My fantastic client S. e-mailed me this question:
I can see though that this will be a lifelong process and I will never “done.” There are many, many areas where I can continue to learn and evolve. This leads in part to one of my questions, how do you decide how much to buy? I know this is intensely personal and based on many values, but I would be curious how you and other readers make this choice. I filled some obvious holes to make items wearable that I couldn’t even use. I also wanted to have some dresses and other fun pieces and I bought those, but I wouldn’t say I have any real needs now. Yet, I can see areas where I could fill in with items that are more on trend or would look better to my eye and to be a stylish dresser I think that one needs to continue to shop. Angie at You Look Fab had a piece a few months ago from a reader on setting a budget, which I really enjoyed, but for me this is about more than a budget. How do I weigh among wants, which pieces to buy? How much is enough? How many times does a piece have to be worn to have made it a good investment?
We’ve talked fairly recently about concepts of value and price, which are so personal. My standard for what makes an item a wise spending choice may be totally different from yours. Overall, it comes down to whether an item feels good to wear, gets worn, and brings you pleasure. How often it gets worn can become virtually irrelevant. But S. brings up some fascinating questions about quantity and buying-related decision making. Here’s what I told her:
You are absolutely right that your style will never be “done” evolving. You’ll change, your tastes will change, fashion will change … all of which will impact how you want to dress and look. This older post talks a bit about the question of “how much” when it comes to shopping and fashion. But in terms of weighing wants against needs and determining what to purchase, that is definitely personal. As someone who feels like she is on an eternal quest to procure the perfect, complete wardrobe I can tell you it’s impossible. Kind of a trap, really.
However if you feel like you’ve got everything you need but have a list of wants, consider purchasing one per month, as budget allows. This will allow a few things to happen:
- It will force you to prioritize. The things you want badly right now will come to you quicker, less urgent ones will wait.
- In line with that. if a certain item drops off your list because it’s been in waiting for 4 months, you’ll know it wasn’t really that important.
- One new thing per month will allow you to see if the new things really work with your wardrobe. It’s long enough to see if they work into regular wear organically or not.
Not saying this is a foolproof system, just an idea. Something this restrictive will backfire for some people, while others might feel like it’s ridiculously indulgent to buy a new wardrobe item each month. It’s also tough to manage desired items selling out, seasons changing, and the inevitable lure of sale prices and discounts. Some months it’ll work, others it won’t. Just an ideal to aim for, if you ask me.
Also remember that this is meant to address your wardrobe wants; Things you’re lusting after, but can certainly live without. If your socks all have holes in them or your most-worn blazer got a giant stain on the lapel, that’s different. The idea here is to space out want-based purchases to give them some breathing room, and to make sure that the wanting isn’t a momentary feeling. I also like this system because it can apply regardless of your taste and financial situation. You can thrift a tee shirt once per month, or buy a new designer blouse once per month. Whatever works for your lifestyle and budget.
Are any of you in the same boat as S.? Got all of your needs covered and wondering how to prioritize your wardrobe wants? Do you think a “one per month” system would work for you? Other suggestions to offer? How do you decide what to buy from your wishlist, and when to do it?
Image courtesy J.Crew. I wanted this shirt. It was VERY low on the priority list. Never got bought.