Buying New Clothes: A Checklist

Is it just me or do trends now seem to take on more and more weight? I’m specifically referring to a style of dress that seems to now be a religion, or a political movement (sadly not an original comparison of mine–wish I could remember where I read that!)–one with its own hashtag, and with a wide variety of acolytes that loudly proclaim this specific dress and brand as the be-all and end-all of “preppy,” “grandmillenial” fashion.

In any case. These trends, as long-running as they seem to be, seem to prompt a number of types of posts: “where to get the look for less!” “here’s a dupe!,” and “you need this!!!!” I’ve written before about my aversion to trends, and goal to buy it for life, but there are times in life when that’s not possible, so I’ve created a sort of checklist to refer back to before I make a purchase. As post-holiday sales ramp up, and as I start my no-shop January, I wanted to share this checklist with you!

  • Do I need it or do I just want it? It’s so easy to get tempted by sales and the rush of excitement from buying something new–which is the habit I’m hoping to break myself of during no-shop January! Sometimes I’ll convince myself I need something when, in actual fact, I just want it. Before buying something new, I try to think of at least three outfits I’ll wear the new item with, or, if it’s a specialty item (like something for a black tie event), at least three events in the next few years where I’ll wear it.
  • Is this something I’ll still be wearing in five years? This is something that’s stopped me from many impulse purchases. My wardrobe skews towards classic pieces–the preponderance of clothes I’ve inherited from the women in my family speaks to that!–and I want any new pieces to also be as easily worn in the future as the pieces I now own. Reminding myself of this goal is the reason why I made it out of the “statement necklace” trend of the early 2010s 😀
  • Is this item practical? This question applies for everything, including items for special events. I don’t like fussy things, things that require special or extraordinary laundering to keep them in shape, and I need to be able to move comfortably and easily when wearing my clothes, including at black tie events. If it’s not practical, it has to be a no.
  • How long have I wanted this item? This is another big question for me. While I try not to restrict myself in terms of price (either lower-end or higher-end items), most good-quality pieces are on the higher end of the price spectrum. This means I spend a lot of time saving up for pieces, or searching for them on resale sites like Poshmark or TheRealReal. Sometimes the wait has been so long I realize that I don’t really need what I’ve been searching for after all; other times, it’s a relief when I find the right thing, and a joy when I’ve finally received it. Those are the best moments, and the pieces I cherish the most!
  • Will I wear it, or will it just sit in my closet? This is the last item on this checklist, and one that I’ve added since the advent of the pandemic. With a fairly homebound existence now due to covid and being very cautious, I want to make sure any new purchases I make are ones that I will wear now and not at some imagined post-covid future which may or may not (but hopefully will!) happen.

Do you have a mental checklist you run down before you purchase something new? If so, I’d love to hear what’s on yours!

8 thoughts on “Buying New Clothes: A Checklist

  1. This is such a great post! I completely agree with your take on Instagram trends. There is one particular dress style that I’m so tired of seeing and it reminds me of the thing I ask myself when purchasing new clothes, which is will the piece truly be flattering on me. I also ask how much tailoring would be required for a perfect fit, since that’s an extra expense on top of the item purchase.

    1. HA I know which dress you are talking about and completely agree. Is that dress flattering on anyone if you’re not super pregnant? And great point re: tailoring! Ann Mashburn offered (maybe still does?) complimentary tailoring in-house, which was huge for me!

  2. The dress style that shall not be named, ha!

    This list is fantastic. I need to be better about asking myself these questions when shopping vintage/preowned. It’s so easy to think, “this is the only one available right now, I NEED it and I have to buy it now or I’ll miss out!” when I really don’t need the item, or I just need to wait for the version of the item (better pattern, cut, color, condition, etc.) that I really do want.

    1. I love how we all know exactly what dress style it is, too 🙂

      Yes! I find this list super helpful when searching for vintage pieces because of the scarcity factor, as you mentioned. It’s so easy to get caught up in that, when in fact, if it’s meant to be, you’ll find the item you want!

  3. Thank you for this thoughtful post – things I need to think about before purchasing anything as I’m a sucker for a good deal, even on The Real Real and Poshmark. I end up reselling or consigning many pieces because they go unworn in my closet, and like you, I tend to gravitate towards classic pieces (Ann Mashburn, Ralph Lauren) which I wear over and over again. Tailoring is expensive too, and many times I’ve tried to tailor something to see if I wear it, and it still sits in my closet – something to think about before taking straight to the tailor!

    1. This was as much for my benefit as anything else! It’s helpful to have written down to refer back to. It’s so hard to remember that a good deal isn’t actually saving you money if you don’t need it and won’t wear it, as my friend Nan reminded me recently! Yes, tailoring is EXPENSIVE. It’s great to have a piece you love fit you perfectly, but sadly, a great tailor isn’t often able to be a miracle worker, unless they take the entire piece apart and reassemble it–and that’s expensive, time-consuming, and not really able to be done with many new clothes nowadays!

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