My Clothing Budget Update and 5 Year Review

Clothing budget

This is everything I bought with my clothing budget since my last budget post on December 5! It's an average of approx. 7 items and $215 per month. I did not wind up purchasing a lot of sale items during the after-Christmas sales like I predicted, and I also didn't wind up getting the "investment" items like I had planned. (Unfortunately jeans shopping and leather jacket shopping didn't go so hot.) Instead, it was a mix of items I love in a middle price range, from a wide variety of stores. For more details on budget posts, why I do them and what they include see my last budget post and check out "How to Set a Clothing Budget." 

1. Forever 21 tee, $16
2. Saks Off Fifth top, $30
3. Banana Republic top, $39
4. Limited sweater, $15

5. Forever 21 top, $20
6. Zara flats, $50 (similar)
7. H&M top, $35 (similar)

8. Forever 21 sweater, $20
9. Forever 21 top, $18 (similar)
10. ASOS sweater, $19
11. Dillard's dress, $24

12. New York & Co. dress, $22 (similar)
13. Charlotte Russe dress, $47
14. Express jeans, $37
15. Express jeans, $37

Total = $429

Clothing budget

Now that we're caught up on recent budget activities, here's a quick review of my entire 5 years worth of budget posts (archived in my How To tab). I recently looked through all the posts and it was really eye opening. I never planned to do a 5 year review, but now that I'm looking back I think it could be valuable for anyone to keep track of and learn from the clothes they buy. My observations:

  • The review left me feeling... guilty. I hate being wasteful more than anything. But there were many items that I did not wear "enough," and/or wouldn't wear again today. Lots of strikes. Too many. This shocked me - I hardly go a day without sporting something that's 3-5 years old. I thought (wrongly) that I still loved and wore every single thing I had ever bought. I do have a good amount old things but not nearly as many (% wise) as I thought.
  • The age of the item mattered. Is this an actual improvement in my shopping decisions over time, or will it always be the case that you love newer items in your closet more? From budget posts in 2011, I averaged only 1-2 things that I'd wear today. From budget posts in 2015, I liked a higher percentage but still not all of it. I set a clothing budget so that I’m only spending a set amount of money - but what I buy within that budget matters, too. For the sake of being frugal, for the sake of the environment, I want to be buying things I'll wear for 10-20 years. (Maybe that's asking too much from my clothes? What lifespan should we expect?)
  • I tried to find commonalities - what was it about the items I still wear and like? Solid colors did better than prints overall (but not always), and concert tees, special occasion dresses, and stripes fared well (but not always). Fabric was hugely important. Anything leather (purses, shoes, jacket), boucle or lace, was still loved, as well as any fabrics that held up well after washing. (I'm convinced they add something to clothes to make them look nice until you wash them. Companies do this with sheets, so it may actually be true.)   

The biggest takeaway: I have more questions than answers. Sometimes I wish that fashion fit into formulas to make it easy to know what to wear and what to buy. I think it matters to be mindful of what we buy - to set a budget and to aim to not be wasteful within that budget. But I don't know that, at least for me, clothes shopping will ever be something that I master with ease. In so many ways fashion is an art, and it's messy. One thing I can count on - my love for studying that art, and for seeking out helpful tips for getting dressed and sharing them, will keep me curious. There's always so much more to be learned! 

What are some clothes shopping "lessons" you've mastered? Or mishaps you've learned from?