Before you set out on a shopping trip, it’s very important to consider your lifestyle! This tip may seem self-evident, but I can’t tell you how many shopping mistakes I’ve seen in people’s closets (not to mention my own!) because they failed to take a moment to think about their own lives before shopping. It’s so easy to become mesmerized by all of the beautiful things in the stores and buy things for someone else’s life instead of your own.
A few personal examples may help to drive this point home. Back in 2004, I discovered the television show, “What Not to Wear,” and began the journey of transforming my style. As each new episode aired, I sat at the edge of my seat trying to absorb all of the fashion wisdom being doled out by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.
Blazers and Pointy-Toe Heels
In the early days of “What Not to Wear,” two wardrobe items often recommended for the makeover participants were blazers and pointy-toe heels. Being a good student, I set out to buy these “necessary” pieces, and of course I needed at least a few of each! What I failed to consider were three very important things about myself and my life:
- I live in San Diego, not New York City
- I work from home
- I have very fussy feet
No Jacket Required…
Let’s take these things one at a time. Those of you who’ve been to both San Diego and the “Big Apple” know that the two cities have very different climates and cultures. In San Diego, most people dress very casually (I often think too casually, but that’s another topic…) and traditional style blazers are rarely seen in this town. Of course, there are people who wear them, but those who work from home are probably not among that group!
Not only did I work from home, but even when I went out to client or networking meetings, a blazer wasn’t generally needed. Business casual was usually as dressed up as I ever needed to be for my work at the time. Sadly, the fabulous new blazers I dutifully purchased largely went unworn and were in nearly new condition when I donated them to charity a few years later.
“Taxi Cab Shoes” – Just Say No!
As for the shoes, I loved the way the pointy-toe pumps looked on my feet. However, they were quickly relegated to the ranks of “taxi cab shoes,” shoes that can only be worn from the cab – or car – to the restaurant and back again. Since I usually needed to walk more than a few feet at a time, I often found excuses not to wear my lovely new shoes. Plus, the shoes were often too dressy for my standard attire and the occasions of my life. Much like the blazers, the shoes were in excellent shape when they were donated. I hope that someone ended up loving and wearing them!
I Must Confess… Shoe & Dress Transgressions
I wish I could say that I never make these types of mistakes with my shopping anymore, but I have to admit that I sometimes still shop for someone else’s life. My largest transgressions in recent times have been in regards to shoes and dresses. Since I still love the look of a high heel, especially with the skirts and dresses I enjoy wearing when the weather is warm, I find I have too many shoes that are not suitable for all-day walking (or even walking for a few hours at a time). Not long ago, I vowed to only buy walkable shoes and with each purchase, my feet are gradually becoming happier – and healthier.
Now about those dresses… I love to wear dresses, but some of the ones to which I am drawn are not only a bit too formal for my life, they also look their most smashing with those uncomfortable heels I wrote about above. Since I can count the number of occasions in my life which call for a cocktail dress on one hand, I have instituted a moratorium on buying such dresses until the ones I already own have received sufficient wear. I have learned to just say no when I pass by these lovely dresses in a store. I may sigh a bit at first, but then I remember I’m doing the right thing and move on with my head held high.
Tips to Avoid Dressing for Someone Else’s Life
A few tips for you to use when shopping to avoid the mistakes I’ve made.
- First, write a list of the activities in which you engage on a regular basis.
- Then do your best to assign a percentage value to each type of activity.
- The proportion of clothing types in your wardrobe should adhere to those percentages as closely as possible.
If, for example, only 5% of your life involves attending cocktail parties and formal events, only 5% of your wardrobe should consist of formal attire. If you work in a business casual environment full-time and your hobbies include hiking, cycling, and going to the movies, the majority of your wardrobe should be comprised of jeans, casual pants (and skirts/dresses, if you are a woman and you wear them), casual tops, cotton jackets, and workout wear. Think Gap, Old Navy, or J. Crew, not the Men’s Wearhouse or the Special Occasion department at Nordstrom!
Do Your Homework Before You Shop!
Take a look in your closet… See what garments are getting a lot of wear and which ones are gathering dust. Chances are the latter pieces were bought for someone else’s life!
Next time you shop, do your homework. Create a list of what you really need for your unique life. Be prepared when you shop and you’re much less likely to make costly mistakes!
I love reading your tips — this article is great for helping me keep focused on what I need. I’ve instituted a general rule for my shopping that if I can’t wear it to work (mostly business casual) — I probably don’t need to by it. I do make an exception when I need shorts and jeans.
Theresa, I’m glad you are enjoying my tips and finding them helpful! It seems like you are already on the right track with your general shopping rule. That rule alone will save you a lot of money and unworn clothing! It’s reasonable to have the exemption you mentioned, as we all need some more casual clothing in our wardrobes. The proportion will vary from person to person, and it’s good that you’ve given the matter some thought and consideration.
If you have any ideas for future blog topics, I would love to receive them. I want to make sure I’m writing about the things people want to read about. Most people don’t comment, but I welcome topic suggestions from any of my readers.
Thanks again, Debbie
Hi Debbie! This is a great, simple tip that’s often overlooked. It’s especially easy to get wrapped up into celebrity/editorial-spread fashion and think you need to buy all those pieces. In reality, the celebrities don’t even wear what we see them in at awards shows, or in magazines and movies. So silly! Anywho, thanks for this post. Definitely a good thing to have in mind when you shop!
Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you found my article helpful. You’re so right about the celebrities! It can really be a pitfall when we compare ourselves to them. I’ve been there and it’s led me to buy a bunch of unnecessary things! I don’t live a Hollywood lifestyle and I am not sure when or if I will be walking a red carpet 🙂 When we examine our lifestyles and shop in accordance with our unique needs, we fare much better both financially and sartorially!
I can relate. A lot of off-the-rack clothes don’t quite fit me. Arms of dressy shirts are the big thing for me; they’re usually slightly too small. The couple times I’ve bought the shirt anyway and tried to deal with the poor fit (because I really liked the shirt!) were very uncomfortable experiences.
And then I found myself not wanting to get rid of the shirt, even though it fits poorly, because I paid good money for it. *Sigh*.
It doesn’t matter how good the shirt looks otherwise – if the design of the arms is making me uncomfortable while I’m wearing it, that’s a problem. Even if the shirt that fits is a bit more expensive, it makes up for the added cost in comfort when wearing. Same with pants. A $60 pair of pants that fits is more than three times better than a $20 pair that doesn’t.
So sometimes I don’t wind up with my “first choice” as far as clothes go, and I don’t always get to nab the great deals off the discount racks, but I always manage to find something that looks acceptable and is comfortable – which is the whole point, right?
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your shopping experiences. Your frustrations are common. Many people buy clothes that “almost work” because they are on sale or because they need something NOW. I even make this mistake sometimes!
It’s much better to be patient and wait to find something which really works for your body, lifestyle, and personality. More on that to come in future posts! Spending a bit more for something that really works for you and that you will wear is really a better way to go, but it often takes a new mindset and forming some new shopping habits.
I appreciate your taking the time to comment! I’m glad you like my blog.
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