You know you’re a numbers nerd when you have to break your purchase analysis post into two parts! In the interest of not having epic length posts on this blog that put my readers to sleep, I thought that would be the best approach.
To refresh your memory, last week’s post covered my basic numbers for January through June 2014, what I still own, my best purchases, and my buying mistakes. Today’s post addresses the rest of the story: those items that are currently in “benchwarmer” territory and why, my first impressions of my July and August purchases, and some conclusions and questions for you.
The Jury is Still Out…
Quite a few of my January through June purchases have either not yet been worn or have only made their way out of my closet one or two times thus far:
I’m actually kind of surprised that some of these items are currently sitting in “benchwarmer” territory (those pieces that have only been worn once or not at all – see here for more information), as I really thought they would be worn frequently. I actually love all of the garments in the first row, as well as the grey blazer and teal sweater. While I didn’t single out individual items in the first part of my purchase analysis, I believe it might be helpful for me to do so here, as I’d like to better understand why I haven’t been wearing the above 10 items.
Why Aren’t I Wearing These Items?
Below is my brief assessment for why the items pictured above have not become wardrobe workhorses. For reference, I have also included photos of outfits which include some of the items.
- Black faux-wrap top: I love this top, but I’ve only worn it once so far. I think there are several reasons for this. For one, I considered it kind of dressy and my life is very casual. Also, since I mostly wear black pants or jeans, I don’t end up wearing black tops all that often. Finally, I was pushing myself to wear “benchwarmers” so much during the cooler months that I didn’t wear my closet favorites as much as I normally would have otherwise (I wrote about this phenomenon back in March of 2013, but I’m still struggling with the same issue!). No more! This summer, I shifted to wearing only what I most want to wear and plan to continue doing so into the fall and beyond.
- Black hip-length jacket: I was so excited to find this jacket in February, but have not yet worn it! I normally wear longer jackets and coats (those that hit at mid-thigh or below) with my pants and jeans and need to push myself to wear this new silhouette. I liked the way it looked when I tried it on and even put together a few outfits with it once I got home (see one example below), but I can be very set in my ways and slow to change. Once it cools down a bit, I will push myself to wear this jacket at least once and hopefully I will find that I like it as much as I’d hoped I would.
- Black sheer stripe top: The issue with this is the same as for the faux-wrap top. I’ve been viewing it as too fancy for everyday life, but it’s really not. When paired with jeans and boots, it can easily be worn for a casual occasion. The other problem with it is that it’s not at all warm with the sheer sleeves, so it’s hard to gauge when it can best be worn temperature-wise. The sheer sleeves make it less versatile, but it would still look nice under a topper. I will push myself to wear this, too, when it gets below 80 degrees, as I really do like the fit and style.
- Black velvet coat: Another garment that reads “dressy” and is rarely being worn as a result. The velvet fabric just makes it seem fancier and that has been stymying me. I love the way it looks on me and would really like to wear it more often, but it’s only made its way out on the town once since January! I just hate that it’s a “benchwarmer” because I truly do like it. Perhaps I need to shift my perspective on what’s dressy and wear this to my heart’s content with my jeans and casual tops (once it doesn’t feel like Florida here, of course!).
- Geometric print skirt: The first time I wore this skirt, I looked like I was going to church. My whole outfit (pictured in this post) was too dressy and I felt out of place for a casual lunch with a friend. I have since shortened the skirt a few inches and wore it with a tank top and sandals for a summer outing back in late July. I liked that look better, but I don’t find myself reaching for this skirt as much as others (actually, I’ve been wearing dresses far more often than skirts as of late). Since we still have close to two more months of warm weather here, I’ll see how much I wear this skirt. It may have been a purchasing mistake, as I am preferring slimmer silhouettes more these days. We’ll see.
- Grey knit blazer: I think the reason this blazer hasn’t been getting worn is the very hot weather we’ve been having recently. Most days, I don’t even need a topper, even in the evenings, which is pretty much unheard of for me. I think this blazer will be worn more once it cools off, but we’ll see how it goes. When I did wear it (I wore it once in late July but don’t have a photo), I liked the way it looked and felt, so it’s probably just lack of opportunity that’s been getting in the way.
- Slim-fit jeans (billed as “straight-leg,” but pretty skinny on me): I have been very hesitant to wear skinny jeans, for both physical and emotional reasons. I can’t wear pants that are too tight due to pain from a nerve problem and varicose veins, but since these jeans are not skin-tight in the lower part of my legs, they feel okay. I like the way they look from the front (see a few outfits that I tried on – but haven’t yet worn – below), but worry that my hips and thighs look huge from the back (I’m sorry, but I won’t post such photos on the Internet!). I have major body image issues about my lower half that have persisted despite my trying really hard to overcome them (I even had a blog about body image back in 2010 – the posts are now HERE – I may have to start it again!). Even though others tell me I’m not overweight or even pear-shaped, I can’t seem to shake such thoughts. But I’m going to keep trying to overcome these issues and embrace slimmer pants, so I’m holding on to these jeans and will wear them again in the fall.
- Long purple cardigan: This was an online buy from an ethical and sustainable retailer that hasn’t worked out well for me. Based upon the size chart, I ordered a size small, but it was still far too big for me. I really should have returned it, but the return window was very small and I missed the boat. So I got the cardigan taken in, but still feel it’s too large and “drapey” on me, even with the slim-fit jeans I paired it with on its only outing (see photo below). I’m not sure who this silhouette works on because I’m really tall (5’10”) and it’s too long and large on me. I’ve tried belting it, but I don’t like how “fussy” that is (it won’t stay in place), so I’ll likely be passing this one along soon.
- Teal sweater: I’m not sure why I’ve only worn this sweater twice, as it’s a great color and fits me well. It may be because I had too many tops in my closet earlier in the year, but I’ve pared down quite a bit as the year has gone by and will continue to do so. Hopefully I will wear this sweater more once fall arrives, as I really do like it and have very few sweaters in my closet.
- White open cardigan: This cardigan has only been worn once, in what Bridgette Raes calls a “chicken outfit” (see this post for Bridgette’s and my thoughts on the outfit). The cardigan is comfortable and I like white, but I didn’t love it at all the one time I wore it. I’m not sure if it was the entire outfit that was “off” or just the cardigan, but I wasn’t feeling it. I think I might like the cardigan better with different accompanying items (perhaps with boots or heels and different pants), so I’m going to give it another try. I haven’t been wearing pants at all lately in the summer heat and the cardigan doesn’t work well with dresses and skirts, so the jury is really still out. We’ll see come fall…
A Helpful Exercise
That was a helpful exercise for me and hopefully not too boring for you (I’m sure the outfit photos helped to keep things interesting and made it easier to conceptualize my points). I have a better understanding as to why most of the ten items above are currently in benchwarmer territory (save the skirt and sweater, which have both been worn twice).
I think I’m less likely to make the same types of purchasing mistakes in the future, as I now have a firmer grasp of what works best for my body, lifestyle, and style preferences. I’m also shopping consignment stores (where items 1, 2, 4, and 5 were bought) a lot less often and using my shopping priorities list to guide my purchases both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Hopefully, my recent lessons and stricter shopping practices will help to minimize future buying errors.
A Few Words about My July and August Buys
I purchased the same number of items during the past two months as I did for the first half of the year, but I hope I’m now making better decisions. My outfit journal and recent work with Bridgette Raes have helped to refine my style and streamline my wardrobe direction. I traditionally shop a lot during the summer months, but I believe I made smarter decisions this year than in years past.
The photo below shows the July and August purchases that are still in my closet (three July items have been returned). See my two latest accountability updates (HERE and HERE) for more information about these individual items.
Four of these items (black sandals, cobalt cardigan, green cardigan, metallic sandals) have already become closet favorites and were included in the “best” section in last week’s post. Of the remaining 19, I feel very confident about at least two thirds.
Questionable July / August Items
As for the others, I am a bit skeptical but hopeful. Sometimes when I take a risk and buy new styles or silhouettes – or resale items – I’m not sure my new pieces will become wardrobe workhorses. I’m still learning and working to overcome previously entrenched bad shopping habits, so I’m trying to cut myself at least a little bit of slack.
The items that I’m less sure about are pictured below, followed by my reasons for my uncertainty in brief (items listed from left to right, top to bottom).
- Black/grey striped skirt – It’s a new silhouette for me but I think it will be a positive change. After years of wearing mostly A-line and flared skirts and dresses, I’ve started to like narrower silhouettes more (but not necessarily body-hugging). I worried that perhaps the horizontal stripes on this skirt would have a widening effect, but it didn’t look that way to me and my husband confirmed that’s the case (poor guy – I do put him on the spot sometimes, but he does his best to be honest and tactful with me).
- Blue short jacket – Also a different style, but I love the color and liked the way the jacket looked on me when I tried it on (you can see it in one of the outfit photos above).
- Cobalt maxi-skirt – I’m not sure I love the fold-over waist. I love the way the skirt looks, but the waist is a bit fussy. It seems to stay in place better when I position the waist higher, so I’m going to try that next time.
- Denim flared skirt – I’m moving away from this fuller silhouette, so I’m wondering if I should have held out for a slimmer-fitting style. A denim skirt has been on my shopping priorities list for a long time and I recently got rid of one I’d had for years and no longer loved. But I feel it may have been a mistake to buy the flared skirt in July and I have yet to wear it.
- Denim jacket – This jacket had a chemical odor that hasn’t come out after two washings. I’m going to try soaking it in baking soda to see if that helps (I read about this possible solution online). I hope so, as I think I might get a headache if I wear the jacket as is. I am very sensitive to scents due to my longstanding migraine condition (I don’t even wear perfume), so I really need to remove all traces of the odor. The jacket fits me well and was difficult to find (most such jackets are far too boxy on me), so I really hope I can rescue it!
- Green open cardigan – I’m also moving away from open cardigans, but I liked this particular one, especially since it includes a subtle stripe pattern in the weave and is more fitted than most such styles. I can still return it if I don’t feel compelled to wear it once fall starts, as it’s from Nordstrom and they have an excellent return policy. I try not to take too much advantage of that generous policy, but it’s nice to know that returning is an option if I find I don’t love the cardigan when the weather is conducive for wearing it.
The type of analysis I did in this post and the first part of the series took a big chunk of time to complete, but I believe it was time well spent. Many of us often spend several hours or more trying to find the perfect item online or in a store. So why not invest the same amount of time to review how well we did with our shopping over a period of several months? Sure, analyzing your purchases isn’t as enjoyable as shopping, but it’s also not much fun to have a closet full of clothes you don’t wear or inflated credit card bills!
I highly recommend that you keep a running list (or photos – or both) of the pieces you buy, and that you pause to review your purchases at least twice per year. Quarterly would be even better, as you might be able to identify unproductive buying patterns and turn them around before the year is over. As you can see with my reports, I made some good buys and some mistakes, but I’ve been able to learn valuable lessons from both categories. I’m sure I will learn even more if I continue to review my new closet acquisitions every few months, and I believe the same would be true for you, too.
I hope you found this two-part series interesting and helpful. I know from the comments on last week’s post that some of you were motivated to do purchase analyses of your own. Such in-depth probing is not the right path for everyone and may feel overly excessive to some, but I like to share my process with you in the hope that it might be inspiring to you in some way. As with everything else in life, I encourage you to take what you like and leave the rest. If you think I’m a crazy woman for all of my number-crunching, then of course you shouldn’t follow suit. Just do what feels right to you at any given time. You can always revisit some of my ideas at a later time if they feel like a better fit then.
Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts.
- Have you ever done a purchase analysis?
- If so, what did you learn?
- Are you inspired to do your first purchase analysis as a result of this series?
- What other methods do you use to keep yourself on track with the clothing, shoes, and accessories you buy?
- How do you ensure that you make few mistakes?
I invite you to share your practices and methods so we can all learn from each other. I know my method isn’t the only way by any means. I’m open to learning new ways to start shopping smarter and making better purchases all around.