Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How not to shop




A reader wrote to me:

‘I think one of the keys to French chic is "fewer, better quality things."  As a result, I've been trying to buy less, but better.  It seems this approach requires actually spending more time shopping with fewer purchases.  Is there a way to execute this without having to spend hours and hours at the mall?  I hate shopping, and don't think spending every weekend shopping matches with my definition of the chic life I'm looking for.’

What a great topic!  I too am not a fan of tromping around shops if I don’t need anything either.  I don’t exactly know when it happened, but these days I’d rather be creating something at home (writing, pottering, cooking, sewing, gardening) or seeing friends.

But you if you have to buy clothes you need to visit shops (unless you are an online clothes shopper, which I’m not.”  Instead of spending hours and hours at the mall, I prefer to take the opposite approach.  The ‘sinking lid’ policy of wardrobe management is my preferred method.

Basically I don’t go shopping until I have literally run out of something.  It’s an easy thing for me to do now, because as I mentioned above, I can’t really be bothered going around the shops.

When I do find myself in dire need of something, whether it’s jeans, a bra or a new pair of summer sandals I go out with that one item in mind.  Maybe I’ve done a bit of online research beforehand or maybe I go out cold with a few stores in mind.  I then purchase my choice and forget about shopping until I next am desperate.

It may sound joyless to those who love to browse for fun, but I get my fun in other ways.  Being a homebody saves you lots of money I think.  And I don’t necessarily only go for high-priced, best-quality items either.  ‘Less but better’ to me means less items but better quality or suitability.  Better suited to my style.

I shop at low and medium price points in clothing mostly, but also view my purchases through a critical eye.  An item might be inexpensive, but it also must be the right colour, cut etc.  I no longer buy ‘just okay’ because it’s cheap.  That’s how I ended up with an uninspiring wardrobe.

The sinking lid policy helps me enjoy past purchases that I otherwise might deem ‘too good’ for normal wear.  If I have had to declutter a few tee-shirts to the rag bin then I’ll use my better tee-shirts.  If I constantly find myself passing up items I’ll evaluate why and then donate them.

This also helps refine your style.  By stopping shopping and wearing or donating your wardrobe to prune it down, you can then fill in with pieces that help build the style you like.

When I shopped more, there was sometimes a disconnect between the dream vision of me in the style file pictures I collected, and my real-life wardrobe.  This was because I was bombarded by many different exciting clothing genres, not all of them me.  Does that make sense?

Browsing and updating my style files on a regular basis helped too.  Doing this kept me focused on the looks I loved and also excited about creating those looks for myself.  Keeping my style icons in mind did the same thing.

I love the way Lily Vander Woodsen (played by Kelly Rutherford) dressed in Gossip Girl, both her rich look Upper East Side look and her Brooklyn look.  I love the way her rich look often incorporated tones of camel and this is something I want to bring into my own wardrobe but never do (because I forget about it until I think of her!)

How would you define less but better?  Do you dislike shopping or could happily browse all day long?  We’re all different, there is no wrong answer!  One time I do like to browse is when I’m on holiday.  There’s something about the relaxed feeling that invites strolling and browsing, not all of the time, just sometimes.

Fiona

PS.  If you have ever thought you’d love to write a book, check out my new program starting next week.  There are already ladies from the US and UK ready to start writing their book.  Could this be you too?

35 comments:

  1. French women shop for basics at their favorite big stores where they know they'll get a certain standard of quality. For those with a small budget, it may be Monoprix, which, for example, sells decent cashmere sweaters, or, at a higher price point, it may be Galeries Lafayette or another grand magasin. For those special items (which may well be a plain white shirt, but one with interesting pleats or cuffs), they'll have a handful of boutiques where the owner's tastes are in sync with their own. They do shop often, without buying. It's how they know what's on offer where. If you look at "leche vitrine"--window shopping--as a physical version of leafing through magazines/Instagram/Pinterest, then of course you wouldn't always be buying. My SIL, who has an amazing wardrobe based on brown, with pink and turquoise as accents, all very curated, shops several times a week. She buys only the best of the best and wears pieces for years. For her, shopping isn't about buying; it's about looking.

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    1. I enjoyed your comment. I love those ideas!

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    2. I love the sound of your SIL's wardrobe colours - beautiful!

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  2. I have a minimalist wardrobe: not big, but everything is quality, everything works together (the trick is to limit yourself to neutrals plus one color), and I love most of my pieces. I don't shop as much as other women do, but sometimes I hit the consignment shops just to look around, because you can find high-end clothing at a fraction of the price. Most times, I walk out with nothing. But occasionally, I will find the piece that makes it all worthwhile. And it really doesn't take long to shop if you limit yourself to just looking at the things your size that are in your color range.

    As for buying first-hand rather than second-hand, if I am looking for something in particular, I have a mental list of which stores tend to sell items that fit me well and are my style. For instance, Anthropologie is a little boho for me in general, but their trousers always seem to fit me like a dream. So when I need new jeans or am looking for cropped pants -- that's where I go, and I am seldom disappointed. I also know that for basics, I do well at Ann Taylor (but NOT Loft -- which is low-end) and Banana Republic. J Crew is great as well, and their ballet flats fit me perfectly. I always replace them there. Your group of stores will look different than mine, but once you see a pattern with what looks good on you and which store it is from, you will know which store to hit first if you need jeans, or a bra, or a cashmere sweater. This is a real time-saver in the long run!

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  3. I like the idea of shopping just to browse and look. It takes so much pressure off. I like to plan my wardrobe purchases now well into the future so they fit into my budget and I can save for them. Browsing in between now and when it's time to buy turns into an information gathering period so I can know I'm making the right decision. But I agree, I'm a homebody and would prefer to do other things. Also, I really try to stay out of the malls during the holiday season at all costs.

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    1. I, too, stay away from the stores between Thanksgiving and New Years. I just can't stand the crowds. BUT. Even though I don't do any Christmas shopping, I DO take advantage of the online sales on Black Friday for things I was going to buy anyway. Stocking up on cosmetics I use, buying sweaters that I had my eye on, or replacing my beloved J Crew ballet flats... if I wait until Black Friday, I can usually spend about half of what I would normally pay, if I am a savvy shopper (and I AM!) And I don't have to go anywhere near a shopping mall.

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  4. I find I vary in my approach. I don't mind online shopping at all, provided I know the store/brand/fit. If in doubt I'll go to the physical store to try things on, but I find the deals are typically much better online, so I can get the same quality for less by watching online for deals.

    I also find I'm more apt to shop in the fall. Spring I'll shop only if I need things, like you Fiona. But I love fall clothing and tend to enjoy shopping in the fall. Some years I'll actually buy more than others because I've gotten a bit tired of what I have, and some years it's more browsing for ideas or the odd piece to update things.

    This year has been a shopping year because I love the trends of red (it's one of my colours so I had quite a bit in my wardrobe, but I searched out red shoes and pants this year), boyfriend blazers (I went to the thrift store and bought actual menswear), plaid, dark florals and leopard...and was sorely lacking in these areas. I got a gorgeous grey leopard print pop over camp style shirt at Winners.

    I also needed to replace a couple basic shift dresses and a black blazer due to sizing, so I found one at Winners (discounted designer stuff) and one online at a deep discount....both high quality pieces for the dresses and got a thrifted black blazer. And my jeans were badly worn so I got two new pair (Old Navy is just fine for jeans for me because no matter the quality I wear them out on the inner thigh quickly, and I can always find a variation that fits well)

    I would love to only buy the highest quality and have a very curated wardrobe, but I get bored too easily with the same ol'. My basics I'll buy high to mid level quality, but budget wise I go more mid range stores or check out consignment/thrift shops to get good higher end pieces.

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  5. Like you, I retired early (46) and moved to the country. I've found myself adopting a comfortable uniform of sorts, which limits shopping. My family has owned a clothing store for 40 years and so I lost my taste for clothes shopping very early (also attending a Catholic school and wearing a uniform for 18 years).

    I wish I could curtail my spending on high and low-end candles, and high and low-end bath and body products - those are my weaknesses, not clothing.

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    1. That is so funny, because I was just thinking I'm not a clotheshorse as much as I am a perfume addict. And that's where I carefully spend money, on high end perfume and body products, cosmetics, and candles. I'm glad to see someone else does, too

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    2. Yes! me too :) perfumes, candles, body products. Not so much high-end anymore, but I do have a weakness for these goodies.

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  6. I don't enjoy shopping and these days will write a list of what I need based on what needs retiring/replacing (eg tshirts that have lost shape or their colour). My list for this summer includes two pairs of longer shorts (one in navy, one in khaki), flat sandals (to replace my old faithful which are ready for the bin), several pure cotton tshirts (white, navy, light blue, etc). Since menopause I'm warm all the time and can only tolerate light clothing. My 'housefrocks' for those humid summer days when I can't bear anything around my waist are looking tatty so I'm keen to buy two fresh new for this year. Living in sub-tropical Australia presents many challenges to looking Chic in the summer ha ha. I dread shopping during the school holidays so am waiting until school resumes (about two weeks) before heading out. Some online research beforehand at some of the larger budget stores (Target, Big W, KMart, etc) in the meantime.

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    1. You know what feels even cooler than cotton t-shirts? Linen t-shirts. I bought one from the clearance rack this summer at Banana Republic, and it was so flattering and so cool, that I purchased one in another color online from them (reduced, because summer is over). They require no special care either. I will never go back to cotton t-shirts after wearing these.

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    2. Thanks for the tip. I have never tried linen tshirts as I assumed they would be hot or heavy. You have opened my eyes to new possibilities ! Many thanks ;)

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  7. I do almost all my clothes shopping online. Sometimes I have to send things back but I've gotten pretty good at knowing what sizes/shapes/colors work. I am a homebody, and don't like the mall at all. I like being able to comparison shop online. I'll also often put several things in my cart and then wait a day or two to think about it so I avoid impulse buying.
    I have also tried Stitch Fix, which is a shopping service here in the States that sends you clothes every month (or two or three, you choose), and then you pick what, if anything, you want. I was skeptical about it at first, but I've found some nice things this way.
    xo

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  8. I love your blog, Fiona! I discovered you a couple of months ago and have voraciously read and listened to everything you ever posted. I now know that I am not chic and not francais although I dearly love the idea. I like to dress in what I think of as "costumes". I like it all. Some days I feel bohemian, some days classic, some days artsy .... and I go to work dressed up or down as suits my mood. I mostly shop in thrift and consignment stores so it's not pricey to have a motley collection of items. What say you about that? XO

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    1. You didn't ask me but I would like to reply. I think it is wonderful that you are comfortable dressing your way. I'm now old enough to know that one of the most important things ever is to just be happy in your body wearing your clothes that make you happy. I would've loved to work with you just to see what you would wear every day!

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    2. Thank you for saying that here! I tried the uniform approach once and decluttered my wardrobe until everything went with everything. Then I soon started adding a splash of this and a flash of that until it all became an ecclectic mashup again. I do stand in front of my closet some days with a hmmmm ??? moment that takes longer than I'd like but.... it turns out that this is part of the fun. XO

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    3. I concur, Karen, dress in the way that makes you happy. Let your inner essence shine through dressed as she likes to!

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  9. Truly, I would honestly like to know! And thank you.

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  10. I love to shop, but I'm pretty disciplined. Anybody else have a husband who is very particular about what you wear? I do! No matter how chic it is, if I know I'll hear, "Are you wearing THAT?" I won't buy it unless it's SO heart stopping I'll save it forever and wear it on rare occasions when I'm without him. He's a built-in cost cutter, for better or worse - but he keeps me richer rather than poorer.

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    1. Oh, yes, I do have a similar situation! My husband has forever Wanted me to dress in heels and a little more "sexy" than I am interested in. It's often been a source of resentment for me.

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  11. I don't really enjoy shopping, but I've worked out ways to make it easier on myself. I know what I like and what I'll wear, and I know the shops that work for me. I do buy online from companies I know have what I need and use their sales to my advantage. Like you, I shop when I need to and not for fun.

    I may do a little shopping on vacation and I pick up fun items at Renfaires and SF cons. I got a silk infinity scarf that will be my winter scarf last week. It's $25 and will last for years. The earrings I wear daily are also from the Renfaire and I get compliments all the time.

    I tend to stick to a fashion uniform, which helps limit my needs. Skirts and short-sleeved cotton tops in summer, jeans/long skirts and long-sleeved tops or sweaters in winter. I've also been lucky with thrift shops/consignment/giveaways. A friend cleaned out her closet in April and gave me a long natural linen skirt from Eileen Fisher. I've worn it every week since and it will go on for years to come. I do want more dresses and I'm slowly acquiring/making them.

    I'm not a disposable fashion person. If I'm buying something, it needs to last. I take good care of my clothing to make sure it does.

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    1. I quite like shopping on holiday too, Aurora :)

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  12. These are all great comments! I love these ideas.

    I'm not a big shopper, as in buying lots of things, but I am a big browser (mostly online, I'm not really fond of wandering around crowded shopping malls). I view it somewhat like research. I can see what stores tend to offer and what brands seem to fit my style. This makes it much easier when I actually need to buy something. If I find a particular brand I love, especially for something like bras, shoes, or jeans, I'll be loyal to them for a very long time.

    I agree that it all comes down to quality and your personal style. Having a uniform and color palette worked out is so helpful. I always filter out clothing based on my color preferences when I'm browsing online. It really narrows things down and helps me find something worth trying on in store.

    If I'm unfamiliar with a brand or the item I want isn't available close by, I'll sometimes order multiples and and send the rest back after I've picked the best size. I do this cosmetics too sometimes - it eliminates the back and forth to the department store and I can take my time really making my decision.

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  13. I too hate clothes shopping but could happily stay in bookshops all day long. I tend to buy investment pieces now which means I have to shop less in the long run. I also had my colors done years and years ago and that also ensures when I buy an item I know it can be mixed easily with a multitude of things. It just makes things much easier.

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  14. Hi, Fiona - great post. I so dislike browsing in the mall for clothes. I've found a few lines of clothing that I love, fit me well, and come from a sustainable and ecologically sound company, which is in line with my values. I do shop on-line usually, but that's what works for me. I seldom have to return anything, which makes me happy because that's a pain. Like you, rather than shopping, I'd much rather be doing something creative at home. And, when I do go out shopping, I almost always come home with something I don't really need and won't use.

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  15. I patronize one store that has the styles (mature woman, not teenager) and sizes that suit me well.

    I have dealt with the same sales lady for eighteen years (I followed her when she changed locations) and she knows what will look well on me. She upgrades my look with things I would not have considered. She always makes me look and feel like a queen. She greets me with her warm hug and carries my purchases to the car for me.

    Twice a year they have a half price sale. The weekend before Mother's Day in the Spring and again in October. So I'll go in and get it all done in one day, in one place.

    This year I am not going at all, in either Spring or Fall. I have so many things already.

    But, with the years, I have learned to buy mostly neutrals and classic looks because I wear them so many seasons.

    I enjoy reading about helpful strategies that save money.

    Thank you for such a lovely blog.
    Honey Bee

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    1. How lucky you are to have found such a lady, Honey Bee!

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  16. Hi Fiona, I'm planning a shopping day today actually. Hopefully I will finally be rid of my wardrobe list, one that I've had since age18! It's been an ongoing wardrobe list of things I need that has never been fulfilled. What I need to do is to let some of my numerous criteria go and just "settle" for something. I know this attitude goes against what most people say to do, which is to buy only what you absolutely love. Well, I don't think that works for me personally, evidenced by my search all these years for certain items and never-ending list. I think for me it's probably unhealthy to never be able to be content with my wardrobe. I don't think it should take so much energy out of my life! I am so envious of people who go shopping and are able to come home with everything they set out to get. I'm so very tired of shopping and not finding anything because I'm so picky!

    Wish me luck on my hunt today :)

    D.

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  17. I have really enjoyed studying the comments here. My mom was one of those people who only spent money on quality clothing. When she died at 82, she still had a wardrobe that she may have bought 30 or 40 years or more before, only adding things as needed or that she really liked. She had a classic wardrobe that was still in excellent shape and in style. A Chanel suit will last the rest of your life if you take care of it. I learned from her that it is better to spend more on one outfit that fits well, suits your style, and has been tailored for you, than to spend a lot of money on less expensive and less quality clothes that don't look good, last or you may never wear. She was 5 foot one and weighed 105 pounds so she always had to have her clothing tailored to fit. Learned a lot of good lessons from her. I just need to implement them (smile)!!

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    1. My weight fluctuates so much and from year to year. Also, menopause has hit hard and my body is reflecting that. That's mainly why I have a hard time spending more money on an item. I've heard about women who go there entire lives maintaining the same weight like your mom. I would love that!

      D.

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    2. Typo: *their
      I have a hard time letting my typos go uncorrected. I always have to fix them. Haha!

      D.

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    3. Your mum sounds so stylish, LBD. Like D, I would love to stay the exact same weight for all time too, but...

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Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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