Monday, February 19, 2018

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy

polka dot top, plaid skirt, red coat, tights and brogues with blue wall

How often have you bought something and worn it only a time or two if at all? How often do you donate or throw out clothes from your closet? Wouldn't it be great if you could repurpose all the money you spend regularly on things you don't really want or need for better pieces in your wardrobe that you'll love to wear time and time again? This is something I've been working on for myself and I've seen a lot of benefits over the past year. I buy less, but when I see something I really love, I don't stress about buying it on the spot. I have fewer pieces now, but there's so much less clutter in my wardrobe and my bedroom. I can afford to spend a little more since I'm buy less often, so I can choose quality items or buy something when I want it rather than being disappointed when it goes on sale and my size is no longer available.

These are the 10 questions I ask myself before I buy something. Sometimes I ask all 10 while other times I only ask one or two. Sometimes I get an answer that isn't particularly practical and yet I buy the item anyway, but at least when I've done that, I've done it intentionally rather than impulsively. If these tips have helped me have less clutter and more enjoyment of my clothes, I thought perhaps they might help some of you too, so here goes...

Closet with clothes on wooden hangers

1. Is this timeless or trendy?
To me, this is the most important question, not because I'm one of those people who doesn't buy trendy items, but because it helps to narrow down the decision making process. I try to keep my wardrobe at least 80% timeless if not more because those items always work. However it's fun to embrace some trends now and then, but knowing the difference puts things into perspective. If I only want %20 of my wardrobe to be trendy, then I only want to spend %20 of my budget or thereabouts on trendy items. For you these percentages might be different and that's totally cool, but being able to identify what you will want to wear season after season vs what you may only wear for 3 months will help you decide if you really want something or not and how much dough you're happy to spend on it.

2. Where and when will I wear it?
This is a point that I've often really neglected. I've bought dresses because they were beautiful and on sale only to find that by the time I had somewhere to wear them they either no longer fit properly or were out of style. I've also been guilty of buying clothes that I can really only wear for specific occasions, so they take up valuable real estate in my wardrobe, but they aren't very useful. I now make an effort to buy things that I know I can wear for multiple occasions. This gets particularly tricky around the Christmas holiday party season. Buying that beautiful, beaded dress that you know you can only wear once or twice a year is a perfectly acceptable decision if you're happy to store it. I now look for occasion dresses that I can style differently for more casual purposes. Alternatively, I'll go for the more formal choice, but only when it's timeless so I know I can wear it again year after year. If I can't see myself wearing it in 10 years, I leave it unless I'm just completely in love with it. It doesn't matter if I don't wear it for 10 years - what matters is that I'm thinking about it and not buying something on a whim, spending my money on something I'm not actually invested in. If I'm buying a top, I think about how much I'll want to wear it and the multiple pieces I can style it with. Can I wear it with jeans and a skirt or slacks? Can I accessorise it with jewellery for more formal occasions, but then wear it with Converse and less bling for casual days? This question helps me to buy pieces that make life easier by being useful for multiple occasions.

3. Does it go with other things in my wardrobe?
Buying that sweater that only goes with one pair of trousers in your wardrobe can be a mistake. What happens when those trousers get a stain on them or or get shrunk in the wash? You'll have a sweater that you can't wear with anything else. Before you buy a dress that only matches one pair of shoes you own, consider how much you'll wear it. Will you be able to travel with it if you don't want to pack those shoes? How will you wear it if something happens to those shoes? Also consider your personal colour palette. Will that navy dress be useful to you if most of your other clothes are black? All your cardigans, jackets and shoes are black... Are you making a conscious decision to style up black and navy together? If so, go for it! If not, you may be buying a navy dress that you'll never wear. These are things to think about and it will help you decide not to buy something impractical if you're on the fence.

Black lace dress and pink flamingo coffee cup with tiffany blue door

4. Does this suit my personal style?
This is a tough one, especially if you aren't clear on what your personal style actually is. To make this a little easier, refer to number 3 and think to yourself... "Does this look like the other things in my closet or is this an impulsive purchase?" Again, consider your personal colour palette, but also the cuts and shapes you typically wear. Buying that peplum skirt you saw at the mall might seem like a fun idea at the time, but it's only a great purchase if you're actually willing to wear it in the end.

5. Is the item difficult to care for and if so, am I okay with that?
If you can't remember the last time you went to a dry cleaners or picked up an iron, consider these things before you buy. If it's fur, leather, beaded or another fabric that requires specialty cleaning, are you happy with the expense and effort that requires? Laundry can also be a good indicator... If you typically sort your laundry by colour, you'll never wash that hot pink sweater if it doesn't fit in with other loads that are piling up in your laundry basket. Furthermore, does it need to be hand washed or line dried? Are these things you're willing to do? If you aren't prepared to spend time and money on appropriate care for an item of clothing, it's pretty likely that you're not going to get much wear out of it.

navy coat, grey sweater, skinny jeans and bauble hat with white wall

6. Is it practical and useful for my lifestyle and if not, am I okay with that?
I think we all make this mistake fairly regularly. We shop aspirationally. We want to be fit, so we buy loads of expensive gym clothes that we don't need cause we don't work out. Or we want to be fabulous, so we splurge on those four inch heels that we can't even walk in, much less wear on cobblestone sidewalks chasing the kids around. They say you should dress for the life you want and while I'm all for that on some level, I think it's also important to consider the life you have. If you can't walk in heels, it's probably best not to buy too many pairs of them. If you never change out of your activewear, don't clog up your closet with suits and pencil skirts. It's okay to be true to who you are and it's absolutely okay to dress for what you need to do in your day. You can still be fabulous without the four inch heels. You can still look chic in the right pair of yoga pants. It's all about how you approach it and you'll have more of the right pieces to work with if you stop buying things you'll never wear.

7. Is it worth the price in terms of quality, how long I expect it to last and cost per wear?
Fast fashion has pretty much taken over the high street, but how much money are you really saving? Of course some brands nail it - I've got some pieces from H&M I've had for over 5 years that still look great. That said, before you spend your money, think about how many times you're going to wear it or how long you'd want it to last. You'll be better off spending £300 on a coat that will last you 5 years than spending £150 on one that won't last the winter. If you're only going to wear it once, your cost per wear is £300. If you wear it every day of Autumn & Winter for 10 years, it's pennies. Choose wisely.

8. Would I recommend item this to a friend?
Chances are if you wouldn't suggest that your friend wear something, you're not going to want to wear it for long either. This rule doesn't always hold true for everything - we are all different shapes, sizes and have different features, but in terms of quality or style, would you tell someone you know who looks similar to you to shop at that store or buy that dress? If the answer is no, it's probably just a whim and you should move on.

Gingham top, striped bag and red shoes

9. Can I see myself wearing it regularly?
If you don't foresee yourself wearing an item regularly, then ask yourself why not. Does it matter? Do you want to keep it in your valuable closet space if you're not getting much use out it? Would you not wear it often because it's not versatile or not really your style? Is there a better option?

10. Does it fit properly and is it flattering?
This is super important as well. How many times have we bought things that just don't fit right or don't flatter us? You might be happy to buy it now because it's on sale, but will you want to wear it when you're getting dressed for work at 6am or going out on a date? The answer is probably no. If you're committed to having it tailored, then make sure you do so... Otherwise, you're just giving someone money to take home something that doesn't look good on you and you deserve better than that.
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