Tales from the “No” Pile: Things I didn’t buy

One positive side effect of the pandemic for me personally has been the drastic reduction in household spending, particularly in the clothing department. Prior to this year, I always struggled to balance my habit of perusing clothing stores and coming home with unplanned finds with my desire to maintain a smaller, more minimal wardrobe (the catalyst for this blog!). That challenge was greatly reduced when shutdowns happened and the sources of my temptation were swiftly cut off.

My “low-buy” success this year is also in thanks to my lack of interest in online shopping. I’m a tactile person; I like holding things in my hand, feeling the fabric, and trying things on my body. I’m drawn to the thrill of finding hidden treasure in a vintage or secondhand store, where I do most of my shopping. While I like using my computer to research and bookmark things I like, I seldom use it as a point of purchase. I can remember all the clothing pieces I’ve ever had shipped to me and many of them are in fact from this past year. Still, these few online purchases were well-considered and mostly practical purchases, like underwear and a winter coat. 

When retail stores opened up in the summer, with plexiglass barriers, distancing measures, and policies of varying strictness, I went to check out a few of my regular places. But each time, especially in the beginning, I felt pangs of anxiety, paranoia, and hyper-self-awareness over my actions, which did not make for very positive experiences. Gone are the days of flippantly rifling through racks, brushing rows of garments with your fingertips, and loading armfuls of pieces to try on. 

In recognition of the fact that the retail experience will not be returning to “normal” anytime soon, let’s take a nostalgic look at some of the clothing items that I considered buying, but didn’t over the years, through a series of hurried mirror selfies with horrible lighting. The things I left behind, after trying them on in grimy fitting rooms, with no sanitizer, masks, and public health signage in sight. 

Although I’ve bought many regretful things in the name of finding my style, there was always plenty left behind.

Date: 11-26-2015 

Location: Salvation Army Thrift Store

I don’t really remember these blue striped trousers, but I love the pleats and the relaxed, tapered shape. Why didn’t I get them? Probably because I already had some pants with vertical blue stripes at the time, which fulfilled my quota for nautical-flavoured bottoms. Still, I do like the fit of these pants – and hey, is this when I bought that cream turtleneck, which I still have and wear?

Level of regret: 2/5


Date: 04-18-2016 

Location: Salvation Army Thrift Store

Buying secondhand shoes can be really hit or miss. These Naturalizer pumps are definitely my style and I’ve been a fan of the brand’s products in the past. It’s likely that I left them behind because they didn’t fit properly, a common outcome when shopping for shoes in a place that doesn’t carry alternative sizes. Although I’m satisfied with my current shoe collection, I wouldn’t mind adding a pair of like these down the line: low-heeled, supple leather, slip-on, and semi-dressy – something I can wear with a skirt and twirl in.

Level of regret: 0.5/5


Date:10-07-2016

Location: Uniqlo

I remember this buttercream-yellow friend well, and the manic surrounding the opening of Uniqlo in Canada. Like many other shoppers, I was keen to see what this rapidly globalizing Japanese brand had to offer. I liked the fit of this shirt, the feel of the fabric, and the melt-in-your-mouth colour. However, in 2017, I had yet to shake off my association of all buttoned down shirts with waitressing jobs and painful band recitals. I regretted not buying it until a year later, when I finally went back and picked up a similar blouse in navy, which I still have. But this will always remain the gateway buttoned shirt that led to me expanding my wardrobe repertoire.

Level of regret: 2/5


Date: 01-27-2017 

Location: Unknown vintage store in Sweden

I know: this jumpsuit is pretty crazy. The clownish puffed sleeves take this already unique, confetti’ed jumpsuit to a whole other level. Would I have had the guts to wear it? I didn’t think so then, but looking at it now and knowing that I’ll never find something like it again – I would have liked to try. This picture is a painful reminder of the time I missed my opportunity to look like the most fabulous space electrician in town.

Level of regret: 3/5


Date:04-23-2017 

Location: Humana Vintage – Milan, Italy

While on spring break during my university exchange in Sweden, I took a little solo-trip down to Italy. This skirt was spotted in a secondhand boutique that was highly recommended online. It ticked all my boxes for a good vintage skirt: knee length, useful pockets, high quality linen – and the brilliant chartreuse colour was a bonus. Unfortunately, it was much too big on me and I let it go knowing that I would probably never get around to making the alterations. Definitely the right move, but I’ll never forget that zesty shade of yellow-green, like salsa verde with cilantro and lime. 

Level of regret: 1/5


Date: 04-24-2018 

Location: Urban Outfitters

This one-of-a-kind refurbished vintage nightie is one of my most regretted non-purchases. I loved the bright cobalt colour, the shell shaped embroidery cupping the breasts, and it fit like a nylon dream. I think this was just before the slip dress/lingerie-as-daywear trend look really took off and I didn’t have the balls in 2018 to be pushing envelopes like that. Today, I lament not being able to parade around on a sunny day in this little siren dress and an oversized jacket. 

Level of regret: 4/5


Date: 09-22-2018 

Location: Salvation Army Thrift Store

I was pretty tempted to get this vintage suede blazer that makes me feel like a professor at a liberal arts college. It fit me well in the shoulders, which is unusual for a thrift store blazer, and there were some small imperfections in the leather that only added to its character. I left it behind because I didn’t know if it really fit my style, but I was so uncertain about my decision that I immediately went back to look for it the next day – it was nowhere to be found. Nowadays, I never wear blazer jackets, so it probably would have ended up as another fantasy-self piece collecting dust in the closet. But who knows, maybe this jacket would have inspired me to seek higher education, or at least take on a deep reading of Proust.

Level of regret: 1/5


Date: 01-29-2019 

Location: Mama Loves You Vintage 

This 30’s cherry red silk long sleeve, midi-length dress was another wedding dress option I debated (you can also see my actual wedding dress beside it). The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it had these amazing delicate details all hand-stitched using techniques I’d never seen before. I thought, wouldn’t this be a wild (but still culturally appropriate) choice for a wedding dress? In the end, I opted for the other gown, but I had a crazy thought that maybe I could get both of them and wear two wedding looks (thank goodness I didn’t). Like the other dress, this one also had some stains and small tears that would have cost a second fortune to repair. I’ll never forget this glorious red dress, though.

Level of regret: sentimentally 5/5; realistically 1/5


Date: 03-01-2019

Location: Uniqlo 

From trying to avoid looking like a server to taking style inspiration from one, an afternoon espresso date at a Spanish-style taverna had me ogling the outfit of one very chic waitress. She was wearing a lightweight cotton or linen blouse – collarless, pleated, with dramatic blouson sleeves – paired with black wide-leg crops. The top was so simple and elegant, it led me to search for one of my own. This shirt from Uniqlo was similar in style. I thought it was okay, but something wasn’t quite right, maybe the weight of the fabric or the fact that the buttons didn’t go all the way down. It didn’t fit the romantic, Napoleon-off-duty vibe I was going for. I meant to continue my search, but like many spontaneous hits of sartorial inspiration, the memory of the outfit faded, along with the desire to recreate it.

Level of regret:1/5


Date: 06-06-2019 

Location: Siberia Vintage 

Combing through racks of vintage is one of my favourite guilty pastimes when I’m downtown and in between appointments. On this day I had arrived early for a dinner date and was looking to kill time. I decided to try on this sapphire blue dress; I adored the bold colour and the relaxed, 20’s-style drop waist. However, it was a fancy dress that I had no real need for, being neither a lady of high society, nor a flapper. And so I put back the fanciful dress and hurried over to the restaurant, which I was now late to.

Level of regret: 1/5


Date: 12-04-2019 / 02-01-2020 

Location: MEC / Kit and Ace

My search for the perfect fleece in winter 2019-20 was an ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful endeavour. The Patagonia fleece on the left, procured from the junior boys’ section at an outdoor store, was a strong contender. But the price tag was a little high and I felt like it might haven been be a little too outdoorsy for wearing outside of the trails. The Kit and Ace fleece was warm, nicely designed, and within my budget, but I would have preferred a zipper to snaps and I wasn’t sure the quality of the fleece would hold up over time. After months of searching, I concluded that neither of these semi-finalists would be the “one” and that the search must continue next season. 

Level of regret: Both 2/5 (figure may go up or down depending on how cold it is this coming winter)

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