What to buy and how to shop so you never have to return clothes and you never end up with unworn items piling up in your wardrobe. I’m sure if you opened your closet, you would find something with a tag still attached to it. I’m also sure you have lied before to a cashier about an item – “I bought it as a present, but it didn’t fit.” – because you wanted to return it. We sometimes don’t realize how much value the money we waste on impulse buys could buy us. Here is how to avoid them!
SHOP FOR WHAT YOU NEED, NOT FOR WHAT YOU WANT
I know these two sound the same, but there is a huge difference. If you learn to justify your purchases, there is a lower risk you will regret them. Meanwhile wanting something can be a flash of emotion, or a craving because you saw an item on someone, to need something you need a reason like these:
- There is a seasonal need (warm scarf, bikini, etc.)
- Overused, broke, or lost the old one (or your size has changed)
- You lack variety of the type of item (basic t-shirts, jeans, etc.)
- Have been wanting an item like that for a longer period and researched the market
DOUBLE CHECK IF IT’S A FAD
Like I mentioned before, seasonal runway trends have a very short lifespan, thanks to fast fashion. We tend to really-really want items, just because all the models in fashion magazines, every single fashion blogger on Instagram, and everyone around us are wearing them. Sometimes these trends fit you like a glove, but they will go uncool in a heartbeat, and you will be left with clothes and accessories you will never wear or resell.
There is one secret to this: Once the fashion trend reached the teen shops like Forever21 or Bershka, it’s too late to buy.
TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOUR EMOTIONAL BACKGROUND
What is there to deny, we all end up in shops and malls just because we are upset, hormonal, sad, or feel bad about ourselves. Usually these are going to be the impulse purchases we will never wear, because we just bought them to feel better. I propose you buy a book or a nice meal instead. Cheaper, and warms the soul more.
“BUT IT’S CHEAP”
Gotcha, but that can’t be the only reason to buy, this is exactly how you end up with piles of unworn clothes, while you could’ve bought one expensive piece you would be wearing every day. Take responsibility and overrule the craving for endless consumption, you will never fill the holes with that. Cheap is disposable, cheap is meaningless, and cheap is usually bad quality.
THE PERSONALITY OR VERSATILITY THEORY
I’m positive I solved the equation of smart wardrobes. Everything you buy needs to have one of these qualities.
Personality means that the item is something special, it has a special cut, special brand, special material, special embroidery or embellishment, or is from different owner and era. This type tends to stick in your wardrobe if you can attach a special story to them. Like a trip abroad, or a hidden vintage shop you found in your city. The machine-embroidered Zara rarely becomes an adored signature piece for long years.
Versatility simply means the item can be used in a million ways, a million times. For example it can be mixed with formal and also casual, can be layered, it works for more than one seasons, it’s basic, it’s clean or minimal, or it’s classic and timeless. Normally your wardrobe should consist of 70% of versatile, and 30% exotic stuff, so you have infinite choices to mix.
MAKE FANTASY OUTFITS IN YOUR HEAD
If you can’t make at least three outfits with the item you’re about to buy from your existing wardrobe, don’t get it. Bonus points if you can think of several outfits for very different occasions.
DOUBLE CHECK THE QUALITY
Which means you should dig for the attached tags and look at the dirty details, like what’s the composite of the fabric. If it has any merino wool, silk, pima or organic cotton, alpaca, or mohair listed, you hit the jackpot, if it says 100% polyester or chiffon, you should probably drop it while it’s hot. Get informed about washing instructions too, because if you don’t care enough to hand wash or take something to the dry cleaner’s, you will ruin the item in the washing machine.
THE LOVE FACTOR
Have you hesitated while bringing the chosen piece to the cashier? Did you ask yourself if you actually need it? Was the answer “But it’s so cheap, it will be good for something.” or some other lie you tell yourself? Don’t compromise, don’t buy anything you don’t immediately fall in love with. If it doesn’t look perfect on you, doesn’t feel perfect, you have any kind of doubts, leave it. You just saved yourself money.
THE FETCH-RIGHT-AWAY EXCEPTION
There is always an exception, but it’s hard to build a definition around it. If you find something second hand, vintage, or on extreme sale that is fantastic quality, unique, special, you feel naturally attracted to, and you think it’s a great buy, you just don’t know where or how will you wear it yet, just go for it. This usually happens once in a blue moon, but there’s a bigger chance you will regret missing out on a silk vintage kimono jacket at the flea market, than a mass-manufactured polyester blouse 80% off at H&M.
IF YOU DON’T WEAR IT FOR A WEEK, RETURN IT
If all else fails, you don’t need to hold on to something that doesn’t seem to work out for you. It’s a less known fact but even though most shops process returns within 14 or 30 days of the purchase, you don’t need to give them a reason why.
Back in the days, when local seamstresses made the clothes sold in the boutiques, they asked about the reason of return, because they wanted to improve their businesses. These days the multinational giants are just trying to intimidate you with their interrogating policy, so you feel embarrassed for doing a return and keep the items instead. They even ask for your full name and address, saying the computer can’t process the return without it, so you have a feeling they’re watching, following, tracking you, pointing big fingers at the guilty piece of sh*t who’s too stupid to make up their mind, and too broke to just hold on to what they bought. You don’t need to give them your own name or own address, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about changing your mind about a purchase. Just own it.
All illustrations by Lainey Molnar, 2016