I know I wrote in my last post that I would be sharing more “lessons from my outfit journal” this week, but I realized that I had more I wanted to say about my wardrobe and my “Love it, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI). So the outfit photos and journal entries will have to wait until next week instead.
In today’s post, I’m going to reflect back on how my shopping and wardrobe management has progressed so far this year. One quarter of the year is behind us, so this is a good time to pause and reflect on what is and isn’t working for us. Having periodic check-ins with ourselves can help increase our self-awareness and enable us to build upon what we’ve learned and avoid making mistakes.
I’m going to share what I’ve purchased this year and what I’ve passed on, as well as how I feel about both of these groups of items. I’m also going to spend a bit of time looking at my jewelry and accessories and what has yet to be worn in 2015. It’s my hope that my reflections will help you make similar analyses with your own wardrobes so you can better achieve your wardrobe and shopping goals.
What Came Into My Wardrobe
Let’s start by looking at what came into my closet this year. Since the beginning of 2015, I have added 14 garments, three pairs of shoes, and two pieces of jewelry to my wardrobe. Here’s a snapshot of all of those items:
What do these items have in common? With the possible exception of the black, white, and yellow tunic (which can be dressed down with jeans), all of the pieces are quite casual in nature. This is a very good thing, as my lifestyle is definitely casual. In the past, I would purchase too many “dressy” items simply because I liked how they looked. I didn’t fully consider how appropriate such things would be for my life. I bought them because they were stylish and/or looked good on me, or simply because the price was right.
I wasted a lot of money on garments and accessories that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place. Many of these items hung in my closet and collected dust instead of being worn regularly. My track record was pretty bad when it came to my purchases. I won’t elaborate too much here, but you can look back at some of my previous posts for the cold, hard, and ugly truth (see this post for overall bad purchases from last year and this post for my abysmal track record with resale buys).
Fast forward to this year… I am finally learning from my mistakes and turning things around! Almost all of my 2015 purchases have been worn multiple times and are well suited to my lifestyle. There are only two new items that have not been worn yet (denim jacket and silver stretch bracelet), but those are both recent purchases that I will likely wear within the next couple of weeks. I’m not overly thrilled with a few of the items, but I’m very happy with everything else thus far.
Worst Purchases So Far in 2015
The three items are don’t love are the following (with reasons listed):
- Green print long-sleeved tee: I love the color and the print, but this tee is a bit fussy and doesn’t really stay in place well. I probably should have moved around more in the fitting room to be sure of its wearability. It’s always a good idea to try to simulate the movements you’ll be making in your clothes when you try them on. I still wear this top, but it’s not one of my favorites. Time will tell if it will get to stay in my LIWI closet.
- Grey short-sleeved tee: I bought this tee because I really loved the turquoise version I had purchased previously. Since it’s a workout tee, I thought it would be helpful for me to have two since I don’t do laundry all that often. However, I don’t love this shade of grey on my skin tone, as I feel it washes me out somewhat. I should have stuck with just one version of the tee since they didn’t have another color available that I loved. And often “one and done” (as Bridgette Raes says) is the best way to go instead of buying multiples.
- Turquoise print short-sleeved tee: I bought this tee online, so I didn’t really know how the fabric would feel and wear. I kept the tee because I loved the color and print, but I probably should have returned it instead. Like the green top mentioned above, it’s kind of fussy and doesn’t stay in place. It won’t work as a workout tee for that reason, which was my original intention when I purchased it. I’m wearing it at home instead and still like it, but I really wish it would stay in place better for working out.
Lessons from My Bad Purchases
I have learned three valuable lessons from the above less than stellar purchases:
- Move around as much as possible in the fitting room when trying things on. Try to imitate the type of movements you will be making in the clothes to make sure they will be appropriate for your activities.
- Don’t buy “multiples” unless you love the second (I’m trying to stick with a maximum of two like items these days) color as much as the first. It’s far better to buy just one than to have a second item that rarely makes its way out of your closet.
- If you buy something online and don’t absolutely love it when it arrives, return it! This is true even if you love the color, print, or style of an item. You need to love the item as a whole in order to keep it, not just certain facets of it.
In her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo mentions that some clothes (and other items) come into our lives for the sole purpose of teaching us valuable lessons. If we impart those lessons, then those clothes have fulfilled upon their purpose in our lives. We can then release them, thank them for the lessons they taught us, and move on without guilt. That is likely what I will end up doing with the three garments mentioned above, which is why I am writing about them here today.
What Left My Closet
Speaking of releasing items from my closet, I have let go of 26 garments, 7 pairs of shoes, 5 pieces of jewelry, and one purse so far this year. Some of these items were purchasing mistakes, others no longer were in line with my personal style, and still others had simply passed their prime. Here’s a photo of all of the pieces that have left my wardrobe thus far in 2015:
After taking a few moments to look at my 2015 cast-offs, here’s a summary of why I passed them on (some items appear in more than one category):
- 7 items were worn out and past their prime.
- 15 items were poor purchases that were rarely worn (0-2 times) and shouldn’t have been bought in the first place.
- 12 items were no longer my style or in colors I no longer like (but had been worn multiple times previously).
- 3 tops had sleeves that were too short (3/4 sleeves that were more like 2/3 sleeves).
- 3 pairs of shoes were uncomfortable.
I mostly feel bad about the second category, as it’s a big waste of money to buy things that are rarely or never worn. But if I take Marie Kondo’s approach and look for the lessons in each of the items, I know my guilt will lessen, plus I’ll be armed with useful information to help me avoid repeating my mistakes. So here goes:
- Black and grey striped pencil skirt: The fit wasn’t quite right, plus I shouldn’t have bought horizontal stripes for my lower half given that I’m self-conscious about my hips and thighs.
- Black trouser jeans: The fit was off on these, too. They were always a bit baggy in the hip area (which rarely happens for me) and should have been returned shortly after I received them in the mail.
- Burgundy twist-front top: Another garment with fit issues. The top was too baggy in the torso and the length was too long.
- Black and white striped maxi-dress: There was a flaw in this dress that I thought could be fixed via alterations. I was wrong, so I ended up throwing good money after bad L
- Charcoal maxi-skirt: Bought with “sales goggles” on… I’m not a fan of fold-over waists on skirts and pants, but didn’t really know that until after I wore this skirt twice and was very frustrated by it.
- Black Coach pumps: I bought these shoes years ago because many fashion experts (like Clinton and Stacy on “What Not to Wear”) said all women should have a pair of black pumps. The heel on these shoes was too high to be comfortable and the style was too dressy for my life.
- Denim jacket: I wrote about this in my last accountability update. I should have returned it because it had a strong chemical odor and the fabric was too stiff.
- Grey sporty ballet flats: These shoes always looked a bit “clompy” on my feet and the color was too light for my mostly dark-hued wardrobe. Fortunately, I passed them on to my mom, who will hopefully enjoy wearing them.
- Green open cardigan: I let myself be bedazzled by the color and soft fabric, but the cardigan wasn’t really flattering on me. It was too loose and the fabric looked droopy after just two wears.
- Grey print skirt: This was my most recent consignment store fail. I bought it because it was new with tags and made of silk. But it looked too dressy and matronly on me, so I re-consigned it without a single wear (at least it was still new with tags then).
- Embellished pewter pumps: Too dressy and old-fashioned looking. Not a match for my lifestyle. Sadly, I was smitten by the brand and color, but it was a bad choice to buy these shoes back in 2013.
- Long copper earrings: A bad purchase because I don’t really wear other metals besides silver. I let a salesperson and my friend talk me into buying these, but I never wore them and decided to pass them on last month.
- Gunmetal leaf earrings: I was trying to branch out with these, too, but I should have known that I don’t really have a “boho” style. I tried shortening these (or rather, I had my husband do it), but they still weren’t “me.” Another pair of earring passed on without having been worn…
- Silver stretch bangles: I liked the look of these, but they really weren’t practical for me because they were floppy on my wrists and I spend a lot of time on the computer. I tried to wear them a couple of times, but they just weren’t right for me.
- Polka dot cardigan: The sleeves were just plain too short on this cardigan and I should have recognized that when I tried it on in the store. I wore it twice, but every time I bent my arms, the sleeve would slide up over my elbow. Very uncomfortable!
Lessons from My 2015 Cast-offs
If I had to distill down the lessons from all of the above failures, here’s what they would be:
- Don’t buy anything – or return purchases made online – if the fit is off. This has been an ongoing issue for me. Alterations are great, but only for minor fit issues. I need to stick with only doing standard alterations and not try to do anything too complex. Perhaps writing this down again will finally knock it into my thick skull!
- Don’t buy anything because someone else tells me I should. It doesn’t matter if a fashion expert, salesperson, friend, or family member says something is a “must-have” or tells me it looks fabulous on me. I have to love it – and know that I will wear it!
- Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale or the price is low. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in buying things on sale or at consignment stores. Fortunately, I’m doing much better on both counts, but I need to remember the lesson.
I could write more, but those are the three main lessons I can see in my 2015 cast-offs. I definitely feel like I’m making those types of mistakes far less often in recent months, so perhaps I have finally taken the lessons to heart. I’m sure I will still make mistakes from time to time because, after all, I am human and we all have our failings. Sometimes we have to learn the same lesson over and over again before it gets fully integrated into our psyches.
My Jewelry and LIWI
I realized after posting my last LIWI update that I didn’t address how I’m doing with my jewelry, so I’m going to report on that here. I haven’t gotten rid of many jewelry pieces thus far in 2015, as I’ve been waiting to see what I do and don’t feel called to wear. In my March LIWI update, I shared how many jewelry pieces I’ve worn since January 1st, but I didn’t tell the other side of the story. Here’s an accounting of how many jewelry items I haven’t worn yet this year by category:
- Earrings not yet worn: 22 pairs
- Necklaces not yet worn: 17 (4 long, 13 short)
- Pendants not yet worn: 8 (I always forget about these, as they are stored in a different place)
- Bracelets not yet worn: 8
- Rings not yet worn: 11 (I always wear the same 3, but some of the others have sentimental value)
- Watches: 2 (one will be passed on, the other has sentimental value)
I know those numbers are high, but I’m proud of how much I’ve pared down my jewelry collection since I first took an inventory last year. I realize that I will need to cull more of my jewelry pieces in order to make things more manageable and only hold on to those pieces I love and wear. I think this will happen organically in the coming months.
However, I’m happy that I’m no longer adding new items on a regular basis like I used to. I only started tracking my accessory purchases last May and in that month alone, I bought four pairs of earrings and three scarves! From May through December last year, I bought 27 jewelry items, as well as 7 scarves and 1 belt. I would imagine that my totals for the entire year were quite a bit higher.
Since I have only added one pair of earrings and one bracelet to my collection so far this year, I’ve really slowed down my jewelry purchases this year. Tracking the pieces I’m wearing has really helped me to see that I don’t need more. My perception of “enough” is being altered tremendously by LIWI, which is a big part of why I decided to do the challenge in the first place. I think the challenge is working its magic on my closet and I look forward to seeing where I am with everything by the end of the year.
The Bottom Line
While I still have too many clothes and too many pieces of jewelry, I am happy with the progress I’ve made this year. Through LIWI, I’ve learned a lot about what I enjoy wearing and that information is informing my shopping. My 2015 purchases to date have been better utilized than the things I’ve bought in previous years. While it’s still early in the year, I feel that my mistake percentage is much lower than it was in 2014 and earlier, as I’ve been planning my purchases better and making smarter choices.
I still need to be careful about buying too much or making impulse buys. After all, it’s still relatively early in my recovery and I am still prone to overshopping, particularly during times of high stress. Knowing that I will need to be accountable to all of you every month helps to keep me honest and on track, but I also think I’ve changed in some important and significant ways.
I’m a different person than I was when I started this blog in January 2013. I still don’t have the full life that I desire, but I am no longer avoiding my issues and feelings by immersing myself in the process of shopping. I am feeling my pain and it’s often uncomfortable, but I know it’s part of the process. I am pleased with how far I’ve come and I’m encouraged to keep moving forward… one day at a time.
Now it’s time for you to share your thoughts, either on my quarterly update or on your own progress thus far in 2015.
- If you take the time to reflect on what you bought this year and/or what you’ve passed on, what patterns do you notice?
- What have you learned about yourself, your shopping patterns, and your wardrobe needs?
- What areas of growth have you determined for yourself moving forward?
I invite you to weigh in on the questions above, as well as on anything else you want to share.
One More Thing to Share…
Before you go, I wanted to share one more thing. I mentioned Bridgette Raes earlier. Every Friday on her blog, she features a “Fab Find.” Well today’s “Fab Find” was my book, “End Closet Chaos: Wardrobe Solutions from an Ex-Shopaholic“!
I’m very grateful to Bridgette for helping me get the word out about my book. To read what she has to say about it, click here. If you want to learn more about both of my books, visit this page. Thanks to Bridgette and all of you for your support!
I wish you a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back early next week with my next installment of lessons from my outfit journal. I apologize for pushing that post out, but I thought it was important for me to write about my first quarter process. I just felt that I had left out some important pieces of information in my last post. The post would have been too long anyway, so I really needed to write this part two. I hope you enjoyed today’s post and have found it beneficial.
I would like to share my 1st quarter wardrobe wrap up:
3 Coats/Jackets/Blazers (one down coat, one wool blazer, one wool coat)
1 Winter Sweater
1 Winter Pant
2 Pairs of Shoes (one pair of winter boots, one pair of casual loafers)
2 Basic Long Sleeve Ts
1 Summer Short Sleeve Top
1 Spring/Fall Dressier Top
Two Bras and Underwear
1 Fall/Summer/Spring Dress
9 Accessories: 1 magnetic brooch, 2 scarves, 2 necklaces, 1 pair of shoe clips, 2 lipsticks, 1 statement belt
Reasons why I purchased what I did:
I needed to update my bras and underwear and that has made all of the difference. Now I’ve committed to updating my undergarments throughout the year as needed. I also take better care of my bras now. I really didn’t have any fall/winter third pieces so I updated that part of my wardrobe. My down coat was more than 8 years old! I added a wool blazer and coat for more smart casual wear. I added two pairs of needed shoes to my wardrobe: a winter boot to warm my feet and a casual fun spring/summer shoe for walking on errands. I also noticed that I had a shortage of tops (my wardrobe has been actually getting smaller especially in my tops!) especially for the warmer weather coming up! I will really need to purchase my summer wardrobe for May, June, and July so I’m planning for that. I really wanted a dress that could be transitioned into spring and fall. Hopefully the one I purchased will work out. I also purchased accessories in preparation for the tops in my wardrobe already and the tops that would be purchased later on. The lipsticks have really made a huge difference in my everyday look and I’m enjoying wearing them.
I have not received everything on this list yet nor have I had a proper chance to evaluate everything yet. However, I already have some mistakes from my purchases. The wool trousers that I purchased were too cropped (they were riding up my calves when I was walking), not a great look so I need to wear black wool socks with them every time. Pants are the most difficult items for me to shop for. I’ll be focusing on pants for the second half of 2015 when I won’t be making purchases for my nonexistent summer wardrobe! I really loved my winter sweater and wore it many times but I somehow got a hole in the sweater and I tried to repair the hole (didn’t work out too well) so I’ll need a replacement next winter hopefully in that color! My last wardrobe mistake so far was one of the scarves that I purchased online was really off color-wise for me. It was a complete waste of money unfortunately so now on I will refrain from purchasing scarves online unless I’m sure about the color and I can return them.
Btw Debbie since you said you were complying a list of quality clothing brands. I have to give a great recommendation for Boden. All of the items that I’ve ordered from them have been great in terms of the garment construction. Now not everything fit mind you or suited me (I always return more than I keep, but that’s the nature of online shopping) but I really like how they have petite, regular, and tall sizing for many of their items. Also they offer actual garment measurements for all of the items (unheard of really). Their review system is also quite fantastic. I also have to say that their customer service is fantastic. They have a 365 returns window for store credit returns (that’s pretty generous imo)! I have definitely used this return policy to prevent some purchasing mistakes! I would recommend them for their coats/jackets especially as I have found them to be fantastic in fabric quality and tailoring. They always offer a large variety of colors/prints in every clothing item that they offer and their seasonal sales are great deals for what you receive.
Thank you so much for sharing your first quarter wardrobe wrap-up, Margaret. It appears that you have mostly made very smart purchases, so good for you! There are only a few bad purchases in the mix and it seems you have learned some good lessons from them. If we can internalize the lessons and do better next time around, it’s not so horrible that we made the mistakes. I appreciate your commentary on Boden and I will add it to my list that I will soon add to the blog (building upon the information in this post: https://recoveringshopaholic.com/where-to-find-quality-clothing/). With such a ringing endorsement from you, I think I’m going to order something I had my eye on from Boden 🙂
I’m not at the point of documenting every single item or wearing, but found I routinely wear a very small portion of my wardrobe and have analyzed the why. I’ve discovered that when I buy items at certain stores the fit is often a bit off (to your point of needing to move around more) but I rationalized the purchases because I really liked the item (and the price was right), but I rarely wear them. I have to remind myself of this and probably won’t shop at those places anymore, or at least be much more discerning. In my analysis, I found that the majority of my workhorses tend to be certain brands, although I do crave more variety. I cull items on a regular basis and now that winter is over (I hope!) where I live, I need to get out my warmer weather clothes and start the analysis again. I really enjoy your blog and have learned so much – especially about buying clothes for the life you live. That was a big problem of mine a few years ago when I spent a lot of money on an aspirational wardrobe that stayed in the closet. I am now able to forgive myself for the mistakes & recognize they’ll probably continue but hopefully will be far fewer and provide some sort of lesson. Thank you Debbie (and Marie Kondo)!
Thank you for sharing about the purchases that have and have not been working for you, Lisa. I think the insights you’ve gathered will serve you well moving forward. You are definitely not alone in buying things for which the fit is a bit off just because you liked the item. You know from my posts that I have often done that, too, and I’m sure that many other readers can also relate. It’s good to realize the brands that work well for you so you can focus more of your future shopping there. I’m glad you are able to forgive yourself for your shopping mistakes. I think that if we can get the lessons from our faux pas and internalize them, it’s much easier to let them go and move on.
Debbie- I love how we’re on the same wavelength! I’m just finishing up my quarterly wardrobe review and will likely post it shortly. I love how AWARE you and I have become- and we keep learning more and more! I also loved Marie Kondo’s description of how all our clothing serves a purpose and that the misses teach us something, than can be let go without guilt. It’s a wonderful way to look at things.
I love how we are on the same wavelength, too, Meli. I enjoyed reading your quarterly update and think you’re doing very well this year. Yes, we are becoming more and more aware, which will only serve to help us shop smarter. Marie Kondo’s book and distinctions have helped me a lot and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned here on the blog. Letting go without guilt is something I’m still working on, but will make a really big difference in my life. I have had more than enough guilt for a lifetime at this point!
I am a big fan of fitting room gyrations to “field test” clothing fit. I sit, squat, bend, reach, twist, and so forth to ensure the best fit (I am especially anxious about the waist of pants when bending, sitting, or squatting). I opt to buy blouses with a back yoke because I think they fit across my shoulders and allow greater range of movement.
I really examine the fabric content and feel the “hand” of fabric. Sometimes items like tees are made of out fabrics with different fabric content depending on color — especially gray tees for some reason. I often find black tees are “stretchier” (in a bad way) than the white version of the same. Buying multiples, while tempting, doesn’t always work unless you really examine each item separately. I really pay a LOT of attention to fabric because that’s what you are buying — and it’s the one thing that can’t be “fixed” by shortening a sleeve or changing out buttons or taking in the waist band. I try to buy the highest quality fabric I can, even if it means I invest more per item of clothing and thus have a smaller wardrobe. Cheap fabric makes a cheap garment. Probably OK if you’re buying a tee for very casual wear but not a good investment for clothing you plan to wear to work or plan to keep for a while.
I try on ALL the clothes I buy immediately when I get home with the clothing already in my closet that I pair to pair the new stuff with. Anything off, the new clothes are returned immediately — next day, if possible; anyway, they go out to my car ASAP for the trip to the P.O. or to the store. I don’t keep the bad stuff in my house for a nano-second once I’ve decided it’s a no-go. Bad stuff doesn’t make it into a closet. It goes back in the bag or box immediately and out to my car — that is, it’s not kept in my home at all. I am pretty brutal about returns but I have found that hanging onto less than optimal clothing is very expensive in the long run.
About sales and clearance racks and consignment shops: there generally is a reason that something didn’t sell (especially when you see the garment in every size and color) or why something has been consigned. You take your ill-fitting garments to consignment? Well so does everyone else! As someone who works in retail, I’ve seen the “shelf life” of clothing as it moves down the charts from fresh new merchandise to on-sale merchandise to clearance merchandise. There are some clothing that fails — bad design, cut (thus, bad fit), color, fabric, etc. Sometimes a “hot” style bombs. I ask myself “why is this on sale so early in the season?” — and sometimes it’s a special promotional sale or a sale tied to a holiday. I try to avoid clearance although I have discovered great deals while innocently walking buy them (as opposed to digging through them).
Good point that items on clearance or at consignment are often poorly designed, fussy, etc. but on the flip side, we all have different coloring, body proportions, and style preferences, and as a result something that’s poorly designed for one person might be perfect for another. I’ve just sent a couple of pure cashmere tees in nice condition to the thrift store because they are crewneck style and I’ve realized that crew necks don’t suit me. Perhaps someone who loves crew necks will have a lucky find. And similarly, perhaps someone with narrow or average shoulders will reluctantly donate a beautiful silk blouse…that just happens to fit my broad shoulders perfectly. I can understand why some folks might choose to avoid secondhand shopping — Debbie has put a lot of thought into why it doesn’t work for her — but I don’t think the secondhand market should be looked down on as a uniform sea of dross (I mean…there is a lot of dross, but there is at full-price retail too!). Actually I find secondhand shopping a much more reliable source of natural fiber knitwear, which is really hard to find at retail these days (especially in mid range brands).
Sarah: I when I say “poorly designed” I don’t mean that the design (like a crew neck — I avoid those too) doesn’t work a specific individual. I mean that a garment has a design FLAW, like, too few buttons on the front placket of a blouse (and no easy and affordable way to add more) or the the sleeves are set into the shoulder incorrectly and thus bunch funny at the shoulder or under the arm, or other major overall design and thus CONSTRUCTION issues. I have been very successful (shoes mostly) at consignment stores in snagging the kind of well-designed, good quality item you describe. But if you look carefully, a lot of stuff in consignment shops has flaws — the number one flaw I see is inferior quality fabric. There is NO WAY to fix bad fabric (unless less you completely cover it up with another garment). It is what it is. You could buy a blouse or skirt made out of bad fabric and take it home and make doll’s clothes or a pillow cover out it, I guess. I stick with natural fabrics (cotton, wool, cashmere, silk) as much as possible and try to avoid acrylic and other man-made fabrics (except technical fabrics like Gore-Tex and the like). these fabrics tend to stand the test of time.
I agree about the knitwear! I have a few sweaters that I’ve gotten at consignment shops in years past that I wouldn’t have been able to replicate in a retail store. Another great source for quality vintage cashmere and 100% wool or cotton sweaters — the closets of friends and relatives who are down-sizing. And shoes! I have gotten expensive leather NIB shoes for a song at consignment shops.
Thanks for sharing your shopping tips, Dottie. I remember that you shared some of these things in our well-made clothing guest post, which remains very popular with visitors to my website. I like the tip about trying on new purchases immediately when you get home. I’ve been doing that more often and it’s made a difference. Sometimes I still change my mind and return things a bit later, but that’s just because I’m still learning a lot about my preferences and what does and doesn’t work for me.
I agree with Sarah that not all secondhand items are there because there was something wrong with them. In most cases, there was something wrong for that particular person, but one person’s “off” fit could be perfect for another person, as Sarah points out. I do think that for someone to do well with resale buying, though, she needs to have a very strong sense of what works for her AND an ability to resist the allure of brand names and “deals.” Many of my mistakes were because I tried too hard to make something work because I liked the brand, style, or color. In contrast to a retail store, you usually don’t have the option for finding the next size up or down in a particular style. You have one option and that’s it! I often didn’t know when to walk away. I’m not saying I’m never going to buy resale again, but I’m staying away for now because I’m really concentrating on learning my preferences. I like having the option to return things that I get with retail shopping. I’m trying to buy right the first time, but since I’m shopping more online, it can often be hard to know. Secondhand shopping can be a great avenue for some people, but it is filled with lots of pitfalls one needs to be aware of for sure.
I occasionally have bought at consignment stores and a few weeks ago, I took a bundle of my own stuff to a great one near my house (where I got a fantastic cashmere sweater a few years ago). I also checked out the tops in my size (I was looking for something specific) and was very much dismayed at the quality of fabric on offer. Also, although this shop is very particular about taking only current or maybe past-season clothes (that is, clothes only a 1 or so year old) there were a number of tops that were clearly several years old if not older. In the pants section, I found a pair of pants to try on, but they had been altered (hemmed). This store doesn’t take altered clothing, but somehow this pair slipped through the net. So sometimes consignment isn’t always a good resource, even at the choosiest places. I suppose if I shopped frequently, the opportunity to find “great stuff” would increase. (My recovered shop-a-holic sister used to shop daily at a famous bargain basement on her way to and from work — twice a day — and she found some amazing deals.) But that sounds like “shop-a-holic” behavior — shopping to score a deal. So for me, the infrequent visitor to consignment stores (once a year maybe?), consignment is not a great resource. And yeah, no returns! When I am looking for something specific (dressy black top, say) I will include my favorite consignment shop as part of my “looking” journeys. Otherwise, unless I have something to consign, I don’t go to them — or any other retailer (bricks & mortar or on-line). I just don’t shop very much at all…. I have all the clothes I need and all the clothes I have I love.
I totally second Dottie on the fabric. There is a plethora of garbage being foisted on us as garments and the only way we can stop this is NOT to buy it under any circumstance. You have often commented on the fit and fussiness of garments,much of this is due to sub par fabrics as well. As far as altering things unless you have a true taylor, I would only hem, repair or nip in slightly. Even in the fabric stores the quality is suspect. I would buy a thrift designer piece to use the fabric to rebuild a whole outfit before altering that garment a lot but I would really have to respect the seamstress to invest that type of money. I have learned so much from you in this, extensive alterations rarely pay off. Thank you for being so open, I have grown and evolved in my shopping and wardrobe construction since reading your blog.
I learned, oh, about 25 years ago, that extensive alterations, unless handled by an expert craftsman, are disastrous. I had a gorgeous, new silk blend suit that needed some alterations (shoulders, sleeve length, etc.) , and the tailor ruined it. Now I used to sew myself, so I know a lot about clothing construction and I had had a lengthy discussion with said tailor about taking the suit apart at specific places, restyling as needed, and then reassembling (as is routinely done with men’s suits, by the way). Nope, the guy just trimmed and added ill-placed darts, creating an ill-proportioned garment. I could have done a better job on my home Singer! I now only hem (or let out hems), take in waists, maybe move a button. Once I had a buttonhole and button added —- but only after I ascertained in the FITTING ROOM (that is, before I bought the jacket) that a button could be accommodated. I try very hard to avoid obviously faddy clothes or clothes with fussy details and trim that will be outdated in a season or maybe two — except as inexpensive wardrobe up-daters. It’s hard work to find good clothes but I tend to stick with brands that deliver, no matter what the price point. But many merchandisers are cutting corners (cheaper fabric, shoddy construction, S/M/L sizing vs. 6, 8, 10, etc., and so on. Sigh!
I’m glad that my alterations mistakes have helped other avoid such issues, Kathy. I have been a slow learner in that respect, but I mostly only do the safer types of tailoring jobs these days. I trust my tailor and she does a good job, but I brought her some very risky projects in the past and sometimes didn’t heed her best advice. The points that both you and Dottie made about fabric are right on. There really are a lot of sub-par fabrics out there, even at retailers we used to be able to trust pretty explicitly. Buyer beware for sure!
Since I started to pare down my wardrobe, I noticed similarities in the clothes I had discarded : a lot of them come from a particular brand, another bunch were bought during a certain period of my life where I didn’t really know who I was and thus was trying a new style every three month, and quite a few were clothes people gave me. Most of the clothes were still discarded because they were too big now that I lost a lot of weight but getting rid of stuff and writing down why definitely taught me to stay away from some brands and shops and to learn to say no when friends are offering me their casts-off.
Congratulations on both your weight loss and your closet awareness, Cedrique. It seems like you’ve come to really understand what does and doesn’t work for you. Writing down why things leave our wardrobes (as well as why they come in) can really help us to better understand why mistakes happen so we can avoid them in the future. Thanks for sharing your insights with us here.
It sounds like you’re really learning a lot about what works for you Debbie.
I have bought 8 things in the first 3 months and have shown some improvement over past success rates.
1. Black purse-I’ve carried it every day since I’ve gotten it and I love it.
2. Ankle jeans-I’ve worn multiple times and I really love them.
3. Charcoal linen tee-Worn once and I love it. I know I’ll wear frequently this summer
4. Black linen tee-same as above
5. Draped neck light grey top-I really like this, but I’ve gained some weight and when I wore this the other day it didn’t look as good. I’m working on eating better so hopefully this will change.
6. Grey, black, and white scarf-I really like this scarf, but I’m not a huge scarf person. I only have this one so when I want to wear a scarf this will be it. I’ll have to see how much that will be.
7. Black and white striped maxi skirt-Donated. I wore this once and didn’t like how it looked in the picture. I have a grey print one that I love and thought I would get a bunch of use out of one to go with all of my black tops, but I didn’t like it nearly as much.
8. Black silk top-Donated. This was my worst purchase. I needed a different size so I bought this on Ebay. I thought since I was just sizing up it would be “safe enough” to order even though I couldn’t return. It was huge compared to one size smaller. I learned my lesson and haven’t even considered doing that again.
There is definitely much less waste than last year. Mostly because I’m buying much less I think. I want to get to the point where I love and get a ton of use out of just about everything I buy.
Thanks for sharing what has come into your wardrobe this year and what did and didn’t work for you, Tonya. You are definitely making a lot fewer mistakes than in previous years, so good for you! And you are also buying far fewer items. I know that in the past you probably would have bought the same number of items in ONE month that you bought in a quarter this year. Me, too! You seem to have found some great pieces that are working very well for you. A 75% success rate is very good and you should be proud of yourself!
Ooo, charcoal linen tee sounds lovely. Too bad I have a life-time ban on buying any more linen (it’s an ironing issue).
THANK YOU, Debbie, for your candid approach to a life challenge that so many share with you. I am new to this blog and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to LOOK better and FEEL healthier about my financial choices. Since December, I’ve donated or consigned nearly half my clothing, one-third of my shoes, and two-thirds of my accessories including jewelry. I’m a middle-class girl with designer taste (e.g. Kate Spade, Donald Pliner, Tory Burch), so I’m pleased to report I’m making smarter choices by purchasing fewer “smaller, cheaper” items and seeking deals on eBay and consignment stores on the items I really want. For example, last month I purchased a “new with tags” Kate Spade linen dress for $50. It needed a $30 alteration which saved me 80% off retail. Thanks for helping me simplify and feel better about my choices.
Welcome, Catherine, and thanks for your comment and for sharing your wonderful progress with us. How amazing that you’ve been able to pare down so much in just a few short months. You should be very proud of yourself! I think it’s great that you are making wiser purchases and buying what you truly want and love at lower prices. A new Kate Spade dress for $50 (even with an additional $30 alteration) is a really great deal. I’m glad my blog has been helpful in your journey to shop smarter.
What I have bought in the 1st quarter of this year is a black leather bag at a discount retailer (and with a gift card). It places two other bags that I just consigned, so my other of pocket cost for the new bag was less than $10. I also bought a pair of black trousers at the store where I work (with my discount) for $5. I need a new raincoat and will be looking for options as spring progresses, with the goal of getting a quality brand on sale. What I want is cute and waterproof, but these two features are hard to find in one garment. I have two casual tees (rather old Caslon) that I need to replace and I need a summer nightgown. That’s it for the year.
How kind of you to respond. I feel like you’ve opened my eyes to a fuller life – IF I stay on track. As with, I believe, the first few months of your journey, I feel like I want to replace everything. Like you, shopping is an elixir for me, and between the worries of raising a special-needs son and having friends who also care about image (read insecurity), it is EASY to succumb. Add to that the fact that I live in Houston – with numerous bricks and mortar, high-end stores – and I find it tremendously difficult not to just “stop in to look for deals.” Thank you, again.
Yes, I have often felt like I wanted to replace everything, Catherine. But that won’t solve our problems and it won’t even have us feeling “done” about our wardrobes. It’s hard to resist the temptation to shop and sometimes you will succumb. Just forgive yourself, recommit and move on. You didn’t develop a shopping problem overnight, so you won’t overcome it that quickly, either. It takes time, as you can see with me. We are here to offer you support as you need it, so don’t hesitate to post and ask questions or just vent.
Thanks for sharing your first quarter purchases, Dottie. I hope you are able to find a good raincoat soon. The Caslon tees are great. I have quite a few, but I do think the quality isn’t as great as it used to be. That’s typical with the overall downturn in garment quality, sadly, but I still think those tees are better than most.
Dottie: Hopefully, sharing suggestions for purchases isn’t frowned upon the blog. (Someone let me know if it is.) Cool Nights is the only brand of sleepwear I buy as I get very warm at night, and Soma, typically, has great sales. (I never purchase at full price.) The items last forever: I have PJs that I’ve worn for three or four years that really last! I purchased a cute Burberry raincoat at Nordstrom five or six years ago for 50% off: a rarity I understand but keep your eye on it.
Sharing suggestions is fine, Catherine. In fact, it’s often welcomed, as we’re all looking to shop smarter. Thanks for sharing your helpful information with Dottie and anyone else who might be looking for similar items.
I totally agree with Dottie about the importance of fabric. Like her, I have a life time ban on linen as I think it looks like you are wearing rags after only an hour and ironing it is a pain. It always looks so crisp and alluringly cool and fresh on the hanger in the store but on the body it becomes a creased up mess.
I never buy cheap t-shirting fabrics as they are not cut to grain, so after the first wash the side seams swing around.
I buy silk and cotton, preferably lightweight cotton voile, for my good shirts, blouses and tops. It’s not easy to find cotton voile these days as the world is overrun by cheap jersey knit fabrics.
I made the mistake of buying 2 cheap cashmere sweaters this past winter. There seems to be a lot of cheap so-called “cashmere” around. They both ended up looking very worn very quickly and I would have been better off buying one more expensive good quality cashmere. I have a black cashmere sweater that I have had for 10 years that still looks like new and is beautiful to wear.
I chuckled when I read your description of linen. There is a school of thought that the more rumpled your linen looks, the more upper class (hence relaxed) you appear, so people who are linen aficionados go for that look on purpose. For me, it depends on the cut of the garment. Some garments look sad when rumpled, others look sort of refreshingly relaxed.
I agree with all who wrote about the importance of fabric. One thing I’ve learned is that not all fabrics within a specific category are created equally. Like what you wrote about the cashmere, Carolyn. I have noticed similar issues with other types of fabric, including cotton. And Deby’s issue about how garments are cut is right on, too. I have never been a huge fan of linen because I hate ironing, but I am not ruling it out. I can see being happy with a “refreshingly relaxed” linen garment at some point.