6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying New Clothes

About a year ago, I went through a massive wardrobe purge. I swear, it’s like a rite of passage for anyone entering their late twenties, as if we all horde clothing for ten years straight until we finally decide enough is enough. We wake up one day with a glimmer in our eyes and think, “I want to open my closet without sweaters falling out at me like an avalanche, damnit!”

During this purge, there were piles and piles of clothing scattered across my bedroom floor. It was an ongoing process that took about a week to fully complete. Once the sorting was complete, I filled up several garbage bags of items to donate to my local Goodwill, and said my goodbyes. It was relieving - but overwhelming. And not something I ever care to do again.

After that experience, I’ve tried to be more mindful with my purchases. Not only more mindful with where I shop (as previously written about in this post on sustainable/ethical clothing brands) but also making sure everything I purchase will really get loved and worn.

If you’re looking to make a similar shift in your purchasing habits, I’ve put together some questions that have helped me make purchases that get lots of use and lots of love. Avalanche of sweaters no more!

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1. What is the store’s return policy?

Always be aware of a store’s return policy before making a purchase. The last thing you want to do is buy the item, go home, change your mind, and then realize you can’t return it because it’s final sale. Bye, money.

My recommendation is to not stop at the basics, either. If you’re about to make a more expensive purchase - or if you just have the time to do so - research customer reviews.

See if there are any first-hand accounts of how the company’s customer service handled a damaged garment complaint. Try to find out if there’s a quality guarantee up to a certain amount of months, or years.

If you purchase something on the pricier end and it rips apart at the seams after only two months of occasional wear, you’ll be upset (and rightfully so). In those situations, you’ll want to be confident that the brand will stand beside the quality of their product and offer a replacement or refund to make things right.


2. Can you estimate the cost per wear?

When we’re out shopping, what’s one of the first things we do after something has caught our eye? Check the price, of course! This girl’s got a budget, after all.

What’s surprisingly is how we rarely pay attention to the cost per wear. Here’s an example: you’ve found a pair of classic blue jeans that fit you immaculately. You know you’ll wear them at least twice a week, and they’ll probably last two years or more. They won’t go out of fashion any time soon, so you’ll wear them until they fall apart. You check the price tag. 150 dollars. WHAT???

Let’s break down the math, though. Worn on a twice weekly basis for 2 years, your pricey pair of jeans now costs 75 cents per wear. What about that $50 dress you purchased, and wore just a few times before donating it to Goodwill? Nearly $17 per wear. Ouch. That hurts.

Before you buy anything, try to estimate the item’s cost per wear and whether it’s worth the price that you’ll pay per wear.


3. Does this fit into your current lifestyle?

It is so important that your clothing purchases fit within your current lifestyle. Otherwise, we run into the issue above where you’re purchasing clothing that you can’t wear very often.

Here’s what to ask yourself: can I wear this to work? What is your office dress code like, and will this fit within the rules? Am I able to wear this both to work and social occasions?

Because, hey, that low-cut lace bodysuit may look killer with your favorite pair of skinny jeans, but if you work in an office and rarely go out to bars or another occasion that calls for a sexier look, that bodysuit may be sitting untouched in your closet for a long time.

That’s why I try to be really realistic when I’m making new purchases. I know I’m a homebody who likes to be comfortable, so I go for flattering, comfortable, and not too revealing so I can wear whatever I buy to any occasion. Your version of appropriate clothing for your lifestyle might be similar, or it might be very different. Just make sure it works for you!


4. What are the washing instructions, and will you actually follow them?

This one is pretty self explanatory, so I’ll keep this line short and sweet...

If you’re as lazy as me, you will literally never dry clean that silk blouse. It will sit in your laundry hamper until you forget about it. You will discover it one day five years later at the bottom and think to yourself, “Huh, I should really dry clean this.” Then you’ll toss it back into the hamper where you’ll forget about it for another ten years.

… Or maaaaybe this is just me.


5. Can you make at least 3 outfits with this new piece of clothing?

Oh, yes. This is one trap I fall in far too often. I try something on in the store, fall in love with it, and I purchase it even though there’s literally nothing in my closet that I can wear it with. Then what happens? You guessed it. It succumbs to the “sitting in the back of my wardrobe” death.

To avoid this trap, you’ll need to think of a few different outfits you can make with this new article of clothing using only items you already own.

You’ll be tempted to think, “This is so cute… well, I don’t have anything to wear this with now, but I’ll definitely wear it if I buy *insert clothing item here*” No, no, no. The whole point is that as soon as you make the purchase, you should be able to seamlessly transition it into your monthly rotation.

I’m so guilty of this. Let’s work on it together, alright?


6. Do you own something similar?

Think about what’s currently in your closet. Do you already have a pair of black skinny jeans? Do you have a top or dress that serves a similar function? How does this piece of clothing differ from what you already own?

Sometimes it can be great to have duplicates or near-dupes of certain items. Particularly for those days when I’m out of quarters and I can’t muster up the will to do my laundry.

What you’re looking out for here is making sure that this piece of clothing you’re about to purchase will still get use. Will you wear it often, or will this purchase be redundant?

Also, I know we tend to be attracted to things that are familiar to us - but it’s always fun to try something new, too! If you’re always wearing skinny jeans, how about instead of purchasing another pair of skinnies, you try a straight leg or kick flare? Add a little novelty to your life without straying far from what makes you comfortable.

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I try to always ask myself these six questions before making a purchase - but let’s be real, I’m not perfect. If you’ve made a purchase that’s not getting any use, there’s always services like Poshmark or Depop that can help you sell your unused clothing and accessories. (But more on that in another post!)

I hope this has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tricks, tips, or questions that you make sure to ask yourself before buying something new for your wardrobe!