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?

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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?