All The Clothes I Bought In The First Half of 2018

After last year’s big clothing overhaul, I’m still basking in the glow of a nice, new-ish wardrobe. Honestly, I’ve found the idea of clothes shopping since to be kind of a chore, in part because I know I’ll have to get anything I buy tailored to make it feel as good as my clothes do right now.

And besides my wallet could use the break– I’m hoping to keep under $350 this year, but won’t be sad if I go slightly over. I also told JP from Fired Up Finance that I’d join her 12 items for 2018 challenge, so that’s another motivator for the relatively low key spending so far this year. Depending on how you count it, I’m somewhere between three and six items (do socks count? do duds count?). This does not include my wedding wardrobe, by the way, which I consider under its own separate budget.

Everything I Bought

Merrell Jungle MOCs – $80.00

MRL-R60801-01-yThese are, by far, my favorite shoes of all time. So comfy, good for urban walking and also light hikes through all sorts of weather. My old pair lasted me about a year to a year and a half, but I wore those shoes every. single. day. And they were probably still serviceable, though they were starting to develop some holes at the toes. If this replacement pair lasts me the year, I’ll be happy.

Mizuno Wave Paradox 3 – $53.13

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Over the past few years I’ve burned through quite a few pairs of Mizuno Wave Paradoxes which feels unfrugal but honestly I probably should be replacing them more often than I do. After burning through my stash and realizing that the original design is no longer being sold, I bought an updated though still older version from the same line which is designed for over-pronators like myself. They aren’t as lightweight as the original Wave Paradox, which were a dream, but so far I like them.

Silvertoe Socks – $28.29

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Bought a couple packs of Silvertoe socks to replace the thick, hole-in-the-sole pairs I’d inherited a decade ago from my parents. These are nice, thin, and feel appropriate for casual to business casual settings. No complaints so far.

Uniqlo Warhol Shirt – $9

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I was idling at one of the consignment shops in the schmancy part of town, and wasn’t feeling enamored by the selection and, more importantly, the prices. Everything was basically at the retail sale price (i.e. about as much as I could spend buying it new straight from the store). Also, they were selling heavy fall/winter wear in June which… why? But anyway, amongst the racks I found this Warhol-esque Campbell’s Beef Noodle tee shirt which was sold at the MoMA for a while. It’s soft, catches the eye, and serves as my one fun purchase of 2018.

Duds – $39.50

I tried out some pieces from Grana but they didn’t end up fitting my body shape well. That resulted in a $8 restocking fee. I also tried buying a pair of Merrells used on Poshmark, but found that their sizing had recently changed. I ended up donating the slightly too small shoes and buying the pair I use now new, as described above.

Total – $209.92

Things I Want

I want to get some more casual tops, but am waiting to start working at my new job to see what the dress code is there first. Also some linen, because summer is hot and while silk is light and breezy, it shows all the sweat, all the time.

What clothes have you bought so far in 2018? What clothes do you want?

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All The Clothes I Bought Last Year, Rated

Last year I did a couple rundowns of all the clothing I bought. Basking in the shine of newness, though, I feel like I didn’t really gauge the pieces. Well now, after a few months wearing these pieces day in and day out, I have some opinions. What’s worked for me, what hasn’t. And so I thought I’d revisit my clothes from last year. What was worth it? What wasn’t? I’ll be rating each on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). I’ll try to note how much I liked/disliked a piece for me versus thought it was high/low quality in general.

Here’s my rough, completely subjective scale:

  • 5 = Perfect piece, wouldn’t change a thing
  • 4 = Would recommend
  • 3 = This is fine
  • 2 = Not for me, thanks
  • 1 = Never again

In general, let me know if you have any questions on the pieces I list here. My primary goal is to have a reference I can turn to in the future to know what’s been good for me in the past, but I also would like this to be useful to others if I can. So, without further ado…

Tops

All My Silk Shirts – 4.5/5

I’m just going to come out and say it: silk is my perfect fabric. Breathable in the summer, insulating in the winter. Light. Appropriate for work and play. Just so good.

Of the shirts I bought, all but the white Boss shirt were of crepe de chine. The Brunello Cucinelli tank was actually a crepe-backed satin which, my god, was just an extra level of decadence I didn’t see coming.

I was surprised that between my Everlane and Equipment shirts, I actually prefer the Everlane pieces. The Equipment shirt is clearly of higher momme silk and the shirt’s design is lovely, but the buttons used for the shirt aren’t great. I love the big thick minimalist gold design on them, but the loop that attaches them to the garment is quite large, which causes it to jut out away from the shirt. This is not so noticeable on the front, but causes the cuffs to hang limply and look a little sloppy. Also, I’ve just been moving away from button-up shirts generally. Short of hunching all day, almost any shirt seems to pucker on me, and I’m only a 34B.

All in all, though, these are some really nice pieces and I’m glad I went the extra mile in getting them tailored. I can really see them being staples in my wardrobe for years to come.

Workout T-Shirts – 3/5

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TIL: Workout tees are like regular tees, but more expensive and show slightly less sweat. Fine overall, but not worth the premium in price over a regular old, ratty cotton shirt if all you care about is exercising (though you’d probably look better in these, I guess).

Bottoms

J Brand Jeans – 4/5

These are probably the best jeans I’ve ever had. In particular, the black cigarette jeans are holding up as good as the day I got them. The blue jeans, after a few washes (no dryers) are starting to loosen a bit, but not too bad. The fit around my hips through my thighs continue to be good. Nothing too substantial in the way of fading. Overall, pretty good.

Banana Republic Sloan Pants – 3/5

BR’s Sloan Pants are downright magical for about two weeks. Day 1 I would have rated these a 5/5 hands down. They feel nice and thick but look sharp at the office and are comfy as all get out.

But then you wash them.

Keep in mind, you’re not technically supposed to wash these. They are clearly marked as dry clean only. But, you know, dry cleaning’s expensive and I was curious if I could get away with it. Hahaha, no. The viscose in these stretch out like nobody’s business, including in cold water. They were pretty much ruined after a single wash. Whoops.

Great if you have a dry cleaning budget. Otherwise, skip this one.

Lululemon Align II – 3.5/5

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I wear these suckers every time I go to the gym (around 3x/week) and they’re holding up strong. Waist band is very comfortable, no sliding when I’m moving around including for squats which is great. The biggest annoyance for me is that they don’t breathe well, which leads to a little bit of overheating in intense workouts. Minus that, though, these are pretty great.

Dresses & Skirts

Cara Hansen Wrap Dress – 2/5

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Like a dress version of the Sloan pants, except it wasn’t marked as being dry clean only.

Ann Taylor Pencil Skirt – 3/5

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I’m not really a skirt person. As far as skirts go, this one is fine I guess.

Blazers, Sweaters, and Outerwear

Ann Taylor Blazer – 3/5

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It fits. I’ve worn it like three times. Meh.

Vintage Blazer – 2/5

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Why did I buy a light cotton blue blazer? I have no freakin’ idea. It wrinkles a lot and doesn’t go with any of my clothing. And the shade of blue is weird in that I don’t even think it matches with black. Is that even possible? Mine isn’t quite the same as the shade of the blazer pictured above, but you get the idea.

Theory Marled Sweater – 5/5

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I get so many compliments on this sweater. Really, the picture here doesn’t do it justice. It’s just so nice and the threads are thick and give it this nice luxe textured feel. Very comfortable, just the right level of chic for casual or business casual.

Patagonia Quarter-zip fleece – 3.5/5

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Comfy, practical, about what you expect from it. Polyester, so not very breathable once you get to the overheated indoors. Pills like whoa, but that’s par for the course for fleeces.

Coach Lambskin Leather Bomber Jacket – 4/5

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I love wearing my bomber jacket. Honestly, I probably wear it too much. I feel badass walking down the street in this, my black jeans, and some shades; the embossed lining feels decadent; and with my Patagonia fleece, I’m pretty much able to wear it down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit if there’s no wind (if there’s wind, all bets are off).

But as much as I love my bomber, it’s not perfect. For one, there are no side pockets. Which, even if it weren’t freezing cold and I wasn’t try to hide my hands away, I’d still want because I’m a fidgety person who can’t figure out where to put my hands when I walk. The torso is a little long for pear-shaped petite folk, which means the bottom will ride up an inch or two to snuggle right above my hips. Also, lambskin is a bit fussy, which I can see being annoying from the perspective of long term maintenance.

Undergarments

Bali Wire Free Bra – 3/5bal6570_champ

I’ve never found a bra that’s made me feel like I’m doing bras properly, but this one is comfortable so it’s my usual go to. Unfortunately, like most bras, after a few months they get a little sad. I don’t know. Is there such a thing as a long-lasting, supportive, comfortable bra? Recommendations?

Hanes Cotton Underwear – 3/5

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Cheap underwear, doing what it does.

Wolford Hosiery – 3.5/5

I got two pairs of Wolfords– one in denier 50 (black) and one in 20 (nude). They’re definitely less scratchy and more comfortable than your typical drugstore hosiery. And still holding up strong. Not life-changing, but decent.

LL Bean Silk Long Underwear – 4.5/5

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Wow, just wow! I was seriously impressed by how these long underwear kept my legs warm. They were very lightweight to the point that if they’re worn alone they’re sheer. But in spite of that they really kept my legs feeling toasty throughout the cold af winter. And they were nice and loose with a comfy waistband which meant they weren’t constantly riding up, riding down, pinching my legs, etc. Not quite as warm as a high end pair of thick fleece underwear, but far more practical for wearing all day under work clothes. My only wish is that these weren’t quite so sheer. I’d’ve loved to have been able to wear these around the house as pajama pants as well.

Accessories

WHBM Obi Belt – 2/5

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Look. This could be a brilliant statement piece for someone. That someone just needs to have a longer torso with fewer curves than I do. Due to the hard plastic siding and the thickness of the belt– a good five inches or so– it doesn’t meld well to hourglass figures. Also, I found little bits of light-colored suede from the other siding kept shedding all over my clothes. Such a shame. This one feels so aesthetically pleasing but is downright impractical in person.

Cambridge Satchel – 1/5

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I replaced the low-quality push lock on this bag three separate times and each time the new lock failed within a couple months. There’s a little rod as part of the push lock that seems to be glued in place. Once it comes undone, the whole lock falls apart, bits flying everywhere. Since replacement locks from Cambridge Satchel cost $25 a pop to be shipped to the US, I’ve just given up on this one.

Coach Willis Messenger Bag – 4/5

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This bag is built like a tank. The leather is super thick and the hardware is clearly built to last. And after the constant frustrations with my Cambridge Satchel, it is nice to have something with a turn lock that doesn’t look like it’s going to break anytime soon. But from a design standpoint, like most cross-bodies I wish it had a couple more notches higher up for us shorter folk. And with such an old bag, you’re wont to see a little edge fraying on the leather. Nothing deal-breaking, but certainly noticeable up close.

Neck gaiter – 3.5/5

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I like neck gaiters more than scarves because they keep nice and close to my body, which helps with heat retention during the most brutal part of the cold season. This cheap one I got from Amazon with reversible fleece lining did it’s job, though probably could have been a little thicker or had some other means of wind protection.

Patagonia Better Sweater Mittens – 3/5

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While I like that these convert back and forth between mittens and gloves, frankly they just aren’t all that warm.

Patagonia Beanie – 3.5/5

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Not much to say about this one. Nice and thick beanie, generally unassuming. Good for the 30-40 degree range. Does okay but not great in the wind.

REI Silk Sock Liner – 3/5

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These helped me not break out while wearing wool socks this winter. Not a lot of give or stretchiness, but not uncomfortable either. They did that job well without wearing through in spite of their thinness. At the price ($10/pair), I wouldn’t buy more than 1-2 pairs though.

Red Coral Necklace – 4/5

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Great statement piece though a bit heavy.

Shoes

Mizuno Wave Paradox – 5/5

848bcb09bb7a91c67c872ef31ffbeb73The only sneaker that keeps my overpronation in check while running.

Madewell Leather Sandals – 3/5

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Okay sandals. Not at all resistant to any of the elements and hurt after walking a bit. But for the price point, the quality is fine.

Tailoring – 5/5

The absolute best money I spent on clothes last year was on tailoring. Hands down, far and away, bar none, superlatives to infinity and beyond. Really, if there’s anything I learned last year: buy less, tailor more.

Any pieces you bought last year you’ve since come to love more? Less?

All The Clothes I Bought This Year

As mentioned in my spending update, I have undertaken a complete clothing overhaul. Stylistically, not much has changed. But I wanted to replace pieces were just stretched, faded, stained, shrunken and generally worn. Also chuck all my blouses with breast pockets because they’re useless, saggy, and the flaps are a pain to iron.

Below I’ve summarized all my clothing purchases for this year plus some of the remaining items in my closet. Together, these pieces comprise my new “capsule wardrobe.”
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I am a big fan of silk shirts. They can be styled for work and casual wear and are great for body heat regulation year round. My go-to brands are Equipment (wonderful quality fabric) and Everlane (quality is only so-so but is cheaper, has better cuts for petites). Both brands have a lot of pieces with terrible boob pockets (avoid these!). I can generally find these in “EUC” aka “excellent used condition” for around $50 on the secondhand market.

The Hugo Boss silk blouse was a steal for $23. The back panel is just slightly too sheer, so I need to find a camisole or tank to wear underneath. But it is so well made and the button placket is just so delightfully luxe. I don’t know why, but when I wear it I feel very Young Pope, but in a good way?

Also, I bought a couple athletic tees. They are a bit more fitted since my usual T-shirts were falling all over my face during fitness classes.

Obviously, I love my neutrals: black, white, grey, cream, and blue. This round, though, I may have gone a little overboard. I do like color!– I was on the lookout for nice golden, brick red, forest green, and blush pink for more variety– but it was just easier to find pieces that met my criteria in, well, neutrals.

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As a petite lady, buying bottoms is a fraught experience. And in the secondhand market, you don’t always have the option to return ill-fitting pieces. The best way I’ve found to find pants without trying on in-person is to buy cropped (wearing them as ankle or full-length) and insist on double-checking inseam lengths.

Before now, I’ve never really been a jeans person. Like, I wore jeans. They were comfortable. But these J Brand jeans are something else. I feel comfortable, they actually fit, and they actually retain their shape through multiple days of wear!? Be still my heart. And they are so, so soft. I’ve been putting off washing them because I’m afraid of wearing them out, but about a month in we may be hitting the limits of that approach.

In addition to the jeans, I got some slacks for work to replace my stretched-out old ones and workout leggings from Lululemon, at full price no less. The range of motion I have in these is pretty great. And, yes, they pass the squat test. As far as I’m concerned, they’re definitely worth the premium.

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It took me a good three years at my male-dominated workplace before I felt comfortable enough to wear dresses. The red and cream lace dresses are not exactly like the ones I have– mine have something closer to an empire waist. I tend to like knee length since it transitions well between work, semiformal events, and casual day wear. Empire waists tend to be more flattering for my personal shape, elongating my (short) torso.

My new Cara Hansen faux wrap is the softest, most flattering dress I’ve ever worn. The model photo really doesn’t do it justice. I managed to find it at a local shop that sells independent designers and does minor tailoring in house for free!

blazers

I’ve added a couple blazers into my rotation to snazz up some of my outfits (also as part of my search for a three piece suit). They’re not perfect by any means– some day I’d like to splurge on a custom suit– but they are nice, versatile pieces to have.

The real winner here, though, is my new Theory sweater. I get compliments every time I wear it. Plus it’s thick, soft, cozy, and adds much-needed texture to my otherwise flat and boring wardrobe.

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No new jackets or coats, my current collection can get me through most weather. In an ideal world, I’d like to add a leather bomber jacket and trench coat, though.

underwear

This category is pretty uninteresting (read: I’m slightly embarrassed to be talking about my underwear).

The Hanes are shaped well enough, breathable, and have never given me issues.

I tend toward wire-free bras because life is too short to be constantly poked in the rib cage.

As for the hosiery, we’ll see if these Wolford tights live up to the hype. They are quite a bit slimmer than my old tights, and definitely smoother. I just worry about accidentally putting a run in them, though. For $50 a piece, I hope they last me a good long while.

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I was inspired by Sherry from Save Spend Splurge and decided to get myself an obi belt to add a little interest to my skirt/dress. In the above picture you only see the cream side of the belt, but in fact it’s reversible; the other side is a lovely powder pink.

Other than that, I’ve been spending an annoying amount of money repeatedly replacing the lock on my Cambridge Satchel cross-body. The purse itself is wonderful– after two years of daily and rough use, the leather is still in great condition– but the push locks are complete garbage. After breaking three separate locks, my plan now is to go to a cobbler to see if they have better hardware I can use instead.

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Each year, I buy one to two pairs of Mizuno Wave Paradox shoes for running. Since it’s starting to get chilly, I probably won’t be outside too often. and I regularly go shoeless in my fitness classes, so I may be able to get away with just the one pair this year.

My tried and true everyday shoe is my pair of Merrell Juncle Mocs. They are comfortable, resistant to pretty much any type of weather, and, uh, gorpcore is in, right? Once I get to the office, though, I switch to my Everlane loafers.

The other shoes in my closet are most activity-specific: the wedge sandals are great for cocktail parties, flat sandals for summertime strolls, and the nubuck when I want to feel my bunions. Just kidding, though I do still need to stretch those out for a more comfortable fit.

Duds

There are a few pieces I bought this year that I’ll be giving away in the near future including:

  • Elie Tahari silk dress ($31.50) – While a beautiful pattern, the cut was supremely unflattering on me. It made me look both formless and bulky on top– not a great combination.
  • Ann Taylor black silk knit short sleeve ($16.50) – Bad, bad quality. Dye faded almost immediately.
  • Madewell dark navy patterned pants ($26) – I actually quite liked these pants, except they were 100% with no elastane which means they stretched out a lot after a single day of wear. I got a few months of mileage out of these, though, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
  • Return fees ($28.50) – Various shipping and return/restocking fees for items I didn’t end up keeping.
  • Amanda Uprichard cream silk blouse ($49) – Remember the blouse for my suit outfit? Well, I accidentally put it through the wash (because I’m terribly lazy with my silks I just throw them in the machine as “delicates”) with a cheap bright red scarf I got as an “extra” in one of my Poshmark purchases. Bad move! The dye from the scarf ran and now there are bright red stains on the back and sleeve that, after two rounds with the OxiClean, I can’t seem to get out. Whoops.

Total amount wasted on duds? $151.50

Total Spent

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I think the graph/table more or less speak for themselves. I clearly have an average item price I stick to and it’s around $40 a piece. As I’ve mentioned before, in previous years I spent around $200-300 on clothes, so this is 4 to 5 times what is normal for me. I don’t plan on repeating next year though; I don’t think I could justify another re-haul so soon.

Just for the record, these are not all of my clothes. Of course there are a number of items I wear that are not included in the above photos like: shorts I wear only in summer or indoors, all my cotton T-shirts, various undergarments I bought prior to 2017, and jewelry including my statement piece necklace and engagement ring.

What Do I Still Need?

Unfortunately, every time I jump down this rabbit hole, I realize something’s missing from my collection. Right now, my wish list includes the following:

  • Nude silk tank top – to wear with my cream Hugo Boss shirt or by itself
  • Leather bomber jacket – classic look for a classic lady
  • Collection of Anvil T-shirts – five years ago I bought a batch of Gildan tees that haven’t aged a day. Which is kind of a bummer because they all are neck-strangling crew cuts that I want to switch out for a more flattering, softer V-neck look.
  • Trench coat – not sure when I’d actually wear a trench, but they look nice? (this is obviously low on the priority list)
  • Leather tote purse – sometimes I want to carry things bigger than my purse without breaking out my company-logo’d backpack
  • Real belt – something to sit at my hips, ideally in an interesting print. Possibly snakeskin.
  • Streamlined socks – I may still be wearing some of my parents’ old castaways
  • Jewelry – I have some good classic pieces now, but I want to funk it up a little bit. You know, do with the accessories what I can’t with the base layers.

There are also things I need to do to take care of my current clothing items, like:

  • Basic shoe maintenance, resoling, stretching
  • Get my Everlane silk shirts tailored for slightly better fit (adding darts)
  • Relining my pea coat, which is currently torn. Maybe I can put in something funky / upgrade from polyester.

Once all that’s completed though, I’ll be done clothes shopping.

Probably.

I hope.

What clothes did you buy in 2017?

What Is A Good Cost Per Wear?

According to the internet, how much you pay for a garment is secondary to its cost per wear. Chuck the cheap and low quality H&M since they’ll cost you more to replace in the long run, so the story goes. Those $200 jeans are worth since you can wear them for two years straight. And that $500 leather jacket will last you the rest of your life.

I personally have never found that my expensive clothes last longer than my cheaper ones. Sure, they are nicer (and that’s why they’re worth buying) but it takes far fewer wears and washes for a nice Equipment silk blouse to pull than a cheap cotton one from Eddie Bauer. Fancy clothes are beautiful, but also can be terribly finicky. Which means not only am I spending more up front for nice clothes but also have a faster replacement rate, thus a catastrophically higher cost per wear!

And besides what is a good cost per wear?

At the very least, your cost per wear should align with your clothing budget. So if you set aside $1500 a year for clothing, your outfit(s) of the day should cost no more than $4-ish. Or, contrarily, if you’re daily clothing averages only $2 a day, you only need to set aside $750 or so for clothes each year.

I would say this is, on average, how much I spend on a garment versus how many wears I expect to get out of it:

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In a typical week, I’ll wear five work outfits: three times blouses and slacks ($3.51) and twice dresses with leggings ($2.26). I’ll also wear my dress shoes all week ($7.50).

During the evenings I’ll wear a T-shirt and pajama shorts to bed ($1.40). On the weekends it’s half the time nice blouses and half the time T-shirts, coupled with jeans and casual shoes ($1.77). Finally, I’ll work out in a T-shirt, sweat pants, and tennis shoes around three times a week ($2.94).

So, based on these back of the envelope calculations, I depreciate my clothes an average of $19.34 per week, or about $1007.76 per year. Which seems high, given that I only spend around $250-300 on clothes a year altogether including undergarments and socks. Maybe I’ve greatly underestimated the number of wears I get out of my clothing. Or maybe it’s a sign of a lot more spending to come.

What do you think is a good CPW per garment? How much does your clothing “cost” per day if you calculate by CPW?

The Hunt For A Petite Suit

After weeks of searching— hitting up my much-loved Everlane, a dalliance with MM LaFleur, and hours upon hours of scouring ebay, Poshmark, and hitting the shopping district downtown– I finally found a suit that actually fits me! Huzzah! (“huzzah”, by the way, is my triumphant exclamation of choice)

I’m in a conservative industry so I decided to go for a classic black suit. I bought the “Seasonless” two-button blazer and pencil skirt from Ann Taylor.  The low V of one-button blazers make me look like I’m swimming in my mother’s hand-me-downs, so I was psyched to find a two-button option.  The pencil skirt hits right at the knee and is a nice classic look. The quality of the pieces is acceptable for the price point– thick keyhole button holes, fully lined, finished seams, extra buttons sewn in, but made out of poly/rayon a cheaper blend. Between AT’s 50% off sales and my work’s discount shopping portal, I was able to knock down the price of suiting from $258 down to $109.

I bought the Amanda Uprichard Simon blouse at a consignment shop in the fanciest neighborhood in town. Though it is pretty hard to find online in cream/white, the blouse seems to have retailed for $193. I got it for $49 in excellent condition. Not as good as Lily’s finds, I’ll admit, but alright nonetheless.

Therefore, I ended up paying $158 for an three-piece outfit that at full retail would be $451. Around a third of the cost, not too shabby! Or maybe retail mark-ups are just wonky. Probably both.

My big takeaway from this exercise has been that finding clothing as a petite woman is hard. That’s one of the big reasons I so rarely actually buy anything. Constantly feeling dejected, going into clothing store after clothing store because nothing fits, is no fun at all.

But I did come out the other side with some tips in case you’re looking to shop suits anytime soon as a petite woman.

1. Be prepared to compromise on at least one: price, quality, fit.

Define your priorities before going shopping. You don’t want to be at the register with a luscious mohair suit that hits you in all the right places only to realize that the $2000 price tag is more than you really wanted to spend (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).

Since I was looking for something to wear maybe five or ten times a year in a less fashionable industry, it wasn’t pivotal that my suit be top-of-the-line quality and fit. So I got something cheap, and good enough construction-wise and fit-wise.

2. Figure out what a brand considers “petite”

At a towering 5’1″ (155 cm for my Canadian readers) I am petite enough that even the petite/junior sizes at most stores are too big for me. In the fashion world, 5’4″ and under is considered petite, even though the average height for American women is 5’3.5″.  Talbots targets a woman at 5’3″. Ann Taylor seems to go shorter. Just keep in mind that if you’re 5’2″ or shorter, your petite clothes may still require some additional hemming.

3. Skip the department stores

Hot take: department stores are overrated. They are often laid out by brand, which makes approximately zero sense, and it is impossible to tell whether or not a particular brand is stocked with petite sizing. I’ve heard great things about having a Nordstrom shopper, however, so if you insist on going the department store route, make sure you get help from an associate.

4. Remember to bring your heels

Workwear looks vastly different with and without shoes, and in particular those 3″ heels may make those formerly-too-long pants just right.

5. Know what can be easily tailored versus not

Hemming pants: easy. Shortening sleeves: medium. Taking in a lined blazer: $$$.

6. Keep the tags on

That 50% off sale? That wasn’t happening when I bought my AT suit the first time. I shelled out full freight to start. All $258, just to make sure I had it in hand by the time my business trips rolled around. But those weren’t for a couple weeks and I wasn’t in a hurry to wear my suit in public. So what’d I do? I checked the Ann Taylor website every day to see if there was a sale going. Once it hit 50% off, I bought a second suit, brought my original back for a refund, and never had to risk my size running out. A little inconvenient (many stores will just do price adjustments, but not AT), but totally worth it for the extra savings.

7. Get an Amex card

If you go the online shopping route– because, let’s face it, getting discounts from the comfort of your couch is pretty appealing– make sure you have an Amex card handy. Why? Because Amex cards give you access to ShopRunner for free. That’s 2-day shipping at a lot of the mid-tier brands for $0. Perfect if you want to try out a lot of different suits, but are too lazy to visit the stores in person.

Now that I’ve gotten my suit down, I’m ready to move on to my next personal style project: finding the perfect pair of jeans.

What are your tips for finding petite clothing? Any jean brands you particularly like or recommend?

My Kingdom For A Suit

Every fall starts with a sudden uptick of work. I don’t know why– maybe people come back from vacation feeling renewed, ready to make some money. The workers fill their mugs with fresh coffee. The sales team starts scheduling dinner meetings. Calls stream in from potential clients who realize, frantic, that projects that “aren’t due until October” have seen little progress in the warm, lazy, summer. Just like clockwork.

Usually, if I’m to travel, it’s in October. Nowhere exciting, always in the lower 48. But when I go I work solo. I talk to few people on-site and am often left alone to do my work as I please. If I happen to meet a client, I may wear an ill-fitting blazer and a sheath dress to a first meeting. My role is to get the project done, not hobnob with the C-suite. Since my client contacts are usually other mid-level employees, our managers already having negotiated our work over thick wooden tables and a few fingers of bourbon (though perhaps that’s only in my imagination), it’s rare either I or they saunter into a meeting in a bespoke suit.

This year, though, things are different. Instead of my usual work, I am edging into a more formal field. My contacts will be senior. Instead of my usual, quiet, peaceful solo work, I’ll be spending a lot of time interviewing folks in my day-to-day. I won’t have a senior manager to rely on to make the good impressions, this time I’ll really be on my own.

Because of this, I find myself reconsidering my wardrobe. Am I due for an upgrade? I have some good pieces, but everything is starting to get tired. After five years of almost weekly wear, my trusty sheath dress is starting to warp, my black slacks have faded, and the chipped buttons on my silk shirts need replacement. Is it time, I think, to invest in a three-piece suit?

Until now, I have gotten away without this wardrobe staple. No little black dress or pair of kitten heels either, for what that’s worth. But as I climb the professional ladder it becomes more apparent to me that sometimes it’s easiest to go back to the classics.

For the most part, I shop almost exclusively by thrifting. Consignment is basically my middle name. But, after months of search, I find very little that meets my criteria trawling the shelves. Everything is either too seasonal, doesn’t match into a cohesive formal outfit, doesn’t fit (nothing fits), or too ragged for use. I finally relent: it’s time to go for new.

With that in mind, I make my way to the MM. LaFleur pop-up in the city. I show up to my appointment in baggy cotton pants, a pair of stained hiking boots on my feet, and my company-logo’d backpack in tow. The stylist who is wonderful and offers me a glass of champagne, throughout the hour pulls for me different outfits that fit my very specific requirements for pieces that are “business formal, machine washable, and maybe look good on me I guess?”

Here’s what I end up getting:

 

The Lagarde shirt is soft and white. While a bit sheer, it has enough heft to it to not feel entirely transparent. The gold buttons and cufflinks are subtle statement details and add an elegant touch. The Eldridge skirt, which falls about two inches below the knee, has a lovely side slit and paneling that gives it shape and makes it a little more interesting than the typical pencil skirt. And the Sant Ambroeus jardigan, oh how have I gotten this far in life without a jardigan? Clean cut, but also substantial enough to take the place of a blazer, it helps finish up the outfit for a nice three-piece look.

Now, for those keeping score at home, I paid $575 for my new suit. To put it in context, that’s more than twice what I usually spend on clothes in a year, just for three pieces! I feel itchy just thinking about it.

But, at the same time, this is also an investment, giving myself new wardrobe staples and making myself presentable for the next stages of my career. Alright, “investment” may be a bit of an overstatement. But, certainly I am not headed down the path of penury with this one purchase, am I?

I wonder how much women generally spend on work clothing. MM. Lafleur has its own guidelines, telling women: “As a general rule, plan to spend 5-10% of your monthly take-home income on clothes.” Which vaguely reminds me of De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” campaign that got everyone to spend three month’s pay on diamond engagement rings. According to the BLS, mean clothing spending for the 25-34 age range is $1832, which albeit close to the 5% figure, strikes me as being slightly more reasonable. Not all of that spending is on work clothes, mind you, but enough that I feel more at ease with loosening the purses just this once.

Plus everything is machine washable. So, uh, definitely worth it?

Update: Unfortunately, it seems that the delicately up-tilted mirrors in the shop gave me a different understanding of the outfit than wearing it in my bedroom under less flattering lighting. Oh well, the search for the perfect petite suit continues!

How much do you pay for work clothes? How about for a suit?