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Buying Clothes

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I started my new job in the middle of July. Until then, I haven’t had a job where I’ve needed to have a professional wardrobe since my kids were infants. My last in-person job was when I taught at the community college two days a week the semester after my daughters were born. I taught starting approximately 1.5 months post-partum through 6ish months post-partum. Then I moved to teaching all online.

I give you the post-partum timeframe to put some things in perspective. Basically, I need a full new work-appropriate wardrobe.

My pre-baby wardrobe was much smaller than I am now. I still have all the clothes stored away in the hopes that one day they’ll again fit (because, really, are work-pants going to go out of style???) I REALLY want to get back to that size someday, but I just haven’t been able to make it a priority lately.

Meanwhile, I also had to purchase clothing to fit my barely post-partum body when I was teaching the semester after giving birth. However, I was working much less (2 days a week instead of my current 5 days per week), AND I’ve successfully lost weight since that time, so I’m kind of between wardrobe sizes. Smaller than my immediate post-partum body, but larger than my pre-pregnancy body.

I did buy a nice interview suit that fits well and I’ve got two nice dress shirts that fit well. Back in July I mentioned that I bought a second pair of work pants (so I’ve got two pair:  grey and navy), and a work-appropriate dress.

So although I’ve got some bare-minimums to get by, I definitely need to start slowly adding to my work wardrobe.

This is fun because I really haven’t clothing in the past 18 months that I’ve been blogging here. I think I’ve bought one pair of capris (after mending a hole in the crotch of my previous capris TWICE), but that’s really all that comes tome mind. I’ve just been making do with the same clothes I’ve had for years.

So I’m trying to have some restraint and only buying a couple of pieces per month (my goal is to stay under $100), buying quality pieces that should last a long time.

I wanted to share my most recent purchase with you – moreso because I wanted to show off how long I’ve made my old item last!!!

Enter:  SHOES!

I did buy a nice pair of heels when I was interviewing, but they’re not really practical for classroom teaching. They look nice, but they’re extremely uncomfortable. When I wore them for the full day on my not-an-interview trip, I literally (LITERALLY) had nerve damage to my toes. I couldn’t feel them at all for nearly a week after the trip! I thought it might be permanent but the feeling eventually returned. Anyway, I’ve worn them a couple times on my non-teaching days (since I’m mostly sitting), but I really wanted some nice, professional, comfortable shoes that I can wear while I’m teaching.  Spoiler alert:  I found some good ones at DSW for $40!  But that’s not the point of this brag-post. The point is to showcase the OLD shoes that I’m replacing….

 

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Check ‘em out in all their scuffed up, worn seam, faded black glory!

I’ve made these babies last for YEARS! Wanna know what’s even better? They were free! Yep! I got these as a hand-me-down from my sister. They were already a little worn by that point (the sole comes out of the inside and has to be replace/readjusted all the time), but that didn’t bother me and I was happy to have them! Fast forward many more years (5? 6?) and they’re still going strong. BUT they certainly don’t look professional at this point. I know “it’s not the shoe that makes the (wo)man” and all….but this is just laughable. Check out some more views of this shoe!

 

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So, as you can see, they’ve had a good, long life. I’m proud that I made them last for so long, but I’m also glad to let a new pair of shoes join the family! With any luck, I’ll be able to make them last just as long!

In terms of clothing purchases…

This month I bought shoes and a third nice dress shirt (side note: I should mention that I still wear some of my old immediately post-partum shirts, so I have more than 3 shirts total. It’s just that many of them are old/worn out/too big. I make them work for now, but I do hope to update my wardrobe. Just wanted to clarify that I’m not re-wearing the same 3 shirts all the time; I just mean that I’ve got 3 nice/new/fitted shirts). Next month I hope to find a pair of nice black slacks (so funny as those tend to be the FIRST staple in a work wardrobe and yet so far my only pants are grey and navy! Also – side note:  those really are the only 2 pairs of pants that currently fit. My post-partum wardrobe was mostly maternity pants – yikes! – and I have one surviving khaki pair of pants but the zipper is busted on it. It was a cheap pair anyway, so I don’t know that it’s even worth paying someone to sew in a new zipper).

If I’ve got money leftover after buying black work pants, I might try to snag another work shirt or possibly a work-appropriate skirt. I’m trying to buy nicer pieces (no more cotton maxi skirts), so they tend to be a little more expensive, but they also tend to last longer than the cheaper alternatives. Like I said, I’m putting a max limit of $100/month and just seeing what I can get. : )

Fun times ahead as I’m finally allowing myself to shop a little!

When you’re in debt-reduction mode have you cut clothing from your budget?  What is your current monthly budget for clothes?


24 Comments

  • Reply AT |

    Take a look at The Vivienne Files blog for ideas on putting together small wardrobes.

  • Reply Jean |

    Definitely stay with classic pieces (i.e. black pants) and then you can add accessories to keep with the current style. And you are right: a $50 pair of pants will last you a lot longer than a $15 pair of pants (assuming that’s not the sale price!). Summer items are starting to go on clearance (at least here in the Midwest); you might be able to get some sleeveless tops now and put a cardigan or jacket over them for fall/winter. But you definitely needed new shoes!

    To get more bang for your buck, I would look at thrift stores. If there are some in your area that you know carry designer label clothing, you might be able to pick up some good pieces for next to nothing. Thrift store shopping can take a lot of time & effort, so if you don’t normally frequent your local stores, you might check with some friends/neighbors to see which ones in your area are good and which ones to avoid. Other options are eBay and Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. If you find a piece of clothing that you like, but you don’t like the price, you might be able to find the same thing for cheaper on eBay – just watch the shipping costs.

  • Reply Theresa |

    I would definitely check out any upscale consignment shops. Good luck- I quit work over 5 years ago to stay at home and the only pieces I kept was a couple pair of dress pants and one blazer.

  • Reply Maureen |

    For good quality clothing that is often marked down check out Nordstrom Rack. BUT, look for the things that had the markdown tags from the original store not the ones that were pre-printed clearly for just the Rack. I have scored some high quality pieces for under $50 each. Items that were originally $150-$250 and are great fabric and “classic” so they will serve me for years to come. Also, a fun way to change out the boring wardrobe staples is cheap accessories. Target has some great scarves, etc. Happy shopping!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Great tip! I’ve had more luck in Off 5th compared to Nordstrom Rack, but I didn’t know this tip before (of looking for the pieces with marked-down price tags from Nordstrom). Thanks!

  • Reply Mrs. Crackin' the Whip |

    Good call on replacing the shoes! Must look professional, yes! I wish I had a picture of my winter shoes. They were similar in style to yours and they looked almost as bad. They were peeling and they required a constant balancing act. The soles were worn more than 1/2″ on each side but not evenly if that makes sense.

    I, too, 2nd the Goodwill; especially for slacks. I have trouble finding slacks that fit correctly and I absolutely love going to the Goodwill where I have many sizes and brands to try on. I have more success there than going to the individual department stores because there’s so many options.

    Also, keep in mind black pants can be worn over and over and over without standing out so much as “the same pants”. I stick to black slacks in the winter and oftentimes I only have 2 – 3 pairs since I don’t love shopping. No one has ever called me out on this…not even Mr. Crackin’.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I definitely agree about re-wearing pants! Even the other colors (grey and navy) I’ve re-worn sometimes a couple times a week. It helps that some days I’m mostly in my office (I only actually teach in-classroom 2 days per week), but they’re also inconspicuous enough that I don’t think people would notice. Patterned prints would probably be more obvious but mine are both pretty plain.

  • Reply Karen |

    Sounds like your plan to bring in new clothing is a good solid one and I agree with nice pieces that will last a long time. Have you checked out Project 333?

    http://theproject333.com/

    It’s how to maximize your wardrobe by only wearing 33 items of clothing [or whatever your number is] every quarter.

  • Reply Desperately in Debt |

    I love your posts! It often feels like you’re going through the same challenges I’m facing. I also have twins and have had this whole post baby work wardrobe shift (including the pre-baby boxes of clothes that I really, really want to get back into some day). For most of the boys life I’ve worked in a really casual office and have only needed nice clothes on a rare occasion but now I’ve been given a promotion to manage the satellite office and will be out in public a lot more! After attending yet another client meeting with my pre-baby slacks rubber banded shut I realized I would have to get some new clothes!

    I found some great slacks on clearance at Ann Taylor loft for $30 a piece and I’ve also had several successful goodwill finds including some nice wool Brooks Brothers slacks. There are a lot of upscale consignment stores around that might have good finds. Also, if you find a style and fit that you like, ie I like the petite Julie fit slacks at Ann Taylor, you might be able to find gently used stuff on ebay. For shoes I always look for all leather uppers and keep them polished and conditioned. A good pair of all leather shoes can be kept looking new for many, many years and a cobbler can replace soles and heals as needed. I’m guilty of ordering a bunch of discounted shoes on Amazon and just sending back the ones that don’t fit well. (I’ve also been guilty of trying on shoes in a store and then ordering them online at a discount site)

    Best of luck! $100 a month sounds like a very doable budget for reworking your wardrobe!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks and good luck on your promotion! I love Ann Taylor Loft, so I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled there. Great tips about trying on in-store and ordering online (I’m sure they frown upon it, but hey – gotta save a buck!) I need to get some nice leather loafer-type shoes! So far I’ve only got heels but loafers are appropriate with nice slacks and are much more comfortable!

  • Reply Melodie |

    I’ve had some great success buying professional clothing with ThredUp.com – online consignment. I think I end up paying about the same amount that I would in the store clearance rack, but I end up with brands much much nicer than what I would normally purchase. My best finds have been on shoes. But, I’ve also bought professional clothes, a handbag and clothing for my 3-year old.

    The link below will give you $20 off your first order (it gives me $20 off too). Whether you use the link or not, I think they are worth checking out. Good luck with your clothing shopping!!
    http://www.thredup.com/r/B5XFIY

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out and if I end up buying something I’ll definitely use your link : )

  • Reply Dayna |

    I work in a business casual corporate environment in management. I’m also a tightwad…that being said, I love JCPenney’s Worthington pants. They fit a mom’s body perfectly and they last years wearing them at least once a week and sometimes more. The only repairs I’ve made is losing a hem because I pull loose threads. You can usually get them on sale for about $20 a pair here in AR. I sometimes splurge for Liz Claiborne capris when they are on clearance too.

    • Reply Kerstin |

      YES! To Dayna’s post about JCP Worthington pants. I didn’t see this before I posted. I also love the Liz Clairborne pants. Fantastic fit and quality!

  • Reply Kerstin |

    JCP has the best affordable work stables made by Worthington. You can go to the store, find what you like, and they almost always have 20% or more coupons available on your phone or in line. It is my staple for work basics. They stretch, have great fits (if you find one you like). I love the modern fit trouser pants and pencil skirts. They are lined, despite the affordable price tag. Much higher quality I’ve found then say NY and Co. Loft also has awesome pieces of you can afford to buy and know your styles there (they change them more often though which is annoying so you can’t count on the same fit still fitting you) when 40% off or find them at consignment stores. They carry the same lines, so as I got bigger with pregnancy I bought a couple pairs of dress pants in a larger size, and will wear those as I slowly get down to pre baby body in the spring. Those are my best recommendations!!! JCP all the way! Have fun slowly building your wardrobe! The best tip I got was to have a small but finished wardrobe was to have more accessories then clothes, and it has been the best advice. Check out Bridgette Raes’ blog. She has great posts about building your wardrobe and mixing colors in interesting ways. She says navy and gray are way more versatile then black!

  • Reply hp |

    I just had my second son in May and I am a professor also. After my first, my body returned to my normal “size” (not shape) pretty quickly. Not so much with number two. I am still about 15 pounds over my pre-baby weight. I went to Goodwill and bought 5 skirts (since that is all I wear) at $4 a piece. I got black, grey, and brown to pair with my shirts that still fit (they were my nursing size shirts after son #1). So…with 5 skirts and 6 shirts, I can wear 30 different combinations and not have to repeat the “same” outfit to any one course all semester. (Yes…I teach statistics. Does it show?)
    PS: I had the same shoes in brown. Mine looked about like that when I finally got rid of them. I was a shoe hoarder for years, but I quit buying them when we went Dave Ramsey gung-ho and I am finding that many of mine are falling apart now. I think I lose a pair a month right now just because of their lifecycles ending.

  • Reply Liz |

    The Gap always has decent coupon codes and I stalk Talbot’s and Ann Taylor’s clearance racks for basics. Their tropical weight wool is usually great year round and wears well.

  • Reply Taira |

    I have to dress in professional/business attire for work, but can’t really afford such clothing. So, I take surveys on erewards.com and use my earnings for Express gift cards. Then I wait for a good coupon to use with the gift cards. The surveys are easy and only take a couple minutes. So far this year I have earned $150 in gift cards. Express is the only clothing store on there, but if you like their clothes you might want to check it out.

  • Reply Katie |

    You go girl! Those shoes are a sure sign of you having your priorities straight! You are doing great!

    PS- I think I have the exact same shoes with a bit more wear 🙂 Kicking ass on a regular basis takes a toll on shoes. Means you’re doing a good job. Keep it up:)
    – Your fellow working mama.

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