Sunday, January 3, 2010

My 2009 Fashion Resolution - A Recap!

My fashion resolution in 2009 was inspired by Jane at WorkThatWardrobe (now at The Small Fabric of My Life). Jane went an entire year without spending any money at all on clothing. I didn't want to forego spending altogether, but I admired her restraint and I love a challenge so I decided:

I will not be buying any new clothes or shoes.
- Consignment or thrift clothes and shoes will be permitted, as will clothing acquired by swap or gifts.
- Accessories, underwear, hosiery, workout clothing will not apply.
- The "One In, One Out" rule is in effect. If a new piece of clothing or pair of shoes is acquired, an existing piece of equal "weight" (eg. a dress for a dress, a top for a top, NOT a dress for a pair of socks) will have to go.

And now, as 2009 is over, I'm done! Such a major thing completed, over the course of an entire year! Of course, this demands examination, rumination and reflection.

How did it go?
Well, actually, it was not that bad! I already shopped in consignment stores to supplement my new clothes shopping. I had a few favourite stores and expanded my horizons by adding some new consignment shops and by visiting thrift stores more often. I also explored consignment stores in both Seattle, Vancouver and my husband's hometown when we traveled.

I enjoy taking my time when I shop - and I do realize that's a luxury that not everyone has - and I like to browse the racks, going through each item and seeking out the gems. I truly love the Thrill of the Hunt!

What was the best part of this challenge?
I got so many unique items, things that I would never have found if I'd stuck to my regular mall stores, department stores or boutique stores. Don't get me wrong, I found unique items before, but the chances of seeing someone wearing the fabulous items I picked up second hand was nil. I like that - I like having things no one else does.

I also got much higher-quality items than I ever would have bought new. I added a ton of cashmere, wool, silk and high-end brand vintage and designer items. The prices on these items were easily between 10 and 25% of the cost of the items new (and in some cases, even lower than that), and many of the items that I bought had either never been worn or barely worn.

I also really liked supporting my local shopkeepers and charities. Women in Need, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army - it felt good to know that my shopping dollar was going to local people and not to big corporations. I also liked that I was not contributing to the mass production of new clothing (mostly made in China). It's amazing how many items are made in Canada, when you start looking, particularly vintage clothing items.

What was the worst part of this challenge?
The worst part was finding basics. I thought I had a good collection of basics in my wardrobe, but I had a tough time finding good quality t-shirts, camisoles, dress pants and layering pieces.

I really missed being able to buy new party dresses! Women get rid of old ugly dresses, but they sure like to hang onto pretty party dresses! I also had major shoe withdrawal - it's very hard to find current shoe styles second-hand...and oh, there were some lovely styles in the stores this past year!

Finding sizes is also a real challenge. Often, I saw gorgeous items that were just too big or too small. That's how it goes, though; if they didn't fit, I just moved on.

Did you save money doing this challenge?
No! I think I probably spent about the same - I have always been a bargain hunter. A 3-5 hour shop still cost me between $200 (if I had a good day) and $20 (not such a good day). The difference, however, is that the quality of the items I bought was much higher.

I shop about every two weeks (timed with my paycheque, usually). That didn't change.

How was the "One In, One Out" rule?
Seriously, this was the most valuable thing that I got from this challenge. I was a lot more picky and discerning about the things I actually bought with the threat of "Which skirt/top/dress are you willing to give up for this skirt/top/dress?" hanging over me.

I was most surprised at how quickly my mind-set changed about shopping, knowing that I would have to get rid of things I had in my closet. Haven't worn that shirt in 6 months? Out. Never liked how that dress fit? Out. That colour never quite looked good on me? Out. I became ruthless, whereas before I had been sentimental about pieces or kept them even if they weren't quite right.

I highly recommend trying this if you're a compulsive shopper or you have an overstuffed wardrobe full of clothes you haven't worn in a long time. I really believe that a wardrobe can be completely functional and full of clothes that you actually want, love and wear!

What did you do with all the "Out" stuff?
I happily bundled up my rejects and took them to my local consignment store (she actually buys stuff outright and gives me credit for more shopping!) or gave them to friends. Anything that was leftover got donated to some of the charities whose shops I patronized. The circle is complete.

Did you do more swaps or get more gifts as a result of this challenge?
I did one swap put on by an outside organization, which was disappointing in the end (it wasn't very well organized). I did a bunch of informal swaps with my girlfriends ("I'm bringing a bag of clothes to Book Club!"), which yielded much better booty - and I found out that my girlfriend Caro, who has a totally different body type than me, actually has the same measurements as me! We are total clothes twins.

I did hint for money as gifts (which I counted as a gift that could be used towards clothing/shoe purchases) from relatives - thank you, mother-in-law and grandma-in-law! L bought me Fluevogs and my mother-in-law also bought me a pair of shoes. Mom bought me lots of awesome accessories on her travels!

Did you buy more accessories, hosiery, underwear and workout clothes, since those were exempt from the challenge?
I definitely stepped up my game in the hosiery department (hello, tights!), and bought more belts, scarves and jewelry (many of those were second hand). I've never been an underwear junkie, so that stayed about the same. I buy workout clothes when I need them. Many of the new workout pieces I got this year were also consignment, brands that would be out of my price range if they were new, like my North Face waterproof thermal jacket that I found for $40 (they start at $200 new).

Knowing I could go have a wee shop in a boutique or department store in the costume jewelry or hosiery/belt section made this challenge easier.

What impact - if any - did this challenge have on your personal style?
This actually had a huge impact on my personal style! I have really been able to focus on what looks good on me as opposed to what is "in style" at the moment.

I've discovered and reaffirmed my favourite looks that suit my body and my personality the best, and I'm able to shop with better goals in mind. I love the "sexy secretary" (high-waisted pencil skirts, cropped/fitted cardigans, sexy shoes), the "retro goddess" (long layers, mixed patterns and textures), the "rocker chick" (graphic tees layered, bold patterns, funky accessories), the "funky casual" (layers, bold colour mixes and fun accessories) and "granny chic" (vintage pieces mixed with more modern looks, unexpected accessories).

What advice would you give to anyone looking to try a second-hand clothes/shoes only ban?
Give yourself time to shop. It takes a lot of patience to hunt through thrift stores and through consignment stores (these are a bit easier, since they are often sorted by size as well as type of item).

Research what's available in your town, and regularly visit the stores that have the clothing that suits you best. I went to one or two stores much more than others, because they always had a lot of brands that fit me well (I like Club Monaco, Mexx, Esprit, Banana Republic and a few others). Others I only visited every couple of months (too expensive, ratty selection, funny smell, etc.). I only did big thrift stores a couple of times when I had the time to really go through the racks.

Try things on! Don't rely on size numbers, because even clothes that are only a few years old will be sized differently than current sizing. Brands like Gap, Club Monaco or Banana Republic that have been around for years have drastically changed their sizing over time. A size 10 BR from 10-15 years ago is more like a size 6 now.

Also, vintage clothing is totally unreliable for sizing (women wore a lot of suck-you-in undergarments then). When you read about Marilyn Monroe being up to a size 16, that's not equivalent to today's sizes! When I try on a size 14 dress from the 50s, I can barely squeeze into it (I currently wear a size 2 or 4 in the Gap, a size 6 Banana Republic or Esprit, and up to a 10 in various other brands). I wear a size 10 in 70s/80s sizing. And Small, Medium and Large cover a huge range!

Examine clothing carefully. Check seams for holes, check all sweaters for moth holes and pilling, look for stains (armpits, front of garments), make sure all buttons are present. Really old stains don't come out, and if you're not handy with a needle and thread, or don't do any sewing, that new piece is just going to sit there in your closet. Don't waste your money.

Shop for specific items. You'll be overwhelmed if you go into a big store without a game plan. I always look first at shoes, dresses, and skirts, then check out sweaters and blouses if I have time. I rarely look for pants (I loathe going through racks of jeans) or t-shirts. In small stores, I go through everything except jeans.

Are you going to continue any of the challenge rules?
Well, yes and no.

I'm going to continue to shop in consignment and thrift stores, for sure, and will probably shop in them more than I did pre-challenge.

This is funny: I went shopping on January 2nd, at the mall and my old favourite boutiques, thinking I was going to get all kinds of new things. What did I end up with? A new pair of pants (thank you, Esprit store, for always fitting me just right!), a new camisole, a bunch of tights... and a pair of brand-new leather boots from one of my regular consignment stores ($70, never worn) and a gorgeous brown ultra-suede skirt in a thrift store for $10! L was very surprised - he thought I'd buy tons of January sales items - but I really saw very little that I wanted, especially when I considered that most of the time I could find similar, higher quality items for less money in consignment/thrift stores.

I'm definitely going to keep weeding out my closet when I buy new items, but I'm not going to be as strict on the "One In, One Out" rule. I really want to have a few more jackets, skirts and dresses!

I'm also going to continue to sell off my "out" clothes, and give away and swap with my friends.

However, I am going to go back to cruising my favourite boutiques, mall stores and department stores for sale items and basics. I've missed having a stock of camisoles in the season's colours, basic trousers, jeans, tees for layering and good quality new shoes.

Let's get down to business. What did you buy?
I actually kept track of what went "In" and "Out" for the whole year (on sticky notes in my closet). This wasn't always even, because I periodically went through my closet and weeded out things I was willing to give up. I ended up with "credits" in some categories, like shoes, but only once did I have more "In" than "Out".

Jackets (non-outerwear):
  • 12 in, 12 out
  • Total in closet: 27 jackets.
It got really hard to get rid of jackets, since I love them and find it hard to give them up, even ones I haven't worn in a while. I finally had to stop looking at jackets for a few months.

  • 6 in, 7 out
  • Total in closet/dresser: about 14 pairs (there might be a pair of jeans in the wash).
This includes jeans, cords and dress pants. Not much excitement there.

  • 15 in, 15 out
  • Total in closet: 44
This was so hard - I really didn't want to give up very many dresses! This includes my long gowns as well as sundresses, work dresses and fancy party dresses.

  • 22 in, 20 out
  • Total in closet: 43
This is the one time I ended up with more in than out, and that only happened in the last week, when I was pretty much ready for the freakin' challenge to be over! Since I rarely wear pants, skirts are my go-to items, and I prefer to have a large collection of styles, colours, patterns, fabrics and lengths. The total number includes long skirts.

  • 20 in, 20 out
  • Total in closet/dresser: 63
Being gifted in the boobular region, I have a tough time finding tops that fit me. I had a lot of junky t-shirts and cheap fabric tops that I'd bought after I lost weight. It was a pleasure replacing those with good quality work tops and funky rocker-inspired t-shirts. 62 tops seems like a lot, but that includes an even proportion of camisoles, t-shirts and blouses/shirts (about 20 of each).

  • 16 in, 16 out
  • Total in closet: 33
I got rid of nearly all of my chunky, misshapen knits, and invested in better quality wool, cashmere and blends. 16 of my sweaters are now either 100% cashmere, 100% wool or a blend of both of those. Instead of looking bulky to stay warm, my sweaters are thinner and warmer (cashmere does NOT itch, and wool is much less itchy if you look for fine Merino wool). I also bought a lot more cardigans!

  • 1 in, 1 out
  • Total in closet: 6
I'm not a huge vest person. Two of the 6 are sweater/pullover vests.

  • 29 in, 29 out
  • Total in closet: I can't be bothered to count since that would mean cleaning out my closet (and frankly, this post is taking a LONG time), but I think there are about 73 pairs in there.
That includes boots, but doesn't include my casual shoes (runners, Vans) or my workout shoes. Although I griped about the lack of shoes in consignment stores, I obviously managed to find some! 8 of those pairs were gifts (gift certificate, gift money or purchased for me by others).

What are your favourite second-hand items you bought this year?
Wow, hard to chose! Here are some links for each of the above categories for my favourite three things.

Jackets: the creamy-white Club Monaco tux jacket, brown patterned wool Lux jacket, Bebe snakeskin jacket

Pants: Seven7 jeans from Caro, high-waisted Parasucco jeans, Club Monaco pinstriped shorts

Dresses: yellow eyelet halter dress, grey suede Danier Leather dress, Kitchen Orange black dress (only worn once! I need to wear that again)

Skirts: Odd Molly silk floral skirt, vintage Alfred Sung green shiny lace skirt, long purple silk Smoking Lily skirt with silk-screened chairs (another item I've only worn once)

Tops: Zara asymmetrical silk blouse, floral silk chiffon Kaliko blouse, Majestic striped cashmere long-sleeved tee

Sweaters: Express black boyfriend cardigan, black "storks" Lucky Brand cardigan, green Kersh cardigan

Vests: I only got one, and it's this brown Le Chateau sweater vest from Ruth.

Shoes: the Qupid black/taupe pumps, the Friis Company purple suede peep-toes, the Hilary Radley greeny-grey pumps (I'm not including any of the new shoes I just got, 'cause I haven't had a chance to wear them yet).

Boots: the yellow Aldo boots (of course!), the Fluevog "Blind Faith Hi Rebecca" boots, the Indigo by Clark's lace-up casual boots

What will you take away from this year-long exercise?
I definitely valued the growth in my personal style and creativity that came with having a limited number of stores and clothes to choose from. Limiting myself forced me to evaluate my closet and really think about my outfits and how to combine them in new ways. I feel that my style quotient has grown, and that my outfits more accurately reflect my personality.

I also learned that I don't have to have that new "of the moment" piece in order to make a modern outfit. New (or new-to-me) accessories helped, as did looking for that trendy piece in a vintage or gently worn item (boyfriend jackets have been in and out of style several times over the last 20 years, for example). I was really shocked by how many recent trends I was able to find in second-hand stores!

Lastly, I actually really enjoyed this challenge, despite my grouching about it periodically to anyone who would listen. It opened my eyes to the full potential of fashion, which is to express your true self, not to follow what's "in". By shopping consignment and thrift, I've had such a wide array of choices in fabric, pattern, cut, style and quality to choose from, much, much more than you can find in any mall store, department store or boutique.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this recap! Here's to a new year of fashion fun!


  1. What a great challenge! And I love your thorough recap. I've wanted to do a "One In- One Out" thing myself but I don't know that I would hold myself to it. Congratulations on your success!

  2. Great recap, I loved reading it! Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

  3. Amazed by this comprehensive post. Well done!

  4. This is such an informative recap, and such fun to read. I've really enjoyed watching for amazing new pieces that you've found thrifted, and I've been impressed at the quality of what you've found. It's also great to hear how the challenge has directly impacted your personal style, particularly your incredible creativity in adapting new styles or methods to the way you combine pieces. I can (and do) learn so much from you.

  5. This was totally fascinating; thank you for sharing your experience! We don't have enough good thrift stores around that I would want to do the same, but I really love the idea of
    'one in, one out' and I especially love that you kept track of the numbers of your exchanges. Makes you really realize how many clothes we buy and get rid of! That I might do this year; I think it would be an necessary eye-opener for me.

    I'll be keeping and rereading this post again. Just a treasure trove of information and your food post from a while back!

  6. Great recap, thanks Sheila !
    It actually answered some questions I had in mind.
    Too bad thrift shops here are non existent.
    One last thing, let me know when you are ready to get rid of this top
    I'd love to buy it from you !

  7. Thanks, Emma! I highly recommend trying One In, One Out, even if only for a month or two.

    Bianca, thanks! It was a great experience.

    Thanks, Wendy!

    Kari, thank you, you're so kind. I will continue to search out great thrift items!

    Glad you liked it, Kristen! Try searching online for vintage or consignment - you might be surprised! I had no idea my town had so many (and it's not a very big city).

    Thanks, Lorena! Aw, that's really too bad. Oh, no, you're not getting my lovely top. ;-)

  8. I remember starting to read your blog around the time you started that challenge. Good for you for sticking to it! You deserve one big pat on the back.

  9. Thanks for the wonderful and detailed recap of your year. I've been toying with the idea of a shopping ban, or a 1 in 1 out plan, but I haven't yet committed myself to it. I've never had to restrict myself before b/c I've always had a bog closet, but now I am much more limited on space. Maybe I'll start off with a month and see how it goes.

  10. Wow, what a thorough recap, and an admirable challenge! Congrats on wrapping up a successful year. The 'one in, one out' rule sounds like a great practice.

  11. FA, wow, a whole year! Thank you for reading. :)

    Tina, my pleasure! A month is certainly doable - good luck.

    Thanks, Audi! One in, one out is hard, especially once you've weeded out stuff.


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