At long last, we’ve come to my final wrap-up post for 2013. However, this is a not a case of “I saved the best for last.” Rather, I saved the most difficult post for me to write until the bitter end. In fact, this is the post I’ve been dreading writing. But there’s no avoiding it… It’s time for me to face the music and share what I bought in 2013.
This post includes how many items I bought last year and how many I still have, as well as the number of shopping successes and failures I experienced during 2013. As an aspiring optimist, I like to find the silver lining in all life’s situations, yet I won’t “sugar coat” things here. I made some big mistakes last year and I won’t shirk from admitting them to you – and to myself. But I’ll also share what I learned from those mistakes, in the hopes that my lessons will also benefit those of you who continue to struggle with overshopping, bad shopping, and various wardrobe woes.
Sharing the Numbers…
In the past, I only tracked the number of items I bought for one full year, 2011. You can read more on my purchase tracking in this post, but the gist of it was that I brought 168 new wardrobe pieces into my closet that year. I only tracked my 2012 purchases for one quarter (during which I bought 64 new items!), but I would guess that I brought over 200 items into my wardrobe by the time that year came to a close!
The average American acquires 68 new garments annually, which is already an exorbitant number, but my shopping rate was triple that average before I started this blog! What’s more, the numbers above don’t even include the pieces I returned, which was often half of what I bought. I don’t even want to do the math there!
Better, Yes, But I Still Bought Too Much!
The good news is that my shopping improved dramatically during 2013. Instead of amassing 200-plus or 168 new pieces over the course of the year, my total was less than half those numbers. In all, I added 76 new items to my closet last year (I also returned at least 17 additional pieces, but I wasn’t completely diligent in recording that data).
I’m not proud of how much I continued to shop last year. I’m happy that I made a big improvement over previous years, but I know I still bought far too much. And while the number is disconcerting, that’s not even the worst news about my 2013 shopping…
Analyzing the Mistakes
Let’s get the rest of the bad news out of the way right now. Of the 76 new items I added to my wardrobe last year, 19 of them have already been donated or consigned! That’s right, 25% of my 2013 purchases consisted of what I would term “mistakes,” ill-advised buys that should have remained in the stores.
Rather than flog myself for the error in my ways, I prefer to analyze my buying mistakes and learn from them (believe me, enough self-flagellation has already occurred!). Let’s look at my 19 “bad buys” and see what they have in common. I’ve included the photo below so you can more easily follow along:
Here’s a summary of the common elements among my 2013 buying mistakes:
- With the exception of one item (the white tee, which wasn’t so much a mistake as a poor quality item that didn’t wash well), all of my mistakes were either bought on sale or at a resale store! I’ve already written on the hazards of sales and resale shopping on numerous occasions and will mostly avoid such shopping moving forward! If I do venture into such treacherous waters, I will shop with a list and use the “power pause.”
- Seven items fell prey to the “dark side” of alterations in that I tried to re-make these garments via complicated and ill-advised tailoring. The ones that hurt the most were the two coats which were subject to costly – and ultimately unsuccessful – shoulder alterations.
- At least a few of these items were bought primarily based upon one main characteristic that I liked (i.e. color, pattern, or style), while disregarding a quality or fit issue that shouldn’t have been ignored. Examples include the two black skirts and the two striped toppers.
I’m sure I could find more common elements, but the ones above are certainly enlightening. It didn’t take much time or thought for me to understand why my 19 purchasing mistakes from 2013 occurred. I’ve had to learn the hard way about the hazards of focusing too much on low prices, trying to “rescue” clothing through alterations, and not paying enough attention to quality or fit. These have been expensive lessons for me to learn, but I think that at long last I finally “get” it. I expect to make far fewer shopping mistakes this year and intend to put my most common errors behind me for good!
On a Positive Note
I’m happy to report that 28 of my 2013 purchases (37%) have become closet favorites. I love all of these items and have already worn many of them a number of times. Some are too new to have seen much wear as of yet, but I am confident that these pieces will be among my wardrobe “all-stars” at year’s end. All of these items closely match my personal style aesthetic, are in colors I like, and work well for my casual lifestyle.
Here’s a photo of my favorite buys from 2013 (click for a larger view). I hope to have a larger percentage of my 2014 purchases become favorites.
The Jury is Still Out…
Of the 76 purchases I made last year, the jury is still out on 14 of them. The majority of these items were bought toward the end of what turned out to be a very short summer where I live. The cool weather returned earlier than usual, cutting short the time period during which I would have worn my new summer pieces. I plan to buy very few warm weather garments this year and instead focus on shopping my closet and utilizing what I have.
The following items may or may not become wardrobe “all-stars” this year. My hope is that they will all join my regular wardrobe rotation, but if that’s not the case, I will pass them on before the year is over. In my effort to cultivate a smaller and more workable wardrobe, I have no room for “benchwarmers” that simply take up valuable closet real estate. I want everything I have to be worn often and loved!
My Plans for 2014
Clearly, I shopped too much in 2013 and I don’t want that trajectory to continue this year. While I did well in sticking to my clothing budget last year (it turns out that I really DID come in under budget for the year after a final return was credited to my account!), that restraint wasn’t sufficient to mend my wicked shopping ways. I started 2013 with a rule for restricting my buys to one item of clothing and one accessory per month, but I soon abandoned that tenet because it proved too difficult for me to stick to. Although it sounded completely reasonable (and likely is), I just wasn’t ready to dial back my shopping that much. It was too big of a leap for me to make so soon into the process.
Here’s what I’ve decided for 2014. I will cut my purchase number in half! That means I will buy no more than 38 new pieces of clothing over the course of the year. Yes, I know that’s probably still too much to buy in one year, but I feel it’s a manageable and doable goal for me. Of course, I can buy fewer garments, but 38 is the maximum number of closet additions I can make.
There are a few exceptions to my purchasing limit. I’m outlining them here so it’s all in black and white and I can’t get all “slippery” about the rules later down the line. Here are my exceptions to the rule:
- Workout clothes
- Socks (and tights)
- Shoes and accessories (I haven’t been over-buying in these categories, but will work to pare down these areas of my wardrobe this year)
- Gifts from others (I don’t get too many gifts, but am exempting them from the total)
All other garments that I buy will be included in my 38 maximum closet additions for 2014.
The Right and Wrong Reasons to Buy Things
I have created a new shopping priorities list for the year and will aim to only buy the items that are included on this list. The list details key pieces that will make a difference in my wardrobe (many are replacement items), rather than just things I want because I saw them in a magazine or on a style blogger.
In the past, I mostly bought things because they were on sale or because they were listed as “must-haves” by some fashion expert who has no idea about my life or what I like. This year, my intention is to follow my own fashion muse, hone my personal style, and enhance my wardrobe in a way that will work best for me. I’m happy with the list I’ve created and I highly recommend that you do the same for yourself, particularly if you have a tendency to overshop and/or buy the wrong things. Shopping with a list really helps us to be more conscious of what we’re buying, so we’re far less likely to make the types of mistakes I outlined above.
As the year goes on, I will periodically update you on how I’m doing with my item restriction and shopping priorities list. I will also create other goals and rules related to my wardrobe, which I will share in a future post. In addition, for the first time, I will also outline goals for the “full life” portion of my transformation. While I will continue to work on my wardrobe this year (and forever more…), I intend to shift more focus to other areas of my life that were deeply neglected during my shopaholic years. In order to have a full life, we need to place appropriate focus on realizing that goal, so I plan to do just that. I hope many of you will join me in this endeavor!
What About You?
You’ve learned about my 2013 purchases – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now it’s your turn… How much did you buy last year? Are you proud of your 2013 shopping or do you see a lot of room for improvement? What did you learn about yourself and your wardrobe in the process? As always, I’d love to hear from you! One thing that’s so great about this community is how much we learn from each other. I always gain new insights and knowledge from the comments you all make, so I invite you to share your feedback on this topic.
Your favorites are my favorites, too. I love the orange anorak! Fabulous!
Looking forward to seeing your 2014 38.
For me, my downfall is eBay. I’m tapering off buying online unless I am 100% sure of size, fit, and color. For example, a NWT Eileen Fisher top in a style I already own, in a color whose name I recognize as being flattering, at a bargain price.
My other commitment is to resell anything I buy on eBay that is isn’t perfect. It’s so easy to do these days, with PayPal and eBay and the USPS all cooperating nicely. Add in a printer and some free USPS supplies, and it couldn’t be simpler.
Rather than beat myself up over my continuing but now-somewhat-restrained love of eBay, I’ve decided to treat it as an opportunity to try some really nice clothing, knowing I can resell if they don’t work for me.
I, too, struggle with over shopping on eBay. It is so easy to find the perfect thing, only to find out that it doesn’t fit. I have had the best luck with skirts, scarves and necklaces. I have also had good luck with Chicos jackets and Talbots vests. I have sworn off sweaters and lined jackets – too many wasted alterations on jackets and half a day putting elastic thread in the ribbing of one sweater.
I still have saved searches in eBay for those items where I seem to have figured out brands and sizes that work, just like you have. I keep a watch list and review items for a week before I purchase them. Because I have been shopping on eBay for years, I know if I have seen something once, I will probably see it again if I don’t buy it the first time. No fear of missing out!
I know a lot of people struggle with over-buying on eBay, but that has never been a problem for me (one of the ONLY overshopping problems I haven’t had!). I am so hard to fit due to my height that I haven’t wanted to risk buying things I can’t return without trying them on.
Bette and Anne – It sounds like both of you have come up with strategies to shop smarter on eBay, so good for you! I know eBay can be a great tool if used wisely. Setting standards for when you will and won’t buy, as well as having a watch list and using the “power pause” before buying sound like good ways to make eBay work better for you. Thanks for sharing!
As always your candor and honesty is so refreshing in this world where few ever want to admit they aren’t perfect. So words of encouragement from the great white north”You go girl ”
Ps. A couple of wardrobe tips that i find have worked well for me when dealing with coats and your concern over purchasing items that ended up not working for you after all-
With coats – I pay no attention to the size on label but only focus on the shoulders and their width/as mentioned my shoulders are broad ( a trait you & I share) so I know that if it will fit me in the shoulders guaranteed it will be bigger than I need elsewhere but a good tailor can fit the coat in torso,etc. as it the same procedure as having a shirt altered
2 nd tip – to help with stopping purchases that end up not working, I make that ” wish or need” list I spoke of in previous posts but the key is that I am very specific about every detail of the item on the list and write that description next to the item. So for example I may need a new tee- my list will read black tee, v- neck, short sleeves ( not cap sleeves) and 24 inches long( not 25 or 26) and must be fitted . By clearly describing the item, I find that while I may come across one that appears to be right, if it doesn’t fit the criteria then on the rack or shelf it remains and I keep looking
Love your specific criteria list! I am going to use that on my wish list, too.
I work from a very specific list too — black t-shirt with deep v-neck in 100% (or as close to 100% as I can find) with “long” short sleeves. I had to buy and return 2 of these this summer before I bought one from the men’s dept. I don’t go trolling for clothes….
Exactly as Dottie put it- with the specific criteria, you don’t “troll” and end up with “stuff” stuffing your drawers or closets.
And since so many are sharing their buys for 2013, I will too -the items include both A/W & S/S additions or replacements to current items and follow my rule of only 3 to 5 new items (I don’t count items that are purchased as replacements for worn-out items or those that have been somehow damaged like the sweater I mention below and some years I never add anything new for additions):
1 Cashmere winter coat in light putty grey to replace a previous one I bought 10 years ago- while there was nothing really wrong with the coat I replaced, at the time it was the only “grey” out there which was dark tone( and I also found that unless I wore something near where the collar sat,it could be itchy at the neck when it was done up thus I found I rarely wanted to wear it although it was a beautiful coat)- I waited until I saw the exact shade of grey I had been looking for and lucked out on that it appeared at an amazing price(well below my allotted budget/at least $200 or more less)-replacement
1 custom made leather jacket (designed to my specifications right down to the color of zipper and buckles – and trust me the cost to have it made custom in fit, design as well as style-ended up costing me much much less than the Ralph Lauren one which I had been coveting and which was the inspiration for the custom one (and I mean well over $500 saved)-addition
1 custom made leather and silver belt(bloody expensive but a wardrobe changer-that is changes the whole outfit look when it is worn) as well as unique and will last my lifetime)-addition
1 pair of dark grey straight slim leg pants in a heavy weight cotton blend which can be dressed up for work or worn casual-addition
1 light putty grey cardigan( same color as the cashmere coat above) in a fitted cotton blend for warm weather wear-addition
1 dark emerald green cotton blend cardigan to replace one that I had which failed horribly after a gentle wash ( the placket shrank due to poor quality& manufacturer poor choice of material for its interfacing although the price certainly didn’t reflect the poor workmanship!) which when on and buttoned pulled leaving gaps at the bust)-replacement
2 Hermes scarf (A/W and S/S collections-additions
1 black fitted short sleeve tee-replacement
I have only one item on my 2014 replacement list which is my black ballet flats( I either choose Repetto Bolchois or French Sole’s Henerittas- it usually depends on whether I am traveling at some point in the year to Europe or such as the Repetto style is almost impossible to get here in Canada while the French Sole is easier)-fortunately costwise I tend to be easy on my flats( lots of care such as adding additional soles if leather bottoms ,spraying with protector before .etc before the 1st wearing)- which allow them to last me a number of years even with regular daily use or almost daily use. The ones to replace this year were purchased in 2006 and are starting to look a little down-in- the- mouth even with all the care.
Additions are likely to be 1(maybe 2 if the budget will allow) new Hermes scarf(s) depending on if there is anything nice in their collections for 2014
Okay so there you have my 2013(and 2014) shopping confessions
OHOH!!!- I forgot 2 items that I purchased in Sept of 2013 as replacements- getting old and missed that when I was looking at my wish/need list that I use/I forgot to cross them off on it! – the cashmere pull-overs I mentioned in reply to one of Dottie’s post
Did you take the failed-after-one-gentle-wash sweater back to the store? I know some stores are picky about taking back worn/washed clothing, but when the “damage” is due to faulty materials like an inferior interfacing, they should take it back.
I like grey — one of my fave colors. I went bought two items not budgeted for — a (mostly) black and white heavy cotton/poly blend pencil shirt that I got for just under $20 and a light grey heavy sweater (about $30). It’s so hard to find a good neutral light grey, so when I saw this sweater, I started planning to buy it. Neither of these purchases were spur-of-the-moment buys — I waited for them to go on sale and then used my employee discount for a further reduction. It helps that I work in retail — I’m in a store exposed to tons of clothing but I am NOT there to shop. But I can pounce when there is a good sale to get something I’ve been keeping an eye on.
You bet I did Dottie! That has been one area that I have made a dramatic change in- letting companies know about poorly made items and customer service when necessary ( collorary to that though is I also make it a point to let the companies know when the opposite has occurred, esp customer service as it is the norm to complain but not to praise). Even a few years ago I would just let the issues go be it defective items or lousy customer service but not anymore- I think it has something to do with hitting 50 at which time I started to “morph” into a “Maxine” clone( the character from the greeting cards)!
Thanks for your encouragement, Abgurl, and thanks for sharing your tips for smart shopping. I try not to pay too much attention to the size tag and instead focus on fit, as sizes vary so widely anyway. I remember what Stacy and Clinton used to say on “What Not to Wear” (usually when referring to pants/jeans but applies to other garments, too) – “Fit the largest part of you and tailor the rest as needed.” I have to do that with lots of coats/jackets since I have broad shoulders like you do. I also have to do that with pants because when they fit my hips and thighs, they are usually too big in the waist. Taking in the sides or jackets and the waist of pants are standard alterations for me that work well.
I like your tip to be more descriptive on a shopping priorities list. I will implement that with my list for this year. I think it will help me to be more selective and make better choices.
Thanks for sharing your purchases from last year with us as well. It looks like you got some very nice things during 2013! It seems like you really focus on quality items and I’m sure your wardrobe is very nice and workable as a result. How great that you need so very little for 2014. I look forward to getting to the point where I only need to add a few new pieces each year.
You WILL be there sooner than you think Debbie ! Look at the amazing progress you have made in such a short time . I predict that this will be a banner year for you in terms of less shopping of the wrong things and more of the things that will bring you the well curated but minimal wardrobe you want. You have all the right tools personally to achieve that goal and all of us to cheer you on. Can I be so bold perhaps to make a challenge? Perhaps make a list as was mentioned of 5 or maybe 6 items for 2014 that you define as essentials basics to make those items you know for certainty in your current wardrobe that you want to keep work ( for example maybe you need a nice silk blouse in a color you love that could go casual when you wear jeans and flats but could be dressy with a change to heels and a skirt or a cashmere pullover in a neutral that works with your wardrobe – again could be worn with jeans ,a pop of color scarf and boots casually or dressy with a pair of dress pants ,heels and a great necklace,etc for date night with the man,perhaps you’ve always wanted a great leather jacket but hesitated because of cost and trying not to incur more spending damage than what already has been spent,etc). So I guess what my challenge idea is , is to pick a limited number of items that are special but at the same can be defined as basics that can make what you do plan on keeping more cohesive and workable in a variety of situations. They don’t have to be the most expensive but demonstrate the quality that was talked about in previous post so you are not replacing them within a short period of time ( ie the custom leather jacket I had made was exactly 300 but its RL inspiration was just under a 1000 and that was so not in my
budget! You also could perhaps choose one special piece – here I am thinking along the lines of an accessory- that sings to you. For me that was the custom belt and the scarves but it may be something very different for you like an incredible statement necklace or beautiful handbag or yes a fabulous belt (as you mentioned you would looking for) that makes that tee and jeans look like a million dollars or when worn with one of your long cardigans and skirts over top the cardigan will define your waist giving curves and shape.
And Debbie- if you think that I am being out of line here with the challenge suggestion, just tell me!!! ( although I KNOW you can master the challenge without batting an eyelash even if you don’t think so)
Thanks for your encouragement, Abgurl. I agree that I’m getting there and that this year will be one of a lot of growth for me. I’m not sure if with your challenge, you’re suggesting that I ONLY buy 5-6 new items this year, or if you’re pushing me to purchase MORE quality items in the mix. If it’s the former, I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I am still trying to undo a lot of my buying mistakes and build a more workable wardrobe, so I feel the need to buy more than 5-6 new pieces (but still FAR less than I’ve bought in the past). Also, I have trouble trusting myself to make the higher ticket purchases in most instances. With the AGL shoes for example, I hemmed and hawed about getting those for probably two years before taking the plunge! It’s not that I questioned my liking them; it was more that I questioned being able to make the right decision (that they would be right for my feet, my wardrobe, and my lifestyle). So it’s a work in progress… I am gradually moving toward buying fewer, higher quality pieces and my intention is to buy fewer pieces this year than last year, then even fewer pieces next year. And yes, I DO plan to buy more special pieces instead of just a lot of mediocre items. I will be making updates along the way, so stay tuned!
Hello there Debbie! I did not track my purchases this year, but I do have an idea and I can probably dig through my e-mails to find out exactly what the damage is (not that I want to, I won’t be happy with the result)! I can say- a LOT were big mistakes. In January to April alone, I bought 6 tops, 1 pairs of shoes, 7 cardigans, 1 blazer, 2 bracelets, 2 necklaces, 1 pair of earrings, 1 coat, 3 belts, 1 skirt,1 dress, and 7 pairs of pants. 33 items in 3 months (oh the irony). I’m sure the trend continued throughout the year- I certainly bought a lot in October and November. The sad part is that several of these items are no longer in my closet, but like you I also got some really great things. I truly hope that I can turn the trend around this year and buy less and buy better!
Sorry, had to stop mid comment to take care of an unhappy baby (this happens a LOT lately!). I wanted to congratulate you on both your amazing progress and your honesty. While this post may have been the most difficult to write, it was very interesting! I think you hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else can, we’re all rooting for your success and we are less likely to be judgmental about your mistakes than you yourself 🙂
Thanks for your kind words, Meli, and for sharing your 2013 purchases with us. It seems like you and I are in a similar boat in that we made lots of mistakes last year but are committed to turning things around in 2014. I know we can both do it! I will be following along with you as you are with me. I hope you cultivate a happier wardrobe over the coming year (and hope that little baby gets happier, too!).
Thank you Debbie! The babys been sick over a week now and its been difficult 😦 but even normally, she’s a mommy’s girl and wants my attention 🙂
Debbie – Your truth sign made me think of a quotation from Dr. Larry Crabb that goes something like this, ” You will know the truth and the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable!” So consider how much you have learned about your habits by facing the truth of your purchases. You would not know how far you have come if you hadn’t looked at where you have been.
You are a real inspiration. I have developed a great clothing inventory with four seasonal rotations of clothing and cleared my closet of 3-4 giant bags of clothes all because of you. I now have notes for each rotation with short lists of things to add and notes of things that need to be replaced. I have feature colors for each season (like orange for fall) and feature themes (like plaid wool skirts and tights for winter). And I have you to thank for inspiring me! So keep up the good work. It will be exciting to see what your full life focus will bring.
Love that quote, something I need to write down for myself!
I’d love to know more about your seasonal rotation Anne! Particularly how you chose a theme and your notes for each rotation. Do you totally change “your look” each rotation? Or wear the same style just in different colors? Very intriguing.
KimM: All of my clothes are from a limited color palette: black, gray, white, red, navy, wine, some blue, etc. I organize my clothes by color then by the sleeve length (L/S, 3/4 sleeve, S/S, sleeveless) and pants length (full-length, cropped, etc.). My black tops, for example, include winter weight black mock-turtleneck sweater, cashmere cardigan, silk blouse, L/S knit shirt, L/S t-shirt, S/S t-shirt, and silk sleeveless top. Ditto for red tops and so on. I don’t change my look, just the warmth and seasonal appropriateness of my clothes. In fact some clothes are worn all year round, such as black pants (worn except for the hottest days). There are no “themes” — I’m not even sure what a theme in clothing is (Boho, etc.?). I have a specific personal style and buy clothes that work within that style. Some of my garments are years if not decades old — but still work because they are quality classic pieces. I wear about 80% of my clothes all of the time — but then I don’t own a lot of stuff. Clothes appropriate for really cold or really hot weather, special occasion clothes, and some items like swimsuit get less of a work-out.
I have four basic neutrals I wear year round: navy, gray, rosy brown, and taupe. Then I use the four seasons as my quarterly wardrobe names. For each season, I have picked several accent colors.
Winter: Cranberry, pink, light gray blue, dark purple, hunter green
Spring: Medium pink, turquoise, blues, white and green
Summer: Orange, turquoise, pink, blues, coral, white, red, green
Fall: Teal, purple, cranberry red, medium blue, orange
Then I have themes or certain items I feature for each season:
Winter: Plaid wool skirts, tights, texture, lots of scarves
Spring: Floral skirts, filmy scarves, necklaces and earrings that feature glass
Summer: Ruffles, polka dots, turquoise necklaces
Fall: Necklaces with wood and texture, earthy color combinations
This system keeps things fresh and interesting for me. I do have a lot of clothes but since I rotate them, I find I don’t get bored and I spend less time shopping in stores and I shop my closet instead. This system also gives me fewer items to choose from at one time (like Project 333) so it makes getting dressed much easier and not so overwhelming (which is where I was when I started following Debbie’s blog 9 months ago). In a way, each season allows me to live out a little bit different style aesthetic which is nice since I never have been able to choose a signature style. I decided I my style is comfortable, creative and this system gives me both.
Hope this inspires you to find a creative way to rotate your wardrobe.
Thanks for the explanation about the themes. I also have 4 base colors (black, gray, navy, red) and then about 8 accent or “go-with” colors but I wear these colors year round. In fact, with seasonal adjustments, I wear all of my clothes year round. So the cotton navy and red paisley print ruffle neck blouse that I wear with a navy suit in the winter (or navy pants and a red cotton cardigan in spring and fall) I wear with denim pants and red slides in the summer, and so on.
Thanks Anne! Lots to think about now…
I have “feature themes” for seasons too! Once I realized this, I saw why I had accumulated a bunch of extraneous garments I never wore. For example, for years in the winter I have worn corduroy pants and cardigans because they keep me warm. As time goes on, the silhouette of my pants changes as I replace them, but they are always corduroy. I5 years ago, my corduroys were straight leg, very tailored. Then I moved into a bootcut jean style which was popular for a few years. I replaced most of my corduroy pants this year because I lost 20 lbs, and my new ones are once again narrow straight legs, which tuck easily into boots.
I really love that quote, Anne. Thanks so much for sharing! Also, thanks for letting me know how my blog has impacted you over the past year. I think you’re doing better than I am! 🙂
Thanks to Anne, Dottie, and Deby for sharing your feature colors and themes information. I love that concept and plan to use it more for myself! In the past, I was all over the map with color (I love color!), so I’m working to streamline that more this year. I do have “themes” for the various seasons, but one thing I’d like to improve is to wear more of my clothes all year round. After all, we don’t get the seasonal swings where I am like other parts of the country/world get, so it’s definitely doable.
Deby, congrats on the 20 pound weight loss and for streamlining your pants collection. It’s interesting how the silhouettes we prefer evolve over time, even if we’re not really “trend chasers.” I prefer narrower pants now, too, but like straight legs over skinnies and those can be somewhat hard to find these days. I also like full-length pants over cropped pants. I think I have a “poison eye” for cropped pants since I used to have to wear what was known as “floods” when I was younger due to the lack of tall pants options years ago!
What a huge improvement you made in just a year! I’m very proud of you and I hope that you’re proud of yourself. I am here to make you feel less alone. I have rather ugly numbers. In 2013 I purchased 88 items (Ebay is bad).This number includes t-shirts/workout clothes. I have already passed along 38 items (Ebay is very bad). Of the 50 left about 22 are things I wear quite a bit. The things that I got rid of were Ebay things that didn’t fit and I couldn’t return or things that I bought elsewear that had fit issues or things that were never really my style. To have some comparison in 2012 I bought 144 items, have gotten rid of 97 and 38 are items that I still use regularly now. In years past I bought almost 300 items a year. So while there is improvement I can’t say that I am happy with those numbers. The common trend that I see with items that I kept and wear a lot are 1. If I buy good boots and don’t settle I don’t regret it. 2. If I buy Reef flip flops instead of the cheap plastic things I don’t regret it. 3. If I buy good quality jeans I don’t regret it. 4. Peasant tops and tops with elastic on the bottom I wear over and over. 5. Neutral colored thin sweaters/cardigans get a good amount of wear. 6. Fossil and lucky brand jewelry are my style and I am happy that I have it. The moral of the story is to stop trying to “save” money on Ebay. I am much better to buy less and buy the particular things that I like rather than settling and trying to get a deal. One thing I noticed and wanted to give you some food for thought is the last few posts you have mentioned having too many knit tops and that you’d rather buy a blouse or something a little more special. It looks like the things that don’t get as much wear are the blouses or fancier tops so maybe the knits aren’t so bad?
Thanks so much for sharing your numbers, Tonya. I DO feel less alone! I AM proud of myself for the improvement I’ve made and I hope you are proud of yourself, too. We have both made a lot of progress and I know we will continue to do do. It seems like you’ve learned a lot from your mistakes, which will help you to make fewer of them moving forward. Like you, I fare better when I spring for the “better” items instead of trying to save money, especially in terms of the more “tried and true” items. As you saw, most of my mistakes were bought on sale or at resale shops (my version of eBay).
Your comment about the knit tops is a good one. Maybe I just need to accept that I prefer knit tops and wear them most of the time. I would like to wear blouses more often, but the truth is that my life is very casual and I wear the more casual and comfortable items most often. Now that I’ve started to wear “regular clothes” at home, I gravitate to the knits because they’re easier to care for and it’s okay if they get cat hair all over them (I have two very affectionate cats). I agree with you that maybe the knits aren’t so bad!
I’ve been tracking what I bought for clothing since 2009. I always looked at it from a money point of view. I’m very glad that you’ve given me a new way to look at things as far as how many items and what did I keep and what did I wear. It will help me look at things in a different way before I buy something. I am also going to buy half this year. 44 items is more than enough and seems like something I could hold to. I will also give updates when you do 🙂
From 2003 through 2010, I only tracked how much I spent on shopping, too. I only started the wardrobe tracking in 2011 and really only made major changes in 2013 (so it took a while for it to really make a strong impact on me). How great that you’re joining me in the “half goal”! I like to set goals that are actually doable for me and I feel I can accomplish that one… I look forward to seeing your updates! I will update how much I’ve bought in each of my monthly accountability updates. Good luck!
I wonder what it says about women’s clothing options that so much of what people buy doesn’t make the grade. Why doesn’t our clothing give us satisfaction?
Dottie, because the hype of designer brands, whether found in a department store, small retailer, or consignment generally do not live up to their promise of quality. Case in point: cashmere sweaters. I like to collect cashmere sweaters when I can find them on sale. I wear them because they are lightweight and warm. A cashmere sweater, when properly hand washed and prepped after drying, can last for decades. That was how it used to be at any rate.
Why is it that I have cashmere sweaters that are over 20 years old, in excellent condition still–never suffering any holes (I even have a hot pink Dalton cardigan from the 1950’s that is pristine—YET the cashmere I have purchased in the past few years from the same stores) is flimsy and the yarn breaks. I have had to become an expert at mending tiny broken threads on all my cashmere sweaters bought in the last 5 years. It is infuriating. I am not hard on my clothes either.
Its not just the province of cashmere either–my favorite cardigans, a lightweight wool from Eileen Fisher, is literally disintegrating each time I wear it. The yarn is too fine and loosely knit.
It is 2 years old.
Does anyone else experience this?
Deborah (Deby): Oh, the case of the see-through cashmere!! I agree that the quality of fabrics is in steep decline — the thinness, flimsiness of cotton, wool, cashmere — are topics we’ve covered before. I was musing if the obvious lack of quality renders the garment unlovable (like your Dalton cashmere sweater)0 and drives out to the shops once again. I’ve all but stopped buying because so much of what is on offer is inferior to what I already own, Thank goodness I have good clothing back at home – if I were trying to build a wardrobe from scratch today I’d be tearing my hair out. BTW, an occasional Dalton sweater is available on Ebay — I’ve been tempted…. Have you written to EF to complain? I wonder if our feedback might stimulate an improvement. Sadly, I doubt it. I think so many corners are being cut to keep clothing “affordable” (one could argue a sweater than lasts less than 2 years is hardly “affordable”). The state of women’s clothing is so annoying.
I have old cashmere too–it is wonderful! Have you tried vintage shops?
As for E Fisher–I love her aesthetic and her clothes fit me well, but I find them overpriced. And I am a tightwad. So I wait for sales. A store near me (United Apparel Liquidators) often gets EF rejects from department stores. Many of these are fragile knits in terrible–unwearable, or soon to be–condition. I don’t buy them at even 80% off!
I would buy only from stores like Garnet Hill or Nordstrom with generous return policies. EF will hear about your gripes if you go that route (I don’t buy EF sweaters so I have not put this info to the test–but I WOULD return an expensive item if it didn’t provide sufficient wear)
Also, why not post your EF plaints on their Facebook page and see what the response is?
This is a great thread and I’m glad so many people are chiming in. Yes, it is VERY sad that quality has declined so much in recent years, even among the brands that used to be “tried and true.” I agree that we need to let stores and brands know about our dissatisfaction. I know it’s easy to think that our comments won’t make a difference, but if there’s enough of them, the brands will have to take notice and eventually take action. I was sad to read about the issues with Eileen Fisher, as I just discovered that brand last year (well I knew about it but hadn’t purchased any of their pieces). I always hope that if I spend more money on things (I can be a tightwad, too, frugalscholar), I will get higher quality items. But now I know that’s not necessarily true!
I do think that using social media to voice complaints can be helpful. I’ve heard that brands usually respond, as it’s such a public forum. I plan to always complain when I have issues with clothes moving forward. I truly hope we’ll see the return of better quality soon! Part of why I’ve taken to shopping in resale stores was to find better quality pieces, but these days I mostly find things from the past few years now that are sub-standard. I wish I had more quality pieces from years ago like some of you have. I have a few, but I really wish I had more!
Debbie, you made such great progress this year! I’m so proud of you for your self-honesty and courage in blogging about your shopping addiction. I’m very thankful I found your site because it’s been so inspirational to me. Looking forward to reading more in 2014.
Thank you so much for these kind words, Kim! I’m very happy to have you as a reader and I’m glad I have inspired you. Yes, it has taken courage for me to blog about my shopping addiction, but I’m so glad I did. It’s helped me to recover and it’s enabled me to connect with a lot of great people around the world. I feel blessed that my words have resonated with so many and I hope that continues to be the case in 2014!
In 2013 I bought
1 grey cashmere pullover in London
1 work dress from Dobbin
1 DVF wrap dress
2 black tees (replacements)
2 white tees (replacements)
4 camisoles (white, cream, black, dark blue) that go with a lot of items-replacements
2 new bras (replacements)
2 red belts (1 skinny, 1 casual)
2 scarf rings (I have a lot of scarves)
3 Lauren Merkin clutches to go with various outfits
1 small emerald green shoulder bag for regular trips to Hawaii
2 pairs thick tights for winter
24 pieces. I cannot imagine buying 76 pieces-I dont think there are that many out there in the mall that would fit me! I had a number of alterations done-to 2 pairs of pants, 2 skirts, and bought fabric for 4 custom pieces, 2 pairs of pants and 2 skirts. Its a fair number of items, but I am focusing more on accessories, which I need more than clothes and replacing worn or nonexistent items-the camisoles are really useful. I invested in repairing and cleaning all my boots and shoes but did not buy any new. The DVF wrap dress was my greatest extravagance but can be worn lots of ways in 2-3 seasons. My personal shopper and I have been going out 2-3 times a year to rebuild my wardrobe since 2010, but now I have a range of basics I don’t have to shop as much to keep it going.
Seems like you were very wise with your shopping last year, Maharani. I didn’t count undergarments and accessories in my total, but I didn’t buy too many things in either category (I used to go crazy with accessory purchases in the past, but not so much as of late – I have so much and need to pare things down…). I think the attention you’ve taken toward wise shopping (with the help of your personal shopper!) has put you in a good place with your wardrobe. It’s definitely beneficial to shop consciously and thoughtfully, as eventually you’ll only need to shop a few times per year like you do. People like you are an inspiration for me and I hope to get to where you are at some point. Thanks for sharing your 2013 purchases with all of us!
The 4 custom pieces will count towards my 2014 purchases. I need 1 or 2 new tops I can wear with suits and thats really it through winter-end of April, maybe May. I dislike shopping so much I am dragging my feet about it. I just find it mentally and physically tiring and all the bad things we discuss here put me off-poor quality, choice, service etc.
A further thought: about half my purchases are accessories, and half are replacements of items that were worn out. I bought only 3 items that were neither-2 dresses and a pullover-all three can be worn many ways. Alterations were needed as I lost weight and had to have waistbands taken in so got RTW garments tweaked bit for fit and shaping. The accessories REALLY let me get more mileage out of what I already have, especially the 2 belts-I wear a red watch strap daily and it has been fun creating new outfits with them. It doesnt sound like much, but they were a good buy for that reason.
I’d love to go shopping with you! Everything sounds so luscious — especially the emerald green bag. I own nothing green although it’s one of “my” colors, but I have seen some green handbags that have tempted me. I also use accessories to update existing clothing — a fun and more affordable way of getting mileage out of beloved clothing.
The emerald green bag is a small Brahmin bag-I usually never bother with Pantone color of the year items, but I can wear emerald. I also bought a bag in the previous year’s color too-a sort of bright red orange-both go with a lot of clothes. Accessories are definitely the way to enlarge a limited wardrobe.
I’d love to go shopping with you, too, Maharani! I’d also love to see some of your wonderful purchases. I agree with Dottie that the emerald green bag sounds particularly fabulous! I DO think it pays off to buy fewer quality pieces, focus on good basics, and then use accessories to change the look of one’s outfits and look more current (if that’s important to you). Bridgette Raes (http://www.bridgetteraes.com/) does a lot of posts on the power of accessories to create beautiful outfits. I’ve always loved accessories and have many of them, especially jewelry and scarves. However, I do need to bring a few belts into my wardrobe, as that’s one area that’s sadly lacking among my accessories. But I won’t go “hog wild” there… When I say ” a few” now, I mean 2-3, not 10!
Theres a nice piece on the Capitol Hill Style blog on building the basic belt collection, which I found helpful. I have a small number of belts-1 red skinny, 1 silver chain, a couple elasticated, 1 trouser belt, 1 jeans belt, 1 red casual belt, 1 with a silver clip fastening. Again, I dont buy multiples, but 1 of each style. They make a huge difference. Im short waisted so I avoid very wide belts.
Thanks for this suggestion, Maharani. I definitely need guidance regarding belts, as I mostly have NOT worn them for many years. I am also short-waisted, which is why I don’t typically tuck my tops in. But I can see the value in wearing belts even over un-tucked tops, or perhaps I can find a way of tucking that doesn’t make me look like I have virtually no torso! Still learning, as we all are… I am much better at advising others than at seeing my own blind spots and making changes.
Here’s the link to the belts post, in case others are interested (this is part 1, but there are 2 other parts later on with additional tips):
I agree 100 percent- it really is the accessories that take the small basic wardrobe and expand it well beyond the actual number of clothing items. It took many years to realize that a closet full of clothes was not to be envied but was actually the well stocked accessories closet that should be coveted! Hence why I gladly choose to collect beautiful scarves,bracelets, unique necklaces, the custom belt I spoke of earlier to add to my belt collection and such over a new outfit! I have really have found that although some of the accessories i choose to add are sometimes quite expensive, they are really more easy on my budget in the long run as I then have little clothing to buy because my limited wardrobe pieces can quickly be changed into another different outfit for any situation that arises ( for example I only use a carryon when I travel – I just got back from a month in Cuba and packed exactly 5 tops,a sleeveless black dress, 4 pairs of bottoms and 3 prs of footwear and my tankini( 2 piece in which the top can double as a simple tank for day or evening wear and approx 5 scarves( one in a patterned neutral that is large enough to be worn as an ankle length skirt or simple halter dress-think sarong size) and various jewelry items) Honestly , I did not have to repeat one outfit put together from the above the whole trip. I shudder to remember years ago on other trips where it took 2 of the largest suitcases known to man, to hold all the clothes I thought I needed to pack( and still feel the pain when I think of how the strap broke on one of them as we hiked up a hill on the isle of crete to get to our hotel and I had to carry the bloody thing in my arms while trying to drag the other by its strap and the worst of it all was I ended up not wearing even 3/4s of the crap I packed- thank you Universe, I took that lesson in pain to heart and never did that again!)
Your Cuba trip wardrobe is quite inspiring, Abgurl! I am getting better at packing less and using accessories with more basic garments, but I still need to incorporate more minimalism into my travel wardrobe. I can identify with what you wrote about taking large suitcases and not wearing 3/4 of what was there. I did that for my honeymoon in New Zealand (2002) and my Alaskan Cruise (2005). I learned my lesson after that, but still take more than I really need. It seems like many of us could learn a lot from you regarding packing for travel!
I’ve been reading your posts all year and I have to say you inspired me overall. I would say that before I was very unhappy with almost every item in my closet. From tops, bottoms, shoes and accessories it just seemed I owned a lot of pieces that made no sense together. I owned black mostly with very little color and when I did buy something I never tried it on so fit was always an issue. When I started reading your posts, Project 333 and making several pinterest boards I started to shop and really like what I bought. I had missions finding the best quality item I could afford in a style and color, those items had a plan in an outfit. I have a limited budget so 2 or 3 items a month is all I needed. Now when I dress in the morning I have plenty to choose from and letting go of items that don’t fit or work seems pretty easy. I use to ask for style advice and now i’m being commended by family and friends for my style. I still have my days when i forget style but it’s becoming more rare. I don’t shop like I use to, none of my purchases were planned and I was never very happy after I got it home. Now I don’t go to stores if I can help it, I shop online and I’m careful about what I buy. I use to think that if I had money to buy anything I wanted that I would be happy and money could buy style. Now I know that style for me is something to find and enjoy.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful success story, Lisa. How very inspiring! Your story shows the power of small but powerful actions and how they can make a really big difference over time. You didn’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe; your 2-3 per month closet additions have gradually taken your style to the next level.
One thing you said I’d really like to highlight for others who are reading: “none of my purchases were planned and I was never very happy after I got home.” That was SO true for me as well and I think the same can be said for many of us. Being more conscious and deliberate about what we buy is what will help us achieve the goal of having a workable wardrobe and a personal style that we enjoy. Congrats on your changes!
Thanks as always for your amazing candor. Great work on cutting down the inflow to your wardrobe!
As I looked at the grouping of 2013 items that have already left your wardrobe it struck me that many of the those items were long jackets or long cardigans without a defined waist, whereas the 2013 jacket/cardigan purchases that have already become favorites were either shorter or had a defined waist.
I know I myself love the idea of a jacket when I’m shopping, but I find I rarely actually wear them. So in 2014 I’ll be working on purchasing fewer jackets and while also wearing the ones I already own more.
Thanks for your praise and for your observation on my wardrobe, Jackie. You’re right in that many long jackets and cardigans have left my closet. I had FAR too many of them overall and have added some shorter jackets and cardigans to have more variety in how I dress. I still wear the longer pieces, but not nearly as often as I used to. Like you, I plan to buy fewer jackets this year and focus on wearing the ones I already have more often!
Debbie, as I read your tales of clothing acquisition, I am always struck by one thing: you are always trying to “rescue” garments from resale shops with less than stellar results, and then you get frustrated at the effort and resources spent trying to fix the fit.
You cite often that the biggest fit problem you have is with pants and shoes. I notice you don’t try to buy pants at resale (which is a good thing for fit) but you seem to struggle most with coats/jackets and skirts in the alterations department.
I think you have a somewhat idealistic view of your finds at the time of purchase, –failing to accurately assess how badly they actually do fit you pre-alteration. Its easy to get caught up in a vision of “what if”, especially if the price is right. By trying to push the envelope of what can be altered and what is an iffy effort, you seem to cause yourself a lot of unnecessary anxiety. You need to learn how to walk away… You can acknowledge what you find appealing about a garment, but then analyze the flip side too–before you lay out the funds.
Debbie, this comment made me think about the possibility of getting garments, especially pants, custom made. You could use a pair that you like and have a tailor recreate them. You could do this with most any item that wasn’t made out of an uncommon type of fabric. So instead of trying to fix or “rescue” almost perfect items, you could bypass this and spend your money on recreating items in different colors or lengths that you know already work!
I’m curious if anyone here has experience with getting custom made items.
I have had a lot of things made, being Indian, starting out with sari blouses, which have to fit perfectly. I had a lot of (Western) items made in the late 80s and have started again because of fit/choice/quality issues, especially with pants. Being a former seamstress of my own clothes, I am willing to fork out the extra, wait for items, and shop less. Fabric shopping and sari shopping are the only 2 forms of clothing shopping I enjoy, and I like participating in the tailoring process. It is more creative than simply “buying”.
Your assessment of my clothing acquisition is right on, Deby. I definitely got caught up in lots of “what ifs” when I shopped at consignment stores, and that cost me dearly! I have only visited such a store once since I wrote my “Dark Side of Alterations” post (and vowed to only get simple and standard tailoring done moving forward), but I am off to a good start. I turned down anything that didn’t fit me well. I did buy one item that needed the sleeve hem taken down, but that’s an easy alteration (and has already been done successfully). I plan to do far less resale shopping this year, but when I do shop in such stores, I won’t fall into the traps I did in the past. It took me a long time to learn my lesson, but the tracking I did last year finally scared me straight!
I HAVE thought of getting garments custom made, Emmy, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’m not sure if my tailor does that type of work, but I’m sure there are those in my area who do so. I may actually write a post on this topic, as I’m curious about how it works. I would need to do a bit of research, but I think a lot of people would like to learn about this.
If anyone out there has experience with getting clothes custom-made, please post here (or send me an email via the “Connect” page). I’d love to learn more about this topic!
I can provide some guidelines if you like.
I would love this, Maharani! It would be best done as a guest post to make sure more people see it (a lot of readers don’t read the comments section). If you’re up for it, you can email me the information (via Connect page) and I will format it into a post (giving you credit, of course – but you can just use your first name like Dottie did). Lots of people have been curious about custom clothing over the months I’ve been doing this blog, but I know very little about the topic. If you’re willing to share your wisdom, that would be great!
I will take a stab at it.
Wonderful – thanks so much!
As I am about to enter my first year of beginners minimalism (on all fronts) I am not able to compare to last year. But what I have learned in the past six months is that I don’t need even the tiniest fraction of the stuff that I have bought.
We have a system which works for all our purchases, but could be used for clothes alone. Items that are essential – how essential are they? We have a quick discussion, truly essential items can be bought immediately budget permitting. This is usually the replacement of something that has died and is required for daily living. Every other essential goes on a list which is reviewed monthly. We usually find that at least 50% of the “essential” list isn’t essential at all.
Then there are the “I really want” items. They go on my birthday list. Come my birthday I don’t usually want most of them either!
It sounds like you have a good system for evaluating and planning for new purchases, Gillie. It’s like an extended “power pause” in that you wait longer than two hours or two days (as recommended by Jill Chivers of shopyourwardrobe.com). I’ve found that even if I wait a few hours (or even if I leave the store to get a drink or a snack), the “spell” ends up being broken and I don’t “have to have” the items in question any more. It’s a really powerful way to quell the “wanting machine.” Best of luck with your first year of beginning minimalism (I’m right there with you…).
Interesting post~ and I applaud you on being honest with yourself, as well as with us!
I’ve never tracked the number of items I buy in a year, or the amount spent. I don’t think that I have gotten rid of anything yet that was purchased last year. I don’t buy at re-sale shops much, only very seldom. I tend to concentrate on sales instead and frequently buy tops in a couple of colors when I find something I like. This can tend to make my wardrobe rather boring, but it all fits and is in colors that I like.
I would say that I don’t make too many mistakes in buying clothing that I end up not wearing. Usually I keep the tags on things until I wear them, and if I don’t wear it within 30 days I just return the item with a receipt for a refund.
One thing that has amazed me about your posts is the concept of buying things that don’t fit and altering them. I NEVER buy anything that needs to be altered, other than needing to be hemmed, which I mostly can do myself. Even that is rare for me.
Now that I’ve curated my wardrobe to a certain point, I find I need less things and enjoy the things I have more. I’ve discovered a brand of jeans that fit me (NYDJ) and I only buy those. I know I can count on certain t-shirts for my basics and I’ve discovered a dressy shirt that I like, which I have in several colors that I love. My wardrobe is still too big. I have more than I need and a few items that I’ve only worn a couple of times. I probably have a few things that need to be culled that have become worn, faded or have shrunken to a size I don’t like. I do the reverse hanger process each season, which helps me cull things I don’t want to wear.
I’m going to make of point of trying to track my clothing purchases and spending this year~ I think it will be interesting & enlightening for me! So far in January I’ve purchased 1 item, a black infinity scarf that I plan to pack for a trip to San Antonio next week.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress this year!
Thanks for your comment, Diane. I think your policy of returning anything you haven’t worn in a month is a good one. I have tried to do that for the past few years, but am really going to be more strict about it this year. Yes, I became an alterations addict along with being a shopaholic! I’m done with that! I’m really going to take more care to find things that fit and avoid anything other than standard and minor tailoring (the most common ones for me are taking in waists of pants and the sides of jackets – I have a narrow torso and a small waist compared to my shoulders and hips).
Good for you for finding brands you like and sticking with them. That definitely makes things easier (at least until the brands revamp the fit and/or fabric, which often happens). I think that if we focus on buying fewer items and wearing more of what we have, we’re less likely to get an out of control wardrobe. I’ve been good at culling things for a number of years now, but I ALWAYS brought too much stuff in! Pulling the reins in on my shopping should really help me to streamline my wardrobe.
I also do this-Tommy Hilfiger jeans fit me best-I dont try on other brands any more. My shopper and I investigated every brand out there one day, and decided these fit best-they only need hemming and maybe waistband adjustment. For shoes, I now only buy Cole Haan or AGL, occasionally Tory Burch, not because I am rich or a brand snob but because nothing else fits my wide feet and allows me to walk around and still look dressy at work. I keep a list of my fave brands and for the most part stick with them for certain wardrobe workhorses: Tahari, Dobbin, DVF dresses, DKNY Super Opaque tights-they really are.
It really does make life and shopping easier when you find something that works for you and stick with it, provided they don’t change or eliminate it, as Debbie mentioned! I have go-to brands and styles in jeans, tops, bras, panties, t-shirts, tank tops and casual shoes. I’m still looking for something that works and fits in flats and dressy shoes. And I’m looking for a couple of different tops that I love because sticking to exactly the same stuff does get boring. Otherwise I love my standby favorites!
Again I am 100% as the same mind as you Maharani- I will try to stick with something that has worked for me regardless if it a brand name or not..I too do not care about having a name on the item as I am certainly far far from rich or a snob!!. A good example is my choice of only Repettos(bolchoi) and/or French Sole’s Henrietta ballerines- for years I suffered horribly in pretty much any shoe(and style of ) that I would purchase. I have very narrow feet and even ones sold as narrow caused me awful blisters and pain from rubbing in the worst way- my feet always looked a holy mess! I thought that forever I was doomed to foot hell and couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a simple flat that was made like my actual ballet flat which mold to one’s foot( and make you feel like you have nothing on). I then stumbled a few years ago onto the Reppeto Bolchoi and the Henriettas- while I choked on the price for the repettos( and even the French Soles are pricey for the average working woman although lower in price/I try to find them at least on a sale if I can), it has turned out that these are the closest you can get to the real thing but designed for streetwear. They do exactly as a good custom dance shoe does and mold to your individual foot. They have been a godsend and so I tend to stick with only them( praying to the shoe gods that when it is time to replace them, someone out there has a sale as a pair can eat up the majority, if not all of it , of the clothing budget for that particular period of time)
I have sworn off Talbots sales, and have banned myself from shopping at Talbots at all l because this is where all of my bad shopping has occurred. Recently I purchased four tops there that were on sale for about eleven dollars each. They are perfectly good tops, and it wasn’t that much money, and I’m wearing them. But the bottom line is that I didn’t need them. I already had plenty of tops. Other than the bad choices I made last summer shopping in San Francisco when I got caught up by the fun in the City, this recent purchase is my only other failure. I seldom shop these days, but I need to be able to trust myself to make good decisions when I do shop. I’ve said it before and I need to state it here again in public so that I won’t have another relapse – I can not shop sales because it is too easy for me to forget my good common sense and buy things I don’t need simply because they are good quality, fit me well and are marked down to half price. Shopping sales is what caused me to gain a too full wardrobe in the first place, and now that I have “finally” reached my goal, and am down to owning about 75 items total in my closet, clothing that I love and wear regularly, I need to remind myself constantly not to be temped by sales.
I really “get” where you’re coming from here, Terra. I’ve frequently bought things on sale and often in multiples like you mentioned. It always seems like a good idea at the time, but then we end up with overstuffed and overwhelming closets! My wardrobe is still too large (kudos to you for getting down to 75 items!), but I know I’m always in danger of having it get back to where it was a year ago. I think that setting goals and publicly declaring them is a powerful way to keep on track. Staying out of Talbots if it’s a “danger zone” is a good plan, at least for a while.
A key reason I want to maintain a small wardrobe is because I live in a high fire danger area and a number of times over the years we have had to evacuate and have nearly burned. I have close friends who have lost their houses (and their entire wardrobe of clothes) and the lesson my family members, neighbors and close friends have learned is grab the photos and a handful of your favorite clothes when you run out of the house to evacuate because you will will be sorry if you don’t. All the other stuff is replaceable. But a good pair of jeans and a well made sweater is very hard to replace, and you WILL need something to wear the next day or for the next month, if your house burns. With a smaller collection of clothes it is much easer to grab what you want fast, and run out the door.
I plan to write more on this topic and I suppose this is my rough draft.
What a fascinating concept, Terra! I look forward to reading your more comprehensive writing on this topic (if you’d like to do a guest post, I would welcome it – otherwise, please share the link when you are finished!). I have never had to evacuate, but I remember my father and stepmother did a number of years back. It makes you think of what you’d save. I would focus on my pets first, then photos, then other things like clothes. But I have FAR, FAR more than I could carry and I wouldn’t know which garments to reach for first! I never thought of this as a reason for having a smaller wardrobe, but it makes sense in light of what you wrote. I’ve often thought about travel and mobility, but this gives all new meaning to the term!
Respectfully, if you are going to buy 76 items, that is a nice clothing budget. I always wonder why you don’t buy 1/3 the items but pay 3 times the price. I wonder if one of the reasons you are so dissatisfied with your wardrobe is that buying more less-expensive items keeps you from having some really great knock-out items. How about a little Tory Burch, Diane Furstenburg, Rag and Bone? Something that has wonderful detailing and finishing. I know that much of the time when I buy less expensive pieces, it doesn’t take me long to decide they are ordinary. However, when I buy something really well made in a wonderful fabric, I love to wear it every time. For me, the mistakes are usually the things I buy because I don’t have the discipline to wait until I can afford something really great.
This is just a question intended to extend the debate and not a criticism in any way. We all need to think about our own value…what are we worth? Do we deserve to have something really great? Is that what is at the root of our grabbing a lot of not fabulous stuff? Quantity over quality? We never feel satisfied because we’re not really getting something wonderful so we just keep going out and getting more. I’m guilty of this, too.
I think that for those of us who don’t know what we WANT, the expensive price tags are off-putting because the mistakes we make are 3x+ the cost. You have to have a good idea of what your style is, fit, and use value before making the bigger commitment. At least, that’s the pattern I’ve seen in myself. Another good point- shopaholics, when it’s about self medicating with the act of buying, is much more ‘comforting’ at 300 items a year rather than 30. I’m beginning to shift into buying more expensive things now (well, have been over the last couple years) and it’s been slow and steady progress for certain. I did want to mention that I shop sales and get some great scores on good quality ‘designer’ stuff, it’s more work and a waiting game, but much easier on the budget.
Thanks for your comment, Happy Forgiver. I agree that buying 76 items is too much and that I would like do better to buy fewer but higher quality pieces. I’m gradually moving in that direction, but it isn’t as easy and straightforward as one might think.
Meli’s response pretty much encapsulates my sentiments on the topic, actually. She’s right that it is more “comforting” to buy more pieces, as each purchase is a sort of “fix” for shopaholics. Of course, I am working on finding new ways to meet my emotional needs, but it’s taking time, as shopping was my main coping mechanism for many years.
The fear of making mistakes is a big one for me. I have started to purchase more higher-end items, but it’s taken time for me to become comfortable with doing so. I don’t get too nervous about buying more expensive handbags anymore and I often buy pricier shoes as well (I’ve had to because my feet have become increasingly “fussy” as I’ve aged!). It’s tougher with clothes, but my aim in cutting down on the number of items I can buy is to move in that direction. Yes, 38 items is still a lot, but I expect to cut the number down even further in 2015, as I become happier with my wardrobe (through more conscious and deliberate buying) and have more confidence that what I buy will be used and not end up as mistakes.
Your comment about considering our own value is worthy of its own blog post, so I’m adding it to the list! I DO feel that is part of what’s going on with me, but the above considerations factor in as well.
Ahhh I think you and I are on the same brainwave here as I offered Debbie a wee challenge in one of my comments above to that effect – instead of many, focus on a chosen few that make you feel great ( an example of this is the wonderful AGL flats that she really wanted and hubby got her although a cheaper pair could have been found- I imagine everytime you wear them Debbie,
You feel like a million dollars right? And that,s the exact feeling you would get from only purchasing a handful of select items that you love)
This thread is great! I think a lot of shoppers have traded quality (and the accompanying higher price tag) for quantity and a low price tag. The stuff in my closet that has withstood the test of time (and maintenance, either washing or dry cleaning) has been more expensive clothes — a lot of which I got on sale or from family members, etc. It’s possible to get great deals on better quality clothes but we have to work a lot harder than 10 or 15 years ago to be successful. A lot of what’s on offer is very cheaply made and what too often makes the garment satisfying is “scoring” a great deal — not the intrinsic value of the garment itself. I try to avoid buying “deals” instead of buying quality — and, man, it’s tough.
I agree, this thread is great. I also spend more on each item and buy very few clothes. And I also agree with what others have said – I’d rather have a handful of things I love to wear that are well made. But it took me a few years to figure out my style so that I had the confidence to be able to spend more and own less.
Debbie, thank you for your comment and your kind invitation.
I like your point about how ‘scoring’ a great deal can almost override the point of buying the garmet itself. It’s a slippery slope- one I’ve slid down a few times myself, but I’m making progress. I don’t have the budget to match my taste so sales are one of the few ways I can stretch my dollar to afford great items. Case in point- a beautiful $360 dress, perfect in every way. On sale in my size? $97. Excellent, provided the dress fits perfectly and is versatile like this one is.
I’ve responded to the buying quality issue quite a bit in response to comments above, but wanted to state that yes, I feel good when I wear the new AGL flats, but I still cringe a bit inside about how much they cost. I actually bought these shoes TWICE in the past but ultimately returned them because I just couldn’t bring myself to wear them! I was SO afraid that I had made a costly mistake. I STILL waited a couple of weeks to wear them this time, but I DID keep them now and am wearing them.
I DO want to get to the point where I buy a few select items that I love and wear regularly, but I’m not there yet. I need to better understand my style and what I like and I need to improve my track record for making good purchasing decisions. That’s why I’m forcing myself to buy less. My limit of 38 items probably sounds very high to many of you, but it’s HALF of what I bought last year and probably 20% of what I bought in 2012! So I’m moving in the right direction and setting doable goals for myself to get to where I want to be. I am feeling more and more confident that I will ultimately get there.