How Much Do You Spend on Clothes?

Band of Outsiders Palm Tree Dress

When I used to look at fashion blogs, there was always one thing no one ever seemed to talk about: how much people actually spend on clothes.

These blogs would be filled with endless amounts of designer clothes with a seemingly unlimited supply of money to match. Of course I’d put my personal-finance hat on and start wondering about these bloggers’ financial snapshots. Are they in debt? Are they sponsored? Do they have a trust fund? Am I just too damn nosy? It might not be any of my business, but I’m always curious about how people spend on clothes, so it’s only fair that I divulge my spending first. In the last post, I showed you how much I save each month, so in this one I’ll show you the kinds of things I bought last year.

The Shopping Strategy

My strategy is simple: buy the absolute best quality I can get for the lowest price points possible. Steps: Shop a lot. Buy slowly. Ruthlessly edit. Resell. Rinse and repeat.

Edit, Ruthlessly

My purchases are considered, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. To minimize future regrets, I log every single clothing want/purchase to a Pinterest board. This way I can look back and not only pick out what was a good buy and what wasn’t, but ask myself, “Why exactly didn’t that piece work?” Tracking and considering past purchases really helps me avoid making the same bad decisions in the future. And as the years go on, I notice I buy fewer and fewer clothes, because I’ve gotten better at filling in the holes in my wardrobe. When you buy the right things first, and take care of them, you don’t have to waste time buying more stuff. Plus, I’ve been able to pinpoint patterns for exactly what works for me, and then ignore everything else. Every time the fashion industry tries to tell me about yet another new “must-have” trend, it’s way easier for me to not get sucked in. To hell with trends.

2016 Clothes Edit
Total amount on ‘outside-of-the-house’ clothes: $853
Total # of items: 14

I also spent $460 on exercise clothes, which sounds like crazy amount, but:
-Each item I bought I love, and not something I settled for.
-I have never bought exercise clothes before, ever.
-I don’t plan on buying any more for a few years.

So, if we count exercise clothes, the total is $1,313, or less than 2% of my income.

Here’s everything I bought last year, how much I paid, and whether or not I think it was a good buy.

SWIMWEAR

Oooops, forgot to mask out that grey background in the bikini top picture…

1. Ann Taylor Loft Tidal One Piece Swimsuit
My company dress code is casual, so Ann Taylor usually flies under the radar. But I somehow came across this suit online and immediately fell in love. A one-piece was missing from my summer wardrobe. You know, because I feel weird wearing a skimpy bathing suit on family-friendly vacations, and it’s also handy to have something functional for water sports. One pieces can tend to look conservative, but the artful geometric designs throughout adds an interesting twist. My fiancé describes it pretty accurately as ‘an Olympic swimsuit designed by Rothko’.
Price Paid: $35
Retail: $89
Verdict: Good buy

2. COS Forest Green Bikini
Price Paid: $60
Retail: $60
I love the minimal cuts that COS has to offer, but most of their clothes, like this swimsuit, aren’t flattering on me. The dark green color looks a bit dour on my skin tone, the top is a size too small, and the bottoms are too big. I don’t know what I was thinking by cutting the tags off, thus rendering it non-returnable.
Verdict: Bad buy

3. Mikoh Hermosa Bikini Top and Miyako Bottoms in Lychee
Price Paid: $139
Retail: $181
I’ve had the same two-piece swimsuit for like, 5 years. And it never really excited me. Time for a change. When I saw this on New Inspired’s blog (who has impeccable taste) I totally pounced. It’s as simple as can be, with absolutely no fussy hardware, and comes in the freshest shade of pink. Since the cut is pretty sporty, I like how the pink color adds a contrasting, feminine touch.
Verdict: Good buy

DRESSES


1. Miu Miu V-Neck Wool Sweater Dress
Price Paid: $65
Retail: $616
AKA The Holiday Dress I bought AFTER the holidays. I try not to fall into the trap of buying for an event with a limited timeline. I notice when I pressure-shop I end up making crappier decisions, settling for things that are just “good enough”. I get better results when I take my time buying the right thing. I really like this dress because it’s warm for winter, the fit is effortless, and the style is classic enough that I could wear it even 20 years from now.
Verdict: Good buy

2. Band of Outsiders Silk Palm Tree Dress
Price Paid: $64
Retail: $500+
Last summer I wore this to a bridal shower and got no fewer than 8 compliments. Besides that ego boost, I plan on wearing it to spring/summer events like graduations or glamorous vacations. If those events never happen, I’ll most likely sell it and recoup my money after a few wears.
Verdict: Good buy

T-SHIRTS

1. 6397 Grey Muscle T-Shirt
Price Paid: $10
Retail: $175
I never wore tank tops…until this came into my life. It’s like ‘tank top’ lite, because I’ll go sleeveless but feel too bare in spaghetti straps. This was a mainstay during the summer, and often times I’d end up wearing it a couple days in a row.
Verdict: Good buy

2. Other Stories Grey Linen T-Shirt
Price Paid: $41
Retail: $45
Linen is my favorite material for T-shirts for its breathability, but this one is cut too fitted for my tastes. I almost never reach for it unless I’m layering it underneath something else.
Verdict: Bad buy

3. Rag & Bone Grey V-Neck T-Shirt
Grey V-necks are my hot-weather staple. For summer, I like grey because it’s not as harsh as black, and feels better suited for the season. The cotton fabric feels really soft against the skin and the slightly oversized fit is just my speed.
Price Paid: $50
Retail: $85
Verdict: Good buy

4. Etoile Isabel Marant Black T-Shirt
Price Paid: $45
Retail: $130
Even if it’s super hot out, I’ll almost always reach for a T-shirt instead of a tank top. But not just any T-shirt. Since they’re so basic, I’m picky AF about the fit. The thicker cotton feels more substantial (and higher quality), and the best ones, like this one, are all about that drape.
Verdict: Good buy

SWEATERS


1. Proenza Schouler Grey Wool Paneled Sweater
Price Paid: $89
Retail: $495
Slightly dorky Proenza Schouler sweaters are my freaking kryptonite. Every time I see one online, I do a double take, no fail. And if you couldn’t tell already, grey is my favorite neutral. This is a staple in the winter and I don’t care if my co-workers wonder why I wear it every single week.
Verdict: Good buy

SHORTS


1. 3.1 Phillip Lim Drawstring Laser Cut Leather Shorts
Price Paid: $150
Retail: $795
I’ve wanted these ever since I saw them on the runway! I finally tracked them down online but they’re too big for me. Like, two inches too big in the waist, so I can’t even fudge that they fit well. I also KNOW from experience that Phillip Lim clothes run big, and yet, I chose to ignore that nugget of information while buying them. Got too blinded by the EXCEPTIONAL laser cut nappa leather, I guess. I also have to be really careful when buying shorts because I’m only 5’2″, and to get the proportions right my shorts and skirts have to be pretty mini. These are almost knee-length on me, so instead of looking chic, I look like I’m going to shoot some hoops.
Verdict: Bad buy (it pains me to say it)

PANTS/JEANS


1. NLST Navy Blue Relaxed Chinos
Price Paid: $33
Retail: $275
I don’t like relying on jeans all the time, so I mixed it up by buying these navy blue slouchy pants. Cute in theory, but too big for me in the waist.
Verdict: Bad buy

2. Levi’s White Wedgie Fit Jeans
Price Paid: $52
Retail: $128
I wanted a pair of white winter jeans for an apres-ski look, and with higher-rises working better for my long torso, I bought this pair. However, even though they are labeled my exact size, they practically fall off of my hips, and they look NOTHING like they do on the model. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I keep tricking myself into thinking I can wear ‘boyfriend fit’ items, but those almost never work on my frame.
Verdict: OK buy, but I still wear them on the weekends

3. 6397 Dark Grey Loose Skinny Jeans
Price Paid: $20
Retail: $295
Jeans are notoriously hard to shop for, because the fit has to be on point. And I know of only two brands that fit the way I want. With their lower waist, and higher stretch content, these jeans bag out pretty quickly, which is disappointing for that retail price. Thankfully, I got them for more than 90% off.
Verdict: OK buy, but I still wear them, because I haven’t found a replacement

Results

Out of 14 items:

  • Bad buys = 3 items, or 22% of what I bought
  • OK buys = 2 items, or 14% of what I bought
  • Good buys = 9 items, or 64% of what I bought

You also might notice I didn’t buy any bags or shoes last year. That’s because I didn’t feel I needed any.

Takeaways

After looking over each item, here’s what I need to do to improve:

  • Don’t buy jeans or pants without second-guessing the waist and inseam measurements.
  • Think harder about oversized fits and if they realistically work for my body type. With boyfriend fits, I’ll most likely have to hem the pants/jeans anyway. Ask myself: do I really want to put in tailoring work for clothes that are so casual?
  • Don’t buy clothes in colors that don’t look good on me or aren’t right for the season.
  • Don’t get blinded by one aspect of an item, like amazing design. Think realistically if it fits my personality and lifestyle.

In a few months, I’ll gather all the dud items and start scheming for how I’m going to get rid of them. Stay tuned!

How much did you spend on clothes in 2016? Do you have a system for tracking your shopping habits? What were your worst buys, and why?

Feature Image: The Luxe Strategist

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  • Thank you so much for the shoutout. I’m flattered you took my advice on the Hermosa!

    Your shopping strategy is incredibly inline with mine.

    Lately I’ve been Pinteresting so much that certain trends (mules and Re/Done) have been sucking me in.

    It’s important like you said to take a few breaths and not get caught up: is this actually something I’m gonna love in a year?

    Also love your take on shopping smartly. There are so many techniques to online sale shopping that people just don’t seem to ~get~ (i.e. my biggest tip: during Shopbop’s annual 20% off everything sale, don’t buy trendy items that will go on regular sale in 2 weeks, buy staples that don’t go on sale ever). I can’t wait to read more of your tips… and I hope you waited for one of Mikoh’s flash sales for that bikini. 😉

    • I love your blog! I just wish you posted more 🙂

      There’s almost never a reason to pay retail on anything…EXCEPT, like you said, on the stuff that never goes on sale. For the latest Shopbop sale, guess what I bought? Nope, not a trend, but yet ANOTHER pair of A.P.C. jeans. I have 3 pairs already 🙂 But prices keep going up every year, and I can’t find any other jeans that I like besides Acne, and the style I like got discontinued. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s just smarter to lock in prices now, if you really love something.

      Re: Mikoh, hehe, I spent weeks comparing prices online and got the top from one place, and the bottom from another. The color is sooooo pretty. Didn’t know about the flash sales, but going to follow them now so I can get the intel stat.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Hi, I’m obsessed with your blog. I am so glad I found it — this is the exact niche of writing I want to see! I can’t wait to read more! Are you going to be on a regular posting schedule? Also, please let us know how you score such amazing deals on designer goods! It can’t all be from the shopbop sale right? Do you buy preowned?

    • Hi Isabella!

      Glad you found my little corner on the Internet. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if there was any interest in a blog that talks about money AND living a luxe life, but you’ve proven me wrong! I’ve just started up, but the plan is to post at least once a week.

      And yes, a post on how to actually score designer stuff for less is in the works! Other than that, let me know if there are any topics you’re interested in reading about and I’ll try my best to make it happen.

      Re: how to get stuff for less, I have an Olympics gold medal in online shopping. I buy things on sale, preowned and from sample sales.

      Thanks for reading!