The Guise of Variety

I was contemplating what a ‘good’ buy was after reading Debbie’s recent post over at  My mind drifted to the conclusion that these days it’s just two main types of purchases for me.  Needs and loves.  Anything else is just wasted money and time at this point.  Gone are the days of, “oh this looks fun and is flattering” without further thought put in.  I have more than enough of that stuff.  Sure, some of that is okay.  I’m at a point where I want to improve my wardrobe, not just add to it.  More of that isn’t going to help me.

In the past, a main driving force for picking up that kind of stuff was a need for variety.  I still have a higher desire for variety than a lot of folks.  I’ve said before, I can’t do neutrals only, or a select number of items (10 a year or 33 a season) and be happy with it.  BUT . . . I’m becoming ever more aware that the subtle things we see as variety within our own closets, the casual observer does not.

Let me explain.  We all know of basic fashion formulas.  Tunic over leggings with boots would be one. A pencil skirt, blouse, and jacket or cardigan with pumps would be a common work wear formula.  Jeans, tee, and a jacket might be another for more casual lives.  Most of us find a formula or two that we like and stick with it.  We vary the colors, or the cuts a little, or maybe the fabrics and patterns.  But it’s the basic same formula.

If I buy 10 cuts and washes of jeans to vary my look, I am still, at the core of it, just wearing jeans.  How many pairs does it really take to satisfy my need for variety?  And just how different does one pair look from the other to the person I pass in the grocery store?  Same could be said for white knit tops, or black boots, or whatever your fancy.  You might see all the subtle differences, but that’s from your own, probably self-centric, viewpoint, sorry to say. Sure, a high heeled boot looks different than a flat and dark wash jeans are noticeably different than distressed with holes.  But I bet we can all bring to mind a bunch of ‘in between’ items in these categories that get collected but don’t really pack a visual punch.  That is fine if you want a ton of stuff.  I don’t.  I want what I can and will wear.  Not much more.

So, for me, buying different versions of similar items is dangerous territory.  I used to find a thing I liked – casual cotton blazer for instance – and then hunt down every color or weight I could find.  For ‘variety’.  Sigh.  This is partly why I began to try and stop at one light neutral, one dark neutral, and then one color or pattern.  The rule of 3.

You are free to shop however you want.  I’m not here to say what is ‘right’ or wrong.  Just be aware that the 12 grey cashmere sweaters you have don’t really look any different to the average Joe or Jane!   If they make you smile, great.  If you are like me, and want to control the excess in your closet, think twice about the variety you are seeking.  It may be a bit of a fallacy.

Winter Shop, So Far

I seem to be having no problem doing a ‘big’ shop all at once!  Yikes.  It remains to be seen if this will quell the urge for some time to come.

Although I’m trying to get over the budget shock of shopping this way, my BF has no idea I’ve switched gears and is no doubt going to wonder WTF.  Not to mention, I am extremely underemployed at the moment.  In part, this is why I’m being conscious of my credit card cycle.  It ends about a week before the month is up, so if I spread the purchases on both sides of the closing date, it won’t be a huge amount all on one month.  Yes, I am still doing all the purchasing within a couple weeks’ time, but it goes on 2 separate months’ bills.  This relieves me more than I care to admit!

Here is what is on its way:

I had already recently acquired the following items and am slating them in the winter shop even though they were bought a bit early.

This already puts me squarely in the top of my planned amounts for the ‘big’ first month of the shopping season (4-6 items).  And yet I still have a couple of things I truly need.  They are basics or necessities.  Not as fun to shop for.  But ignoring them isn’t doing me any favors.  They are uniform work pants and a nude bra, also for work.  With white banquet shirts, the need for a good bra becomes very apparent.

True, my banquet season is over and I’ll be lucky to work 2 or 3 days a month until spring, but I don’t want to delay the search for these items until it becomes a time crunch.  I want to take my time and find just the right version of them.  They’ll be some of the most worn items in my closet and I want to make good choices that I’ll be happy with, day in and day out.

I am happy that I did at least get the hoodie and work shoes.  They are also more needs than wants, and therefore less exciting to shop for.  My dark skinny jeans could almost be slated as a need, as well, since I discovered the wardrobe hole when pulling on winter boots week after week with no plain jean to wear under them.

Besides the needs, I like that I can see a cohesive style behind my other purchases, the wants.  I’ve been looking to exude a more rock n’ roll vibe, without being over the top with it.  Stuff I can wear in my more casual life, but that packs some style punch without being out of place or obtrusive.

I also had a couple near misses.  The returns.  I’d say both were about an 8 out of 10.  But I have enough stuff.  And adding 8’s isn’t going to further my wardrobe.  The jacket was just too boxy.  The pants looked great on, but were a tad too low rise.  Being that these were to be a uniform, worn several times a week, I thought it best to hold out for better fit and comfort.

Finally, here is how the budget is shaping up so far:

winter budget so far

I had figured on the average price per item at $50, so this is a great start.  I know some things will be $10 and others $150 or more, but the average is one I am comfortable with for most items.  I envisioned about $250 or $300 for the ‘big’ shop in the first month, with subsequent months in each season coming in at $50 or $100.  Just small refreshers.  Likely tops or tees.

I did not buy boots nor a coat in this winter’s ‘haul’.  But I’d bought a wool walker coat at the tail end of fall, and instead bought a jacket in winter that I might otherwise have slated in the fall buying cycle.  Boots I have plenty of, and need to chip at the cost per wear.  Too many moves to FL has upended the normal wearing cycle.  I have catching up to do!

Hope that wasn’t too convoluted.  As I said, this is my first try at the seasonal thing so I’ll see how it goes.  Also, crossing fingers and toes that the online orders work out and don’t have to be returned.  Will keep you all posted.  🙂

Seasonal Shopping – how will it look?

This is all still in the idea phase for me.  I imagine I might struggle with my first outing (whether online or in person) for more than just a single item.  I have been stringing out my purchases little by little for years now, to keep the spending under control.  But I think that’s also gotten me used to a steady stream of new things every week or two.  Buying a whole outfit (or two!) at once will be a bit of sticker shock I’m sure.

Here is how I think my item needs will shake out, season by season.  Since my birthday is mid May and Christmas is the start of winter, they seemed like good seasonal markers for me.  (Not to mention I already tend to do more shopping at those times, spurred by gift money.)  Rounded out by fall, the BIG style season of the year.  This also relates better to the cold – hot – temperate way I tend to view my closet than using the traditional four seasons or just S/S and F/W would.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe numbers indicate how I hope to group the majority of my purchases into the first month and then space out a couple more at the tail end of each of the three seasons I’ve divided the year into.  Again, I am trying to be more organic and less structured with this all, but a rough guideline of when I will find certain items in the retail market is helpful for me.

Some things are clearly seasonal, like shoes.  I want to buy just 4 pair a year, and know I want to budget for one pair each of boots, sandals, and flats and then a sneaker or clog or some other transitional style each year.  That’s easy figuring which shoe for each season.  Ditto things like shorts for summer and a coat in winter.  Also sleeve lengths for shirts by season – tanks for summer, short sleeved transitional and long sleeves in winter.  The rest is more of a mixed bag.  That’s where thinking in terms of a whole new outfit, or look, comes in.  I’m sure I will still find that screaming off season deal or two, but by and large, I want to buy what I need when I will be wearing it, not 6 months before.

I anticipate still wanting a new item or two most months despite the attempt to switch to 3 big shops a year.  Old habits die hard and I think it better to figure in a safety valve of sorts in seasonal refreshers.  Otherwise, I fear I will feel I’m on a dreaded shopping ban and react with over shopping.

Do you have any ideas about how you are going to approach seasonal shopping, if you are also planning to switch to that method?  Are you afraid of the lump sum cost of one big trip?  I know I am!   Guess the only way to get past it is to do it!  [gulp]  Stay tuned.

Starting 2015’s shopping year

Today is the first day of winter, and the start of my 2015 shopping year.  I’m switching to a more seasonal approach, to see if that doesn’t help curb the constant flow of ‘wantsies’.

This year I am going to try adding 2 new columns to my spreadsheet.  Seems I can learn how to use one, if I poke around long enough.  I put in a Cost Per Wear column, and a times worn (necessary to compute the CPW).  I am pretty analytical, but not so structured that I mark down every item I wear on a daily basis.  I do figure I can at least remember to note when I’m wearing the newer things brought into my closet.

So I won’t be trying to figure out older items’ CPW retroactively.  I have my ‘hit list’ of things over $20 CPW from prior years I can carry over.  But, starting with new purchases, I will try tracking cost per wear this year.  It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.  I already see my cheapest item has been worn most.  This does not surprise me.  I know I tend toward wearing the deals and saving the ‘good’ stuff.  Perhaps eyeing my CPW as the year unfolds will impact this tendency of mine, for the better.

CPW add

adding CPW columns

I’m also going to try differentiating the online purchases from the in-person buys.  I expect the purple (in person) purchases to have a much lower rate of return.  Perhaps, again, seeing it in front of me in print will hit home a need to change my approach and shop more B&M whenever possible.   Also adding a side column of returns.  I (we?) tend toward ‘out of sight out of mind’ thinking when it comes to items we don’t keep and add to our wardrobe.  But if I keep a running list of the ‘misses’ and ‘almosts’ it will again give me a visual reminder of the effort and time I’m putting in.

Those are the new tweaks to this year’s shopping budget spreadsheet.  Time will tell if they are helpful, or just cumbersome.  Ideally, I’ll be shopping less frequently, so the extra column or two shouldn’t be a big deal.

What I am keeping and carrying over from last year are the Basics and Incidentals at the bottom of my budget.  I don’t have these listed on my shopping wish list for the year.  They are more the unspoken needs.

basics & incurs 2015I have rough estimates filled in, but as I buy things, I replace those estimated amounts with the actual prices.  Ideally, I end up in the $250 range for the basics, and $150 for the incurred expenses.   You can see I have my first real expense in the returns column.  I’m sending back the colorblock jacket that was just too boxy.  Found a loophole that is cheaper ($2.95) for store credit and if you wait 60 days without using it, it then gets credited back to your original form of purchase.  Regular return is $6.95.  Is it worth the $4?  I dunno.  Maybe not.  But when I see I only have $75 to play around with for the whole year’s returns, it does give me pause.

So, that’s my 2015 budget spreadsheet.  I’m budgeting about $1300 for ‘regular’ items.  Approximately 26 items at an average of $50 each.  Additional $400 to cover the basics and incurred costs.  A total of $1700 for the year and hopefully 30 or less items.  That’s the rough goal.  The actual dollar amounts are not as important to me as buying less.  Buying what I really will wear.  And buying what I actually need, even if it’s not the ‘fun’ stuff to buy.  (I got caught short on banquet uniform wear, for instance.)   That will be the real struggle.

Closing 2014 – What I bought

In keeping with my wanting to switch to a more seasonal shopping approach, I am starting my shopping year on December 21rst, the first day of winter.  It’s very close to the calendar year anyway, but since I can tend to get technical, I want to make it a clear set starting point.  That means this year is wrapping up in 3 days.  Seems like a good time to take stock of last year’s purchases before going forward with next year’s shopping plan.

2014 part1

2014 part2

2014 part3I ditched the two a month item limit ever since a halfway successful attempt at it the prior year (2013).  This was my first step in attempting to move away from a constant feed of items, by not making a monthly limit.  I wanted it to be more organic.  But . . . it didn’t really work either.  At least, not as well as I’d hoped.  Part of the issue is too much time on my hands, plain and simple.  When I am off work, I have WAY too much time to surf online, hunting down the next great thing.  When I get in the swing of a busy life, shopping naturally takes a step back in the priorities of my daily activities. So, when I’m working, the shopping automatically decreases.  Thank god!  lol

This last year I had no item per month limit but had a rough goal of around 30 or 40 items and under $2000.  Missed on both accounts.  But not by too much.  I bought 47 items and spent $2085.  Now, some of those items were flip flops for the pool to swim laps for my triathlon, and work uniform pants and shoes, but I counted them.  Some were birthday and Christmas gifts, that I bought with gift $$$, but I count those too.  The only thing I don’t count toward my item limit is gym/workout wear, sleepwear, and underwear (the 3rd picture listing items below the blue line).  Things not meant to be seen by the general public.  I do, however count those costs in my budget.  After all, they aren’t free!   Also in my budget are return shipping fees and alteration costs.

The major reason I went over budget was a need for a uniform update.  That was $50 of my $83.  I don’t tend to have too much trouble staying within a dollar budget.  My trouble has historically been just too many things coming in.

I did a little bit of reselling through both eBay and a local shop over the year. Revenue made from clothes sales was deducted from my total budget.  Those notations in the margins are either credits from resale or notes that the item was bought with gift $$.  Also, the color bars are yellow for worn once or not yet at all (bad) or red for sold off or purged (also bad).  I don’t want a lot of ‘churn’ in my closet.  I know not every piece is destined to be a closet all star or stick around for 6 or 7 years, but my personal goal is not be buying throw away fashion that is only worn a handful of times one season and then purged.

That said, we all make mistakes, and it’s only to be expected.  Actually I figure the only way to be mistake proof is to not take a risk.  That’s no fun either.  Last year’s mistakes account for about 10% of my items.  Not that bad, but 5% sure would be better!  I don’t have any set goals in this category.  Just want to be mindful and try my best to really think through purchases in the hope that mistakes become even fewer and further between.

2015 list

That’s how I ‘spent’ my 2014, hee hee. The nitty gritty, down to the last sock.  I have a plan for 2015 and have already slated many of the items to be bought down the line.  Planning in advance, but still with plenty of leeway for items that strike my fancy on the spot.  My biggest change I want to affect is buying less.  I know I have enough.  But I also know I like clothes and want to have some new things each season.  The trick is in the balance.  My plan of having just enough slots to fill for each category before I’m done for the year I hope will help curtail the sheer amount of new coming in.  Here is what I, today, want to buy in the coming year.  It may change tomorrow, and then again next month.  That’s okay!  As long as I don’t buy more than the number of lines I have allotted, I can change my mind 20 times over.   Blue was bought ahead of time (oops!) with coming xmas cash I know I’ll be getting.  Actually the graphic sweatshirt is going to come up on eBay on the 21rst, so it’s not really jumping the gun.  If we’re getting technical and all . 😉

That’s 2014’s shopping summary.  Coming clean, as it were.  Did you have a plan?  A dollar budget or item limit or both?  Did you succeed?  If not, are you happy with the progress you’ve made?

Crazy Pants Casual

I live a casual life.  I don’t go to an office.  I don’t live in a city.  I rarely have need to dress up.  Actually, I’d draw odd glances if I did.  But I still like to have fun with what I wear.  I don’t have to live in blue jeans and hoodies just because half the town does.

Last week running about town I wore some of my ‘crazy pants’.  The ikat my BF has dubbed icky cat, which totally makes me smile 🙂  Wore them to shop for uniform pants and shoes for a new job I’m starting this week.  Struck out in town at Kmart and TJ Maxx. Went online for them.  But I also ended up meeting up with a GF impromptu for tacos, so it was nice to not be caught in grubby duds.

Later that week I went on a movie date with my BF to see Hunger Games at a matinee.  We grabbed a quick bite at a taqueria first.  I ended up hitting the grocery store afterwards, while he visited at his mom’s.  Ran into a good friend I hadn’t seen in a few years.  Again, glad to be presentable for the chance encounter.

Funny, my BF thought the blue python velvety pants were more crazy than the ‘icky cat’ but I thought they were lower contrast, so therefore more subdued.  It’s all relative, as neither pair I would call subdued!


Both pair of pants are from last fall/winter season but both open weave sweaters are new this fall.  I figured I may as well wear these printed pants whenever, wherever, before they become outdated.  Yes, most folks are not running around in loud printed skinnies, but I don’t mind sticking out a bit.  It’s when I start to look like the crazy lady who didn’t realize what decade it is that I’ll start to question them! 😉

This week is all about uniforms, as I start the new job at the pet store, and have 2 more shifts of banquets.  7 shifts, 2 doubles.  No time for crazy pants this week.  Just black, black, black.  Yawn.

Fitness – Intrinsic or Purposeful?

Many of you may know that I have been moving back and forth from Florida to California over the last decade.  It’s pretty extreme I suppose, compared to how most people go about their daily lives.  We trade snow for sun and I trade usually 2 jobs for none.  I go from zero to sixty and back again.  It’s an adjustment.  For me, for my closet (!) and for my body.

When I am here working, I tend bar and waitress.  I get a lot of movement in my daily activities just by going to work.  I also like to go biking, rafting, etc with my friends.  Any purposeful workouts are above and beyond living an active lifestyle.  Conversely, in FL I don’t work and I instead focus on running and races and triathlons.  My workouts are very purposeful, and timed, and scheduled, etc.

I feel I stay fit both ways.  I’m not sure I can say one is preferable to the other.  I can say that I do weigh less when I come home to CA. I have years of graphs to prove it.  There is a study about high altitude that might have something to do with that, beyond how active I personally am.

I will say that after 40, flexibility becomes more important, as does strength training.  Luckily, bartending requires plenty of carrying and bending and twisting, not just standing upright pouring drinks.  This is no small reason why I left an office desk job in ’92 and never looked back.  I did not want to sit 40 hours a week.  I like moving.  I like even more when it’s built into my day and I don’t have to ‘make time’ for it.

That said, if my career should shift and I find myself in a less active job, I will make the time for purposeful workouts to compensate.  Running, yoga, weightlifting.  I figure it has to at least be one or the other, but you can’t do neither and expect to remain fit as you age.  Thin and fit are not the same thing.  One can stay thin with diet, but to be fit you have to move your body in some way.

Do you ‘workout’, or are you ‘active’?  Do you differentiate between the two?  Do you feel you get the movement in most days that you’d like to?  Or do you wish you had more hours?  Or, like me, sometimes wish for more motivation?  If you could choose – would you pick scheduled workouts or an overall active lifestyle?  Does it matter?