2021 Year-End Spending Review: Stars and Dogs

I almost skipped the 2021 review, because who bought anything? Not so fast, honeybunches, turns out I did, in both practical and emotion-driven bursts.

A surprising star

The #1 clothing buy both in terms of price tag and pleasure was the c'vest, aka "long puffer vest" by Coster Copenhagen. Turns out to be a hero piece (remember, it has a leopard-print lining and big brass coin studs) that elevates everyday jeans-and-sweaters. 

The vest was current-looking but not design-strenuous, and warm enough for me from through December. January and February are frigid here, so it's taking a time out, but returns in March.  

Star: Silk velvet top

A purpled-blue and bronzed-green silk velvet top, made by Toronto boutique Motion. I wear it with jeans, but it dresses up with a skirt or trousers. I like the loose but not baggy cut and the elbow-length sleeves. Fabric like this—the dots are woven, not printed, and recessed, like devoré—is hard to find at any price point; it has the odd charm of a Dries van Noten piece. Price, about $CDN 130.

Lesson: It is too easy for me to hunker in genericland; adding some unusual garments breathes life into trusty basics.

Jewellery: Two hits and a miss

Here's a good buy you've already seen: the MPR "Tear" earrings. One reader said she thought, "she's in trouble now", but I am relieved to report after frequent wear I see no bends or breaks; they are ultralight but strong. 

Lesson: I can no longer wear earrings over 10g/pair; lighter is better. (These do not even weigh 1g.) Some of my old favourites are now comfortable only for a few hours.

Woof! A pearl mistake, which I knew I was making...

There's a Chinese pearl dealer on Etsy—Wen Pearls. Out of curiosity, I ordered a pair of 13-14mm grey off-round CFW studs because I wanted to see what $US 10 with free postage would deliver. About what you'd expect: the size is there, the lustre is acceptable on one but on the other, there's a sizeable dull patch toward the bottom, which you can see below—that white blob is not a reflection, it's thin nacre. On the ear, it is definitely visible.

I gave Wen a 1-star review with specific feedback because the listing did not describe this flaw, calling the earrings "AAA" which is an arbitrary rating, as there is no internationally recognized grading standard for CFWs. But come on. My review was not posted on their site. It would have cost me more to return them than they cost, so I donated to a thift.

Lesson: Maybe another pair from the lot would yield one good pearl that would match, but I'm not supporting this business. I got exactly what I thought, but if unaccustomed to shopping online, step away when you see ecstatic reviews for vendors who charge extremely low prices. 

...and a fabulous recovery

You know who has them! This is an astonishing 35mm freshwater keshi from Kojima Pearl that flashes and dances on a glamorous yet earthy ring. The simply-set pearl, 35mm long, shows vivid rose, green, and bronze iridescence even in low light. It was on sale last summer and I decided, it's time. Shown, detail of pearl, and ring on my hand. 

Price, $US 290 on sale. (I often forget the cost once I pay, a useful defence mechanism.)

Lesson: Kojima remains my benchmark for both the beauty of the pearls and integrity of the company—this ring is but one example.

Star: Bookish scarf

From Eric Bompard's January 2021 sale, a quirky silk plaid square scattered with a surrealist selection of  books and gloved hands, a collaboration with French interior designer Vincent Darré—my kind of accessory.  

Lesson: For silk squares, I usually buy 35 in., but the smaller 26 in. is a good indoor size, especially tied cowboy style, filling in a v-neckline. Smaller than this is too tiny for me, but may suit petite women.

Only okay

This Everlane ReNew Channelled Liner jacket was bought on sale early last spring; it did the job for what I needed: a light but warm and washable layer for morning walks. In rain, it's fine with an umbrella. I like the big exterior pockets, and just slightly v'd neckline; I dislike the tape running down the front interior of one placket. But it's just okay, and not a stitch more. (Sale price, about $CDN 130.)

Everlane describe this as a "travel piece" that packs small—but it does not, compared to those light down jackets that roll into a stuff bag.

Lesson: I looked at versions (Lululemon, Van's, Madewell, Lavenham, J. Crew), and wondered whether delight could be squeezed from any. The times foster this kind of overthinking; it's a question of budget and which details you prefer.

The secondhand score

Everything in this collage was worn with pleasure except that black Asian-print skirt, centre. I have no idea why not, but busted myself down a half-grade because even if secondhand, I ought to wear a purchase. The only retail item, the white tee at lower right, is no longer available because the wonderful Aude Le Dubé has pivoted from clothing to books— but her bookstore, DeStiil, is also a treasure.

Overall grade: B 

No regrets except for those cheap studs. It was an odd year; I resisted sweatpants and house slippers but barely touched a good half of my wardrobe. As a result, I was tempted to do a major purge, but these are clothes I enjoy, so I'm keeping them awhile. But no A; an A year means every item was worn regularly.

And you? Any lessons learned, from decisions both good and not so great?



LauraH said…
What a good reminder, I had completely overlooked doing an end of year assessment. Of course now I have to cudgel the brain to remember what I bought:-) Love your comments about forgetting the cost once you pay...how true! It's a good thing though, if I brooded over money spent on duds I'ld get very upset with myself to no point.

Okay so last year I bought three Katrin Leblond jersey print tops which I would score A. Love the colours and patterns and they are perfect for all the in between weather we now have. Also a pair of short waterproof suede La Canadienne boots - also A and on sale! Third purchase was lightweight black pants and waterproof sneakers for a trip to Southeast Asia that got cancelled. No rating since I haven't worn them. That's it. I did buy a bunch of stuff for the house and the garden.

Like you I didn't wear half my clothes last year, maybe we'll have more opportunities in 2022.

I love that silk velvet top, and the fact that it is purpled (I find blue can be harsh).

Some years back I had that kind of skirts, but now find them too ruffly. Are you going to find a home for it, whether among friends or a charity shop?
Duchesse said…
lagatta: No, stays in the closet in anticipation of summer. As I said, " I have no idea why not" it was unworn—I like the print and has a pleasing swish; it is lightweight and handwashable.
Duchesse said…
LauraH: So happy you are enjoying those KL pieces, I am eager for the boutique to reopen.
Jane in London said…
Gosh that ring is a beauty!

I haven't bought much this year, and a lot of my time seems to have been spent getting rid of things from my wardrobe rather than adding to it.

My epic clothes purchase fail for 2021 was definitely the H&M oversized vest that I bought in the winter. I wore it a lot at first, and I liked it, but the yarn wore badly and it was soon no longer fit to be seen in public. Well, you gets what you pays for...

Much more uplifting was my Bompard sweater (first ever purchase from this brand). A camel v neck, which I bought in XL so that I could wear it as a 'sloppy Joe'. It was a steal in the sale, and I wear it with great pleasure.

Other good buys were three identical sleeveless white shirts (again, sale buys) which layer brilliantly under all my sweaters and striped T-shirts.

I also got a pair of black Barbour ankle-height wellies. So good! They are a neat style and, from a distance, look just like normal ankle boots. As a Brit, I really love a nice wellie ;)

I was intrigued to see you mention Lavenham jackets - in the 70s/80s I used to wear the ubiquitous Lavenham jacket by Husky of Tostock (also a Suffolk business). I can't work out whether there's any connection between the two businesses, but the new styles are certainly very interesting.

Jane in London

Duchesse said…
Jane in London: I think I'll buy a Lavenham jacket at some point; the one I was interested in was s/o in my size. Happy to hear you are happy with your EB sweater. Sleeveless shirts with a classic collar, not easy to find! re the vest, at least you know now if the style suits you.
I'm glad that your wearing of that summery skirt is just deferred until warmer weather and people-watching at cafés and the long wavy table at Place Shamrock!
Mardel said…
I've already forgotten what I purchased in 2021! I think an accounting is a good thing though and should think about it for this year.

I did purchase some casual clothes, mostly loose cotton pants, and a top or two, when I realized that my spring and summer were going to be occupied with cancer treatment and I was not likely to sew much; I did sew a couple of things. Most of those garments got heavy wear, are now to big and have been either donated or added to a pile for repurposing, and idea of which I am increasingly enamored. The two most expensive pieces I bought (most were from an online store called marketplaceIndia, but these were not) were the two pieces I did not wear, mostly because between the time I bought them and the time the weather was hot enough for them they were already too large. The fabric is nice though and I hope to redeem them and elevate some of my own self-annoyance. There was a fall purchase that falls into that same category: by the time the weather turned, the garment was unwearable, but it, at least, can be altered.

I also went out, after my hair fell out, and spent roughly $100 on six pairs of cheap large dangly earrings, mostly to see if I would like wearing them. I did enjoy the look; most broke, but that is not a problem because I considered them an experiment that would eventually be tossed. This year I will look for lightweight dangles, so I consider it the purchase a win. There is one pair of those earrings I still wear.

I used to have a sleeveless puffer vest, which is an almost perfect winter coat for much of the season in Knoxville. That also became unflatteringly oversized and has been donated. But I will look for a nice replacement this year.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: Those clothes are not mistakes, they are by and large (pun intended) unavoidable 'side effects'. Repurposing is gaining attention, even designers are doing that with unsold pieces, rather than destroying them. You might enjoy looking at the MPR (Megan Patrice Reilly) site, there are no lighter earrings I've seen, and they are well-made. Thank you for strolling through the Passage, especially in light of all you have been through.

Leslie M said…
Glad to hear you aren’t in trouble. 😉 Love, love, love the ring choice.
I purchased a couple of Pendleton merino wool sweaters and lightweight under shirts to wear to reduce the need to launder. Who knew short sleeve shirts would hit supply chain shortages? A couple of pearls from Kojima rounded out the purchases for the year. Overall, I think your purchases are reasonable and they continue to serve as lessons to us all. Climate change ?? has brought short, intense cold weather and 50 degrees F in between in January. Post menopausal changes, climate and aging challenge my wardrobe to keep up.
Duchesse said…
Leslie M: Oh, I would love to see those pearls! Yes, the supply issue is noticeable and enduring— for me it's my preferred running shoe. Thanks for the point about an underlayer (where climate permits) reducing need to launder.
Venasque said…
I am so sorry that Aude now only sells books, although I'm sure it's a fine store. I have two of those tees and they are among my most worn summer items. It would give me much pleasure if she brought those back.
materfamilias said…
I'm writing up my list today in a journal, just to keep myself honest, and debating whether I'll choose to post it or not. I'm always interested to see yours, though. Not just your great choices (Hurrah for that velvet top and the long vest!!) and for your scrupulous grade-assigning, but for the felicity of phrases such as "current-looking but not design-strenuous." So good!

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