Forum member Transcona Shannon recently asked me whether I’ve purchased wardrobe items that ended up being a mistake. You can read my full reply on her thread, but in short my answer was “of course!” I’ve purchased plenty of uncomfortable shoes, knitted tops and cardigans that I just don’t wear, and orphaned jewelry pieces. 

These days I make fewer mistakes, but that’s only because I’ve had lots of practice at formalizing the wardrobe purchasing process. After all, this is my line of work. Twenty years of experience in the rag trade has helped me focus on my style goals, which has in turn helped me focus on purchasing the right wardrobe pieces. And I am still learning. I think about my wardrobe purchases more carefully than ever, and am mindful when my emotions take over. Yes, I can fall in love with an extremely impractical piece that I would never wear. When that happens I have to shake myself out my dream world and move onto something else that both lights my fire AND that would actually suit my lifestyle in the real world. 

Over the years I’ve learned to minimize my wardrobe mistakes by applying three rules to the purchasing process. They all happen to start with the letter “P”, so I’m calling it the Triple P Purchasing Principle.

Be Patient

I can’t stress this point enough. Years can go by before I find that very specific item on my shopping list. I am an extremely impatient person with most things in life, but I’m patient when it comes to building my wardrobe. It was years before I found the right slouchy trousers that were regular length and not cropped above the ankle. It was years before I found the right knee-length red coat. I have only just found the perfect low heeled red shoes for my fussy feet, and an animal print clutch handbag. Patience pays off. 

Be Picky

If something doesn’t fit, or can’t be affordably altered to fit, it does not follow me home. If the colour or style of an item is just slightly off in my mind, it does not follow me home. If the garment aggravates my skin and nose, or hurts my feet, it does not follow me home. If the item is outside my budget, it does not follow me home. For the most part, if an item is not in line with my current style goals, it does not follow me home. But our style goals are not set in stone so I’m less picky with that one. 

Be Practical

I have an impractical side to my style that will probably never change. I frequently sport white and cream outerwear, footwear and handbags because I LOVE the look. But I’m a practical dresser in all other respects. I don’t wear clothing that makes me fidget during the day, nor do I carry a heavy handbag. I don’t wear bootcuts when it’s pouring with rain. I don’t wear footwear that slows me down or aggravates my feet, and I bundle up when it’s cold. As much as I like to wear sheer blouses, sleeveless tops, and soft dresses, I have learned NOT to purchase too many of these wardrobe darlings because I run cold and can only wear them during our warm weather months. Sure, I can layer these items to keep warm, but I prefer not to layer over them all the time. 

And here’s the flip side to this principle. It can also be counter productive when taken to the extreme. It’s possible to be too patient, picky and practical, and end up with nothing in your wardrobe! Finding a balance is key. 

Interestingly, I have never regretted purchasing my pricier wardrobe pieces, which have often been bought at full price. It’s the less expensive stuff that I could probably do without. This is the danger of letting your guard down for an apparent bargain. Be just as discerning with items that are on sale. 

How patient, picky and practical are you about the items that you purchase for your wardrobe? Do you have other suggestions on how to ensure that your purchases count?