This post launches a new feature on “Recovering Shopaholic.” As most of you know, I’ve been sharing what I’ve bought and what I’ve purged from my wardrobe since the genesis of this blog. In recent months, I’ve also started sharing my reasons for both my purchases and the closet pieces I’ve let go. However, there has been one missing link from the equation… I haven’t taken the time to analyze my purchases after the fact to see if they ended up being good buys – or buying mistakes.
We Think Our Purchases are Good When We Make Them
I believe that most of us think we’re making good purchases at the time when we buy something new. However, for a variety of reasons, that doesn’t always end up being the case. Sometimes our emotions get in the way of our rational thought, or we may be pressured into buying something by a salesperson or the friends or family members with whom we shop. We may also inadvertently purchase something that’s very similar to pieces we already have in our closet, or we might rationalize buying a particular item because it’s on sale or is in line with a current “hot” trend.
The reasons for making less than stellar purchases are virtually endless, so it’s not surprising that many of us later regret buying some of the items in our closets. However, how many of us take the time to truly analyze what we buy? Probably not too many of us, and not even me – until now! But since I’ve continued to make buying mistakes well over a year into my recovering shopaholic project, I decided to remedy this oversight post haste!
In today’s post, I categorize my 2014 purchases to date into three main categories: the good, the bad, and “the jury’s still out.” Yes, it would have sounded better to have my categories be the good, the bad, and the ugly, but the “bad” are ugly enough! Many of my 2014 purchases are still on uncertain ground. They may end becoming wardrobe workhorses or they could potentially end up in “benchwarmer” territory. But the mere fact that I’m still unsure about certain pieces is reason enough for me to hold off on buying anything else that resembles those items. It’s far better to spend our clothing budgets, be they large or small, on items that meet true wardrobe needs and will be worn into the ground!
Let’s start this purchase analysis off on a high note… The photo above shows what I consider to be my best purchases so far this year. While I haven’t worn any of them into the ground as of yet, I feel confident that these five pieces will earn their keep in my wardrobe. Listed from left to right, top to bottom, I share my reasons why.
- Cobalt and blue striped top: It’s no surprise to me that this top has quickly become a closet favorite. Not only does it include my favorite pattern – stripes – it’s also in two of my preferred colors, black and cobalt. I like that it looks polished but is still quite comfortable and casual due to the knit fabric. This is my biggest “winner” of the year so far!
- Black wrap-style top with zipper detail: This top is quite flattering on me and accentuates my relatively small waist. It’s also comfortable and can be dressed up or down, depending upon what I wear with it. I love to wear this top with jeans, boots, and one of my brightly-colored coats. I feel polished and put together in it and this wrap-style top is not “fussy” like some such styles can be.
- Black and white geometric print skirt: I love that this skirt includes a built-in slip, as well as hints of blue and yellow in the print. I have both blue and yellow tanks that will coordinate well with it, in addition to the obvious choices of black and white tops. I’ve only worn the skirt once so far, but I can see myself wearing it quite a bit this summer.
- Grey long-sleeved tee: I was excited to find a grey tee that was long enough both in the sleeves and the overall length. It’s also very soft and comfortable and looks nice with jeans and many of my scarves. It’s a good basic and in one of the main colors in my newly refined color palette. I think this tee will receive a lot of wear in the coming months and years.
- Teal v-neck sweater: I was lucky to find this sweater at Costco of all places. I have already worn it for both casual and less casual (I don’t do much “dressy”) occasions. I think this color looks nice on my skin tone and the diagonal ribbing on the sweater accentuates my narrow torso. The sleeves are also long enough, which is hard for me to find in a sweater (or any top, for that matter). I have very few sweaters in my closet, so this purchase filled a wardrobe gap. For that reason, I believe it will be worn regularly and enjoyed.
I didn’t veer too far away from my usual types of purchases with the items above, which is probably why they are working well for me. While I think it’s a good idea for us to venture outside of our comfort zones periodically, we need to tread lightly when we do so. The best approach, in my opinion, is to try new styles and trends one piece at a time. Of course, I haven’t always followed my own advice, as you’ll see in the sections below.
Now it’s time for the bad news. Well, it’s not all bad, as I was able to return half of my shopping mistakes and mitigate at least some of the damage done. These four items are what I consider to be my worst purchases of the year to date:
Below are the reasons I believe these items turned out to be losers.
- Dark green boyfriend cardigan: I ordered this cardigan online and the color looked brighter on my computer screen than in real life. I really should have returned it immediately after I received it, but instead I waited about two months to do so. Fortunately, it was purchased from a retailer with a generous return policy and I was able to receive a refund. This cardigan was a “loser” for several reasons. First, the color is all wrong for me: too dull, dark, and too close to black (so it couldn’t really be worn with my many pairs of black bottoms). Second, the hem hit me right across the widest part of my hips. Finally, it was a bit too baggy and didn’t really flatter my shape. Three strikes and it was out, but I should have noticed that sooner!
- Grey short-sleeved tee: I thought this would be a versatile basic, but as it hung in my closet unworn, I came to view it as boring. The color was too pale for my skin tone and the style was such that I would have needed to layer or include lots of accessories in order to appear put-together. Since I’m moving away from wearing the open cardigans that have been a closet staple for me in recent years, I’d like to find more “standalone” tops. This was not one of those, so I returned the top for a refund last week.
- Grey striped open cardigan: This cardigan was good in theory but not in practice. I liked the stripes and thought the grey tones would be versatile in my wardrobe. But the sleeves were a bit too short and the cardigan just wasn’t flattering enough on me. Sadly, it was purchased at a consignment store, so all I could so was re-consign it and recoup a fraction of my costs.
- Red v-neck sweater: Another consignment buying mistake, but I wasn’t even able to re-consign this one due to the seasonal change-over. I could have held on to it until late summer, but I opted to just donate it instead. Anyway, I bought it because I liked the color and had very few sweaters in my wardrobe. However, I failed to notice that the neckline was too low upon sitting down or moving around a lot. In the past, I probably would have tried to alter it, but I decided to just accept my mistake and move on this time around.
As you can see, two of my purchasing mistakes were made at resale shops. Many of my shopping errors from last year were also made when shopping at consignment stores. I think I often get stymied by the low prices, bad lighting, less than ideal mirrors, and attempting to make the only available size option work for me. For these reasons and because I’m trying to address real wardrobe needs instead of merely buying what catches my eye, I am taking a hiatus (perhaps indefinitely…) from resale shopping. Hopefully, this will lead to fewer buying faux pas, but time will tell.
The Jury is Still Out
My remaining 2014 purchases fall into a third category. At this point, I am uncertain as to whether or not they were good buys for me to make. One major reason for my uncertainty is that I have yet to wear close to half of the items I’ve bought so far this year.
Why haven’t I worn these pieces? Well, two of them were bought very recently and are for the warm weather season which just started where I live (and will likely wax and wane on and off until summer actually begins in July). The other pieces are either new styles or colors for me, and I tend to be a very slow adopter of anything that is outside of my comfort zone. I will get more into the specifics for each item below, but I wanted to come clean on the fact that I am not always a member of “Team Wear.”
While I think it’s great for us to wear new pieces right away, that’s not usually how I do things. Since I worry so much about making buying mistakes, I tend to hold on to things for a while before wearing them. This is a behavior pattern that I hope to change, as I’d really like to adhere to the personal 30-day return policy that is part of my 2014 shopping goals. If I can’t make up my mind about an item within 30 days, it’s probably best for me to return it rather than risk having a wardrobe benchwarmer in my closet.
My Reasons for Uncertainty
I have a few other items that I’m unsure about beyond those pieces that have yet to be worn. The photo below shows the 11 items (yes, more than half of my purchases to date!) that are on uncertain ground.
I feel this is the most important area for me to analyze, as it is far less cut and dry than my best and worst purchases. I believe some of these pieces may yet become wardrobe workhorses while others will likely languish in my closet. Here are my thoughts on the items for which the proverbial jury is still out:
- Black short lightweight coat: I bought this coat because I adore the designer and want to broaden the scope of the types of styles I wear. It is shorter than most of the jackets/coats I wear with pants, but I thought it was flattering when I tried it on in the store (yes, another consignment purchase…). I just tried it on again the other day and have decided to have the cuff details removed from the sleeves. I prefer more minimalist styles and I don’t like having details on my clothes that draw attention to my hips and thighs. Since the sleeve details hit right there with my arms down at my sides, that may be one reason why I hesitate to wear the coat. I commit to doing the alteration this month and to taking the coat out for a test drive by the end of May.
- Black sandals: I just bought these sandals last month, but am not entirely certain they were a good buy. I tried them on with a skirt the other day and thought they looked a bit “heavy.” I may end up returning them in favor of a more streamlined sandal style. I will decide on this before the end of the month.
- Black sheer striped top: I love this top – the style, the silhouette, and the way it looks on me. Yet I haven’t worn it! I think it’s because it’s a dressier style that doesn’t really suit my casual lifestyle. I believe that I will wear it, but it probably wasn’t the best buy for me to have made. I bought it while shopping with a friend, who told me it looked fabulous on me and that “I had to buy it.” Well, I loved it, too, but it’s hung in my closet unworn for over two months now! Fortunately, I think it can be dressed down sufficiently for my lifestyle. I’m going to push myself to wear it with jeans for dinner with my husband or for a similar type of event.
- Black velvet coat: The story with this coat is very similar to that of the black sheer striped top. I love the way it looks, but the velvet renders it a bit on the dressy side. For that reason, I’ve only worn it once so far. I think I just need to push myself to wear it, even in ultra-casual Southern California, because I really do love it. I need to become more comfortable with being considered “overdressed” in some environments. Lots of women do it, but my self-conscious nature leads me to hold back. But if I want to wear some of the “dressier” clothes in my closet, I need to bite the bullet and learn to be okay with standing out a bit.
- Striped maxi-dress: I just bought this a few weeks ago. I believe it will be worn regularly this summer, as maxi-dresses are standard summer fare where I live, plus I’ve wanted a striped dress for about three years now. I don’t think this item will be a problem, but I had to include it on this list because it hasn’t been worn as of yet.
- Straight-leg jeans: These jeans are really more of a “skinny” style on me and are snug in my hips and thighs. That’s a new look for me, as I tend to prefer roomier pants styles (for both physical and emotional comfort). I think these jeans look good on me (when I’m not retaining water, that is…), but I’m a bit self-conscious in them. I like to hide the fact that my hips and thighs are curvy rather than show it off. I realize that this is more of a body image issue for me than it is an actual “flaw” that needs covering up. I think I just need to push myself to wear these jeans and see how I feel. I commit to doing so sometime before the end of the month, even if it’s just to go to the grocery store or for a similar errand. I need to push through my body anxieties (left over from years of eating disorder issues) and try something new. Who knows? Perhaps I will end up loving this shape of pants…
- Navy loose-weave cardigan: This was an impulse sales buy made when I was shopping for pants back in March. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have bought it because I already have a navy cardigan. While my pre-existing navy cardigan was in a different style, I don’t really have a need for two navy cardigans in my wardrobe. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the error of my ways within the 30-day return window for the store where the cardigan was purchased. I do like the way this cardigan looks and it could be a cooler style to wear during the warmer months. I’m still hopeful that it might end up being a good purchase. Who knows? Perhaps I will keep this navy cardigan and pass my other one on.
- Purple long open cardigan: My main reason for purchasing this cardigan was so that I could buy something from the ethical clothing manufacturer, Seamly.co. I also liked the color and the way the cardigan looked on the model in the various ways it can be worn (open, belted, and draped). Sadly, it didn’t look as good on me as on the model (isn’t that usually the case?), plus it was far too big even though it was a size small. I have had to tailor it twice now to make it the more fitted silhouette that I prefer. It looks best with more fitted pants, especially the straight-leg jeans mentioned in #6 above. I think that I’ll create an outfit using this cardigan and the unworn jeans to see how I like wearing both of them. I still have hope for this item, so we’ll see.
- Purple print blouse: I love the way this blouse looks, but it’s somewhat fussy to wear. It’s a bit large on me, so it doesn’t stay in place the way I’d ideally like it to. Tailoring it down is an option, but I’m going to wear it another time to see how I feel. I only want to tailor it if I truly love it, as I don’t want to throw good money after bad, so to speak. I will also try pairing it with something other than an open cardigan (perhaps the short black coat or the velvet coat – items #1 and #4 above) to see what I think. Sometimes what we pair with a given piece can make all the difference in how we feel.
- White open cardigan: I bought this because I wanted to add more white pieces to my wardrobe. I had to tailor it on the sides so it would be more fitted since I bought a larger size for additional arm and body length. I haven’t worn this yet because it is more of a spring/summer piece and the weather has been cool here until recently. I believe I will wear it quite a bit during the warmer months, but we’ll see if that actually happens. Although I am moving away from this open cardigan style, the fact that this one is white adds an element of freshness to it. I don’t think I would buy this today given the silhouette, but since I can’t return it now, I’m going to wear it and hope that I will like the way I look and feel in it.
- Berry scoop-neck tee: I bought this top online and on sale. My main reason for buying it was because I liked the color, but the neckline is a bit low and I feel like I have to pull it up all the time when I’m wearing it. At this point, I’m unsure as to whether I should tailor it (I’ve successfully had necklines raised on my tops multiple times) or pass it on. I am not all that excited about wearing plain tees anymore and I already have a number of other tees in this style in my closet, so I am leaning toward passing it on.
Summarizing My Thoughts
I’m glad I decided to take a step back and look at my 2014 purchases thus far. I still have quite a few unanswered questions related to many of the items I’ve bought this year. The good news is that some of my purchases have been good ones and that I’ve learned from the handful of mistakes I’ve made. In regards to the items for which the jury is still out, I’m confident that many of them will end up being good buys over time.
I will do another purchase analysis in a few months, at which time I will provide an update on the items about which I’m unsure today. Fingers crossed that all of my remaining 2014 purchases will be good ones… I’m definitely giving a lot more thought to what I’m buying this year than I have in the past. Plus, the fact that I’m avoiding consignment stores should also make a powerful difference in my success/failure ratio. I hope to have a lot of good progress to report next time around!
It’s a good idea to keep track of your purchases, as well as your reasons for making them. However, it’s even more helpful to go a step further and analyze your purchases in hindsight. We usually think a purchase is wise at the time when we make it, but the passage of time can show us otherwise. Every few months (perhaps quarterly or three times per year), take some time to review the purchases you have made and categorize them. Ask yourself:
- Which items have become wardrobe workhorses?
- Which pieces are in the “wardrobe benchwarmer” category?
- And which ones are in the in-between territory?
Jot down some notes about why certain pieces were good buys while others were purchasing mistakes. What you learn may help you avoid making buying errors in the future.
Do you track your purchases? If so, do you take the time to go back and analyze them from time to time? How have these practices helped you to become a smarter shopper? Please share any insights and tips you have learned with me and your fellow readers. Many of us are still working on becoming more conscious and successful shoppers and can learn from the wisdom you have gained over the years.
If you’re still struggling like I am, you’re welcome to chime in as well. Even those of us who are still facing down our shopping dragons have insights that may be helpful to others. We don’t have to have it all figured out in order to help others. This blog is definitely proof of that!
Hi there! I recently found and started following your blog, since it really resonated with me. Because of the practical advice that you give, I have become more mindful both of my purchases and about hanging onto things that are unflattering or that I do not wear. I recently downloaded an app to my phone called “Closet” and although it is tedious in that you have to take pictures of your entire wardrobe, it is really helpful because you can then create outfits and thus track when you’ve worn each piece! I do not think I would have had the bravery to take on such a project if I hadn’t come across your blog, so thank you!
Interesting app! I’m intrigued. It would be great to use with a Project 333 where you have a reasonable number of items to track to begin with…
I definitely have too many items (that’s why I am here, haha…) but I’ve taken it one piece at a time- currently, I am focusing only on cataloging and tracking my spring/summer clothes, and then if that proves to be helpful, when it comes time for cold weather clothes again, I will begin to catalog and track those. Hopefully that helps cut the overwhelming nature of such a project…I feel like, although I still have far too many spring and summer items, it is a lot easier to break it up into chunks like that! 🙂
I’m so glad my blog has been helpful to you, Mary! That closet app sounds very interesting and like another one I’ve heard of called StyleBook. I’d like to try something like that one of these days. Best of luck with your project!
Thank you, and thanks again for all of your wise words. I am curious to look into StyleBook just to see what the differences are. Closet is pretty handy; the free app, however, runs out of closet space quickly, but uploading to unlimited closet “space” is 2.99, which, if it helps me, I have no problem shelling out. It’s the only app I’ve ever been willing to pay for 🙂
I just bought StyleBook (just got a hand-me-down iPad…) for $2.99, but haven’t started using it yet. It seems like it will take me at least a few hours to get everything set up and ready to go (even though I have photos of all of my clothes already). I’m hoping to do it this weekend. I may try Closet, too, and maybe I will write a post about these types of apps and how they help… Please let me know how Closet ends up working out for you!
I think the black sheer top and purple cardigan are both pieces that can add that “special” stand alone top factor you have mentioned before. And they would both look good with the skinny jeans! If you are looking to grow your style concept and like those pieces, just go for them! I think the silhouette is probably really flattering on you and most likely people will just compliment you!
But I also understand not wanting to stand out as dressy or change up your usual style too noticeably…for me it depends on my mood. I sometimes avoid wearing something I think is great and really cute because on some days I don’t want people to comment on my clothes (even compliments!). So I’ll switch to flat shoes or pare down on jewelry or avoid a piece (even one I LOVE) if it feels too “loud.” I am introverted and sometimes don’t feel like attracting attention to myself at all or want to look like I am “trying too hard” even if the dressiness suits the occasion.
This post made me realize I need to look back over all my purchases for the year. I know it will be uh…sobering probably. I am making no real progress limiting purchases! Give in every couple weeks like clockwork and usually end up with “a series of packages” when I do (as my boyfriend described it today!). And after a couple weeks off, I have 3 online orders on the way this week (one was makeup but still bought out of desire to shop). So I’m not purchasing significantly less than I was buying one or two things every week. I tend to wear my new right away and to like everything! But the quantity is ridiculous now that I pay attention and I do need to work harder to improve.
I can tell that you “get” where I’m coming from about my moods and standing out, Sophie… I will “go for it” with the new items when I’m in a more upbeat and extroverted mood, which DOES happen… I understand what you wrote about the purchase analysis been sobering – it definitely was for me. But the awareness really can help us to change. Best of luck to you with slowing down your buying!
Another wonderful post. Maybe you’ve already written about it, but have you had a color analysis done? And are you clear about what looks good on you and what doesn’t? I’m asking because these two things are the main things that really helps me when I shop. I might love how a pink boxy sweater looks like on a gorgeous fair haired minimalist model, but I know that anything boxy will make me disappear and pink will make me look ill, so I won’t go and get one. Last year I took some time to write down what looks good on me concerning necklines, armlenght, fit, leg styles aso. and it was so helpful for me. Also, when I shop online I only shop from stores where I can see the item on an actual person – preferably on video, that is also really helpful.
But you are doing absolutely the right thing in analyzing your purchases, I loved reading about it.
I haven’t had a formal color analysis done, Mette, but I have a good sense of what looks good on me colorwise. With styles, I mostly know but sometimes my body issues get in the way… I agree that it’s easier to shop when there are photos of the clothes on people, and video is great.
Very interesting to read your analysis of your purchases. I enjoyed reading it! It seems you are really thinking hard about your purchases now and that can only be a good thing. Glad you’re taking a hiatus from consignment stores as it seems that’s where you buy “mistakes.” Even if I’d wanted to save money at a consignment store, I’ve never bought anything at one because I don’t like having to hunt through everything. Think I’m a little OCD about going into a nice, roomy, well laid out store with all the sizes in order from 0-12, left to right. LOL.
I like the well-laid out stores, too, Kim. I hate shopping at Ross, TJ Maxx, or even Macy’s. I will only shop at some consignment stores for reasons of layout and overwhelm. But I’m glad to be holding off on consignment shopping for awhile. I may not go back to it, either.
I forgot to add that I tend to get overwhelmed in large department stores where there is so much to choose from. I prefer smaller stores such as Talbots, Eddie Bauer, Tommy Bahama, etc. Items in these smaller stores are usually more coordinated around a color story and also presented in an orderly manner like I described above.
I just noticed that the jacket is Nanette Lepore. The embellishment seems to be an intrinsic feature of her look, so I would be hesitant to alter it away. Why not try wearing it as is even though somewhat out of your comfort zone? Ditto for the velvet coat. Velvet makes everything look chic–especially dark velvet on a dark-haired person.
Nanette Lepore has very high resale value, so you can always sell it. However, you won’t be able to do that if you alter it.
Good points, Frugalscholar. I will aim to wear both items very soon, as I really DO like them.
Firstly Debbie, I hope you don’t mind me saying that you really should stay away from consignment stores. Period. You don’t have a lot of luck there and so it’s just a false economy. I do not step foot in consignment stores. I always think if it was given away for re-sale in the first place there is something wrong with it.
I really hope you will start wearing the black stripe top, velvet jacket and purple print top. Just put them on to go out. When I eliminated much of my closet and focussed on a smaller palette I was left with a lot of “good” clothes. I just started wearing them. It feels so different and so nice to wear these things. As an over shopper I was often buying things but not wearing the “too good” ones – it’s rediculous and we know it.
I plan to stay away from consignment stores, Carolyn, at least for a while (and maybe indefinitely). I agree that we need to wear our “good” clothes – I even wrote a blog post on that topic! “Dressy” is really just a state of mind, so I just need to shift mine…
When I was in undergrad I started tracking every new item I bought. Until I wore it ten times (that was my number for making sure that I would grab something even when not tracking it) I wouldn’t buy another item from the same category. And if I discarded something before 10 wears I noted why -color/fit/too many of the same thing and wouldn’t buy another of that item except as a replacement. I’m not doing it currently because I’m at a place where I need to replace lots of what I own after almost zero shopping during grad school.
Re: shirts and length – I also have a long torso and I try to stick to stores that carry tops in talls. I don’t know if any of these stores are to your liking, but JCrew, ON/Gap/BR and LOFT all carry tops in tall, mostly online only (although generally you can return them in store).
Lastly, I think you can find much better black sandals, but I think that your purple open cardigan would look really nice with that maxi dress as well as your new jeans!
I love your tracking method, Sara. I just may take it on! Thanks for the tips on tall tops and the suggestions for the purple cardigan. I have some other black sandals on order and may replace the ones I bought last month.
Hi Debbie, I loved reading this article. You really make my think about my own shopping habits. And thank you for referring to the article about team hunt or team wear. I had never heard of that before, but after reading it, I felt relieved. I am definitely a hunter, and it is nice to know there I am not the only one :-). Please keep writing, because your posts are so helpful and inspiring.
I agree that you should stay away from consigment stores and that you should start wearing your dressier clothes. In time you will get used to them and not feel so ‘dressed up’.
Love from Holland.
Welcome, Jessica. I hope to visit your fine country one day, as I am part Dutch. I have been on Team Hunt, too, but would like to switch teams. I agree that if I start wearing the dressy clothes, I will end up feeling less dressed up in time. It’s all about what we’re used to!
I concur with Carolyn about consignment shops. I seldom buy in consignment shops (I’ve had good luck only with new-in-the-box shoes). I’ve noticed that a lot of the stuff in these stores are there because the garment has some kind of flaw — sleeves too short, fabric too wrinkly, buttons too gaping, style too dated, etc. Nearly all of us would all like to envision that someone with exquisite taste just down-sized her wardrobe and brought in a lot of good, barely worn items but stuff is generally consigned the way you consign it — it doesn’t quite fit, the color is wrong, etc. If I were in your shoes, I’d stay away from stores, consignment or otherwise, that don’t have the generous return policies that you need as you go through your process of defining your ideal wardrobe. I also have noticed “repeat offenders” in your list of “nos” and “maybes” — especially those long, open front cardigans. It looks like from the photos you’ve posted of you wearing your new clothes that these sweaters are way too voluminous for your long lean frame. I don’t think this is a good look for most people anyway (too much fabric over the stomach/hip/butt area for almost everyone). I didn’t think I’d like the skirt with the small overall print but the photo of you wearing this changed my mind (I too need generous return policies!!!) — it was adorable. This analysis process is very worthwhile — I’ve been doing this for decades — both why clothes work and why they don’t. The key is to internalize the “whys” and use this info as a barometer of acceptability when shopping in the future. It’s not enough to know the red sweater’s neckline was too deep but also to know what is your ideal neckline(s).
I agree that I need to shop in stores with generous return policies, Dottie. I’m going to stop buying the open cardigans, but will still wear the ones I have sometimes. I have gotten many of them tailored to be more fitted. And I’m going to keep doing the purchase analysis, as I found it highly valuable!
The black and gray cardigan reminded me of a big faux pas I made about 30 years ago. I bought a very pretty black and gray vertical stripe wool skirt with an inverted pleated and a matching gray and black stripe shirt-style blouse. These were by a famous designer that I like very much and I bought them in a major discount store that is no longer in business. Each piece was beautifully made with Italian wool – very fine and soft. They fit perfectly. I wore them to work the next day, and mid-morning I went to the ladies room and caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror (everyone should have one but I didn’t at the time). The color and width of the stripes was reminiscent of the clothing worn in WWII concentration camps. I had missed this “detail” in assessing this outfit when I purchased it!! I was mortified, and quickly drove home and changed into something else. On my way back to the office, I dropped the skirt off at one charity shop and the blouse at another in the hopes that as individual pieces they might not offend.
I forgot to mention that this disastrous purchase occurred because I over-focused on color (black and gray — my faves), fit, and price without looking at the bigger picture — who might I offend (besides myself) wearing such an outfit?
Thanks for sharing this story, Dottie. I love how you immediately took action once you realized the skirt and blouse were a bad decision. Yes, we can definitely get into trouble when we over-focus on some details while avoiding others. I’ve been guilty of that on numerous occasions…
I also thought the cardigan was reminiscent of clothing worn in WWII concentration camps.
All the more reason for me to be glad I no longer have it!
I love that you analyze why something is or isn’t working. When I update the spreadsheet where all of my clothing purchase are listed I have a “fate of item” column. Usually it’s a simple “didn’t fit” but I think I would benefit from a more extensive explanation since it really helps tease out what works or doesn’t work for clothes in general, not just for that particular item.
I think we have a similar body shape and skin color and many of the things you find don’t work I know wouldn’t work for me either. I have found that v-neck shirts and dresses work better for me because, I assume, it helps balance me out. Crew neck and scoop neck are just not flattering and make me feel and look boxy. I wonder if you find v-necks to be most flattering as well.
Regarding the cardigans you’re on the fence about, I’d suggest tailoring the white one so it is shorter or even fitted and cropped to your waist. This will work to accentuate your waist without having to wear a belt and will draw the eye up away from your hip/thigh area. I have a cropped 3/4 sleeve cardigan and I wear it all of the time because it’s so flattering.
I prefer v-neck tees over crew-neck, Emmy, but I like scoop-necks, too. I like lower necklines in general, just not TOO low… Thanks for your tip on the white cardigan. I would probably be hesitant to alter it too much, as it might be hard to have it be successful, but I will keep that in mind if I just don’t wear it the way it is. I think I will probably just aim to buy shorter cardigans like the one you mentioned moving forward.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could “test drive” our clothing purchases for a few weeks before fully committing.
I’m just wondering if maybe it is unavoidable to make a few mistakes when shopping. I certainly have made purchases that thrilled me in the store only to later discover that I didn’t really feel as good in the garment as I had hoped to when actually wearing it. I’ve also had the opposite experience, some items just feel so great that you want to wear them all the time. Sometimes you just don’t know until you put something on for the day how much you will like it. Do we have to factor in the fact that we can never know for sure when we shop whether a garment will be a 8-10? Maybe part of the process of developing an excellent wardrobe is allowing for some mistakes.
I admire that you are facing up to your mistakes right away and getting them out of your closet. I need to make myself do that, too. If I keep hoping that they will miraculously improve while they hang in my closet unworn, I am just creating more clutter in my mind, life and closet.
I think you’re probably right, Happy Forgiver, in that we can’t avoid ALL shopping mistakes. I’d be happy making FEWER of them than I’ve been making, though! I would LOVE to be able to test-drive my clothing purchases! Sometimes I do it a bit by wearing something around the house, but that’s not always enough for me to know if something is a hit or a miss.
I love the idea of the garment test-drive, though laundering so often immediately changes the feel and structure of a garment so as to make it impractical. I spend far too much time sitting (don’t we all?) with my job, and that’s where things that seem good in dressing rooms often fall flat – they dig, pinch, or get in the way when I’m sitting. Some things I don’t enjoy I can’t fully avoid (oh, blazers, I’m looking at you), but long necklaces, too-tight-in-the-waist pants and torso-clingy tops? Not for the office.
Thanks for a great post. Your analysis and comments are inspiring and every week I feel closer to understanding why the dress which seemed perfect for every occasion in the store hangs barely worn in the wardrobe. A daily diary of what I wear reveals that I need so little- and yet to feel ‘safe’ for any occasion I buy those ‘gap’ fillers ‘just in case’. My next step is to identify a capsule of outfits (not pieces) for various situations and activities. I have done this for ‘special occasions’ and can see that I have quite enough for anything I’m likely to attend. Analysis has revealed that I often buy for situations that rarely occur – so I wear these clothes very little – a sign of insecurity? My aim is that future purchases will be good quality replacements of items I wear repeatedly, combined with a few new items which become new staples.
Sounds like you have a good plan in place, Lynn, and you’re on the right track. I think that many of us buy too much for reasons of insecurity. I know that has motivated a lot of my purchases… I think it’s a good idea to focus on replacement pieces and only adding new items in gradually. That way we can learn what works and what doesn’t and what we should repeat and stay away from.
Forgive me for being frank – this was a great post – but I think the rules should be:
“Do I absolutely love this item, no reservations?”
“Will I wear it today?”
If you answer no to either question, it’s a no…
Analyzing your mistakes is a great way to proceed. I figured out that I’m drawn to brights and pattern when I’m shopping but prefer to wear solids and neutrals. (Robin Wright in The House of Cards has a great wardrobe, I love every single item and would wear any and all of them.)
About the body image, I’m sure it’s not a simple area for you but I personally believe in focusing on the good parts and forgetting about the rest. My body shape is a lean column or a pear depending on how I dress and trying to hide my hips actually accentuates the pear characteristics – like Emmy, I look great in slightly cropped jackets and 3/4 sleeves but waterfall cardigans and tunics look hideous on me. Jackets are quite difficult to get right for a casual lifestyle, I tend not to wear my blazers at home and most cardigans are too unstructured or exaggerate my very strong vertical dimension. Jersey blazers or very light and flexible jackets, an ultralight down jacket or a collarless denim jacket are the way to go for me…
Dear FF: You have illustrated a common problem in fashion — the garment that is supposed to “hide” negative body parts, like the waterfall cardigan, but instead adds to the problem. My sister — she of the no-longer-toned-arms — decided that her tops have to have long or 3/4 sleeves — or no sleeves at all. She feels that short sleeves just aggravate the problem by stopping midway on the offending triceps.
Yep, Dottie, you are so right, an I learned this the hard way – baggy clothes do absolutely nothing for me! For me it’s important to pay attention to those transition zones. A difference of a couple of inches can be the difference between dowdy and really elegant!
You’re right about those “few inches.” That’s part of what makes it so hard for me to shop as a tall woman. What looks fabulous on a woman of 5’6″ or 5’7″ often doesn’t work on 5’10” me… I am moving away from baggy clothes, as I’ve seen through the photos I’ve been taking that they don’t always have the effect I want (i.e. making my lower half look smaller). The expression about a picture speaking a thousand words is SO true. I wonder why we don’t always see in the mirror what we see in photos…
Your rules are excellent, FrugalFashionista. I try to ask myself those types of questions when I shop, but sometimes I love something in the store and THINK I will wear it right away but then that doesn’t actually happen. But it’s good to always question our purchases and aim to only buy those items that we unequivocally love.
Yes, the body image is very hard for me. I try to focus on my good points and dress for those, and I’ve gotten better at doing that in recent years. I can look like a lean column or a pear based upon how I dress, too. I much prefer to look like a lean column! The types of toppers you mentioned sound wonderful and could work well for me, too. I will keep an eye out for such pieces.
Oh and I definitely stay away from consignment stores too! (My mother bought the resale dress for me.) I’ve found a couple of really lovely items there, but they are offset by many, many mistakes that just add clutter.
I have a lot of dressy clothes but finding my personal way to do casual style has really changed how I view clothes – before, I bought a lot of work/special occasion clothes because I ‘should’ buy them, but I rarely wore them. Now I’m only aiming for purchases that feel ‘me’ and can be worn all the time. My new purchases are worn much more regularly and some of them are even showing signs of wearing out – very unusual for me!
And finally, it took me a long time to realize that black may not be the best color for sandals. It’s easy but can look too heavy and makes my legs look gothic pale even when they are reasonably tanned. You are allowed to wear lighter neutrals in the summer – go for silver or white or khaki or whatever…
I am working on finding my personal way of doing casual, too, as that is what my life is. I think it’s a great idea to only buy items that feel like us and that we see ourselves wearing all the time. When I do that, I tend to make far fewer mistakes.
Good point about the sandals. I have some silver and khaki sandals now and enjoy wearing them. Perhaps I just need to get used to wearing lighter shoes even with darker clothing and my dark hair. If I can’t find a replacement sandal that doesn’t look “heavy,” perhaps I will just replace one of my lighter pairs (all are getting worn out – happens more for me with shoes than clothes!) instead of getting a black pair.
Debbie, though it might feel loud to you, maybe try a pair of brown or red sandals as your neutral. I find that while I sometimes like black clothing (suiting in particular), I often prefer a colored or brown leather accessory (shoe, bag, or belt). A warm cognac or pale tan is delicious with black, and (perhaps due to my Kansas/Oz origins) over the years I’ve found a red shoe to be surprisingly neutral – especially if it has undertones that lean orange-y brown. In fact, today I’m wearing a black suit, cream blouse, and rust-red flats. It “wakes” the outfit up without being too loud.
I can see the logic in doing this, Rebecca. I’ve seen some style bloggers pair cognac shoes and accessories with black clothing and I like the way it looks. I have one pair of red sandals that I didn’t wear very often for a few years, as I kept thinking I needed to wear them with an outfit with at least SOME red in it. But last year, I started wearing them with my black and white pieces, among others, and I liked the look. Those sandals are a bit high for everyday, but I’m open to finding red or cognac sandals in place of black, especially if the other black sandals I’ve ordered don’t work out. I will keep everyone posted…
I echo what others have said about staying away from consignment stores. Once we identify an area where we have repeatedly failed it is likely to continue to lead to failure. Although I’ve found a few lovely items at consignment stores over the years, I’ve purchased far more mistakes. Also, the items that I’ve loved purchased resale and appeared to be lightly worn initially, tended to wear out very quickly. And it is especially frustrating after the expense of having an item altered, have it wear out soon. Now that I have a small wardrobe filled with items I love and wear regularly I want my clothes to last as long as possible, and I stay away from consignment stores.
I regret using the word fail/failure, and I have no idea why I did it other than it must have been lurking in some dark corner in my mind that is stuck in the past. Because I have recently learned that here is no such thing as failure. Everything in life is either a success or an education. For me shopping consignment stores has been an education. It has taught me that it is not a good shopping option for me.
I didn’t take offense at your use of the word failure, Terra. I agree, however, that everything in life is either a success or an education. That’s a great way of looking at things! Like you, I have had more “lessons” with consignment store shopping than successes. Some of my successes have been really great, though, and I think that’s what has sent me back to such stores. I think that some people can do very well in that environment, but it’s important to be very clear on what you’re looking for and to have set rules in place for what to buy and what to leave in the stores. But I plan to stay away until my overall track record for shopping is much better (and I may stay away forever…).
I loved this post! You’ve inspired me to do the same so hopefully I will post mine soon.
I think concentrating on the whys of each item- good and bad- brings great insight and can help us shop smarter. Good for you on being so on top ofeverything!
I look forward to reading your purchase analysis post, Meli! I hope you find the process as helpful as I have.
I did find it helpful! I will absolutely do this going forward, I think for me on a quarterly basis.
Loved your post, Meli! Will comment on your blog, too, but just wanted to say “bravo!” You’re doing a lot better with your purchases this year than I am!
Thank you Debbie! My problem is that I find things to love TOO easily, which is more challenging to the wallet. I’m pretty down about my recent bender, I really overdid it and am wondering what I’m going to do…
You’ll figure it out, Meli. Setbacks are common on the road to recovery. I often buy too much and have to return things, especially when shopping online. I usually think that I will only end up liking a small fraction of my online purchases, but occasionally it’s hard to decide what to return. I know you’re having a lot of anxiety now, but overall you’re doing very well! And you will recover from your recent “bender” and learn from it, too.
Debbie, I love this post. I am trying to really look at what I have now, too. I think Project 333-ing really helped to cull some shopping in 2013, though I know I used impending rounds as excuses to shop, too. Off the top of my head, I’m guessing I purchased 35-40 items either new or second-hand during my year of dressing-with-less (probably about 1/3:2/3 in favor of new), and I’d wager that only about 5-10 or so really work for me, a solid 15-20 are on the fence, and as many as 10-15 are earmarked for donation or already gone. Hardly effective.
Some of that is the process or learning. I also “practiced shopping” last year: I increased my second-hand-to-new-clothing* ratio, tried two new-to-me companies (Seamly.co and Horny Toad) for their manufacturing practices, and had a pretty substantial “I give up” shopping trip last winter where I had a pretty serious day of shopping (11 items) half second-hand and half new from a store that doesn’t match my wardrobe values any more. There will be setbacks. There always are. But they come with lessons. I relaxed my standards in proportion to requiring more from my brands, and I’ve ended up with at least six new items that are not quite right from these ethical/sustainable brands. I know to avoid that mistake in the future. It doesn’t matter how ethically or sustainably it was produced if you don’t take care to make sure it works well for you and you can use it (and hopefully use it up).
Here’s to better decisions for both of us!
*after a lot of research, I think shopping second-hand can be one of the best and most ethical and sustainable ways to shop. But it does not excuse mindless purchasing habits.
Thanks for sharing your stats, Rebecca, even if they are just estimations. I feel your pain about the less than effective shopping. I think I’ve done better this year than in previous years, but I’d like to see my average go up, that’s for sure.
I bought one piece from Seamly.co and was excited to do so. However, I haven’t worn it yet and had to alter it (the purple cardigan) to get it to fit me as I’d like. Who would have thought a small would be so big on me? I definitely thought I was bigger than the model on the website (however, I know that clothes are often pinned back for photos). I would like to buy from more sustainable companies, too, but I also agree with you that the most important thing is for us to love what we buy, wear it often, and use it up!
Regarding secondhand shopping, I agree that it can be a very ethical and sustainable way to shop and I know people (other bloggers mostly) who swear by it and have a lot of success with that type of shopping. But that hasn’t been my experience… I haven’t necessarily given up on it, but I’m taking a step back for the time-being and focusing on learning to shop smarter and better overall.
I tried to wear more ethically sourced clothes last year but I ran into some problems. A lot of ethical clothes aim for a natural esthetic (lots of linen, casual, slightly rumpled) or have a boho feel. My personal style is all about crisp clean lines and as little embellishment as possible, and I love freshly ironed clothes. And because I’m moderately tall, ditsy patterns, cute detailing (the leading ethical retailer in the UK, People Tree, excel in this) are totally off scale for me. With my tall and angular frame, I need flowing clean lines and detailing that is on scale with me. So I’ve reverted to mainstream sources of clothes, although I try to pay attention to sustainability and CSR when I’m choosing my clothes.
I’ve been trying to understand why diagonals look so great on you Debbie. You have a lovely jawline and I think the diagonals repeat that and draw the eye to one of your best features! Necklines that repeat this shape (V-necks) also look lovely on you, they draw the eye to your lovely face.
And another tip from another tall pear: the hemlines of tops have always been really difficult for me (too long=frumpy, ending in the wrong place= exaggerated hips, too short = feels awkward and exposes my midsection) but I’ve recently found that curved hemlines solve these problems. Not sure whether that would work on you (though looking at your recent pics, the tops #3 and #6 in your recent pics have a slightly curved effect and are not too long and both are really flattering) but they have been a revelation for me. Side splits are also good! I’ve learned these things very gradually. My mother has a really good eye for clothes and I often get a second opinion from her because I find it really difficult to really ‘see’ me. She is frank enough to let me know when something that I’m wearing does not work well (belted anything is a no no!) and she is also usually able to explain why a flattering outfit works. I hated her opinions as a teen but have started to value her insights…
Debbie, I so clearly remember talking to you about your Seamly purchase. I’m surprised you found the small so large, too, though you are narrow in your tallness, and it’s a very drapey garment meant to be versatile, which sometimes means it’s not perfect in any iteration but okay in all three… and I think part of the question is whether it makes sense to have a versatile garment you feel meh about or a particular one you love…?
FF, I agree about the diagonals on Debbie! I hate them on me. I have a strong jaw, too, but unlike Debbie, I’m a petite hourglass and the lines get too wavy. 😉
Regarding outfits in general, I started taking photos of my outfits every day to show that P333 could create a stunning number of options. But it also really helps me go back and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for me. I pay attention to how I feel during the day (tailored? frumpy? too casual? etc) and then go back once a week to post the photos on my blog. When my “euuurgh” reaction is to the way I look in a garment, I need to figure out whether it’s a bad pairing (the proportions are off – easy when you’re petite with wide-leg pants, looser blouses, cardis, etc) or just doesn’t fit well (in particular, a pencil skirt I really need to replace in a stretchier and larger size).
There is an interesting book you tall pears should check out, and you could probably find it at your local public library. Its called The Science of Sexy, by Bradley Bayou. Bradley Bayou is a stylist who has devised a method of figuring out your best styles and proportions based on your personal measurements and height. The book helped me a lot to figure out what looks good on me (average height and weight, large bust, wide shoulders, smaller hips).
Lots of great conversation going on here! I appreciate all of the tips and suggestions you all are providing. FrugalFashionista, thanks for the the compliments on my diagonal and v-necked garments. I didn’t realize why I liked such pieces, but I think you described well why they work for me. You’re right on about the hemlines on tops. I think that’s why I’m so picky about the lengths of tops and why I wear different tops with pants and skirts (and why I should perhaps sometimes start tucking things in, at least with skirts…). I hadn’t considered what you wrote about curved hemlines, but it makes good sense. You’re lucky to have a mother with excellent fashion sense! My mother relies on me for all of that information (and I still have a lot to learn…).
Rebecca, I think the Seamly cardigan runs really big, but I also like my tops and toppers to be quite fitted in my torso area. That’s a part of my body that is small and I like to accentuate that. Your points about the outfit photos are SO right! I’m not brave enough to post all of my outfit photos like you do, but I do take photos as often as possible for myself and I learn a lot from them.
Deby, I think I’ve seen that book before, but I’d like to check it out again. I will see if my library has it. I love the title and your endorsement has me wanting to see what it’s all about.
Rebecca I agree. I also bought and brought in a number of new items during my first year of P33. Because it took me a while to find my style and what worked for me, and most of what was in my closet previously was all wrong for my current lifestyle. It took a while and a few errors in order to get to the happy place where I am now with a small wardrobe I love and wear. “There will be setbacks. There always are. But they come with lessons.” Yep! And there will continue to be errors from time to time unfortunately. But we will all make less errors in the future because we are all learning many wonderful things from Debbie’s stories, and from each other.
Once again a very interesting post! I really like your idea of evaluating our purchases with hindsight, and just sat down and wrote objective notes about each of my purchases for 2014. Fortunately the majority have been “8s or above”, and almost all of these good purchases were things I gave a lot of thought to before purchasing. Most of the bad or just okay purchases were things that I had some misgivings about before purchasing but bought anyway. One was an impulse buy that I thought I loved but turned out not to be as great as I initially thought. Evaluating my purchases like this has been very valuable for reminding me that I should listen to my inner voice and apply the “power pause” if in doubt. Something that I know but somehow conveniently forget at times.
Very good observations, Kayla! I agree that in many cases, we have misgivings about the bad or “okay” purchases at the time when we buy them. Impulse buys don’t often pay off for me in the long run. Using the “power pause” has saved me from some shopping catastrophes, but I don’t use it every single time. But I’m using it more often now (with both brick and mortar and online shopping) and it’s serving me well. Congrats on the fact that most of your 2014 purchases are “8”s or higher! The fact that you gave these purchases a lot of thought probably played a large role in that. Keep up the great work!
I agree with Carolyn and Dottie that you should stop buying from consignment stores. It’s not such a good deal when you have to get everything altered and re-altered, and then it still doesn’t work.
The purple print blouse is lovely, as is the print skirt with blue/yellow accents. IMO, these patterns are more interesting visually than so many striped garments. I thnk the stripes on the open grey cardigan are too bold.
You must be in heaven when you shop this season because stripes are so on trend! I have been trying to find another interesting maxi skirt for summer and all I can find is….stripes! I have one striped maxi from INC — a narrow stripe taupe/navy/silver, which I chose for its subtlety and interesting seaming. However I don’t want another stripe, but that’s all there is in the stores. The other day I felt I could not stand to look at one more blue striped maxi skirt! Yes, the other hot trend is… Blue…every shade of blue.
Blue is just an “ok” color to me, even though it looks good with my coloring. A few years ago I read about an interesting color study where it was determined that most people have a distinct preference for either blue or green. I definitely fall into the green preference category. Greens just seem more interesting to me. I associate blue with being very conservative, which I am not. Sometimes I’ll venture into blue territory but I’m not comfortable in it. I have to wear cobalt blue for company events at times–a color which looks good on me, but one which I often feel garish wearing. I’m more comfortable in blues that are on the very borderline of purple. Teal, which is blue on the borderline of green is a tricky color for me as well to get the blue/green balance right.
Consignment stores are off-limits for me, Deby, at least for the time-being. I don’t feel much of a “pull” to shop in such stores anymore, anyway. I think you’re right about the stripes on the grey cardigan that I purged. Maybe that was what I didn’t like about it, too. Yes, I’m happy to see so many stripes in the stores, but I also realize that I am in danger of “stripe overload,” signature style or no. I need to diversify a bit and keep a handle on how many stripes I buy. I haven’t seen many blue striped maxi-skirts, though. I might be interested in one of those, but I would prefer just a solid blue skirt.
Interesting what you wrote about blue vs. green. I really like both, but I guess I have more blue pieces in my wardrobe (but not by a lot). I haven’t really associated blue with conservatism, except maybe navy blue. Cobalt is one of my favorites, as you know. I love pretty much all shades of blue, though, except a very pale pastel (pastels don’t work on me and they are all the rage at the moment).
Yes, I just got a JJill catalog, awash in pale blues and other nondescript tones, including a weird shade of leaf green that doesn’t move me even though I like green. I wish that company would improve their color offerings. The clothing is well made.
I think my clothing purchases are seriously curtailed this season mostly because I don’t care to wear that much blue and only would wear stripes occasionally, so it’s not hard to stick to a budget. In fact due to the boredom level of what I see in the stores, I am hundreds of dollars under budget for the season, and I only gave myself a 150.00 max budget per month to spend on clothing!
My problem is the exact opposite- blue is my best and favorite color and I feel like this is the ‘feast’ after a famine so to speak!! Curtailing shopping is harder when more of what you like is offered in stores.
Faded blues are the cornerstone of my wardrobe as well! For the longest time, I avoided blues – thinking that they are boring – and I also don’t like stripes (have since figured out that they are too high-contrast for me). But I’m pale and naturally blonde and blues just work so well with my natural coloring…
But there are some years when all the colors in fashion are totally off. I think in the late 1990s brown and gray (both very tricky on me) were the go-to colors for several years…
I was in J.Jill with a friend the other day. She tried a lot of things on but didn’t buy anything. I just wasn’t “moved” by any of their offerings. I tend to like a lot of their clothes but they don’t really work for my body shape.
I agree with all of you about how shopping can wax and wane based upon what’s “in” and readily available in stores. Sometimes I “go crazy” with my buying when the trends match what I like, while at other times I really struggle to find anything I want to buy. I like a lot of what’s in the stores now, but I’m really trying to buy what I most NEED instead of merely what catches my eye. In many cases, the things that catch my eye are very similar to what I already have (i.e. stripes)!
I think doing an in-depth analysis about each piece is an excellent idea; I should go home and start doing this with each section of my closet. When I get dressed in the mornings, I find that I am really not inspired by very much outside of a few items (and you can only wear the same pair of pants so many times a week). I need to figure out exactly what is wrong with each piece I avoid in my closet so I don’t make the same mistakes. I have cleaned a lot out of my closet over the past few years; that, combined with a general feeling of meh, has me feeling like I don’t have very much to wear. I have been doing very well with not clothes-shopping, after returning all the items in my one order from earlier this year; however, I do have a pair of shoes and a couple of cardigans on order now, so we’ll see how that goes. I am definitely committed to quickly returning them should I not immediately love them. My main struggle has been figuring out what colors look best on me. I know the colors that I love and am drawn too, but sometimes I am not really sure if they flatter me. I have a color analysis (finally!) scheduled for the end of May and look forward to having a better plan of attack. My other struggle is figuring out how to dress for summer in Texas. Having lived here my whole life, I should already know! It is already hot outside with highs in the upper 80s and low 90s but my office is typically freezing, so I usually need a top with 3/4 sleeves or a jacket or cardigan. Navigating this temperature extreme is really difficult. I like summer-weight sweaters, but they can be so hard to find.
I grew up in Tennessee and spent two summers as an intern in Alabama and Texas, respectively–So I fully understand how hard it can be to dress professionally and comfortably in the heat. Here are a few things that have worked for me. First, I invested my wardrobe money in the highest quality natural fiber jackets, sweaters, and tops I could afford. As another blogger observed, if you are mostly sitting in your work life, people mostly see you from the waist up. Example: a beautifully structured ivory linen jacket lined in cotton. The structure of the styling kept it looking fresh, and the materials were comfortable. The long sleeves protected me from the sun and from frigid indoors temperatures, but were airy enough and slightly wider to promote plenty of airflow. Underneath, depending on outdoors, a long-sleeved linen blouse with delicate hemstitch detailing, or a linen/cotton sweater, or a silk tank. These items are expensive and I couldn’t afford many of them. But I paired them with less expensive trousers and skirts in blended materials (a literally high-low mix). By collecting them over time, I ended up with a good selection of items that could be mixed and matched to conform to the temperature fluctuations.
Another suggestion: to reflect seasonal changes, buy seasonal colors, but in fabrics to suit your climate. So, for example, if I lived in the Northeast, there might be snow on the ground in April,but a pink wool sweater would feel seasonal. Similarly, September in the South is typically still scorching, but summer weight fabrics in autumnal colors work wonderfully.
Last, but this is not to everyone’s taste, find a great hairstylist and get an easy to maintain short cut. I had long hair during my internships and regretted it every day. No matter how carefully I styled it, the walk from my door to the car at 7:00 am and 95 degrees wilted it before I even got to work!
Have fun with it!
I think you’re doing a lot of useful analysis of your wardrobe, Grasshopper. The color analysis should be very helpful. Please let us know how that goes. Amy gave you some excellent advice for dressing in Texas. I can imagine it would be challenging when it’s really hot and humid. I can only refer to a few vacation for that, but I was able to dress however I wanted and didn’t have to look work-appropriate. Even so, I still found it difficult to look polished and stay cool. The tip to use colors appropriate for the season and fabrics appropriate for the weather is a really good!
What a thoughtful post–and so many helpful comments! I have little to add but for a comment on consignment stores. I know it’s such a struggle for you. Here’s one mental strategy to help in avoiding them.
The thrill is in the “deal,” right? You have kept such excellent numbers that answering these questions (to yourself, not necessarily us) should be a breeze. For each full year you have kept a blog, total the number of consignment purchases,whether they ended up working or not. Now, total what was spent for each year on consignment clothing. Finally, calculate a realistic best estimate of how much time you have normally spent on average in a single consignment store shopping trip. Multiply accordingly.
These results, with no judgment, simply observation, will tell you how much of your time, energy, and money have gone into consignment shopping. Now, here’s the kicker. Look at the monetary total and imagine you had it all back to spend on one or two “fabulous, perfect for you, didn’t have to be tailored, it was fun to shop there” wardrobe items. Look at the item total and consider how many items have worked and how many have been discarded or returned. Now consider all of the minutes, hours, days spent in these shops.
I did a similar analysis to eliminate my credit card debt many years ago when I got right out of grad school and “rewarded myself” by shopping. Banning myself from the stores didn’t work. But this approach did.
All the best to you and looking forward to more good words!
Yes, the comments are very helpful, Amy, and yours fits right in! I like your suggestions regarding my consignment store shopping. While I haven’t done an analysis as in-depth as what you suggested, I have definitely learned the folly of my resale shopping ways through my various posts on accountability and “wardrobe benchwarmers.” At the moment, I don’t feel drawn toward the consignment stores, but if I do, I will definitely do more in-depth number crunching to scare myself straight! Good for you for getting out of credit card debt! Hopefully, you’ve found other ways of rewarding yourself that don’t lead to such deleterious effects. I’m still working on that one…
I have also adopted the ‘wear or return in 30 days’ action plan and have found it quite helpful. I’ve ended up returning a considerable amount of items from using this plan. I’ve been analyzing why pieces are purged from my closet (or the boutique) but I don’t often think about why a workhorse item is a workhorse. Great insight into one’s preferences can be learned from this.
I need to make sure I stick with the “wear or return in 30 days” policy, as that saves me from a lot of wardrobe benchwarmers. Doing my purchase analysis was incredibly helpful and I plan to continue that practice for the foreseeable future. I hope you do something similar on your blog!