better decisions.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Not being able to return the things I bought resale played a big part in my abysmal success rate, too, Tonya. I make mistakes with retail shopping, too, but those usually get returned and I’m able to recoup my losses (at least the money, not the time). I think a lot of my mistakes relate to buying too much overall, too. If I buy less, my purchases tend to be more well thought out and fewer of them are mistakes.

  13. Hi Debbie!

    So many commenters have said things so well here that I’ll just add to them briefly.

    “I think leveraging what worked for you with your food issues to your shopping issues is a good idea. It’s progress not perfection.”–Ginger R

    “Although the resale things aren’t so expensive, they’re still jamming up your closet and impose a cost to you as you work towards to closet of your dreams. The hit/miss nature of resale encourages a buy it now mentality, and I can see how that’s hard to cope with.” -Ginger R

    “I do believe that it is possible to shop secondhand in a way that does contribute to a functional wardrobe, and it sounds like you’ve got some good ideas about how to do that for yourself!”-Sarah

    I’m one of those friends who is a little uneasy about those secondhand stores for you right now, as you might have guessed. But I also think that you have a keenly developed sense of what works for you re your eating disorder, so if you can use a similar thought process to help with shopping, that method should have a high likelihood of success. I’m rooting for you! But “you just have to be willing to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince!” –Anne

    And Dottie’s most excellent comment, that could be used as a mantra!: “The key to successful shopping wherever it occurs is to develop a critical eye, be very choosy, and limit purchases to what you really, really need and really, really will wear. I think resale works best if you already know what looks go on your body (or you take a long a trusted friend who can help you decide what looks good on you); if you know what will successfully work with the items already in your closet; and if you have your color palette under control.”

    This cuts to the heart of the matter: to do secondhand shopping well demands a pretty high level of shopping expertise, which is exactly what you are in the process of developing. It’s a little hard to watch, like watching a friend who is still learning to ski take on a scary slope after some bad falls. It can be done, but it’s risky and the price of making mistakes is high. Still, the choice belongs to you and not to any of us. Just don’t fret too much if a few of us wince from the sidelines. 😉 It’s just ’cause we care. And remember, we are rooting for you!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I loved all of those comments, too, Amy! I agree that Dottie’s comment could be used as a shopping mantra. It sounds so simple, but it definitely hasn’t been easy for me to turn my bad shopping habits around. Many of my mistakes are cringe-worthy for me, too, although I often don’t see them as the errors they are until later down the line. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say. These types of analyses I’ve been doing are very time-consuming, but I feel they are necessary in order to learn from my mistakes. I do hope to be able to shop resale successfully in the future, but I’m going to proceed very cautiously now that I know the truth of my low success rate. Now that I know better, I really do need to put my all into doing better. Thanks for your support and for rooting for me!

      • Cringe-worthy? Let me tell you my yellow wide-leg polyester pants (from the 70’s) were
        so much more cringe-worthy than anything I’ve seen you post here, Debbie. I HAD to get smart about shopping and spent a few years sorting through what worked for me and what didn’t. I’ve mentioned before that getting my colors “done” in the early 1980s was a tremendous breakthrough. While I had instinctively gravitated to some of “my” colors, I also had rounded out my wardrobe with clothes that would have been a “10” if I had gotten the color right. Fortunately, I found my way by trial and error in the pre-Internet era so most of these cringe-worthy errors are buried in the ash-heap of history (I hope!).

        • Debbie Roes says:

          I remember you writing about those yellow pants before, Dottie. If your coloring is anything like mine (and I think you’ve said it is), I imagine that wasn’t the best choice for you. Of course, the yellow wasn’t up by your face, but still. With my long legs, I think I’d look like Big Bird in yellow pants. Not a good look! I’m not thrilled with having some of my cringe-worthy choices on the Internet for all to see (although I haven’t shared my absolute worst outfits!), but if others can learn from my mistakes, it’s worthwhile for me. I hope that my number of cringe-worthy instances will continue to decline. It may have taken me a while, but I feel I’m finally beginning to “get it” and see the light!

  14. TexasAggieMom says:

    As another survivor of an eating disorder, this statement jumped out at me as if it was written in neon lights: “My peace with food was hard won and took me many years to reach. I’d like to reach that same type of peace with shopping.” Thank you for that priceless reminder and encouragement, as well as this entire post. I am envious of the accessories you’ve scored through resale – our styles are very similar, and those are all fantastic pieces that I’d love to have in my own closet! If any readers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area have any tips on local resale shops carrying that quality of merchandise, I’d appreciate the suggestions. The ones closest to me tend to feature what I think of as “yard sale” clothing – visibly worn, out of style, stained, etc. so I have drastically scaled back on resale shopping. Like several other readers, I have had some success shopping on eBay. For those hesitant to try it, you might check out Sally’s McGraw’s excellent tutorial: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/12/repost-how-to-shop-on-ebay.html, which taught me everything I needed to know to get started. I primarily purchase “NWT” (new with tags) items and only from sellers who accept returns. I have returned very few items and have gotten much better about identifying pieces I know will work. My best finds have been a unique Nanette Lepore cashmere jacket in my favorite color, a like-new pair of $400 Aquatalia suede ankle boots for $129, and several Tahari blazers and dresses. I have also been able to locate several coveted cardigans by Merona (a Target brand) that were sold out in my area in my size. Although I still struggle with my inability to stop shopping, I feel I am shopping “smarter” for the most part, largely due to the information, inspiration and support I find here. The ongoing closet purge is my big project for this weekend, and I’ll be referring back to this site and to Grechen’s frequently as I attempt to scale down to pieces I will actually wear that work together.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found this post helpful, TexasAggieMom. It seems we do have a lot in common. I really do believe that peace with food and peace with shopping are possible, but it can be a slow process to get there. As for resale shopping, yes I’ve done well with accessories, which helps to ease some of the sting of my poor clothing success. The resale stores near me aren’t that great anymore, although some of them used to be. I think that as clothing quality has plummeted overall, the resale offerings have declined dramatically. It seems like you do great with eBay shopping. I didn’t know that many sellers offered returns. I’ve mostly steered away from buying on eBay because I couldn’t try things on and couldn’t return them.

      Congrats on shopping smarter these days! I’m happy to have played a role in your growth. I love Grechen’s site, too, especially her Minimal Closet series (plan to link to one of her excellent posts in my useful links installment next week). Good luck with your closet purge this weekend! I plan to do some of that, too. I’ll send some positive vibes your way!

  15. Thank you Debbie for your insight and honesty! I don’t buy much from local resale shops. They tend to stock flimsy, bright clothing that appeals to teenagers. They also like flashy designer brands like anything with an LV. I buy lots and lots from ebay and from online designer consignment. I don’t make many mistake because I know my style and measurements, I just buy more than I can ever wear. Even if they aren’t mistakes, they really are because I just don’t need anything else. I am actually starting the new round of P333 just to stop myself from shopping. I was inspired by the Mama Minimalism video I shared with your last post and got rid of a lot. I was left with about 55 items and I have put 22 of those items away (I don’t count shoes in P333 because I have to wear different shoes everyday – I stand for 14 hours and can’t have shoes putting pressure on the same places day after day.).

    I went through my 30 clothing items I have decided on for now and this is how they break down: 1 item custom made, 8 items from online designer consignment, 10 items from ebay, and 11 items purchased from stores mostly at full price (J Crew, Nordstrom, BR, AT Loft).

    Here is another inspirational video from “Hello Cathy” an Australian woman who is doing P333 and has some interesting words on shopping. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwv7YQmZxs8

    At about 1:20 she says, “I had a feeling like I was never really satisfied – there was always more stuff I wanted to get. There was always a sense of “if I just get these few pieces then my closet will be complete and it will all be over.” But that never happened for me.” The way she talks about shopping, minimalism, etc… was helpful to me.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      You find the best videos, Leah! Thanks for sharing “Hello Cathy” with us. I watched a few of her videos and really enjoyed them, especially the one you linked to. You made a really good point in your first paragraph: “I don’t make many mistake because I know my style and measurements, I just buy more than I can ever wear. Even if they aren’t mistakes, they really are because I just don’t need anything else.” Yes, even too many of the RIGHT things is still a problem! Congrats on the positive changes you’ve made recently and for taking on Project 333. You’re done an amazing job on paring things down. Best of luck with Project 333 – please let us know how it goes for you!

    • Thanks for sharing that video – I could relate to everything she said.

    • Thank you for this video, I truly loved it. I see so much of myself in what she was talking about!

  16. I’ve returned a total of 11 items this month. All of them were on sale. I seem to see a bargain and go a bit bonkers and buy handfuls of things. Just today I saw a cardigan I liked and thought why not get one in grey AND blue? To go with my current 2 grey and blue cardigans???? Madness!

    I also had a thought about that blue jacket – it’s a very soft shape, all rounded edges and your body shape is more angular and straight lines which is why you look good in stripes I think. Plus the sleeve length which you’re not keen on. Angles and lines look great on you!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Good job on the returns, Saltbox! I know it can be hard to resist low prices. I’ve been there myself many, many times, as you know. I love your cardigan story and it resonated with me. I hope you left those duplicates in the store! Good points about the blue jacket. I think I could seduced by the color and brand name. Seeing the photo of me wearing it (that I posted in my purchase analysis) convinced me it wasn’t right for me. I swear it looked better in the mirror at the store – maybe it was one of those “skinny mirrors” that Elaine in Seinfeld railed against! I think I’ll stick to the angles and lines and say away from the rounded edges and soft shapes. They tend to work much better for me overall.

    • Ah! This jacket has bugged me from the first time it was posted here. I thought it was the one-button floppiness and the too-short sleeves that I didn’t like. But Saltbox is right — it’s the rounded lines that “fight” you. Let it go (sounds like a song I’ve hear recently….).

      • Debbie Roes says:

        I put the blue jacket in the consign/donate pile last week. The photo I posted showed me it wasn’t the best look for me, but my husband sealed the deal with his comments. He didn’t like the “big lapels” and he thought the jacket looked a bit “O.L.” (old lady). He can be blunt sometimes, too, but I want him to be. I never wore the jacket outside the house, but it may have been worse to post a photo on the Internet of me wearing it!

        • Good for you – and now I know your husband and dottie agree too I don’t feel so bad mentioning it 😉

          • Debbie Roes says:

            Don’t feel bad at all, Saltbox. Sometimes things don’t photograph well, but this jacket just wasn’t right on multiple levels. I don’t know what I was thinking by buying it. It looked good at the store, but the lighting is bad and the mirrors aren’t very good, either. I do think it was a case of liking the color and the brand (Nic and Zoe, which may be a Nordstrom brand – I always see that brand there) and not paying enough careful attention to fit. Live and learn (I hope)!

  17. Deborah (Deby) says:

    I agree with Saltbox, that blue jacket did not fit you well and was too fussy looking. It was also of a style that was popular about 2-3 years ago. Because it reflected a quick trend and not a classic style that stands the test of time, it now looks a little dated, when in fact, its probably just a few years old at most. (In fact, I just sent a very similar sweater jacket in the same color to a resale shop because when I tried it on recently, it looked too “last year”!).

    The only thing I ever buy at resale shops is vintage Coach cross body bags (and I am currently on the lookout for a red one from the mid-90’s). The clothing I see in resale shops has three problems for me: 1. If its of the quality I find acceptable, its usually too small. 2. Much of the clothing, whether it fits or not, often looks like last season’s trend– because it is. 3. I see too much flimsy throwaway fashion, which does not appeal at all.

    I no thrill of the chase in a resale shop. The racks usually look like a hodgepodge of colors, styles, and patterns with visual coherence, even though they arranged by size and category of garment. I have come to prefer shopping in a store or department where I can easily see coordinating pieces. After spending too much time, gas and money trying to coordinate garments from disparate sources, I have come to appreciate this small thing…!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I do think it’s best to buy more “timeless” styles at resale stores, Deby. The problem is that I don’t see such items there much anymore. I’m seeing much more “fast fashion” trendy pieces in such shops these days, which is decreasing my desire to want to shop in them. I can see the value of buying items such as Coach cross body bags in resale stores or other such timeless pieces. As you can see from this post, I’ve had better luck in buying accessories secondhand. I didn’t realize how bad my track record was until I wrote this post. My retail purchases have been much more successful, so that’s where I’m going to focus my future shopping efforts. I may visit a resale store once in a while, but I think the thrill is gone for me, for many of the reasons you mentioned.

      • Deborah (Deby) says:

        I just took a bunch of winter things to my local resale shop, and while I waited, I perused the racks. They were over run with “fast fashion”, stuff that I wouldn’t even buy new! This particular resale shop has also glommed onto the trend of offering huge statement necklaces with plastic gems. The visual cacophony of the flamboyant jewelry and the fast fashion mix was almost too much to bear! However, they seem to like my more classic garments, and that’s all I care about!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          My local consignment store usually takes my clothes, too, although they put them in a section they called “Wear it Well.” The nice way to describe that section is “classic clothing,” but one could also call it the “old lady section.” But I’ll take “old lady” over the kind of cheap crap you described! That’s mostly what my store is carrying now, too. I rarely see anything I like there anymore. I used to have to use a rolling cart with a rod on it to collect my items to try on. Now it’s usually just a few things, if anything. I think part of it is that I’m getting more selective (but still not selection enough!), but it’s mostly that they’ve changed the type of merchandise they carry.

    • I consigned some older Coach bags at resale, include a red one, at the Soup Stain Consignment Shop (previous to the soup-stain incident). A good friend of mine bought the red one!! However, since the soup stain incident, I regret that I ever did business with this store. The resale store I visited last week is very well arranged but it too seems to have more and more “fast fashion” despite all their advertising that they don’t accept such and such clothing for consignment. However, the people who run the place are fantastic and they also organize “resale” bus tours. I’ve been tempted just to see what’s out there, but “Oh, that way lies madness, let me shun that.” Thanks, King Lear, for the pep talk.

      • The Frugal Scholar who sometimes comments on this blog seems to have great resale shops in NOLA. Road trip??

        • Dottie! I feel like a celebrity. The key to resale is shopping often, alas. I find it relaxing to go to a local thrift (about a mile away), but it is not time efficient. However, since I buy for 4 people, I can justify the trips. And since items are between 1-3 dollars, I’m not really overspending.

          If you came to New Orleans, I’d be happy to show you around, but I wouldn’t recommend shopping! We have great architecture, wonderful restaurants, jazz venues galore, a wonderful vibe, etc.

          • Debbie Roes says:

            I would love to visit New Orleans! I was there once as a kid, but I don’t remember all that much (just Bourbon Street). I’ve heard good things, though, and not about shopping 🙂 I agree that resale shopping isn’t time-efficient. But then again, I wasn’t trying to save time for so many years. I immersed myself in shopping for far too long, but I don’t want to do that anymore!

          • I’ve been to NOLA quite a few times — love it. I’m on the fence about the time efficiency of resale shopping because I use the same technique wherever I shop. First I know what it is that I want to buy (and how and where I will wear said garment). I make a beeline for the area in the store where such garments (or shoes or purses) are located. A fairly quick flip through the stuff on view, perhaps a fast try-on and deep inspection in the dressing room), and then a decision to buy or not. Then out the door. Last week I spent about 15 minutes at a resale shop and about 15 minutes at a major discounted retailer of national repute and even less time (mostly spent walking into and out of the store) at a national upscale retailer. I don’t dawdle, wander, or trawl for bargains so I’m not distracted like a magpie by bright objects. I shop with a specific purpose or I stay home. Period.

  18. Hi Debbie, I really enjoyed reading this post and all the great comments. This summer I went to several re-sale shops while on vacation. It’s been over 15 years since I set foot in one. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything. The quality was not what it used to be. In my 30’s I discovered re-sale shopping . At the time ,I was working for a very high end jewelry retailer. ( We loaned pieces to celebrities for red carpet events.) We were required (haha) to wear the jewelry while at work. It was not unusual to wear a piece worth several hundred thousand dollars. I loved it! I quickly learned that my clothing had to be impeccable quality and minimalist in design to best highlight the jewelry. We were told to mirror our clients in how we dressed. Which meant very nice business attire. Also, we were not allowed to wear pants. Thank goodness I discovered re-sale shopping because it helped fill the voids in my wardrobe without costing $$$. When I traveled for work or personal reasons , I would find the re-sale shops in the most affluent parts of that town. I found amazing pieces. When I made mistakes it was because I bought items that were too fussy or busy prints. I would down grade the mistakes to my casual wardrobe. At the time I didn’t even focus on my casual wardrobe. I would wear my fancy work tops & jackets with jeans. To this day I wear minimalist style and avoid prints. But I still struggle with building a casual wardrobe thats right for the beach. It is difficult to find pieces I love. I may check out a local re-sale store this week. Thanks again.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like resale shopping served you well long ago, Jan. I think the quality has declined quite a bit just in the past few years, which is no doubt a reflection of declining quality in the fashion industry in general. I still think one can find some good pieces in secondhand establishments, but it’s a lot more difficult these days. It helps if one can find a really good resale store like the one Bella mentioned in her comment. One of the ones I went to used to be that type of store, but not anymore. They now seem to be focused more on trendy “fast fashion” clothing, as I like very little of what I see in there these days. If you choose to shop resale again, I hope you have better luck than I’ve been having lately. You may fare better with jewelry and accessories, as I have been.

  19. Hi Debbie. I never shop re-sale or thrift. I don’t have the patience to trawl through the racks for hidden gems. I hate overly cluttered stores and I find thrift stores and re-sale stores a jumbled mass of color and clutter and it puts me off. I have friends who have scored some great things but overall, whenever, I have ventured into one all I can see is other people’s cast-offs. I have enough of my own cast-offs to deal with, without taking on anyone else’s, lol.
    I did have a period of ebay shopping a few years ago but stopped that after buying one too many not-quite-right things and coming to the conclusion that it was a waste of time and money and that the thrill of it was just being the winner of the auction!
    Even though I have been an overshopper (in the past), I have always only shopped in smaller stores and have always had just a handful of favorite places where I know that, in general, I like the clothing they sell (therein lies the danger!!!!)
    I’ve had a good year so far. I have simply stayed away from the stores. It’s hard to do but it’s working for me.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on dramatically reducing your shopping, Carolyn. You have made excellent progress since you first started to comment here. Your comments about resale stores are pretty accurate, although there are some that are set up more like boutiques. Those aren’t the norm, though. I’ve never been big into eBay shopping because of not being about to either try things on or return them (in most cases). The risk just seemed too high for me, although I have sold some of my castoffs on eBay. I agree that the thrill of winning an auction – just like the thrill of finding a “good deal – can be very compelling. I often think the high I got from shopping was more of a draw than the items themselves!

  20. I no longer resale shop because in order to find the quality I’m seeking in accessories and/or to find quality clothing in my size (2 petite) it requires *frequent shopping* and I’m done with frequent shopping. It uses up too much of my time that I would rather spend doing other things. In past years (years ago) I enjoyed the “hunt” for a good treasure, but I made a firm decision to let that go. When I began to view my time on earth as a limited resource (nobody lives forever) it dawned on me that although I do have a high interest in clothing, there are far more activities that I’d rather do with my time. So although I do shop or browse about once a month, like Deby, I have come to prefer shopping in a store or department where I can find my size and see coordinating pieces. No more spending too much of my time, gas and money, trying to find or coordinate garments from disparate sources.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I can imagine it would be very difficult to find size 2 petite at a resale store, Terra. It’s not easy to find tall-sized garments there, either, which is why I’ve almost never bought secondhand pants. I get your point about “frequent shopping.” I don’t want to do that anymore, either, but I’m still struggling to find replacement activities to take the place of shopping, which was my go-to hobby for so many years. I think I continue to shop sometimes as a kind of “default activity,” even though it doesn’t do it for me the way it used to. Resale shopping was really just a way for me to shop more often within my budget, but it didn’t serve me well, as became abundantly clear as I researched for and wrote this post. It was quite an eye-opener, as they say!

  21. I dabble a bit in resale shopping, mostly of the thrift store ilk. I used to bring home boatloads of bad purchases, which I’d often even forget about until I found them weeks later. I have become much more discriminate, and really limit myself to items I know I need, and will wear. I still take a chance here and there (a cashmere beaded shell for winter comes to mind – will I wear it for the holidays only? Will it become a funky winter staple?) but overall I think I have incorporated a little bit of the fun of resale shopping into my overall shopping strategy. This year I have purchased the aforementioned shell, a pair of pj bottoms, 2 casual tops for fall (one of which was a mistake, it is too worn and will be recategorized as lounge wear), a brand new Talbots knit jacket and another topper which may become outerwear, or may end up in the “mistakes” pile. What I haven’t done is include this spending in my overall clothing purchases list, as if they count or something. I will have to get it added on there even though I think it’s less than $25 overall. So thanks for bringing this up!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like you’ve found a way to do resale shopping in moderation, Holly. Yes, it’s a risk and it’s easier to make mistakes with that type of shopping, but your risk has been minimal if you’ve only spent about $25 on it recently. Sure, one could say that the $25 could have been better spent elsewhere, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not the payoffs you get from resale shopping (the beaded cashmere shell sounds nice) outweigh the downsides (like the worn out casual top). I think that examining our behavior is always a good thing to do, as we are then able to make more conscious choices. For so long, shopping resale (and shopping in general) was such a default activity for me that I never questioned it. The truths I’ve learned have been kind of hard to swallow, but I’d rather not go through life with blinders on anymore.

      • I totally agree. For a very long time, shopping was my default activity. And it was my husband’s also! Together we were deadly at Marshall’s, haha. I wanted to add I do figure my $25 was partly entertainment, as I reserve this activity for when I am on vacation. Which reminds me, I have a zippered embellished sweater purchased on my last vacation. This brings my total closer to $30. 🙂 I am rather bummed out about that casual shirt being too worn though, I really liked it and I wonder why I couldn’t see how worn it was when I tried it on. Oh well, it will be fine for around the house. Onward.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          I think seeing your resale shopping on vacation as “entertainment” is a good way of looking at it, especially since you don’t spend all that much money. Someone else here (I don’t remember who – it was in a different post) that she is okay with “wasting” some money on bad resale buys because she enjoys that type of shopping and the winners she gets are worth the losers. I think it’s all a matter of degrees. Clearly, the level of resale shopping I was doing was NOT good, especially since my percentage of winners was so low. But if I can get to the point where you are about resale shopping, I would feel okay with it. However, we all need to decide what works best for us. As for your worn top, at least you are finding some use for it. That’s more than I can say for most of my resale mistakes! But onward for me, too!

  22. Several commenters have mentioned that they prefer shopping retail in a shop that lays clothes out in a way that is easy to see–and that sells their sizes. We do a fair bit of bashing the stores and their merchandisers for tempting us–and that’s certainly their job! But often, those displays work for a reason: someone expert in color, line, style, fit, quality put them together. Why not take advantage of that expertise without being exploited by it? When I’ve found a grouping of items that pushed ALL those buttons, I’ve been known to buy several items–e.g., a tweed blazer, a pair of solid color wool trousers, and a suede skirt– that all coordinate (not necessarily match), with each other. It’s not boring–it’s a win. I then am free to experiment with tops, shoes, accessories to change them up, but the essential structure of the wardrobe is work that’s already done. And finding other less pricey coordinates is much easier because those key pieces give me a palette that I already love and that flatters me.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very good points as always, Amy. I actually love the store displays, even if they do tempt me. I am a very visual person and I like to see ideas of how to combine garments. That’s also why I enjoy reading style blogs, forums, and magazines. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, so I’ve been working to scale back such input to a more moderate level. I agree with you that it can be a “win” to buy an outfit as it’s displayed in a store. I’ve met people who always do that and they are often quite well-dressed, as some very talented people put those displays together. I would do well to buy in outfits more often, as I’ve ended up with too many “orphans” in my closet through shopping piecemeal. At the very least, I’m now asking myself what I already have the goes with an item I’m considering buying. Sometimes I still get it wrong, but if I buy from a retail store, at least I can “reverse” my mistake through making a return. Not being able to return my resale mistakes has cost me a lot of money over the years – not a good thing!

  23. I’m very sad to see that I have missed two of your posts!!! I did not get the e-mail notifications like I normally do. Off to read!

    • I really enjoyed this post Debbie- numbers are always excellent, especially combined with lots of pictures since I am also very visual.

      I have never found ‘good’ thrift or secondhand shops around here. I have purchased a few things, but not many. I can think of about 10 pieces I have bought thrifting, and 50% of them were (or are) workhorses. My eBay purchases though, not so good. I have a few real ‘wins’ but so, so many losses. My biggest problem was not understanding proper fit and trying brands I wasn’t familiar with. I’m much more successful now that I stick to brands and styles I know will work, but even then I am certain I will never be at a 100% success rate.

      All of my losses, both eBay and thrifting, fit in the following categories: Too-worn, I bought it because of the label and not for what it was, the fit was not right.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I hope you don’t miss future posts, Meli. Did you subscribe via the sign-up form in the top of the right column, or did you click the “Notify me of future posts” box when you were leaving a comment? The former is more reliable, I think, but as I’ve said before, I’m not an uber-techie by any means.

      I’m glad you liked this post. These types of posts take a long time to put together (I’m sure you know that since you’re also a blogger), but they seem to be popular. I like to mix it up a bit, but have kind of been on this kind of a theme for a while. Soon I will veer off into different territory. Secondhand shops really vary by location. We used to have good ones around her, but they have gone downhill. When my mom used to live in the SF Bay Area, we went to some really good resale stores in more affluent areas and I remember going to a great one in Seattle, too. It’s always a risk, though, since returns are not possible. Your reasons for “losses” are quite similar to mine. I would often think I could rescue items with poor fit through alterations, but I’m trying not to do that anymore. I still did it a few times this year (my bad!), but I’ve left things in the store far more often. I did get excited by a label a few times this year, too. One piece (blue jacket) was a fail and the other (black short coat) remains to be seen. I’m definitely going to be MUCH more cautious with any future resale shopping I do, now that I know the facts in black and white. Not pretty!

  24. I think it’s very helpful to consistently analyze purchases and purged items. This not only keeps one from making the same mistakes, but also gives insight to style shifts over time. I used to sport lots of cardigans and over time I’ve shifted to a blazer and jacket gal instead. If I never noticed that I purged most of, and also don’t own many at this moment, cardigans I’d probably still be purchasing them.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I know you’re a fellow numbers fan, Lisa, and I love reading your stats-based posts. I enjoy reading your observations, too. I think it’s great that you realized that you’re more into blazers and jackets than cardigans. Our preferences do shift over time, but sometimes our buying doesn’t catch up right away!

      • I think that’s one aspect of shopping less often, that is really helping me. Since I’m not shopping daily, I’m not in the habit of purchasing the same items again and again, which means I’m not stocking up on cardigans right now. I remember at one point I had over a dozen of them, and I do not sport them very often. And I enjoy the handful of cardigans I have left more, because I don’t sport them often.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Very good point! If we’re not shopping all the time, it’s a lot harder to get into trouble. I still have to restrain myself from buying multiples, as that was a big habit of mine. I’d often think that if one such piece was good, well then three (or more) would be better. Usually not so!

  25. I know I’m late to this post, but you are so right about feeling the possibility of “hitting it big”. It’s just like gambling! Which makes me see why resale shopping is so dangerous for me. I’ve never had a real gambling problem, but I suspect I’d be terribly addicted if I ever let myself try it for real. I’ve decided to swear off all consignment and ebay shopping for awhile and see how it works for me. Luckily these days I have NO TIME to shop so it’s working by default 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very good point, Sarah! I’ve never been much of a gambler, either, but I can see why people can slip into that type of addiction. I have always approached resale shopping in much the same way. It’s often said that with gambling, the “house” always has the advantage. I think the same is true of the resale stores. I wonder how many items end up getting re-consigned with them. I do it too many times to count.

      A piece of good news to report, though. On Saturday, I took my recent castoffs to the consignment store. I browsed around a bit while they looked though my pieces (they quoted 30 minutes so I guess they had a backlog). I didn’t see much that I liked at all. I kept thinking about my mistakes and why I made them. I ended up trying on 2 dresses (I used to try on 20 items or more!), but neither hit the mark. I left empty-handed! I think the thrill may be gone for me with consignment shopping. I may have scared myself straight with all of my analysis! Good luck to you with your consignment/eBay hiatus! Please let me know how it goes for you.

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