Since the beginning of 2013, I have purged 150 items from my wardrobe! These pieces – garments and shoes – have either been sold on consignment or donated to a local charity. Hopefully, other people are now enjoying the wardrobe castoffs that were gathering dust in my closet.
While some of my purged items were previously worn and loved but no longer fit my body, lifestyle, and personality, many others were “wardrobe benchwarmers” that should never have been purchased in the first place. Since I’m making good progress with paring down my wardrobe and cultivating a wardrobe that better suits my needs, I want to make sure not to repeat my past mistakes.
Avoiding Our Purchasing Blunders
Today’s post explores the concept of shopping mistakes, how we can zero in on our common purchasing errors, and how we can avoid repeating the same blunders in the future. While I use my wardrobe as an example, my hope is that the concepts will be applicable to many of you.
I encourage you to take a few moments to identify the types of mistakes you make when shopping, as they may be very different than mine. If you’ve managed to overcome your purchasing errors and have tips for those of us who still struggle, please share your insights in the comments section below.
Over Half of My Castoffs Were Shopping Mistakes!
Those who have been reading my blog for a while know I love data and statistics, so I took some time to calculate a few facts about my 2013 castoffs:
- 43 items (36 garments, 6 pairs of shoes, and 1 purse) were never worn!
- 24 items (21 garments and 3 pairs of shoes) were only worn once.
- 38 items (31 garments and 7 pairs of shoes) were only worn two or three times.
In total, 105 of the 150 items (70%!) I’ve purged from my wardrobe since the beginning of this year could be called shopping mistakes! Since this is such a high number – more than two-thirds – I’d like to better understand why I made these errors and how I can avoid repeating them!
Searching for Patterns among the Mistakes
So I delved deeper… I looked for some key patterns among my 105 “mistakes” to see if I could shed some light on the situation. I decided to look first at the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” – and I didn’t have to look very far!
Consignment and Sales
It’s become increasingly apparent to me that when I’ve bought things on sale or at resale shops, I’ve tended to make a lot of mistakes. So I did the math and here’s what I learned:
- Of the 43 “never worn” items I purged from my closet this year, 28 were purchased at consignment stores and 13 were bought on sale. A full 95% of my never worn pieces fit into these two categories!
- Of the 24 “worn once” pieces, 6 came from resale shops and 8 were purchased on sale. Over half (58%) of the worn once items were consignment or sale buys.
- Of the 38 items that were worn only a few times before being let go, 9 were consignment purchases and 15 were sale buys. That’s almost two-thirds (63%) of this category!
- Overall, 75% of my shopping mistakes came from resale shops or was bought on sale. Yes, a full three-quarters of my mistakes fit into those two categories!
After reaching the above conclusions, I almost didn’t need to search for other patterns among my shopping mistakes. Clearly, I haven’t done well when shopping at consignment stores or at sales. Fortunately, I have mostly stopped engaging in these types of shopping. While I definitely overshopped last month, only two of my twenty-one purchases – a necklace and a bracelet – came from a resale store. Five items were bought on sale, but these pieces were all listed on my shopping priority list and likely won’t become “benchwarmers” as a result.
Lifestyle Issues – A Life that’s Not Mine
Another big motivator of my shopping mistakes was buying for a lifestyle I don’t have. I used to buy things “just in case” I might need them someday, including dressy garments and shoes for going out and business clothes for potential networking and speaking engagements. Most of these “someday maybe” pieces were purchased at resale stores or on sale. I’d reason that the price was good and the items might come in handy one day.
Sadly, most of my “just in case” buys ended up being mistakes. I continued to not go out very often, and when I did, the occasions were mostly casual in nature. And I didn’t go to many business events, either. The professional events I did attend usually called for “business casual” attire rather than formal blazers, stiff skirts, and patent pumps. A few times, I did wear the dressier garments and ended up feeling out of place in the casual Southern California business atmosphere. “Just in case” didn’t bear true in my case and 24 such items have been purged from my wardrobe during 2013.
“Close but No Cigar” in Terms of Color or Fit
Another pattern I noticed was my tendency to “settle” in terms of color and fit, especially when faced with a “good deal.” In all, 45 of my shopping mistakes fit into this category. One example… I’m not really a fan of pastels or brown, but I had several such items in my closet because I liked the style of the garment or shoe and “the price was right.” Unfortunately, I never was able to embrace the color, so more “wardrobe benchwarmers” were born.
The same thing held true for pieces that almost fit, in particular tops with sleeves that were an inch or so too short. I fell for the saleslady’s compromise of “you can just push the sleeves up” and bought more than a few “close but no cigar” garments. The too short sleeves always bothered me and pushing them up didn’t really work, as I had to keep doing it all day long as gravity took hold.
Still Making Shopping Mistakes in 2013!
While the majority of my shopping mistakes took place prior to this year, I have to admit that ten items that came into my wardrobe during 2013 have already left. Since I’ve been working so hard to turn my bad habits around, I feel it’s particularly important for me to analyze these recent buying errors.
Analyzing the 2013 “Terrible Ten”
Here’s a list of my 2013 shopping mistakes, along with a brief analysis of why I made each particular error (items listed in the order in which they appear in the photo, from left to right by row):
- Pink long-sleeved tee: Bought in February using store credit after a return. The sleeves were too short, but I liked the color and the exposed zipper in the back. I wore this top once but found the sleeve length annoying. I should have left this garment in the store and saved my store credit to use later!
- Green and black striped long-sleeved tee: Same issue as above. I have a thing for stripes (you might have noticed) and I let that and the low price cloud my judgment on this top. Proper sleeve length is important to me and I never should have settled!
- Black brocade double-breasted coat: I ordered this coat online in January after ordering and returning several other coats that didn’t work out. I’m often between sizes with coats and only the smaller size was available. The shoulders were too tight, but I opted to alter the coat instead of returning it. The tailor did his best, but there just wasn’t enough extra fabric allowance to make the coat fit properly. I wore it only once and finally consigned it after months of it gathering dust in my closet. I definitely should have returned this coat!
- Black straight skirt: I bought this skirt in April in my ongoing quest for the “perfect black skirt” (at one point, I had nine black skirts, most of them unloved!). While this skirt fit me well, the 100% polyester fabric was far too static prone for me to wear it. I didn’t spend much money on this skirt, so it’s not a huge loss, but I am now committed to buying better quality fabrications in the future.
- Black and white coat: I ordered this coat in February after loving it on a style blogger I follow. After a few questions to the blogger revealed that she and I were about the same size, I risked purchasing the coat online for $40 as a “final sale” item. Unfortunately, it seems my shoulders are broader than the blogger’s despite our being the same height and wearing the same size. Since I couldn’t return this coat, I tried to salvage it via alterations, but it ended up being a case of throwing “good money after bad.” The coat’s material was also itchy and uncomfortable and I ended up taking this unworn garment to consignment just this past weekend. Lesson learned – don’t buy “final sale” items online!
- Southwestern print cardigan: I bought this cardigan in March during a shopping trip with my mom. Both the saleslady and my mom raved about this piece when I tried it on, so I bought it even though it wasn’t really my style. I tried to make the fit less boxy via alterations, but I just never loved this garment. Although I should have never bought it in the first place, I definitely should have returned it when I realized it just wasn’t me!
- Printed Desigual bag: I allowed myself to be seduced by a brand name and a low price when I bought this purse earlier this year on consignment. I loved the artistic print so much that I neglected to fully examine the construction of the bag. Sadly, the design was somewhat clunky and unworkable, so the bag was returned to consignment a month or so later.
- Grey cardigan-style jacket: Another consignment purchase gone wrong, this one made in June. While this jacket is comfortable, it’s too baggy and I already own two other grey cardigans. This item simply had no place in my wardrobe, so it also went back to consignment later in the summer.
- Brown slingback sandals: I thought these sandals would be a nice addition to my summer shoe wardrobe. Even though I’m not a big fan of brown, it can be a versatile shoe color to own, plus these shoes were available for just $12 on consignment. Unfortunately, I didn’t “test drive” them enough in the store. During their maiden voyage two weeks ago, I had to keep re-adjusting the straps as they slid down my heels. With no buckles for adjustment, I had little choice but to donate them (consignment didn’t want them!) after only one wear.
- Red and black print skirt: This is my most recent shopping mistake, as I bought this skirt (again on consignment) in July. The skirt was a bit too large and a few inches too long, but I figured I could have it shortened and it would work well in my wardrobe. Not so! After it was shortened, it looked too wide, so I asked my tailor to take it in. It still didn’t look right, so I had to donate it (again, consignment didn’t want it!) after throwing more good money after bad. Sigh…
This was a lengthier and more involved process than I thought it would be. Congratulations to those who are still with me! It may have taken longer than I thought to analyze my shopping mistakes, but I’m so glad I did. My analysis confirmed a lot of things I already knew, but I had no idea I was making so many mistakes when purchasing resale items and things on sale!
I can encapsulate what I learned into the following few points that apply to all of us:
Resale and Sale Shopping:
- When we buy things on sale or at resale stores, we’re far more likely to make mistakes.
- If we choose to do these types of shopping in the future, we should only buy items that are on our shopping priorities list.
- We would also do well to take a “power pause” before buying.
- See my previous articles on resale shopping and avoiding sales mistakes for more tips.
- Buying items that almost fit is a recipe for disaster!
- If a simple alteration will elevate a garment to an “8” or higher, that’s great.
- But we shouldn’t purchase low-cost but ill-fitting garments hoping to basically re-make them with the help of a tailor.
“Just in case”:
- Purchasing anything “just in case” is never a good idea.
- As I’ve mentioned previously (but didn’t always follow!), we should only buy things for our actual lives, not wished for, imagined, or potential life situations.
- “Close but no cigar” items should stay in the store!
- If the size, color, or style is not quite right, just walk away. It pays to be picky and hold out for what we really want, even if that means we have to leave a store empty-handed or pay more money for the right item later on.
Forgive Yourself and Move On!
I hope we can all make far fewer shopping mistakes moving forward. If you’re like me and have made many, many mistakes, please try to forgive yourself, learn from the past, and vow to do better in the future. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it! I definitely learned a lot through my analysis and I hope you found it helpful as well.
I’d love to read about your “lessons learned,” even if those lessons were learned years ago. I learn so much from your comments and I know my other readers do as well, so please share!