In my last post, I wrote about applying the “Goldilocks Principle” to our wardrobes to help us reach the “just right” point in terms of how many clothes we have and how well they suit our lives. I suggested four exercises to facilitate that process, one of which I called the “Plate Exercise.” This exercise entails going through all of the clothes you own and asking yourself whether or not you would each one again today (add them to your “wardrobe plate”).
When I wrote about the Plate Exercise, I had not yet done it because I had just come up with it while writing the post. However, I took some time to do it this past week, so I will share the outcome today, along with my thoughts on what I learned from the process. I will also give you an update on my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS) shopping back in July/August and how I feel about that sale two months later.
By the way, even though I have been writing a lot about wardrobe-related topics lately, this blog has not morphed into a virtual replica of Recovering Shopaholic. I still plan to write about lots of other topics here, as I’ve done previously (see my archives for a list of posts both chronologically and by category). However, as it’s nearing the end of the year and I’ve continued to work on my 2018 theme, essential, I’ve moved my consideration more toward my physical belongings, including my clothing. My last two posts and this one have come about because there’s a strong disconnect between my vision of an essential wardrobe and the contents of my closet. This issue has been top of mind, which is why I have been writing more about it. For those who are more interested in my other topics, I will definitely be getting back to those soon.
Doing the “Plate Exercise”
Since I had gone through my closet not that long ago (more on that in a future post), I opted to do a “lite version” of the plate exercise. I have photos on my computer of almost all of the clothing, shoes, and accessories I own, so instead of evaluating the physical items, I used the images I have instead. I looked at the image for each item and made a quick determination about whether or not I would purchase it today. I created two folders – one for things I would buy today and the other for pieces I would leave in the store – and copied each image into one of them. I was originally going to just evaluate the garments in my working closet, but I decided to also include what’s in my “holding zone” (the items that either don’t currently fit me or that I’m considering passing on) to help me better identify my current preferences and why certain things aren’t working for me.
The basic end result of my Plate Exercise was that I would buy approximately two-thirds of the items I own again today. The remaining third would be left in the store for one reason or another (more on that below). When I separated out clothes and shoes, I noticed that the proportions stayed the same in that I would buy 65% of each category again today and would reject the remaining 35%. My numbers were somewhat better when it came to accessories in that I would purchase roughly three quarters (74%) of them again today.
My percentages with the “holding zone” items were not so favorable, but that was to be expected. I would purchase only about half (47%) of those pieces again today and would leave the other half (53%) in the store. The majority of the holding zone items that I would buy again are things that don’t currently fit me well. I still like the colors, styles, and silhouettes, but I don’t like the way these garments look and feel on me at my current weight and size. While I could wear most of them now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in them (physically, emotionally, or both), so they are in limbo pending either weight loss or my sad decision to pass them on. The holding zone items that I wouldn’t buy again today mostly have something “off” about them in some respect. As I look at that folder right now, I realize that I’m hanging on to many of these items because they were either costly shopping mistakes or prior favorites that I no longer love but am second-guessing myself about. I expect to move at least some of these items along in the near future…
As I recommended in my last post, I took my Plate Exercise a step further by looking at the common elements among the items that I would re-purchase today and those that I would reject. This portion of the exercise was very helpful and I highly recommend it. For the sake of not having this become a marathon post, I won’t share my full lists here, but I’ll include some notes below about what I noticed with my clothes and shoes to give you a sense of what I learned. Because pictures are so helpful to illustrate points, I also show some examples of my actual pieces in each section.
Clothing Common Elements:
Would buy again today:
- Black or jewel tones
- Black and white stripes/prints
- Mild embellishments
- Knits, especially with a bit of stretch in them
- Straight-leg pants and jeans (often look “skinny” on me)
- Casual v-neck and crew neck tees (including graphic tees)
Would NOT buy again today:
- Warm tones
- Too much embellishment (i.e. ruffles) or “busy” items
- Flimsy fabric (especially cotton/modal blends without spandex)
- Uncomfortable or scratchy fabric
- Too short for my height / hit me at a bad spot (widest part of hips or calves)
- Anything with a “church lady vibe” (too dressy/stuffy)
- Too tight or borderline tight in the hips, especially with little or no “give”
- Too similar to wardrobe favorites (“splitting my wears”)
- Items bought with “sales goggles” on (bought just because of low price)
Shoe Common Elements:
Would buy again today:
- Black or cool tone metallic colors
- Streamlined styles or mild embellishment
- Silver hardware
- 2-inch heels (seems to be my “sweet spot” for most shoes)
Would NOT buy again today:
- Dressy styles
- Too shiny
- Gold hardware
- Warm tones
- Flats (except for sandals I wear with maxi dresses and skirts)
These notes will be useful for me in terms of my future shopping, along with the “Do Not Buy” and “Okay to Buy” lists I mentioned in my last post. I want to be very targeted with what I buy, especially since I’m trying to decrease closet churn and reduce shopping mistakes. I won’t be purchasing much more this year beyond replacing some basics, but doing the Plate Exercise and creating the aforementioned lists will help me create a workable plan for 2019.
An Update on NAS…
Speaking of shopping, I want to give you an update on how I fared with shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS) back in July/August. Prior to venturing out to shop what has long been my favorite sale, I took some time to check in on my shopping progress and setbacks and revisit key strategies I’ve learned for successfully navigating the veritable minefield that is sales shopping. Armed with an updated shopping priorities list and a series of questions to target my purchasing, I browsed the sales offerings online and then visited my local Nordstrom to try things on at the start of the sale.
That initial shopping trip was very mindful and quite productive. Everything I bought was something that I had identified as a priority, including booties, a long knit blazer, and two nightshirts. Since my birthday is in early August, I knew I would receive money from family members, which is usually applied toward enhancing my NAS shopping budget. Not everything I was interested in was available in the store, so I had to place an online order as well, but I left the store feeling satisfied and like I had shopped consciously and appropriately for my budget and my life.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stop there… I allowed myself to be sucked in by the various bloggers and online forum members who were posting incessantly about this “big sale.” I was alerted to items that had escaped my notice during my initial perusal of the Nordstrom website and my local store’s offerings. I shopped the in-person sale again with a friend and also ordered a few additional items online. The majority of what I bought during that follow-on shopping was later returned. I didn’t spend a ridiculous amount of time and money on the sale like I had in years past, but it was still too much and I wasn’t proud of myself for getting caught up in the NAS frenzy. I mostly stuck to my word about saving my returns to do all at once so that I wouldn’t shop more. However, since I live so close to the store now, I did “piggyback” doing returns on top of other errands, taking care to do so when I wouldn’t have time to do any additional browsing.
What I Bought at NAS
When all was said and done, here’s what I ended up with from NAS:
I mostly focused on enhancing my shoe wardrobe, as I hadn’t purchased many shoes in recent years, had passed on quite a few pairs, and a lot of my existing pairs have become worn out. I also needed a pair of dressy shoes to wear to my brother’s wedding last month. Since I don’t dress up often, I was happy to be able to find a deeply discounted pair at NAS.
I haven’t worn all of my NAS purchase yet since it’s still quite warm where I live, so there’s still a possibility that I won’t keep it all. The two sleep shirts have already become “workhorses,” and I can see other pieces earning that status as well once we move into fall and winter. I ended up exchanging the two pairs of booties I bought at NAS for alternate pairs (one more deeply discounted than at NAS and one at regular price) earlier this month. Both of the original pairs has seemed like a good idea but ultimately weren’t right for my style and lifestyle. I swapped out the heavily embellished black booties for a more streamlined and subtly embellished pair, and the replacement gray booties are more cool-toned and are a better match for my wardrobe.
NAS 2019 and Beyond…
I’m not sure if I’m going to keep shopping the NAS, as I find that I don’t end up keeping much of what I buy there! It seems like I had the right idea back in 2013 when I opted to skip the sale altogether. I tend to waste a lot of time and energy on a sale for which my track record isn’t very good. I think I have continued to shop NAS more out of FOMO than for sound reasons. It’s a much better idea for me to wait to do my fall shopping when the weather cools down where I live, which often isn’t until October or November. Even though the stores start selling fall items in the scorching heat of summer, there will still be a large selection of items to buy a few months later. If I do opt to shop NAS again, I think I’ll be extremely targeted about it and aim to get just a few very specific items like wardrobe basics (bras, sleep wear, etc.).
I think a great step any of us who struggle with overshopping could take would be to avoid reading the blogs and forum posts about “amazing deals” and just pay attention to our own shopping priorities. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm bloggers are shouting from the rooftops, but we have to remember that they are earning lots of affiliate dollars by getting us excited to buy what they’re touting. I don’t begrudge their earning a living, but as a recovering shopaholic, I do need to protect myself from engaging a serious case of “the wanties,” which is an ongoing danger. While it’s true that I have gotten some excellent deals at the sale over the years, I have to ask myself whether or not it’s truly worth all of the time and energy I’ve put into it. After all, there are always “great deals” and sales available and NAS has long been a problem and a challenge for me. Perhaps it would just be easier to give it a miss next time around in order to save myself a lot of time, attention, and money.
I have shared a lot in this post, but now I’d like to hear from you. If you have done the “Plate Exercise” or something similar, what did you learn from it? I’d also like to hear about your experiences in shopping NAS or other big sales. Do you fare well with your sales shopping or are you better off just buying things at regular price when you most need them? What tips and suggestions do you have for me and your fellow readers? I invite you to share your insights in the comments section.