Clothing costs: 2010 report card

Sale alert: Eric Bompard's cashmere and silk/cashmere pieces go on sale January 12. Brora's sale begins the same day.

As longtime readers might recall, last January I vowed to spend more wisely on clothes. I analyzed each purchase for perceived value: worn often and enjoyed? Or was it the ever-hopeful understudy, never called to perform?

In '09, a ghastly 50% of my spending was unproductive, because of duplicates and pedestrian sale stuff. I graded myself D, and resolved to do better in 2010.

And I did. Over 2010, only 15% was judged unproductive. (Total spent was the same.) So much better, mostly thanks to using a shopping list and not getting my head turned by sales. Grade: B.

For 2011, I'm aiming for an A, reducing unproductive spending to 3% or less.

Here's how:

1. Replace or add, never duplicate.
Obvious, but I still get pulled toward more of what I like; beautiful scarves and shawls were the 15%. Not mistakes, but not worn much.

2.  If I can't see myself wearing it within a week, I won't buy it. When you find something great, you can't wait to rock it, right? 

If not, you're getting a powerful signal from the shopping goddess to let it go. (OK, weather exemption if the perfect summer dress surprises you in March, but you get the idea.) (Shown, from Comrags spring 2011 Look Book, Poppy dress in vintage crepe.)

3. Hide the money!
Each month, I'll move any surplus from my chequing account into savings. Otherwise, it smolders seductively and I get into a "treat myself" mindset.  
Talbot's v-cardi
4. Keep the closet spare.
The "Express Wardrobe Challenge" reinforced my respect for restraint and the almighty power of accessories.  

Besides essential neutrals, I seek cross-season colour, like this blue that lifts darks in December, greets spring in April. (Shown, Talbot's lambswool cropped-v cardi in Bayou Blue; price, $69.50.)

5. Spend consciously.

Bloggers wonder whether the recession is over and ask if they "should start spending again". I prefer more fundamental question: What does this specific act of spending do for me?  Is my urge to buy really about power, mood or self-soothing? Giving or saving can offer more.

To develop the 2011 shopping list, I'll ask the 50+ Question: Is what I have out of date?

More about that matter on Thursday.

As we age–especially those of us no longer in the workplace–we tend to wear things gently, and they last and last and last and then one day we look like certain elders, properly and carefully dressed, but in a time-warp.

Lauren Hutton, back at J. Crew and just turned 68, reminds me that classic is current if the tailoring's top-notch, the proportions perfect and the accessories fresh. 


Rebecca said…
Oh - how inspiring this post is! Concise & specific. I especially value the last paragraph for my particular stage of life. Thanks, Duchesse!
Deja Pseu said…
#1 is always my biggest spending mistake. I've vowed this year to STOP IT.

#2 is a bit more difficult, as our seasons here don't always correspond to what's on the racks. I just came across something I loved (and was on my list!) on the deep discount rack yesterday, that probably won't see much daylight until the weather warms up, but WILL be worn.

#4 has helped me greatly to know what I have and to work it harder.

Great tips here, Duchesse!
I try to adhere to these is great to see them in black and white.

Lauren Hutton really looks fabulous and 68...she inspires me!

If you buy a cashmere treat please show us!
frugalscholar said…
This is very impressive. this might be nosy, but I'm curious about the QUANTITY of items: did you buy the same number but choose better or did you buy fewer and choose better? (I suppose it's also possible to spend less and choose better.)
Mardel said…
Great post.

#1 has always been a problem for me, but I mostly managed to avoid it in 2010 with no small thanks to your input. The only thing I duplicated were garden jeans, which I limited to two pairs, both in pretty much heavy use. And I managed to buy new turtlenecks that fit, but only 1 of each color (black, white, gray) and have found I am perfectly happy with them and no longer live in turtlenecks, which is also a very good thing. Thank you Duchesse!

#2 is harder for me, but I have managed to do it this fall, and remind myself that I am buying for NOW not for eternity.

You were a fabulous role model in #4 and I followed along but did not overtly participate although I did in a way because I only had a few pieces in my closet that fit at that time. It reminded me how little I need and how important it is to have only things I love wearing.

And I'm looking forward to out of date as it seems to be an ongoing struggle.
LPC said…
I'm intrigued by the concept of cross-season color.
NancyDaQ said…
Great post! I'm definitely working on doing less of what I consider "shopping as entertainment."

I'm reluctant to purchase much or unload what's in my closet until I'm re-employed. It'll be crowded for a while yet, but I'm still gradually culling.
I don't think some duplication is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it is hard to find things that fit, or work properly for us.

Though I wish local designer Fluide (Genre, on avenue Mont-Royal) would make their gored travel skirt "Tango" in some subtle shades OTHER than black!

Of course, ten identical anything is probably far too many.
Rubiatonta said…
These are all great "data points" for those of us trying to live more meaningfully (even in our closets).

I'd just add the "Is it really me?" question to the mix, especially when considering "adding."

Here's an example: Talbots is showing lots of cute wool jackets and ruffled blouses. I'm sorely tempted, but then I remember that I never, no never, wear jackets in cold weather (in warm weather I like them just fine because I don't have to get another layer on top). And I have an ample bosom of the sort that with ruffles on it reminds one of the prow of a Man O' War. Clearly, then, these are looks that Aren't Rubi. No sense spending the money on them.
Demi-pointe said…
I feel a sense of...containment when I wear just what I have and know that I did not get caught in the vortex of buy now, put it away for later, discard it then. Even if items are being stored because one has a "uniform", as Lauren Hutton shows us, that uniform will be tweaked - looser and longer there, higher and tighter there. And we will be able to replicate.
But my containment leaves me - whoosh!!! When I try to find the right, small, and light bag. The one that works. So I buy one. Get it home and use it for a few days. I think, "this works" and buy another or look for a similar. Find, buy, store. No surprise ending here, a month goes by. The bag doesn't really work (or certainly will not in 3 years when I will pull out the stored ones).
Ouch, my achilles!
Duchesse said…
Rebecca: You're welcome! I keep reminding myself.

Pseu: Am curious about what it is!

hostess: I won;t be buying cashemre except maybe gloves- too much to move.

Frugal: Bought less and chose better, and so enjoy less stuff.

Mardel and lagatta; Duplicates are OK when you wear the item again and again, and need a clean one at hand! But I just kept buying black skirts and pants b/c I was grateful to find something that fit.
Duchesse said…
Demi-pointe: Guilty! Just gave away several duplicate bags. When I do that, forget I ever owned them. There is a better place for something than the bottom of a drawer.

Rubi: Yes, certainly part of keeping a spare closet is knowing what works. (No chest ruffles for me either.) A lot of Talbot's looks are styled on very slim women in the ads, and when I see the thing in a large size, not so appealing.
Duchesse said…
LPC: Cross-season colours are usually mid-saturation hues of those that work for you.

Nancy DaQ: Are you thinking re-employment will require a different wardrobe? I'm betting that your business casual things will still be fine, but you may want to sew some new pieces for the fun of it- and you have the skills!
Mardel said…
Duchesse, I agree that duplicates are okay for certain things but I also recognize that in my case duplicate turtlenecks had become a uniform in a not so good way and functioned more like a crutch. It is better not to be in too much of a rut.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: At least you were *wearing* your turtlenecks! My shawls are still in a stack of others, unworn.
Anonymous said…
Methinks, #3 is probably the heart of it!
Kristine said…
Wonderful points! In particular think your #2 would help me a lot.
HB said…
Great example to track efficiency this year. My weakness is shoes that I love but which are not daily wearing for me. Need to eBay a couple pair of expensive (for me) F+B boots that just aren't getting selected.

I've learned, from what makes me feel good and what fits/flatters, that duplicates in basic black or charcoal grey are fine as these are the items I literally wear to threads (trousers, cardigans, t-shirts. My wasteful purchases are jackets, boots, heeled shoes or trendy silhouettes that don't flatter or...and this is funny but true...items that are "high maintenance." I get more wear out of a delicate silk blouse in a saturated color that I can layer with a warmer cami in the winter than a white cotton shirt that I will inevitably stain and then need to treat/hand wash to avoid setting any stains I missed/etc.

Thank you for the prod in the direction of Brora. :-) Speaking of color and accessories, there are a couple nice items on sale. I have taken this opportunity to try one of their cardigans - something I wear year 'round. My last purchases in that category were decent in terms of style (Inhabit) but they tend to pill and don't flatter my not-skinny torso very well. I have nearly worn out a classic cashmere cardi I purchased about 15 years ago and have been hoping to find another that isn't 'pilly.' Here's hoping. :-)
Tiffany said…
For me, it's #1 with jeans. Too many pairs ... #2 - I often buy out of season online (ie I'm southern hemi, I buy from US & UK), so I get the exemption, right? #3 and 4 aren't issues for me, but I fell victim to #5 yesterday. Slightly blah after a client job, I bought a top without even trying it on (I know, I know) - the colour is gorgeous but the top is not me. It's going back, and I will try on some things I DO need. Sigh.
Duchesse said…
Terri: Depends on how much self-control one has!

Kristine: #2 is my most "original" realization; has served me well.

HB; Excellent point about maintenance- and another reason to buy good cashmere, it washes well- no dry cleaning! Both Brora and Bompard have sales now and plenty of time (here in Canada to wear). Very good quality from both.

Tiffany: Exemptin for sure! At least you can return the top.
materfamilias said…
Such a useful and thoughtful guide. I was surprised to find myself quite willing to bypass shopping on this trip, despite not having been in SF before. I didn't miss it, "filling my eyes" as you so perfectly phrased it, with other visual delights, the only acquisitions being an extra few pages in my notebooks along with some wonderful memories. Having a clear outline like yours will make it even easier to avoid shopping as entertainment.
Just discovered your blog -- divine!

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