Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wardrobe Planning 5-5-5

Some might think that  when one is In The Trenches that having a decent wardrobe for work is the least important thing to worry about.  I've seen and heard them at the office.  Quite the contrary, it is probably the most important time to be aware of how one is presenting oneself to others. The book Dress for Success points out that we are not only to dress appropriately for the job we currently have but to dress suitably for the job we wish to have.  The image we portray is not only what we see in the mirror but what others see.  Whether it is for a first impression at a one time meeting or for day to day interaction our choices subtlety reflect and affect our professionalism. 

Long time readers of this blog may remember that I moved from a very casual rural environment to the city a couple of years ago with very few clothes that would fit in an office environment.  On a very limited cash basis I purchased the items needed to get me going.  Back to Work Wardrobe on a Budget showed my first purchases.  The following spring and fall I again added a few items to expand my choices.  Last fall I concentrated on adding slacks of basic colors. 

In the meantime I have had a blast going to garage sales, ebay, and thrift store 1/2 price sales and picked up more.  My favorite garage sale just down the street offered bins and bins of clothing at 50 cents each.  At that price I was able to quickly grow my wardrobe and for $20 could add 40 blouses, skirts,  and jackets. 

The result was that as I surveyed my closet I knew that I had the best wardrobe of my entire life and all total spent less than what some might spend on a couple of suits.  Horror of horrors came when I added just enough pounds to make almost everything too tight!  What to do?  Of course, I know that taking off the weight was the goal but in the meantime my slacks felt like torture devices and I often had to undo a button just to get through a day.  I'm just telling the truth here and many of you know exactly what I'm talking about though it is not often mentioned out loud.  Yes of course I wore skirts and dresses much more often but with fall here again I had to make a big decision.  Every time I looked through my array of clothes I felt like I had absolutely nothing to wear.  Every time I tried to get rid of something my mind would try to make itself believe that it would fit in just a couple of months.  My mornings now included dread and self consciousness along with hustle and bustle to get out the door.

After lamenting this for days the idea of 5-5-5 came to mind and I welcomed it with relief.  What is 5-5-5?  I grabbed an old paycheck stub from my wallet and a pen and I wrote down my best 5 suits or jackets, my best 5 slacks, best 5 skirts, 5 dresses, and 5 blouses.  Realizing I did not have 5 jackets I added it to my shopping list.  The basic black one I had was washed so many times it was time to go.  In order to be on my 5-5-5 list it had to be in good condition, fit properly, and be somewhat in style so most of my animal prints had to go.

I was excited to get home!  Knowing fresh in my mind what I was keeping I grabbed everything else and threw it on the bed.  I kept a few more blouses than was on my list.  I organized them by color so they looked ready to shop through in my closet each morning.  This has been my habit for 30 years and my kids laugh but they are coming around.

I couldn't believe how much better the closet looked and how much better I felt.  I even found a dress I had forgotten I had bought.  But, alas, it was too small so also went on the stack.  I'm sure to the reader it may sound like I had so many clothes and indeed I did but please check your own closets before judging too harshly and remember my wardrobe cost me less than some might spend on a few months of cell phone bills.

The logical question one might ask is did I get my money's worth? The answer is all in the math. I roughly calulate my cost per wear on each item. Let's say I purchase a dress on sale for $50 at a retail store. If I wear the dress 20 times the cost is $2.50 per wear. If I buy that same dress for $5 at the thrift store and wear it 20 times the cost goes down to 25 cents each. Many would be shocked and enlightened if they were to go through this excercise.

The next step after surveying what I had kept was to fill in a couple gaps especially in the shoe department.  I growled all the while at how shoe manufacturers must not expect women to walk on their feet but happy to see that the  Indian style moccasins are back in style.  This was replaced by a sense of accomplishment at finding a $180 Nine West gray suit for $30 on clearance.  Though not on my list it was an excellent addition.

If you are a first timer at planning a wardrobe beyond the lastest sale this wardrobe planning post may provide some tips.

Now the fun part - I invited another woman to come and pick through it all and take what she wanted.  She selected some pieces and brought back some of her own to replace them.  This afternoon another friend is invited to go through them all and take her pick.  When anyone who might have interest that we can think of has had their picks the remainder with either go to the 50 cent ladies garage sale or a thrift store. 
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Practical Parsimony said...

Even when I was working, I rarely wore anything that did not have an elastic waist. However, I never wore any blouse tucked in. I found that sweater-type shells could stay outside the waist band and still looked great with my suit. Yes, I only had one suit with skirt with buttoned waistband....grrr...but other jackets. The elastic waist was a health issue. I even gave up jeans to be healthy and out of pain. So, I was never tortured by a tight waistband. Since my skirts were all pencil skirts, I could not wear the knit skirts if I gained weight!

I have to tell you about my LUCKY find last month...three pair of black pants in just my size for $1 each, reduced of course and on clearance.

Winter before last, I found purple sweatshirts reduced to $1, so I bought 8. I hate the color but they are warm for around the house, in the yard, and for sleeping in my cold house.

While I never found anything, EVER, at a thrift store in our town for work, I did find skirts at yard sales. A $1 red velvet skirt at a yard sale worked for Christmas, worn once by me, so the price was right per wear. I worked in an educational setting, so red velvet was acceptable at our Christmas party in the middle of the day.

Since I sewed most things, I could make skirts and pants. I could make suits and jackets but bought them instead, on sale of course.

My one suit was on sale. Shoes have been from yard sales, friends, all barely worn. I was given a Coach purse!

I know two women who have a clothing exchange party and turn it into a fun get together with food and Of course, if you wish to have women one at a time, that works, too.

Right now, I would be hard pressed to dress nicely every day!

Carol Schultz said...

I really enjoyed your comments and think your red velvet skirt sounds cool. Glad you are finding the deals. They are out there if you look!

Diedra B said...

The salvation army near my home has been a veritable jackpot for work-appropriate stuff. I have been able to buy several brand-name items for a fraction of what they cost on half-off Wednesdays. I even got an Ann Taylor Loft dress with tags on for about $8. I have a good selection of dress pants but I wanted wool skirts for winter and dresses for church. I found lots of both. Overall I spent maybe $150 for perhaps over $500 worth of stuff.

My strategy was to take everything straight to the laundromat/dry cleaner. I figure most people are like me and clean clothes before donating, but one can never be too sure.

All in all, I was glad to keep perfectly good clothes out of the trash while saving money and supporting a charity.

Carol Schultz said...

yes, and it's so fun when one gets a compliment to know that it didn't cost a fortune.