Shopping Mistakes I’ve Made

A couple of months ago I mentioned how I was cleansing my closet from a bunch of “mistakes” I’d made along the way.  Since then, handfuls of emails and comments have trickled in from you guys asking what those mistakes were because you wanted to avoid them too.

So, today I’m opening up to you all the reasons I wasted a bunch of money on the wrong pieces.  Embarrassing.  (Not really, don’t worry.  But sad, yes.)  In exchange for exposing the skeletons in my closet, I’m asking you to take these to heart so that you don’t waste money either.  Deal?  (And of course, ice cream or boba is always a welcome thank-you gift.)

Before the Mistakes
I started this blog in June 2011 to help me rework my wardrobe and my style.  If you’ve read the Building a Remixable Wardrobe Series you might recall me saying that I was in a “jeans and cute top rut.”  While my friends still thought my jeans-and-top outfits were cute, I had a collection of clothes instead of a workable wardrobe.  I also wanted to look slightly more sophisticated and adult-like but not too over the top for my very casual lifestyle.  (I mean, quite honestly, I wear a jersey dress with a belt and get asked why I’m so “dressed up.”)

In reworking my style I experimented a lot, resulting in a lot of purchasing mistakes.  Through all that experimenting and trial and error I discovered the stuff I talk about in the BARW Series, but I was left with a lot of unworn clothes and a hole in my pocket to show for it!  And who likes wasting money?  Not moi.

So, let’s talk about why I was buying the wrong stuff.

(source – image on left)

Not Specific Enough
First off, I did not have any guides like “How to Shop for Remixable Pieces” when I was making all of these mistakes.  If you use guidelines like that or anything that you’ve come up with on your own to guide you as you shop, then you’re already 10 steps ahead of where I was.  I did have a list of items I was looking for, but that list wasn’t specific enough.  My list looked something like this:

  • black blazer
  • skirt in a bright color
  • chambray top
So, I found a black blazer for $30 that fit well and looked great with jeans.  Hooray!–except when I tried to wear it with anything besides jeans.  The cut of the blazer was such that it was pointy at the bottom and slightly longer, going past my hips, and when I tried to wear it with shorts, skirts, or dresses, the blazer’s pointy edges made the outfit look awkward as it just didn’t work on my frame.  (The same blazer, however, looked great on Hannah’s body shape with skirts and dresses.)  Dissatisfied, I searched for its replacement.  
Nowadays, my list would be very specific, like this:
  • black blazer 
    • rounded edges, hits at mid or upper hip, rounded shoulder pads vs winging out
    • works with skinny jeans, floral a-line skirt (or teal pencil skirt), and floral Target dress (based off of criteria in Shopping for Remixable Pieces from BARW)  
  • a-line skirt in a bright color
    • knee length or just above knee, sits at natural waist
    • can tuck a shirt into, can pair with _____, ______ and/or _______  (The blanks would be either a few different tops I wear often or three staple tops for different occasions, also from Part 2 of BARW.)
  • chambray top 
    • hits mid hip; holds structure under a sweater
    • pairs with floral dress, partially tucked with a belt and jeans, looks good tucked into skirt

This seems picky and anal and might not be your cup of tea.  I just cannot personally stand to see in my closet two very similar items next to each other–one being the bad purchase that I *sort of* like and the second being its replacement.  I cringe at wasted money.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way–be picky on the front end.

Lesson: Make a List!
I do suggest you make some sort of list, even if it’s not as detailed as mine.  This detailed list helps me stick to my guns.  My guess is that many of us can be “emotional shoppers,” where our emotions take over logic.  During those moments when my emotions scream so loudly that all reason and logic has shut down, my list is the sanity check.  

Compromising on Fit, Style, or Quality
Aside from just not having a framework for what I was looking for, sometimes even when an item matched the specific descriptions on my list, I might have compromised in other areas like fit, style, or quality.  I usually compromise for two not-so-good reasons: 1) I give into the lie my emotions are telling me that I “NEED” some piece RIGHT NOW, or 2) price.  Many times I have bought an “almost it” version of what I was looking for rather than a this-is-so-perfectly-amazing-that-I-cannot-wait-to-wear-it version because the former was cheaper.  Sometimes this is okay, depending on what you’re compromising on.  If it actually doesn’t fit well or I don’t love it and am not dying to wear it everyday then that means I will probably never wear it, which means no matter how much cheaper it was than the other version, I just wasted money.  

Also, beware of quality.  Now, I’m not one to preach on clothing quality–I shop at Target, Forever 21, and Old Navy for crying out loud.  But there are some things that are obviously going to fall apart with its thin and frail material, shoddy stitching, or material that seems like it will pill upon washing.  You might have seen the note on Where to Buy My Closet Staples that I’ve had to replace my mustard cardigan because the Target one I bought last season has pilled.  My H&M cardigans were $2 less and have been lasting for 7+ years through lots of wash and wear!

Lesson: Don’t compromise just because you are scratching that itch to buy something or because something is cheaper.  Something can be cheaper without you having to compromise, like how my H&M cardigans were cheaper and better.  And sometimes you might just have to pay a little more for something that you will wear a billion times until forever.

Doesn’t Fit My Lifestyle 
You may have heard me say before that I really wish I worked at an office and could wear pencil skirts everyday.  Kinda like Kate.  (–whose blog you need to visit, btw.  I think her blog is one of the best kept secrets around.)

I bought pencil skirts for the “maybe somedays” and splurged on an extra thick coat for the “what if” days (as if I’d ever need one of those in San Diego!)  Dumb stuff like that.  I sold two pencil skirts that still had tags that I had never worn but bought for the “maybe someday” and because they were only $20 each.  “But it’s such a great deal!”  Well, seeing as how I never wore them for over 2 years, I wasted $40, which is a bad deal.

Hadn’t Defined My Style
The last big thing that caused me to buy the wrong things was that I hadn’t done good research to figure out what style I wanted.  I read style blogs to help me evolve my style, but the ones I was looking at made me try to be someone else and dress cutesy and frilly and eclectic.  Like the kind of person that frolics in fields.  Those people looked super cute, and that’s why I was drawn to their outfits, but that is not who I am.  I’m not one to frolic.  If you are, that’s cool, but I will let you frolic while I make a fast beeline to where I’m going.  I am blunt direct and sarcastic, though you may not be able to hear that through my blog.  (I try not to scare you guys away.)  And in clothing I like straight, clean lines and geometric prints…so why was I buying frilly stuff?!?!

I ended up with clothes that I didn’t want to wear because, while they were cute, they didn’t feel like me.

Research Your Style
My suggestion is to research your style.  Use Pinterest to create a board of looks you like, or clip pictures from magazines and make a look book.  Then, rather than looking at an individual outfit that you pinned and trying to get that exact item to put together that exact look, broaden your scope and look for general commonalities or themes from the photos you’ve collected.  That was the big mistake I made.  I looked at individual pins and rushed to get a shirt that I liked to recreate that outfit, but overall, the shirt didn’t fit my style.  My pinboard has a lot of stripes and blazers and not a whole lot of jewelry, bows, or frilly things.  Analyzing my own pin board helped me to have a better grasp on the style I was going for.

There are a few other mistakes I’ve made while shopping, but those are the big ones.  And this post is getting a lot longer than I expected, so I will stop talking and leave you to curate your pinboards!

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