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’s 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.
Last month, I started a new feature in which I review my purchases a year later to see how well (or not) they have worked out for me. Although I periodically reviewed past purchases previously, I got the idea to review things from a year ago from Mette of “The Yogastic Shopping Planner” (see her most recent edition HERE). Since I started this new series a few months into the year, I began with an update on my first quarter 2015 purchases. Most of my purchase reviews will look back on just one month’s purchases to see whether these items have become wardrobe workhorses or closet benchwarmers. Occasionally, if I bought very few items in a given month, I will combine two months into one update.
Today’s post will look back on the items I purchased in April 2015. It was a pretty big shopping month for me, so I have a lot to cover here. I hope reading this update will inspire you to take a look at your purchases from a year ago to see how well they’re serving you. Taking the time to do such a review can be quite eye-opening and is well worth doing.
The Basic Numbers – April 2015
Let’s start this analysis with a few basic numbers (undergarments and sleepwear are not included):
- Items Bought During April 2015: 11
- Items I Still Have: 7
- Items Returned: 2
- Items Purged: 2
The photo below shows all 11 of my April 2015 purchases.
What I Still Own
Before I explore which purchases were good and which were less than ideal, let’s look at what remains in my closet today. As I mentioned above, I still have 7 of the 11 items I bought in April 2015, which is roughly two-thirds (64% to be more exact). Here’s a snapshot of those pieces that have stuck around:
What I Returned and Why
Two of the items I bought during April 2015 were returned for refunds:
I don’t really consider either 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 two items pictured above:
- Black jeans– These jeans were just barely long enough for me and I was worried they might shrink in the wash and end up being too short for me. Since I was able to find an almost identical pair online with a longer inseam, I opted to return this pair to the store.
- Grey tie-waist cardigan– The color of this cardigan was different in real life than it appeared on my monitor when I ordered it. When it arrived, I saw that it was much warmer in tone than I thought it would be (I look better in cool tones). In addition, the 3/4 length sleeves just barely covered my elbows, which I knew I would find annoying. What’s more, I had purchased three tie-waist cardigans last April, which felt like overkill to me. So I opted to return this one and I’m glad that I did.
I make a lot more returns than I write about in my accountability updates, but most of them are done shortly after making a purchase. Since I order quite a few things online, it’s to be expected that some of them won’t work out. With e-commerce purchases, I don’t feel that I have fully committed until I’ve tried them on when they arrive. Even though I read online reviews and consider what I order carefully, there’s a fairly large margin for error when buying online. However, if I don’t return something within the same month that it was ordered, I will always report on both the purchase and the return in my accountability updates. I try to avoid this, though, by trying new arrivals on the day they arrive and deciding on their fate post haste.
I feel that even with items we purchase in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s a good idea to try them on again immediately when we get home. This way, we can make decisions about these pieces as soon as possible and make returns safely within the return window (which can be as short as 30 days – or even less – in some cases). The longer that things stay in our closets, the less likely we’ll be to return them, which can lead to wardrobe “benchwarmers” and lost money.
What I Purged and Why
I have purged two of the items that I purchased last April, one bracelet and one skirt:
The bracelet had been an inexpensive impulse buy at a friend’s boutique. I thought I would wear it because it’s black and I wear a lot of black jewelry (and clothing), but I just never reached for it. The skirt was too big for me and had to be re-adjusted frequently, which I found annoying. When I found a better fitting grey maxi-skirt at a consignment store a few months later for a very low price, I decided to pass the one above along.
The Good Purchases
Now let’s take a look at the good purchases I made a year ago. These five items have all served me well over the past year and I’m still happy with them today:
Of my purchases from April 2015, 45% fit into the category of things I would still buy today. These are all comfortable knit pieces that work well for my casual lifestyle. The colors are all in my defined palette: black and white prints and saturated pink. My signature stripes are also represented in the tee and maxi-dress. The above are all warm weather items, so I look forward to getting a lot of wear out of them very soon.
Here are some photos of outfits that include my good purchases from April 2015:
On the Fence…
I’m on the fence about two of my purchases (18%) from a year ago in terms of whether they were good purchases or not:
- Black and grey striped maxi-skirt – This skirt is a bit too voluminous for my preferences and I’m not sure if it’s as flattering as it could be. I love the colors and the stripes, but it’s the fit that makes me feel on the fence about it. I only wore it twice last year, but I’ll see how I feel when I wear it again this summer.
- White tie-waist cardigan – I’m a big fan of white as part of prints, but I’m not sure if I love stark white against my light skin tone. I’ve actually purged some solid white pieces from my wardrobe in the past year because I didn’t feel they were flattering on me. This cardigan isn’t a large expanse of fabric, so it might work okay, but I’m not totally sold on it as of yet.
These two items are pictured in outfits below. What do you think?
What I Learned
I’m going to close out these purchase updates with a few lessons I learned by looking back on what I bought after a year has passed. Here’s what I see as the key lessons from my April 2015 purchases:
- Don’t buy too many of the same type of items at once. I purchased three maxi-skirts, three tie-waist cardigans, and two maxi-dresses last April. I often fall prey to thinking that if one such piece is good, two or more is even better, but that’s not always the case. We usually don’t wear things as much as we think we will, so it’s better to start with just one of a given type of item and see how it goes before we buy more. Also, if we buy true multiples, such as the same style in different colors, we’ll frequently wear our favorite one a lot and the others not so much. Multiples can make sense, but it’s best to wait and make sure the first item is a hit and then evaluate whether or not a second one is really merited.
- Don’t buy things I can’t return. The beaded bracelet and black and grey striped skirt were purchased at local boutiques which either don’t allow returns or have very short return windows. Since I’ve found that I often feel differently about items once I get them home and see how they look in my own mirror and with my other closet pieces, it’s risky for me to buy from such places. I could have returned the skirt, but only for store credit within five days. Not the best return policy… I think I’ll stick with bigger retailers for the most part.
- Don’t shop when I’m upset. I went to the two boutiques, which are both within walking distance from where I live, when I was in a bad state of mind. I was basically engaging in “retail therapy,” which never works. We may feel better in the short term from the “emotional salve” that a purchase can provide, but we frequently make bad choices when we’re upset and end up feeling worse as a result. It’s better to either engage in an activity that has no downsides (for me, that could be going on a walk, taking photos, or watching a movie) or figure out how to appropriately address what’s bothering us. Sometimes we just need a bit of time to come down from a bad mood, but we may actually have a life situation that needs to be dealt with. In either case, shopping isn’t the answer and it’s best to shop when we’re in a clear and calm state of mind.
- Don’t settle for “almost” items. I knew the black jeans were borderline short when I was in the store, but I took them home anyway, mostly because good-fitting pants are so hard for me to find. But I knew in my gut that they weren’t truly what I wanted and should have left them in the store. While it’s good that I returned the jeans and was able to get my money back, I could have saved myself a trip by not buying them in the first place. I shared a similar lesson in my last purchase update, so clearly this is a very important lesson for me to learn! Yes, I had been looking for black jeans for a while, but it wasn’t critical for me to buy them when I did. It’s better to hold out for something that we truly love than to settle for second best and either rarely wear the item in question or feel less than fab when we do.
Why Review Your Purchases?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, any time we take to track and analyze our wardrobes is time well spent. You may not photograph all of your pieces like I do, and you may not remember exactly when you bought something. However, you probably have a good idea of how long something has been in your closet. Guess if you need to, but look at what you bought roughly a year ago and see how you feel about it today.
- Do you still love it? Did you ever?
- Is it being worn regularly? Why or why not?
- Would you buy it today?
- What lessons can you learn from your purchases from a year ago?
Many of us often spend several hours or more trying to find the perfect item online or in a store. So why not invest a little time to review how well we did with our shopping after a year or more has passed? Analyzing your purchases may not be as enjoyable as shopping, but in the long run it can save you having a closet full of clothes you don’t wear, as well as inflated credit card bills!
I hope you found this post both interesting and helpful. I hope it has motivated some of you 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?
- 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 April 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. I’ll be back later this week with either a KonMari Method update or a post on a fun wardrobe exercise I did last week.
I love how you track your purchases. I think we learn a great deal from taking the time to see what worked and what didn’t and why. I have become a lot more careful about purchases instead of just buying blindly. I think examining our past purchasing successes and failures contributes to more thoughtful buying. Thank you for introducing this concept into my life Debbie.
You’re welcome, Di! I’m glad this concept has been helpful to you like it has been for me. I think that anytime we examine our behavior and look at how things do or don’t work out for us, the increased awareness helps us to do better in the future.
Personally, I love the black striped maxi and dislike the white tie cardigan. I think you and I might have similar skin tones, and solid white washes *me* out.
Wow, I completely disagree. I think the cardigan is a very striking contrast against your hair, but the maxi is quite unflattering. Just my two cents.
To be honest, I have been leaning more toward keeping the cardigan and letting go of the maxi, but I am unsure about both because I haven’t worn them in about 6 months (or more). It’s interesting how those who are commenting have very different opinions. I appreciate the feedback, but in the end I will have to go with what feels right to me and I may not know until I wear the items again (or at least try them on as part of a potential outfit).
Thanks for your feedback, Lishan. I never used to think that white washed me out, but I didn’t wear it a lot, either. I seem to do better with either more of a toned down white (like ivory) or incorporating white into prints. Sometimes I can wear my less flattering colors if I pair them with colors that are great on me (like black and jewel tones), but it’s a trial and error sort of thing.
Debbie, I like the white cardigan. I think we often tend to gravitate towards darker pieces which feel less conspicuous and therefore more comfortable. Maybe the solid white just makes you feel more noticeable. I would keep that cardigan as it is useful in summer when it’s hot but maybe it’s windy or a bit chilly at night and you need something to throw on – exactly as you are wearing it. Fresh white in summer is so nice and I would always take something easy like that with me on summer vacation. I think it suits you and the outfit is perfect for summer .
I appreciate your feedback, Carolyn. I agree that bright colors can make us feel more conspicuous. I definitely feel more noticeable in the pink dress even without the white cardigan. I’m glad you like the outfit. I remember liking it when I wore it, but I haven’t worn the cardigan all that much. It can be a good option for summer, though.
About the on the fence items: the skirt looks okay to me, but why hold onto something that is just okay when you have other skirts that are clearly good, like the other maxi skirt of this post? It’s not just whether or not you like this one item- it’s also about whether or not you have something else you like better in the same category.
The white cardigan coordinates nicely with the dress you are wearing, but less with your skin tone. Again, the fuchsia cardigan/black maxi dress combination you are wearing in the picture above looks better because the pieces work with each other AND your skin tone. Makes me think that with this dress, a black cardigan might do the trick…
Thank you for sharing this exercise. My purchases from the past April were mostly okay. I still wear and like most items. There is one item I should have returned but was too lazy about it (I’m being more mindful about evaluating and returning my purchases now). There is a pair of shoes that I like but that my fussy feet like less, so it gets worn very little- that’s my “on the fence”-item. Last item worth noting is a mariniere t-shirt I loved and wore until an accident with spaghetti sauce happened… I’d really like to find a replacement, but finding the perfect thing among piles of almost-goods is hard.
Very good point, Sara. Often when we keep things that we feel are just okay, it leads us to wear our favorites less because we’re trying to wear everything in our closets. Bridgette Raes has a good question that she poses to her clients. I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t remember the exact wording, but it’s something like, “Under what circumstance will you choose this item over something else in your closet that you like more?” With some pieces, the only time I choose them over a favorite is because I feel I SHOULD wear them. If they were gone, I would happily reach for a loved item and not think twice about the less loved thing that I passed on. Sometimes I move “on the fence” items to my other closet to see if I miss them. More times that not, I don’t.
You’re right that in most cases, I will choose black over white and I think I have worn my black tie cardigan with the pink dress before. I like the white in the pictured outfit, but I haven’t worn it all that much, probably because most of my closet items are pretty dark in color.
Thanks for sharing your April 2015 purchase update. I think a lot of people put off returns out of laziness and miss the return window. I have definitely been guilty of that. I also have fussy feet, so I know what you mean about the shoes. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether shoes will work for us or not, as we can only “test drive” them so much. Sorry to hear about the spaghetti sauce accident. It’s sad when loved items are food casualties. I know all too well how hard it is to find replacements in a sea of not so great quality out there. I hope you will find a new mariniere t-shirt soon.
I think if you are still on the fence about something you have already owned for a year you should probably let it go. I think we cause problems for ourselves when we override the little voice. You know, the one in the back of your head that says I’m not sure about this. Just because an item “ought” to work in your wardrobe doesn’t make it right for you. I am a world expert at over-riding that little voice and buying things that I was doubtful about even when I made the purchase. Still, if we never made a mistake we would never get a chance to grow.
I know all about that little voice, Marion, but I don’t trust it often enough. It’s best to heed the voice either when we’re in the store and thinking of buying something or when we are still able to return it. Lots of things should work out for us but don’t for whatever reason. I love stripes and wear them often, but I just don’t feel fab in that grey and black skirt when I put it on. I feel bad about the mistakes, too, but you’re right that they help us to grow and can’t be completely avoided.
Gosh, I can’t even remember how many times I used to buy multiples. I had to wean myself off that, and I went through the same thought process that you’re going through now. It’s really interesting to see someone else going what I went through. Gosh, I never was a classic “shopaholic,” but looking back it must have been because I simply didn’t have the money. I clearly had the underlying tendencies. That’s probably why your blog speaks to me.
I think 5 solid hits out of 11 is a great benchmark for future posts. I bet the two on the fence items will probably end up as items you let go. They clearly don’t spark that much joy and in fact, something seems to be bothering you about them.
Making really good purchases is a process. I sometimes read minimalist blogs where people proudly show off the 10 items they own in their spotless empty lofts. But if you look at their older posts, you’ll see that they started out more like the rest of us and gradually moved their set point lower and lower to the point where all they needed was a fork and two t-shirts. So if those guys are proudly blogging about their progress in whittling down to just the basics (whatever they decided that was), then I think we should pat ourselves on the back our efforts too.
My blog speaks to a lot more people than I thought it would, Jane, and I’m thankful for that. I believe that some of the issues I wrestle with are common to both shopaholics and non-shopaholics, plus the shopaholic spectrum is pretty broad. I feel okay with a 5 out of 11 success rate, but I hope it will go up in time. I think it will, as I learn more about myself and my style and am more careful with my shopping. I agree with you the making good purchases is a process. I think even those minimalist bloggers make mistakes at times, but we can all do better if we work at it. I always say I’m aiming for progress not perfection and I definitely think I’ve made progress over time.
Wonderful post, Debbie!
Re: on the fence items…I think the pink maxi is gorgeous on it’s own, and the white Cardy too “churchy” with that maxi…interesting point about too much white by the face not looking good for you anymore!
The black and gray striped maxi skirt isn’t bad but the keeper maxi skirt is soooo much better!
I’m glad you liked this post, Claudette. I like the pink maxi on its own, too, but I get cold often and always need to at least carry some sort of topper with me to put on. I don’t ever want to look churchy, but I think the tie cardis are less so than the blazers I used to pair with my skirts and dresses. I definitely like the print maxi skirt better than the striped one, too.
To my surprise, I purchased only 2 garments in April 2015, both which I still have and love!
Also, I like the black/grey striped maxi skirt–its interesting how it drapes with the black side panels. I think the best way to wear that white cardigan would be with a lighter colored solid, or a stripe or print (containing mostly white) maxi dress.
Great job on your April 2015 shopping, Deby! Thanks for your feedback on my on the fence items. I don’t have a lot of light colored items, which may be why I haven’t worn the white cardigan all that often. I probably should lighten up my wardrobe more for the summer, but I am always more drawn toward black and jewel tones than lighter colors. I do have a few items like what you mentioned, so I will try the cardigan with those and see how I like it.
In my opinion the white cardigan looks very nice and summery on you, it doesn’t wash you out at all! And the striped black skirt is also very nice, maybe it’s my love for voluminous skirts talking, but I think it really suits you silhouette! All in all, it’s up to you and how you feel in these OTF items, of course, but for me they really suit you and your style!
I appreciate your feedback on my OTF items, Maria. I’m glad you think both items suit me and my style. It has been a while since I have worn either of them, so I will have to see how I feel when I try to do so. But when I considered all of the items when writing this post, I was iffy on the skirt and the cardi. Time will tell about their fate…
It’s funny how different everyone’s opinions really are!
White is a somewhat stark color, but I think it looks wonderful on you in that picture, especially with that dress. Yes, as someone else said, it is “louder” than dark colors, but I think it brightens your skin. Of course it could be the lighting, but you look bright and fresh in that photo, and your skin looks perfectly smooth and clear. I think it’s a keeper!! (Of course, you’re the one wearing it and making the decision.)
My mom loves white and claims it is flattering on most people because “it reflects light onto your face.”
I get so mad at myself when I find myself buying multiples. Then, recently, I ordered two different styles of nightgowns in the same material from the same company as one that I love and is perfect. But I didn’t want to fall into multiple trap. And of course, they arrived and I detest them. I now have to spend a three hour journey out of my limited spare time to return them. I should have stuck with multiples! (On the other hand, no one sees my sleepwear but me, so multiples aren’t as embarrassing as when I wear the exact same skirt, but in different colors, to work.)
Yes, it is funny how different people’s opinions are, OCD. I appreciate all of the input and will weigh it all in my decision process, but ultimately I will have to do what’s right for me. Thanks for your kind words about the white cardi. I am leaning more toward keeping that piece and at least seeing how I feel about it this summer. Your mom has a good point about white. I think perhaps it works for more people than black. I like black better on me, but white might be good for me, too.
Sorry you have to go through such a difficult return with the nightgowns. It can be better to stick with what we know works sometimes, but it’s also good to try new things. Sometimes even what we think is “tried and true” won’t work because a manufacturer changes the material or silhouette. I think multiples are just fine in some instances and sleepwear is one of them. I wear the same style of pajama pants and tops and am quite happy with them. It’s really a case by case basis sort of thing but something to be mindful about.
Thank you for some very wise words coming at just the right time. I’m finding myself drawn to multiples and shopping when I am down this month. I need to step back and realize both of these behaviors will create closet chaos.
I agree that the white looks good on you. I think white tends to be limiting because we fear stains on it. It also feels like a color with a limited wear-period, even though old rules about when you should not wear white are no longer the norm. I’ll be interested to see what you do with the white cardigan as summer hits.
I’m glad you found my words helpful, Barb. I know you have been going through a difficult time and that’s when we are more vulnerable to the types of behaviors that can create closet chaos. I have shopped too much this month because of stress and depression, but a lot of it has been returned. It’s better to do less shopping, though!
Thanks for your input on the white cardigan. The fear of stains is a “biggie,” plus white does feel more summery than other colors even if we know those old rules are passe. I will likely keep the white cardigan around through the summer to see if I reach for it and like it. I hope I will…
I went into my 2015 file and was surprised that I did not buy one article of clothing last April. lol I bought some beauty supplies and a new smart phone.
So I looked at Jan – March 2015 where I bought grey ankle boots, a wool suit, burnt orange top, olive 3.4 sleeve striped T, knit jacket, cognac leather bracelet, aubergine knit top, olive tank.
Everything but the boots was bought second-hand.
The status now: I still wear and like almost everything except :
The boots got stained last month, might be saved by a professional.
The burnt orange top, was a real need at the time, but I have linen tops now in the same color that aren’t nasty polyester, so I will be donating this one.
The knit jacket- I still wear it and get compliments but it is very distinctive so I wear it less. It is also for winter only, a one season purchase. but as it was second-hand still a reasonable buy.
Good for you for not buying any clothes last April, Mary. I seems like other purchases took precedence that month. Thanks for weighing in on your January through March 2015 purchases, though. It seems like you were quite successful with your shopping for the first quarter of last year. I hope you will be able to salvage the boots. A good cobbler can resolve a lot of footwear problems. It’s good that you found a good replacement for the orange top. I haven’t had much luck with polyester, either. I’m glad you liked the exercise. I will be back next month with my May 2015 review and I hope you’ll share your update then, too.
The comments about the white sweater are so interesting. There are so many shades of white – just go try to pick out white paint LOL. I find that “arctic white” is terrible for me, soft white is good, creamy white is terrible, etc. Our skin and hair tone really matter when picking out the right one. That being said, you simply don’t seem drawn to it and you don’t tend to wear light colors unless they are in a print/stripe garment.
You’re so right about the shade of white making a big difference, Juhli! After all the comments about the white sweater, I looked at all of the other white items in my closet (mostly with white being part of stripes or a print, not solid white). I noticed that most of those items do not include “arctic white” but rather a more soft, toned down version of white. I think it’s the starkness of the white that gives me some pause. I will see how I feel about the sweater when I next try it on with an outfit and try to wear it but for future purchases, I will aim for softer white (and will probably mostly stick to white in prints, as I like that better).
I’m a chronic returner. I didn’t realize that it was part of the game for me until I started reading your blog. I agree that only half of my online purchases end up working, so I don’t really count those, but I do spend time returning those items. Sometimes I want to see how something will work with what I have at home as well. I very rarely purchase anything where I can’t return it though, because I know me.
I would be very interested to see what I purchased last year and what the status of those items are now, lol!
You raise a very good point, Teresa, in that we need to consider our time in the equation in regards to returns. Yes, more retailers are offering free shipping and free returns now, but we do still have to take the time to process the return and that time can add up! Our time is valuable, too, so we should take that into consideration when looking at returns. Chronic returning can be a big part of the compulsive shopping equation. I have a friend who is far worse about this than I am, but she doesn’t consider herself to have a shopping problem because she sticks to a budget. But if she added up the time she spent on shopping and returns, she might see things differently…
Thank you so much for sharing your learnings. I too learned that I shouldn’t buy more than one type of new item (like a maxi skirt or certain type of cardigan) until I live with the first one to see how much I actually wear it. The coral maxi dress is absolutely stunning on you! Thanks for being a voice of reason in the fashion industry!
Happy to be a voice of reason, Angela! I wish there were more such voices out there… Thanks for your compliment on the coral maxi dress. I should wear it more often, but it draws a lot of attention to me and I am still an introvert (so I have to be in the right mood for people looking at me a lot). I’m glad I have it, though, because it’s good to step out of our comfort zones sometimes!
I was horrible about buying multiples but now I only allow myself 2 of any one thing, with a couple of exceptions.
I allow myself multiples of really functional pieces such as socks, underwear and long-sleeved layering t-shirts (which I wear all the time in winter). When you find the right foundation garments, it makes such a difference.
That “two of one thing” rule is a good one, Tara, and it’s pretty much what I’m doing now. The only real exceptions are for very basic items and even then I try to keep the numbers down, at least until I’m sure something will work well for me. I agree that the right foundation garments make a huge difference. I have had a lot of issues with socks, underwear, and t-shirts and am still searching for the “holy grail” in all three areas…