I have put off writing this post because it feels like a dirty confession, an admittance of guilt. But it’s actually pretty mundane, and I’m far enough removed to be able to see clearly.
Earlier this summer, I made a few too many (perhaps ill-advised) purchases within a small window of time. Sure, they were all secondhand items, but as someone who tries to keep a smallish wardrobe, this caused me shame. It was especially problematic because so many of the things I bought ended up being duds — and the thing is, I KNEW they probably wouldn't work, but bought them anyway, caught up in an aesthetic frenzy.
Something about buying pre-loved shoes and garments gives the illusion of a free pass in the shopping department — and things tend to be so reasonably priced, how bad could it be? It's the same allure of fast fashion I suppose, but you can feel a little smug about it.
When you are also actively selling things from your own wardrobe, there's an added layer of remove from the reality that you are still shopping more than you should.
And that's where I found myself this summer.
I guess it started with the matching plaid top and shorts, a vintage set. I HAD to have it, even though the waistband on the shorts was two full inches too small for my own measurements. I even had the seller send extra photos of the inside of the shorts so I could see whether there was room to take them out. There might have been a little bit, but realistically it wasn't going to work. I bought them anyway. It didn't work.
When I came to terms with the stupidity of my purchase, I jettisoned all thoughts of altering them and listed then for resale at a small loss. The time between receiving the outfit and then selling it was an anxious agony. The same clothing I just had to have, I now HAD to get rid of immediately so it would stop gnawing at me.
The upside of this particular ill-advised buy was it drove me to make my own version of the outfit, which became my matching windowpane top and shorts set. I should have just done this in the first place, but maybe you have to make your mistake before you learn?
Then there were the shoes. Three pairs in fact. Three pairs of vintage and secondhand shoes that are all various amounts of too small. They bring my running tally of too-small secondhand shoes to four pairs. They are all listed for resale, but so far no one else is as dumb as I was to buy them in the first place.
I'm not sure when I'll learn my lesson about buying shoes secondhand on the internet. Honestly I think there should be a rule against it. With vintage shoes especially, even a numeric size doesn't tell you enough about the fit. And I find shoe measurements really tricky because the shape of a shoe can have such a big event on how it fits. Just an insole length isn't enough to go on.
Then I bought two different secondhand Elizabeth Suzann pieces — and resold both within a week at another slight loss.
One was the linen clyde skirt I mentioned in my Everlane review earlier this week. I was convinced it was what my wardrobe needed. But it wasn't, somehow.
The other was a pair of linen Clyde pants in black. I love my flax pair, and if one is good two is better, right? Well, maybe. I believe this for my two pairs of Nisolo serena sandals in black and pale honey. But the black clydes fit all wrong. They were a 4T (my flax are 6T) but the rise felt comically tall and after I'd worn them a few times, I couldn't bear to look at myself in them I found it so unflattering. At least they resold quickly.
I bought a tomato red silk Banana Republic blouse from eBay. This purchase was very emotionally charged. The blouse was identical to one that I purchased myself from the BR sale rack in 2009, which I think I must have given it away at some point in the last couple years, but now I wish I hadn't given away. When I started wishing I had it again, I frantically searched the internet for someone selling this obscure nine-year-old blouse, and magically I found one. In a size down from what I needed.
Yeah, I bought it anyway. No, it does not fit. At least it was only $10. Currently listed for resale, no takers.
I bought another handful of vintage items - a coat, a dress and two blouses. Of all my summer purchases, these are probably the only items that worked out for me. Even so, I could have cooled it a little on the blouses, but I was caught up in the concept of altering vintage finds to make them cooler and better. I'm happy with these items now, though. Mostly.
After acquiring so many things that were like an albatross — nay, a flock of albatrosses — all tangled around my neck, I felt an intense anxiety to make up for it by selling off other items from my closet.
I sold my beloved Jesse Kamm Newton blouse. Beloved, but rarely worn. I could never fucking figure out how to make it look good on me. This was a good sale, although a little bittersweet.
I sold the burgundy Wray trousers that I purchased secondhand last spring. I had always struggled a little with styling them too and hadn't touched them in what felt like months. I felt guilty about these pants because I put a lot of time into researching them only to have them prove underwhelming. I spent a lot of time talking myself into thinking they were right. But now they are sold and I'm relieved not to worry about them anymore.
I sold the secondhand Elizabeth Suzann items.
I sold four beautiful luxury bras I bought in the fall of 2015 when I figured I needed to get some grown-up lingerie. Some of them had a decent amount of wear before I decided that I absolutely hate underwires and found them completely unnecessary for my anatomy. But another, a gorgeous cobalt blue Simone Perele push-up with lace detailing, had been worn probably fewer than 10 times. I made back a fraction of what I'd paid for them new, but I'm glad for them to have moved on from my closet, where they had been sitting abandoned for over a year.
I sold three sweaters, an Ann Taylor blouse, a beautiful swimsuit, two dresses, a pair of shoes (Nisolo flats that always pinched at the toe), and a silk skirt from Grana (the one I'd originally decided I'd keep alongside my silk Elizabeth Suzann bel skirt, but in reality I never wanted to wear the Grana one anymore).
The relief of getting rid of things is real.
So what's the big lesson?
Number one, never buy vintage shoes online ever again!
If I ever attempt to do this please shake me out of it. And likewise, don't buy secondhand shoes unless you KNOW what size you take. Of all my dumb purchases, the shoes weigh on me the most. One of the pairs aaaalmost fits. I even wore them out one night recently, and they were sort of fine, but really only if I wasn't standing or walking. So yeah they are not fine. They are really unique and cool, but they don’t fucking fit. Why are shoes such a weakness for me?
Secondly, unfollow all the damn resale accounts on Instagram!
Unless they are like SellTradeES or SellTradeSlowFashion, which are drawing-based and not first come, first served. It's sort of frustrating to put your name in a hat for a thing you want, but the frenzy that those other resale accounts foster is not healthy for rational decision-making. That's how I ended up with at least one of the ES items that didn't work for me. There it was, and I had to act or else someone else would. Honestly, unless you are actively looking for a particular item, just don’t bother with following these accounts. They fill your feed with beautiful things, and the lower-than-retail prices make you feel like they are good buys. But buying is still buying.
I don’t want to be beholden to my things.
I don’t appreciate when they make me feel bad about myself, and that’s exactly what they did. It’s why I want to continue on the journey of minimalism — to untether myself from the weight of stuff. Secondhand stuff is still stuff. When you purchase, be careful. Resist the hype — the hype from others but also from yourself. It’s easy to lust after a thing you’ve never met.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it — I’m not perfect. I try to keep control of my wardrobe, but sometimes my fancies get the best of me, as they do us all sometimes.
How can we get past this? I think the answer is mindfulness. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the things you already have. Find a rhythm of dressing where you like everything you have, so you don’t feel like you need more to be satisfied.
I will try to take my own advice. Do you have any?