Sweater weather and shopping momentum

I’m finally putting away my summer clothes as temperatures hover in the 50s this week.  Even though I hate cold weather, I’m as excited as anyone about fall, and a big part of that is jackets, boots and sweaters.  The thought of layering after months of minimal clothing can lead to a shopping frenzy–it’s a great time for retailers, who put the hard sell on “must-haves” for the season.  But for the sake of your wallet, beware the must-have hyperbole.

You can get an affordable fix of current designer knockoffs at mainstays like H&M or Forever 21.  Many people do this, but it may not be the best way to shop, cost-benefit-wise.  You end up with a lot of clothes, but you’ll be ready to say goodbye to many of them in the next year or two (in some cases, in the next month or two), either because they’re falling apart or their 15 minutes of aesthetic acceptability are up.

A better option is to strategically buy fewer items that you’ll enjoy beyond a season or two, even if they’re a little more expensive. This will save you money in the long run, and it does not necessarily mean living out your days in undyed organic hemp.  After all, personal style is an important creative outlet.  It does mean thinking about what you really need in order to look and feel good, and skipping things that won’t get worn.  Don’t buy something because it’s a so-called must-have. Buy it because you love it–and you will wear it all the time.

A few weeks ago we talked about the growing movement to make do with fewer worldly possessions and the positive effects on personal finance and happiness.  There’s an entire sub-movement for less clothes–the New York Times featured “Six Items or Less” this summer.  Granted, a six-item wardrobe is a little extreme and more difficult in chilly weather, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless.

The Uniform Project proves just how much you can do with one Little Black Dress–founder Sheena wore the same dress for one year, expressing a considerable sense of style with looks for every occasion, using one basic wash-and-wear garment and a plethora of accessories.  The Project started as an exercise in environmental sustainability, but like many go-green actions, dressing sustainably saves money as well as trees.

Staples like Sheena’s LBD can be found everywhere from Target to American Apparel.  There are labels that specifically produce eco-friendly clothing.  These may be more expensive than other brands–it’s a personal choice, and not the only way to shop more sustainably.  Simply buying less stuff and focusing on the items you really love is an easy, straightforward way to spend sustainably, in every sense of the word.