End of the year wardrobe assessment

Sweaters, from top: Old J.Crew, Acne, Hope, Rachel Comey, Saturdays Surf NYC

Back in March I posted about streamlining my belongings and it appears that this is still a work in progress. I've been working hard over the last few months at reassessing how my wardrobe fits with my current body and lifestyle. Apart from the realization that I can no longer squeeze into skinny jeans and that my shirts have started gaping at the bust, working from home has further made me conclude that I really do not need that many shirts or parkas or shoes.

A longtime reader recently commented that she didn't understand how I could say I was somewhat broke and yet manage to purchase as many items as I have recently. I addressed my finances about a year ago and since then, my circumstances have changed slightly (although not as dire as I sometimes make it sound) - I am now not funded and struggling to finish my dissertation by the next year. I also received a lot things (out of pity and love, I guess) for my birthday and anniversary, and from the wedding. However, I really do have to apologize for being extremely insensitive and sounding like an entitled brat in my last post. Sometimes, I think a sheltered life has led me to being overtly melodramatic.

In light of that, I thought it would be somewhat interesting to readers to go through a couple of things that have helped in covering the expenses of my recent purchases. I have been utilizing Ebay, my own blog shop, and consignment/used clothing stores like crazy. June and July of this year were somewhat bleak months for me, and in times of distress, I tend to clean and organize. It's strange how much a person can accumulate over the years even if you try to be somewhat conscientious about your purchases.

While re-selling things doesn't usually help with recouping losses, I make sure that I the items I sell are able to cover at least 50% of the cost of a new item. Instead of the one in-one out method, I try to get rid of many things in a particular clothing category before I add something new. For example, to purchase my Hope Guys' Shoes, I sold the Heschung for CdG oxfords, a pair of J.Crew boots and my No. 6 clog boots. This ensures that I have a longer time to think things over and helps to clear out the closet even more. I also dug through things in storage and thought long and hard about the many items I have that no longer fit with my current lifestyle or aesthetic. I'm not a very sentimental person, so being able to part with several very expensive items from ages ago was pretty easy, and that helped cover things like a new tote bag and several shirts.

Once I make a purchase, I wear the heck out of the item. Some people suggest that if you haven't worn the item in a year, you should get rid of it. I personally think that if you haven't worn an item in six months, it probably isn't worth your time or money, unless of course, it's special occasion wear like cocktail dresses and bunny suits (:P). I wear my sweaters all through fall and winter and even spring sometimes. I use summer clothing e.g shirts as layers underneath so that every item in my wardrobe (bar shorts) usually gets a full rotation all year round. I mean, if you don't use it, why own it?

I think that trying to achieve the ultimate "perfect" wardrobe is forever going to be a lost cause for me. My lifestyle and body will always change; a proper job, kids, too much chocolates, etc. are a few things that will keep my wardrobe evolving. Being able to consistently avoid the tragedy of an overstuffed closet with nothing I love in it is perhaps the best thing I can aim for when it comes to matters of the sartorial kind.

28 comments :

  1. I don't think you sound bratty. Getting a PhD is hard and sometimes life seems shitty. And you obviously have thought through your finances. Anyway.

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  2. amen to work in progress on the closet editing. though your closet looks really lovely and organized! though i think the 1 year / 6 months rule works for some and not others. i have quite a number of items that i rotate through in phases. it's also nice to 'rediscover' an old garment after a long while.

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  3. @Anonymous That's very kind of you to say so, I really do appreciate the support :-)

    @Miss Sophie Unfortunately I've never really been able to "rediscover" a garment, it's probably just me being materialistic and constantly craving something new, but once an item ends up in storage, it's the end. I should learn to put things away for a bit then try to incorporate them into my wardrobe. You have such a knack for vintage-y items though - something which I've never quite managed.

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  4. Ah, you hit the nail on the head with this post. I was starting to think that I need professional intervention after not managing to create this ideal wardrobe of mine after a year and a half of trying!
    For what it's worth your wardrobe looks lovely. I love the soft colours, but can totally relate to the frustration of fluctuating size and how it affects the way we feel about our clothes.

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  5. I don't think there is such a thing as a static perfect wardrobe either. I have things that are enduring nicely but so much changes when your lifestyle changes. If I became a corporate hound tomorrow I would be in serious trouble, wardrobe wise, and yet it's a possibility.

    I do a poor job of selling my things, although that seems like such an economical option. I think most things I want to give up don't have much "resale" value so I'll rather give them away instead of going through the effort of listing and selling.

    Love how honest you are with yourself!

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  6. Personally I don't think you need to justify your purchases to anyone :)
    It is possible to over-think the whole wardrobe issue, since so much of it is bound up with fulfilling our wants rather than our needs. Not that there is much wrong with that, since pleasure is an important part of the human experience. I think the "perfect wardrobe" is - like most things - a work in progress. I follow a one-year rule for most of my clothing, except for my saris.
    Your resale strategy makes a lot of sense, especially since you don't have regrets over the things you sold. I find it too tiring to deal with eBay and mailing packages, so I tend to give things away. That said, I get rid of fewer and fewer things as time passes, which makes me feel good about the current state of my closet.

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  7. Yeah, the weight fluctuations kill me, as far as keeping a closet full of clothes I like to wear! (and strangely enough it always fluctuates up, not down.....). Slim fit jeans can be so unforgiving. Thank the lord our feet don't gain weight, nor do handbags.

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  8. I also agree that the perfect wardrobe doesn't exist. I would call it "complete" wardrobe when I was aiming for it, when you don't feel like buying anything new.

    Only you always do: because there are new inspirations, because time passes and taste changes even slightly, because when you spend time curating your wardobe you can't just suddenly stop thinking about it.

    For me, a satisfying wardrobe is one in which you want to wear all its contents and can choose an outfit easily in the morning. Usually, when it is satisfying you buy less, and it feels more like a treat than a real "need". At least it is the case for me.

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  9. I don't think you should have to justify your purchases either - I have a feeling that bloggers in the mindful shopping category will be painfully (and shamefully) aware of it if they overspend or break their own rules, and won't need much reminding. I know I usually am, anyway :)

    Like others here I have never tried to sell my clothing. I give it away either to friends or the Salvation Army, partially because I'm a bit lazy and partially because there's rarely much resale value to the garments anyway, but I totally see why people would do it to less worn and more valuable items. I know I found myself cursing my large feet when I noticed the lovely boots that you have up for sale!

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  10. Totally agree with no apologizes! Having said that, you don't have to be so critical and moralistic towards yourself either. I mean we're talking about fashion, a frivolous indulgence in the grand scheme of things really. We all buy things we don't need, we sell, give away and yes money down the drain a lot of the times but it's your money and your blog and you can say whatever you want without the need to justify anything! I know I read your blog because I love the way you write and your humour and I have a lot of the same sartorial philosophies.

    If it makes you feel any better, I have probably spent around 30 grand the past two years attempting to reach wardrobe nirvana, sold some things to recover a small fraction of the cost but mainly gave away to friends and charity shops. A lot of high street but also a large amount of designer stuff that I couldn't be bothered to list on ebay. You would think I have a lot to show for with that amount of money but I don't and I don't feel bad about it at all. I would say 20 grand of it are mistake, fantasy, impulsive purchases. Now I have the smallest wardrobe I've ever had in my life and couldn't be happier. For me, it took a lot of trial and error to know what works and what doesn't.

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    1. Like I was replying to Ammu, I think I'm probably trying to justify things to myself and trying to assuage some sense of guilt about spending so much when I would be better off saving it or donating it. I know that I personally get almost offended sometimes when I see the sheer waste that goes on on some fashion blogs and I've often thought about asking them why they feel the need to buy/wear/spend on some much frivolous things. But thank you for your comment, it's very nice to know that people like "reading" my blog rather than just scrolling through the pictures.

      At least you got to keep a third of that money spent and you're happy with your wardrobe - I would say that's money well spent! And you probably won't be spending as much in the future because you know what works for you. It's strange how "fantasy" purchases can seem to suck you dry - god knows how many pairs of jeans I've purchased while "fantasizing" about the day my hips are small enough to squeeze into them.

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    2. Ahh, wardrobe nirvana... haha!

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  11. @mycatsaymeow I was surprised too at how many white/light shirts I have after taking the photo, it seemed to me that I my palette is usually navy, grey and blacks!

    @lin I'm too much of an obsessive miser, so I try to suppress my guilt about buying clothes by making money off other people. Probably not a very ethical thing :-(

    @Ammu I wonder if it's more that I'm trying to justify it to myself that I am to comments or other people. It's probably a subconscious thing where I feel that if I lay it out in the open, I would feel less bad about accumulating so much crap.

    @Petrichore I actually think you CAN gain weight on your feet - either that or your body weight makes your feet swell. It's very depressing, I have a terrible time with shoes because my feet are shaped weird and fluctuates in size.

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  12. @Kali That's absolutely true. I have a terrible habit of constantly seeking out the "perfect" piece so I'm always upgrading something even though the item is perfectly okay. I really need to stop that.

    @Maja H On the other end of the spectrum, I don't like having small feet either! They hardly make things in my size and it takes me ages to find someone else with the same shoe size. And in the grand scheme of things, having small feet means you're short and I don't like that :-( Anyway not to go off tangent, I've gotten quite good at figuring out which items will probably be better off on Ebay than Salvation Army though there are crazy moments when I get too lazy, chuck everything in a box and get them to come pick it up.

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  13. Your closet looks so lovely and organized and luminous; mine is absolute mess and definitely more drab and dark. I totally commiserate with your attempt/failure at building the perfect wardrobe. I think the allure of the internet has to do with capitalizing on our imaginations and our image of how we want to look. More times than I can remember I've purchased things based on the idea of owning them (which is consumerism to a T) rather than fitting in with my wardrobe, lifestyle, or budget. (Yes, I'm talking about you super high heels.) That being said, I have the same approach as you - streamlining and selling older things to make room/finance new purchases. This is perhaps my way of rationalizing it to myself, but I, like you, think it makes for more thoughtful purchases. I've avoided buying anything for the last 9 months (mostly due to mommy fatigue), and this has given me a bit more clarity in attempting to attain the perfect wardrobe. I think it's something I should do from time to time, just to break the cycle. I really love the honesty of your blog - it provokes thoughful discussions about a side of fashion that is often ignored! Thanks!

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    1. Do you find yourself spending more shopping for your child instead? I feel that I would be one of those people who would impose that ultimate wardrobe obsession to my kids.

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    2. Funny you ask, because I've been scouring the sales for kids clothes more than for myself! I do like to shop for my son, but he could care less though I think that my affinity for stripes has finally wore off on him. I bought him this really rad Stella McCartney fair isle sweater and he thinks it's too "furry" to wear. What a waste. Plus, boys clothes are so much less fun than girls clothes, unless you're willing to spend an arm and a leg on bonpoint or stella mccartney. I do have a baby girl now, and I'm definitely excited to impose my fashion sense on her. Happy holidays! I look forward to your next post. Btw, did you splurge on the LV Sc bag?

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    3. Congratulations on the baby girl! I think boys are more inclined towards comfort than looks. Can you save that sweater for your little girl?

      I sort of splurged on the LV bag - I had saved up quite a bit and I got some help from my "Mommy" and husband to round out the bill. It kinda made me feel inadequate though. Thirty and still soliciting monetary help... and that's also the reason why I don't have kids yet.

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  14. This is a nice post. I see why people might think fashion is trivial, but I must say I would disagree. It has a lot to do with our sense of class, culture, identity, and so on. I have been through a rather radical wardrobe makeover in the past year and a half since having a baby. Not only did my body completely change (I have a terrible time finding jeans that work for me, for instance, and I am NOT super self-critical), but I turned 40, and moved from New York City after 11 years to Portland Oregon. No two places could require more different clothing. Top it all off with the fact that I went up half a shoe size and spend a lot of my time on the floor with a toddler, and the question of what to wear without devolving into a constant sweatpants aesthetic is actually quite, well, preoccupying. At least for me, since I refuse to give up my love for clothing and putting things together, and the way I feel when I know I have on something that suits me. I have sold many things to a local consignment shop and some stuff on ebay -- a lot of Frye boots especially, which definitely have resale value and which I actually do not find comfortable anymore so have abandoned the brand entirely. I have a limited budget and am SLOWLY rebuilding my wardrobe, pretty much from scratch. I think there are moments when it makes sense to -- and is really fun and liberating -- to reinvent yourself, and fashion gives us a great opportunity to do that. I think it's important, though, to not get too caught up in our throwaway culture, to learn to be happy with what we have, and to buy things secondhand if possible. I end up with a mix. The search for quality and comfort, combined with beauty, takes up more time than I have as it is, so spending lots of time combing through consignment racks isn't realistic for me. That said, I value products that are made locally, where possible, and just do the best I can. Okay this post is turning into a novel - obviously your post was very thought-provoking! Thanks!

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    1. Did you get my reply about the clogs? I have a new post coming about a pair that I recently found from Sandgrens (formerly Ugglebo). I like it better than the No. 6

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    2. Yes! Thanks and sorry not to respond - I will wait for your post then before I purchase! Have been having a terrible time with shoe comfort lately. Am waiting for a pair of White's boots I ordered (do you know them?) which are sort of semi-custom made and I love the style to hopefully I will be happy with them. Also like that they are made in Washington State. Anyway, yes thanks - will look out for your post. Glad you are blogging more and look forward to reading more :)

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    3. PS also, the pic of you sweaters looks so luxurious and cozy - any recommendations these days on good sweaters? The ones at Mill Mercantile look nice. Sort of in the market for a navy or gray grandpa-style cardigan that's thick and good-quality. Wool. Thanks!

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    4. I've included the description and links to the sweaters above. I'm not sure how tall/large you are, but if it came in my size, I would get this in a heartbeat: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com/main/ProductDetail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524446530997&CAWELAID=1590005690&cagpspn=pla&site_refer=GGLPRADS001

      Wait till after Christmas, Saks usually does another designer markdown then!

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    5. That sweater looks amazing -- exactly what I want! Thanks!!!

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  15. hi amanda! good to see everything is slowly coming together and working out for you. it's too bad i don't think much of what i own has much resale value, but your method of resale and purchase is something i really admire and wish was feasible for myself personally. hope all goes well with the PhD and all.

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    1. Joy, I'm sure that when you are my age you would be a far more discerning shopper than I am, it never ceases to amaze me how great you are with your choices in clothing - resale value or no. :-)

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  16. Such an honest post! I am also always tempted by better versions and upgrades so the wardrobe is constantly evolving although overall it looks basically the same. I feel less guilty re-selling stuff on ebay and putting the money into funding new purchases so that is certainly turning into a hobby.

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    1. There's something so gratifying yet disturbingly enabling to be able to sell stuff on Ebay - I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but like you, this may be turning in a hobby for me too (although mine might be slightly more obsessive!)

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