Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I publish monthly accountability updates. These posts (see the most recent one here) include what came into and left my closet in a given month -and why, as well as how I’m doing with my clothing budget and item limit for the year. It has been very helpful for me to do these updates, as they help me to stay honest and on track with my wardrobe and shopping goals. I will publish my February accountability update next week, but today I would like to introduce a new series that I will feature on the blog.
In past years, I have periodically reviewed my purchases to analyze which ones worked, which ones didn’t, and why (see examples here, here, and here). Although these posts were helpful, sometimes I did them too soon after the time period I was reviewing, so I was not yet sure whether certain buys were good or ill-advised. I can now look back at these purchase reviews and see that many of the assessments I made at the time were wrong.
Fortunately, another blogger showed me how to do it better. Mette of “The Yogastic Shopping Planner” does monthly reviews of what she bought a year ago (most recent edition here) and I have decided to follow suit. My format will be somewhat different than hers, but I believe that by waiting a year to analyze past purchases, I’ll have a much better idea of how well they worked out for me.
In the future, I will review only one month (or sometimes two) at a time, but since the year is already well underway, I’ll start by reviewing my purchases from the first quarter of 2015. In today’s post, I’m going to look at the items I brought into my closet from January through March 2015 to see whether they have become wardrobe workhorses or closet benchwarmers.
The Basic Numbers – January through March 2015
Let’s start this analysis with a few basic numbers (undergarments and sleepwear are not included):
- Items Bought During January – March 2015: 19
- Items I Still Have: 12
- Items Returned: 3
- Items Purged: 4
The photo below shows all 19 of my January through March purchases.
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 12 of the 19 items I bought during the first quarter of 2015, which is roughly two-thirds (63% to be more exact). Here’s a snapshot of those pieces that have stuck around:
What I Returned and Why
Three of the items that I bought during January through March 2015 were returned to the stores for refunds:
I don’t really consider any of these to be horrible purchases. Sometimes we need to see how new items work with our existing wardrobe before we can appropriately decide whether or not to keep them. Here are my reasons for returning the items pictured above:
- Denim jacket: While this was an item on my shopping priorities list, this particular denim jacket didn’t fit quite properly. It was on the boxy side and didn’t include enough stretch in order to “give” comfortably. Fortunately, I found a much better alternative last summer at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.
- Metallic ballet flats: These shoes were comfortable and I liked the look of them, but they just didn’t work well with the length and silhouettes of my pants. I have yet to find a suitable replacement (I purged a well-loved pair of metallic flats last year), but I hope to do so soon.
- Silver stretch bracelet: I ultimately decided that this bracelet was too thick and heavy for my wrist. I probably should have realized this in the store, but I didn’t. I still would like to find a slimmer and lighter version of this bracelet, but it’s not a priority at this time.
If at all possible, I now try to make any necessary returns within the month of purchase. I believe that I returned the items above the following month, which is still fairly timely. Ideally, it’s a good idea to try things on again immediately after bringing them home (or when online orders arrive) so that we can make decisions about them as soon as possible and make returns safely within the return window. The longer that things stay in our closets, the less likely we are to return them, which can lead to wardrobe “benchwarmers” and lost money.
What I Purged and Why
I have purged four of the items that I purchased during the first three months of last year, all tops:
All four of these tops were workout/lounge wear and with the exception of the grey tee, the issue was poor fit. The grey tee was a bad color for me and washed me out, but the other three tops were all too big for me and should have been returned. I am not typically as much of a stickler about fit for lounge wear, but in the case of these tops, their loose fit made them fussy and annoying. The turquoise tee would constantly ride up and the black and green tees would often twist around such that I’d have to adjust them frequently.
I wish I could say that I just purged the ill-fitting tees, but I actually tried to rescue two of them through alterations. Yes, I can be a slow learner sometimes, especially since I had written about the “dark side of alterations” over a year earlier. It’s a bad idea to “throw good money after bad” and far better to just admit to a mistake and move on. The best scenario, however, would have been to not have bought the tees in the first place or to have returned them immediately after realizing the fit – or color – was off. I sincerely hope I have learned my lesson on this front!
The Good Purchases
Enough of the negativity; now let’s take a look at the good purchases I made a year ago. These eight items have all served me well over the past year and I’m still happy with them today:
Of my purchases from Q1 2015, 42% fit into the category of things I would still buy today. As you can see, almost all of the colors are in my defined palette: black, white, and jewel tones. My signature stripes are also well represented among my good purchases. The only outlier color-wise is the light green and grey striped tee. Although I would definitely choose a different color combination if I were buying this tee today, I wear it regularly at home, find it comfortable, and feel happy while wearing it. Almost all the items shown are worn both at home and “out and about.” The turquoise tee is worn for workouts only, but it works quite well for that purpose.
Here are some photos of outfits which incorporate my good purchases from early 2015. Most of these photos are from the past two months, so I am as happy with these January through March 2015 acquisitions as I was when I bought them.
On the Fence…
I’m on the fence about four of my purchases from a year ago in terms of whether they were good purchases or not:
You may be surprised to see the printed tunic in this category, but I have my reasons, as is also true for the other three items. Here’s why I am on the fence about the items pictured above:
- Black/white/yellow printed tunic: I bought this tunic because it was different than anything I had in my closet and I loved the print. I still love the look of this piece, but there are a few issues. For one, the three-quarter sleeves are more like two-thirds sleeves on me and I wish they were a bit longer. Also, the top is too loose on me. Because I basically like this tunic, I opted to have it taken in on the sides, as that’s an inexpensive and easy alteration. The final issue with the top is that the last time I wore it, I experienced a lot of static cling. It’s made from a synthetic fabric, so I need to be careful not to wear it during very dry weather. We usually have a fair amount of humidity where I live, so that won’t usually be a problem. Hopefully, I will be happier with this tunic after the alteration, as long as I don’t wear it when it’s inordinately dry outside.
- Blue/grey striped tee: I have worn this tee quite a few times, but it seems to have lost a lot of its elasticity. I still like the way it looks, but it doesn’t stay in place well anymore. This issue really shouldn’t have come about after only a dozen or so wears and even fewer washings, but that’s sadly the case. I think the material is just too thin and flimsy, which is something I need to watch out for in the future. I will continue to wear this tee, but I don’t know if it will last beyond this year and that’s just not I want the items I buy to last for at least three years, especially since I’m looking to buy fewer things overall.
- Grey boots: I haven’t worn these boots very often because they didn’t work well with most of my pants. The heel was too high for my boot-cuts and the boots didn’t look right with my slimmer jeans. The higher heel also made it difficult to walk in the boots for any length of time. I recently learned that it’s possible to have heels lowered, so I took these boots to a cobbler and had the heels shortened by half an inch. I know this seems like a minor amount, but it has made a difference both in how the boots work with my jeans and in my walking in them. They still seem a bit “heavy” compared to my other boots, but I believe I will wear them more regularly now.
- Black walking shoes: I ordered these shoes on eBay because they were listed as the same model as my previous walking shoes. However, they didn’t seem as roomy in the lace area and I probably should have returned them. Instead, I wore them for several months and they were never as comfortable as I wanted them to be. I ended up purchasing a replacement pair in June. At this point, the only reason I’m keeping these shoes is as a back-up for my main pair, as a sole split on a previous pair and I was left high and dry. Additionally, I have a back issue that’s causing pain in the top of my right foot, so it’s possible the shoes are not really as bad as I thought. I may try them again if and when I get my back issue resolved.
What I Learned
It was very helpful for me to look back at what I bought a year ago to see how those pieces have worked out for me. Peppered throughout this post are the various lessons I have learned through taking the time to analyze my purchases. I will summarize them here for the sake of clarity and because my findings might hold value for you:
- Aim to make returns during the month of purchase. That way, you’ll be less likely to end up with wardrobe “benchwarmers” or lose out on refunds.
- Try things on as soon as possible after you buy/receive them. Put together outfits using your new items to make sure they will work for the desired purpose and coordinate well with what you already own.
- Pay close attention to fit – for everything! Fit matters for all wardrobe items, including lounge wear, sleepwear, and undergarments. If something doesn’t fit well, it should almost always be returned.
- Beware of the “dark side of alterations”! Don’t throw good money after bad by trying to alter something that isn’t working out for you. Only pursue simple, tried and true alterations that you’ve done before and aren’t too costly.
- Know when to alter and when not to. As much as possible, try to find things that fit you well as is and don’t need any tailoring. If you need to do a simple hem or perhaps nip something in a bit at the sides, that’s okay, but try to avoid multiple alterations on a single item. The potential for error is greater that way and you will be out even more money if the item doesn’t work out for you.
- Be mindful of fabric composition and weight. Get clear on what fabrics work well for and which ones don’t. For example, I have learned through trial and error that wool and acrylic irritate my skin, so I read labels and avoid buying anything that contains either of these materials. I recently had to pass up an amazing purple cardigan after I learned that it was made of merino wool. The cardigan felt very soft, but it was too risky, as the potential was high that I would find it itchy as I wore it. Also, if a garment is made of very thin fabric, there’s a higher chance that it won’t hold its shape over the long term, as I learned with my striped tee.
- If in doubt, return the item, even if you have to pay shipping to do so. I have kept a number of questionable pieces because I didn’t want to pay shipping and ended up losing more money as a result. When I order things online, I always aim for free shipping and free returns, but it’s better to pay a nominal return fee than to keep an item that quite likely won’t work out for you.
- Don’t settle! It doesn’t matter how low-priced an item it. If the color, fit, or style is “off,” it’s likely you won’t wear it and it will have been a waste of money. Remember to rate anything you’re considering buying (or have already bought) on a scale of 1-10 and aim for “8”s or higher. Don’t allow yourself to be dazzled by a sale or a “good deal.” It’s only a good deal if you love it and will wear it regularly!
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 after a year or more has passed.
]As you can see, there are many lessons to be learned from engaging in this type of practice. 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 hope you found this post both interesting and helpful. Perhaps some of you are now motivated to do purchase analyses of your own. If you do, I’d love for you to share what you learn.
Now it’s your turn to offer your thoughts and insights.
- 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?
- How do you feel about the clothes, shoes, and accessories you bought a year ago? How many have become wardrobe workhorses versus “benchwarmers”?
- How many of your early 2015 purchases would you buy again today?
- 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. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with my February accountability update, as well as more posts on the topics of smart shopping, wardrobe management, personal style, and more.