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!