Monday, January 8, 2018

Best and Worst Buys of 2017

Alas, 2017 was not a minimalism-ish-friendly year on the shopping front for me. I started out with good ambitions, to have maybe a month or so's "shopping freeze" at the start before drifting back towards the habits I'd had around the first quarter of 2016, usually one to two items a month. That "freeze" didn't happen, though I had a few light months where I shopped mostly on the secondhand market. Towards the end of the year I shopped a lot, and even if the big ticket items were arguable work wardrobe necessities, it didn't feel quite right. It felt like one of my early 2015 shopping months, when I knew from years of experience since then that that quantity, particularly as a regular and sustained thing for several months in a row, just wasn't right for me.

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There were a few reasons I was "off my game." Throughout my clerkship, continuing through early fall 2017, I had what the New York Times calls an "extreme commute," though only barely, and with less transfers than most. It was the best job ever, and I'd do it all over again, but it wasn't sustainable for the long term, and I was cutting a lot of corners on things like cleaning the apartment or eating square meals for dinner, because I just didn't have the energy. Combine that with the constrained budget and a significant pay cut, and knowing that the clerkship itself was an extremely expensive decision as a matter of opportunity cost, and I felt "off my game" in a broad sense, which for me, makes it more difficult to make good shopping decisions.

After the clerkship ended, I felt some additional "growing pains" from the transition to the different wardrobe needs of my new job, the sudden realization that former go-to retailers (Ann Taylor and Loft) were no longer a viable choice, and the return to a private sector paycheck. I think I've gotten it all out of my system now, so I'm hoping that 2018 will be a year without any "worst buys." 

Best Buys of 2017:
  • Ted Baker Long Wrap Coat, oxblood - This was a "surprise" buy at the tail end of the post-Christmas sale season, when the price was really good, and it was left in my size. I was so sure I was going to send this back, as I often don't like belted coats (which can look too bulky if I don't belt it just right) and oxblood isn't a color that often works for me, but I felt so pretty with it on. Alas, this was probably when I began to lose the plot with 2017's budget. Ted Baker brings this coat back in various colors every year, and they're offering a similar "maroon" shade this year. 
  • Marc by Marc Jacobs Too Hot to Handle Hobo (similar) - RIP Marc by Marc Jacobs ("MBMJ"), which made some of the first handbags I coveted as a college student. They've started selling this exact design as part of the current "Marc Jacobs" brand, but only at Gilt and Nordstrom Rack. I almost wonder if they took some of the old MBMJ stock and just... relabeled it? But that seems odd. It had been a long time since I bought a handbag, and I didn't have anything in a larger size purely for casual wear. I was also so sure I was going to send this back, but like with the Ted Baker coat, I was quite taken with it once I saw it in person. 
  • Grana Silk Ankle Pants, black - As my first elastic-waist pants that weren't purely for stay-at-home lounging, these were an experiment for me. I felt more confident choosing them because several other bloggers (Jane and Elaine) like them. These are great, I wear them for both work and play, and I find them very un-fusssy and easy to handwash, unlike Grana silk items in other colors. Alas, I think Grana may be discontinuing these, given the limited colors and sizes left in stock. The medium in short length are a perfect size and ankle length on me. 
  • Tory Burch Tee Dress - Tory Burch does a few prints of this pima cotton tee dress every spring/summer. I'd seen this more than a year ago, on Franish and an offline friend, but tee dresses were too out of my comfort zone then. I generally prefer more structured dresses, finding them more flattering on my slightly top-heavy hourglass figure. When I saw this on TheRealReal in what I was pretty sure was my size (it's a little loose in M on me), I snapped it up. Quality is good, but not great. I wore it almost once a week in warmer weather, and wash it in the machine in cold water every time. While there are no real signs of wear, there are some mostly-hidden small patches, mostly near the armpit, where the blue dye from the print seems to have bled a little.

My "best buys" aren't necessarily items with the best cost per wear ratio, or items that got the most use. Instead, I generally point to items that were a "surprise" in some way, either a new style for me, or something I didn't expect to like as much as I did, but that I ended up loving. Fashion experimenting isn't always a success, as you'll see with my "worst buys" this year. With me, there's an extremely fine line between style experiments that work out and ones that will completely fail. Sometimes, though, after trying on an item, I get a strong feeling that I really like this new-for-me thing, and I will be reaching for it, and with the items above, it worked out well.

Worst Buys of 2017:
  • Uniqlo High-Waist Belted Flare Midi Skirt - Getting two a-line midi skirts was definitely not wise, when the silhouette was already so out of my comfort zone. I turned out to not to be as ready to experiment with it as I thought. This one flares out less dramatically  at the waist, and is a little shorter, so between the two it was probably the one that was more likely to work out. 
  • Uniqlo Volume Skirt - I wore this two or three times to run errands in summer, but haven't worn it otherwise. Alas, maybe this spring/summer I'll be ready to try it again? I couldn't see myself wearing either of these to work now. We have casual Fridays, but these skirts are quite a bit more "look" than most people bring in their casual Friday outfits. 
  • Uniqlo Drape Jogger - Because the Grana Silk Ankle Pants were so great, and filled a similar niche, I never ended up wearing these. As with the skirts, I'm now on notice: Buying two somewhat redundant items definitely isn't a good idea. Just pick one! Plus, these move much too far towards the "casual" end of business casual for my new office. (They'd have been pushing it at the old place, with the sweatpant-like elasticized hem.) When buying both pants, I was somewhat inspired by the Artizia Cohen pants, which many on r/femalefashionadvice look fabulous in, but well, those are quite different from what I actually ordered. 

Clearly, there are a few lessons to take from the "worst buys." I do not, alas, generally do well with experimenting with new silhouettes, particularly with bottoms. It's also not the best influence on me when something is relatively affordable, such that my brain can get to thinking "why not both?" That everything came from Uniqlo is only coincidence, as I could have made the same mistakes with experimental items from any more modestly-priced source.

Did you have any particularly awesome or particularly unwise purchases this year? Any big lessons or takeaways from those, that will guide next year's shopping? 

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