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.