2021 Wardrobe Update – Part 1

The end of August might be a strange time for a mid-year wardrobe update, but to my credit, I did start writing this post back at the start of July. Then, of course, summer’s languor set in. Evenings were filled with books and drinks on the balcony. Weekends were filled with iced coffees, sunlit strolls, and occasional adventures afield. Then my husband and I went on our first vacation in two years to visit family on the east coast and it’s as if time has just slipped through, like sand between your fingers. Now I’m back home, at my writing desk, finishing what I started. This preamble is just a heads up that the tone of this post may shift here and there, among other inconsistencies.

Here are two somewhat conflicting statements: I like my wardrobe and enjoy wearing what I have; I’ve been steadily accumulating new things throughout the first half of the year. So far, I’ve added 8 items of clothing, 1 pair of shoes, and a few pieces of (necessary) new underwear into my wardrobe. When I look at my buying patterns in 2021, I see some clear shopping “bursts” in the months of March and June, which suspiciously overlap with the lifting of pandemic regulations in my city. For my most recent purchases, there’s no doubt that stress (moving, work) played a factor, plus the convenience of hiding my fashion receipts amid furniture expenses for the new place. Although I’m enjoying my new closet space, which has allowed me to look at my clothes in (literally) a new light, the reopening of stores combined with moving to a new neighbourhood has definitely piqued my curiosity for what cool finds might await me behind new shopping frontiers.

For the most part, the things I’ve added were planned, keeping my 2021 wishlist and larger 5-year wardrobe plan in mind. Of course, a few impulse purchases round out the loot, but I do feel I’ve gotten better at trusting my eye and discerning between which pieces would be short-lived attractions vs. long-time loves. I won’t do a thorough review of these items, yet, since they’re all fairly new to me. However, in this update, I wanted to discuss why and how I purchased these items. I’ll share the planning (or lack thereof) that led to these closet additions and highlight the different avenues through which I acquired these pieces.

A half-sleeve knit was on my wishlist for the year and is a style I’ve worn and loved in the past. This metallic top sat in my Etsy bookmarks for months before I decided to pull the trigger in February. Being my first virtual secondhand purchase, I had some reservations. After reaching out to the seller to inquire more about the fit and the material, I eventually convinced myself that it would be a worthwhile addition to my fall-through-spring wardrobe. Of course, there was FOMO at play, too – another item I’d been eyeing on the site got sold and it pushed me to take a gamble on this piece. I remember it didn’t take too long to arrive, especially for an international package from the US, but I was initially taken aback that the colour was so different in person (a warm olive-y shade) than pictured (a cool silver-y grey). The knit also came with a pungent perfume smell that took me a while to wash out. Overall, this piece isn’t what I imagined it would be, but I still like it. The experience also confirmed for me that shopping online, especially secondhand, always contains an element of risk. It’s such a different experience when you can scope something out in person by seeing, touching, and, I suppose, smelling.

Another planned purchase was this pair of beige chinos from Alex Mill, which I thought would nicely complement my spring-through-fall wardrobe. Before I landed on this particular piece, I must have saved and compared at least two dozen different pairs from secondhand boutiques on Etsy to upscale brands (that would’ve cost me both of my legs and rendered the purchase pointless) and everything in between. Eventually I narrowed it down to two pairs: these and a more affordable option from Brixton. I was pretty sure I was going to opt for the cheaper version, but at the last moment I decided to change strategy and just go for the item that I truly wanted. These pants definitely cost a pretty penny and the journey to buying them was a rollercoaster. Because Alex Mill doesn’t actually ship to Canada, I had to investigate using one of those services that will redirect a package for you, which ended up being more costly and taking more time than expected. Despite the troubles, I am very pleased with this piece. However, this was definitely my least “sustainable” purchase of the year: a new garment, made in China, sold by an American retailer, and had to be shipped twice. Personally, I think the way we acquire things matters, and if it wasn’t for the pandemic I probably would have gone with a more local option.

This black v-neck tee from Frame was purchased with a gift certificate I received as a wedding present. This shirt was not exactly what I envisioned for my summer wardrobe; I knew I wanted a “basic” top in an interesting cut, but I always had a boatneck-style in mind. However, when I was browsing the local boutique, which sold a lot of pretty, but useless wares, this short v-neck top caught my eye. Since last year, I’d been debating buying a black boatneck camisole from Arket, but hesitated due to the costly shipping fees. After some careful consideration, I decided there was no harm in giving this top a try as it would serve the same purpose. I ordered the top online (with a tube of pricey sunscreen to use up the voucher) and selected a delivery time for the next day, when it was promptly couriered over from the other side of the city. While the store was not exactly my vibe, it felt good to support a local shop amid the pandemic, as in-store shopping for non-essentials was prohibited at the time. As far as online purchases go, I also felt a bit better about the relatively short delivery distance and the packaging of the goods in a kraft paper bag, as opposed to a plastic mailer.

Something I’d longed to add to my wardrobe was a pair of light-coloured, tailored shorts. Bonus points for linen, as I previously owned a decent pair of tan shorts in the material, but they were too short and too cheaply-made to last. These handmade, pleated linen shorts from Harly Jae were my dream shorts – the image I’d saved in hopes of finding a more affordable, preferably secondhand, alternative. I looked around online and seriously contemplated getting a pair from Uniqlo that I eventually passed on after scoping them out in person. Around this time, we were picking out new furniture for the condo and trying to be really intentional about what we brought into our home – only getting the items we loved, instead of the Ikea bargains that would be replaced in a few years. Something about that mentality inspired me to “treat myself” to this item, even though the price was far more than I ever thought I would spend on a pair of shorts. I ordered these shorts from Fieldstudy, a boutique in Calgary, and they were the last pair in my size. Even with a sale discount, they cost a pretty penny, but for an ethical garment made in Canada it seemed like a fair price. The shorts arrived astonishingly quick and the quality of the piece blew me away. The oatmeal-coloured linen is gorgeous and the construction immaculate. My only complaint is that the waist is a little more fitted than I would have liked, even with the elastic in the back. Incorrect sizing is one of my main online-shopping fears, but luckily this was just a small misjudgment that doesn’t impact the wearability too much.

I found these two vintage-ish skirts in a local store called Odd Finds, which I found, oddly, while strolling around the new neighbourhood one day. Adding two new skirts to my summer wardrobe was definitely not part of the plan, but I couldn’t resist passing up these amazing pieces. The tan skirt is from Calvin Klein and the grey skirt is Eileen Fisher. What drew me to them was texture: one is a beautifully worn-in flax-like material, and the other is lovely matte silk with a subtle geometric pattern embossed in it. As someone who tends to acquire stuff of similar texture and then complain about lack of variety, I knew these pieces would add a nice crunch to my ensembles, while fitting in with my colour palette. The grey skirt was more of a question mark as it’s a little too big and too long, but it’s still wearable and could come in handy for a young newly-wed whose child-bearing years are still to come. Both these skirts also come with pockets, which is a feature I’m a total sucker for. Since I got them from a more curated vintage store, they were not the cheapest, but it felt good to support a local business that is trying to rebound from an economically devastating year. It’s a lovely little shop that I’m sure I’ll be frequenting in the future.

Finally, the last two items I’ve added are my least expensive purchases, dug up from the good old thrift store. The taupe silk shirt was purchased in March, during a brief period of reopening, and the striped shirt is a more recent purchase. I always seem to find good button down shirts in secondhand stores and I’m wary of over-collecting them. But it’s hard to fight the temptation of bringing home amazing pieces that cost the same as an Americano with tax and tip. The vintage silk shirt was an impulsive buy that I didn’t need, but allowed myself after months of being cooped up. I liked the colour, the neckline, and the mother-of-pearl buttons. The striped button down was a shirt from the men’s section that I bought “for my husband”, but knew would end up in my closet. Luckily, it didn’t fit him and I can properly call it mine.


When I look at the spread of new pieces I’ve added to my wardrobe this year, some clear patterns emerge. As usual, there’s a gravitation towards neutral tones and simple designs with a twist. However, there’s greater variety with the materials and textures. I’ve also added some new typologies of items, like the long shorts, the maxi skirt, and the chinos. 

It’s also been the year of biting the bullet on big ticket items, items on my wishlist that I would typically try to thrift as opposed to buy new. Buying these pieces online has been an interesting experience, too; on a few occasions, it made me a bit nauseous dropping so much money on things I hadn’t seen in real life. As my wardrobe matures, I do see value in being more deliberate about what I’m bringing into my life and making choice splurges on items that I’m confident will pay off long-term.

While I’m a big believer in having a wardrobe plan, the secondhand pieces I’ve acquired also make a strong case for the beauty of unplanned style. In moderation, I think these spontaneous purchases are really formative for the natural evolution of my personal style. If I just bought my entire wishlist, I’m not sure my wardrobe would feel as authentic to me as it does when it’s forged by a mix of intentional design and my lizard brain going, “oh my god I love that skirt”, as I pass a store window. 

After a year of not going anywhere, not doing much, and being very financially responsible, it’s easy to justify rewarding yourself. I think this mindset is what propelled me to buy so many new pieces and take some chances I would normally shy from. As humans, we’re not very good at being happy with what we have, are we? Instead of feeling bad about it, I find myself accepting that wardrobe building – whether it’s buying new, thrifting, or altering something I already have – is a creative outlet that I derive a lot of satisfaction from. I’m still mindful of taking things slow, as well as keeping my closet trim and manageable, but I find myself caring less about the item count or labelling my closet as a minimalist one. For the rest of the year, I don’t see myself adding a ton more pieces, but I don’t feel the need to put a cap on it, either. I’m learning to be okay with trusting my brain and my gut, and letting things emerge.

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