I've noticed a theme in several of the blogs I read regularly--including mine--is the writer's efforts to cut back on clothes spending. I am sure some of this economizing has to do with the economy as well as the relatively uninspired affordable items on the market, by which I mean that some of the most beautiful items by the likes of Carven, Suno and Isabel Marant do not fit my budget. Sure I look at my favorite e-commerce sites (I've had little to no time to shop in person for what seems like years), but I've either been uninspired or discovered that items I want have stood out for others too and sold out immediately (like that Isabel Marant cardigan that I still couldn't really afford). I also feel that few things out there are as beautiful, inspiring and seemingly transformative as the pieces that have made me hold my breath in the past. This might be a function of aging (Heaven forbid!) or changing priorities, but I'm not so sure. The items that I've fallen for in the past--Mayle dresses, Surface to Air flats, Lyell coats, whatever--have grabbed me in an irrational way where I have felt this compulsion to own them.
Not that I'm complaining. Irrational consumption has led to a surfeit of items that work only at certain temperatures (generally a temperate warmth that now seems to elude NYC for 9-10 months of the year as we continue basking in winter in April). It has also led me to spend on dresses what many people spend on couches, computers, vacations, etc. As my income looks like it will be drastically reduced next year thanks to cutbacks in education spending (here I don't mean by the state but by the decision makers in Higher Ed who want to invest tuition dollars in overseas campuses not instruction), I can't do it. But then I also see the rails of clothing that fills our bedroom and know that each piece was beloved and may still be adored but if I don't wear what I have, those investments are wasted.
But I was bad last month--what with Lulu Frost for J. Crew bracelets going on sale (I bought them, don't ask how many), the Isabel Marant dress I bought on sale from Creatures of Comfort (it was lovely and 70 % off), the JM/Rachel Comey Gilt splurge. I could go on. I shouldn't. I won't.
So why did I do it? The lure of a bargain. The sense that these pieces were interesting and good investments. An irrational need and pleasure in the act of consumption. Plus I bought to alleviate stress, worry and concerns that made me think you can't take it with you. But (significantly I think) I find myself realizing that clothes don't matter that much as I sit in my friends' Sue and Tim's kitchen and talk to them while playing with their adorable children. Or when I'm watching movies, Sandra Lee clips and eating out with Evan, Ben, Brynn, Ashley, et al. I think that says a lot about the relationship between true contentment and the desires clothes instill in me. Of course, I'm not saying I don't still love clothing (I do and as I watch pre-Code movies I gasp at some of the pieces I see). I just don't have to buy everything I like and sometimes I can and should take a breather to enjoy what I have.
In sum, I'm redoubling my efforts not to slip again. And I will tell myself that when I find myself wondering if cheap clothing (Zara, H&M) will somehow fill some gap, or believing in their much altered promotional photos, and telling myself it won't count if I buy something. It will and hopefully I won't. And with some pride I can say I resisted some cashmere bargains at Club Monaco. Small steps maybe, but hopefully I can keep this up. The only things I really need are shoes for this interim period between the never-ending winter and summer. And that is a need, not a want.
Anne Jackson’s English Muffins
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