Now it’s time for the bad news in regards to my 2014 shopping, my worst purchases of the year. I wish I could say that only a few items fall into this category, but that’s not the case. Although my shopping track record has definitely improved over previous years, I clearly still have a lot to learn. Since learning and growth are really the purposes of this blog – and all of our journeys – I feel there is merit to analyzing both the good and the bad (and we all know that I love some good analysis!).
In today’s post, I share the bad purchases I made this year, as well as those items that remain in uncertain territory. As with my best purchases post, I include lots of photos and aim to find common ground among the pieces that just weren’t good buys. As for those unsure items, I will make educated guesses as to whether or not they will become wardrobe workhorses in the future. It’s kind of a “mixed bag,” but I’ll do my best to predict which pieces will have staying power and which ones will likely be headed out the door in short order.
This post is a long one (perhaps I should have made this a three part series), but it’s the end of the year, so why not sit down with a nice cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa (or even a stiff drink) and think about your own purchases as I recount mine. There is value in looking at what we bought and how our purchases have either served us well or fallen flat. If you do this type of analysis (which I recommend), try not to beat yourself up too much for your shortcomings. I will try to keep this review lighthearted as well, as I cannot go back and change the past. We can only look forward and it’s useful to do so with the lessons from the past firmly in our minds.
A Quick Recap
So let’s get started! As I mentioned in my last post, I added 55 new items to my closet during 2014. This number includes clothing, shoes, and handbags, and a few gifts are also represented in this total. What is not included are jewelry pieces (to be written about in a future post), sleepwear, lounge wear, workout clothes, and undergarments. Here’s a bird’s eye view of what I bought last year:
As a reminder, I have deemed 21 of those 55 items (38%) “good” purchases, while 13 (24%) fall into the “bad” zone. The remaining 21 items (the final 38%) are still in the grey area, in that I’m not yet sure if they were smart or ill-advised buys.
The Bad Purchases – An Overview
Let’s look at the bad purchases first. The 13 items shown below have already been removed from my closet.
I’m not going to write about each item individually, but I would like to share a few points of interest about my ill-advised purchases.
Where They Came From:
- 9 of the 13 items were purchased second-hand, mostly via consignment shops (one was bought via eBay).
Back in September, I did an analysis of my resale shopping and wasn’t happy with what I learned. Fortunately, I’ve done very little resale shopping since that time and my overall purchases have been more successful as a result.
- 2 items were bought online. The grey skirt was bought on eBay and I ordered the purple cardigan via a sustainable clothing e-commerce site.
- In contrast, 14 of my 21 good purchases were bought in brick-and-mortar retail stores. The remaining 7 items were ordered online, but 5 were from Nordstrom, where I could easily return or exchange them if necessary. The other two online orders were from Lucky Brand and Loft, who have stores nearby and fairly decent return policies.
I can be successful with online purchases, but I need to make sure that there are good return policies in place and that I handle any necessary returns in a timely fashion. While I like to be able to try things on before buying, the selection is much higher online and the shopping experience is usually far easier, too. There are no crowds, no high-pressure sales, no traffic, and no parking difficulties, to name a few advantages of online shopping.
- The 9 second-hand items were all very low-cost, typically in the $10-$20 range.
- The navy cardigan was an impulse sales buy (around $25) that I picked up while I was buying jeans, an item on my shopping priorities list.
- 3 items (the purple cardigan and two white cardigans) were bought at full price, in the $30 to $60 range.
- In contrast, most of my good purchases were higher-priced items. Although 12 of the 21 good items were on sale, they still cost quite a bit more money than the majority of my bad purchases. I have learned that I tend to fare better when I spend more money on my clothes. Part of the reason for that is that I am less likely to “settle” and more likely to take the necessary time to consider whether or not something is a good purchase before pulling the trigger.
When I Bought Them:
- 8 of my bad purchases were bought during the first six months of the year and the remaining 5 were bought in July or August.
- In contrast, 16 of my 21 good purchases were bought during the second half of the year. Since my track record improved as the year went on, I clearly learned some things along the way!
Even after writing an entire post about “The Dark Side of Alterations” late last year, I still didn’t learn my lesson about trying to “rescue” clothes by means of tailoring.
- 6 of my 13 bad purchases were altered and rarely worn (one or two times) before being purged from my closet.
- Only one of these alterations (taking in the sides of the long white cardigan) is something that I would do again. The reason that cardigan didn’t work for me was because of the color (I looked washed out in the stark white – see this post), but it would have been fine in another shade.
- The purple cardigan was just too big and should have been returned. However, because I missed the very short return window (I think it was two weeks), I attempted to remedy the garment through alterations. It didn’t work (the cardigan continued to overwhelm my frame no matter how much it was taken in) and I ended up throwing good money after bad.
- The 3 skirts and dress were all too voluminous and shouldn’t have been purchased in the first place. However, since they were all bought secondhand, they couldn’t be returned. Instead of trying to make them work, I should have just cut my losses and re-consigned or donated them.
Hopefully, I have finally learned my lesson about alterations. I said I wasn’t going to beat myself up in this post, so I won’t write about how I feel like an idiot for falling prey to stupid logic yet again (or maybe I just did write about that). Sometimes we have to experience things a number of times before we learn our lessons. I think my lesson is three-fold:
- Don’t buy secondhand clothing unless the items are perfect as is.
- If I buy something online or from a retail store and it doesn’t work, return it right away so as not to miss the window of opportunity.
- Only do minor, easy alterations on my clothes. Don’t try to narrow wide skirts (better yet, don’t buy wide skirts in the first place!) or take things in more than a couple of inches. If something isn’t a perfect or “almost” fit, leave it in the store or return it right away!
Those “On the Fence” Items
As I mentioned above, 21 of my 2014 purchases are still “on the fence” in that I’m not yet sure if they were good or bad buys. Here’s a quick look at those 21 items:
I’m also not going to write about each of these items individually, but I will share a bit about why I’m unsure about whether they will work for me or not.
Not Yet Worn:
Thirteen of my “on the fence” items have not yet been worn.
- A few were recent purchases, so it’s understandable that they haven’t been included in an outfit as of yet. These recent acquisitions include the black purse, black trouser jeans, boyfriend jeans, and grey print skirt.
- Some of these items were bought during a summer that ended up extending all the way through to Thanksgiving. I didn’t start wearing cooler weather clothing until December, so I haven’t had a chance to wear some of my new pieces yet, including my burgundy twist-front top, cobalt tee, hounds tooth top, and burgundy ballet flats.
- The rest (berry cardigan, striped skirt, black jacket, black sheer top, and denim jacket) were purchased quite a while ago and really should have been worn by now. Most of these items will all be addressed below.
- The berry cardigan is a bit of an outlier, as I had thought I would wear it with skirts and dresses during the summer. However, since it was so hot, I rarely wore a topper. When I did wear a bright cardigan, I chose my green and cobalt ones (shown in my last post) over the berry. I probably should have only purchased two bright cardigans instead of three. I believe I will still wear the berry cardigan, though, and plan to keep it in my closet at least through next summer. It may be too short to wear with pants, but I’m going to give it a try to see if it works.
Two of my unsure items are probably bad and likely won’t stay in my wardrobe for very long.
- Striped Maxi-Dress: I thought I would love this item, but I think there was a design flaw in it that I haven’t been able to fix. The straps were too long when I bought it, which is often the case for me with tank tops and sleeveless dresses. I thought that I only needed to have the straps shortened, but there was another problem with it. The top is uneven (it blouses more on one side than the other) and my tailor was not able to completely fix it. My husband says it’s not that noticeable, but I feel the dress is unflattering. I love the stripes, but I have other maxi-dresses that I like a lot more. The dress wasn’t expensive, but I paid for two alterations and it still doesn’t look right. I’m going to try it on again soon and if I am not happy with it, I will let it go.
- Denim Jacket: This jacket had a strong chemical odor that was very difficult to remove. I have washed it several times and soaked it in both vinegar and powdered milk. It now smells okay, but I think it shrunk, as it feels too small in the shoulder area. Sadly, I had it taken in on the sides before I washed it, which I shouldn’t have done. I also don’t love the way it looks on me. I much prefer the denim blazer that is shown in this post. I was hoping to have a more casual denim jacket option, but I think I missed the mark with this one.
May Be Too Dressy:
I love the two items pictured below, but I think they may be too dressy for my lifestyle.
- Black sheer striped top: I still haven’t worn this top even though I really like the style and the way it looks on me. When it was hot outside, I didn’t want to wear pants and the top doesn’t work with any of my skirts. It’s also pretty dressy and my life is quite casual. I know it would work well with jeans (as shown in this post), but I just haven’t done it yet. I probably shouldn’t have bought this top, but I don’t want to get rid of it, either. I either need to find an occasion to get more dressed up or just wear it, even if I’m only going to the movies or out to run errands. I would have worn it shopping in the past, but I don’t do much of that anymore (thankfully).
- Black velvet coat: The story is much the same with this lovely coat. I wore it once earlier in the year (photo shown here), but that’s it. I don’t think it’s that dressy, but the things I do are all very casual. I really need more of a life for my clothes instead of the other way around! That will probably be the topic of a future post…
I plan to keep both of the above items, at least for now. Even if I haven’t had the occasion to wear them, I like the styles and the way these garments look on me. Hopefully, they will stop being “benchwarmers” in the New Year!
New Styles for Me:
I’m on the fence about the four garments below because they are new styles for me and I haven’t embraced them as of yet.
- Black and grey striped pencil skirt: I like the way this skirt looks (see photos here), but it may be a bit “fussy.” I haven’t worn it out of my house yet, so I’m not sure, but I think it may need to be adjusted too much during the day (it seems to easily rotate when I move around). This narrower silhouette is also new for me and I am a very slow adopter of new styles. I know I should just dive into the pool, but I tend to wade in very slowly. Even if this particular skirt ends up being a bad buy, I do still plan to move away from longer and fuller skirts and toward shorter and narrower styles. I’m tired of the most of my skirts (except for the maxis and a few others) and I’m ready for something new.
- Black short coat: I always seem to forget about this coat when I leave the house. It’s kind of a cross between a blazer and a coat, so it’s a new style for me. I think I need to move it from the coat closet to my main closet so I think of it when I’m getting dressed. I like how it looks (see photo here), so it’s probably just a case of pushing myself to wear it.
- Boyfriend jeans and straight-leg jeans: I’m grouping these two together, as their fit is quite similar. Despite how they are categorized, they both look like skinny jeans on me, although they’re not as tight on the bottom as most such styles. The boyfriend jeans (bought in November) are a little looser and include more stretch, but they look much the same as the other jeans. When I see photos of me in these styles, I like the way they look, but I usually reach for my boot-cut jeans when I get dressed. I think it’s another case of my being a slow adopter and needing to just push myself to wear the newer jeans. Sure, if I’m feeling particularly bloated, they’re probably not a good choice, but on other days, I need to bite the bullet and wear them!
I’m Optimistic About Most of My “Unsure” Purchases
Most of my “unsure” purchases will probably end up working out for me. I really do like the way most of them look, but I didn’t feel right including them in the “good list” when they either haven’t been worn or have some sort of issue, like the ones I discussed above.
A few of the items that I didn’t discuss are on the fence because I’m just not sure I love them. The black pants, grey blazer, charcoal skirt, and black and white print tee fall into this category. I’m going to give each of these items at least one more try to see how I feel, but I’m not going to keep things around indefinitely like I used to do. I will likely use the “first impression test” again soon to further pare down my wardrobe, as it was so helpful for me back in October.
My 10 Worst Purchases of the Year
In my last post, I shared my top ten purchases of the year, so it’s only fair that I also write about my ten worst buys of 2014.
Here they are, my shopping low points of the year, with a bit about why I included them in this dubious category.
- Black cropped cardigan: This cardigan was bought on consignment and wasn’t cheap, as it’s by Eileen Fisher. When I bought it, I didn’t realize that pretty much any wool is too itchy for me to wear next to my skin. The cardigan is made from lightweight merino wool that didn’t itch when I tried it on but started to while I was putting outfits together at home. I now know that wool and my skin don’t mesh well, but this cardigan ended up being re-consigned without ever having been worn.
- Blue cropped jacket: More than enough has been written about this jacket on the blog (if you’re new, see here and here), so I’ll keep it brief. It was too small for my frame and too “twee” for my style. Lesson learned – don’t buy something just because you like the color and the brand!
- Black and white striped maxi-dress: I wrote about this item above. It had a design flaw that I tried to rescue through alterations (two of them, at that!). Throwing good money after bad is never a smart move!
- Black and white print midi dress: This dress inspired an entire blog post! It cost $35 on consignment (I had never heard of the designer, but apparently it was one that mattered) and I spent about $25 more to tailor it. I wore it twice and then re-consigned it, so it was definitely one of my worst purchases of the year!
- Black and white geometric print skirt: Another bad buy and alterations failure! This skirt (originally shown here) was too long when I bought it and looked very “churchy” in its initial wearing. So I had it shortened a few inches (altered version shown here), but still didn’t really like it. In a bout of what must have been temporary insanity, I took it to my tailor to be narrowed, which did not An ill-advised purchase coupled with two failed alteration rescue attempts give this one its place in the worst list.
- Denim flared skirt: I really wanted a denim skirt, but should have held out for a better option. This skirt was inexpensive (consignment purchase) but was also altered (taken in at the waist). I wore it once and decided it was too wide and fussy. Fail!
- Denim jacket: You read about this one above. It cost $70 (at The Gap), plus I paid another $12 to tailor it. My husband and I spent time washing it and soaking it in both vinegar and powdered milk to get the chemical smell out of it. It now feels too small and I don’t like the way it looks on me. Money and time down the drain…
- Grey skirt: I bought this skirt on eBay, as I thought it was the same as a skirt I had ruined in an alterations casualty last year. Sadly, it wasn’t quite the same and included a “lettuce” hem that I didn’t like. I had the skirt shortened, but then it looked too wide. The further attempt to narrow it rendered it unwearable. Are you noticing a pattern here with skirts? I would be better off aiming for another silhouette moving forward! That way I won’t look “churchy” or waste money on ill-advised alterations.
- Purple long cardigan: This item was also mentioned above. It was too big upon purchase and should have been immediately returned. But I missed the narrow return window and tried twice to tailor it to fit my narrow torso. I wore it once and felt that it overpowered my frame and made me look short (hard to do at 5’10”). It wasn’t flattering, so I passed it on.
- White cardigan: This was a full-price buy that had to be taken in on the sides. It was an easy alteration that was successful, but I didn’t like how I looked in the very bright white. I’ve decided that I only want to wear white as a layering piece or as part of a print. White should work on me (since I have Winter coloring), but it washes me out too much. I love it in stripes, but not so much by itself.
Wow, that was a long post, but I hope it was interesting and helpful to you. I always hope that by sharing my examples, you’ll come to some realizations about your own wardrobe and shopping. I know that I learned a lot through writing this post and I hope you learned a few things, too. Here’s a brief recap of what I learned:
- Secondhand shopping leads to a lot of purchasing mistakes, at least for me. Better to shop retail, pay more, and have the option of returning things that don’t work out.
- Speaking of returns, it’s a good idea to either buy from stores with liberal return policies (e.g. Nordstrom) or make a note of the return window and act quickly.
- If something cannot be returned, it’s better to cut our losses and pass the item on rather than trying to “rescue” it through difficult alterations.
- No matter how much we love an item, we shouldn’t buy it if it’s not a good match for our lifestyle. I now have a few great pieces hanging in my closet that are unworn because they are dressy and my life is casual.
- If you’re a slow adopter of new styles, buy just one item at a time and make sure it’s in regular rotation before adding another such piece to your closet.
- If an item has a strange chemical odor, it should be returned to the store! It can be very difficult to remove certain smells from clothes and we shouldn’t have to perform heroics to make a garment work for us!
I’m sure I could come up with more lessons, but that’s a pretty good summary. If you noticed anything else from my bad and unsure purchase review, or if you’d like to share some of your own shopping experiences and lessons from this year, please feel free to comment.
Before You Go – A Few Quick Things to Share
Before I sign off for the day – and the year, I’d like to tell you about something very exciting! I’m going to do a full post about this next week, but here’s a little sneak peak…
My Second Book is Now Available!
My second book, “End Closet Chaos: Wardrobe Solutions from an Ex-Shopaholic,” has been published and is now for sale on Amazon.com. This book contains the best of my wardrobe management solutions from the blog, categorized into logical sections related to various closet conundrums. There are eight sections and forty chapters in all.
I’m very proud of this book and hope it will be helpful to anyone who chooses to read it. I will share more details next week, but if you want to check out the book, click here (you don’t need to own a Kindle to read it – you can download the free Kindle app for your computer or device HERE).
If You’re Interested in Project 333…
Also, if you’re thinking of starting Project 333 in the New Year, you might want to check out Courtney Carver’s Dress With Less Microcourse. It includes a lot of great information to help you get started, including 9 PDF worksheets, fun playlists to listen to while sorting through your closet, and access to a private Facebook group. I took this course before I started Project 333 last year and found it very informative and supportive.
Happy New Year!
Lastly, I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Thank you for following my blog, whether it’s been for a few weeks, a few months, or since the beginning. I am extremely grateful for your readership and I wish you all the best in 2015.
I’ll be back soon with more 2014 wrap-up posts, additional information about my book, and lots more… I hope we can all be smarter shoppers, have more cohesive wardrobes, and fuller lives in the coming year!
Great analysis, as usual! If I may make a few observations…those jeans look fantastic on you, so please give them a chance! I love, love, love the black velvet coat, toss it on with jeans to tone down the dressy vibe! Also love that other black jacket, the one with cuffs, it gives a nice modern vibe. Pretty much agree with you on the misses… Hey, it happens. I love the idea of a denim jacket, but understand the issues with that one. Gap stuff is very hit/miss, mostly miss, unfortunately. Talbots had some nice denim jackets, if they still have them, they are on sale. They also have tall sizes online. We specialty size ( petite, tall) girls are pretty much forced to shop online as the in store selection is minimal, if any. I think you have learened a lot this year, and once again I thank you for sharing your journey. Happy New Year!!
Thanks for your compliments and suggestions, Paula. I really need to wear the jackets and jeans. Now that I have a better sense of what my “on the fence” items are, I’m going to make a point of either integrating them into my working wardrobe very soon or letting them go. I appreciate the tip for Talbots regarding denim jackets and tall sizes. I have bought from them before, but the closest store is not easy for me to get to (for trying things on or making returns). They used to have stores in two malls near me, but not anymore… Yes, I have to buy a lot of things online because of my height and it can be a challenge. I do the best I can, but writing this post has made me even more aware of my shopping foibles. I plan to do a lot better in 2015!
I haven’t been a reader for long, but what you say really resonates with me. I can relate to all of your conclusions. I’ve been on a similar journey and have been examining my own closet & purchases, having spent a lot of money on beautiful clothes I never wore because they didn’t fit my life (or my body). My style has evolved and my shape has changed over the past several years so shopping became very frustrating for me. Thanks to yours and other blogs, I no longer feel like a failure – it seems everyone has hits and misses, no matter how careful they are with purchases. I too have found when I spend more and shop stores such as Nordstroms with good return policies, I tend to be much happier with the items purchased. Thank you for your honesty and accountability – its been invaluable to me. Happy New Year!
Welcome, Lisa, and thanks for your comment. I’m glad that my blog and others have helped you feel less like a failure, as it is SO true that we all have hits and misses. Analyzing mine has been very helpful and I’m glad that it’s been beneficial for others, too. I think that awareness of where we excel – and where we struggle – can really help us to make positive changes. Sometimes we have to learn certain lessons (like me with the alterations and resale buys!) a few times over, but eventually we get it and we move forward. Happy New Year to you, too, and best wishes for 2015!
Happy New Year Debbie! I’ll be sure to order your book soon. Congrats on finishing it!
It’s funny how different your top 10 best and worst look. The best all look like they go together and the worst do too, but for a different person. My worst purchases were the 17 things that I bought from Ebay and never wore and couldn’t return. That is my one rule for next year. Don’t buy anything that can’t be returned. The other couple of items were things bought on shopping trips with friends. Both of them were the only thing I had bought and it was toward the end of the day. I need to be aware of that and buy nothing if I don’t see something that I need or love. I also had about 17 things that I did wear, but only a few times and then passed them along. I don’t expect everything that I buy to be something that I’ll keep for years, but that is too many!
Happy New Year to you, too, Tonya! Great observation about my best and worst pieces. You’re right that they both look cohesive but for different people! The person who would wear my worst purchases is not who I am today. I like your one rule for next year and feel it will help you a lot. No need to have lots and lots of rules. Just having one or two that are meaningful can lead to some big changes. Your Ebay is like my consignment shopping and didn’t serve us well. I think we have both improved a lot, though, and will continue to do so in 2015. Thanks for always sharing your numbers when I share mine. I’m very happy that others have joined in with the accountability. It helps me a lot to “spill the beans” and I’m sure that is true for you and others, too.
Those skinny jeans are the bomb on you! They look great (and I think I even suggested them in previous comment that I made). I also think those jeans with the black sheer top and the black Nlepore jack look great too – definitely wear those more often… I don’t think the sheer blouse is “too dressy” at all when paired with the jeans. While I haven’t got this detailed with my wardrobe yet I think I finally stopped buying just because an item is on sale at s good price… I’m asking myself first if it will go with more than one other piece in my closet… Baby steps 😉
Thanks for your compliments, Karen. I DO need to wear all of those items more often. In fact, I felt kind of silly when I realized that they have been “benchwarmers.” I get very stuck in my ways sometimes… Good for you for no longer buying things just because they are on sale. I think many of us fall prey to that, but it usually doesn’t serve us well. The baby steps we take in the right direction are key to our recovery – and they really add up over time!
I am so excited about the new book. I want to order, but I do not have a creditcard. Does anyone know where I can order it and pay with Paypal? I bought the first book via Kobo, but I can not find it there anymore.
Thank you for your interest in my new book, Jessica. I decided to only sell it on Amazon because almost all of the sales of my first book were made there and it makes it easier for me to centralize things. There is an option on Amazon to pay via one’s checking account or via an Amazon gift card, which they sell in a lot of grocery stores (at least where I live). A friend could also order the book for you and you could pay her back in cash. I order things for my mom on Amazon all the time because she’s technologically challenged… I hope you’ll be able to get the book soon. I’m sorry if it’s difficult for you to buy, but I very much appreciate that you want to read it.
Hi Debby, I live in Holland so I could not get a gift card :-). Fortunately I found someone with a creditcard who bought it for me. Just started reading and I just had to let you know that I love it. Congrats! I hope there will be a third book. No pressure though 😉
I’m glad you were able to get the book and are enjoying it, Jessica! Sorry it was a bit of a hassle for you. I didn’t realize that Amazon gift cards are not available everywhere. I’m sure there will be a third book at some point. I’m not sure what it will be about, but there will very likely be one…
Happy New Year Debbie! I hope 2015 is a happy and healthy year for you and your family. I just bought your new book and look forward to reading it soon.
This was a really good post and I enjoyed reading your thought process as to why the clothes didn’t work for you. My shopping hiatus is officially over as of today but I have no plans to rush out and buy anything. I was not completely successful with the hiatus but it did definitely stop me from buying as much. I may do another one sometime this year.
Happy New Year to you, too, Kim! I send you warm wishes for 2o15 as well. Thank you for buying my book and I hope you enjoy it. I’m glad you liked this post, too. You seem to have a good attitude about your shopping hiatus. Things don’t have to be all or nothing. When we set goals and don’t meet them, we often make more progress than we would have if we had no goals at all. The fact that you aren’t rushing out to buy anything today is a testament to the value of your hiatus. It seems to have shifted your thought processes and behavior, so I would say it’s been a success!
Happy New Year, Debbie and congratulations on the new book! I have just ordered my copy and can’t wait to spend the rest of this cold, rainy weekend going through it. The timing is perfect, as I’m trying to finally finish the closet purge and reorganization I started in the summer when I first discovered your blog. As your two year “blog-iversary” approaches, thank you again for sharing your journey so openly with your readers. This year-end post is tangible proof of the remarkable progress you’ve made, and I hope you’re feeling good about the changes you’ve made. Your style is so much more clearly defined now, and I think you’re on the right track with identifying which items just don’t work. Much like you, I have continued buying the wrong things again and again, but when I categorize my purchases like you’ve done, it becomes very obvious that my “failed” items have the same things in common: secondhand purchases, mostly via eBay, that cannot be returned, requiring lots of alterations. Perhaps this will be the year I finally remember not to buy button down shirts or prints. I’m still struggling with the aftermath of too much shopping, but every post you publish helps make me more aware of the underlying reasons for my choices. My mantra for the new year is going to be this quote, which I have posted in my closet as a daily reminder: “You’ll never find something to wear that makes you feel beautiful, smart or loved if you don’t believe that you already are.” Here’s to fuller lives and better managed wardrobes for all of us in 2015!
Happy New Year to you, too, Texas Aggie Mom! Thank you for buying my book and I hope you enjoy reading it while keeping warm and dry indoors this weekend. I really appreciate your kind words about me and my blog. I do feel good about the changes I’ve made and I feel like everything is really coming together now. It really does take time to overcome a compulsive shopping problem. I’ve been working hard at it for two years now and there have been lots of ups and downs, but I feel like it has been so worth it to stay the course. It was a bit depressing to write this post, as I kept seeing my mistakes over and over again. But I have learned some really wonderful lessons that I feel are going to stay with me now (I had to learn a few several times over!). I love your mantra for the year! I think that April Benson has said something very similar. I kept trying to BUY self-worth in a store, but that’s not where it can be found. It has to come from within and it isn’t nearly as easy to find there as a new top or pair of shoes is in a store. I second your wish for fuller lives and better managed wardrobes for all of us this year!
An option for the white or other light colored items is to dye them. I have successfully done that when I can’t find a particular cardigan in a color I want but I found a white one. Same with blazers. It can be a fun way to refashion clothes for only a few dollars or to save a beloved item that has stains.
I was thinking the same thing about the white cardigan. I don’t know how many things I’ve dyed black or blue! Those are the main colors that I wear so dye has “saved” a lot of clothing for me.
Speaking of refashioning, I wonder if you would wear the striped dress if it were converted into a skirt. I don’t want to encourage yet another alteration but this might be a good project if you have any interest in learning how to sew. 🙂
Lastly, love the end of year reviews. They have encouraged me to go through my spreadsheet of purchases and consider a shopping break. I think a break would give me some time to analyze what I thought worked, what didn’t, and what I need to do to get to a point where I’m comfortable with the amount (and types) of purchases I make. As always, thank you for the food for thought!
Good suggestion about the striped dress. I don’t know if I want to learn how to sew, but I will consider whether the dress might work better as a skirt. But I will only pursue that avenue if I’m quite sure I would love and wear the skirt version!
Try wearing a boxy tee or sweater over the dress and it will “turn into” a skirt. Have to remember to do this myself…
Good idea, frugalscholar! I’ve seen bloggers do that before, but I’ve never tried it. If nothing else, it will help me to determine if I want to alter the dress into a skirt.
Good suggestions, Midwest Girl and Emmy. I probably should have hung on to the first white cardigan and dyed it. I still have the second one, so I will consider dying that one. I have very little experience with dyeing clothes, though. My husband and I are going to refresh a few of my black pieces that have faded over time. Maybe I will dye the white cardigan black since black seems to be my favorite color 🙂
I’m glad you like these year-end posts, Emmy. There will be a few more. As for shopping breaks, they can be a good opportunity to shop one’s closet and reflect on the past and what one wants for the future. Even a short break can be very helpful. I inadvertently took a shopping break last month. I didn’t set out to do one, but I didn’t end up buying anything! I will write about that in my coming accountability update. It’s a definite sign of progress because I wasn’t “white knuckling it” not to shop like in the past.
Debbie: This journey had been an interesting one. You have greater self-knowledge and wisdom. This blog may seem to be about clothes but it really deals with something more essential to our sense of self. Best wishes for a successful and healthy new year.
Thank you, Dottie. Yes, this journey has taken a lot of twists and turns and I’ve faltered quite a bit along the way, but I do feel that I have more knowledge and wisdom two years into it. I agree that this blog is about a lot more than just clothes, and I’m happy about that. I wish you the best in 2015, too!
Debbie, I agree, you have gained a great sense of self-knowledge and wisdom, and while the theme of this blog is about clothes and shopping, it offers plenty more, essential to our sense of self.
Happy New Year! And a big congrats on your newly released book!
Me? My best purchase of 2014 is a second E.F. black silk t-shirt, because it is an ideal layering piece that I wear a couple times each week, either under a sweater, jacket, or even under a hoodie on my ultra casual days, and if the outdoor weather or indoor temperature is too warm, I can always strip down to my last layer knowing I look my best. My worst purchase was a J.Crew sundress that proved to be way too thick of material on warm days, and on cooler days I don’t want to wear sun dresses, so I released it from my life.
Thanks for your kind words, Terra, and for sharing your best and worst purchases of 2014. The EF black t-shirt sounds like a real winner for you. Perhaps I’ll have to invest in one of those tops myself, especially since I’m really striving to buy fewer items and better quality.
I have only dyed clothing in a dedicated stockpot on the stove which works really well. I’d like to try dying things in the washer but since we rent I don’t want to stain a washer we don’t own! Our new place has a front load washer which I’ve read isn’t recommended anyway.
I have tried a few different dyes and I think iDye for natural fibers works the best. I’ve tried to dye polyester and will never do that again. The fumes from the dye bath were horrible and my clothes smelled strongly even through several washings. Plus, it didn’t even work that well.
When I do commit to dying thing (and I say commit because the process takes hours, especially if you include washing the clothes afterward) I make sure I have a bunch of clothing lined up and stagger when I put the items in. For stovetop dying, the clothes or fabric that go in first will absorb more of the dye so the items at the end of the batch end up being much lighter. Not a problem if that is how you plan it.
A couple more lessons learned- larger items can be difficult to dye evenly (I’ve had a couple of things that came out a little tie-dye looking!) and stains may absorb dye differently than the rest of the fabric so trying to cover up a stain doesn’t always work.
Regarding your white cardigan, I say give it a shot! You’re already not wearing it so what’s the worst that could happen- you dye it and end up not wearing it? 😉
Thanks for sharing your process, Emmy! I haven’t heard of iDye, but will check it out. The three black items I want to “refresh” are all natural fibers, but the white cardigan is not (it feels like it is, but it’s rayon and nylon). So I think I will just pass that one on, as I’ve read that dyeing synthetic fibers rarely works well (and you confirmed it in your comment!).
Happy New Year, Debbie!
Same to you, Deby! I wish you all the best for 2015!
I admire your transparency with respect to your wardrobe. It has helped me to analyze my own wardrobe. Since I buy 9o% of my clothing second hand I have instituted a rule that I must try everything on and only purchase 10’s, even in my favorite brands. I also think about all the small failures and what they cost, if I just walked away and only purchased 10’s then I would have that money to put to a phenomenal piece instead of just so so rags that were a waste. 2015 should be a better year for all I’ve learned. Thank you for helping me learn these lessons.
Good rules for secondhand shopping, Kathy! I think that doing both of those things would increase one’s success rate quite a bit. I almost always try things on when I shop resale, but I have often purchased things that were almost right instead of absolutely great. No more! I’m sure I could have bought a few expensive designer pieces with the money I wasted on bad secondhand buys in 2014. But we live and learn!
I have a few misses as well. I think mine are fewer, but maybe not. I’ve already purged 2 cheap cotton tanks. I did wear them in FL, but they are not good enough to keep around for my much smaller warm weather capsule I need for Tahoe temps. I also purged 2 hi/low poly blend dresses. Both too short in front. I resold one and the other is still NWT that I’m hoping to sell to a resale shop in town. Another miss was a graphic Fender guitar tee. Way too small. Bought on eBay with no return (but only $9 so worth the gamble to me).
2 ‘on the fence’ items are a silk color block tank bought with Twice resale funds off their site. Great colors but hits at my widest spot. Not sure if layering under a jacket will fix the issue. The other is a bright berry button front blouse. I love the color but it’s crummy cheap material that’s scratchy and doesn’t drape well. I’ll likely wear it through this year and then send it on its way.
I’m getting better about ousting the bad and not holding on and torturing myself over whether to keep.
I’m also getting better about not keeping purchases I’m unsure on. If I don’t love it, or really need it, back it goes. My recent colorblock moto style sweatshirt is a case in point. Great style, bad blocky fit that did not flatter me. Incidentally, I got a great military jacket instead that I likely would not have, had I kept the substandard color block. So, getting the junk out of the way opens the door for the right things to come into your closet (and your life, to be more existential about it all lol)
Thanks for sharing your misses, Mo (and your hits in my last post). It sounds like you definitely had fewer bad purchases than I did and that you understand the issues with those items. I think your last paragraph shows some excellent growth. I have had a similar experience as of late. I returned one of my November purchases (lace sweatshirt) because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It had an olive layer beneath the lace that made it much less versatile, especially for my cool-toned wardrobe. If it had been all black, I’d still have it. In the past, I would have kept it, but I’m glad I took it back to the store. I’ve had more examples of this type of thing lately, which shows growth. I DO think that cleaning our closets and being clear about our wardrobes can open doors in other areas of our lives. We often don’t realize what the emotional baggage of our packed closets cost us. You seem to be doing great and I’m sure you will only continue to improve in 2015!
Congratulations on your second book! I purchased it yesterday and am enjoying it very much.
My purchases for the year were 50% good and 30% bad. The remaining 20% either fall into the “just okay” category or I’m still on the fence about. Like you, most of my bad purchases were inexpensive items- on sale etc. A couple had unforeseen issues, like jeans that stretched out too much (won’t be buying denim from that store again), and a few were experiments that I knew might end up being failures, but most were simply purchased for the wrong reasons. I really need to get myself out of the “it’s just $20” mentality, because, as we know, those $20 add up. I, too, had a much higher success rate with relatively expensive items, and while I’m not going to preclude myself from purchasing inexpensive items, on the whole I’m going to aim for quality over quantity this year.
Thank you for purchasing my book, Kayla. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I appreciate your sharing your 2014 shopping experiences, too. It seems like you fared better than I did this past year, but we have some of the same challenges. You’re so right that those $20 add up! I think that aiming for quality over quantity is a good way to go. It can be difficult for those of us who have been bargain shoppers for years, but I do feel that in the long run, we will be happier with what we buy if we buy fewer things and put more thought and consideration into our purchases.
I am getting close to finishing my purchase review, but I’m waiting for some items I had ordered that didn’t show up yet. I plan on publishing my December Budget first, then the 2014 Purchase Review. I didn’t have as many ‘bad’ purchases as I feared, but I have far too many items ‘on the fence’. I need to get a good grip of them and sort them out, but as many are out of season I fear I won’t finish until next year!
I did bust my budget as well as my item limit. I’m very disappointed with myself on that count. I over-purchased in December (probably will do a lot of returns), I think partially to stress and partially because I felt panic over the new limits I have established for 2015. I’ve redone my household budget for 2015 and have since reconnected with my goals and feel more comfortable now with my decision to drastically reduce my shopping in 2015. It’s amazing what a hold this compulsion can have on you! I’ve set up a lot of things that will help me keep in check with my goals and help support me as I feel stressed so I don’t do what I did this month again… I feel a post coming on now lol!
I look forward to reading your 2014 review posts, Meli. Yes, they DO take a long time to write, but the knowledge we gain from the process is very valuable. Even if you find that there were a lot of “misses,” you’ll better understand why and be able to do things differently this year. I can understand why you would overshop in December, both with the stress of the holidays AND the upcoming French wardrobe challenge you’re going to do. It’s kind of like deciding to go on a diet on Monday and gorging yourself all weekend. I’ve been there myself multiples times (both with dieting and shopping – LOL). I have seen a lot of growth in you, though, so I feel you ARE moving forward even if the numbers didn’t end up as you would ultimately like. Just keep moving forward one day and one step at a time. You’re making progress and I look forward to seeing how you continue to grow in 2015!
Thank you very much debbie!! I cannot say too often how much of an impact you’ve made on my life- you inspired such a dramatic shift in me and I couldn ‘t feel more gratefull for all you do! You were that spark that inspired everything I have accomplished and you continue to motivate me 🙂
Commenting on this post inspired me to write a post about how I plan to be successful this year , considering the fact that I have not been successful reining in shopping in the last year. I’m quite proud of it lol.
It really warms my heart to read this, Meli. It’s made me very happy to know that my blog and my journey have inspired others. But you know what? You’ve inspired me, too! I love reading your blog and seeing your progress. I enjoyed the post about your plan for success and I will be cheering you on!
Happy New Year, Debbie!
Thanks for a great and very detailed review in the last 2 posts. It’s posts like these that make me wish I tracked my wardrobe more, and yet…eh. I don’t want to do that partially because I am lazy and I also don’t want to focus that much. I have been enjoying not thinking about my clothes as much now I am not drowning in the stress of my overflowing closet! Anyway, I am ending the year feeling good about my purchases (although I don’t remember them all, due to the lack of tracking!). I have narrowed down that fit, and being able to wash my clothes without ruining them, are keys to success for me. If I buy a fabric that is too delicate/fussy and I end up ruining it, that’s just as bad as buying something that doesn’t fit well. I am definitely shopping more in person and less online (a new mall is helping with that), so that is helping the fit issues. I am also steering clear of sale “bargains” a bit more, and only buying when I know an item fits in with the rest of my wardrobe.
I feel that 2015 will be really positive. I think this’ll be the year when I’m no longer ashamed of my enormous wardrobe that is full of things I don’t wear. I am nearly there, but need to do a bit more purging.
I don’t think that everyone needs to do the type of detailed tracking I do, Sarah. It sounds like you have been able to pare down your wardrobe and are doing well with your purchases. I may get to a place when I no longer feel the need to track, but it will likely be at least another couple of years. I track to help me to do better. If someone is already on track with their wardrobe and shopping, tracking may just be another task that they don’t need to add to their lives. It’s a very individual thing and we all need to decide what will work best for us – and it will change over time.
I love your last paragraph, as it really speaks to your great progress. I look forward to being in the place where I am no longer ashamed of my too large wardrobe and not wearing things often enough. I’m not sure if I will get there in 2015, but I sure hope so! I have made excellent progress, but sometimes it seems too slow. But I will keep on keeping on, as I know I will get there eventually. Best wishes to you for the coming year!
Happy New Year and congratulations on your new book!
Here’s an analogous story from the pre-online era that may hold insights for the resale shopper. When I first moved to a large city, I quickly realized that my normal process for buying clothes–driving to all the stores in my small city that might have the item and trying them on– wouldn’t work. There were so many more choices! I felt overwhelmed. What if I bought something at a store and then learned I could have gotten a better deal elsewhere?
Because my shopping environment had changed, I changed my shopping habits. No longer was it feasible to look “everywhere” for the perfect black skirt, for example. I had to accept the fact that the theoretical, Platonic perfect black skirt for me could exist somewhere out in that environment and I would never see it, try it on, or buy it. Two of my former top criteria were demoted: perfection and price.
Well, perfection never existed so that one wasn’t so hard to give up. But I choked a little on the price point. Then I realized that there were certain reliable retailers (or sometimes, brands) that usually had high-value items I could afford in styles that suited my body and my life. I made those retailers and brands my benchmarks and have never looked back.
By “benchmark,” I don’t mean that these are the only ones I ever buy from. I mean that anything/anyplace I even consider buying from has to measure up to these benchmarks. I don’t shop places unless they have generous return policies, like Nordy’s. Chico’s had my business until they made a simple return into a federal case: now I will never shop there. Target has reasonably priced basic workout clothes that are good enough for my purposes; if they stop carrying them, I’ll look elsewhere.
So if I’m shoe shopping, the first place I go is Nordstrom’s: I know they will have a selection I like, they will have my hard-to-find size, and they will let me return what doesn’t work. If I need a basic T for yoga, I just head over to Target and pick up my usual cotton blend; why pay a department store price or work myself into a shopping frenzy over just restocking a basic?
It’s possible that I could spend hours online shopping for shoes and doing returns by mail to get a better deal. It’s possible that I could come upon a barely worn designer yoga tee shirt at a low low price by shopping consignment. But is it likely? How long would it take to score those items? My time is also worth something. And I don’t want to spend it all in stores or online. 😉
For what it’s worth. 🙂
Thanks for continuing to make your blog meaningful, fascinating, and fun, Debbie. Your end-of-year assessments seem spot-on. Can’t wait to see what your new year holds!
This speaks to the input of time, along with money, to amass our wardrobes. They are both commodities and of value to consider. I start to feel the time involved is too great when I get on the online return merry go round. Week after week and often still the ‘right’ item is not acquired. It can be exhausting.
And I’m so with you on just getting ‘good enough’ basics and being done with it. Life’s short! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your story and process, Amy (and for your New Year wishes and book congratulations). It makes really good sense! I think I have often gotten too caught up in the ever elusive perfection, too, and that has just taken far too much of my time and energy. I didn’t use to mind, as I was trying to avoid other things in my life (mostly subconsciously, but I see it now), but I now want more from life than to be shopping, returning, and managing my wardrobe all the time. It feels good to even type that and know that it’s really true! Mo said it so well and I wholeheartedly agree with what she wrote!
What I want for myself – and for all of us – in 2015 is to spend less time shopping and more time LIVING! I’m not even totally sure HOW I want to spend that time, but I know I want something different for myself. I will take your suggestions to heart, as they are very sound. I think having a few go-to retailers/brands is a great way to go. Sure, we may be able to find something slightly better or cheaper if we shop around ad nauseum, but you are so right that our time is worth something!
Hi Debbie! Happy new year! Thanks for sharing your closet journey with us, I sure have learnt a lot from your posts.
Re trying new style – just sharing a personal experience. I hate to put it this way, but I am mostly rather… lazy when it comes to dressing. I default to the same style/combination that more often than not involves jeans (I lead a rather casual lifestyle – even my office doesn’t have a dress code!). So what often happens is that I think about all of these wonderful outfits that I can wear based on styling the items on my closet, but I rarely deliver (unfortunately). So I dedicate a day in which I put in more effort than usual – and this is often in the form of trying a new combination of outfits, in particular when I bought something new. Of course I would like to have more days like this eventually – because it is fun! I just need to dedicate more time to do this! Hope that this is something that you can try too?
Congratulations on publishing a second book – massive, MASSIVE achievement. Keep shining!
Thank you for your comment, congratulations on the book, and kind words about my blog, Belle. I really resonated with your comment, as I also can be quite lazy at times when it comes to getting dressed. This has definitely been true for me over the past month, as the weather finally got cold (at least for where I live – in fact it has been quite cold for her). I haven’t taken the time to work on my outfits and have worn the same basic “formula” most days. When I take the time to “play” in my closet and put outfits together, it helps me a lot to wear more of what I have and be less lazy with my style. I need to schedule another one of those sessions very soon, I think, now that the book is done and the holidays are behind me. Thank you for the gentle nudge 🙂
Hi Debbie, Happy New Year to you and to fellow readers! Congratulations on your second book! I have started reading and it is full of great information. I still find I am obsessed with clothes, thinking about clothes, sorting out my wardrobe, analysing, culling etc. I have set an annual budget and item limit for the year and would like my shopping to be much less frequent, ideally seasonally. I made a good deal of progress last year, although I was over budget and over my item limit I had done much better than the previous year. Ultimately I would like to fill my time with other activities and be less obsessed with clothes and shopping!
Happy New Year to you, too, Sharon. Thanks so much for buying my book! I’m glad it’s helping you. It takes time to overcome the obsession with clothes and shopping. I am still on that journey myself, as you know. Like you, I definitely want to fill my time with other activities. That’s a task on which I will focus more attention during 2015!
Congrats on your second book, that’s wonderful news! If I were to think about my worst purchase of the past year, it would have to be every time I’ve purchased a souvenir item. I always end up with casual items that I rarely get to sport, which means it ends up collecting dust.
Thanks for pointing out one of my frequent downfalls! I have realized that I am really not a t-shirt kind of girl, yet I continue to purchase them on vacations and at concerts and they go unworn, just taking up space in my drawers. In contrast, one of the best vacation purchases I ever made was a beautiful embroidered coral sundress, which was an impulse buy in a beachfront shop in California. Although it cost much more than I usually spend on souvenirs, I still get compliments from total strangers every single time I wear it, ten years later. I need to focus on making similar investment purchases in the future – thank you for this very articulate reminder!
Thanks, Lisa! I remember reading your post about the souvenir items. I’ve faltered there, too, expect one jacket I bought on a cruise ended up being a major wardrobe workhorse. I haven’t traveled much lately, so no souvenirs, either good or bad.
Texas Aggie Mom, your coral sundress sounds lovely! How great that an impulse buy paid off. It may be helpful to kind of plan what types of souvenirs we will buy when we travel. If we give it some advance thought, we’ll be less likely to purchase our 25th t-shirt that collects dust in a drawer.
Thanks for the insightful post.
You’ve inspired me to take close look at my wardrobe duds and take action. I haven’t bought a top at Target in several months!
I will be interested to see what happens about the Loft velvet coat. I have maybe one or two events a year where I might wear a dressy coat like that. I would be tempted to keep it, despite it’s low wear frequency because it serves a purpose – however infrequent.
Debbie, if you decide not to keep the velvet coat from LOFT, I want to be first in line to buy it from you! I think we are very similar in height and shape, and I would love to have a “fancy” coat like that. Hope you can take some of the previous suggestions to pair it with jeans and see if that takes the dressy vibe down to a level that’s comfortable for you. I would wear it over a dress to church, but would pair it with a black and white silk top, good jeans and black pumps or high heeled boots for an evening out. That is my ideal “date” outfit; now if I can just get a date in 2015 I can shop my closet for something similar!
I’m glad my posts have inspired you to shop smarter, Ginger. Good point about my velvet coat. I am inclined to keep it and find ways to wear it, as I really like it a lot. TexasAggieMom, I will definitely let you know if I opt to pass it on. I’d love to know that my castoffs get good homes, and we often aren’t sure when we donate or consign things. Good ideas for how to style the coat. I’ll have to wrangle some more date nights in 2015! I hope some fun dates are in your near future, too!
I think that it’s great that you’re able to recognize what works and doesn’t work for you, and I can see how your wardrobe is becoming more and more easy to style and cohesive!
It took me some good years to finally learn my style and preferences, and I still make mistakes, but it’s getting easier not to shop with my ‘glamour-goggles’ on, and to buy only what I like, instead of what I like on magazines/other people/pinterest…
An example of my wrong purchases is surely a wide circle skirt in black/red that I bought last year, but didn’t stay with me because wrong size/too showy, or a statement necklace with pearls that I still don’t know how to style… Or two trousers that in the changing room looked amazing, but then I dropped a pound or two out of stress and they became too large for me, with obvious fit issues! :°D
Another matter entirely are the clothes I ruined with irremediable stains, but this is due to my clumsiness, so I won’t whine here!
Happy new year, even if I’m late, and congratulations on your new book!
Yes, it can take some time to learn what does and doesn’t work for us, Maria. I am definitely still learning. I’ve had incidences like the ones you described, too. Sometimes I wonder what the heck I was thinking! Thanks for your congrats on the book. Happy New Year to you, too!
I love that you were able to turn your shopping mistakes into some new, clearly stated rules for yourself! I’ve adopted some similar ones about consignment and ebay shopping and return policies, although it’s still very tempting because I do my own alterations. I know sewing is not for everyone but if I were in San Diego I would offer to show you how to do some basics! Although I do understand wanting to outsource certain things. It’s how I feel about car repairs! I know I could do them myself if I wanted to, but I just don’t want to!
Have you tried stretching your denim jacket out? I’ve read that if you soak it in warm water and then put it on and do some crazy moving around that it helps stretch denim jeans back out. I think if you google a little bit there might be some other (less soggy) methods as well. Also in the future you might want to consider sealing a smelly garment in a large bag with baking soda for a few days instead, as that will not shrink the garment. And it’s too bad about that striped maxi dress! I thought it looked so lovely on you, although if it’s not comfortable, it’s not worth it. And I’m sure you will eventually find a better one.
Congrats on your latest book!
How wonderful that you do your own alterations, Sarah. I don’t have the patience – or the space for a sewing machine. I don’t really mind paying for them, but I just have to stop making poor alteration decisions! Thanks for the suggestions for the denim jacket and future smelly items. I’m still undecided on the jacket and the maxi-dress, but I plan to decide their fate before too long. I think I was too hasty in buying the dress, as I had wanted a striped maxi for so long and had trouble finding one that was long enough for me (tall woman problems…). I would still love to have a good one, but I can be patient until the right one comes along. Thanks for the congrats on the book and good for you for coming up with new rules for secondhand shopping!
hi Debbie, I’m here catching up… u know i love these posts of yours. as always, wish i could write all i’m thinking, but these darn health issues… just wanted to say thanks for all u share, congrats on the book, best and warmest wishes for you in the coming year. I’ll be here reading, lovely lady! 🙂
Good to see you commenting here, Claire. I appreciate your kind words and the fact that you are a loyal reader. I’m sorry to hear that you continue to struggle with health issues, but I definitely understand that it makes it harder to get things done, including commenting on blogs. I am in a similar boat in that my health issues have been very challenging as of late. But this blog and all of my readers helps me to be more positive and encouraged. I hope 2015 will be a better year for you and that you’ll experience at least some reprieve from your pain. I wish you all the best, too!