Clothes are fun for me. Although I'm not a model with impossibly long legs who can look good in a bransack, I do manage to put together a cute look. Confidence, I've learned, makes the outfit: combine disposable clothing with the good stuff you've gotten on sale at Neiman's or Nordstrom ( I can honestly say I have pieces I bought eight years ago and still wear) and walk into every place like you own it, and you're money. So I keep the black Theory shift and jacket, the good jeans and the real jewelry. Then I buy five-dollar tees and shoes on major sale, and there I am.
Getting dressed is fun for me. I rarely go to the mall and haven't the time to book a Saturday to shop, but do love it when I run across a bargain as I run through Target. Yesterday I got gray ankle boots for $29.99 while I was running through for kids' snacks for lunches. I am what Gretchen Rubin calls a moderator rather than an abstainer. Among other things, this means that I get panicky when I am told I something is off-limits. Here is her post about the differences.
And yet I still often feel as though I over-consume (a vestige of Depression era thinking in my 1949-built house is entirely present in the miniscule closet, which reminds me each day that at one time a woman and her husband could keep all of their clothes in a tiny space) and so I was intrigued by an article written by Jean Chatsky entitled, "Why You Only Need Six Pieces of Clothing." I work in a distinctly non-fashionista office, and most of my interaction with bosses is via email or over the phone. In contrast, Chatsky is interviewed frequently on television. She's got to look the part of a financial professional. And yet when restricted to six pieces of clothing, not including shoes or accessories, she finds, to her chagrin, that no one notices.
We think we dress for others--and Women Who Dress do so for other women more than they do for men--yet of course we shop and dress for our own reasons, many of them not clear to ourselves. In response to the economic downturn, there is a group of people dedicated to doing away with mindless shopping in the form of an idea of having only a few pieces of clothing, and others that are on a year-long diet from clothes shopping. Amercians are funny that way: either they have to shop 'till they drop, or abstain altogether. The vast majority, at least where I live, are abstainers, based on Rubin's criteria.
I looked in my closet a couple of weeks ago and tried to determine which six pieces I could live with for a month. Them, only them. I wasn't quite like the woman I read about who tried the six pieces for a month and said she didn't even feel like getting up in the morning, though I understood her condition. I can cull, I can stop buying (the Liliputian closet helps) but only six? I felt panicky at the very notion. Yet there are interesting ideas in each movement that have made me re-think my philosophy of dressing and acquiring.
We just don't need as much stuff as we think we do, or at least we all need to find ways to spend our time that don't involve acquiring more of it. But it's hard. If we give up shopping, what will we do? Taking up a new hobby is often a appealing because we can occupy ourselves with getting the accoutrements associated with it. Our world is loaded with enticements to shop, so that watching television or reading a magazine is like being a diabetic working in the candy factory. Doing without, even with financial impetus, is easier said than done.
It's a lot like eating well. Quality and simplicity are what work best, but adhering to these involves saying no more than saying yes. And saying yes is way more fun, especially when life is too busy and not always fulfilling in a deep and meaningful way. I'd like to think that our culture will embrace only taking what we need and do so over the long run, but it doesn't seem likely to me. I will continue in my moderating ways (note: "moderator" can also be called "control freak") and the Target sale rack will be my siren.