An Ode To All The Going-Out Clothes I’ve Wasted Money On

If you scrolled through the inbox of my Motorola Krzr circa 2010, you’d find a large number of texts that revolved around one question: “What are you wearing out tonight?” I’m fairly certain a requirement of being a girl in your early twenties is that you have to be dragged into a group chat centered on this dilemma at least five times.

All that energy poured into arranging myself to be party-ready only ever upped the stakes of whatever I was prepping for. A run-of-the-mill night out became an opportunity to become a more daring/sexy/fun person, or at least summon a bit of excitement into my life. And, in my mind, buying brand new clothes optimized that opportunity. One of the many totally-adequate black tank tops or skirts that sat in my closet wouldn’t suffice; every weekend, I had an urge for a fresh start that only a new ~going out lewk~ could provide. With the help of the right cutout blouse, I truly believed magical things could happen. (Spoiler: the universe doesn’t work that way.)

As you can probably guess, this kind of logic resulted in a lot of emotionally-fueled fast fashion purchases. If a tailored button down is the epitome of utilitarian, versatile attire, my going out clothes were the opposite. Ill-fitting and poorly-made, they hardly fit in with my personal style (outside of the version of myself I was trying to be on that night), let alone in a workplace or family setting. All those flimsy dresses and too-sheer tops did the job for a night or two, but their usefulness stopped there. They ended up sitting in my closet and gathering dust, looking increasingly more like out-of-place relics as I got older.

In an effort to curate a more grown-ass-woman wardrobe (still working on it!), I recently did a vicious closet clean-out and came across a few of those relics. As I folded them up for donation, part of me wanted to shake my past self by the shoulders — I obviously should have bought less, but more than that, I should have bought smarter. I’m not past buying a snazzy new shirt for a special occasion these days, but I’d like to think I’m more judicious (Can I wear this shirt outside of a grimy, dimly-lit bar?). Another part of me couldn’t help but get a little sentimental. As a compromise to both those parts of my brain, I’m saying a nostalgia-filled goodbye to my going out clothes of days gone by, while owning up to the waste of cash they truly were. Here, I’ve assembled a typical outfit and added up the damage, keeping in mind that I re-bought variations of all of these pieces (plus a handful of spandex dresses and silky tank tops) too many times to count.

Fitted skirt, H&M, $12.99

Who among us did not own this, the holy grail of going-out skirts, at some point in our early adult lives? My favorite bodycon minis all had a Hervé Léger bandage look that was almost terrifyingly good at curve-enhancing. I went through loads of these — one met its demise after I sat on a wad of gum. Devastating.

Open knit tights, Forever 21, $6.90

I remember a distinct era in mid-2010 when, while living with five other girls, there were so many open-knit tights lying around you’d think we were housing an entire burlesque dance corps. $6.90 may not seem like a lot, but consider the following: how paper-thin these babies were, and how (not) careful I was while wearing them. I usually ended up giving up and embracing the runs in my tights, even deliberately adding to them in an effort to look disheveled and Effie Stonem-y. The longest any given pair lived would be about a month, if I was lucky.

Cotton spandex Double V bodysuit, American Apparel, $38

It physically pains me to think about the number of skintight bodysuits I bought, thinking I’d be the kind of person comfortable with baring my sternum for hours on end (granted, for the first half hour of wearing a plunging neckline like this, I felt unstoppable). Certain bodysuits are functional and save you a good chunk of your life otherwise spent adjusting your shirt and fearing a wardrobe malfunction. This is not one of those bodysuits.

Studded wallet crossbody bag, Zara, $19.90

A good going-out bag should be a few things: small, so it doesn’t throw your back out while you’re dancing; relatively sealable, so your stuff doesn’t go spilling out while you stumble around; most importantly, not so expensive that you’d be distraught if it went missing. The downside of a cheap bag is that it shows wear and tear at light speed.

Ankle boots, Call It Spring, $69.99

I owned a pair of ankle boots identical to these during my semester abroad (yes, this is one of those stories) and wore them, without fail, every time I went out. By the end of my semester, they were in such a state — drenched in spilled drinks, coming apart at the soles, tattered beyond repair — that after leaving a bar, I just chucked them in a dumpster and walked home barefoot. They weren’t the first or last pair of their kind.

Faux leather moto jacket, Forever 21, $37.90

Obnoxiously squeaky, very obviously fake leather jackets were essential to my nighttime wardrobe when I was at school. I had one that managed to stay intact longer than the others that I was convinced brought good luck to its wearer (a friend of mine met her current boyfriend while wearing it one fall night in 2009). I lost track of it a few years later and it’s still missing to this day. I hope, wherever it went, that it has a good life.

Grand total for a typical going-out ensemble: $185.68

Image via Pexels

Erin is a fashion, beauty, and culture writer based in Toronto. She maintains an impressive collection of stealthily-taken dog pictures on her phone, owns five shades of red lipstick but only wears one, and is gifted at making mac and cheese.

  • Kara

    This article is about clothing the author WASTED money on, yet it’s full of affiliate links? I understand the purpose of affiliate links & support them because they support the site, but on an article like this it seems slightly misaligned.

    • Carly

      I was just going to comment the same thing! But good to know they’re not.

    • Holly Trantham

      Hi Kara — these aren’t affiliate links!

      • Kara

        Thank you for taking the time to clarify 🙂

  • I’ve somehow been able to limit my shoe and bag purchases to very few high quality items in the past 6 years and it has worked out great. I took some of the older shoes to get re-soled and they’re good as new so I know it is worth it ultimately. For some reason, I haven’t been able to apply this same logic to clothes. I want a variety of clothes in a way that I don’t want or need a variety of shoes and bags so it’s so easy to fall into the fast fashion trap. I’m overdue for another closet clean-out *sigh*

    • Mj D’Arco

      i think with shoes it’s easier than clothes.. after all how many pairs of black boots you can have before they all look the same.. with clothes tho there are just so many looks and fabrics and vibes

  • Elbee

    Haha yes, I had almost all of these!

  • magdalean

    Ahh, Effie Stonem, that perfectly grungy fashion model…may or may not have been responsible for me wearing only *slightly* overlong tees with sheer tights. This article really resonated, because I definitely did have these things, and when I got older and moved to NYC I found myself chucking most of it. Part of me does miss having an excuse to wear a knockout curve-hugging dress (I still sometimes make an excuse), but I’ve found that in NYC at least most people my age wear really nice normal clothes out, maybe the goal is to seem like you just happen to always wear a great outfit/didn’t try too hard.

  • Piggy

    Jfc I used to hold onto all this shit for years after I stopped wearing it “to da klerb.” It just took up space, making me feel regretful and old. So now I wear that $21.95 bandage dress and impractical sequin heels around town doing errands at 10:00 in the morning! 😉

    • Erin Dunlop

      Thank you SO MUCH for reminding me that I should be using “da klerb” more regularly in everyday conversation. Amazing.

      • Piggy

        Just doing my job, ma’am.