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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Your Signature Style, Finale: Shop Smarter

Smart Shopper: I pay half now, half when dog is gone. Source

We've been following the RealSimple article, Define Your Signature Style. You can find Parts 1-3 here, here and here. We've found our favorite items, analyzed our mistakes, and identified the missing pieces. Today, we Shop Smarter! (Never too late for smarter, right? I didn't marry my dream man till I was 46, so I may be late out of the gate but I get there.)

Here's the article:

Step 4: Shop Smarter

Take your lists of likes, dislikes, and needs and head to the mall. But before opening your wallet, run through this checklist to determine whether a piece will last the long haul. This may seem tedious, but if it prevents pricey mistakes, it’s worth the effort, right? After a while, you’ll automatically ask yourself these questions. The more an item costs, the more seriously you want to consider these factors.

Will it work with your lifestyle?
Where will you wear it? Ideally, this is a place you go every week or month.
Does it coordinate with at least three other pieces in your wardrobe?
Can you wear it year-round? Imagine it with tights, a sweater, or open-toe shoes.
Can you picture yourself wearing it next season? Next year? In five years?
Will the effort of hand washing or dry-cleaning prevent you from wearing it regularly?
Is it good quality?


So I've identified the silhouettes, colors and fabrics that work best for me. I know my shopping blind spots (I think!). I want to shop smarter, have fewer wardrobe mistakes, and enjoy every piece in the closet. This last step is about the financial aspect of wardrobing.

Budget-wise, the key question for me is not "can I afford it?"; usually I can because I shop in reasonable marketplaces. It's more "Is it worth it?".  I don't mind experimenting with fun pieces for a few dollars, then re-cycling them to family or thrifts. Most skirts, accessories and casual tops fall into this category.

But for Big Stuff, like shoes, boots, signature dresses, "real" jewelry, good leather bags, I try to answer the above questions. My wardrobe needed a classic cashmere cardigan, so I went through the steps and finally bought one like this:

Mine's black but similar style. Pockets! This one's from Bloomie's.
Outfit idea too: Cardigan over lacy dress!

This sweater is a big yes to the questions above (I can wear it year-round in my icy office). I could have bought several lesser-quality cardigans, and that's what I did for decades. I would like but not love them, and they would often pill or pull or fade. So I made, for moi, a Shop Smarter decision.

What say you all? Do you have any interest in investment-dressing, cost-per-wear, Shop-Smarter philosophies? Do you segregate your purchases, like I do, into Small Stuff and Big Stuff?

Love to hear from you about this. And I hope you've enjoyed this series, just for the pure fun of playing in our closets!


  1. Patti!!  This has been such a fun and helpful series!!  Thanks for your dedication to our fashion/closet/wallet!  


  2. Argh, I did my post and link to you too early, Patti, and missed the final instalment!
    I don't spend much on anything, if I can help it, not compared with retail prices. But I would spend more on a decent bra and good boots, when I need them. Both items will get a ton of wear, and are hard to find secondhand (yes, I have bought secondhand bras and vintage slips/petticoats) so I don't mind a little more expense on those. Everything else is debated with reference to price and how much I love it! I rarely consider what else in my wardrobe will co-ordinate with a purchase, so many of my dresses are stand-alone pieces. And I am happy to clash and pattern-mix so co-ordinating isn't so much of an issue for me.
    I think perhaps buying vintage changes the goalposts a little, so many items are quirky and often wildly impractical, but that's what makes them special!
    It HAS been interesting to consider all these issues, Patti, even if I have struggled to answer the questions at times. Thanks for putting these posts together. And hurray for lovely cashmere! xxxx

  3. My Big Stuff, $$ wise at least, is usually shoes.  It is hard for me to buy vintage/consignment because of my bigger feet and very particular style wants-- this combo often leads me to retail (usually sale) shoes.  But, I am finding that spending here is usually worth it and I have very little regrets in this area :)  Helps me to justify splurging occasionally in this department (the shoe dept.!!)

  4. I really invest in shoes.  I want good, comfortable, leather shoes.  Clothing - not so much.   I try to buy reasonable priced clothing so I can have more variety.  I have stopped buying items I already have.  For example, do I really need another black blazer?


  5. Love the sweater, Miss Patti! I love quality and I'm inclined to spend more on basics I know I can keep for a long time. I think it's getting harder to find real quality in brand new clothes, though, so I eye a consignment and vintage buys as an opportunity to add quality I can't find in new clothes. My closet is getting so full that I have to think in terms of quality--and every time I bring something home, something has to go!

  6. I'm still thumbprint-impaired, so I haven't been commenting, but I've been following along avidly, and thought this series was fantastic. And we have the same notion of investment pieces; those are all the same things I get picky about, and for which I will actually pay (to me) big money.

  7. Yep! I definitely do this. Most of my shoes count as Big Stuff, but this year I decided to buy a Wendy B piece as a Big thing. I rarely buy fabric stuff as big pieces because no matter what it's rarely worth it. I find interesting clothes all the time - including good quality at my thrift store. My style isn't so rigid that I need to go retail for the Need pieces.

    I don't even do expensive handbags or make up. I try to always be mindful of budget, but I have blown it a few times on shoes. However I think my dollars have gone to good companies and I'm very happy to get dressed every day.

    Now I'm merging into wanting more 'permanent' pieces. The best investment I made this year was my tattoos. I am so in love with them, they give my body style, forever. You can't get a better deal than something you 'wear' every day for the rest of your life. Sure it's longevity will be dependent on my skin, but that gives me only more incentive to continue caring for my body.

  8. I've really enjoyed this series of posts.  I actually took my tablet with your post on it into the closet to do the test from part 3!   Great choice in cardigan, esp having pockets.  A classic piece that looks wonderful with everything.

    If you have time, would love to have you drop by and visit my blog, which also leans toward style in middle age.  Would enjoy hearing what you think, as I like your approach to fashion.  Cheers!  Anne

  9. Patti_NotDeadYetStyleJanuary 15, 2013 at 9:26 PM

     Delighted! What's your blog address, Anne? And thanks so much for your kind comments.

  10. I don't go for "investment" dressing.  Investments are supposed to appreciate in value over time.  Walk into Goodwill or Value Village and see what happens to clothing over time. 

    I think the "is it worth it to me" question is more correct.  A wonderful cashmere sweater is worth it.  So light, warm, a joy to wear, looks nice a long time -- worth dozens of lattes. 

    Truthfully, I have few items in my wardrobe that I'll wear for more than 5-6 years.  If I don't outgrow them they meet some mishap.  As women who're responsible for more than just our wardrobes we need to think of things in reasonable terms.  Clothing has personal utility but not investment value.

  11. Hi Patti,

    I have been reading other comments and i agree with one Lady when she said it's hard these days to find good quality retail clothes- I find my classic and high end pieces in second hand stores and plus i can get more of those pieces - I get lots of basics, tops, skirts in stores like Forever 21 and H&M on sale - I admit i have a lot, too much but i like a variety and i have a lot of special pieces - But i purge on a regular basis and give my clothes to charity -

    I admit i apply the shopping rules you mentionned more and more these days - I find myself not buying if i know i will not be comfortable or will not wear often, i 'm making progess!

    Ariane xxxx

  12. Altho I'm currently on a No thrifting break and shopping my closet--I've started to really THINK about what I'm buying--using similar guidelines. The fabulous deal won't be so fabulous if it doesn't work in my wardrobe!!

    BTW--the new sweater is awesome--I know you'll get tons of wear out of it!

  13. I've been away and am just re-entering: this looks like a great series, Patti, and I shall have to take the time to absorb it. But I definitely need a process to help me choose higher quality (translation: expensive) basics that will truly go everywhere with me. I love that idea, and think it's worth the money if you can find the perfect thing! Perfect things have always been stumbled upon, happy accidents for me. I'd like to fix that! Perhaps these tips will help.

  14. I've really enjoyed reading these posts - it has given me much food for thought particularly as it has highlighted how rubbish I am about asking myself some of these questions before I buy things!  I think question number one here is a key one for me to focus on.  I don't have the lifestyle that warrants some of the things I like buying and I need to focus my purchases accordingly.

  15. I try to behave well and follow similar advices as those ones that you list, but if I would see such a cut cat in the pet shop I am not sure I would be able to resist buying! Good quality cardigans is definitely a must, but the perfect ones are hard to find, so I might buy more than one if I find one that I really like! I look forward to see you in this lovely grey cardigan!

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  18. It's a good idea to consider one's basic style, as long as we leave room for the occasional departure for fun! I try really hard to stay basic, but I also make an effort to try thing outside of my usual box... with mixed results, admittedly