Last week, I posted an analysis of all of the purchases I made during the first half of this year. I discovered that over half of these items could be considered smart buys in that I still love them and have worn them regularly. Another 18% of my purchases were basically mistakes and have already been purged from my wardrobe, as well as five pieces (13%) that I was able to return for refunds. Rounding out my analysis were an additional five items (13%) for which the proverbial jury is still out.
I learned through my analysis that many of my mistakes stem from settling for just okay when I should have held out for stellar, especially in terms of online purchases. It’s definitely better to make returns, even if they can be a hassle, than to keep e-commerce buys that didn’t live up to our expectations. Returns are often a necessary evil for those of us who like to shop online, as colors and fits can be distorted by monitor variations and strategic clothing placement on models or in displays.
Likewise, it’s usually not a good idea to throw good money after bad by attempting to alter sub-standard pieces to try to force them to work. If you don’t love an item before you tailor it, you’re not likely to love it afterwards. I was asked several questions about alterations in response to my purchase analysis, so I am going to do at least one additional post on that topic shortly. In the meantime, those who want to read my thoughts on alterations and when they should or shouldn’t be done can check out this post from the archives. I need to make sure to always follow my own advice!
A Powerful Question
Shortly before I did my purchase analysis, I posed the following question to the members of my private Facebook group:
Soon I will be doing my purchase analysis for the first half of 2015 to see how well I am faring with my shopping this year. One question I’m going to ask with my analysis is, “Would I buy this again today?” I will also look at how many times I have worn the new items and how I would rate them on a scale of 1-10 today. What other criteria do you use to determine if a purchase was a good one or not?”
Advice from the Facebook Group
The following is a sampling of some of the excellent responses I received from the group:
- I often find myself reaching for certain items on bad days, whether I’m feeling a bit tired, ill, stressed, or just bloated! The best items are ones that make you feel good and are still flattering on those days. For example, comfortable shoes are paramount on days when you’re not 100%. That’s often how I know to purge a pair, if I always bypass them for the more comfy or less fussy version. I’ve learned a lot about my own fabric preferences this year and am happy to report I recently returned several items that included too much polyester for me, whereas I previously might have “settled” because they were right in front of me.
- I would ask, “Is this something I now reach for before other things in my wardrobe?” So if I brought a new dress, for example, is it now a first or second pick when I want to wear a dress or do I still pick older things above it when I have a choice? If the new item becomes a first or second choice, I would consider it a successful buy.
- I think of how many other items in my wardrobe it goes with. If I can’t wear it 5 different ways, it should be gone.
- This is not something I thought I would say because a) I am an analytical person and b) I am getting burned out on reading about “KonMari” everywhere, but I think a subjective, “Does it spark joy?” type question works really well here. When I look at my closet, I intuitively know whether an item was a good buy or not. That can be based on many factors, but they aren’t always easy to put a number on.
- For things that I’ve gotten rid of, I ask myself if it’s something I’m glad that I had. I’ve had a few trendy items or new prints or colors that I wore many times during a season and passed on at the end. I don’t want to do that with too many things, but I’m usually happy that I bought a few pieces like that to have something a little different to wear than my basics.
- There are always the questions of comfort (paramount for me) and color suitability (does it work with my palette?). Other questions I ask are: Does it express something about me that I want to express?, Does it make me happy to wear it?, and Will it be durable? I also look at how versatile the piece is in creating different looks and moods that go with it. Wearing things in one way, even if I’m combining them with different pieces, is boring for me. That’s why I think I can get away with fewer clothes. I’d rather have fewer clothes, wear things more often, and have a higher wardrobe turnover than have more clothes that get less wear.
- Your question is really useful! (“Would I buy it again?”), and most useful is to note down, or remember very clearly, why not, if the answer is no.I don’t like acrylics; I try to go more for wool and cotton. That’s one criteria. Another criteria is how the item fits on the parts of your body that you want to either highlight or hide. Another question is, “Would I wear it right now, I mean right now, when going to the street?” Or, when I’m in doubt, after a while looking at the mirror and not being convinced, I turn away from the mirror for five seconds and then turn again suddenly to look at it! This is how I find my first impression without thinking. It’s kind of a way to see if an item “sparks joy” or not. I often do this in fitting rooms…
- I usually see if what I bought has lived up to its purpose… Was it a workhorse or was it a piece I only ended up wearing once or twice? I also double check for duplicates and to see if the new item has surpassed the old one it replaced.
- I used to buy clothes and let them hang in the closet, sometimes for years, unworn, still with the tags on. (That “method” came in handy when I actually purged my closet and took stuff to consignment, as proof that they were “new”!) Now, if I don’t wear something within a month, I figure it was a fluke, or maybe I found something I like better, which is often the case… So I just take it back to the store within the allotted time span.
What Do You Think?
Lots of food for thought from the group, don’t you think? Now I’d love to get your input. How do you know if a purchase you made was a good one or not? What types of questions do you ask yourself? Do you have any rules that you employ to help guide your purchase decisions when you shop? Please share your feedback in the comments section.
I’ll be back later this week with my latest “Love It, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI) update (see previous ones here) and I will share my October accountability update soon as well. Also coming soon are posts on alterations and exercises from “To Buy or Not to Buy,” as well as other articles on wardrobe management, shopping behavior and psychology, personal style, and living a fuller life beyond shopping.
If you have a suggestion for an upcoming post or if you would like to be featured in a “stories of recovery” feature (you don’t have to be fully recovered to share your progress), please contact me. I’m open to guest posts on a variety of topics, too. Just send me your idea and I’ll see if it’s a good fit for the mission of this blog.