These Women Spent $500 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 $500 or less on fashion in the last year. See the other pieces in this series below!


Nonprofit Program Coordinator & Educator
Austin, Texas

My friends and I have curated pretty great closets over the years, so when we want to get rid of things, we offer them to each other.

Age | 24
Income
| $35,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $50

A Purchase You Planned | Ever since I’ve gone zero waste, I don’t really buy clothes anymore. My friends and I have curated pretty great closets over the years, so when we want to get rid of things, we offer them to each other. It’s the best way of acquiring new clothes, if you ask me.

An Impulse Buy | There is a sample sale in NYC I’ve been going to since I was in middle school. I hadn’t been in years—until this summer, that is. I bought a skirt, shirt, and pants for a total of $50. I hadn’t bought clothing in a while and that space is special to me. I doubt I’ll buy anything more for years to come.

Your Favorite Purchase | Probably those three items. They’re all so cool and, since they’re samples, pretty unique.

A Purchase You Regret | Honestly none. My natural impulse to be a Scrooge with money plus the zero waste movement has really left me intentional with my purchasing.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Never!


Start-Up Associate
Brooklyn, New York City

I ended up buying a pair of casual summer slides that have become my signature shoe for the past two seasons. They’re very versatile—I wear them to work and to go camping upstate all the time.

Age | 25
Income
| $52,500
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $75

A Purchase You Planned | Last year, I knew I needed one solid dress for weddings coming up. I bought a vintage one from one of my favorite thrift stores in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Awoke Vintage. It was $60 which was pricey, but it is this beautiful floor length flower-patterned dress. It is perfect for casual wear with a cardigan and sneakers, or heels for a wedding. I actually wore it to my cousin's wedding, and in between the ceremony and reception, I threw on sneakers and went to CVS to get some cough drops (too much woo'ing!). One of the store members came up to me and goes, "I'm so sorry. This is weird, but I LOVE YOUR VIBE."

An Impulse Buy | I used to live a few blocks from an Everlane store. The lines would always be out the door with tourists. One day, I took a personal day for a doctor's appointment and happened to walk by mid-day. There was no line so I popped in. I ended up buying a pair of casual summer slides that have become my signature shoe for the past two seasons. They're very versatile—I wear them to work and to go camping upstate all the time.

Your Favorite Purchase | Aforementioned slides!

A Purchase You Regret | I interviewed at a law firm last summer (very different from my startup career). For the interview, I bought a pair of nice slacks and loafers. I regret the loafers because I think I've only worn them twice! I definitely need to challenge myself next fall and play around with some trendy socks and loafers combinations.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Surprisingly, the impulse buy from Everlane! I'm debating buying another pair at the end of summer so I can have a newer pair for next summer too.


Volunteer at National Program
Texas

I found my favorite piece, an Iron Maiden tee, for maybe $1 at Goodwill.

Age | 22
Income | $12,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $100

A Purchase You Planned | The last planned item I bought was a small cross-body bag from Target. The bag was $20, paid for with a gift card/cash combo. During my year in Texas, I travel a lot, and it is easiest (and safest) to travel with an inconspicuous bag.

An Impulse Buy | This past fall I bought a vintage floral dress from a sprawling antique store. It was $10! I still need to remove the shoulder pads.

Your Favorite Purchase | I found my favorite piece, an Iron Maiden tee, for maybe $1 at Goodwill.

A Purchase You Regret | In February, my long-distance boyfriend and I spent a weekend together, and I bought lingerie for the first time. I ordered it online from a fast fashion site, and I got what I paid for—cheap, ill-fitting garments. That money could have been better spent. Lesson learned!

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Better shoes! I have been wearing the same $2.50 Old Navy black flip flops for years and want to treat myself to a nice pair of sturdy sandals. Plus, my work flats and running shoes are literally falling apart. I should have upgraded long ago but keep putting it off because good shoes are so expensive.


Digital Marketer
Southeastern USA

I am doing a #NoSpend19-ish year (to reduce waste, impulse shopping, and budget spending).

Age | 27
Income
| $38,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $120

A Purchase You Planned | Black wide-leg pants. I luckily got these beauties on sale for $40. They're high quality, structured well, and comfortable for work!

An Impulse Buy | I am doing a #NoSpend19-ish year (to reduce waste, impulse shopping, and budget spending). At the beginning of the year, I set expectations of what I needed for the year and for what season I would need to purchase. While it hasn't been totally perfect because of other items that needed replacing, my one impulse buy so far was a black chenille sweater. It was $6, but I consider it my impulse so far, because it wasn't an item I had already deemed needed or was replacing a worn-out item.

Your Favorite Purchase | Definitely my black wide-leg pants! I'd wear them everyday if no one would notice.

A Purchase You Regret | A Barbour Beadnell Jacket. Not because of the product, though. Mostly because I live in the Southeastern USA... when did I think there would be appropriate weather to wear?

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | No. I give it a few days and I get over it.


Interior Designer & Mother
Virginia

I had my eye on an alpaca sweater from Everlane for a few weeks before it became available. I loved the cut, how soft it looked, and the principles that Everlane stands for.

Age | 26
Income
| $70,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $150

A Purchase You Planned | I had my eye on an alpaca sweater from Everlane for a few weeks before it became available. I loved the cut, how soft it looked, and the principles that Everlane stands for. I have been trying to make more ethical fashion purchases so this hit several markers, and I splurged a little on myself for Christmas. I spent $95.

An Impulse Buy | Just today I bought a maternity shirt from a popular store. I’d been needing some shirts but hadn’t looked seriously, and this one caught my eye as I walked past. It was the last in my size and I didn’t want to spend a large amount of money on clothes I would only wear while pregnant. I spent $22.

Your Favorite Purchase | N/A

A Purchase You Regret | I purchased a white t-shirt with a lining on the recommendation of a friend. I didn’t want to have to wear an undershirt every time I wore a black bra under a white shirt, and thought this would work great since my friend loved it. Well, when it came, it was about two sizes too big, even though the tag said “small.” It started pilling almost right away, and always looked wrinkled. I was very disappointed.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | N/A


Yoga Teacher
Brighton, England

Since the beginning of June, I have taken the Extinction Rebellion challenge to buy no new clothes for a year; just vintage and secondhand.

Age | 48
Income
| £25,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | £150

A Purchase You Planned | A palm print jumpsuit for £40—I spotted it a mile off in the shop and just knew I had to have it, even though I was shopping with my daughter.

An Impulse Buy | That would be the item above—totally unplanned.

Your Favorite Purchase | A beautiful floral long-sleeved blouse in bright blue and pink, which I wear for work.

A Purchase You Regret | A pair of skinny jeans.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Always, it’s tough. Since the beginning of June, I have taken the Extinction Rebellion challenge to buy no new clothes for a year; just vintage and secondhand.


Disability Leave
Canada

Honestly, I don’t buy a lot of clothes, and I wear everything in my closet. As Madonna once said, ‘Absolutely. No. Regrets.’

Age | 37
Income
| N/A
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $300

A Purchase You Planned | A denim jacket for $40. It had embroidered cherries on it, and my dog’s name is Cherry... I couldn’t resist!

An Impulse Buy | I brought a bunch of my dresses to a consignment store and ended up purchasing this forest green dress. I bought it because of the way the skirt swings, which looks like a beautiful flower petal when I twirl!

Your Favorite Purchase | Denim jacket with embroidered cherries.

A Purchase You Regret | Honestly, I don’t buy a lot of clothes, and I wear everything in my closet. As Madonna once said, “Absolutely. No. Regrets.”

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | No.


Production Associate
Little Rock, Arkansas

If I spend enough time thinking about a piece to regret not purchasing it, I generally will save the money from another part of my budget to go ahead and buy it.

Age | 26
Income
| $39,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $400

A Purchase You Planned | I planned to buy some vintage jeans. I spent $70 at a local vintage store—I chose them because they were roomy and had deep pockets and they are perfect for my job working in a wood shop.

An Impulse Buy | I bought a linen shirt for $5 on thredUP. I selected it because I thought it would be a nice shirt to have for the summer. I wear it once a week now.

Your Favorite Purchase | I bought some men's climbing pants on impulse from my local climbing gym and they are my absolute favorite pants. I even wear them when I don't plan to go climbing that day.

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a wool jacket from a Goodwill without trying it on. When I got home, I realized it didn't fit well and I never wore it.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Not really. If I spend enough time thinking about a piece to regret not purchasing it, I generally will save the money from another part of my budget to go ahead and buy it.


Communications Coordinator
Washington, DC

[On a regretted purchase] It had really good reviews and looked cute on the website, but when it arrived, I was left thinking, ‘This is it?’

Age | 34
Gender Identity | Non-binary
Income
| $45,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $400

A Purchase You Planned | A $50 versatile dress that can be paired with a blazer for work or other accessories for a night out.

An Impulse Buy | A pair of $5 pants in Cambodia. I loved the pattern and the material so much.

Your Favorite Purchase | Two pairs of earrings from a South African artist. They are gorgeous and I wear them almost all the time.

A Purchase You Regret | A travel pocketbook/backpack. It had really good reviews and looked cute on the website, but when it arrived, I was left thinking, “This is it??!” It looked cuter on the screen than IRL.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | A really cool patterned skirt that wasn't exactly my size, but I thought maybe I could get it tailored. But that would be too much work and money, so just forget it and find your size later. I never found my size and I still think about that skirt.


Climate Policy Research Fellow
Los Angeles, California

There will always be more things to buy and want than you can ever have, and I’m trying to focus less on products and more on life.

Age | 27
Income
| $25,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $500

A Purchase You Planned | A long, heavy coat. I'll be moving to Boulder, Colorado in August for law school, and I don't really own a lot of cold-weather clothes. I bought a long camel coat for $129 from Zara (although the majority of my purchases this year have been from sustainable/ethical trade brands) because they had the exact style I was looking for, which is both professional and very warm—and it was affordable.

An Impulse Buy | Most of my impulse shopping happens at REI. My most recent purchase was a matching yoga pants/sports bra combo made from recycled materials by Threads 4 Thought. Both pieces were on sale for a total of $71.68. I love patterned leggings and wear them all the time. These ones have a really cool moonlight palms pattern. I couldn't resist.

Your Favorite Purchase | I bought my first pair of Chacos for light hiking. They’re so comfy.

A Purchase You Regret | I bought a few fast fashion pieces for work as I had my first formal office job this year and I felt like I needed more pieces to look professional. They were cheaper items that were not great quality. I'll be moving in the fall and will likely be donating all of those pieces since I didn't end up wearing any of them that often.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | I try to be as minimalist as possible. I generally choose my pieces carefully and don't really regret not purchasing items. There will always be more things to buy and want than you can ever have, and I'm trying to focus less on products and more on life.


Student
Ames, Iowa

[I purchased] blue light blocking glasses. I was getting a little tired from looking at computer screens at my new job so I figured these glasses would help.

Age | 21
Income
| $4,500
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $500

A Purchase You Planned | Jeans for $50—normally this is a little high in price for me because I'm a student, but I already had a pair of these jeans, and I loved them and used them until they broke. So this price was a bargain, given they would serve me well.

An Impulse Buy | Blue light blocking glasses for $65. I was getting a little tired from looking at computer screens at my new job so I figured these glasses would help. Also, there was an attractive boy in my office and I thought glasses made me look cute, so I bought them. :)

Your Favorite Purchase | A flowery spring dress from Old Navy.

A Purchase You Regret | Sports bras that were supposed to fit me but they didn't! And, of course, since I bought them over the Internet, there was no way I was motivated enough to return them.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | No.


Chef
Miami, Florida

I love Chukkas and was looking for something durable from an eco-minded brand.

Age | 26
Income
| $35,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | $500

A Purchase You Planned | Timberland Chukkas for $80. I liked the company’s values and was looking for new hiking and work boots. I love Chukkas and was looking for something durable from an eco-minded brand.

An Impulse Buy | A dress from Lucky Brand for $50. I just wanted to try it on and see the fit, but once I saw it, I couldn’t leave without it.

Your Favorite Purchase | These flats from Hiptipico, handmade in Guatemala. I get compliments all the time and I love the fit.

A Purchase You Regret | This dress from a thrift store on a road trip that I bought for the fun of the memory. I didn’t love nor did I need it.

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | This skirt I saw the other day; I’m trying to spend less and avoid fast fashion but I can’t stop thinking about it.


Scientist
Nottingham, UK

[On an impulse buy] I’ve never owned a maxi dress before, but this one showed off my curves and makes me feel great!

Age | 23
Income
| £30,000
How Much You Spent On Fashion | £500

A Purchase You Planned | A jumpsuit! I chose this piece as the weather in England is quite hit and miss… even sunny days can be quite cool, so a jumpsuit gives that summer vibe but doesn’t make you feel the chill. It’s definitely a staple for this summer.

An Impulse Buy | A long maxi dress in burnt orange from River Island. It was on sale for only £12, and I’m tall, so it’s a perfect length. I’ve never owned a maxi dress before, but this one showed off my curves and makes me feel great!

Your Favorite Purchase | Definitely a (very expensive!) Jaegar coat in deep red. It’s so sophisticated.

A Purchase You Regret | I end up sending so many clothes back, as I’m an awkward pear shape. But no regrets this year, thankfully!

A Purchase You Regret Not Making | Yes! A silk slip dress from River Island in mustard… it went on sale but I missed out!


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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!