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(Not) Smart Shopping : Settling for Adequate

tunic.jpgAfter writing about my wisest and dumbest purchases, I realized why clothes shopping has been an issue for me. I think it’s because when shopping my goal is to get it over with.

It’s not because I don’t like new or pretty clothes, I do. But clothes shopping has never been a real part of my budget and spending plan. It’s always been something I’ve done by necessity. And because I don’t like spending the money, I’m afraid I don’t do a good job of spending it.

Growing up, clothes buying was simply not a part of my life. Until I was about 10 or older, all my clothes came from older cousins. On the one hand it was exciting to have so many free clothes options. On the other, I was limited by what we had “in stock.”

My mom has never been a clothes shopper either, but she did a good job of developing her own cute style and buying clothes that last a long time and suit her style. I’m not sure if I’ve developed that style yet. I’m moving towards it.

So I don’t have a real shopping background. It stresses me. I don’t want to be spending the money and I don’t have the bug to shop around for awesome deals.

This has probably saved me a lot in potential debt.

But settling for “what I need” isn’t always buying what I actually need and will use. Like if I need a pair of black pants, not every pair of black pants that fits me will work. I need some that look good, that will last, that go with my outfits, etc. I have a skirt and a jacket that I bought last summer for this winter (the potentially my dumbest purchase ones) that I just don’t like.

Sometimes it helps to make my own clothes, if I take the time to buy the fabric and pattern that really work for what I want and not just what’ll do.

As it is, I cultivated a tunic look in my senior year of college and I’ve dug those out now that I’m back in semi-casual library land. Some are tunics, others are short dresses which can be worn as tunics (I wouldn’t look good in a short skirt).

So I’m going to keep an eye out for those, I may even pop in periodically at goodwill and the like. But I’m resolved not to buy clothes like it’s a chore, even if it is a chose. I’m resolved to buy them like it’s an investment (in having something to wear, in not stressing about having to get clothes, etc) and think carefully beforehand.

Do you like to shop for clothes and such?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Weekend Roundup - The I’m Sick Edition « Remodeling This Life
March 8, 2008 at 6:07 am
Smarter Shopping with Swango — Online Clothing Swap Shop
March 8, 2008 at 10:38 pm

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Looby March 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I used to like clothes shopping (except for smart trousers which never fit) but recently, since I have been on a savings kick I haven’t been near a store. I am lucky that when I did enjoy shopping I purchased fewer but higher quality items that have lasted, something that I got from my mum. I think the key for me is to find a couple of stores that sell items that fit me well, and just purchasing what I need. I also limit my colours to off-white, pale blue, chocolate brown and charcoal grey which increases the likelihood of me putting together an actual look when I am half asleep. When I know I will need to replace something I prepare in advance, looking online or in stores so that I don’t end up buying something to make do. It’s also important to know what works for you, sometimes I get swayed by a friends new xxx but then remember that I am flat chested and they are not or whatever reason it is that means it wouldn’t work for me.

her every cent counts March 7, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I love, love, LOVE shopping for clothes. I spend too much money on clothes, so I try to avoid the mall and stores these days!

Wooly Woman March 7, 2008 at 3:27 pm

I love 2nd hand clothes shopping when there is nothing in particular that I need. Not a real fan of shopping for new clothes because I hate spending money on clothes in the first place. I do ok at Walmart and the like if I can find some bargains, but the quality is so poor often I regret it. And not to mention the guilt over clothes made so cheaply in other countries! Naw, 2nd hand shopping is more fun πŸ™‚

plonkee March 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I’m ambivalent about shopping for clothes. I’m in the fortunate position of pretty much knowing exactly what suits me. Unfortunately, it’s not always in the shops. Not settling (unless the situation is very dire) has worked out best for me.

Deciding which colours and styles suit you is probably the most useful thing anyone can do in the way of clothes. Then, once you know, stick to it.

Dad March 7, 2008 at 5:40 pm

My wife has found something that helps her. Her style which suits her very well, is nearly always out of sync with what is in. This means that a lot of retail stores locally do not carry anything she would want. She has found the some catalogs have things that fit her style. Depending on the catalog, they can be inexpensive, cheap or costly. Unlike the retail store, the catalogs I”m thinking of do not change with the fashions but continue to offer the things that suit her. I hope this gives some people ideas.

Cath Lawson March 7, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Hi Mrs M – I love that tunic. I’m not a great clothes shopper. I’ve just never bought into all that spend your week working then waste your weekend shopping hype.

But, in my 20’s – I was like you. When I did buy things, they were often wrong choices – eg not things that would last me for years.

It gets better when you get older – even for anti-shoppers like me. When i do buy clothes, I sort of do it in bulk – a few things at a time.

Anything that is more of a fashion item will be as cheap as possible. Anything black, navy or items that don’t go out of fashion easily – I will pay more. But these things have to last me for years.

I also save by shopping when I come over to the States as it is more economical for us in the UK and even better with the current exchange rate.

Also, if you’re buying anything white, go cheap as it will discolour easily.

And never shop in the sales, unless you absolutely know what you need and you’re able to get it.

Last thing – seriously think about how much you are actually able to wear week by week. Even anti-shoppers like me can accumulate too much.

It is great that you can sew – that will save you a fortune.

Amanda March 7, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Not for myself, no. If I go, I try to take Tim with me for color sense and all (one positive of being married to an artist!).

Becky@FamilyandFinances March 7, 2008 at 6:37 pm

I do enjoy clothing shopping, both new and 2nd hand. Luckily (as I look at it), I’m very short and it’s hard to find things that fit me right. I consider this lucky because I get to shop my heart out and try tons of stuff on, but I rarely go home with much (if anything) because so little of it actually fits me right πŸ™‚

Christine March 7, 2008 at 7:45 pm

I enjoy some aspects of clothes shopping. I like shopping for dresses, skirts, and shoes.

I loathe shopping for pants; pants are my nemeses. And shirts can be tricky. Besides the problem sometimes of finding tops which are modest enough for me, I usually seem to fit somewhere between small and medium — smedium, I guess — and so it’s hard to guess which size(s) I should be trying on.

mrsmicah March 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Christine, I think we have the same hips—which is what makes pants so frustrating.

@ Wooly Woman, one reason I love shopping 2nd hand is that I feel less guilt about where the clothes come from. I see it as redeeming castoffs and being socially responsible…plus the money often goes to a good cause instead of a corporation.

Christine March 8, 2008 at 10:27 am

I think we do. Most pants fit my waist or my hips, but generally not both… or they fit both but aren’t long enough in the leg… etc, etc.

The biggest problem, I think, is all those darned nonsensical women’s sizes. Am I a 7, a 4, an 8, a 6? I’m any of those, depending on the brand in question. I wish that women’s clothing manufacturers would move to the men’s system: straight waist/inseam measurements, in actual physical units. Life would be so much less confusing then.

mrsmicah March 8, 2008 at 2:44 pm

@Christine, exactly! We’re cursed with our mothers’ figures, rather than our other aunt’s. If we were taller with thinner legs, we could fit styles better. But no, we had to be curvy. Well here’s to curves! πŸ™‚

plonkee March 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm

I think they do the size thing so that they can change the measurements of the sizes as the population gets larger, and no one really notices.

I have to admit that this is just my own pet theory, but it could be true.

Christine March 8, 2008 at 5:44 pm


It could be. But most of the sizes have shifted downwards. According to my mother, sizes now are much smaller than they were when she was young (for the same numerical value). A 7 today fits a larger woman than a 7 fit in the 1970s. And size zero never used to exist. (Size “zero” doesn’t even make any sense!) Perhaps they’re moving that way so that we can all feel better about ourselves because we’re wearing smaller sizes.

That’s completely bogus, of course. Fit matters much more than size — after all, you’re probably the only one who sees your clothing tags! So silly.

@ Mrs. M:

Here’s to curves, indeed! Rah, rah. Though I do have the longest legs of the group of us, I think (well, except for Cybele).

kay March 8, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I hate clothes shopping. I’m fat and there are NO nice clothes for fat people and the stores that have ‘our sizes’ are so expensive, I can’t afford it. I end up wearing sweats and tshirts ALL the time. Not a great way to feel good about yourself when you already feel like crap for hating what you see in the mirror.

Meg from All About Appearances March 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Sounds like the story of my fashion life up to about a year ago!

I didn’t care much about clothes growing up. Many of my clothes were hand-me-downs, so I really couldn’t be too picky.

Even as an adult, it took a while to get out of that mindset. It got to the point where I just wore my husband’s pants because I didn’t want to shop because I was so used to not having the money and not being able to find anything that looked nice. That was definitely a low point in my fashion life.

Since then, though, I’ve found out that it is worth it to spend the time and money to buy clothes that I will really enjoy. It took a while to figure out what those clothes were, but now I really love getting new things. It doesn’t take much more money or time once you know where to shop and for what — unless you start liking it too much (like me for a while). But really, style is about exercising choice, not spending more.

Kacie March 9, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I haaaaaaaate clothes shopping. It wears me out and it takes forever for me to find something I like that fits well and doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount.

So, I shop for clothes online when i can, since it doesn’t stress me out as much. I’ve had good luck with that so far.

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances March 9, 2008 at 3:42 pm

@ Kacie and others who dislike offline shopping

I’d love to hear more from you because the goal of The Bargain Queens, the other blog I write for, help people like you find deals on good clothes and accessories. I hope you’ll check it out, of course, but more importantly, I’d love to hear if there is anyway that we at the site can do a better job for you.

I have a contact form on my other blog that you can use to contact me. It’s at:

deepali March 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I used to love clothes shopping, but only at certain stores (ie, boutiques, not dept stores). I need things organized and manageable. I do like Macy’s because it’s organized by brand (to some degree), so it’s like mini stores. That’s how Japanese dept stores are arranged as well.
I know which stores/brands I like, and I tend to stick to those. If I venture away, it’s only with my mom, who has an eye for style and bargains.

Of course, aside from an occasional trip to those favorite stores, I stay away from shopping altogether now. πŸ™‚

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