Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buyer's Remorse, Part I

Over the weekend Mark asked me if I ever have any buyer's remorse about the clothing items I own, and I spent the rest of the day turning the question over in my head. It was a good exercise, I think, because it got me thinking about the lasting effects of the choices we make with our shopping. Sure, there's the financial impact that's fairly immediate. Who hasn't made a decadent impulse buy and left the store with a knot in the stomach and a vague sense of guilt? But what about the longer term effects? How do we deal with those items lingering in the closet that we wish we hadn't bought?

When I thought about the things I really regret purchasing, surprisingly few of them turned out to be those big splurges. Most of them were things that either don't fit right, are uncomfortable, or that simply don't get worn very often for whatever reason and that I have to force myself to try to incorporate. The guilt over the expensive purchases subsides fairly quickly once the credit card bill is paid, provided I actually wear whatever it is. So in the final analysis, it is not about how much the item cost, it's about how much benefit I'm getting out of owning it.

The question, then, is what do we do about those regrettable purchases? Rather than simply dumping the item at the nearest Goodwill, are there ways to turn buyer's remorse into pride of ownership? These are a few I came up with:

1. Alteration. I've had sleeves taken in, hemlines shortened, armholes made larger, and all sorts of other modifications to make clothes more comfortable and workable. If there's a garment you regret owning because you're not wearing it, consider whether an alteration might help you get more use out of it. This extends beyond just modifications to the fit; you can dye clothing, remove or add embellishments, change the buttons, or whatever else you can dream up. If you can figure out exactly what it is about the garment that makes it a regrettable choice, chances are that you can fix it.

2. Swapping. I tend to run between a size 8.5 and 9 shoe; as a result I often end up with shoes that seem fine at first and later end up being too large or, more often, too small. I have to admit that historically I've tended to want the look of a smaller shoe, and as a result I'm plagued with more than one pair that kill my feet by the end of the day. The worst such offenders were my adorable gray and teal flats, which I foolishly kept because I thought they'd stretch out. Since by the time I figured out that they were a lost cause it was too late to return them, I was stuck with a practically new pair of shoes I couldn't wear. Thankfully, my good friend Jess runs about half a size smaller than me, so the last time she was in town I asked her to try them out, and on her they fit and felt great. And then guess what happened? When I was in Seattle she had a pair of shoes that was half a size too large -- the shoes I've got on in this outfit, to be exact. Sloppy and blister-inducing on her, they are comfy perfection on me. Both of us ended up with a pair of shoes we can actually wear, and none of the guilt of either casting out a perfectly good pair or leaving it neglected and unworn in the closet. As The Godfather said, "Keep your friends close, and your friends that are about half a shoe size different from you closer." Or something like that.

3. Reducing your price-per-wear. OK, so maybe this seems obvious, but if you've got an item that haunts you because it was expensive and you rarely wear it, you can always just wear it more. I've previously discussed the idea of putting your special items into every day rotation (here's an example of it in action), and this is a tactic I use to soften the blow of that empty bank account that follows a splurge. OK, so I paid a lot for a pair of boots, now what am I gonna do about it? Wear them, that's what. I'll wear them so much that two things happen: one, I convince myself that they were worth every penny; two, the price per wear decreases dramatically and puts them on a par with the other things in my closet. I've owned a $3.50 thrift store skirt I wore all of twice and a decadent $350 pair of boots I've worn countless times; at this point they're probably close to equal in terms of the price per wear. Not only that, but the skirt has been tough to work with and looks only so-so, while the boots still look gorgeous and are a dream to wear, so which was really the better value?

4. Wearing it in a different way. Right, so you jumped on the maxi skirt trend only to realize 2 months down the road that maxi skirts look dreadful on you. You could have the skirt shortened, as I mentioned above, or you could try wearing it as a dress. I've done just that with a long skirt, as has gorgeous S from Academichic and probably countless others as well. A button-down shirt can be worn as a jacket, a short-sleeved top can be worn as a vest, a minidress can be worn as a tunic. Before you dismiss an item as being unusable and begin your cycle of regret over buying it, consider if you could style it in a different way that would make it more flattering. Is the hem too short? Try layering a longer skirt underneath. Is the shape too shapeless? Why not add a belt? Restyling your items can also push them beyond a trend and make them a longer-term staple in your wardrobe.

So how about you? Do you have any cases of buyer's remorse? What are you doing about it? Tune in tomorrow, when I'll discuss shopping strategies to avoid ever having buyer's remorse in the first place!

Jacket: vintage
Dress: Target
Shoes: BC Footwear


Marie said...

Great strategies, some of which I have tried with buyer's remorse. I usually feel much better if I can find a way to make someone else's day with the item, especially if it's my family or a close friend. I once spent far too much on a purse I chose not to use, so I donated it to a church raffle fund raiser. I felt like I had made a BIG donation! Felt a bit better.

bekster said...

Great tips, even if you don't have buyer's remorse. I'm inspired to try some things just to combat boredom with what's in my closet.

I was able to "save" a shirt the other day (after it got a bleached spot in the middle) by wearing a belt that covered the spot. It actually made the whole thing look more polished anyway.

K said...

I sometimes have buyers remorse but much less than I used to. I find that as I got older I learned more about what I liked and what I didn't so it helped me weed out buying anything that would later lead to remorse. Through reading all of these great blogs I've certainly learned of lots of ways to extend my things too! I actually have two things waiting around to be dyed.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic suggestions for reducing remorse! I have relatively few items that bring on waves of guilt, but the ones that do haunt me. And my best bet is to wear them.

I've started keeping a list of items that have languished unworn and when I am thinking of what to wear, it's my first go-to. Helps a TON.

Diana said...

Usually, the items I have the most remorse over are cheap thrift store items that seemed okay in the dressing room but not so hot once I get home. I usually give a lot more consideration to more expensive items, so I buy only when I really love it.

Eyeliah said...

Great post, the swapping has helped me a lot with this one, although I still have the remorse about the $$. I try to be super picky these days and be really sure I want something before I but it. Pervention is key.

Academichic said...

This is a great post on how to turn guilt into something productive and how to get way more out of your clothes than you think! Thanks for the shout out, too! :)


Jael Paris said...

I love that dress. I was thinking of buying it, but it came out the same time as the McQueen collection. Had to choose!

K.Line said...

Really great post Audi. The idea that you can just wear something more often - it's renegade! :-)