How I Shop for Clothes
This last weekend, a couple of good friends and I were having coffee and chatting about life, marriage, and... the clothing industry.
I don't post very often about outfits or ideas or looks, because I think there is a heck of a lot of saturation in that blog field :) However, I get more and more Instagram and real life questions about where I shop and when and how to keep it minimal but trendy.
So because I started this blog to be both life updates/experiences as well as a creative space for me, I want to start posting a bit more about style and purchasing.
Today, I would say I am in the middle of the scale of trendy and minimal. I want to highlight how I make purchases to be environmentally friendly, stick to a very reasonable budget, minimal, but still fun and current (because there really is a balance!)
My Shopping Evolution
In my teen years, I was OBSESSED with fashion and the industry. I started my degree in Apparel Merchandising. I bought anything and everything at fast fashion stores and thrift stores. Usually persuaded by a good price as well as the uniqueness of the item. I liked the idea of a wide wardrobe and looks to choose from and was always thinking about what I could add next. I have always thrifted (thanks Mom!) as well as bought new.
Mid - college I grew a bit in spending my money more wisely and saving for clothes that I actually wanted for a certain purpose or occasion. I still hauled a tonnnn of clothes, shoes, and accessories that I had collected between apartments.
After college,I started my full time job and wanted to buy good classic work staples that would adhere to the dress code and be multi-purpose. I went very classic Banana Republic, Express, Ann Taylor Loft and J. Crew for a bit here.
I was dating Zach who had been working for a few years and earning an adult income. He believed in Research, Reviews, and High Quality. I started to adapt this mindset and tried to buy a few high priced quality pieces that I could have for a long time. I also got really into the local craftsmanship and genuine goods movement that was starting.
A year or two ago, I went SUPER MINIMAL. I cleaned out not only my college girl wild clothes from Forever 21, but also the super stiff business pieces that I hardly wore and would never wear. I consigned everything I could by going to multiple women's second hand stores. I did this for both the monetary payback as well as the belief in a second or third life for clothes. I decided to really do the capsule wardrobe idea and keep what looked good on me and only purchase neutral basics that fit really well and were made of good quality material.
I had a phase where I researched and made lists of Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Companies and swore to only buy through them. That is obviously limiting and usually more expensive (as they have to pay their employees actual wages). We watched True Cost documentary last year and it was so good! You should watch it. You really should. It brought up points in the cotton, agriculture, manufacturing, and production circuits that I didn't know were causing so much heartache and real life grief.
Zach and I both decided that there is a good balance to the creativity that comes from getting to buy what we like and what we want. However, there should be a limit to how much you are consuming at what price and from what type of company.
I am fortunate to have some really solid basics from high quality outdoor brands, clothing brands, and American Made or giveback companies. I still buy a few things from mall stores (J. Crew, Anthro, Madewell) but only something that I have looked at for a long time or want for a certian occasion.
I think long and hard about what I want to buy and it has to fit within my monthly budget guidelines. OR Zach and I talk about it and give each other the okay on the purchase. That sounds intense, but it's actually really fun to talk about what we are into and get excited together when packages come in the mail.
My Personal Buying Guidelines
1. Research Trends
I find a lot of enjoyment in looking at blogs, instagrams, and websites of new companies or new trends and looks. I think this has always been in me and will always be (hopefully I will be a hip old lady!). I have a ton of hidden pinterest boards and screenshots on my phone of looks that I store away for certain trips or occasions. This helps me not impulse buy things I don't actually like. But makes the thrift or sale find great when it aligns with something I have filed away.
2. Continually Redefine My Style
Through my minimal shift, I found out that most that I got rid of was a weird color, a weird fit, or the fabric looked dated and worn. I really go for and feel best in all of the neutral shades and good natural fabrics and lastly- textures that are appropriate for the season. I know my body type needs a good waist because I have a pretty athletic build. I know that I like menswear inspired looks with funky details at the office, laid back comfy ripped jeans and a t-shirt on Saturdays, and nice athletic wear for my evening workout. So unless there is an event or trip outside of my normal weekly routine, I am not going to impulse on something amazing unless I know it fits into my life.
3. Consign and Thrift
I hardly go to the mall or buy from classic women's brands because of all the women that already spend the high price tag on these items. There is so much in consignment and even thrift stores that I can buy for $4-$20. Again, I avoid impulse buys because of a good price by sticking to my seasonal colors and looks and ALWAYS TRY IT ON because that's when 80% of things don't go home with me.
4. If I'm Buying New:
If I'm going to buy a staple item (boots, jeans, coat, etc) I pretty much always buy from companies that use real materials (leather, cotton, linen, silk).
Many companies that have been around forever are still doing it right! LL Bean (duck boots), Patagonia, Birkenstocks, etc. Many of these classic companies are backed by Lifetime Warranties which is always great.
The craftsmanship of leather, canvas, linen, etc is widely available nowadays either on Etsy or someone's friend has a side hustle. I just asked for these great slippers handmade from a guy in Brooklyn. I love them in our old apartment. Most cities have local craft shows around the holidays or have shops that promote local designers.
Ethical and Sustainable Trendy Companies
I want to spend my money on brands that source materials ethically and pay their workers what they deserve. There are so many new companies gaining the support (and dollars) of consumers by being transparent with pricing and sourcing. If I really want something that I haven't found second hand, I am going to look to these new brands for a purchase. HOWEVER, companies also know the right ad words to use in marketing, so I always try and read reviews or their "About Us" page and determine if they truly do what they advertise.
The Occasional Sale Purchase
With all of these things in the back of my mind, I sometimes find a great piece on J. Crew.com or Zara that I really want to get. And then I do! But, I make sure that it fits well, is well constructed, and is a trend that will be around for 2+ years.
5. Maintain and Repair
I am a huge advocate for maintaining your things once you have them! After some initial investments in brushes and treatments, you have yourself a wonderful at home care kit. Laundering the proper way or taking time to re-wax or re-condition your canvas and leather are going to ensure you can keep wearing the same pair/item for so many years! I also have a sewing machine and kit, so I re-patch denim holes and sweater snags on my own.
In its most simple form: Don't Buy as Much and What You do Buy, Think Hard About It :)
Thanks for reading! Leave any questions below if you'd like! I am sure my habits and thoughts will shift continually as the consumer world continues to change.