Wardrobe Report 2016

So, last year I spent $1516 on clothing despite budgeting $900. I decided not to set an unrealistic goal this year. I spend $1467, basically the same again. To my shame, I bought a lot of new clothing, which depletes resources and is bad for the environment. In my defense, I need clothing for 4 extreme seasons and I need different items for personal and professional use.

The obvious solution would be to shop thrift and vintage, but I fare poorly with used clothing. I tend to buy things that are outside my comfort zone because they are retro-chic and then I have regrets. I don’t find charity shops are good for the kind of basics I wear to work, maybe because everyone is like me and they wear those kinds of clothes right out.

Thrifted summer zip top

Thrifted summer zip top

Fila shorts/summer workout wear

Fila shorts/summer workout wear

Handmade? thrifted pullover

Handmade? thrifted pullover

My thrifted clothes this year were a pair of Fila workout shorts, a zip-up summer top (suitable for work wear), and a heavy-weight sweater with no tags that looks hand-knit.

Because my everyday look is predictable, I stock up on simple pieces and wear them often. About 20% of my budget went to replacement items. Another 10% went to small stuff: underwear, socks, tights, belts, scarves, and repairs (boot soles, tailoring).

This year’s replacement items were black jeans, black leggings, two long-sleeve T-shirts, a Fall jacket, yet another pair of workout sneakers, and moccasins used as slippers.

Black jeans and fuchsia hoodie

Black jeans and fuchsia hoodie

My new Fall jacket from The Gap is more casual than my old one (which no longer fit) but I spend more time in informal mode. I can layer with a summer jacket in early Fall or move up to a winter one in late Fall if I need to. Once upon a time, I swore I would never wear leggings, but I gave in. My original pair became too faded to wear to work. The new ones are too long and won’t stay tucked in my boots even with proper boot socks (they keep scrunching up and looking baggy, which just won’t do) so I’m hoping they’ll function better when I hem them. It’s enough to make me wish stirrup pants would come back 🙂 My old black jeans were super-low-rise so not suitable for work. I love the fit on my new ones, but they have a chemical smell that has not washed away since I bought them months ago. I read up on it and I am appalled by the chemicals used in new clothing – it is likely nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which, fortunately, are being phased out by a lot of brands. My old workout sneakers wore out prematurely because I bought a “cushy” athleisure brand instead of training shoes, so they weren’t built for anything rigorous. The new ones are embarrassingly plain, like walking shoes. I didn’t think I would care, but I do, since colourful ones are the norm now! They will do. I picked them out because of a deep discount, helping to make up for last year’s purchasing mistake. As for the two T-shirts, they are one of my wardrobe staples. When they are too tatty for work, I sometimes wear one as an under-layer at home. I replace a couple of them every year when they are literally worn out.

I do think about how to make my everyday clothes last longer. I mostly avoid over-washing and drying which causes excess wear and tear. I try to buy quality, and choose brands that I know from experience won’t fade or lose their shape. And as you can tell from my style choices, I buy very little that is trendy, so I feel OK wearing things for several years.

On to the new stuff. I bought a pair of Dr. Martens Chelsea boots which I love. They were comfortable enough to wear all day from Day 1, and I think they will last. I bought a pair of Guess dark wash jeans for work (link shows slightly distressed version). They have more stretch in them than they need, so they get looser during the day. I tend to wash them often to tighten them up, which means the dark wash won’t last. Otherwise they are good! I also bought my first pair of nylon tech pants (similar brand). You know, the kind of pants that tourists wear because they are light, packable, washable and fast-drying! I didn’t get cargo-style or zip-off ones, so they are pretty versatile and I really like them. One could wear a layer under them for winter but because of the light-weight fabric I am saving them for warm weather only.

Fall layers

Fall layers

Nylon summer jacket and tourist pants :)

Nylon summer jacket and tourist pants 🙂

I bought 4 new jackets: 2 for utility and 2 for fashion. The “fashion” jackets were the TopShop bomber (colour: navy) and an indoor work jacket from Banana Republic with a diagonal zip. The practical ones were a nylon “windbreaker” summer jacket by US Polo Association and an unusual SunIce layering jacket I found at Costco. It is a black zip-up, close-fitting jacket that has a knit layer on the outside and a fleece layer on the inside. It’s ideal for pairing with my new down vest (colour: raspberry) and it stood me in good stead this Fall. I looked high and low to find an unpopular fleece vest this Fall. They used to be ubiquitous but must have been banished by everyone because I couldn’t even find one in thrift shops. A few traditional companies like LL Bean and Columbia still sell them. As you can tell, I’ve been absorbed with layering this year!

For tops, I bought 4 short-sleeved summer tops, one white golf shirt which I never wore (too uniform-like) and 3 girly tops (shown here) which were quite a change for me as I usually wear single-colour T-shirts. I needed a bit of a colour and style boost so these were good. This month I decided I needed a classic black pullover sweater for all occasions. I easily found one, a 100% cotton rib knit mock neck (similar to this link). Not chunky or boxy or cropped! In the same store, I spotted a black pintucked Henley top and decided I had to have it, too. Whenever I buy two items to serve the same purpose, I tend to regret it. I didn’t need two black tops. It was a passing whim. But they are different styles and weights and I think they will be useful so I kept both.

I picked up two basic cardigans and two hoodies this year. Most of the cardigans I wear to work are bright colours, so I went with neutrals this time, a navy Shaker-knit boyfriend-style one from Banana Republic and a taupe no-button cardi from Sears Tradition. I like it because the colour is so non-committal, I can wear it with grey, beige or brown! The hoodies are very different, one with a PacMan print for weekend use – it makes me smile – and a fuchsia-colour athletic one.

Tote bag

Tote bag

I topped off everything else with some workout wear, a Nike tankini (in orange/blue print instead of black/white) which is great for “real” swimming and has a good fit for a long-waisted person; a layering tank for the gym because we are all modest there; a T-shirt in a wicking fabric; and a pair of wide-leg workout/leisure pants that are half-way between yoga pants and sweats. I also bought a black tote bag (which I found out later is probably a copy of a Tough Jeanworks bag) which I am loving. I now have a black tote bag and a brown one, so they will match any outfit and I never need to take plastic shopping bags.

Besides my layering theme, I did buy items from a few brands that are primarily sold to “mature” women, such as Traditions and Karen Scott. Add the fleece vest, the tourist pants and the one-colour sneakers and I feel older all of a sudden 🙂

Whew! You will think I did nothing but shop for clothes all year. I always say I will do better and I won’t need anything for a while, but who am I kidding? Let’s see how I get through the winter!

I would love to hear what you did to refresh your wardrobe, replace some basics, or get by without. 

—not a sponsored post, no free or discounted products received and no affiliate links—



  1. As a former equestrienne, I believe there is a place in the world for the stirrup pant!

    My past two and a half years have been an anomaly as far as wardrobe. Since I fell pregnant, I stopped buying all but the most basic essentials like underwear, and a few replacement shoes for the flats that wore out, because I just hated the idea of buying new clothes that would only fit for a season as my body kept changing. Now I’m fed up with only having 10% of my wardrobe maybe fit, so I’m searching carefully for some replacement basics. Like you, my style is quite basic and I dress for comfort but that still doesn’t come cheap since I’m trying to find things that are good quality and don’t wear through in six months. Wish me luck 🙂

    • Good luck indeed! I am really struggling with quality because price is no guarantee, and clothing is made in the same type of fast-fashion factories by almost all brands. I am so annoyed at having to replace stuff so often!

  2. EcoCatLady

    Gosh… these posts always make me feel like such a slob. My mission this year has been to “use up” the clothes that I have. Thanks to the carpet beetles, I got rid of TONS of stuff, and packed up most of what was left in those vacuum sealed storage bags – I’m only leaving out what’s actively being worn (and washed) at the moment. So for each season I got by with only a handful of items, which I basically wore to death. Then when I packed things up at the end of the season I relegated a good percentage to the rag bag with the goal of not replacing it.

    I did, however, decide that I needed to replace a few things that wore out, so I bought (at the thrift store, of course) one pair of jeans, one pair of sweat pants, and 3 night shirts. Oh, and I splurged and bought a knit hat and new pair of gloves at the dollar store – which I didn’t really “need” but hey, they were only a dollar each. I think that’s the sum total of my clothing purchases for the year. I probably spent around $25 total.

    So… I think the formula for getting by without many new clothes is: work at home + carpet beetles + slovenliness + introverted lifestyle (ie: shun anything that even remotely looks like “going out”) + generalized hatred for shopping and trying things on! Now, if I could just figure out how to turn that into a trendy decluttering or lifestyle book, I could make a million dollars! 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I’m in the midst of figuring out a shopping calendar for the coming year based on making sure I have the minimum clothing for all occasions but fitting my real life! I too tend to wear things out but am going to try to let them go a bit earlier to avoid having too many wear only at home or as under layers items. This year I to spent about the same as last year but spent it quite differently. I had been under spending on shoes, sleep wear, work out wear, lingerie and accessories and worked on addressing that some what. Colorful tops seem to always call my name though. I clearly need to check out Banana Republic given your success there.

    • I may have to do the same thing – letting stuff go earlier so I don’t have a huge pile of home/under-only clothes! I have changed my shoe strategy – I now walk to work in sneakers and bring/leave nice shoes at work, so my better shoes have lasted 2-3 times as long while my cheap sneakers wear out! And I have bought more workout wear now that I work out at the gym instead of home. Luckily it is not one of those competitive “go-to-be-seen” gyms. I love Banana Republic; they have a factory outlet here.

  4. jbistheinitial

    I am so bad at clothes shopping – I basically buy the same basics (striped tops, black jeans, patterned skirts) over and over again. And then wear the original of whatever to death because the endless extra versions I bought aren’t *quite* right!

    • I am the same, and whenever I try something completely new, it’s usually a fail! Why is it that the original of something is always perfect and any attempts at replacements are not? You would think that most basics would be pretty much interchangeable, but not so.

  5. Fiona

    I finally get the difficulty of having to equip yourself for four real seasons! And even more so when you are not just visiting a place but have to have a variety of ‘street’ wear i.e. not just ski jackets to get through the cold. I’m still shocked at how the layers I wore at home to switch an outfit from summer to autumn to winter are now ONLY the layers I would need for early autumn here in Europe. After only four weeks here I can see I would need about three times as many wardrobe items compared to home.

    You’ve got plenty of workout gear for a fit and active life so that adds quite a lot of gear as well. I’m curious about the Nike tankini for swimming. Do you wear it as bathers or over bathers? I loved the comment, ‘I didn’t need two black tops.’ I am guilty of buying any black top in triplicate, just to have enough stock of black tops to wear continuously! I haven’t noticed if fleece vests have gone out in Australia. I have one red one that is in continuous use but needs replacing. If I see one in France I will snap it up!

    I love looking at other wardrobes and how it all comes together!

    • Now I feel better about all the money I spent 🙂 The tankini is a proper bathing suit with a supportive inner layer! So no need for another bathing suit under. OK, I admit, I probably did need two black tops, if not more, haha!

    • I just bought a tankini. It’s beautiful and makes me look slim. Better than a one piece as they pull breasts down. And the tankini hides my tummy.

      • I like mine because I am long-waisted, so it works well to have the overlapping layers there. Also slightly more fashionable than the racer-back one-piece suits, but still completely swim-worthy.

  6. Margie in Toronto

    This past year I did have to buy all new summer clothes due to weight loss – I did get a good deal at Talbots on the bulk of the items (mostly for the office) and then bought more casual wear at The Bay. It probably came out to about $1,200.00.
    Before being laid off in Sept. I had bought 1 new cashmere cardigan (my personal weakness) and another dressy/casual Chaps shirt (another $250) – but that has been it. I had bought two new winter coats and a new pair of boots last winter so need nothing this year, especially since I’m now wearing casual clothes most of the time.
    I have 6 nighties and 4 pair of PJ’s – about 40 pairs of socks and enough undies to last almost a whole month. The only item I need to add is another couple of bras. I have big boobs and buy properly fitted European brands so usually between $100 – $200 per bra (but worth it in the long run) – this is the one area that I won’t scrimp on.
    Oh – and I will need a new Spring/Fall coat – my lightweight jacket has shredded away and the heavier weight one is nearly two sizes too big (I made it last for this Fall but it will need to be replaced).
    I have already put a page aside in my yearly planner to note clothing expenses for the coming year so it will be an interesting exercise to see what I buy and how much I spend. I anticipate going back to work in June or July – at least part-time – but may not need much even then – perhaps another top or two or a replacement white t-shirt – and some more casual summer items such as another pair of capris and some casual shoes.
    I’ve never had much luck at second hand stores – too short & round – but I do try to shop during the sales to get things for the best price possible. However, shopping isn’t a recreational activity – not like it used to be. I love a day out with a girlfriend just window shopping but if I really need an item I prefer to go by myself and concentrate on what I need to find – and I do keep a list. I’d love to revisit this topic in 6 months to see how we have all done!

    • Hi Margie, I’m sorry to hear about your job loss. I hope you stay in good spirits over the winter. My only cashmere sweater is thrifted but now I have a taste for them! I am actually quite fond of Chaps brand. I’ll be interested to hear how your spending goes in the new year. You made a good point – I don’t shop recreationally except when I’m on vacation, and usually only buy a few odds and ends like earrings and tea towels. When I go clothes shopping, I’m on a mission to buy particular items. PS – Any thoughts of starting a blog?

      • Margie in Toronto

        I’ve thought about doing a blog but I’m not very tech savvy – although I do have friends who know all the ins and outs so may ask them to help me get set up.
        Got hit with the restructuring syndrome bug – so I’m now at least temporarily retired – hoping to eventually go back part-time only – either 2 or 3 days a week or perhaps a series of short-term contracts. I have to get some knee surgery out of the way first so it will probably be mid-summer before I’m out there again.
        My big New Year’s resolution is to really think about what I’m spending and why – want to stop spending just for the sake of it – even if it’s just a dollar here or a dollar there. Tracking things will be a real help.

  7. I hear you on the not having luck at thrift stores — same here! And if I do buy something I often end up donating it back.

    Your wardrobe posts always inspire me to think about my own spending on clothes. I always think it’s not as much as it ends up being, it’s so easy to forget what I bought 5+ months ago! I’ve been mostly just wearing what I have, but I think I’ll need to buy more in 2017 than I have the past couple of years.

  8. My goal was to only buy things I really needed this year. Gosh, I thought I did great, and then went back & looked at my spending numbers & boy, was I wrong! 🙂

    Here’s what I bought:
    -1 jersey dress (suitable for work, traveling, summer evenings out)
    -2 pair of really nice Calvin Klein jeans that I found at Costco. They have a higher waist than my other jeans
    -1 pair of denim cropped pants
    -3 workout tank tops
    -2 pair of running shoes (all used/worn until they have to be tossed)
    -2 pair of heels to be repaired
    -2 pair of flats. One nude, one black.
    -2 black tshirts, as these are a core wardrobe staple.
    -2 cardigans
    -2 blouses

    Holy smokes! That looks like a lot. I have a very basic work uniform. Flats, jeans, a top & a sweater. The shoes rotate into wedge sandals or boots, and the thickness of the top/sweaters vary. I also occasionally wear summer dresses to work, with sweaters. I wear my yoga pants at home constantly, and also work out frequently. I pretty much line dry all of my clothing, except for jeans & socks.

    Looks like I still have more to do with paring down my spending next year!

  9. Mary

    Great discussion of clothing. I am retired and have even dropped my office volunteer work so I now just need casual clothes. I have not had any luck at the thrift stores either so look for sales and keep most of my clothes pretty basic. To help make sure I am wearing everything hanging in my closet. I went through and put a piece of bright blue painters tape on everything. Then every six months I have gone through and donated anything that was not worn. This really helped me to get over the guilt of getting rid of clothes that were perfectly good. I don’t buy much at Costco but except for jeans to wear casually. I have a good pair I use when going out for evening casual events. I have tried to add a few more colorful tops to look current and keep the black Tshirts stash to only 5. I have also started to get rid of some of “in the house” only shirts I don’t need to look totally disheveled

    • Hi Mary, Thanks! You have inspired me to track what I wear this year, too. Even though I have pared back my clothing tremendously in the past 4 years, I still hang onto some things I never wear. And I still default to black even though I know I look better in bright colours! (I often wear a black top and pants to work with a bright cardigan over them). You are wise to review your home-only stuff. I have too much of that as well!

  10. jollyhollybanolly111

    I survived on barely any new clothes this year, which, given that I was pregnant and as big as a house was impressive. I borrowed maternity clothes from a friend and then when I grew too big for them, I bought a green dress and a pair of leggings and a pair of boots and I washed them constantly and they were all I wore! I am still wearing them now, or just nighties, because my c section scar gets so painful if I wear anything else. I can’t wait to be able to wear my old clothes again!

    • Hi Holly, I hope your wardrobe is the last thing on your mind right now. No one needs pressure to look a certain way when they have a newborn. I hope you are comfortable and that you heal well and feel well ASAP!

  11. I bought a lot! I like to get my staples (dresses) from the current brand that suits me (Phase 8, an English brand and their stretchy crossover dresses). I also like to mix it up and buy colour and items that I wouldn’t usually. Travelling to Queensland, I tend to buy light, colourful casual wear that they have to meet the weather and lifestyle up north. An adventurous purchase: I bought a colourful, fringed, long, sleeveless, thing that I don’t know what is called. It doesn’t button up. Just wear it like an open coat.

    In a nod to my age (more nods – in the plural – because some nods are conscious and some not) I bought two pairs of Not my daughters jeans. I look good in them! They hold me in!

    • I hear good things about those jeans! Your long vest sounds very fashionable. I tend to buy things for vacations that I don’t wear at home, and I have decided I’m OK with that.

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