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The Shop Smarter Series

I loved the thrill of finding a good bargain, until I realized it was at the detriment of my wallet and my style. When I was in grad school in Minneapolis, the shopping felt glorious and abundant. There were endless opportunities for sales and good vintage finds. It was at the height of my cashmere craze, and I bought sweatpants, hoodies, and sweaters all in cozy cashmere at up to 90 percent off at the end of winter, which was May in the upper Midwest. Most of these trophy finds I wore for one or two victory laps before being sent off to thrift stores, or I’ve felted in hopes of repurposing into something else, but regardless, the lesson learned is that I didn’t need to own that much cashmere. So why did I buy it? It felt like a luxury good that I could own at an affordable price plus it was cold all the time! (For a little peek into my psychology.)

But accruing a trove of things because it makes you feel “fancy” for a moment, strains your wallet and does nothing for your style. The trick is to curate your closet to reflect the best of you, and buy things that are going to make a statement about you long-term—not just in the next two months.

Here’s the thing, I’m not telling you not to shop sales, go vintage hunting, or get excited about that good deal. I’m telling you buying less will make you have better style, happier, and appreciate and wear your purchases more often. It’s also one of the first steps into adopting a sustainable fashion lifestyle.

1. Start buying things at full-price. I know if you’re a bargain shopper, buying things at full price sounds frightening. What if it goes on sale?! But trust me, you probably wore that thing at least three times before it went on sale, and because of that you bought the right size and will wear it so much more. Four years ago, I stopped indulging on sales purchases, and bought clothes that were well-made, sustainable brands, and everything at full-price.

The turning point for me was doing a closet clean, and seeing the sad sacks of unworn, unloved clothes that I bought on sale or at Zara as a work break purchase. Buying things at full price makes you appreciate your purchases, makes you get in the habit of paying for the true cost of things, and actually forces you buy things that you love and will wear all the time. In turn, it also makes you buy less, realize you don’t need so much shit in your closet, plus it saves you money. Making it easier for you to justify to buy more things not on sale.

2. Avoid buying clothing online—especially if it’s on sale. Online shopping for me is inevitable, and my carbon footprint is embarrassing. I’ve learned that making the adventure of shopping is so worthwhile. More so when it is quality time spent with friends or family away from the buzz of our digital lives. It’s like knowing your vendors at the farmer’s market, when I go to local retailers in my neighborhood like Bird, Bhoomki, or A. Cheng, I feel like I’m supporting businesses I care about and who deliver quality, sustainable brands that I want to wear.

3. Unsubscribe to brand newsletters. If you have a hard time letting go, unsubscribe to one or two. Make it easy on yourself to start.

4. Don’t give into instant gratification or band-aid buys. If you see a really amazing deal, look at it, think about it, and ask yourself, would I buy this at full-price? Would I buy this $50, 90%-off, cropped, ruffled Isabel Marant sweater if I was paying full-price? I already know the answer: No. Yes, you’re going to get a really good high from that score, but only for a week. Likewise, instead of making a quick and stressed-out band-aid buy for that wedding, ask to peruse a friend’s closet (more time with friends!) or hop onto Rent the Runway.

Words: Sonjia Hyon

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