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May 11, 2011 / Danielle

Prepping for a Shopping Fast: Physical Prep (Part 2)

Some of you (you lovely people you) have emailed me or commented that you’ve been thinking of starting a similar challenge for yourself. (To which I say “Do it! You totally can! You will save so much money and rediscover things you never even knew you had!”) With 100 days behind me, here are some thoughts I’ve put together on what worked best for me in preparing for this kind of clothing-shopping-fast.  I’ve divided this into two parts: Physical Prep and Mental Prep (And I’ll subdivide those accordingly – you can find Part 1 here.) And, as always, if you do decide to take some time off shopping and you want to document and share it? Let me know about it

So last time, we talked about getting to know your closet pre-clothing fast; here’s where you get to do the necessary stocking-up to make going without possible.

You should already have your list of necessities; maybe a new pair of jeans, a basic black skirt, an extra scarf/headband/belt/pair of tights to make what you already have more versatile. (For a more detailed demonstration, here’s my original pre-project list.) Now that you know what you need? Think about the specific items themselves. For someone who shops sensibly, this should all be old hat; but if you’re anything like me (and easily distracted by pretty shiny objects, regardless of your actual ability to work them into your clothing rotation on a regular basis), here are some key points to think about:

  • Niche:  What purpose, exactly, will this be filling in your wardrobe? If you need a black skirt – where are you planning to wear it? Something you’ll wear in a conservative office is going to look different than something comfortable and easy-to-wear on the weekends. Consider shape, construction, and ease of wear/washing. (Cotton vs silk, pencil vs full, machine washable vs drycleaning – what’s going to meet your needs best?)
  • Versatility: Originally, when I went Hunter-boot-shopping, I was hoping for the dark eggplant color. Finding them sold out, I briefly considered the bright lime. At the end of the day, I’m really, really happy I settled on the dolphin gray. Shopping with a bent towards wearing and re-wearing means emphasizing the practical; what’s going to be better in terms of actually going with my closet? This doesn’t mean you have to stick to a neutral, of course; you may have noticed I love color and scarcely ever wear black. My closet revolves well enough around gray boots; think about what your closet needs. (If you’re torn between two colors or styles, sit down for five minutes and make a list of outfits for each in your head until you’ve figured out what’s going to be most helpful.)
  • Value:  Obviously, this last one is really going to depend on your budget. While it’s important to stick within your means, I think it’s valuable to make as big an effort as possible to shop for quality first.  (If you’re taking more than a month off shopping, something’s not going to be useful to you unless it lasts the time you need.) Also, it’s worth it to have exactly the item you want – because that’s going to be the most useful to you. If you’re in a money pinch, prioritize – it’s going to be easier to find an $8 white t-shirt than it will be to find $8 boots-that-will-last-through-the-winter. (I’ll admit, I love Splendid and James Perse, but at the end of the day, a Target tee gets the job done too.)

All right – having answers all those questions (and drawn up your budget) – is the fun part. Go get those things. But – but –  stick to the list. If it’s not on there, don’t buy it – at least until you’ve gotten all your basics purchased. (It helps, too, if you’ve already completed your “touch every item of clothing you own” project from Part 1, so you’ll be able to rule out stuff that’s similar to something you already own.) You can always come back to whatever siren piece is calling your name once you know you’ve been able to afford everything you actually need – but if you’re dying for a pair of black flats, another pair of sequinned oxfords ( . . . . never happened) isn’t going to help you. (And this is coming from a girl with no less than five pairs of metallic-finish shoes. Learn from my mistakes!)

A word about The List; there’s an argument to be made here that if you don’t already have it? You probably don’t really need it. (If you haven’t already noticed the void in your closet and filled it? it’s probably unnecessary.) If you’re only planning to giving up buying clothes for a few weeks? I’d agree. If you’re planning to go longer, however, I think it’s worth stocking your closet accordingly. In my current office/retail job rotation, I don’t wear my jeans often; but when I move this summer, and after that return to the student life, I’ve no doubt I’m going to be incredibly grateful for my A.G.s. You’ve seen (and I can’t stop talking about) how much wear I’ve gotten out of my Hunter boots (and how pleased my toes were to have them this slushy Chicago winter), and while I haven’t yet gotten much mileage out of my petticoat, for example, it delights me so much that I’m really, really happy to have it to play with for the rest of the year. If it’s going to make the clothes you already have more wearable, or keep your practical needs met? It may well be worth the plunge.

*Here’s a little tip from me to you (as a retail girl); when you bring home your bag full of delicious needed things, keep careful track of your receipts. (I usually fold mine a few times and staple it to the tag, or tuck it inside the shoebox – so everything’s in one place if I need it). Leave the tags on and keep the receipt until the actual day you wear the item. I can’t stress to you how useful this is;  if you get three months into not-shopping and you realize you’re not wearing those shoes (and don’t think you will?), you’ll have everything you need to be able to return them. (Provided, of course, the store’s policy accepts them within that timeframe – which lots do.)



Leave a Comment
  1. jesspgh / May 12 2011 6:14 pm

    Great advice! I really need to follow the “leave the tags on and staple the receipt” trick. I don’t know why I remove tags before wearing. It just makes no sense. But sometimes I *think* I am going to wear something, remove the tags, put it on, and change my mind. That should be a sign already that I should consider the possibility of wanting to return it, really.

    • Danielle / May 13 2011 4:46 pm

      Jess – I know, right? I’ve been folding-and-stapling for the past year, and it makes a huge difference – not many things go back, but it’s much easier to do it when I don’t have to worry about hunting for the receipt, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much I buy (bought), wear once and then forget about; there’s some sort of analysis to be done there about our attitudes on disposable clothes . . .

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