I had a realization the other day regarding my Project 333 capsule wardrobe. It occurred to me that many of my 33 garments for April through June have been in my closet for a number of years. Geek that I am, I decided to do the math… I learned that 79% of my Project 333 pieces were purchased in 2011 or earlier, and 55% were bought in or before 2010! Here’s how it breaks down:
Curious about the two garments from 2006? They are a chevron striped tank top and a seamed flared black skirt, bought at consignment stores for $3 and $16, respectively. Even when I factor in the minor alteration fees for these items, their cost per wear is likely pennies!
Why So Many “Old” Pieces When I Shop So Much?
Many people would say “So what?” about the numbers above, as it’s natural for them to hold on to their clothes for years on end. But you have to remember that I’m a compulsive shopper who has bought somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 new items per year for as long as I can remember. Since I shop so much, wouldn’t you think that most of my 33 items would be from the past year or two?
Why would so many of my favorite clothes be from 2006-2010 when a plethora of new items were added to the mix in the past two years? Intrigued, I decided to dig a bit deeper and examine my 2012 “wardrobe all-stars” (garments worn 8 or more times per year – see this post for more information). Not surprisingly, I unearthed similar findings. A full 56% of these key closet pieces were purchased in or before 2010 (and 85% during or prior to 2011).
Drawing Some Conclusions
What do my Project 333 and “wardrobe all-star” figures reveal about my wardrobe and shopping habits? After thinking about this for a few days, I’ve reached some powerful conclusions which might also be meaningful to you.
Many of the purchases I make are for the wrong reasons! Those items either end up being returned, languish in my closet as “wardrobe benchwarmers,” or wind up at a local consignment store or charity shop.
What are the wrong reasons for buying something? This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but the following reasons stand out for me:
“It was a good deal!”
Sale purchases bought without a prior need for the item are not generally “good buys” in the long run. While some misguided purchases can be returned, clearance items and garments bought at thrift and consignment stores are often final sale.
“It’s on trend!”
Unless you love a current trend, it’s usually best to sit it out. I’ve frequently bought things that didn’t fit my personal style just because they were “in.” These pieces are often worn once or twice and then gather dust in my closet. Such was the case with skinny jeans. They may look good, but I find them very uncomfortable and feel they accentuate the size of my hips and thighs. Even if my lower half isn’t as large as I think it is, I didn’t wear those skinny jeans because I never really liked them. More money wasted!
Just in case…
We often buy things because we might need them at some point. Case in point, the business clothes in my closet. I don’t have a need for such pieces, as my life is quite casual and I live in an area of the country where people rarely dress up. While it’s possible I may need a few such items for a higher-end business meeting or job interview at some point, I certainly don’t need the twenty or so business garments in my closet!
An imagined or wished-for lifestyle
I often see beautiful dresses and shoes that are perfect for a night out on the town. The problem is that my nights out on the town are few and far between. When I actually do go out, the events are generally casual and don’t call for a cocktail dress or stiletto heels. If I buy such items, however beautiful they may be, they are rarely worn. I need to face the fact that I reside in San Diego, not New York City, and I live a simple lifestyle which doesn’t include many parties or upscale events.
“I’ll break them in” or “After I lose a few pounds…”
Buying shoes you can’t walk in or overly tight garments you hope to fit into one day is almost never a good idea. Part of the reason I didn’t include shoes among my Project 333 items is that I have a lot of “taxi shoes.” I have “fussy feet” and find it increasingly difficult to bridge the gap between comfort and style. Sigh…
Also problematic are the clothes that will only fit us five or ten pounds from now. Unfortunately, we often don’t really lose those five to ten pounds! Then the clothes just sit there taunting us (actually, we taunt ourselves…) for our lack of willpower and resolve. In any event, they aren’t being worn unless we want to “triple-Spanx” or shoehorn ourselves into them and suffer all day. No thanks!
What Does Work?
I could go on and on about the wrong reasons for buying things. Heaven knows I’ve made a ton of purchasing mistakes! But it’s probably more productive to look at what does work in our wardrobes. Why have some of our closet pieces stood the test of time? What is it about those 20 garments from 2006-2010 that had earn spots in my Project 333 capsule?
I looked at my Project 333 clothes and my 2012 “wardrobe all-stars” to find common features for these items. I discovered clues about who I really am and what I truly love to wear. My favorite types of garments are those that are:
- Classic styles and shapes
- Shoes I can walk in!
- Fitted tops and more relaxed bottoms
- Preferred colors of black, grey, and jewel tones
- Pattern preferences of stripes, polka dots, and leopard print
Stick with the Tried and True!
What I’ve learned is that regardless of how much I shop, I’ll continue to wear my favorite pieces into the ground, even if I bought them as long ago as 2006. I’m not overly concerned with trends and tend to dress in classic items, so if I like it, I wear it. As long as I stick with the “tried and true” when shopping (the list above), I do okay. If I let the “shiny and new” sway me from my personal style course, that’s when I get into trouble.
Go to your closet and look at your favorite wardrobe pieces, the items you wear over and over again. Jot down the common elements of these garments. What makes you reach for them time after time? Do the same for the things that just sit in your closet collecting dust. What is it about those pieces that has you pass them over when getting dressed?
When you shop, aim to purchase items with similar characteristics as your tried and true wardrobe workhorses. If you buy things that reflect your personal style preferences, you’ll be much more likely to wear them. If you choose to veer off-course to sample new trends, tread lightly. Just buy a piece or two of the “shiny and new.” See how often you wear the new garments before adding any more to your closet.
NOTE: If you’d like to learn more about how to do the Project 333 challenge, I highly recommend the “Dress with Less” microcourse from Courtney Carver, the creator of Project 333.