Spring Wardrobe – Shopping & Spending

Some of my favorite posts on personal finance blogs are the monthly spending summaries. I may be in the minority, but I love seeing how others manage their lifestyles and the numbers behind it all. Such facts & figures are usually kept off fashion blogs, but I think it can be interesting to discuss. In a field that’s ripe with consumerism and mutual enabling, I’d love to hear how fellow fashionistas keep overall consumption in check, while maintaining current, well-curated wardrobes.

Last year, I posted about keeping a streamlined wardrobe. My approach and goals remain largely unchanged, but I’ve indulged in some temptations (fun trends, end-of-season sales, etc) and hope to regain focus. In light of some heavier shopping this season, I wanted to do an update and share some numbers behind the fashion posts.

Since 3/1, I spent $634 and added 15 items to my wardrobe (40% of spending was on 1 item):

I returned/sold 13 items, or 52% of original purchases due to various reasons:

I did alterations at home to save approx. $70 on tailoring (which I include in total wardrobe spending):

As mentioned in my previous post, careful assessment of each purchase can help distinguish a well-curated wardrobe from one that’s a victim of aimless consumption. One method that has helped me personally over the years is a manual log of items purchased…

By spending a few minutes each month updating and reviewing this spreadsheet, I’m able to:
– Evaluate each item individually and in the context of other purchases
– Take note of when return deadlines are; and
– Monitor the ebb and flow of purchases to make sure I’m within a reasonable long-term limit (saving my thoughts on the subjective definition of “reasonable” for another day).

*Highlights = returned or sold

So how did I do?

This season, I added a lot of variety to my wardrobe with new colors, prints, and silhouettes. My favorite additions are the Old Navy wrap dress, the cap-toe Louboutins, the H&M; floral blouse, and the Crewcuts apple pants. They met all of my purchasing criteria, filled gaps in my existing wardrobe, and are getting quite a bit of wear. The Chanel brooch was a little splurge, but it’s an item off my wishlist that should retain it’s value (barring any klutzy handling).

On the other hand, some admittedly unnecessary purchases are the Gap kids lace shell, the H&M; dot dress, the J.Crew $3 turtleneck, plus a third pair of cafe capris. One of my biggest shopping weaknesses is buying items like the aforementioned that meet so much of my criteria (good fit, good value, pairs well, looks good) but just aren’t necessary for my compact wardrobe. H&M; provides a lot of temptation for me on that front, and I’ve been keeping that at bay by putting things on hold, and only going back to buy if I keep thinking about them. We can only wear so many items at a time (and I hate having things collect dust), so a streamlined yet current wardrobe is something I’m constantly working towards.

Fellow fashionistas – How do you maintain a current wardrobe while keeping overall consumption in check? What are some of your shopping weaknesses?


134 thoughts on “Spring Wardrobe – Shopping & Spending

  • Natasha Fatah May 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Wow girl! You cleaned up! Good deal hunting!

    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    you are a star! I think I will do something similar and keep a clear set of accounts of what I pay for clothes/shoes/BAGS It may be quite a shock actually to see the reality of the situation. You are right -such things are usually kept of blogs – and they should NOT.

  • Cher May 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Some months are harder than others (like April and November when all the F&F; sales go on!). I'm still building a good basic work wardrobe, so that is where I tend to "invest". Things that are classic, good quality, fit well, and versatile is where I tend to spend my money. As women who are very petite, trying to find professional clothing, fit is a very big deal. And if it fits off the rack, particularly a pair of trousers I'm taking it home with me! As a result, I have a very expensive trouser collection! LOL. But occasionally I will splurge on something fun (or trendy) as long as I think that I will still wear them for at least several seasons. I also keep track of my spending like you do, although your method is much more detailed than mine.

    I really put a lot of thought into my purchases. I probably spend more on individual pieces than some women do, but I'm *very* particular. I pay a lot of attention to quality, fit, and details. I think if an item has all those things that I'm looking for, they are worth the little bit extra $$. I've held that philosophy for quite a few years now, and I'm very happy with my wardrobe so far and with very few exceptions, I've never had to "replace" anything due to quality or because I now realize the fit is off, or because things are no longer in style (luckily my body shape hasn't changed that much over the years). When I purge my closet (which is fairly often) and I come out of the closet empty-handed, I know I've been making good choices.

    Great post! I also like to see how bloggers keep their clothing budget. Far too often, I feel like I can't relate to bloggers because I have to keep a personal shopping budget, and it appears to me that they don't!

  • fong May 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Jean, can you post a photo of you wearing the Origami sheath from J.Crew? Either here or on Twitter or Facebook?

  • Phoebe May 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Unfortunately, I haven't been very good about keeping a well-curated wardrobe. I do mull over my purchases (before whipping out my credit card) for ages, but my only criteria, besides fit and fabric, is will I wear this? I make myself think of 3 different outfits I could make with it from pieces I already have in my closet. And while that has been extremely helpful, I've also amassed a decent amount of seasonal clothing that I tend to not wear (even though I think I will) the next year. I think for me, I need to start thinking about timeless pieces that might cost a bit more, but sometimes it's just tough when you want to have a lot of different choices.

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Do you have any recommendations on personal finance blogs to read? Which ones have the monthly spending summaries you mentioned? Can you provide links to any particularly interesting monthly spending summaries you've read? Thanks so much!

  • Bbg May 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This month had been really hard. I live in Singapore and during the end or the beginning of the year, the stores are selling lots of thicker clothings as its winter in many countries but in Singapore, it's summer all year long and this, when the shops are coming up with all the colors and shorts, I went a little crazy over them.
    I always try to buy clothings with better quality more than the design and I always ask myself if I can still see myself wearing it after a while. I try not to succumb to trends which doesn't seem like they will last but I let myself go once in a while 🙂

  • Amy Nguyen May 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I love the way you record your purchases. I hope to do something similar when I begin shopping for professional clothing that I know I can splurge a bit more on!

    I have an absolute weakness for all of the basics. When I see a white tank with good quality, I always say to myself, "You can never have enough white tank tops!" Well, you can when you have 9 of them.

  • Unknown May 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I definitely need a system like yours. My clothes usually just sits and/or hangs in my closet. I'll go in twice a year and find things with tags still on them. My family and gal pals love me when I ask if they want to raid my closet. I rarely do returns, and yes, that's money down the drain. =.
    As for buying clothes; for slacks, it's all about the fabric. How it falls, how it fits, and I always add the $9 to the price for hemming (I should hem pants myself). For jeans, it's usually darker shades, and has to look my age appropriate. I don't want to be mistaken as a kid. Dresses are my downfall. If its cute, I'll figure out it'll fit once I'm at my tailors'. Dress shirts and blouses are hard to find, so I usually buy fancier t shirts. But, looking through your blog has encouraged me to seek harder on nicer blouses and dress shirts.

  • My Style May 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    wow! you did actually very good! to be honest is spend this season less then I have spend this month, in my defense I have to say that I bought things for all year wear… nevertheless congratulations!



  • this is lemonade May 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This is really great! I'm not in possession of a well curated wardrobe and need to really rework my clothes. I wonder if anyone out there has worked out a really good way to make a compact but visual inventory.
    I've kept putting off a much needed wardrobe renovation because it's just so daunting! My problem us I'm so scared of spending and getting a load of rubbish and then suffering from buyer's remorse!

  • Wendy May 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Do you have any favorite on-line second hand markets?

  • Heyni Solera May 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I only allow myself $500 of spending allowance a month, and that includes everything outside of bills, e.g. going out to eat, buying books, gifts for friends, and clothes. That's my limit and it doesn't mean that I reach that limit every month. This keeps me from buying clothes that I really don't need. Also, every change of season I reevaluate my closet, and dispose of items that don't fit, have worn out, or haven't worn in a while, and make a list of items I would like to further round out my closet. Slowly my closet is representing my style and continues to evolve.

    Your blog actually has also shaped how I buy clothes. I'm petite as well, 4'10" and 110lb, and try more than ever to focus on fit. So thanks!


  • DSK Steph May 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    You amaze me Jean! The way you think really fascinates me. I wish I were more practical and smart with purchases like you. The only way I ever see what I buy is through my department store statements. You inspire me to be a more responsible shopper. Thank you! 🙂

  • a rose May 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • a rose May 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    This might sound cliche' but I often think of how many ways I can wear a potential item with other clothes that I have already had before I buy them (silhouette & color combination). 3 is the ideal number I aim for pairing options. Also, if possible, I consider where & when it's appropriate to wear it.

  • Petite-ish May 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Jean! I try to control my spending by making a spreadsheet for all of my monthly spending (kind of like Mint.com does), and I've been doing it for the last 4 years or so. When I'm considering a new purchase that I'm on the fence about, I also occasionally pull out all of the similar items in my closet to discourage myself from adding yet a 5th pair of black trousers to my wardrobe… Since I discovered the blogging community, I've definitely noticed an upward spike in my monthly clothing budget (and also an increased volume of returns), which is sort of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, my clothes are better fitting and I'd like to think that I'm looking more put together overall, but it's also been a drain on my time/resources. But I enjoy reading your blog way too much to stop 🙂

  • Aquarelle Bleue May 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Wow, I'm seriously impressed with this post! It is so true that fashion bloggers usually keep this figures in the background, and I always wonder how they keep adding things to their closet without running out of space/money. Thank you so much for such an informative post! I'm definitely going to follow your advice since I need it badly. For a long time I was able to shop to my heart's content, and now I have an overflowing closet, and I've had to get rid of so much stuff that was just beautiful but I never wore and/or was no longer in style. I still have items with the tag on hanging in my closet and I'm terrible about selling my stuff, because I just get too lazy about posting it online. You sure are providing a great example to follow and again thank you for offering your own criteria for keeping things under control. If you can offer more tips I'd greatly appreciate it!

  • Sabrina May 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Wow! I actually used to do the same thing, keep a meticulously detailed spreadsheet on items that I already have and another one listing things that I "needed" in my wardrobe (although the word "need" is extremely objective, haha). Although I've pretty much discarded it, you've inspired to re-open it again. 🙂 I'd say that my biggest pitfalls are sale items, eBay, and vintage stores, as well as the irresistibly low prices of H&M; and Forever 21.

    Thanks for yet another informative post, Jean!



  • Something Nice May 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I heard an interesting "three rules" on TV a few years ago, two of which must be met in order to justify a purchase. They are:

    1. Does it fit me?
    2. Will I wear it?
    3. Can I afford it?

    I find these rules serve me well when it comes to making decisions about an item. I also do what you mentioned, only go back for something if I keep thinking about it. Overall I love the idea of a streamlined wardrobe, and in recent months I have become quite ruthless about getting rid of items that don't get enough wear so I can make space for nice new ones! Generally when buying a piece I try to imagine how well it will work with what I already own, and how often I am likely to wear the piece in different situations: work, party, casual etc. However, there are often certain things I can't help but splurge on!

  • Always Maylee May 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I love this, thanks for sharing. I usually only buy an item if I can think of at least 3 different ways to wear it, pairing it with something that I already own. I love buying clothes from inexpensive places but wear them in such a way that they look expensive. Every once in awhile I will splurge on an item, usually a bag or a pair of shoes! 🙂

    xo, Yi-chia

  • Erica May 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for talking about this! It frequently bothers me that money doesn't seem like a consideration on fashion blogs. I mean, I do see the mention of buying things on sale, but the frequency of purchases seems a bit high. I keep my spending in check by using mint.com and designating $200 per month for clothes. And if I know I'm going to spend a lot of money that month on house renovations or something, then I don't buy any clothes. I try to examine my current wardrobe and find new ways to combine different items.

  • Kristina May 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Ditto the request for some personal finance blog recommendations!

  • what.jess.wore May 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for doing this post. I've decided to share some very personal feelings on shopping/spending below but will not disclose actual figures.

    While some people eat while they're stressed I shop to de-stress (plus I love getting packages). Last year I spent an epic amount on things I don't need (and I got to know my delivery person at home/work very well). I also keep a spreadsheet but for my overall budget by month so I don't remember everything that I buy. In terms of big ticket items, my total 'spending money' last year could have purchased a new car (I won't say which type of car but it's still crazy if you think about it). Note: I do pay off my credit cards in full so I'm not in any financial strife trouble but I know should and could be saving more than say, 30% of my income. Spending less has become my resolution.

    I've tried to shop at cheaper places to see if that would cut down on my budget but I found myself making more purchases and more returns (huge time waster). I think that the biggest change I made was to stop and think about something before I but it because let's be honest, impulse purchases are the worst thing you can do. Now whenever I buy something, I know it's a keeper if: (1) I really love the item and can't stop thinking about it, (2) it's something that I will wear multiple times instead of just once and (3) it works with my personal style. I immediately return things that (1) don't fit with other items in my closet/my style and (2) generate lukewarm feelings because they will eventually get discarded (given away/sold).

    Over the years I've learned that window shopping is healthier and it is okay to walk away without buying something. You will still have money in your bank account to buy something that you like better. I recently started my own blog to sell some of my things but to be honest if I'm selling it then I probably shouldn't have bought it in the first place. There is no real ROI because the discounted price doesn't begin to make up the time and effort you may have spent to purchase the item, dry clean it and/or alter it.


  • a.lace May 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Julia May 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I love this post! I am always re-discovering pieces of my wardrobe that have been hidden away and forgotten for months. Every time I do, I swear off any more shopping, but I always break this declaration within weeks of making it. I love the way a good outfit can show your personality, but also make you stand a little taller and feel better about the way you look. I believe strongly in retail therapy, especially after a long and arduous semester, but as a poor graduate student, I can hardly afford it. I've been staying away from malls and online stores to avoid temptation, but your expense list is a smart way to indulge and refrain from binge shopping and the subsequent guilt trip.

    Also, on more of a general blog note, I love that your blog is more than just pretty pictures of your great outfits. I like that you talk about how to save and smart ways to make purchases and make them fit your figure, and that you really walk the walk. I love that you portray pret a porter fashion and wardrobe choices as a lifestyle – like dieting! it's about making smart choices according to your lifestyle and personal style, and I don't feel like I have to be filthy rich to have a great wardrobe.

    My question for you is, as someone who is hoping to work in the creative side of advertising (as a copywriter), I have trouble deciding what to wear and how to present myself for interviews. I want to look smart and well put-together, but not too stiff and not too casual. I also tend to look on the young side – i'm 25 but people still think I'm in high school, and I don't want this to count against me in interviews. I know (think?) you work in finance, but do you have any tips for creative hopefuls?

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    yeah! was wondering about the same thing.

  • Suzie Q May 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Such a great post. You're so amazing at keeping such an organized book keeping for your clothes spending! I need to do a much better job. I use mint.com currently. Would love to see your recs for finance blogs!

    Suzie Q

  • Jamie- Thao Huynh May 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    This is a really smart way to control your shopping! I should start doing this too. Do you plan to sell back some of unnecessary piece? If yes, where would you sell it back? Thank you Jean!

  • OohLookBel May 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Trying to maintain a regular record of spending is just so tedious (for me, at least!). But it's really the only way of keeping tabs on what you've bought and whether it's worthwhile. Well done to you, Jean, but for now, I'll rely on my scatty memory!

  • DaintyandDecadent May 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I try to only buy items that I've either been lusting over for awhile or pieces that I know can be styled many different ways. And unless I really really really want something or know it will get sold out quickly, I will wait until it goes on sale and really get a great deal 🙂 Great post and information!



  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Where can I get some authentic Christian Louboutin shoes for a good price??

  • Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    i love this post, i've been trying to streamline my wardrobe as well! it's so hard and i have definitely added some items that weren't necessary to my wardrobe :/

    but i do adore your purchases this spring!


  • Franziska May 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I appreciate your honesty in what you spent. I think as bloggers it is important to be honest about what you spend on clothes and how that fits into the rest of your financial situation. I recently had to make the realization that money can't just be spent willy nilly and have no consequences so I now have set a budget for myself for each month and total my costs in a spreadsheet to make sure I stick {close} to that budget. Hopefully that keeps me in check with my spending.

    It seems like you got some quality pieces without falling into the "only trendy items" rut so good for you 🙂

  • Lauren May 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I keep myself in check by posting monthly spending totals on my blog. I figure, if I can't justify it to The Internet, I can't justify it to myself! So far, that's been working quite well.

  • fabulously frugirl May 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Jean, I love this post! As a PF blogger, I sometimes feel torn between saving and spending money on beautiful clothes/make-up, from following awesome fashion blogs, such as yours.

    Sometimes, I dread putting together my monthly spending and posting it, because I know that I over indulged that month. At the same time, those updates keep me in check and keeps me on the path to financial independence.

    I think I need to "curate" my wardrobe, as well. I've been purging my wardrobe for a while, and I constantly get rid of clothes that I no longer wear or haven't touched in about a year or so. I still need to figure out my "holes" so that I can buy with a mission! 🙂

  • The Little Dust Princess May 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Great post, Jean! I keep a monthly spreadsheet as well – recording both my spending and income. I shop a LOT, but like you, I end up returning things a lot of the time. I like to take things home to think about and see if they can be paired with other items I already have. Right now, I'm focusing on building my accessories collection. Clothes are definitely not a priority at the moment, but I do pick up a piece or two at times after selling my clothes through the blog sale or to my friends.

  • SewPetiteGal May 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I have a spreadsheet that has been woefully neglected. When I kept up with it, the numbers themselves kept my spending in check. At the moment, I'm doing ok purely because I'm distracted with the kiddos and am on maternity leave. Once I go back to work, I'll be in trouble again (and the spreadsheet will remain neglected still) because I'll be face to face with other people and that always makes me want to spend money to look "cute."

    I'm really curious about your secondhand silk blouse (assuming this is the scarf print?) and how you'll use it!

  • ellesy May 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    thank you for this post – i agree that it's an important topic and so many of your words resonated with me. i record all my expenses daily on a spreadsheet but i find i don't analyze my spending enough – it's sort of become a daily ritual so i need to step back more often and take a look at the big picture.

    i started doing a clothing inventory a few years ago but found it overwhelming because i have so much – i really love the idea of a more thoughtful, curated wardrobe and i think i may work towards that. i've been really good this year though… i created a thrift challenge for myself (i'm purchasing almost all clothing, shoes, and accessories second hand) and i've also limited the number of designer items i will purchase (when i reach certain savings thresholds, i'm allowing myself to purchase a luxury item)… these were a couple of my 2012 goals in an attempt to combat my weaknesses of buying "throwaway" pieces from h&m;/zara and what was becoming an unhealthy obsession with designer bags.

    so far, so good but it's definitely a work in progress and i found your post to be really helpful.

  • Mary Ann May 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    This is a great post Jean – I really like seeing how your track your purchases. Blogging and reading blogs has made me a lot more critical, as well, of purchases. I've bought and returned 3 Target purses since March! 😉

  • Olivia May 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Thanks for another great post!! Would you please recommend some good PF blogs (when you get a chance)?

  • Alexis May 14, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Jean, I've been lurking for awhile now, but I really have to say I LOVE this idea. I just started working for Ann Taylor Loft and surprisingly, it's so easy to shop there!! I think I'm going to have to follow in your footsteps and start tracking what I buy. I've never needed to in the past because I've always just had the bare minimum and kept them for years. (Not that they were "classic pieces" or anything). Thank you for always being inspirational!!

  • Janey Moore May 14, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing.


  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 2:15 am


    Can you suggest some personal finance blogs? I've been wanting to keep track of my spending for a while but haven't found a good method to keep track. I've been using Excel and it's been okay for me but I want to try other things and maybe get some finance tips as well.

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 2:56 am

    I agree! I'm also really interested in economics, so this would be really interesting!

  • Sensy~Style May 14, 2012 at 3:21 am

    Jean my personal hero!

  • Katherine May 14, 2012 at 4:16 am

    This was such a great post to read – I know you have been thinking about doing a PF post so was so happy to see this! It's cause of you that I started keeping a Google spreadsheet of my purchases and it's been really helpful. I've been thinking about putting up a PF post with budget/% savings and stuff but have been a little wary so this gives me inspiration. Thank you Jean!

  • couturecoco May 14, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Excellent post! I am always interested in PF and how everyone tackles it to suit their own individual needs. I had to make a list about 18 months ago when my closet audit started and it's become invaluable with your suggestions so Thank You!

    Now that I have managed to cross off most things from my wishlist and succeeded modestly in making weak areas of my closet work better/harder, I just have to be disciplined and remind myself I simply do not need something when temptation occurs (mainly shoes/bags but lately jewellery – aaargh!). It doesn't mean I have to live like a 'fashion nun' because that's impossible for me but the condition is that I simply remain pragmatic and remember other goals for the short and long term.

  • Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Agree…was going to ask about this too.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies May 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Jean, one of the reasons why I keep coming back to your blog is your sensible approach to fashion (and life!). I love consumerism like any other girl out there but personal finance takes precedence. I used to buy a lot from what I call High St stores (Gap, H&M;, Zara etc) and found out that they just don't get a lot of wear. These days, I have a 1 in 1 out rule. I recycle a lot to pay for new things. I don't keep a spreadsheet but these 2 practices keep my expenses in check.

Comments are closed.