Now it’s time for the bad news in regards to my 2014 shopping, my worst purchases of the year. I wish I could say that only a few items fall into this category, but that’s not the case. Although my shopping track record has definitely improved over previous years, I clearly still have a lot to learn. Since learning and growth are really the purposes of this blog – and all of our journeys – I feel there is merit to analyzing both the good and the bad (and we all know that I love some good analysis!).
In today’s post, I share the bad purchases I made this year, as well as those items that remain in uncertain territory. As with my best purchases post, I include lots of photos and aim to find common ground among the pieces that just weren’t good buys. As for those unsure items, I will make educated guesses as to whether or not they will become wardrobe workhorses in the future. It’s kind of a “mixed bag,” but I’ll do my best to predict which pieces will have staying power and which ones will likely be headed out the door in short order.
This post is a long one (perhaps I should have made this a three part series), but it’s the end of the year, so why not sit down with a nice cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa (or even a stiff drink) and think about your own purchases as I recount mine. There is value in looking at what we bought and how our purchases have either served us well or fallen flat. If you do this type of analysis (which I recommend), try not to beat yourself up too much for your shortcomings. I will try to keep this review lighthearted as well, as I cannot go back and change the past. We can only look forward and it’s useful to do so with the lessons from the past firmly in our minds.
A Quick Recap
So let’s get started! As I mentioned in my last post, I added 55 new items to my closet during 2014. This number includes clothing, shoes, and handbags, and a few gifts are also represented in this total. What is not included are jewelry pieces (to be written about in a future post), sleepwear, lounge wear, workout clothes, and undergarments. Here’s a bird’s eye view of what I bought last year:
As a reminder, I have deemed 21 of those 55 items (38%) “good” purchases, while 13 (24%) fall into the “bad” zone. The remaining 21 items (the final 38%) are still in the grey area, in that I’m not yet sure if they were smart or ill-advised buys.
The Bad Purchases – An Overview
Let’s look at the bad purchases first. The 13 items shown below have already been removed from my closet.
I’m not going to write about each item individually, but I would like to share a few points of interest about my ill-advised purchases.
Where They Came From:
- 9 of the 13 items were purchased second-hand, mostly via consignment shops (one was bought via eBay).
Back in September, I did an analysis of my resale shopping and wasn’t happy with what I learned. Fortunately, I’ve done very little resale shopping since that time and my overall purchases have been more successful as a result.
- 2 items were bought online. The grey skirt was bought on eBay and I ordered the purple cardigan via a sustainable clothing e-commerce site.
- In contrast, 14 of my 21 good purchases were bought in brick-and-mortar retail stores. The remaining 7 items were ordered online, but 5 were from Nordstrom, where I could easily return or exchange them if necessary. The other two online orders were from Lucky Brand and Loft, who have stores nearby and fairly decent return policies.
I can be successful with online purchases, but I need to make sure that there are good return policies in place and that I handle any necessary returns in a timely fashion. While I like to be able to try things on before buying, the selection is much higher online and the shopping experience is usually far easier, too. There are no crowds, no high-pressure sales, no traffic, and no parking difficulties, to name a few advantages of online shopping.
- The 9 second-hand items were all very low-cost, typically in the $10-$20 range.
- The navy cardigan was an impulse sales buy (around $25) that I picked up while I was buying jeans, an item on my shopping priorities list.
- 3 items (the purple cardigan and two white cardigans) were bought at full price, in the $30 to $60 range.
- In contrast, most of my good purchases were higher-priced items. Although 12 of the 21 good items were on sale, they still cost quite a bit more money than the majority of my bad purchases. I have learned that I tend to fare better when I spend more money on my clothes. Part of the reason for that is that I am less likely to “settle” and more likely to take the necessary time to consider whether or not something is a good purchase before pulling the trigger.
When I Bought Them:
- 8 of my bad purchases were bought during the first six months of the year and the remaining 5 were bought in July or August.
- In contrast, 16 of my 21 good purchases were bought during the second half of the year. Since my track record improved as the year went on, I clearly learned some things along the way!
Even after writing an entire post about “The Dark Side of Alterations” late last year, I still didn’t learn my lesson about trying to “rescue” clothes by means of tailoring.
- 6 of my 13 bad purchases were altered and rarely worn (one or two times) before being purged from my closet.
- Only one of these alterations (taking in the sides of the long white cardigan) is something that I would do again. The reason that cardigan didn’t work for me was because of the color (I looked washed out in the stark white – see this post), but it would have been fine in another shade.
- The purple cardigan was just too big and should have been returned. However, because I missed the very short return window (I think it was two weeks), I attempted to remedy the garment through alterations. It didn’t work (the cardigan continued to overwhelm my frame no matter how much it was taken in) and I ended up throwing good money after bad.
- The 3 skirts and dress were all too voluminous and shouldn’t have been purchased in the first place. However, since they were all bought secondhand, they couldn’t be returned. Instead of trying to make them work, I should have just cut my losses and re-consigned or donated them.
Hopefully, I have finally learned my lesson about alterations. I said I wasn’t going to beat myself up in this post, so I won’t write about how I feel like an idiot for falling prey to stupid logic yet again (or maybe I just did write about that). Sometimes we have to experience things a number of times before we learn our lessons. I think my lesson is three-fold:
- Don’t buy secondhand clothing unless the items are perfect as is.
- If I buy something online or from a retail store and it doesn’t work, return it right away so as not to miss the window of opportunity.
- Only do minor, easy alterations on my clothes. Don’t try to narrow wide skirts (better yet, don’t buy wide skirts in the first place!) or take things in more than a couple of inches. If something isn’t a perfect or “almost” fit, leave it in the store or return it right away!
Those “On the Fence” Items
As I mentioned above, 21 of my 2014 purchases are still “on the fence” in that I’m not yet sure if they were good or bad buys. Here’s a quick look at those 21 items:
I’m also not going to write about each of these items individually, but I will share a bit about why I’m unsure about whether they will work for me or not.
Not Yet Worn:
Thirteen of my “on the fence” items have not yet been worn.
- A few were recent purchases, so it’s understandable that they haven’t been included in an outfit as of yet. These recent acquisitions include the black purse, black trouser jeans, boyfriend jeans, and grey print skirt.
- Some of these items were bought during a summer that ended up extending all the way through to Thanksgiving. I didn’t start wearing cooler weather clothing until December, so I haven’t had a chance to wear some of my new pieces yet, including my burgundy twist-front top, cobalt tee, hounds tooth top, and burgundy ballet flats.
- The rest (berry cardigan, striped skirt, black jacket, black sheer top, and denim jacket) were purchased quite a while ago and really should have been worn by now. Most of these items will all be addressed below.
- The berry cardigan is a bit of an outlier, as I had thought I would wear it with skirts and dresses during the summer. However, since it was so hot, I rarely wore a topper. When I did wear a bright cardigan, I chose my green and cobalt ones (shown in my last post) over the berry. I probably should have only purchased two bright cardigans instead of three. I believe I will still wear the berry cardigan, though, and plan to keep it in my closet at least through next summer. It may be too short to wear with pants, but I’m going to give it a try to see if it works.
Two of my unsure items are probably bad and likely won’t stay in my wardrobe for very long.
- Striped Maxi-Dress: I thought I would love this item, but I think there was a design flaw in it that I haven’t been able to fix. The straps were too long when I bought it, which is often the case for me with tank tops and sleeveless dresses. I thought that I only needed to have the straps shortened, but there was another problem with it. The top is uneven (it blouses more on one side than the other) and my tailor was not able to completely fix it. My husband says it’s not that noticeable, but I feel the dress is unflattering. I love the stripes, but I have other maxi-dresses that I like a lot more. The dress wasn’t expensive, but I paid for two alterations and it still doesn’t look right. I’m going to try it on again soon and if I am not happy with it, I will let it go.
- Denim Jacket: This jacket had a strong chemical odor that was very difficult to remove. I have washed it several times and soaked it in both vinegar and powdered milk. It now smells okay, but I think it shrunk, as it feels too small in the shoulder area. Sadly, I had it taken in on the sides before I washed it, which I shouldn’t have done. I also don’t love the way it looks on me. I much prefer the denim blazer that is shown in this post. I was hoping to have a more casual denim jacket option, but I think I missed the mark with this one.
May Be Too Dressy:
I love the two items pictured below, but I think they may be too dressy for my lifestyle.
- Black sheer striped top: I still haven’t worn this top even though I really like the style and the way it looks on me. When it was hot outside, I didn’t want to wear pants and the top doesn’t work with any of my skirts. It’s also pretty dressy and my life is quite casual. I know it would work well with jeans (as shown in this post), but I just haven’t done it yet. I probably shouldn’t have bought this top, but I don’t want to get rid of it, either. I either need to find an occasion to get more dressed up or just wear it, even if I’m only going to the movies or out to run errands. I would have worn it shopping in the past, but I don’t do much of that anymore (thankfully).
- Black velvet coat: The story is much the same with this lovely coat. I wore it once earlier in the year (photo shown here), but that’s it. I don’t think it’s that dressy, but the things I do are all very casual. I really need more of a life for my clothes instead of the other way around! That will probably be the topic of a future post…
I plan to keep both of the above items, at least for now. Even if I haven’t had the occasion to wear them, I like the styles and the way these garments look on me. Hopefully, they will stop being “benchwarmers” in the New Year!
New Styles for Me:
I’m on the fence about the four garments below because they are new styles for me and I haven’t embraced them as of yet.
- Black and grey striped pencil skirt: I like the way this skirt looks (see photos here), but it may be a bit “fussy.” I haven’t worn it out of my house yet, so I’m not sure, but I think it may need to be adjusted too much during the day (it seems to easily rotate when I move around). This narrower silhouette is also new for me and I am a very slow adopter of new styles. I know I should just dive into the pool, but I tend to wade in very slowly. Even if this particular skirt ends up being a bad buy, I do still plan to move away from longer and fuller skirts and toward shorter and narrower styles. I’m tired of the most of my skirts (except for the maxis and a few others) and I’m ready for something new.
- Black short coat: I always seem to forget about this coat when I leave the house. It’s kind of a cross between a blazer and a coat, so it’s a new style for me. I think I need to move it from the coat closet to my main closet so I think of it when I’m getting dressed. I like how it looks (see photo here), so it’s probably just a case of pushing myself to wear it.
- Boyfriend jeans and straight-leg jeans: I’m grouping these two together, as their fit is quite similar. Despite how they are categorized, they both look like skinny jeans on me, although they’re not as tight on the bottom as most such styles. The boyfriend jeans (bought in November) are a little looser and include more stretch, but they look much the same as the other jeans. When I see photos of me in these styles, I like the way they look, but I usually reach for my boot-cut jeans when I get dressed. I think it’s another case of my being a slow adopter and needing to just push myself to wear the newer jeans. Sure, if I’m feeling particularly bloated, they’re probably not a good choice, but on other days, I need to bite the bullet and wear them!
I’m Optimistic About Most of My “Unsure” Purchases
Most of my “unsure” purchases will probably end up working out for me. I really do like the way most of them look, but I didn’t feel right including them in the “good list” when they either haven’t been worn or have some sort of issue, like the ones I discussed above.
A few of the items that I didn’t discuss are on the fence because I’m just not sure I love them. The black pants, grey blazer, charcoal skirt, and black and white print tee fall into this category. I’m going to give each of these items at least one more try to see how I feel, but I’m not going to keep things around indefinitely like I used to do. I will likely use the “first impression test” again soon to further pare down my wardrobe, as it was so helpful for me back in October.
My 10 Worst Purchases of the Year
In my last post, I shared my top ten purchases of the year, so it’s only fair that I also write about my ten worst buys of 2014.
Here they are, my shopping low points of the year, with a bit about why I included them in this dubious category.
- Black cropped cardigan: This cardigan was bought on consignment and wasn’t cheap, as it’s by Eileen Fisher. When I bought it, I didn’t realize that pretty much any wool is too itchy for me to wear next to my skin. The cardigan is made from lightweight merino wool that didn’t itch when I tried it on but started to while I was putting outfits together at home. I now know that wool and my skin don’t mesh well, but this cardigan ended up being re-consigned without ever having been worn.
- Blue cropped jacket: More than enough has been written about this jacket on the blog (if you’re new, see here and here), so I’ll keep it brief. It was too small for my frame and too “twee” for my style. Lesson learned – don’t buy something just because you like the color and the brand!
- Black and white striped maxi-dress: I wrote about this item above. It had a design flaw that I tried to rescue through alterations (two of them, at that!). Throwing good money after bad is never a smart move!
- Black and white print midi dress: This dress inspired an entire blog post! It cost $35 on consignment (I had never heard of the designer, but apparently it was one that mattered) and I spent about $25 more to tailor it. I wore it twice and then re-consigned it, so it was definitely one of my worst purchases of the year!
- Black and white geometric print skirt: Another bad buy and alterations failure! This skirt (originally shown here) was too long when I bought it and looked very “churchy” in its initial wearing. So I had it shortened a few inches (altered version shown here), but still didn’t really like it. In a bout of what must have been temporary insanity, I took it to my tailor to be narrowed, which did not An ill-advised purchase coupled with two failed alteration rescue attempts give this one its place in the worst list.
- Denim flared skirt: I really wanted a denim skirt, but should have held out for a better option. This skirt was inexpensive (consignment purchase) but was also altered (taken in at the waist). I wore it once and decided it was too wide and fussy. Fail!
- Denim jacket: You read about this one above. It cost $70 (at The Gap), plus I paid another $12 to tailor it. My husband and I spent time washing it and soaking it in both vinegar and powdered milk to get the chemical smell out of it. It now feels too small and I don’t like the way it looks on me. Money and time down the drain…
- Grey skirt: I bought this skirt on eBay, as I thought it was the same as a skirt I had ruined in an alterations casualty last year. Sadly, it wasn’t quite the same and included a “lettuce” hem that I didn’t like. I had the skirt shortened, but then it looked too wide. The further attempt to narrow it rendered it unwearable. Are you noticing a pattern here with skirts? I would be better off aiming for another silhouette moving forward! That way I won’t look “churchy” or waste money on ill-advised alterations.
- Purple long cardigan: This item was also mentioned above. It was too big upon purchase and should have been immediately returned. But I missed the narrow return window and tried twice to tailor it to fit my narrow torso. I wore it once and felt that it overpowered my frame and made me look short (hard to do at 5’10”). It wasn’t flattering, so I passed it on.
- White cardigan: This was a full-price buy that had to be taken in on the sides. It was an easy alteration that was successful, but I didn’t like how I looked in the very bright white. I’ve decided that I only want to wear white as a layering piece or as part of a print. White should work on me (since I have Winter coloring), but it washes me out too much. I love it in stripes, but not so much by itself.
Wow, that was a long post, but I hope it was interesting and helpful to you. I always hope that by sharing my examples, you’ll come to some realizations about your own wardrobe and shopping. I know that I learned a lot through writing this post and I hope you learned a few things, too. Here’s a brief recap of what I learned:
- Secondhand shopping leads to a lot of purchasing mistakes, at least for me. Better to shop retail, pay more, and have the option of returning things that don’t work out.
- Speaking of returns, it’s a good idea to either buy from stores with liberal return policies (e.g. Nordstrom) or make a note of the return window and act quickly.
- If something cannot be returned, it’s better to cut our losses and pass the item on rather than trying to “rescue” it through difficult alterations.
- No matter how much we love an item, we shouldn’t buy it if it’s not a good match for our lifestyle. I now have a few great pieces hanging in my closet that are unworn because they are dressy and my life is casual.
- If you’re a slow adopter of new styles, buy just one item at a time and make sure it’s in regular rotation before adding another such piece to your closet.
- If an item has a strange chemical odor, it should be returned to the store! It can be very difficult to remove certain smells from clothes and we shouldn’t have to perform heroics to make a garment work for us!
I’m sure I could come up with more lessons, but that’s a pretty good summary. If you noticed anything else from my bad and unsure purchase review, or if you’d like to share some of your own shopping experiences and lessons from this year, please feel free to comment.
Before You Go – A Few Quick Things to Share
Before I sign off for the day – and the year, I’d like to tell you about something very exciting! I’m going to do a full post about this next week, but here’s a little sneak peak…
My Second Book is Now Available!
My second book, “End Closet Chaos: Wardrobe Solutions from an Ex-Shopaholic,” has been published and is now for sale on Amazon.com. This book contains the best of my wardrobe management solutions from the blog, categorized into logical sections related to various closet conundrums. There are eight sections and forty chapters in all.
I’m very proud of this book and hope it will be helpful to anyone who chooses to read it. I will share more details next week, but if you want to check out the book, click here (you don’t need to own a Kindle to read it – you can download the free Kindle app for your computer or device HERE).
If You’re Interested in Project 333…
Also, if you’re thinking of starting Project 333 in the New Year, you might want to check out Courtney Carver’s Dress With Less Microcourse. It includes a lot of great information to help you get started, including 9 PDF worksheets, fun playlists to listen to while sorting through your closet, and access to a private Facebook group. I took this course before I started Project 333 last year and found it very informative and supportive.
Happy New Year!
Lastly, I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Thank you for following my blog, whether it’s been for a few weeks, a few months, or since the beginning. I am extremely grateful for your readership and I wish you all the best in 2015.
I’ll be back soon with more 2014 wrap-up posts, additional information about my book, and lots more… I hope we can all be smarter shoppers, have more cohesive wardrobes, and fuller lives in the coming year!
Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and subscribe for free updates by email.
I also invite you to join the End Closet Chaos private Facebook group, where you can interact with others about the topics discussed here.