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  • Writer's picturesallyinstpaul

Identifying High Priority and Loved Items To Wear Instead of Buying New

In my post about analyzing a potential new purchase, I described a process for thinking about whether a purchase makes sense. I'll summarize it:

Would you theoretically wear this item?

  1. Do you like (preferably love) it?

  2. Is it your style? Fit? Silhouette?

  3. Can you think of multiple ways to wear it using items in your wardrobe?

Estimate the best-case number of wears and cost per wear (CPW)

  1. How often would you be willing to wear it? Once a week? Once every two weeks? Once a month? Etc.

  2. How many wears does that come to in a year (based on the months of the year you'd wear it)?

  3. How many wears is that in its lifetime (based on the number of years you expect to wear it)?

  4. What is the expected cost per wear (divide price by total wears in its lifetime)?

Analyze the competitive set of items

  1. Does the new item offer you something different above and beyond what you already own?

  2. What current items will your new item compete with and will you not wear as you wear the new item X times this year?

  3. Do you like the new item significantly better than these items?

  4. Will you replace one or more of your current items with the new item?

  5. What happens to the cost per wear of the items you are not wearing because of the new one?

In that post, I considered a velvet paisley skirt with reference to the question "Does the new item offer you something different above and beyond what you already own?" by examining the colors in the paisley skirt and comparing that with the skirts I already own. I quickly determined that all the colors of the new paisley skirt were already covered by at least one, and generally multiple, other skirts. Any outfit I could make with the new paisley skirt I could already make using one of the skirts I already own. The new paisley skirt would be a flat out substitution for existing skirts. And when comparing $150+ for the new skirt to the $0 of the existing skirts, there was really no comparison.

Today I'd like to shift to discuss the question of "What WON'T I wear if I buy this?" because this is one people don't ask themselves often enough.

Here it isn't a matter of one item being a straight substitute for another, like the paisley skirt vs. your existing skirts with those colors or a new navy cardigan when you already have a navy cardigan. You may have identified something that is your style/fit/silhouette, that you can wear 3+ ways with items in your closet, that has an expected cost per wear that works with your budget/goals, and that is different from what you already own so that it does offer you something new. But this proposed new purchase is still in competition with your existing items because there are a limited number of days in the year to wear your clothes, and anything you do wear means something else isn't worn!

If you are in the process of building (or re-building) your wardrobe, or you don't like much of what you own, perhaps your proposed new purchase doesn't have a lot of competition. But most of us do already own things that we want to wear! Before we get too caught up with the possibilities of our shiny proposed new purchase, we should remind ourselves of what we already own that we want to wear.

To make this more concrete, I am going to use some examples of items in my fall/winter wardrobe. Unlike with the paisley skirt example, I don't have a particular piece in mind that I'm considering adding to my closet...though of course an exercise like this would work really well in that case! Instead I am thinking about shopping for the coming season more generally and identifying some items that I won't be wearing if I buy something new. Because I have a greater (over-)abundance of tops and toppers than bottom pieces, and those are the pieces that I am most likely to be emotionally swayed by, I'm going to focus on tops and toppers from my closet in two categories:

I talked a bit about high priority wear items for summer in this post, where I used my tracking spreadsheets to identify items based on high current cost per wear (CPW). Today I'm using a more general definition that looks at newness, total wears, and CPW to identify some pieces that I definitely want to put through their paces in the coming fall/winter season.

As for loved items...we all have them (I hope!). They may not be new, but they are favorites. In my case, some of these items have taken a backseat in the last couple years as I was emphasizing wears of high priority items. (Perhaps you have some favorites that you haven't worn as much recently because of the pandemic.) But others are just ones I look forward to wearing because they look and feel great.

There might be overlap between these two categories: something could be new and also beloved. The fine distinctions and details of the definitions aren't important. For my purpose, I just wanted to select a number of items to focus on as items I won't be wearing if I buy a new sweater/t-shirt/blouse.

In other words, here are some great tops and toppers that I already own (the most sustainable option) and will cost me nothing to wear this fall/winter. How great will something new with a price tag attached and bearing an environmental cost have to be to beat out these pieces?


I have a weakness for sweaters, so it's lucky I live in Minnesota where they are commonly worn about 5 months of the year. Zoological print sweaters are a real favorite of mine, and it's easy for me to fall in love with the idea of a new one. But I have these two lovely sweaters from Coldwater Creek that are still pretty new with two of my favorite animals: rabbits and elephants! (CC actually still has the rabbit version on sale in straight, plus, and petite sizing.) Stripes are another temptation for me, but I am looking forward to my still-new-feeling grey striped sweater from CJ Banks and blue ombré sweater from Lands End.

The two cowlneck sweaters are new ones that I'm enjoying a lot and still have many ways to wear. I was surprised by how much I like the poncho (Coldwater Creek) that I bought as an experiment because it was a good price ($15). I've really enjoyed wearing it over skinny jeans and pants for WFH. The orchid color is unusual and lovely...and I haven't even gotten a start on different ways to wear it because I like it so much with jeans and my beige Starfish pants. I don't need any more cowlnecks with these two in play. As for favorite sweaters, these two marl knits from Macy's are terrific...perfectly sized, flattering curved hem, nice soft look with an interesting texture from the marl knit, versatile colors. These are also fairly new to boot.

Long-Sleeved Shirts

My two high-priority shirts are from Lands End, and while I wear them year-round, they are nice underlayer options for cold weather. The dark green/burgundy plaid shirt from CJ Banks is a lovely soft fabric (not 100% cotton like all others here) that drapes nicely and is so easy to layer over. It's also just a great colorway for fall. I also have a quartet of check shirts (thrifted from ThredUp) that are very comfortable and great for layering over as well (like in the red sweater OOTD here).

Long-Sleeved Blouses

Because button up shirts can be stiff and a bit uncomfortable, I have gravitated toward flowing blouses a bit in the last couple years. I have three recent ones from CJ Banks that I'm looking forward to wearing this fall. (I actually just wore the wine blouse for its first outing of the season with its second outing scheduled for this weekend.) And you know that this old Loft blouse (purchased in 2016) with the dark green jackrabbit print makes my heart pitter-patter!

Long-Sleeved Ts/Knit Tops

I have not purchased as many of these tops in the last few years because I have a supply from JCP in 2017/2018 that is still going strong, but I did buy these two peacock blue tops from CJ Banks in 2020. I will be wearing them as part of modern twin sets and inner column of color as the cold weather arrives. The burgundy T (and its brother the dark teal version) are great basics in lovely fall "colored neutrals" that I don't wear as often as I'd's hard to imagine a potential solid colored T that I would want to wear more than these burgundy and dark teal ones I already have. And the "woodland critters" T from CJ Banks (technically a 3/4 sleeve) is just the perfect fall t-shirt!

It's got all these great fall colors AND has bunnies hidden in the woods!


The long hunter green and magenta cardigans are relatively new purchases from CJ Banks and Lane Bryant, respectively. Dark green is a wonderful traditional fall color. Magenta (Pantone: Rose Violet) is having an unusual fashion moment for fall/winter this year. The traditional emerald green cardigan (thrifted) is a color that I love but I haven't worn the sweater as much as I'd like so I tagged it as high priority.

I am such a sucker for print cardigans, but luckily I have two new ones I can focus my energies into styling this year (both from CJ Banks). The sky blue Lands End cardigan is a beautiful color that I love in fall with brown and in winter with grey/black - it also pairs well with the blue floral Lands End shirt above. The dark aqua cardigan (thrifted) is a flattering blue-green that doesn't quite match any of my tops for fall/winter for my beloved modern twin set look, but I am eager to experiment with it in other color combinations. I've only barely scratched the surface of possibilities.


I have some really great options on my high priority list: an amazing navy fleece tipped blazer (thrifted, Lands End), a grey marl moto jacket (CJ Banks), and a knit denim jacket (Coldwater Creek). In Minnesota, these all work as indoor layering pieces! The aqua swirl jacket (thrifted, CJ Banks) is an absolute favorite due to the color and the cut, and I want to wear it more in the fall despite its non-traditional colors. The stretchy black textured tuxedo jacket (thrifted, Chico's) was a ridiculously inexpensive find ($4.50) that I truly could happily wear once a's just that comfortable and nice-looking to wear. Potential new jackets: this is the one to beat! Finally, this plaid shirt in a color scheme that I absolutely LOVE (LOVE) is a bit oversized so I wear it as a lightweight topper over Ts from spring through fall.

As I look over all these wonderful options I have already in my closet for the upcoming fall/winter season, I am feeling excited and eager to wear every one of them...multiple times each, making new outfits (or even repeating old ones!) incorporating these high priority and beloved pieces. Next time I get a style crush on a new sweater, I'll know to come back to this post and consider what I won't be wearing if I give in to shopping temptation!

Blush rabbit sweater + grey pants - Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Look at those sweet bunny faces!

Do you have items you are looking forward to wearing this coming season?

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