Updated post here.
Because I shop secondhand, I don't do wardrobe planning in the traditional sense. I don't pin outfit ideas, watch fashion shows, or read trend reports to get a jump on the upcoming season. If you do, and it inspires you and makes you happy, that's great! Me, it just made me feel anxious, like nothing I already had was good enough, like I needed more- when, in reality, I didn't need anything new at all. For me, love at first sight is usually more successful than a cold, analytical approach. Sensible purchases, made to fill some assessed wardrobe hole, rarely ever last more than a season. Periodically, I take only a few minutes to review the condition of my items, determine what needs to be removed, replaced, or repaired, then glance at the inventory of a few favorite secondhand stores, in case something catches my eye. A minimal wardrobe shouldn't mean Spartan self-denial.
Looking over the in-and-out-flow of my closet helps me re-examine shopping habits and avoid future purchasing mistakes. I gave away / sold 18 articles of clothing before moving here, leaving me with literally 15 items (plus nine pairs of shoes, and one bag). My old, hand-me-down boots and sandals gave out almost instantly. Uncomfortable shoes went to Vestiaire Collective tout de suite. I purchased and grew tired of three dresses and four sweaters- a lot of turnover for three years. Evaluating the purchase date, number of times worn, and reasons I like / dislike a particular garment not only determines the true cost of each item, it reveals my personal style. To stay in my closet, clothes should make me happy, boost my self-confidence, and fit the way I want to dress right now, not the way I might want to look in the future. Paris closets don't have room for imaginary, what-if scenarios.
|Item||Purchase date||Composition||Reason purchased||Times worn||Thoughts|
|Mackintosh coat||May 2013 (c. 2011)||Waxed cotton||It started pouring outside, so I ducked into a vintage shop for shelter and fell in love||500+||I love that it's made of proper, heavy waterproof fabric, but has a guilty-pleasure monogram lining. Trying it on, I felt Parisian for the very first time.|
|Winter coat||Dec 2014 (c. 2008)||Cashgora, virgin wool||I immediately had visions of myself wearing this in a Tolstoy novel||120 already- it was a long winter||Normally, logic would prevent me from buying a snowy-white princess coat for slushy Paris. A lifesaver during the Arctic cold snap- the coat I always dreamed of as a little girl.|
|Navy dress||Nov 2012 (c. 2008)||Wool, silk||I hoped this would make me look like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy||Every week||I can't explain it, but I feel powerful in this dress, as if the bodice was a conquistador's breastplate. I never get tired of the style, and it fits no matter how my body changes, à la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.|
|Pink dress||Nov 2013||Polyester, viscose, elastane||My husband bought this because it looked the same as my navy dress||Every week||My go-to when I want to look polished. Doesn't wear as well as wool, but the color adds a subtle glow and matches everything. People ask if this dress is new even after seeing it 100 times.|
|Paul and Joe dress||Nov 2011||Wool, silk||The kimono-style sleeves reminded me of my family||500+, maybe more||I love the smoothness of the wool and how comfortable this is on hot summer days.|
|Bow-front shirtdress||Aug 2014 (c. 2002- est)||Cotton||When I imagined Paris, I always thought women wore full-skirted shirtdresses like this. Couldn't be more wrong||Over 300 (now I'm just making up numbers)||The swishiness of the skirt is highly gratifying. As with all of the above purchases, it fit like a glove without initial tailoring, and is machine washable.|
|Red dress||Mar 2015||Crepe, silk||It's red and Dior|
|I'm never satisfied with my wardrobe unless there's something red in it.|
|Petit Bateau linen t-shirts||Aug / Dec 2014||Linen||They looked so light, carefree and Jane Birkin-y on the hanger||Almost everyday||My body changed and now these hang like maternity tops. Men give up seats on the Métro because they think I'm enceinte. They're so pretty and soft though, perfect tucked into a skirt.|
|J Brand jeans||Sometime in 2011||Cotton, elastane||I thought these were the same as Emmanuelle Alt's jeans||At least 3x a week||These fit no matter what weight I am and still look new.|
|Skirt||Sept 2011||Virgin wool, silk||I always wanted a mermaid skirt, and sneaking one into a corporate setting thrilled me||2-3 a week||Indispensable- matched every top I've purchased in four years. In perfect condition. I love the heft and sheen of the wool, and the LV logo pull appeals to my vanity|
|Sneakers||May 2013||Leather, undisclosed synthetics||My husband bought this because he didn't want me to have foot problems||Every week||Despite Nike's severe ethical and environmental failures, these are like protective turtle shells.|
|Heels||August 2011||Patent leather||I fell for the Richard Prince monogram||Hundreds of times||Comfortable if I walk less than 10 km in them, these get more compliments and start more conversations than any other shoe.|
|Sandals||Feb 2011, c. 2010?||Suede, jute||I thought bright green was a neutral and the color would convey that I was a sustainability major||Hundreds, only special occasions now||The kind of shoe that matches nothing, yet goes with everything, so bright and out there I can wear it with all my clothes. The kind of shoe wardrobe analyses might preclude me from buying.|
|Bow pumps||Oct 2014||Patent leather||At heart I'm actually a 70 year old woman||Almost daily, my cobbler wants to kill me||These didn't need a cobbler until last week- they look new. Best shoe ever. Perfect for lots of walking, cute with jeans or skirts.|
|Boots||Dec 2014||Leather, rubber||My 15 year old boots finally wore out, and these were warm and kind of cute||Everyday until May||Practicality told me to get Ugg boots. These are shapelier and give a little lift but are comfortable, waterproof, and easy to clean.|
I kept pieces I could tell a story about, things that made my heart flutter or embodied some cherished memory. Based on this, I learned 1) I like below-the-knee hemlines 2) Layers don't work for me 3) I should stick to body-skimming silhouettes instead of flowy ones 4) I have a princess complex 5) I gravitate towards statement-making shoes that don't match anything, yet go with everything, bringing variety to my wardrobe. I have trouble selecting sweaters and cardigans- I left the Uniqlo cardigan off the chart because I have nothing to say about it. It's scratchy and I merely tolerate it. This year, I'm determined not to repeat my mistakes. I always buy boring, practical sweaters that don't bring any enjoyment, so a pretty tailored jacket or hand-knit might be the answer.
The chart also shows I'm still seduced by designer labels. Minimalism need not be about prestige- in middle school I bought a Forever 21 camisole for $2 at a thrift store and wore it until I left for Paris. I once bought a Dior shirt from the same place that was a piece of garbage. The idea that a designer label is required for quality is largely unfounded, and most people here wear chain store clothing, though they may invest more in accessories. Still, I don't like Uniqlo, Forever 21 et al. (and a lot of expensive designers, for that matter) because of their practices. While I'm not opposed to buying these brands in a thrift store, they don't work for me. They fit funny, or the fabric is weird. One exception: Secondhand H&M gloves. The leather stretched more than I expected and they look mannish now, but they're still perfectly warm, in good condition.
At any rate, I don't believe fast fashion is ever all anybody can afford, because I couldn't afford H&M or Forever 21 until recently. Going to the mall was a cruel exercise, since I barely had the cash to cough up $59.99 for jeans. My clothing budget is now $50 a month, which I rarely spend. Everything on this chart cost less than mall clothes. While not everyone will find luxury items in thrift stores, I hope this illustrates the fact that there are alternatives to fast fashion. Since there were no thrift stores in my town, before I could drive, I made skirts out of scrap upholstery fabric and wore them with my dad's old shirts, which I refashioned.
Another thing I've learned from my wardrobe evaluation- I like to wear my "nice" clothes everyday, which is something I think Europeans do more than Americans. I don't see the point of letting good stuff take up valuable real estate, only to remain unworn.