Before I dive into today’s topic, I want to thank all of those who offered support and encouragement to me following my “On Relapse, Reasons, and Recommitting” post. Many of you told me I was being too hard on myself, and I agree! We all have our ups and downs and we just need to keep picking ourselves up and trying again whenever we falter. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, but first I have to close out last month by sharing my July accountability update.
Most of you are familiar with my monthly accountability reports, but I know there are at least a few new readers here, especially following the Real Simple article (it’s now posted on the site for those of you who haven’t read it yet). Here’s the drill for the newcomers: I’ve committed to posting monthly accountability updates to keep myself honest and on track with my wardrobe and shopping goals. These posts include what came into and left my closet during a given month, what I wore, and how I did with my shopping budget and rules.
What Left My Closet and Why
We’ll start with the easier part of the equation, what left my closet. During July, I purged nine items from my wardrobe:
- 2 jackets
- 1 cardigan
- 1 top
- 2 skirts
- 1 dress
- 2 pairs of shoes
Two of these items – a jacket and a pair of shoes – were returned for refunds (reasons below), while the remaining seven were either consigned or donated.
Here is a photo of the items I released from my closet last month:
Why I Purged These Items
In addition to posting photos of what left my closet, I also list why I decided to release those pieces. I highly recommend that you keep track of why you purge particular closet pieces, too, as it will really increase your awareness. Pinpointing our reasons for purging wardrobe items can help us notice patterns and avoid future mistakes.
Listed from left to right, top to bottom (from the photo above), here’s what I let go of and why:
- Black embellished sandals – I was very sad to have to let go of these! I really loved the style, but there was a big problem with the straps. I kept tightening them, but they still slipped off my heels when I walked! Fortunately, the shoes were purchased at Nordstrom, so they were more than willing to take them back. I hate having to return things after I’ve worn them, but I only wore the shoes six times and they shouldn’t have been falling off my feet after so little wear. Fortunately, I was able to find another pair of black sandals that I love (see below), and I’ve been happily wearing the replacement shoes over the past few weeks.
- Black moto jacket – I also hated to return this item! I really loved the style and the fit, but the fabric was a problem for me. While trying on outfits with the jacket (before removing the tags and wearing it outside the house), my skin started to feel very itchy and irritated. I’m not sure if it was the merino wool or the acrylic (it was a blend of both), but it just didn’t work for me. Sadly, I had to return it, but I have two possible replacements I’m considering (one is pictured below), so hopefully one of them will work out.
- Black mid-weight parka – I have worn this jacket many times on my frequent walks, but I’ve never been thrilled with the fit. It was always a bit too snug in the hips and would ride up whenever I raised my arms. Since I have another black parka that I like better and wasn’t wearing this one very often anyway, I opted to take it to a local consignment store.
- Denim skirt – I bought this skirt at a consignment store several years ago and wore it a number of times, but I never liked the buttons down the front. The skirt would often rotate a bit such that the buttons weren’t centered, so I always felt that I had to “fuss” with it. I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement for years, but haven’t had any luck. I finally found a denim skirt I liked during July (see below), but the style is quite different. I still like the idea of a straight denim skirt, but the length of the ones I find is usually too short for me with my long legs.
- Metallic flat sandals – I let go of these sandals because they were worn out! That is not usually my reason for purging items, but I hope it will be a more common rationale moving forward, as I’m buying less (well, most months anyway…) and focusing more on wearing what I have. I love these sandals and was lucky to be able to find a replacement pair on sale last month, so the old pair headed out the door. I wasn’t sure whether to donate them or just throw them away (a new dilemma for me), but I opted for donation and letting the charity decide if they’re too worn out for anyone to use. I know that many charities pass on items they can’t sell to homeless shelters, so that’s what might happen with these.
- Black and white print dress – This was another consignment store purchase from a few years ago. I like the dress in theory, but I never loved it on me. It makes me look like I have a tummy when in fact that’s one of the better parts of my body. Even when I’m not bloated (a rarer occurrence as of late), I still look like I am in this dress! Since I have plenty of dresses I like and feel good in, I decided to let this one go.
- Leopard print skirt – I used to love this skirt but didn’t like it the last time I wore it. I’m not a fan of the tan color and the fabric just felt flimsy and fussy. I didn’t feel fab in it, so why keep it around? I’m getting a lot better at letting go of items after one less than stellar wear, whereas I used to give things too many chances before I purged them. I have a large wardrobe as it is, so I don’t want to keep anything that is less than an “8,” even if it’s something I loved once upon a time.
- Navy boyfriend-style cardigan – This was an impulse purchase from earlier this year that should have been left in the store! I found it on a clearance rack when I was shopping for jeans and let my “sales goggles” cloud my better judgment. I thought I was doing a good thing at the time by buying a cardigan in a different style from what I usually wear, but it wasn’t the right type of cardigan for me. The length hit me at the wrong spot on my hips and the V-neck also wasn’t positioned right for my body. I just couldn’t make it work (I didn’t like it unbuttoned), so I consigned it last month, unworn. Lesson learned… Don’t deviate from your list when shopping and don’t ever buy something just because it’s on sale! This cardigan only cost about $35, but it’s now $35 down the toilet.
- Purple print blouse – I was sad to have to get rid of this blouse, as I really liked the color and print. However, it was just too big on me and kept riding up when I wore it. The neckline was also just a bit too low, such that my bra sometimes peaked out at the sides. In the past, I would have probably tried to “salvage” this top through alterations, which would have been risky and potentially unsuccessful. No more throwing good money after bad! This top was also a consignment buy, so there wasn’t an option to size down.
A Few Words about Resale Shopping
I’m glad I’m not shopping resale all that often anymore because a lot of my shopping mistakes occurred in that arena. Although thrift and consignment stores can be good places to shop for some people, it’s especially important to be very picky about what we buy there. If you like to do this type of shopping, check out my post on the pros and cons, as well as my tips for successful resale shopping. I stand by what I wrote in those posts, although I haven’t always heeded my own sage advice! I’ve taken a “time out” from resale shopping after continuing to notice mistakes this year, but if I venture back in at some point, I’ll be sure to re-read my tips and stick to them!
What Came Into My Closet
Now it’s time for the more difficult part of this update… As I mentioned in my post last week, I did a lot of shopping during July. I’m basically happy with what I got – and some of the pieces were birthday presents from my husband – but I went overboard with it all, especially in regards to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I did mostly stick to my shopping priorities list, which I update regularly, so I made few impulse buys. It’s possible that I may end up returning some of the items below, but most of them will stay in my closet and several have already been worn.
I feel like I am a much more conscious and smart shopper these days, but I’m not proud of going over my budget for July, buying so many new pieces, and spending so much time and energy on the process of shopping last month. I did learn some important lessons, however, which are peppered throughout this post and will likely be shared in future posts as well.
Now let’s look at what new items were added to my closet last month. During July, I added 15 items of clothing and 3 pairs of shoes to my wardrobe! I told you it was a lot, but as my mom likes to say (ad nauseum), it is what it is. Five of these items (as well as a scarf) were early birthday presents from my husband (to take advantage of the Nordstrom sale) and two were replacements for pieces that I returned (the black sandals and black moto jacket). I have separated the birthday presents out from the other items in the photos below. While they were gifts and did not count toward my clothing budget or item limit (as stated in my 2014 goals post), I selected them all myself and will share my reasons in the section below, along with the rest of my July wardrobe additions.
Why I Added These Items to My Wardrobe
I believe it’s important for us to understand why we buy new pieces, as becoming more aware of our purchasing motivations can help us to shop smarter. Thus, I share my reasons for buying the new pieces I add to my closet each month. This section is usually a lot shorter than it is today! It was a bit of a marathon session writing this one, but it was a valuable exercise for me to do (and hopefully not too boring for all of you!).
Here are my reasons for selecting my July items, starting with the non-birthday pieces and working from left to right, top to bottom:
- Berry cardigan: Last month, I purged two cardigans that didn’t work for me due to their odd length and crewneck styles. I still wanted to have a few cardigans to wear with skirts and dresses, as I feel cardigans are less dressy than the knit blazers that I’ve worn frequently over the past few summers. I selected this cardigan and the blue and green ones below because the colors are in my palette and will work well with my other clothing pieces. I much prefer the V-neck style because I can just button the top one or two buttons and the sweater stays in place nicely and works well with the scoop-neck tanks I like to wear.
- Black sandals: Back when I purchased the embellished sandals that I had to end up returning, I also considered another Ecco sandal style. I loved both styles but didn’t need two very similar sandals in my closet. After the embellished style didn’t work out due to the strap issue, I was able to find the alternate style online – and on sale! I have already worn the replacement sandals multiple times and l love them. The straps stay on, they’re comfortable, and the raised circles on the front strap add a bit of edge to them. They may not be as edgy as the other sandals, but I like them and feel they are more versatile than the initial style I purchased. I’m glad it all worked out in the long run.
- Black knit moto jacket: I ordered this jacket during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, after I had to return the similar itchy style I had purchased during June. I love this jacket, but it’s a bit too small for me. I have ordered the next size up, but it’s on back order until next month. I also ordered another black moto jacket that might work and which I could wear sooner. I can really see the value of having such a jacket in my wardrobe (I love the grey striped version I have), so I hope one of the alternates works out.
- Black maxi-skirt: This was a bit of an impulse buy that I found while shopping for a brightly-colored skirt. I had tried on this skirt in red but didn’t like how it looked on me, so I asked what other colors might be available. The salesperson brought me some alternate options and I really liked the way the black one looked. I wear the two black skirts I have often and I’ve really embraced the maxi style as of late, so I thought a black maxi-skirt would be a good addition to my closet. The only sticking point is that I also have a black maxi-dress that I bought back in May. However, I find myself wearing maxi styles quite a bit (especially this month) and they’re a good fit for the casual San Diego vibe, so I think this will end up being a wise choice.
- Black sweater coat: This was the only off-season item I bought during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. All of the other items I purchased can be worn this season, if not during the day than on a cool summer evening. This sweater coat is by Patagonia, an ethical retailer from whom I purchased a green sweater jacket earlier in the year. That jacket has seen a lot of wear during my evening walks and the coat is intended for walks during the cooler fall and winter months. One thing that’s nice about this coat is that it can also be worn with “regular” clothes, as it has a more refined quality to it than my other casual jackets. I’ve been trying to only buy items I can wear pretty much right away, but I feel confident that this one will be a winner when the weather cools down.
- Cobalt cardigan: See the rationale for the berry cardigan above. Cobalt is currently my favorite color and I was excited to find a V-neck cardigan in this hue recently. I have already worn it and love it! It looks great with my black and white pieces and will also pair well with grey and other shades of blue.
- Cobalt 3/4-sleeved tee: I wanted to add more cobalt to my wardrobe since I didn’t have much of it in my closet. This tee is thicker in weight than many of the tops out there these days and it fits me perfectly. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but there are some ruching details at the bottom of the sleeves. I look forward to wearing it with jeans and black pants.
- Cobalt maxi-skirt: I finally found a brightly-colored skirt, an item that’s been on my shopping list for months! I love this one because it has two layers, so it’s not see-through like many skirts currently being sold. I like the material, as it can be easily dressed up and down.
- Denim flare skirt: This is the first consignment item I’ve bought in a number of months and I’m not completely sure about it. I like the way it looks, but the fabric is a bit stiff. It may have been a mistake to buy it, but I’m going to wear it and see how I feel. I may have wanted to find a new denim skirt so much that I lowered my standards, but that remains to be seen. I also may be able to soften up the skirt by using fabric softener in the wash.
- Green cardigan: See rationale of berry cardigan above. I love this color and have already worn the cardigan with a black and white outfit. I like the way emerald green looks on my skin tone and with my hair (which is now more of a medium auburn and not so bright red). The sleeves are long enough, too (not easy with my “gorilla arms”)!
- Green open cardigan: I didn’t think I would buy any more open cardigans, but I tried this one on at the Nordstrom sale and loved it. I like that it’s lightweight and somewhat sheer and includes stripe details. I don’t feel it overwhelms my figure the way some open cardigans do, plus it’s lightweight enough that it could easily be belted if desired. The teal color is in my recently refined palette and I feel it’s flattering with my complexion and hair.
- Grey knit maxi-skirt: I bought this as a potential replacement for the grey skirt I added to my closet earlier this year. That skirt isn’t working out as well as I’d hoped. I found it on eBay and bought it because it was similar to a skirt I ruined in an alterations casualty last year. However, it wasn’t the exact same style and didn’t look as good on me as my original skirt. So I haven’t been wearing it and have felt the absence of a grey skirt in my wardrobe once again. I liked the way this new one from Gap looked on me in the store, but I may end up returning it because I don’t like it as much at home (perhaps there were “skinny mirrors” in the store…). The length is also a bit off in that it’s not quite long enough to be a maxi on me and I’m not sure I want to risk trying to get it hemmed. I will likely take it back and continue my search for a grey skirt that I can love.
- Dark-wash jeans for flats: These are exactly the same as the jeans I bought last fall and have worn many, many times. Since I am less than thrilled with most of my other jeans, I decided to buy a duplicate pair of the ones I like best and hem them for flats. That way, I can feel good in my jeans all the time, not just when I’m wearing boots or heels (the other jeans are hemmed for heels). I took advantage of a sale to buy these jeans and am very happy I decided to purchase them. I will likely purge at least one or two not-so-fab jeans next month now that I have these.
Now on to the birthday items (second photo above), almost all of which were purchased at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale:
- Black top with lace details: I found this top when another shopper asked for my opinion of it for her (that happens to me a lot, actually). I loved it so much that I asked the salesperson to bring one for me to try on. I had to size down to an extra-small (what is up with all of the vanity sizing these days? I’m not that small!), but it fit me perfectly. The fabric is soft and comfortable and there is no looseness in the back at the waist, as often happens to me as a result of my smaller waist and larger hips. This top has the type of special details I’ve been looking for, looks great with jeans, and is casual but with a bit of pizzazz.
- Blue print scarf (also shown below with other accessories): This wasn’t on my list, but the colors work well with the my new narrower color palette. It includes cobalt, black, white, and red, and I love the print. It will work well with many items in my closet.
- Black and white geometric print tee: I was excited to find this top at the Nordstrom sale, as it was an item on my shopping priorities list. It was also an extra-small, so I’m wondering what the really petite and tiny women are buying these days! It still includes stripes, but the stripes are made out of triangles and diamond shapes, so it’s different from the other striped tees in my closet.
- Grey-toned leopard print flats: I have a pair of leopard print flats that I’ve worn into the ground and which need to be replaced. Those shoes are more of a brown tone, but I like this grey tone so much more, as it works better with my cool-toned wardrobe. I like the pointier toe and bow detail, too.
- Metallic sandals: These are a replacement for the sandals I purged due to being worn out. I wore those sandals a lot over the past few years and was excited to find another pair, especially since I have such fussy feet. I know I’ll be able to walk for hours in these and they look nice with my maxi-skirts and dresses, as well as with many of my other skirts. They were on sale, too, so win-win!
- White 3/4-sleeved tee: This is the same style as the cobalt tee mentioned above. I am moving away from buying “multiples,” but am okay with buying two pieces in a given style if it’s a basic or staple item. I had to size down in the white tee (a salesperson told me that the darker items are often smaller due to the dyes used – I didn’t know that before), but it fits great and isn’t see-through like many white tees are. I’m glad I finally found a white top that isn’t so thin that it shows my bra or my skin through it!
And Then There’s the Accessories…
Beginning in May, I also started sharing the accessories that I’ve purchased and why I bought them. Although I have not set a limit for how many accessories I can buy, I noticed that I was starting to accumulate too many of them (which hadn’t been a problem previously). Knowing I will need to share which accessories I buy – and why – on the blog each month is helping me be more mindful with this area of shopping.
Below is a snapshot of the accessories I acquired during July. Read on for my reasons for these purchases.
- Blue print scarf – Reason given above under birthday items.
- Turquoise scarf – I was originally looking for a cobalt scarf, but I liked the way this one looked against my skin tone and with black and white (I was wearing those colors while shopping). It’s lightweight and can be worn year-round in the temperate climate where I live, as is also true of the blue print scarf.
- Black and white beaded stretch bracelet – I liked that the beads were black and white and I don’t have anything quite like it in my jewelry box. I like stretch bracelets because I have small wrist, and cuffs and other styles are often too big for me. This one fits me perfectly.
- Silver dangly earrings with black beads – I like that these are somewhat larger than many of the earrings I own and have a bit of edge to them. I can see myself wearing them a lot with both neutral and bright clothing pieces. They will look nice with the black and silver wrap bracelet that I wear frequently.
- Dark green beaded stretch bracelet – I know this bracelet looks black, but it’s really a marbled dark green and very pretty. I can see wearing it by itself or layered with another stretch bracelet.
A Few Words about My Purchases
So there you have it, my many new items for July 2014! I hope I didn’t bore you to tears with all of these explanations! It’s important for me to do them (and I recommend you do the same for yourselves) so I am clear about my motivations for buying things. I can see by what I typed that a few of my purchases were ill-advised, and it’s likely I will be making another return or two (or maybe more) this month.
I used to buy at least this many new items every month, but now it feels like a lot to me! In my defense, though, July really is the beginning of the summer season where I live and I tend to buy more pieces at the start of each new season. I like to take some time to try on all of my closet pieces for the coming months, evaluate wardrobe gaps, and update my shopping priorities list. I think that in the future, I will just plan to buy more items at the beginning of each season (for me, July and November – we really only get two seasons here). Also, since I like to shop at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, I will make allowances for that fact in my shopping plan for the year.
2014 Item Limit Update
When I originally laid out my shopping and wardrobe goals for the year back in January, I decided to purchase half the number of items I bought last year. At the beginning of the year, it felt perfectly doable for me to reach the goal of buying only 38 pieces during 2014. However, as the year has progressed and I have been refining my style and letting go of garments that no longer serve me, I’ve found it harder to keep my purchases to that lower level (yes, I know it still seems like a lot to many of you).
In addition, I made a number of purchasing mistakes earlier in the year and have already purged some of the items that were included in my item limit (I’ll be doing another purchase analysis soon). Some others are still in my closet but aren’t being worn, as they were purchased more for someone else’s life than my own (someone who dresses up a lot more than I do!). I’m getting a much better handle on what I like and what I need, so my shopping success rate is increasing.
As of the end of June, I had purchased 24 items. Gifts and accessories don’t count toward my item limit (I don’t receive all that many, anyway) and two of the items I bought in July were replacements for things I returned (the black sandals and black moto jacket). Therefore, only 11 of my new items for the month are included in my item limit calculation (I realize this may be confusing – will aim to simplify in the future). That means I’ve now made 35 qualifying additions to my wardrobe this year to date. If I stick to my original plan for the year, I can only buy three more things between now and December 31st. While that may be doable, I know myself and the way I work. If I feel like a goal is out of my reach, I often take on a “why bother?” attitude and stop trying. That would likely lead to more shopping than if I simply raised my item limit.
One reader commented in response to my “On Relapse, Reasons, and Recommitting” post that she thought I was biting off more than I could chew by trying to cut my purchases in half. She thought that going for a 25% reduction would have been more realistic. In retrospect, she’s probably right, but I have a tendency to set fairly lofty goals (and too many of them at that) and then beat myself up when I don’t reach them.
While I can’t turn back the clock and change the goals I set for myself for 2014, I can make adjustments – and that’s what I’ve decided to do. I’m going to raise my item limit from 38 to 53 (70% of what I bought last year) and concentrate on adding only high-quality items that are on my shopping priorities list. I may end up buying fewer than 53 items, but I think it’s a good revised goal – reasonable but still a stretch.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I eventually want to have fewer goals and rules overall, especially since freedom is one of my highest values. I think the increased structure has been good for me during the early stages of my recovery, but I hope to be able to set just a few goals for 2015 and work on trusting myself more.
July Budget Report
My budget for clothing and related purchases (shoes, accessories, alterations) for 2014 is $3000, which is roughly $250 per month, although I allocated a bit more money for some months than others. During July, I spent $494.99, which was almost twice my budget! As of the end of July, I had spent a total of $2008.24 on clothing et al. this year. In order to ensure that I meet my budget for the year, I have changed my monthly allocation to $200 for August through December. I may decide to allocate more money for November, as I tend to shop more during that month (it’s basically the start of the cooler season where I live), but I’m going to see how things go this month and then re-evaluate.
What I Wore
For over a year, I’ve been keeping track of the garments and shoes I wear each month, as well as how many times I wear them. This helps me to better understand which items are my favorites and which ones may be slated for donation or consignment. I like to look back at these monthly tracking sheets to see how I’m doing with my wardrobe. I have also started creating visual representations of what I’ve worn each month. Since I have photos of all of my clothes, it’s easy for me to create folders on my computer containing the images of what I wore in a given month. This allows me to see patterns at a quick glance.
During July, I wore 39 garments and 12 pairs of shoes. Most of the garments were only worn once, but five of them were worn multiple times. Five pairs of shoes were worn multiple times as well. As was the case during June, I purposely wore a lot of items, as I was trying to assess my summer wardrobe and determine which pieces should stay and which should go. As a result, I released several garments and have a few more that may be purged this month.
I have continued to take photos of my outfits and write in my outfit journal each day and have been learning a great deal about myself and my style in the process. I will write an update on that topic soon, but for now, I want to reiterate the value of these practices for those of us who want to streamline our wardrobes, shop smarter, and refine our personal style. I have a much better handle on my style and how I’d like it to evolve as a result of making notes about my outfits and outlining what worked, what didn’t work, and why. I like a higher percentage of my ensembles and have been able to identify the pieces to buy which will have the greatest impact on my wardrobe satisfaction and overall appearance.
Here’s a photo of the items I wore during July 2014:
There’s still a fair amount of black in there, but I feel the overall color scheme has lightened up over what I wore during June. I continue to tighten up my color palette and eliminate pieces that are not in line with that or the image I wish to present to the world. As you can see, my primary colors are black, blue, grey/metallic, white, green, purple, pink, and red. It has become much easier to get dressed – and to shop – since I’ve streamlined the colors in my wardrobe, plus I am happier with more of my outfits and purchases as a result.
That was a very long accountability post – and it took me virtually forever to put it together, but I learned a lot by writing it. I hope it has also been interesting and helpful for you to read about my purges and purchases, and my thought process around both. When I write these updates, I always think they will be incredibly boring for others to read, but many of you have told me that these are your favorite posts. I will definitely continue writing them, but I would really like to spend less time on them moving forward!
I plan to buy far fewer items during August, as well as continue to let go of anything that isn’t working well for me in my closet. This is my favorite season of the year in terms of clothing and I love spending most of my time in skirts and dresses. I intend to focus more on enjoying what I have and less time and energy on the acquisition of new pieces. I already feel like I’ve emerged from the relapse I experienced during July and am ready to put that behind me.
I just celebrated my 48th birthday and have been thinking a lot about my “Full Life Project.” Later this week, I will share an update on that topic and let you know how I’m doing with the parts of my life that don’t involve clothing or shopping. In the future, I’m going to write more about those types of subjects in addition to my posts on wardrobe management, shopping, and personal style. In some respects, the way we do one part of our lives is the way we do all portions of our lives, so I’m guessing many of you have struggles in other areas as well. I find that when I feel better about myself and my life as a whole, I am less compelled to overshop, but I feel a lot more exploration of that subject is needed as I continue my recovering shopaholic journey.
Your Thoughts and Experiences?
Now it’s your turn to chime in. How did you do with your shopping and wardrobe during July? Was it a good month for you, or did you struggle with overshopping like I did? What are your commitments for August and for the rest of the year? How can we support you in keeping you to your word?
I love the discussions that take place in the comments section of my posts and how you support and encourage both me and each other. Feel free to share how you’re doing and what you need, as well as whatever questions you have for me and your fellow readers. I am happy to help and I know others are as well!