I’ve written before on how to have a good tidy of your wardrobe, taking stock of what you have and what you wear, but I’ve also been thinking lately about what you put into it in the first place. How to you purchase new clothing mindfully, in order to minimise the need for a clear out? We’ve all made impulse purchases during lockdown, I’m sure, as that dopamine hit we’ve been missing in other aspects of our lives was replaced by the excitement of a parcel arriving. But how many of those purchases were truly wise? I have a little mental checklist that I try to refer to every time I think about buying an item of clothing, and so thought I’d share it with you.
Is this piece timeless?
The quickest way for a garment to find its way into the unloved pile at the back of the wardrobe is if it’s extremely fashionable. It’s so easy to get caught up in trends, but this can often mean that a garment quickly looks dated and so won’t be worn for longer than a season. Finding a new home for such pieces might be tricky too, so why not invest in something timeless instead? If there are multiple colour options, choose one which you’ve seen appear in trend guides year after year (e.g. jewel tones are always a safe bet for autumn/winter). If there’s a statement sleeve or collar shape, go for one that you’ve seen in vintage garments so that it’ll continue to be wearable. Or simply go for an indie brand that doesn’t have seasonal collections at all, like Manners London.
What will I wear it with?
Seems like a pretty straightforward question, but how many times do we actually ask ourselves this when making a purchase? It’s important to check that you don’t just have one thing you’ll wear it with either. It’s very frustrating (and also not very sustainable!) if every purchase you make requires additional spending on garments that you can wear it with. For example, if you’re looking at a skirt, think of at least three tops you already own that it’ll go with. I’m sure that maxi looks great, but will you need higher shoes for it to work on you? (Brands like Kemi Telford offer multiple skirt lengths to solve that problem!) Will the amazing jacket actually work with anything in your current wardrobe? Think of the sort of questions a cautious best friend might ask you.
How often will I wear it?
I know this is a dull one, but cost per wear really is a useful thing to look at. If you will wear something often and love it dearly, like a piece from Gowns by Roberta, then it’s definitely worth the expense. If you’re only going to wear it a couple of times a year but will keep it for decades, then it’s worth spending out on. If it’s cheap, but you only plan on wearing it once, think about not only the cost to your wallet but also the cost to the planet. All of those resources, from growing the fibres to sewing the garment, will have been wasted on something you are treating as disposable. Think of where and when you’d wear a piece of clothing before you commit to giving it a home.
Am I willing to return it if it doesn’t fit?
This is something I need to ask myself more often when buying online! And I also need to be more critical of the fit on garments rather than making a snap decision based on one try-on, and then instantly cutting all the labels out. I bought a lovely pencil skirt from the Revival Retro sale last year and was so excited that it fit on the hips that I didn’t properly consider the fit on the waist. Turns out, I must have been quite bloated when I first tried it on because it quickly became obvious that I should have sized down. I’ve found ways to work around this so that I still get wear out of the skirt, but a bit more thought and planning when I first tried it on might have resulted in me exchanging it for something which fit better.
Do you have any questions of your own that you ask yourself before you buy something? Is there anything you’d add to my list?
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