Tracking clothing spending: '09 report card

Sale Alert: Eric Bompard's cashmeres and silk-cashmere blends are 30% off from today through Feb. 9, 2010. Shop early for best selection. International shipping.

or the first time in over 40 years of buying my own clothes, I tracked my spending over '09, as part of a bigger financial analysis.

Overall grade: D for Dismal

Each month, I listed purchases, and recorded original vs actual price. That was the easy part. Over the holidays, I assessed the stars and dogs. My ratio of good picks, by which I mean stuff I actually wore with pleasure to ho-hum (or even unworn) items was 60-40, a lousy ratio for someone who writes a style blog.

Duchesse hangs her red head, cheeks to match.

How I blew it

In a word, sales, mostly at department stores, where I bought too many cookie cutter tees and basic pants.

I sometimes compounded the mistake by buying the
wrong style. I know I don't suit boxy, unstructured jackets, but bought one anyway– for the fabric. For eleven months, that jacket has hung immobile as a garden gnome in my closet.

And fin
ally (I'm embarrassed to say) I tried to go down a notch to save money. A Talbot's cashmere, less than half the price of my usual brand (Eric Bompard), neither lush nor interesting, languishes in a drawer.

Not all bad news: A for Accessories

(scarves, jewelry, shoes, sunglasses) and functional gear (gym/yoga) were spot-on. If I could transfer my eye from this category to clothing, I'd be thrilled. Maybe my mojo only works with stuff that doesn't need to fit?

Shown, Furisode kimono silk showl, reproduction of Edo period fabric, $135 from Art Institute Shop.

Repent and reform

In 2010 all will be different, really it will. My strategies to shift the ratio of delights to disasters to at least 80-20:

1. Fewer and finer
I'm going to wait till my kitty can handle something like this luscious Max Mara wrap coat, baby, rather than a lesser number. I'm good at saving for a goal, so the squirreling-away is sort of fun.

2. Pass by the duplicates and back-ups
How many pairs of black pants do I need? Not nine, even if two are at the cleaner's.

3. Repeat
and relax
When I go out, often with the same convivial friends, why not wear a dress several times (even, gasp, in a row), switched up with accessories? No one really cares!

4. Do something else
Sometimes I just felt like getting something new, even when I knew I was gripped by a mood. That's when I'm most susceptible to lacklustre merch. In my most well-behaved months, immersed in a work project, I could barely take time to buy lunch, let alone a sweater.

5. Buy basics online
If I order my usual, time-tested lingerie from Bare Necessities, I'm not dropping by the shoe department because I "only bought a bra".

Of course perfection is unattainable; I'll leave room for occasional two-digit mistakes. But let's hope I can avoid half-a-grand gaffes.

Do you have style resolutions? I can use some company!


Susan B said…
I'm with you!

At this point, my wadrobe is well-stocked for any situation I'll actually encounter. (I always panic over dressy functions, then end up wearing my black trousers and a nice sweater with one or two pieces of sparkly bijoux and feel perfectly appropriate! No black tie events in my life.) I did just buy some socks and underwear, but those truly did need replacing.

(I might see if Bompard has my lace scarves on sale, though. The one I bought this last trip I've worn *constantly!*)
La Loca said…
Tell it! I tracked my own clothing spending this year, and found that I fell into the same "traps."

My resolutions are simliar to yours, so I'll be very interested to hear about how it's going for you!
Frugal Scholar said…
What you need is a clone! Another Duchesse to shop with--who will say yes to the good, no to the bad. Do you have a friend who would do?

As for cashmere: I have some Harrods sweaters that cost my parents 100 pounds. These are around 30 years old and are fab. This was pre-China opening. I'm sure your French cashmere is of that level. I am also sure that Talbots, Garnet Hill et al are not.
diverchic said…
The notion of keeping track of money and budgeting terrifies me. I like your idea of grading your purchases for the year. A real reality check. My motto for sales is:
"If I didn't want it at full price, why would I want it at half price?"
Sevenbeads said…
I've never done this tracking the expenses of clothing. What a great idea to evaluate what was worth it and what was not. This is fine time to start.
materfamilias said…
Without digging out my MC statements, I can do this exercise (tracking clothing spending) in my head and see that I make some of the same errors as you do -- shopping for entertainment, just for something to do, I buy close-to-duplicates in categories I already have covered. I'm quite sure I could dress as well as I need to for any occasion in the next year without any new shopping. If only I could resist . . .
LaurieAnn said…
Duchesse: I heartily applaud your resolution to save for a Max Mara coat. Having had mine since late November I've worn it many times, each time with great pleasure. The Land's End coat I purchased for one-tenth the price, I've worn only once.

Last year I made the same vow about black pants. Really I don't need more than three pair (I have seven).

One resolution I have added this year is to purchase only items with excellent fit. Fit is a problem for me as I'm short and round. I tend to buy things thinking "it's not perfect but the best I'll find." Banish that thought in 2010! From now on I'm waiting for items which fit just as I want them to (or can be easily tailored that way).

And always, quality fabrics are worth the search, savings and expense.

BTW, do you know if Eric Bompard ships to the U.S.? I'd love to try some of these highly recommended pieces.
Anonymous said…
I think these are excellent ways to track your clothing dollars. I never thought of doing such a detailed analysis but I think it's a great idea.

I love that MaxMara coat. I have a more casual style I inherited from my mother and it's about 25 years old and still looks brand new. (I can't imagine where she got the money for it, but she was determined when she wanted something every badly. I do remember for years that she wore a rather ugly coat, so I think she was biding her time, saving up for the coat.)

CompassRose said…
I'm going to be doing the tracking this year. I spent a LOT on clothing this year, and somehow my thinking shifted so that "acceptable small purchase" moved from a simple $19 basic t-shirt to wear under stuff, up to a pair of shoes on sale for over a hundred dollars, which I KNEW would be only for occasional wear.

The capper, though, was a Christmas-for-me expense, online, on a vest from Vancouver design company Mono. Yes, it's beautifully made. Yes, it was "on sale" for $169 with free shipping. And I am SO disappointed in it, because it isn't what I thought, and it's not going to suit me whatsoever... so it languishes, in my closet, in its artsy packaging. Seriously, what on earth was I thinking? And what am I going to do with the stupid thing now?

This has to stop, and also, my credit card is sad. Enough of the impulse purchases. If it's something I really want, it'll still be there later.
greying pixie said…
My new year's style resolution is to wear all my clothes (basics and occasionwear) until they are threadbare. This means that I'm not going anywhere near the sales this winter. Instead I'm saving all my money to revamp the interior of my house. For the price of a Maxmara coat (sale price) I can put up some shelves, and recarpet the stairs and generally give my surroundings a much needed lift.

Duchesse, why not show us the jacket you bought and have never worn? It would be great to offer some ideas and advice regarding how you might get some use out of it.

Happy New Year to you!
greying pixie said…
Re: Maxmara coats - I've had mine for about six years and it's still going strong. After five years of wear, last year I cut six inches off the length and changed it to a single breasted style, so it now feels like a new coat.

They are definitely expensive even in the sale, but are worth every penny as their styles are so beautiful - I would say classic, but I don't think they are actually classic in a Queenie sort of way, more stylish than classic.
Vildy said…
I don't own any Max Mara but I consistently find them the most or only worthwhile looking coats. It'll look grand on you.

I'm curious about the boxy jacket with the wonderful fabric. I don't know your shape but I always think of tall-looking women with strong opinions as looking regal! Couldn't this jacket be tailored for 1)nipped in waist 2)empire waist 3)shorter length 4)bolero 5) vest 6)collarless cardigan style?
My husband calls me a re-manufacturer.
I am with you on #'s 1-4 but #5 doesn't work for me, I am a dinosaur! And I am hard to fit so I need to try things on.
I also keep my recepits for my annual purchases of clothing. I started this when a garment fell apart and I wanted to return it for a replacement and the clerk bluntly told me, "no recepit no exchange" even though the label was clearly that from the store.

Max Mara coat now that sounds like a little piece of heaven...I'd be saving up too!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: EB scarves are terrific, the perfect light warmth.

Jane: Am repeating the exercise for '10 and hope you are too.

Frugal: I don't enjoy shopping with friends but the right friend could perhaps deter, not enable me.

diverchic: Yes, and how often have we worn those black cocktail dresses? LOL!

What a Splurge: Bet you will have a few ahas.

materfamilias: Seeing it on a ledger was... sobering. But shopping is fun, at least some of the time. And I had conveniently forgot about some things.

LaurieAnn: You bet Bompard ships to the US- they ship anywhere. Very good service. Check measurements for each piece on web site. I've always found Land;'s End coats serviceable, not uplifting. Glad to hear you are loving that MM coat!

Christine: Easy, I just used an old notebook, and plan to keep doing this. Am inspired by your mother.

CompassRose: Oh no, they don't allow returns, or even credit? Give to a friend? Sell on Craigslist?

GP: I might show it, but it is black, the interest is in a matlassé fabric, and I have a deep suspicion of restyling clothing, bore of expensive errors. Do not want to throw good money after bad.
But then- when you describe how you restyled your coat, sounds great. However you have a lot of skill and training.

Vildy: Jacket is a collarless cardigan (wider than chanel style but that's the general cut). I need shape which may not be able to be put into the jacket. IMO it should go to a tall, small-breasted woman with enough definite shoulder to carry its boxiness. Oh! That's the figure I used to have 25 years ago.

Hostess of the Humble: Terrible service attitude. Let's escalate that to the top! Or name names. Bet you don't shop there anymore.
Duchesse said…
GP: Oh, I meant to write "borne of expensive errors" but it is probably "bore" too, as I have gone on and on to Le Duc about what the tailors did to a very expensive blazer.
Anonymous said…
Funny, I’ve been doing this since mid-2005… I know - I'm a list-geek! So far I’ve learned: I spent way too much money ;-)
However because I review these files often (MS-Excel is practical) it also helped me to:
Stop buying multiples, better plan my next purchases (to complete outfits), refine my style (found out where are the gems and pursue in this line), and better see where are MY "basics".
Also reviewing these lists always open new ideas for outfits and as such each year the list becomes shorter and contains more "me" things... So courage!
Duchesse said…
Anonymous @ 2:25: You're in the master class! Thanks for the details and encouragement.
mette said…
Having read your post today, I feel the need to dig a hole and hide away. I too have made BIG mistakes. Bought clothes and passed them straight to my daughters or sold them onwards for almost nothing. And I have a very expensive taste. So what could be done? I´ll try to arrange something else to do for my spare time. I´ll stop buying online. I´ll think twice before I pull the price tags off. Per moment, I have a very empty closet and that´s the way I want it to stay .
greying pixie said…
Well, keep it as a posting for when you are low on ideas. I wasn't thinking of restyling the jacket; more giving an opinion on what you might wear with it to make it more appropriate for you. On the other hand, if it's just the fabric that you like, perhaps a cushion cover beckons!
Tricia said…
We're on the same wavelength today!

It's only taken me 52 years, but I look forward to putting my new-found shoppingg savvy (i.e. impulse buying/great deals/outright mistakes) to good use in 2010.
Kristine said…
Duchess, Don't be too hard on yourself. You still have my ratio beat! I'm so impressed with your tracking of spending. That's something I'm working on this year, though not quite to your degree. I too often by items that are cheap (yard sales, 2nd hand shops, etc.) that don't quite do the job. I am working on making better choices in that arena too.
Lulu said…
I agree, quality over quantity but sometimes those sales just suck you right in. There are a few things in my closet that don't see the light of day. I know I bought them because it was a great deal and I probably had a coupon. My goal in all aspects of my life is to be "well edited". Knowing I have what I need leaves room for splurges without feeling guilty. If my wardrobe is missing something I put it on the list. It keeps me focused. Saving up for one quality item is the way to go.
multiples aren't necessarily a bad thing, if you've found a garment or style that suits you perfectly. Especially if you are hard to fit.

I think there are a lot things worse than too many black trousers. Not exactly ghastly mistakes.

Duchesse, why don't you wear the Talbot's cachmere around the house? At least it is warm and not horribly ugly. And although not as good quality as the Eric Bompard (which, like Max Mara, I love but will probably never be able to afford) it will last longer to cheaper stuff.
Anonymous said…
Aehhh, don't beat yourself up, Duchesse. I give myself an A up til Christmas, then a D from New Year's, and now I'm going to an F as soon as I finish this comment as I am hopping over to Bompard to get that mariniere sweater. I have to have this look, with espadrilles and white capris. Lots of pearls, sporty glasses and watch.
Anonymous said…
As a size 16, former size 6, I have to stop buying clothes simply because they fit me. When I was slim, so many elegant clothes fit me that I felt I could be picky whereas at this size, when i find something that isn't a mumu and actually comes in a 16, I scoop it up quickly and often "repent at leisure".

And, from one size 16 tall woman to another, are there many EB sweaters that would fit someone of my size? Or must I stay with the scarves?ine
Vix said…
Hey, you've mastered two categories (accessories and functional). Just bring those skills to all the others and you'll be set!

I spent a lot of time assessing what I needed this year (in terms of what needed replacement) and what I wanted (in terms of color and type of item).

That helped.

Trying to minimize the time I spent in stores or online "just looking" helped too. My willpower waxes and wanes, so I aim to window shop when I'm not feeling deprived or in need of self-comfort.

While I'm picky about fit/function and impulse buys usually work for me, they really derail my ability to buy whatever I've identified as a true being more disciplined is definitely a goal for me this year.
Mmm,interesting. Your clothing mistakes were Basics (supporting acts) and your accessories are Heroes - I think that tells you something!

You are right, your friends don't care if you are wearing the same thing, they care about seeing you.

I know what you mean about loving the better quality. The older I get, the more I want the higher quality garment, rather than just the thrill of the new for the sake of it. I love the high quality garment for much longer I notice too!
OH, and don't feel too bad about the black pants, I once went through a wardrobe and discovered 30 pairs of pants, 20 in black, the other ten in shades of dark brown and deep olive.

Who can wear them all?
Duchesse said…
metscan: If only I had daughters to pass them onto, I'd enjoy an edited closet too.

GP: A cashmere shell will work, but I think it's just that I've bought too many black jackets and sweaters.

Tricia: Yes, and I like your blog!

Kristine: Oh dear, misery loves company- thanks!

Karen: I'm envious, it is S/O in my size. Love your ideas for styling it.

Anonymous @ 11:34: That is exactly my situation, *grateful* if something fits so I buy it. I mean, bought it.

Lots of EB will fit you, measure one of your sweaters and compare against the EB measurements (length and width are given for every garment on the site, isn't that great?) I wear either XL or XXL.

Vix: That is the missing part: assessing what I need, thanks!

Imogen: Like you I'm ever more interested in quality which is why one especially wonderful consignment shop has been very useful to me.

And 30 pairs of pants, LOL! Reminds me of when I had twins and joined a club for parents of twins. One guest speaker was a woman with triplets, and we felt much better.
sallymandy said…
What a good idea, Duchesse! I applaud you for doing this. I do not have style resolutions for 2010, but if I did they might focus on quality, unique shoes as a way to individualize my practical outfits. These days my creative energies have diverted into my business and I find myself wearing the same few outfits day in and day out!
rb said…
Your points seem really good and I'm going to try to follow them.

For me, I am promising myself to keep my closet strictly organized so I won't forget what I have and so that I will have a better chance of wearing all the pieces more often.

Last year I made a resolution that I wouldn't buy anything that didn't make me say "i LOVE it", no matter how on sale or basic it was, and that one has worked out pretty well.
Duchesse said…
rb: My flaw is thinking love but devolving to like once bought. Thanks for the tip re closet organization, it's well worth remembering.

sallymandy: Many designers do this- a 'uniform' that allows their creative talents to be spent on their designs.
Glennis said…
Found your blog while researching the passages couverts of Paris. And I've stayed to read more.

These are great resolutions, and they reflect the lessons I've learned....lessons learned intellectually but not emotionally, sadly!! I, too, cannot resist sales, even if the garment is unsuitable.

I have been able to adopt number 5 - buy basics online. Shoes, socks, lingerie. I love Bare Necessities!

As for accessories - I am a good accessories shopper - too good. I buy too much. I love them all, but I have too much, so over 2009 I've learned to stop.

I'm looking forward to your suggestions for 2010.
Duchesse said…
g: Bought three exquisite wraps last year, so far unworn. Did not count them in the 'dogs' category- will wear! Like you. can buy accessories endlessly. S much easier when items does not have to fit.

Thanks for reading, welcome!

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