I once read that a carpenter built his toolbox by buying the cheapest version of anything he needed, and as soon as he broke it, he upgraded to the best version in his budget.

 

It makes a lot of sense: 1) for things you rarely use, spend as little money as possible, and 2) for things that are your staples, own the best you can afford. I’m trying to take the same approach with pieces in my wardrobe. Taking things one step further, I’m also trying to eliminate pieces that are “rarely used”. It’s no easy feat to have a closet of only well-enjoyed items, as there are many considerations:

  • for items poorly suited for me: First, I try to always avoid final sales, so I can always take advantage of returns. I’m also learning to re-sell.
  • items with potential but that aren’t wow-ing: Am I styling it correctly? Does it need tailoring?
  • items that make me feel and look great: Do I own the best version in my budget? Am I cleaning, storing and wearing it properly to ensure that it will last me?

We’ll cover some of my worst buys (this year) next week, for a laugh. I’ll also be sharing my tips and tricks to make the most of what you have in another upcoming post. Lastly, as I journey into the world of reselling and secondhand buying, you’ll all be updated regularly right here! Today, though, let’s talk about my favorites items and the upgrades I’ve made to those.

 

Black Sheer Yoke Panel Sleeveless Blouse

black blouse side by side
black blouse side by side

Composition – 100% polyester to 100% silk

Detailing – The piece replaced had a bit too much going on: in addition to the sheer paneling, there was a lace trim, and a tied keyhole in the back. (I also prefer the neckline of the replacement.)

lace detailing on replaced black blouse
lace detail on replaced black blouse
tie back detailing on replaced black blouse
tie back detail on replaced black blouse

Flannels

flannels side by side
flannels side by side
i don't have this flannel anymore but here's a picture of me wearing it last year, notice the poor fit!
i don’t have this flannel anymore but here’s a picture of me wearing it last year, notice the poor fit!

Age – The two shirts I replaced showed significant signs of wear. The 7 or 8 years old blue/white one had buttons that were showing the original metal instead of the navy finish. The pretty new but poor quality grey/peach one was fraying and the hem had come undone in the back.

detail of the buttons on replaced flannel
close up of the buttons on replaced flannel

Composition – Blue/white is 100% cotton but it is a rather dense and scratchy weave. Grey/peach was a soft but airless, cheap blend of synthetics that was coming apart faster than the number of wears merited. Replacements are a 100% cotton and super soft!

Floral Sleeveless Blouse

floral blouse side by side
floral blouse side by side

Composition – 100% polyester to 100% silk

Detailing – I had to finally give up on the idea of zip detailing. In theory they are cool and I like the addition of a little edginess (& sexiness in this case due to placement). In practice, however, I have long, unwieldy hair and I’m always finding new ways to accidentally hurt myself. Having come to terms with reality, I now avoid gratuitous hardware on clothes as a rule.

Jeans

replaced jeans
replaced jeans
new jeans
new jeans

Composition – I have found that a high cotton content with just a little stretch is the best blend for my jeans to keep their position and shape on my body. Without stretch, something that fits my behind would gape at my waist, and anything that’s fitted to my waist would not make it past my thighs. With too much stretch, and the crotch of my jeans start moving towards my knees when I walk. I walk everywhere, and it is very uncomfortable to have jeans that constantly ride down/have to be pull up every few blocks.

Rise – After the fad of the low, low rise of the early 2000s, I mistakenly thought the answer to that generational ill was mid-rise. My butt crack isn’t showing when I bend over, and the waist sits below my belly button, isn’t this everything I could want? Turns out, as I’m long-torso-ed, a higher rise is much more flattering on me. Also, besides composition, rise is the other main determinant on the “escaping crotch” issue. Since mid-rise jeans do not reach the smallest part of my waist, they would always ride down in the course of normal wear.

close up comparison of rise
close up comparison of rise

Wash – Both the replaced pairs had an ochre/yellow “vintage” wash, reminiscent of this other fad from the early 2000s. I upgraded to light grey and light denim that look less dated.

Light Colored Sweaters

replaced sweaters
replaced sweaters

PS(A). This is just for the sake of the picture, please don’t hang your knits like so! Fold your knits!!

new cardigans
new cardigans

Composition – 50% acrylic, 50% cotton to 100% cashmere

Style – I went with open front cardigans instead of the traditional pullover because this way I can show off a top too, which is about the easiest way to save an outfit. Most of the time when I throw on a pullover and jeans, I look frumpy. Most of the time when I throw on a cardigan over a top and jeans, I look alright!

Pale Creme Color Shoes with Shine

shoes side by side
shoes side by side

Finish – When I received the patent leather loafers in mint, I realized I made a mistake. I still tried to wear it a bit, first around the house, and then in two separate outings, to see if they would grow on me. They didn’t. The high shine and bright, light color was just too overwhelming as a combination. I knew I wanted a creamy pastel with some shine to it, but this particular pair was not the answer to that vision. (psst do y’all recognize my ankle boots?)

Style – Whether it’s more stylish or not, I can’t say, but ankle boots just make more sense than loafers in terms of comfort and suitableness for my lifestyle. I like wearing socks with my shoes if I’m going to be walking around in them, and while these no-show socks are pretty good, I’m addicted to wearing the boy’s full-cushion athletic socks.

White Ruffle Sheer Sleeveless Blouse

white blouse side by side
white blouse side by side

Composition: 100% polyester to 100% silk

Detailing: I like the ruffles on the replacement much better, and I think the skinny tie neck is a cute touch.

 

As y’all can see, there are, across all items, some common reasons why I would replace something. They tend to be:

  • Age (mostly signs of wear, but sometimes datedness)
  • Composition (fabric content)
  • Detailing (finish, hardware etc)
  • Fit (neckline, rise etc)
  • Style (color, silhouette etc)

 

What about you gals and guys? What are some reasons you upgrade your go-to pieces? Comment below, squirrel friends, and see ya next week!

Wardrobe Upgrades

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