So, I’ve decided to do things differently this month. Before I tell you all about what’s different, let me start at the beginning.
I’ve been feeling dissatisfied lately about my closet. Perhaps “dissatisfied” is not the right word. I love the clothes I have, or the very least, the majority of them. But it started to feel like there were too many of them; too many clothes, too many choices, too much guilt – about not wearing some of them enough, about being too wasteful. I’m fortunate in that I can afford to be wasteful with my money. It may not be the best use of it, but I look at it this way: if I’m spending my (fun) money on something that makes me happy, then it’s fulfilling its intended purpose. And, certainly, the experience of shopping for new clothes, and reinventing myself with new clothes, is very enjoyable … except that it passes, and I am left with more clothes than I need, and feeling guilty about wasting the resources that went into making all those unnecessary clothes.
Paring down my wardrobe, which I do regularly, is only half the story. As long as I keep buying things at the same rate I have been, nothing will really change. Deep down, I’ve known that for a while. I’ve talked a good “mindful consumerism” game before, but real change is hard. What I needed to do was to divorce the act of shopping from the act of (sartorial) self-expression. No easy feat. We are constantly bombarded with images of cute, new clothes, and I have an over-active imagination; I can easily weave narratives around new clothes that can justify any purchase. I’m sure you’ve seen some of that on the blog. I need to learn to admire something, without wanting to own it. This may sound incredibly obvious and simple to some of you, but it requires a not insignificant shift in perspective for me.
The reality is that clothes will probably never be purely functional objects for me. [And it seems as though this is the case for more and more people these days.] There will always be a sense of romance about them, for me, as there is about books. Of infinite (and hopeful) possibilities. With that in mind, however, I am still ready for a change. I think. And here we are.
In an effort to shift my perspective on shopping, I decided to try a new approach. Some new guidelines.
- Buy only 1 new item.
- Can buy replacements for any item already in my closet, provided the cost per wear of the item to be replaced is $4 or less.
- Bags not included.
So, yes, this month I decided to buy only 1 new item. I wanted to force myself to be truly mindful about my shopping, while still having an opportunity to be a little impulsive. I already have all the clothes I could possibly need, so I wanted to focus on making sure that anything I added was truly special.
I also allowed myself to purchase replacements for items already in my closet, with one condition. This was a modified version of the “one in, one out” rule, but with the added caveat that the cost-per-wear of the item I was replacing had to be $4 or less. Why $4? It’s a somewhat arbitrary number, but it’s about the cost of a chai latte – in other words, a frivolous throw-away cost. Admittedly, this rule does nothing for the environment (a garment discarded before the end of its useful life is still … one more unnecessarily discarded garment) but the idea was to force myself to be really mindful about this category of spending as well. It can take a surprising amount of time to get down to a $4 CPW (think of it this way: a $40 item, worn once a month, will take 10 months to get to that magic number – and not everything in my closet gets worn every month), which should eliminate too-quick turnovers. Because, yes, I’m thinking of turning this into an on-going experiment.
Oh, and a couple of exceptions: bags and pants. The first one probably needs no explanation, but about the pants: if I gain or lose enough weight to necessitate a change in sizes, I will buy new pants regardless of the cost-per-wear of my old ones. Saggy/sausage-casing pants are the worst.
So, how did I fare this month? I bought three things ($452) and received one gift (from my husband). Here’s the breakdown:
- Earth, Music & Ecology striped dress ($23 via consignment) – This looked like a dress you’d find at Anthropologie, but it turned out to be from a Japanese brand. Which may explain the slightly Lolita-esque vibe. Now, admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something an almost-35 year old should wear, but I think it’s cute without being too twee. Plus, it replaced my Joe Fresh striped dress from last summer (CPW $1.45), and I have a bit more leeway to be immature in my weekend wardrobe.
- Nine West slingback pumps (gifted) – I call these my “witching” shoes because the slightly higher vamp makes them look, well, a little witchy. They remind me of the current Vince Claire pumps that are all the rage, but for a fraction of the price. They are replacing my beloved thrifted Jimmy Choo Merrit pumps (CPW $0.24). Sigh, I know. It’s a sad day, but the time has come. The leather has completely peeled from the tip of the Merrit pumps, and while they remain in otherwise decent shape, I can’t wear them at the office anymore. They’re being relegated to commute duty, until they give up the ghost entirely. The Nine West replacements are probably not as classic a choice, but I do still have my plain Stuart Weitzman pointy toe pumps, so I wanted a edgier pair for my alternate.
- Babaton Brady sweater ($9 via Value Village) – I haven’t quite decided whether this will replace something in my closet (there are a couple of candidates) or represent my permitted “new item”; I couldn’t resist a silk & linen blend sweater for under $10, though. It looks vaguely Isabel Marant-ish. The yarn is a mix of red, white, and black, which works well with my wardrobe palette. Also, there was this …
- Red bag ($420 via eBay) – Obviously, this is not just any bag. Obviously, it’s getting its own post. [If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know all about it, but I’m hanging on to the surprise element here a little bit longer.]
You probably don’t need me to tell you that there were a lot of things I liked, but didn’t buy, this month. Let’s take a look at a few:
Love Moschino Wool Dress
This was an adorable dress and a great bargain to boot (Winners clearance, $69 down from $450-ish). However, there was nothing in my wardrobe that it could have replaced, and there were a few reasons why I decided not to make it my “freebie” this month. One, it was 70% wool (made in Turkey), which meant that it was quite itchy, and prone to piling (some was already evident). Two, either the dress didn’t sit as intended on me, or else there was a design/manufacturing flaw, but the pleats did not lay down symmetrically all the way around; a minor issue, but it would have bothered me had I bought it. Three, while classic in a gamine, Chanel-esque way, the style was ultimately a little too young, and too cute for me. I could have worn it to work, but I don’t think it would have presented my preferred image.
Another awesome Winners bargain: $62 down from $168. I didn’t end up buying them because (a) they were ever so slightly too small; and (b) I already have at least 4 pairs of strappy casual sandals (which is probably 2 too many), and this one didn’t really need to replace any of them. This would have been a great find for someone in actual need of a good quality summer sandal … alas, that person was not me.
So, um, I stopped in at Winners a lot this month. This was another sale rack find ($44) that didn’t work for me. You can see the problem in the photo on the right; if the dress had been the correct size and fit properly (see pic on the left), it would have been a no-brainer. Some peeps on Instagram suggested that I get it tailored. Here are my thoughts on that: the quality of the dress was not good enough to justify what would likely have cost upwards of $40 in alterations. The crepe material was so-so; one of the sleeve hems had already come undone. With that said, I will keep an eye out for this dress at Winners, on the off chance another store has my size.
Linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers – do check them out for more fun, virtual shopping.