Don’t Shop like a Teenager!

By Elle

Splash of spring oxfords from J. Crew

Splash of spring oxfords from J. Crew

When I was younger and didn’t know any better, I’d buy whatever appealed to me at the moment, without any regard for what I’ll call the “life of the item.” What does that mean?

If I were shopping and came across a floral-print peasant blouse in a pretty pink, I might have snatched it up simply because I liked the style and color. I wouldn’t have thought beyond the blouse itself — so teenage-like, right? — I would have only assumed that it would go with jeans, because, really, what doesn’t? I wouldn’t have given any thought to how long the blouse would be useful or how long it would “perform.” (Hmm, sounds like the same criterion for buying a racehorse….)

So what did I end up with? A closet full of what I’ll call one-offs. Single items that are fine individually — and paired with jeans — but worthless otherwise. You can’t do anything else with them except turn them into pretty rags when they’re past their glory.

The secret is to think of your closet like your pantry. Staples. You need staples! If I have baking soda, sugar, flour, eggs, soymilk (in my case), I’m more than three-quarters the way to a decent pancake recipe. All I need are the “accessories,” like blueberries or apples. But if all I have in my pantry are baking soda and blueberries, well, I ain’t makin’ no pancakes.

Instead of immediately buying an item of clothing you like, consider its versatility. Think about what else you can do with it. What would it look great under? Or over? Can you toss a scarf around it? A belt? Can you wear it with black leggings and boots, that new long black skirt you just got, your grey trousers, or even, dare I say, jeans?

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