These Women Spent $1,000 Or Less On Fashion In The Last Year—Here’s What They Loved & Regretted

Mind Your Money Series:
What Do We Spend On Fashion?

Have you ever wondered how much your chic acquaintance spends on fashion each year? Or dwelled on how much you “should” or “should not” be spending? We asked our readers how much they spent on fashion in the past 12 months, and it was exciting to hear more about what they had to say. We also asked about their planned wardrobe investments, impulse buys, and their favorite and least favorite purchases. What we uncovered was a wide range of values and emotions surrounding fashion.

We celebrate alongside women and non-binary people whose purchases have helped them feel more confident at work—and more comfortable in their bodies. We hold space for budgets big and small, knowing that each one of us has a different experience and relationship with fashion. And, of course, we feel the frustration (and share the laughs) that some of these regrettable purchases bring.

This piece pulls some insightful responses from women and non-binary people who spent between $500 and $1,000 on fashion in the last year. See the other pieces in this series below!


Project Engineer
Traverse City, Michigan

Being a woman in “a man’s industry”—otherwise known as commercial construction—I am always looking for pieces that make me want to power stance the heck out of a room.

Age | 24
Income
| $47,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $600

A Purchase You Planned | Harly Jae's Bardot Jumpsuit was a must-have for me. I was able to buy it for around $90, which is half the price! I loved the retro square neckline, flared leg, and the fitted bodice, but the versatility of the garment is really what got me. Being a woman in "a man's industry"—otherwise known as commercial construction—I am always looking for pieces that make me want to power stance the heck out of a room. This piece makes me feel strong and feminine at the same time. 

An Impulse Buy | I recently bought a pair of distressed jeans from my favorite thrift store for $16. I've never liked distressed anything, but the denim was lived-in soft and the fit was perfect. I've worn them eight times in the last three weeks.

Your Favorite Purchase | The Peabody Dress from Toile and Stripes—a local maker here in Northern Michigan—that I absolutely adore. Her collection is thoughtfully curated and easily transitions through the crazy seasons we experience here in the Midwest.

A Purchase You Regret | A dressier jacket from the mall here in town. I knew I didn't love it in the moment but my mom was with me and loved it on me so much that I knew I had to buy it. I've worn it once—to dinner with her.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Not yet!


Paralegal
Sacramento, California

I returned my almost $200 Everlane blazer because I thrifted some GEMS. I wear them at least three times a week.

Age | 23
Income
| $36,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $600

A Purchase You Planned | The Day Heel from Everlane. I spent $145 plus tax. I wanted a comfortable work shoe that would translate well into my everyday wardrobe when I’m not working. I really hit the nail on the head with this purchase!

An Impulse Buy | Two blazers from a thrift store. I paid less than $20 for both and they also happened to be brand new! I returned my almost $200 Everlane one because I thrifted some GEMS. I wear them at least three times a week.

Your Favorite Purchase | It’s a toss up between my Free People Royale flats that I saved and finally bought as a birthday treat and a $6 cheetah print tank top I thrifted. I wear both at least once a week because they’ll never go out of style. 

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a flannel from a gal on Instagram. It’s Madewell so I assumed I would love it, but I feel like a cowgirl whenever I wear. I’ll probably end up getting rid of it.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | A $15 cheetah print 2-inch block heel. So. Much. Regret.


Nonprofit Marketer
Washington, DC

I’m committed to shopping 100% ethically for apparel—either from ethical stores or thrifting.

Age | 25
Income | $190,000 combined with my spouse
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $600

A Purchase You Planned | I really wanted a long, light dress with short sleeves because my husband and I are going to Morocco in August. It will be hot, but culturally, tank tops and shorts aren’t appropriate there; I knew I needed a modest maxi. I’m committed to shopping 100% ethically for apparel—either from ethical stores or thrifting—so I looked at all my go-to places, and, thankfully, found one I loved. It doesn’t always happen this way, though! I’m a tall girl so it’s already hard for me to find clothes. Making sure I shop ethically can make things challenging, so I’m always crazy happy when it’s this easy.

An Impulse Buy | I bought this really cool shirt from a consignment store the other day for $10. I don’t usually splurge on things I don’t “need,” for a lot of reasons, but I loved it. I knew I’d find a time to wear it and that I’d feel amazing in it, and I felt good about how I was buying it.

Your Favorite Purchase | A sort of dress-style lightweight cotton jogger pant! I can wear them to work and they’re the perfect travel outfit.

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a pair of sunglasses I loved from a store I didn’t know the stats on—their factories, materials, and so on. I felt guilty. 

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | I found a cute cream skirt from a consignment store. I didn’t buy it, and it seems like every day I’m thinking of reasons I could have worn it with this or that! That’s the worst!


Journalist
Berlin, Germany

When I see something in a shop, or online, I wait 4-5 weeks before buying it. Most of the time, I forget about it or it’s sold out. So I end up not buying it.

Age | 29
Income
| $36,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $600

A Purchase You Planned | My wedding dress was $198 on Reformation. I wanted a sexy summer dress that I would be able to wear again, not something that I will wear only once. It was a sustainable choice. But I was also dreaming of buying something on Reformation for a while! So that was the perfect occasion to do so.

An Impulse Buy | A green blouse (from the German sustainable brand ArmedAngels) at 69€, in a sustainable fashion store here in Berlin. I realized lately that I was only wearing black or dark blue colours, and I never have nice clothes when I go to conferences (I often have to ask my colleagues for clothes!). So when I saw this vibrant green blouse, and even though it was quite expensive for me, I didn't hesitate. I usually only buy clothes I really need and stuff I have been thinking about for a long time, for sustainability reasons. So when I see something in a shop or online, I wait 4-5 weeks before buying it. Most of the time, I forget about it or it's sold out. So I end up not buying it.

Your Favorite Purchase | A jumpsuit I bought online from People Tree. It was their big sale—70% off their clothes—and I have been looking at that collection and that piece for months! I never thought I had the body type for this kind of clothes before (I have small breasts and I'm very short), but I really love it, and I would wear it all the time.

A Purchase You Regret | A black jumpsuit I bought for a friend's wedding (100€). I had to buy it last minute because I didn't find anything that I liked before and I didn't want to go to the wedding in jeans and a t-shirt (I didn't have a dress that would fit me in my closet). The jumpsuit is too large for me. It doesn't fit and I don't feel so good in it. And I can't even sell it because I had to do hems because it was too long. I still wear it at least once a month because I paid for it.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | I have seen a pair of summer sandals in a vegan fashion shop a month ago. I tried them on and really loved them, but as usual, I wanted to think it over before buying them. I haven't worn open shoes since 14 years ago, at least, because I have hated my feet for so long. But for the first time in my life, I loved these open shoes and I was thinking, “Enough with the stupid complexes! You're about to be 30 years old and call yourself a feminist. You're too hot in your sneakers and never have a nice pair of summer shoes to wear when it's too hot!” So I went back to the shop two weeks later. They sold out, and I could not find them again online or anywhere.


Marketing Account Manager
London, UK

I got a breast reduction and I wanted to feel myself in my new body.

Age | 27
Income
| £33,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | £700

A Purchase You Planned | Two new lingerie sets that cost me £200. I got a breast reduction and I wanted to feel myself in my new body.

An Impulse Buy | A crop top I saw at the shop (I didn’t have any item like that). It was off shoulder and bright yellow. Very unlike what I am used to wearing!

Your Favorite Purchase | A red lingerie set.

A Purchase You Regret | Shorts that don't really suit me but I felt inclined to buy as I don't have many shorts.
A Purchase You Regret Not Making | No.


Human Resources Professional
California

Sometimes I am tempted by secondhand Christy Dawn dresses, but if I miss buying them, I just figure it wasn’t the right dress for me.

Age | 28
Income
| $92,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $750

A Purchase You Planned | Maternity overalls for $40 NWT (new with tags) on Poshmark. They are dark denim with no distressing for a clean look, so I can be comfortable and work-appropriate. Overalls are so versatile and I have only been selecting a few key maternity pieces to make it through my pregnancy to avoid buying more than I need—but not feeling obligated to uncomfortably squeeze into my normal clothes.

An Impulse Buy | N/A

Your Favorite Purchase | Boody Eco Wear Bikini Underwear—they are so comfortable, it's ridiculous!

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a maternity bridesmaids dress on Poshmark that did not look like the photo AT ALL. The photo made the fabric look dressier and the color look like a light dusty lavender. The dress that showed up was a thick heavy fabric in a dark, almost blue-purple.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Sometimes I am tempted by secondhand Christy Dawn dresses, but if I miss buying them, I just figure it wasn't the right dress for me.


Social Entrepreneur
Detroit, Michigan

When I saw the dress, I was reminded of the woman I want to be; carefree, colorful, bright, and happy. I knew I would wear this dress endlessly all summer.

Age | 23
Income
| $38,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $800

A Purchase You Planned | I planned to buy the Everlane recycled plastic bottle long puffer jacket. I knew that I needed a new winter jacket for my first year in the frigid Detroit winter. Knowing this would be a larger purchase inspired me to make it an ethical one. I try to have a sustainable and feminist wallet, and am a huge believer in the economic impact of supporting ethical products. I wanted the power of my dollar for a winter jacket to go farther, and I also adored the look of the Everlane coat. 

An Impulse Buy | A flowing, colorful striped midi-dress from Madewell. I popped in the store after work one day, and when I saw the dress, I was reminded of the woman I want to be; carefree, colorful, bright, and happy. I knew I would wear this dress endlessly all summer. I’ve already worn It at least once a week.

Your Favorite Purchase | Everlane light wash kick crop jeans. These are so spunky, and whenever I put them on, I feel a boost of confidence.

A Purchase You Regret | I placed a large online order out of impulse from Forever 21. I spent more than my monthly clothing budget and, when the clothes came, I felt a wave of guilt upon noticing the cheap quality and having the sad realization that most were final purchase. I wear probably one thing from that order, and it's a silk hair scarf.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | No.


PhD Candidate
(Location Undisclosed)

A sales lady talked me into a dress that I’ve never worn. It makes me look much older and more conservative than I am.

Age | 32
Income
| $30,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $850

A Purchase You Planned | After long consideration, I bought Dansko’s Harlene Booties for $170. They were just slightly more than I wanted to spend, but I knew that Dansko’s employee-owned, B-Corporation certified company, with LEED certified buildings, was in line with my values. Wherever possible, I first try to not shop and, if I must, then I try to “shop my values.” Furthermore, as someone who has chronic pain, I knew that these were a comfortable, healthy choice and a shoe that I would wear a lot—and I have. The timeless, yet still trendy aesthetic goes with everything, which ultimately will mean buying fewer shoes and consuming less. I felt these shoes were a good fashion choice, yes, but they were also good for my health, the environment, and the workers who made them.

An Impulse Buy | I was at Whole Foods buying soft, organic cotton leggings from Pact that I did “need,” and I bought a $42 tank top from Synergy that I didn’t. I thought about returning it afterwards, but I’m glad I didn’t. Even though it was an impulse buy, it’s made from organic cotton which is meaningful to me. It’s really soft, I love the moon phase patterns on it, and I’ve worn it a lot since buying it. Because it wasn’t purchased with my normal considered deliberation, it feels like a treat when I wear it.

Your Favorite Purchase | My Dansko Booties.

A Purchase You Regret | It was over a year ago, but a sales lady talked me into a dress that I’ve never worn. It makes me look much older and more conservative than I am. It’s beautiful on the hanger, but on me, it looks frumpy.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Those pieces were online and the purchases, or the lack of purchasing, felt fleeting anyway.


Nanny
San Jose, California

[On purchasing combat boots] This was back when no one was really wearing them. I’ve always loved playing around with new styles that I don’t see other people wearing yet, so I jumped on them.

Age | 24
Income
| $23,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $1,000

A Purchase You Planned | I ran to the mall searching high and low for a modest yet edgy dress for a wedding I was attending. I found a maroon, high-neck, long sleeve dress. It was covered in lace and tight in all the right places. It had a small rip, but for $50, I couldn’t pass it up. I got compliments all night.

An Impulse Buy | Combat boots for about $150. This was back when no one was really wearing them. I’ve always loved playing around with new styles that I don’t see other people wearing yet, so I jumped on them.

Your Favorite Purchase | A slim fit, floor length cardigan. It was so feminine and womanly. It felt like a very transitional purchase, compared to my usual college kid choices of sweatshirts and flannel.

A Purchase You Regret | Those sheer, lace bodysuits everyone was wearing on Instagram. They’re mostly all from the same wholesalers in China and they’re extremely cheap-feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever worn one out of the house.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Something from a sustainable fashion store in Sacramento. I loved everything from their clothes to their mission, but I couldn’t afford anything there.


Communications Director
Mississippi Delta

I saw someone wear [these heels] on Facebook… I hope they look as good on me as they did on her!

Age | 29
Income
| $62,500
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $1,000

A Purchase You Planned | Some heels from Steve Madden that I spent $100 on. I watched them for several weeks and I just couldn't get them out of my head. Plus, I saw someone wear them on Facebook… I hope they look as good on me as they did on her!

An Impulse Buy | A blazer from H&M was on sale for half the price—I couldn't pass that up!

Your Favorite Purchase | My nude/clear Steve Madden heels. I like the way they make me feel.

A Purchase You Regret | This $200 dress that I bought for a work event. I could have purchased something for much cheaper, and I put it on a credit card that I had just paid off.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Not really. I'm trying to become a homeowner, so I'm embracing being frugal.



Educator
New Haven, Connecticut

I’m actually rolling my eyes at myself thinking about this pile of clothes in my bedroom right now.

Age | 29
Income
| $65,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $1,000

A Purchase You Planned | Jeans! I knew I needed a pair without holes/distressing to wear to work. I did a lot of research and coveted AGOLDE pieces for their quality and sustainability. I waited and bought a pair secondhand online. I’m wearing them right now. :)

An Impulse Buy | I always end up buying the cheapest items on impulse. They’re usually vintage or thrift because I think, “this is a one-time chance,” and I can't go home and think about it. Last weekend, I bought a vintage Eileen Fisher linen skirt. I went home and sold a skirt of similar length from my closet to counteract the impulse.

Your Favorite Purchase | My Elizabeth Suzann Clyde jacket or my Blundstone boots. I have gotten SO MUCH wear out of these. I wore both almost every single day from October to May.

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a couple thrift articles that didn't even fit me because I thought I’d be able to sell them online for a profit. I’m actually rolling my eyes at myself thinking about this pile of clothes in my bedroom right now.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | None.


Teacher (& Future Floral Farmer)
Colorado

[These Madewell shirts] cost the same as just getting one good one from one of my favorite companies. I should have just saved.

Age | 31
Income
| $60,000 individual and $150,000 family
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $1,000

A Purchase You Planned | A Doen blouse that was $198. I waited about a month to buy it. I saw it but had been waiting for a while to buy a new blouse for spring. I love Doen as a company because they are an all-female run company and make beautiful, timeless pieces. Also, my family had a cherry farm, so anything cherry is a weakness!

An Impulse Buy | Vans suede shoes that were $65. It was at the beginning of the school year and I wanted a pair of cute shoes. They were cheap enough to not think too much about it.

Your Favorite Purchase | This is going to sound crazy, but a pair of Gucci loafers. They were insanely expensive but feel like butter. As a now-teacher, but also someone who worked in fashion, I needed to have comfortable shoes but wanted to look good. I probably wore them 100 times this year, if not more!

A Purchase You Regret | A few blouses from Madewell that were just blah and priced around $60. I’ve bought probably three that I ended up maybe wearing once or twice and giving them away. They cost the same as just getting one good one from one of my favorite companies. I should have just saved.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Nothing that sticks out. A few dresses sold out quicker than I could buy then, but nothing with huge regret!


RELATED READING


Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio. Say hi on Instagram!