Necessity or vanity?

I mentioned in previous posts that I’ve taken up running, and earlier this week I talked about running at the beach. This activity has spurred more new purchases than I thought it would! For example, here I am now hankering for a new pair of shorts. It’s been on my mind for about three weeks now. Not that I don’t have any bottoms to wear–if we’re going to be honest, I want shorts because I feel pretty confident about my legs now after about six months of hard work. It’s pure plain vanity, and I guess I could argue that it’s getting warmer and full pants are too hot to run in, etc. But no, I want shorts because I worked for my legs and I want to celebrate them. It’s not the best reason to justify buying anything, but it’s not the worst either. And there lies the rub. How much of my purchases are vanity-pleasing vs. fulfilling actual needs?

When it comes to looking at my purchasing behavior and patterns, I refer to Kali’s insightful writing over at The Nife en l’Air, specifically to her articles on simplicity. I am pretty sure I’m still a highly emotional buyer (I do have some brand preferences *cough* Uniqlo, Nike *cough*), but I am trying to slow my trigger pulling on purchases by waiting at least a month and doing extensive research online before buying. It’s helped to ensure that most of the new acquisitions are 100% well-liked and used as opposed to being dead weight in the closet. However, I still think I could be a more purposeful shopper. Let’s look at those shorts (and workout clothes) again. Here’s my current workout wardrobe:

Pants Tanks
Adidas capris (2) Zella mesh 
ALO bootcut
Bike ankle zip leggings Bras
Champion medium support (2)
Shorts GapFit high impact
Nike Dri-Fit 7-inch inseam North Face racerback
Nike Dri-Fit blue
Nike Dri-Fit black
Nike Element thermal zip

 *purchased in the last month

I filled some gaps in this area of my closet this month:

My two sports bras were fine when I was just primarily walking for exercise, but now that I’ve been running regularly, I need more support.

The North Face bra I got is similar in cut and style to the one above. It’s a basic racerback bra that compresses and holds me in. I’ve yet to test the Gap bra for running, but for jumping jacks and lunges and squats it is more than enough support and I even feel comfortable enough to wear it the whole day.


The Zella mesh tank (similar) was a lucky find at Nordstrom Rack. I was looking for sports bras when I found a mesh black tank with no external logos. I really liked the way it fit and I thought it would be a good alternative for when I could no longer run in Heattech tops due to the weather. It’s been a great addition thus far–I’ve only had it for two weeks but I’ve worn it five times already. I don’t know that buying a second similar tank will be a high priority, but if I find another tank for under $15, I might consider adding a  royal blue or dark purple one to my collection.


I have been looking for a running jacket ever since January. After much deliberation and online stalking, I finally found that the Nike Element Thermal full-zip jacket that fulfilled my requirements: no hood, zippered pockets, and all black.

I am really happy with this purchase for several reasons: though the fit is a bit large (especially in the arms, this is a Medium), it is still slim enough to not drown me in fabric, and I can layer a thicker shirt underneath if I need to. The thumbholes are a happy, non-intrusive addition; the pockets are a godsend–I finally have a place to stow my phone. The Thermal fabric is soft, comfortable to wear, and is effective at adding warmth. I find that I like the jacket so much I’ve been wearing it out to non-athletic activities. It is worth the money I paid for it ($72 + shipping) and with good care it should last me a good couple years like its older Dri-Fit counterpart, which is going on four years now.

Which is vanity and which are needs?

In my opinion, proper foundational pieces like a sports bra, shoes, or a jacket are critical and worth spending the money on. Feet and breasts are body parts that get impacted directly/indirectly by the mechanics of running. I bought the best level of support I can afford (under $30, ideally) but I’m also interested in longevity. I thought the Champion sports bras would last a little longer than one year but they’re starting to stretch out/lose compression. Though I bought them on discount ($10-13 apiece) I still want a product that lasts, so I’ll be doing more research in the future on brands that have good value and performance. A jacket is also important if you will be running in inclement weather. I live in an area with great weather, but in the winter or early mornings there will be a few cool mornings. A layer that protects my neck and keeps my torso warm will be very useful.

Things like tops and extra shorts: I probably don’t need a running-specific tank top or shorts, but I want them. These are rewards and encouragement for me to continue with the activity, plain and simple. I think that’s OK as long as I am aware of my intent and that I keep an eye on my budget.

Have you ever examined your reasoning for buying something? I am curious to know how others prioritize their purchases–do you fulfill needs first, desires, or are the two closely intertwined?


10 thoughts on “Necessity or vanity?

  1. Wow swank jacket! When it comes to workout clothes, I agree that shoes and bras are definite necessities. When it comes to other items, I think that things that make your workout more comfortable could also count – e.g. I sweat a lot when I run, and regular cotton tops just weren’t working for me so I bought a dri-fit tank.

    When it comes to clothes in general, I suppose it depends on your priorities! Technically, I don’t need half my wardrobe, because as long as I have something to cover my naked body with I could survive. But if you like to wear something different every day, or pair certain items together, etc, extra things classed as “want” sort of become “need” I suppose?

    1. *giggles* I wore the jacket to work too. Good cost-per-wear already in its first two weeks! Haha. No but seriously, if sportswear were always appropriate, I’d probably just be in spandex all day every day.

      Re: extra things in the want vs. need column–I totally agree. I tend to wear the same thing daily (e.g. at work) so I’ll sometimes buy two of the exact same shirt (who needs two duplicate shirts?!) but since I’ve identified that I want to wear mostly similar items (and colors too) it becomes justified as a “need.” I’ve had this double-buy work out for me for the most part, and there have been times where I thought I was going to wear a sweater forever and now I have four unused pieces in my closet. Which reminds me, I haven’t worn those in two, almost three years now. It might be time to cycle those out.

  2. I think it’s a very good question to ask ourselves when we examine our wishlist indeed! I believe it is important to ask ourselves why we want to buy something in particular, in order to make sure it is not a purchase mistake in the making, but also in order to make sure you will find something that matches your needs/wishes.

    The case of sportswear is very specific because I think health is at stake too. When you run regularly, get the wrong shoes and it’s all your support muscles that form wrong. I read a study lately on “minimal” running shoes versus high support shoes and the difference on the participant’s feet after 2 years was striking. So I agree with you that it’s important to make some research to figure out what type of shoes and bra you’ll need, even if the adequate items are more expensive in the end.

    On the topic of vanity, I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to “reward” oneself with a nice thing, like a pair of shorts in your case, as long as you *know* it’s a “want” and not a need. Because in that case, if you have an actual need, or budget constraints, you can decide to prioritize the need and postpone the “want”.

    Thanks for the mention btw, I’m glad to hear you like the “simplicity” posts 🙂

  3. A couple of months ago, I started taking ballet again for the first time in ten years and I dropped a bunch of money buying the right shoes, leotards, and tights (and asking my mom to dig some of my favorite old cover ups out of my ancient dance bag.) I suppose I could have kept wearing my yoga clothes, but I know that the new clothes will support my body better, help me look at my alignment, and make me feel good. So, within reason, I say necessity, especially if it gives you that extra little push to get out and run.

  4. Very interesting questions and discussion! Altho i feel it’s easy to go overboard as far as staying away from any purely ‘vain’ or ‘decorative’ or ‘wanty’ or ‘non-necessary’ clothing items. I mean, you have to get dressed everyday and if you enjoy clothing then why not have pieces that combine the ‘need’ and the ‘want’? I don’t see people saying ‘well, you can survive on oatmeal, broccoli and ground beef so you should never eat anything else just because it tastes good’. But clothing is too often considered useless, brainless, and petty. Of course fast fashion is detrimental to the environment, morals, and aesthetics; at the same time what’s wrong with having a couple of extra tees in colors and fibres you like if it doesn’t break the budget? What’s wrong with wanting to look your best? I also don’t see a problem with a little larger wardrobe so as to avoid catastrophe and commotion when your one pair of pants (cause that’s all you ‘need’, which took you months to shop and save up for) is spoiled by a boiling pot of coffee. (Happened to me with a skirt and tea while i was trying for the smallest wardrobe practical, showed me that with all the trouble i have getting/making clothes which work for me that i need to have some buffer built int!)

    to sum up – i feel that pleasure and aesthetics are wonderful qualities to incorporate into a person’s wardrobe. I also feel that all the practicalities are of prime importance, but it’s a false dichotomy to pit the two against each other. hope this makes sense, allergies are on red alert here and my mind’s a muddle!! Have a great day, always enjoy your interesting posts!!! steph

    1. Thank you Steph!

      I like the idea of merging pleasure and aesthetics. And I also am on board with you re: mindful expansion of the wardrobe. I’m getting closer to being 100% prepared clotheswise for most of my life activities, which feels good to know.

  5. oh totally get wanting to show off your legs – after all you worked hard for it! i really should go to the gym more. after my break where i spent on average 6 hours a day walking, my calves have actually muscled up decently.

    i’ve got a nice running jacket from adidas by stella ages ago, it’s a pretty non-descript grey number and i have a sports bra and black running leggings, but otherwise i just throw on whatever clothes are closest at hand – baggy t-shirts, tanks, etc. i really like the drifit series for being fast drying, so i don’t need to buy more gym wear (though, you probably need them 100x more than i do!) – and i find with the right pieces that can integrate nicely into your normal wear (like your jacket) makes for easier decisions!

    1. Ooh, I’ve heard of the Adidas x Stella McCartney collabs, but I didn’t get to see the pieces. Glad to see you’re back from your trips! Can’t wait to read your posts in the upcoming weeks.

      I’m super guilty of ignoring my other jackets in favor of the Nike one right now. It’s just too soft and comfortable and putting it on makes me want to move, so I’m riding that wave of energy to go work out 😀

  6. I have a “Nike preference” too 🙂 I love those shorts, I need some.
    And for me, I always call my husband for purchase advice (literally always…). Whether it’s a want or a need, he can objectively tell me whether I’m allowed to get it or not lol!

    1. Phoning a friend (I don’t have a husband, hehe) is something I’ve definitely done! It helps to have someone else logic it out with me.

      As for the shorts–I got the Nike Tempo Boy Shorts (see Shoreline post) and they are pretty good. The Small is a bit loose in the waistline, but it’s comfortable on and doesn’t make the dreaded rolls and pinches.

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