Earlier this year, 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. Most of the time, these purchase updates will encompass two or three months, and today I’m going to look back at the items I bought from August through October of last year. I definitely bought far too many items last August through October, so there will be a lot to cover in this update!
I will share some basic numbers, let you know what I still own, and reflect on which purchases were good and bad and why. I’ll close this update by encapsulating the lessons I learned from reviewing the items I purchased a year ago. I hope that reading this post will inspire you to take a look at your past purchases to see how well they’re serving you – or not. Taking the time to do such a review can be quite eye-opening and is well worth doing.
The Basic Numbers – August through October 2015
Let’s start this analysis with a few basic numbers:
- Clothing Items Bought: 24
- Shoes and Accessories Bought: 12 (1 pair of shoes, 1 purse, 1 scarf, 9 jewelry pieces)
- Total Items Bought August through October 2015: 36 (I told you it was too much!)
- Items I Still Have: 26
- Items Returned: 2
- Items Purged: 8
The photos below show all of my August through October 2015 clothing and accessory 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 26 of the 36 items I bought in August, September, and October 2015, which is almost three-quarters (72%) of my total purchases from those months. Here’s a snapshot of the pieces that have stuck around:
What I Returned and Why
Two of the items I bought during August through October 2015 were later returned for refunds:
Here are my reasons for returning those items:
- Black shorts: While I’d like to have a pair of shorts in my wardrobe, I decided these weren’t “it,” as they were too short and not very comfortable.
- Magenta sweater: I loved this sweater, but it pilled considerably after just two short wears. Since I had purchased it from Nordstrom and they have a great return policy, I was able to get my money back. I’m sad, however, as I really liked the style, color, and fit of this piece.
What I Purged and Why
Eight of the items I acquired last August through October are no longer in my wardrobe – two tank tops, one skirt, one dress, one cardigan, one pair of earrings, and two necklaces:
Here are my thoughts as to why I no longer own these pieces:
- Black and fuchsia tank tops: I purchased these tops from a low-cost retailer and they weren’t very good quality. Although I didn’t realize this would happen, when I had them shortened, the fabric “belled out” at the bottom and didn’t hold its shape. Sadly, I had to pass on both tanks after just one wear each.
- Black pencil skirt: When I bought this skirt at a consignment store, I thought I could take in the too-large waist. However, due to the construction of the waistband, such an alteration was not possible. I didn’t want to wear it “as is,” so I re-consigned it unworn.
- Black cardigan: I should not have purchased this cardigan, as it was too small for me. The sleeves in particular were just too short (3/4 sleeves often end being 2/3 length on me). I allowed myself to be dazzled by a fun design and a low resale price – bad…
- Feather style earrings: I thought I liked these earrings, but every time I tried to wear them, they just didn’t seem right with my outfit. I think it’s because they were more of a “boho” style and that’s not a good match for my current style.
- Multicolor maxi-dress: This was another resale purchase gone wrong (part of why I don’t shop secondhand all that often anymore). I was impressed by finding the brand for a low price, but the colors were too warm for my complexion and the elastic waist was uncomfortable.
- Long silver necklace: I thought I would like this necklace more than I did, but I always wished the chain was thicker and usually switched to a different necklace after putting it on. I ended up sending it to a friend.
- Star necklace: This was a gift from a friend, but it was just too delicate for me. Fortunately, I was able to pass it on to another friend who is much more petite than I am and likes more delicate jewelry.
Items That Will Be Purged Soon
In addition to the items I’ve already let go of, there are three more garments that I still have but will be on their way out soon:
I love the colors of the cobalt and purple tanks, but they are just too tight on me. They were always on the snug side, but I was about ten pounds thinner last summer and they at least somewhat worked then. Even so, I should have returned them after trying them on (I had ordered them online). I struggled a lot with finding replacement tank tops last year, such that I end up settling for less than what I truly needed and wanted. Lesson learned, I hope…
As for the dress, I wrote about it back in my July “KonMari in the Closet” post, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to let it go because it was a gift from my husband and it was expensive. However, it’s too small for me now and I never really loved it even when it fit me well. As one commenter mentioned following my KonMari post, the dress reflects the “churchy” vibe I used to have more than my current style. I love the colors and the print, but the style is too prim and proper for me, plus the waistband comes up too high on my waist (a common problem given my height). I do need to pass it on and I may even try to sell it on eBay. My husband probably won’t even notice that it’s gone because he tends to be absent-minded, plus I have a lot of clothes. I can’t help but feel guilty about it, though.
The Good Purchases
Of my purchases from August through October 2015, I consider 25% of them to have been very wise buys. Here’s a look at my best purchases from a year ago:
The nine items above have all served me well over the past year and I’m still happy with them now. I would still buy each of these items today if I saw them in a store. All are in the defined colors of my palette and three include my signature stripes as well. The earrings were a gift from my mom, but I have worn them many times, as their smaller size works perfectly when paired with a necklace. The scarf ties in the colors of my palette nicely and looks good with many of my clothes. I wish all of my purchases from this time last year could be as good as the ones above!
Below are some selected outfits that feature my good purchases from August through October 2015:
On the Fence…
There are quite a few “on the fence” items in this review. I’m being a lot stricter with my ratings this time around in the hope that I can better learn from my past shopping experiences. I have identified seven items of clothing (29%) and seven accessories (58%!) that in hindsight, I’m not sure were good purchases to have made. While it’s reasonable to expect that I would know for sure a year later, I can be a slow adopter of new styles and silhouettes. As an example, my current favorite pair of jeans hung in my closet gathering dust for well over a year after I purchased them. My eye had to adjust to a new look and that took me some time (and courage to wear something different than what I was used to).
Of course, it’s better to either wear things right away or return them, but there are occasions when a “benchwarmer” can later become a wardrobe workhorse. This doesn’t happen all that often, though, so it’s good to at least analyze why we’re not wearing something often – or at all, which is what I do below.
Here’s a look at the seven clothing items that I’m on the fence about:
Let’s look at them one by one…
- Black and white striped asymmetrical dress: I’m surprised that I haven’t worn this dress more often because it seems to tick all of the boxes for me – black and white, striped, asymmetrical, knit. However, when I bought it last year, it was much too big for me and I’ve had to have several alterations done in order for it to fit me properly. Even after all of that effort, though, the waist detailing hits me slightly above my natural waist, which isn’t ideal. My weight is also higher than it was last summer, which affects both the fit and my opinion of many of my clothes. I’ll likely keep this dress around through next summer and see what happens with my weight and the way I feel about this piece.
- Black cropped cardigan: I bought this item as a replacement for my black tie-waist cardigan that I thought was getting “tired,” but I continue to wear the old cardigan more than this one. However, I recently tried tying this cardigan in the front and I like it better worn that way. I also like that the sleeves are full-length, whereas the sleeves of my older cardigan are three-quarter length. I don’t know why I don’t reach for this one as much, but my hope is that the styling option of tying it will lead me to wear it more often.
- Black draped vest: This vest is short in length and only really looks good with skirts and dresses. The problem is that the majority of my dresses as well as the tops I wear with skirts are sleeveless and the vest doesn’t look good without sleeves peeking out from under it. The draped collar is also kind of fussy, which may well be the death knell for this garment. I’m going to try to create a few outfits with it (I’ve only worn it once thus far!), but if I’m not wowed by any of them, out it goes.
- Black sweater jacket: I actually love this topper, but I’ve had little occasion to wear it since I bought it last October. I could have worn it, but it really only works with dresses and skirts and I’m not in the habit of wearing them once the weather turns colder. This is something I’ve wanted to change and hopefully this is the year when I finally make it happen! I have been trying this jacket on with various dress and skirt ensembles lately, but it’s been too hot to wear it. The weather will cool down soon, though, and I plan to reach for this warmer topper to help extend the wear of some of my summery pieces a bit longer.
- Black ribbed tank: This tank is quite tight, much like the cobalt and purple versions shown above. They’re all from the same retailer and are the same size, but for some reason this one is not quite as snug, plus the fact that it’s black makes the visual effect more okay. However, it’s not comfortable to wear and I’ve only worn it once this summer. I think it’s time to move it on, especially since I pretty much always reach for my other black tank (shown under my “good purchases” above)
- Green/blue print dress: I love this dress, but it doesn’t look all that great on me at my current weight. It was very flattering on me last summer (see photo below), but not so much this year. It’s still wearable, but I don’t feel fab in it. I hope that I can drop some of my excess poundage that is likely a result of menopause and hypothyroid (I’m on medicine for that now, but it may need to be adjusted), so I’m going to keep the dress in my “hidden holding zone” for the time being.
- Grey maxi-skirt: There’s nothing wrong with this skirt, but I reach for my other maxi-skirts far more often for some reason. Perhaps it’s because a lot of my tops are either black or black print and thus pair better with black or a bright color. I don’t have many tops that work well with this skirt, so I think that may be the issue. As with the black vest above, I’m going to spend a bit of time creating outfits including the skirt to see how I feel about it. If it feels too much like “forcing the issue,” l will either move it to my hidden holding zone to see if I miss it or pass it along.
Below are a few outfits that feature some of my “on the fence” clothing items (I don’t have outfit photos for all of them). Of course, a picture doesn’t always tell the whole story and many of the photos are from last summer, but if you have thoughts about these pieces that may help me decide their fate, please share them (hopefully, conflicting opinions won’t make things harder for me!).
My track record for August through October 2015 accessory purchases isn’t very good. Sadly, I either dislike or am on the fence about more than half of them. Here are the accessories that I’m uncertain about at this time:
Below are my current thoughts about these items.
- Black embellished purse: I bought this purse for those times when I don’t want to lug around a large bag. It’s great in theory, but I haven’t been using it! I actually don’t go out all that often and when I do, I’m generally in too much of a hurry to change my bag. Perhaps I should store this purse in the trunk of my car to have available for times when I need to carry just a few things with me. That may help me to use it more often, as I do love the look of it.
- Brushed silver earrings: I liked these earrings a when I tried them on in the store, but every time I try pairing them with an outfit, I end up wearing another pair of earrings instead. I’m not sure why, but they just look “off” with most of what I wear. If I don’t wear them – or don’t like them when I do – by the end of the year, I’ll either give them to a friend or donate them. In fact, I think I’m going to do my “Love it, Wear it” challenge (explained here – scroll down) again from now until the end of the year (and probably beyond) to better understand my clothing and accessory preferences.
- Grey zipper detail sandals: I’m not entirely sure why I don’t reach for these sandals, but I think they look a bit too “clunky” with my knee-length dresses. I actually removed the front elastic strap (which isn’t functionally necessary) recently and I think they look more streamlined now, but I’ve mostly been wearing maxi-skirts and dresses, which require either flats or very low heels. I love the zipper detail on these shoes, but that feature actually leads them to be less comfortable than I’d hoped. They may need to be broken in more, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not. I’m going to try pairing them with cropped pants now that I have a couple of pairs, as that may be a better combination.
- Lapis beaded earrings: As you know, I love cobalt blue, so I thought I’d wear these earrings all the time. That hasn’t happened and I think it’s because I like them better with skirts and dresses and I don’t have as much blue in my summer wardrobe. I’m going to push myself to wear them two or three times before the end of the year to see how I feel about them. In theory, they should work well for me, but I’m not sure if that will be true in practice.
- Multi-strand bracelet: I like the look of this bracelet, but I don’t wear it very often. It’s definitely a statement piece, which may the issue since it’s kind of bulky to wear. That said, I think I’m currently in a rut with my jewelry, as I tend to wear the same pieces over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I have some great items that are mostly gathering dust. I still think I have too much jewelry (even though it’s only a third of what I used to have!), but doing “Love it, Wear it” will help me to narrow things down further.
- Two silver and black necklaces: As you can see from the photo above, these necklaces are quite similar. I also have a third necklace that is silver with a black cord, so it’s a bit of overkill with that style! I almost always reach for the older version as well, so I don’t think it was wise for me to buy the new ones. However, I recently removed the pendant from the necklace on the left and placed it on a silver chain instead, so I think I’ll wear it more now. As for the necklace on the right, it’s actually quite different from my older necklace and is an edgier look. I just have to push myself to wear it! If I still don’t find myself wearing it very often by the end of the year, I have a couple of friends who may be interested in it.
What I Learned
I like to close out these purchase updates with a few lessons I learned through looking back on what I bought a year ago. Here’s what I see as the key lessons from my August through October 2015 purchases:
- Don’t “split your wears.” There were a few instances of my buying pieces that were similar to what I already owned (e.g. black cardigans, silver necklace with black cord). When we have two items in our closets that meet the same need, we basically halve the number of potential wears of each item. This can also lead to boredom and more shopping! If you find yourself picking out the same types of items all the time, read what stylist Bridgette Raes has to say about this phenomenon and heed her sound advice (clearly, I need to do the same!).
- Don’t stray over to the “dark side of alterations.” I’m a big fan of alterations, but I sometimes try too hard to make something work for me. This has been an ongoing issue, such that I’ve written about it a number of times (including HERE and HERE). While I don’t try to remake garments too often anymore, I still attempt risky tailoring procedures (e.g. the striped dress and the two embellished tank tops). I need to stop doing this and just stick to simple“tweaks” that are basically fail-proof, such as hemming and taking in waists and side seams an inch or two. Don’t be too ambitious with your tailoring or engage in last-ditch efforts to save pieces rather than passing them on. This may amount to “throwing good money after bad,” which is never a good idea!
- Don’t buy too many things at once. When you’re shopping a lot, it’s harder to be discerning and fully comprehend what will and won’t work for you. As you can see, my track record for the months I covered in this review wasn’t too good, and I know that my overshopping played a large role in my low success percentage. This is a big part of why I have opted for the every other week plan I wrote about in my last post. With that approach, I’ll be integrating new pieces into my wardrobe more gradually and can better assess what is and isn’t working and why, as well as figure out which new items will add the most versatility to what I already have. If you’d like to join me in this plan, the more the merrier! Some of us will be doing it together and will check in regularly on our progress.
- When in doubt, return things! Many items can be returned for refunds if we get them home and determine that they won’t work as well as we’d thought. It’s a good idea to try things on again at home as soon as possible to check them out in your own mirror and without your “sales goggles” on. I’ve often found that items I thought were fabulous in the store just didn’t make the grade at home. Try your new items on with the pieces you would wear them with and evaluate their fit, style, color, and comfort. I think I would have returned at least a few of my bad and “on the fence” purchases had I always taken the time to do this step (however, I wouldn’t have been able to return my resale purchases, which accounted for 8 of my 25 bad/questionable items). It’s also helpful to set reminders on your computer or phone so you’re aware of return deadlines and don’t miss the boat on getting your money back.
Why Review Your Purchases
For those of us who are working to overcome compulsive shopping and “closet chaos,” I firmly believe that the time we take to track and analyze our wardrobes is time well spent. Although you may not photograph all of your pieces like I do and or remember exactly when you bought something, you probably have a good idea of how long something has been in your closet. Guess if you have to, but look at what you bought roughly a year ago and see how you feel about it today. The following questions can help you evaluate each of your past purchases:
- Do you still love it? Did you ever?
- Is it being worn regularly? Why or why not?
- Would you buy it today?
After pondering each item individually, see if there are any patterns evident among your past buys. What lessons can you learn from the purchases you made a year ago?
Many of us 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 you did with your 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 from having a closet full of clothes you don’t wear and a stack of credit card bills! Try this exercise and I bet you’ll be glad you did.
I hope you found this post both interesting and helpful. I also hope it has motivated some of you to do purchase reviews of your own. Now it’s your turn to offer your thoughts and insights.
- Have you ever done a review of your past purchases? 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 August through October 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.
Some Weekend Reading
I wish you all a wonderful weekend! Here are a few quick links to articles you might enjoy reading:
- Every Time You Shop, Always Think, ‘Will I Wear This a Minimum of 30 Times?’ – The Telegraph
- Why I Stopped Tracking Everything (and Started Making Intentional Decisions) – Cait Flanders
- Should You Throw it Out or Keep It? One Question You Have to Ask – Inside Out Style
- How to Consciously Shop Sale Season – Grechen’s Closet
- 5 Signs You Should Stop Decluttering – Be More with Less