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6 Questions I Consider Before Adding Anything to My Closet

And how I applied them to three recent purchases.
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Vanessa Cunningham Necklace, JoosTricot tank, and Vintage Levi's

Vanessa Cunningham Necklace, JoosTricot tank, and Vintage Levi's

A few weeks ago, I shared an update on my capsule closet—a collection that's mostly remained unchanged in the year since I edited it. The key word here is "mostly." While 95% of my closet is the same (if not more), there are also a few pieces I've thoughtfully added to it. While I'm not trying to stop purchasing clothes altogether (yet!), I do want to be more mindful when I do. 

This year, I've added a few things to my closet, all of which I evaluated through a set of criteria that I hope will ensure I keep and use the additions for years rather than a few wears. Not only is this method more environmentally conscious and humane, but it also genuinely brings me more joy—and enables me to spend more when I come across an item I love. Here are six questions I consider any time I add a new piece to my closet—and how I applied them to recent purchases:

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This is obviously the most important question—and the one that eliminates most would-be purchases in their tracks because the answer is often, "No!" When I created a capsule closet, I also eliminated a lot of excuses I used to use for buying unnecessary items. Now that I know I have jeans I love, a wide range of perfect tees, and a collection of daytime dresses that last beyond laundry day, it's harder to justify the phrase, "I need this." 

While I occasionally shop backward when I do actually need something (i.e., go online with the explicit purpose of finding a dress for an event, when I can't borrow one from a friend), I try to avoid this method whenever I'm able to go without. Instead of compromising on a dress that "works," I find that organically coming across pieces I both love and actually need results in more gratifying purchases.

I also keep a running list of items I both want and need on a notepad in my desk drawer that I cross-check when I come across something I love. The surprise benefit of this list is that it takes items I want off of my mind, but also proves to me how many items I once felt like I needed that I've barely thought of since

How I answered this question for three recent purchases:

Bikini (top and bottom from Tagged Swimwear): Yes! Four years ago, I bought a bikini that unraveled until it *literally* fell apart at the seams while I was in the ocean (a story for another time). For the past year, I've been bikini-less, but holding off until I found the perfect one that could also last the test of ocean waves. 
Sports bras (one Beyond Yoga and two from Girlfriend): Yes! Until this year, I've had the same Target sports bras from high school, which have completely lost their elastic. I realized the situation was dire when I looked down during a particularly bouncy Peloton ride, and saw that the bra was doing exactly nothing... 
Tank for wedding (JoosTricot tank): Not strictly, no.* Technically, I had other blouses I could wear, but I also wanted something special to remember the day by.

*One of the reasons I'm including my application of the questions to recent purchases is so you can see that it isn't always a perfect system—but I still find it helpful!

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I'm ashamed to say that this wasn't a question I took into consideration until about two years ago—and it's one of the most difficult to find the answer to. Sure, there are brands I know to avoid outright, such as fast-fashion brands like Zara, but it takes a bit of digging and a lot of time to know if something is well made (by the way, ethically made items are often high-quality, but the same is not necessarily true vice versa). I have a lot to improve upon in this area, but I'm actively learning about this using the guidelines in Elizabeth L. Cline's book The Conscious Closet.

How I answered this question for three recent purchases:

Bikini: To the best of my knowledge. I purchased directly from a small, woman-owned, local brand that is transparent—to a certain point—about where the suits and fabric are made. 
Sports bras: Yes! While I initially bought a bra-cami combo from Beyond Yoga (which is relatively transparent), I purchased two more from Girlfriend after doing some in-depth research. Girlfriend is about as environmentally friendly and transparent as a brand can be. They list their factory and practices clearly online
Tank for wedding: To the best of my knowledge, but not ideal. Again, I purchased from a small woman-owned local brand and the top is beautifully made, but they don't include any information on where their pieces are made (that I could find, at least!).

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Every single piece I add to my closet should elevate the rest of my wardrobe—which gives me the same gratification of a whole shopping spree. For example, if I buy a blouse, it should go with most of my bottoms, effectively giving me a new top but also twenty new outfits. As no surprise, I've been gravitating more toward neutrals than ever before, so that I can mix and match more easily! 

Bikini: Great! I bought a bikini that looks great with the high-rise AGOLDE denim shorts I always wear to the beach. 
Sports bras: Great! I bought only black cami bras so that they went with my existing leggings. (A little boring, but practical.) 
Tank for wedding: Great! I intentionally bought a tank that I knew would go not only with my favorite high-rise pants, but also every midi skirt I own. 

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This question is similar to the above, but applies more to the circumstances where you'll be wearing a piece. For example, when I buy an outfit now for a wedding, I buy something I can not only dress up, but also down with sneakers for the office (which I do with this dress!). I even applied this in shopping for my own wedding, which I wrote more about here! Before deciding to wear my mom's dress (and before that plan was bulldozed by COVID), I purchased a wedding dress I could wear to other events beyond our own ceremony.

Bikini: Very. I purchased a bikini that's cute, but has enough coverage to be worn for more athletic endeavors like rafting, surfing, and paddle boarding.
Sports bras: Very. I purchased cami-bras rather than bras so that I feel comfortable enough to wear them out of the house for errands and gym workouts, post-COVID of course (with just a peek of midriff, rather than my full abdomen showing). 
Tank for wedding: The most! As elegant for my wedding as it is practical for weekend errands. 

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As cheesy is this sounds, I've found that there's a distinct feeling between like and love when it comes to clothes—I just have to look for it. One of the biggest traps I used to fall into was buying things I liked because I felt I "should." But when I love something, I literally stop short in my tracks (or scrolling). With the exception of extremely practical purchases or re-buys (for me, these include things like running shoes, hiking pants, jeans), my heart has to flutter or I won't buy it. 

Bikini: Yes! I'd been looking for a bikini for about a year when I saw my friend post on Instagram about a brand she'd captured lifestyle images for. I gasped when I saw the images, and still think it's the prettiest bikini I've ever come across.
Sports bras: Mostly. This was more of a "practical purchase," but it's safe to say I fell in love with the brand Girlfriend. 
Tank for wedding: Yes! I scored a tank from Doen at a sample sale years ago in the exact same silhouette and it's easily my most-worn piece in my closet. As soon as I saw this one, I knew it was the perfect classic spin on it. 

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When I used to go shopping with my mom, I would quickly and eagerly find the perfect piece to spend my babysitting money on. She'd drive me nuts with her repeated refrain, "If you wake up tomorrow morning and still want it, I'll drive you back here to get it." Nine times out of ten, I'd have completely forgotten about the piece the next morning. So here's my challenge: After you find the perfect piece, wait a week. Best case scenario: It will be on sale by then, and your patience will have paid off. Worst case scenario: It's sold out, and it wasn't meant to be.

But don't stop there. Look ahead to your future plans and try your best to determine if you'll still want the piece then. My goal these days is to have something for at least five years. Within that time frame, I'll likely move out of L.A. and, if I'm lucky, have kids, so I ask myself, "Will I want to wear this, even when it isn't 70 and sunny every day? Is it easy to move around in?" I'm not a fortune teller, so it's not enough to make or break a decision—but it's also eliminated many a trendy item (I'm looking at you, overpriced fashion hats). 

As an added dissuasion, I also think ahead to the process of selling or donating it, if it doesn't workout, in the future. To ensure the item has a second life, it takes a long time to thoughtfully donate or sell it. I donated a lot of my clothes to Dress for Success where I knew they'd be used again, but it's been over a year, and I'm still selling clothes on Poshmark from my original closet edit

Bikini: Yes, and most likely! I took a risk waiting for this bikini—the brand is small, so only does small runs. I told myself if it was still available, I'd buy both the top and bottom and thankfully it was still there (and I loved it as much as I remembered). 
Sports bras: Yes, and most likely! Even after I'd found a bra I loved, I waited for months for one to become available in my size and color preference from Girlfriend. The waiting paid off when they launched an updated version of the bra I'd held out for. 
Tank for wedding: Yes, and most likely! While I couldn't wait a full week before purchasing this tank (I found it on the Monday before my Saturday wedding), I took a leap of faith on it based on how much I loved it and its versatility. It paid off! 

I shared some of my favorite capsule closet pieces in an IGTV yesterday—here are the links!

Everlane Japanese GoWeave Tank (no longer available, but same material here and similar silhouette here)
Reformation Skirt (part of the Liana two-piece, similar here)
JoosTricot Tank
Vintage Levi's (I bought mine at Virgo and they were so helpful—but here are Jess's tips for vintage jeans!)
Grayson Button-Down (got some questions on sizing - mine is a 1, and I usually wear a size "small" in tops)
Doen Yarrow Dress (years old so no longer available - I had a hard time finding an exact "similar here" but found that the search term "tiered dress" turned out a few with a similar vibe—I also see this dress *all* the time on Poshmark)

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