How I buy clothes

I was recently asked about my thought process when adding to my wardrobe. I have a system, but it’s not a stone-clad process…and sometimes emotion driven 😉

Know my needs

Before I even leave the house, I try to have a list of what I need on my phone. I identify what’s missing from my wardrobe when I audit it once a year. I don’t shop often so this list is easy to keep up to date. I find the Colour me beautiful scheme helpful, so I keep a copy of their colour charts on my phone for reference while shopping.

Eat my greens first

In the shop, I aim for the sections with clothing I need first. At the moment that means winter dresses and trousers. This prioritises the limited amount energy I have for shopping. You know how you should never go food shopping whilst hungry? This discipline stops me from distraction from things I don’t need. By the time I’ve looked at the clothes that might fit what I’m looking for, I’ve used up my shopping energy. This helps me reduce frivolous purchases.

Thrift Town

The macro view

Many shops I visit are organised by colour, so I often search by hue first. I look for colours in my palette. In the case of tops, I’m often looking for colours in my palette that I don’t already have in my wardrobe. It’s very easy to pick up the same colours over and over again. I find that’s useful for trousers, not so much for blouses.

As I lift the garment from the hanging rack, I’m inspecting its silhouette. Some things get discarded immediately. I want things that will fit my lifestyle, so long tight skirts are out (they restrict my movement, which I hate). I do generally keep an open mind and I often try something on that I don’t think will work. Shopping second hand introduces you to all sorts of styles. You don’t really know what they’ll look like till you try them on. It’s a chance to play adult dress-ups!

The micro view

Let’s head to the changing room to try these on! Is it my size? Does it fit? I went shopping with a friend once who thought I was overly fond of myself, always looking in the shop mirror! In reality, I was looking at all the points of the dress, checking to see if it fit. It made me realise that I’ve been schooled on how to check for fit, my friend had not.

Next questions: If it needs altering, do I think it’s worth it? I have a mending pile that’s larger than my laundry basket. I’ve learnt that I’m unlikely to alter it myself, but I might consider paying someone to do it for me. Is it in good repair? I tried on a pair of trousers recently that I loved: the fabric and the cut were great! When I tried them on though, they were a little tight and I could see the hip seam was thin. I could reinforce the seam, but the snug fit would likely keep straining the fabric so I didn’t buy them.

I step back (if I can) to take in the whole garment. Do I feel good in it? If I were to walk into a room wearing this, would it match the image of myself I hold in my head? If it passes the test, I take the garment off to do a few final checks: Does it have any blemishes? If yes – do I think I could get them out, or mend the garment in a way that they’re transformed? I also check the care instructions. If it’s dry clean only, forget it.

Making progress by not making a decision

You’d think I’d be pretty certain by then, yeah? Sometimes not! I can find making a decision hard, and not buying anything often seems easier. Recently I tried on and liked two winter dresses…but not enough for one to be an all-out winner. At times like these, I ask the opinion of someone who knows my style well. That’s usually my mum or my husband. In this case, I took a photo on my phone and sent it to my mum. She didn’t love the vintage aesthetic of the first dress, so that tipped it onto the ‘do not buy’ list. We both loved the second dress, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t like the way it sat on my stomach. I’d never wear it with joy, so I didn’t buy it either.

Most times I don’t get what I’m looking for. In my mind, this can be a good thing. It means I have less clutter in my wardrobe, which is less weight on my mind in the long term. I am more willing these days to pay for a piece of clothing I think might work. I’ll test it in my wardrobe for a year and then reassess. On the day I found those winter dresses I did get a few scarves to experiment with so it wasn’t all dull..!

Four scarves in various colours and patterns

Scarves: my quick and easy way to experiment with different patterns and colours!

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2 Responses to How I buy clothes

  1. norma says:

    You are very disciplined. I think it takes that to get a capsule wardrobe.

    • cheliamoose says:

      I suspect you’re probably right there – I’ve found that to get down to a (useable) small number of clothes and keep that target, you do need to be mindful.

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