Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cutting Back

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.


erica said...

cutting back because i need to focus on saving for future unknowns. and because super nice clothing no longer works with small and adorably messy children.

i have always resisted the siren call of cheap fast fashion. J Crew is my limit.

lately i've been moving back toward a uniform based on button-down shirts, boyfriend jeans, a cardigan, and brogues. dresses are reserved for special events, and everything else is going in the sell/donate pile.

i want sturdy pieces that will last for years. i will always buy a few investment/statement pieces--but that's the collector in me.

i will always want 'things.' but i choose to not buy cheaply made (or expensively priced) things that will fall apart after 5 washes, especially if it helps fuel irresponsible production. it's easy for me to walk by H&M and the Gap, not so easy to say no to 70% off at, say, Bird or CoC!

LivKate said...

I echo Erica's sentiment. I recently went through a pretty decent stretch of austerity in my clothing purchases. However, I have spent a bit on S/S as of late. I am trying to not beat myself over it because, relatively speaking for me, I have spent about 1/3 on clothing than I have in the past. I was literally buying something new every week. This year and last I have actually gone through 6 - 8 week periods without buying clothing -- so its a start, right? I caved in and bought the IM Dicker boots and I LOVE them. I am debating whether to sell my RC Mars boots in an attempt to unload.
I completely agree with Erica's sentiments regarding disposable clothing. JCREW/Madewell is my baseline too. As a mom of a 7 year old and 4 year old I find Steven Alan provides the perfect wardrobe. It has alot to do with all the great cotton he uses in his collections. I am also pleased to say that I have been wearing my IM sweaters and shirts a ton and they have been worth every penny. And this is coming from someone who was very slow in seeing the hoopla surrounding her clothes! But I think it is great that we are talking about spending less and more wisely! This kind of dialogue was barely existent 7 years ago.

Moya said...

Thanks for reminding me about questionable labour practices and overproduction, Erica. That is also a reason why J.Crew/Club Monaco are my baselines, although I am sure their garments aren't made under the same condition as brands like Lyell or Steven Alan.

I am pleased we are all talking about these issues too. I think buying items from ebay isn't so bad as it curbs the production cycle in ways that are environmentally healthy. Of course, it's only worth doing with higher quality brands--the cheaper ones don't survive. I find myself living in the same items right now--Inhabit cashmere sweaters, J Crew and Inhabit cashmere cardigans, Club Monaco, J. Crew, Earnest Sewn and Lyell skirts (add the Mayle Flavia into the rotation), Rag & Bone, Steven Alan and Mayle/Lyell blouses, Rag & Bone pants and J. Crew striped ts. The weather needs to change soon so I can take advantage of my other clothes, including my lovely new Isabel Marant dress.

I also need shoes.

lorochills said...

moya, as always thank you again for this post...i have been learning lately that clothes are fun and its certainly a diversion of sorts...but yes when you are with people you love or experiencing emotionally rich moments the clothes you wear are just that...like you i am really trying not to have major slips...but we human and slips are okay and maybe part of that larger learning process...yes and i think the devil does rear it's head often when you see independent boutiques having killer killer deals...its tough but i know that resisting a small temptation now will eventually lead to a bigger payback later...again you always mange to put it so eloquently thank you!!

erica said...

this 'almost' spring weather is also fueling a lot of my new purchases. i'm buying in anticipation of better weather (and employment!!). after a long winter of austerity, i'm feeling optimistic. fashion is one way i can express this feeling of hope. but at the same time, it's easy to become caught up in the buying frenzy (amplified by blogs).

i think it's so important to talk about these things. so much of blogging is about consumption, and it's good to take a step back and question our motives.

erica said...

and no, i doubt J.Crew's labor practices are particularly good. and their propensity to be 'influenced' by independent designers can be frustrating.

i walked into a J.Crew today to buy a panama hat for a family photo shoot in a week, and i thought i was in Steven Alan (with a special section reserved for IM).

i think SA represents the best of American fashion. manufactured in the US, rooted in tradition yet still playful and inventive, and the sample sales put their clothing just in reach.