If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m big on tracking, numbers, and statistics related to my wardrobe and shopping (see how I do my tracking here). I think that tracking can be highly beneficial for recovering shopaholics, as well as anyone who wants to shop smarter and better utilize the wardrobe pieces they own. I’ve been tracking how much I spend, what I wear, and how often I wear it since the beginning of 2011, and last year I added photos and an outfit journal to the mix. Using these types of analysis can help us make fewer buying mistakes over time.
Another thing that I find helpful is to review my purchases and see how they have worked out for me. In today’s post, I’m going to look at the items I brought into my closet from January through June of this year and see whether my new items have become wardrobe workhorses or closet benchwarmers.
It’s a bit too early to look at the pieces I purchased during July through October, as I don’t yet know whether those buys were smart or ill-advised. For one reason, many of those items are for fall (looking at you, Nordstrom Anniversary Sale purchases), and the cooler weather hasn’t even started yet where I live. I will address what I’ve bought during the second half of the year in one of my end of the year wrap-up posts (check out what I called my best and worst purchases for 2014 – I don’t agree with all of those assessments now!).
The Basic Numbers – January through June 2015
Let’s start this analysis with a few basic numbers (doesn’t include undergarments and sleepwear):
- Items Bought During January – June 2014: 38
- Items I Still Have: 29
- Items Returned: 5
- Items Purged: 4
The photo below shows all 38 of my January through June purchases. I will delve into the other categories in the following sections.
What I Still Own
Before I explore which purchases were good and which were less than ideal, let’s look at what I still have in my closet today. As I mentioned above, I still have 29 of the 38 items I bought during the first half of 2015, which is roughly three-quarters (76% to be more exact). Here’s a snapshot of those pieces that have stuck around:
Starting on a High Note – The Best
Let’s start on a high note and look at my best purchases of the year thus far. The twenty-one items shown below – eighteen garments, two pairs of shoes, and one pair of earrings – are what I consider my best buys for the first half of 2015. These items represent 55% of my purchases from January through June.
A Closer Look…
Here’s a closer look at these items (since I know those thumbnails can be difficult to see) – first the tops (11) and then everything else (10):
Instead of looking at these items one by one (which would be a bit tedious, even for me…), here are what I see as some of their common characteristics:
- All garments are knit and casual in nature. They all suit my lifestyle and many can be worn at home. They are all in silhouettes that flatter my frame.
- The two dresses and one skirt are all maxi length, a length that I’ve determined works well for both my style and my life. I like that I can wear maxis with flats and that they have a very casual vibe.
- Seven items include some version of my signature stripes (mostly horizontal, but two verticals as well).
- Both pairs of shoes are comfortable and easy to walk in (one is a pair of actual walking shoes).
- With one exception (green and grey striped tee), the colors are all within my key color palette (black, white, jewel tones).
- Everything is true to my personal style, which is classic, casual, and minimalist in nature (with some bits of edge thrown in – trying to amp that part up a bit in the latter parts of this year).
Most of the items pictured above have already been worn many times and I believe all 21 will be wardrobe workhorses for some time to come. Last year, I designated just 9 of my 27 January through June purchases as good buys, which was one-third of my total buys. I only agree with 7 of those assessments at this point (the other two items have left my closet), so the total would be even lower (26%). Thus, my shopping success rate has approximately doubled over last year. It’s nice to see that my hard work on all of this is paying off! It takes time and effort, but it’s definitely possible to become a smarter and more successful shopper.
The Flip Side – 2015 Shopping Mistakes
Of course, not all of my buys from the first half of this year were good ones. Sadly, I have continued to make some shopping mistakes, but my failure rate has slowed down as I’ve become clearer of my personal style and stopped buying for a wished for or imagined lifestyle.
Let’s first look at the lesser mistakes, those garments that I was able to return for refunds. Of course, these are not the only returns I’ve made this year. There were also other items that I bought and returned within a given month that didn’t appear in my monthly accountability updates. I have not kept track of all of those returns, but many were online purchases that didn’t work out due to sizing issues and inaccurate web descriptions (which is bound to happen and difficult to completely avoid).
The five items shown below (13% of my purchases) were January through June buys that ended up being returned to the store of origin for a full refund:
I have since found better alternatives for all three items in the top row – longer black jeans (the first pair was a marginal length), a better fitting denim jacket with some stretch to it, and a grey tie-waist cardigan in a cooler tone and with longer sleeves. The other two items were merely returned and never replaced, at least not yet. I don’t necessarily need a thick silver bracelet, but I would still like to find a pair of metallic flats to replace the ones I purged from my closet early in the year. I just want to make sure to find the right ones rather than settling for shoes that I don’t love or which hurt my feet.
Purged or Soon to Be Purged Items
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to return all of my early 2015 shopping mistakes for refunds. The seven items pictured below (18% of my purchases from the first half of the year) were either already consigned or donated or are slated for that fate shortly.
Although it’s nice to be able to consign some pieces, I’m usually only able to recoup 25% or less of my losses that way. It’s far better never to buy the right things in the first place! In order to avoid making more purchasing mistakes in the future, it’s useful to examine what the above poor buys had in common:
- Four items were purchased online and had either color or fit issues with them. Sometimes colors look different on our computer screens than in real life and clothes are regularly pinned back on models to appear more fitted than they actually are. Both issues can be frustrating, but if we are going to shop online, we have to be willing to make returns as necessary when things don’t work out as we had hoped. This has been an expensive lesson for me to learn, but I hope I have finally learned it.
- I had three of these items (two tops and the skirt) altered to try to make them work. I should have either returned them right away or cut my losses after I realized they wouldn’t work out (if I had already worn them) instead of throwing good money after bad. Another costly lesson that I seem to have to learn time and time again. Sigh… Have I finally gotten it now? I pray I have.
- Almost all of the items (except the maxi skirt) were part of my at-home / workout wardrobe. I’m used to being less picky with such items, but I need to hold them to the same high standards as everything else. After all, I wear those pieces more often than anything else. Why shouldn’t I feel good about what I’m wearing all of the time?
I still have the skirt, pink tee, and walking shoes in my closet, but probably not for long. I found a replacement for the skirt in September and I have plenty of other tees that I prefer, so those garments will be passed on shortly. I replaced the black walking shoes back in June, but I always like to keep a spare pair around. I didn’t do so early in the year and was left having to buy new walking shoes when one of the soles on the ones I was wearing split in half! That led me to purchase the shoes shown above a bit hastily via eBay. I thought they were the exact same pair as my old ones, but the toe-box felt somewhat constricting and I should have returned them. If I’d had a back-up pair on hand (usually quite worn out but still wearable), I would have held out for shoes I knew would work instead of keeping the ones I had ordered. Lesson learned, which is why I’m keeping the ones above even though they kind of hurt my feet. Once I replace my current pair, I will donate them.
The Jury is Still Out…
Five of my January through June purchases (13%) have either not been worn at all or only a few times thus far:
I’m actually kind of surprised that some of these items are currently sitting in “benchwarmer” territory, as I really thought they would be worn regularly. Below are my assessments for why the above items have not (yet and maybe not ever…) become wardrobe workhorses.
- Black beaded bracelet: This was an impulse buy from a friend’s store. I bought it to support my friend more than because I really loved it and couldn’t wait to wear it. That said, I’m surprised I haven’t worn it yet because I do like it and feel it would mesh well with many of my outfits. However, I already have two other black bracelets that I love and wear often, so perhaps this is just a lesser loved version and I would be “splitting my wears” by keeping it. But I’m going to challenge myself to wear it soon to see how I feel about it. Sometimes it takes wearing something to see if it was a good buy or a mistake.
- Black straight-leg jeans: I bought these just before the warm weather started where I live and I had to take them to my tailor to be hemmed (story of my life –regular lengths are too short and talls are too long…). Then it got hot here and I have rarely worn pants for months, as I favor dresses and skirts this time of year. I believe I will wear these jeans regularly starting later this month when it gets cool here.
- Black and grey striped maxi-skirt: This skirt was an impulse buy, bought from a boutique down the street on a day when I was stressed out and upset. Although it includes my signature stripes, it was too flared and not as flattering as it could be. I got it taken in a little while ago, but now it needs to be ironed. It’s been sheer laziness that has prevented me from wearing this skirt recently. That said, since I’m not certain I love it and haven’t been motivated enough to iron it, I included it in the unsure category. There’s still a decent chance that the altered skirt will be in the “good buys” category for the year.
- Grey boots: This was the fourth pair of grey boots that I ordered beginning in late 2014. The boots were a Christmas present from my husband, but it took a while to find a pair that actually worked for me. I thought this pair fit the bill, but they don’t work well with many of my jeans. The shaft is a bit too wide to wear with my straight-fit jeans and I haven’t been wearing the boot-cut pairs as much following my weight loss earlier in the year. In addition, the heel is slightly too high to be comfortable enough for all day wear, especially since I started having hip and foot problems in the spring. I hope that I’ll be able to wear these boots more this fall and winter, but my joint issues have yet to be resolved. I will try and see how it goes, but I think these boots are good with boot-cut jeans only, which limits their versatility.
- Medium wash boot-cut jeans: I bought these jeans on sale online because my other boot-cut jeans had gotten too baggy after I lost weight. I was able to get these for a low price in a size down from my other boot-cut jeans. Unfortunately, however, the denim is not the same and there is little give and stretch to the fabric. Thus, they are not all that comfortable to wear. I really should have returned them, but sometimes it’s not that easy to tell how we’ll feel wearing our clothes until we spend some time in them. I haven’t given up on these jeans yet, though. I will wear them again when the cool weather arrives, but I’m not all that hopeful that they’ll be as comfortable as my other jeans that are a size larger. I still sometimes wear the larger jeans even though they are somewhat baggy, so maybe that’s what I’ll continue to do. My husband said they still look okay, if not totally form-fitting.
I can see issues with all of my “unsure” items – buying off season, buying for emotional rather than rational reasons, and settling for less than what I truly want. Buying off season can be risky, but sometimes we have to do it in order to get the pieces on our shopping priorities lists. This is particularly an issue for those of us who live in climates that don’t fall in line with the retail calendar. I’m not upset with myself for buying the black jeans. It really did take me a long time to find a good pair and I do believe I will wear them. As for buying for emotional reasons and settling for less, those are issues I’m still struggling with and I’m sure will be the topics for future blog posts!
The type of analysis I did in this post took a decent chunk of time to complete, but I believe it was time well spent. Many of us often spend several hours or more trying to find the perfect item online or in a store. So why not invest the same amount of time to review how well we did with our shopping over a period of several months? Sure, analyzing your purchases isn’t as enjoyable as shopping, but it’s also not much fun to have a closet full of clothes you don’t wear or inflated credit card bills!
I highly recommend that you keep a running list (or photos – or both) of the pieces you buy, and that you pause to review your purchases at least twice per year. Quarterly would be even better, as you might be able to identify unproductive buying patterns and turn them around before the year is over. As you can see with my reports, I made some good buys and some mistakes, but I’ve been able to learn valuable lessons from both categories. I’m sure I will learn even more if I continue to review my new closet acquisitions regularly, and I believe the same will be true for you, too.
I hope you found this post both interesting and helpful. Perhaps some of you are now motivated to do purchase analyses of your own. Such in-depth probing is not the right path for everyone and may feel overly excessive to some, but I like to share my process with you in the hope that it might inspire you in some way. As with everything else in life, I encourage you to take what feels right for you and leave the rest. You can always revisit some of my ideas at a later time if they feel like a better fit then.
Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts.
- Have you ever done a purchase analysis?
- If so, what did you learn?
- Are you inspired to do your first purchase analysis as a result of this post?
- What other methods do you use for keeping yourself on track with your clothing, shoe, and accessory purchases?
- How do you ensure that you make fewer mistakes when you shop?
I invite you to share your practices and methods so we can all learn from each other. I know my method isn’t the only way by any means. I’m open to learning new ways to start shopping smarter and making better purchases all around. That’s a big part of what this blog is all about!