Lowest grade: Fab dress, but...
This Veronique Miljkovitch dress caused Le Duc to whistle in admiration. But the occasion for which I bought it was changed to a more casual venue, so I didn't wear it then, and became rather awed by it.
Lesson: Sometimes the item is perfect but the timing is not. Grade is F—embarrassing. There is zero value in a hangar-dwelling dress.
All is not lost. Come spring, I'll just put it on and go for a walk or something, dammit.
Highest grade: Pile o' pants
During 2013, nearly my entire budget was spent on replacing bottoms, via buying or alteration.
Lolë's "Chamonix 2" pants, $140: cool details in a techno fabric that holds deep black better than denim. They travel perfectly: much less room needed in suitcase than jeans, fast drying, no ironing. Cost per wear, stellar!
I drew censure from an occasional reader for buying five pairs (in assorted colours) of these Land's End cords at a sale price of about $17 each—but I wore them almost daily, and the price for new pants was less than that of extensive alterations.
Some women handle size change by expertly shopping consignment or thrift, but there weren't many pairs in unworn condition, and none met the LE price.
Lesson: Maintaining a stable size is far less costly than significantly changing! I continually thought about whether alteration or replacement was the better option, and also whether I needed to do either.
Surprise buy: Wristwarmers
Susan gave me a felted wool pair last winter, and I left them, along with my Kindle, on a train. (I got the Kindle back, but not the warmers.)
Brora had a special offer, so the replacement is a knit, and finally I can work at my keyboard without stiff hands. A fine yet functional accessory.
Knitters are smiling and thinking, Oh, I can do that!
Lesson: At 65, the comfort criterion of value assumes more importance. Chic shoes that offer good support, a light but cozy coat, a bag that's kind to the body... all worth spending for.
Fixer-upper: New coat needed a tweak
I also needed to replace a coat. My GF Diane called me to say she found the perfect super-warm parka, at a closeout liquidation sale; "Hurry!, she commanded, "there's only one left!"
It had features I wanted: down lining, storm cuffs, generous pockets, washable. The fur trim on the hood was a touch thin, but the price was great, the store was closing for good in a day, and I was not going to haul back there...so I bought it.
When I showed it to Le Duc, he said, "Nice coat, but the trim is kind of ratty." Busted!
I visited Mr. O., the furrier who handled last year's mink coat reno. We chose a supple recycled coyote pelt; in less than a week, he delivered a lush detachable trim for the hood.
Lesson: Though I spent $100 to improve the coat, that trim adds greatly to the pleasure of wearing it daily, during our severe winter.
Total cost was still reasonable, but this is the type of time-pressured decision I hope to avoid. Sometimes it's not so much 'lessons learned' as re-learned.
Following your lead, with thanks
Last year I wanted to spend less overall, and did. (A believer in Suze Orman-style budgeting, I work with a self-set monthly allowance.) My plan for 2014 is to keep it the same, and save at least as much.
In 2013, I was supported by the experience of other writers and friends.
Quite a few bloggers wrote about eschewing sales, duplicates or a killer item that was, even if glorious, just too much.
When they bought, they helped me by explaining their criteria or serving, the odd time, as a cautionary example. We all have our Achilles' Heel!
Even some fashion-industry writers counseled against overbuilding a wardrobe. Visiting friends, though different in personal style, approached shopping with discernment, avoiding the I'm-here-it's-here trap into which I can tumble while traveling.