Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Disorganized thoughts on consuming, two months into my clothing fast

Allow me to acknowledge that it's a privilege to put myself on a "clothing fast" in the first place. The premise is that I can afford to buy myself unneeded clothing and I have decided to cut back. I am at an age where some of my friends own beautiful homes and drive late-model cars and in that context I can get lazy and start to see us as broke. Then I remember that we're in the top 5% of the world's wealthiest people. Broke? Please. Last month we put new tires on the car and our sick cat had to spend the night at the vet getting various procedures and we wrote those checks without flinching. I mean, it wasn't a fun use of one zillion dollars, but we'll be fine, you know?

My guilt about consumption does not make me feel righteous, it just makes me feel lonely. I hear phrases like "starter home" casually invoked. An acquaintance who spent 3 years in an actual hut in Niger in the Peace Corps recently posted a rambling screed to Facebook about the failures of her iPhone4 and the raptures of the iPhone5. Her screen would sometimes freeze, you see. So I guess no one is immune. Everyone wants better and more, and I honestly feel like sometimes in addition to wanting less, I want worse. When my phone battery dies in the middle of the day it feels like a vacation. In some generational inversion, I officially don't understand how to use my parents' TV. Not sure what THAT is all about. Not sure what that is accomplishing.

I don't want to tally up how much I spent on clothing in 2012 because it will depress me. Suffice to say, I spent a goodly amount of dough sending marked-down clothing to my door. (It is important to my sense of self as a thrifty non-sucker that I point out that I almost never buy something at retail) Now I just ignore everything. I see smart ads for fall boots, cardigans, jackets, and they just bead up and roll off me. Nothing can get through. I am a wall.

Target. That place. Nearly every time I go in there to pick up something for the apartment I'd end up with some clearance rack garbage moving down the belt at check-out. The last few times I've been there I've just completely avoided the clothing area. It is a relief.

The temperature is dropping. I wore tights to work today for the first time. I am looking at my fall wardrobe with a bit of a grimace. Hopefully it is possible for me to re-sole my very worn brown knee-high boots and get another few seasons out of them. And I am going to get some of my too-big, unfortunate-silhouetted trousers tailored so I don't feel dumpy at work. Other than that, I gotta deal. I own no fewer than TWELVE cardigans after all.

I am still not sure whether I own more clothes than my friends or whether I just have no place to store them in my apartment. I'm still in the process of purging unnecessary things. It feels great.

My friend Lyn sent me a shirt as a gift and it made me giddy. I wonder if what appeals to me about new clothes is mostly the newness. I feel just as excited when I find a top stuffed in the back of a drawer that I had forgotten I owned.

In a moment of weakness I bought a tank top ($9) to wear for the marathon. Then, after my 15 mile run on Sunday it became apparent that I will not want to wear something cotton soaked in my sweat on a cold October morning so that was a flop probably. Maybe I subconsciously knew that and just wanted a tank top. Hard to say.

It is our anniversary next week and I think I will finally wear those gold shoes.


  1. I think about this a lot. I absolutely consume too much clothing, but never seem to have what I need. I think I have a problem in which I buy a lot of clothing for special occasions, instead of things to wear in everyday life. I wear the things once, and then they sit in my closet to eventually make their way to a thrift store 2 years later.

    So I feel like I'm constantly buying, yet don't have a lot of variety when it comes to work and casual clothes. For instance, too many dress shoes, an adequate selection of work shoes, no casual shoes other than really old sneakers I wear to the gym.

    I have a plan to start a list of things I wish I had when I'm getting ready for a normal day. That way I can see what I am regularly wishing I had and make a more informed decision, than just buying something for an event, because I'm bored, or because it's one of a kind.

    Related: I fall victim to one-of-a-kind marketing. Lots of "special" pieces in my wardrobe, but have only one way to wear them, instead of building out staples that can be mix and matched with the "special" stuff I already have.

    1. My problem is somewhat opposite in that I dread buying clothes for work because I rarely get much use out of them besides wearing them to work, and it's not very "fun" for me. My chest tattoo means I have to wear a very conservative cut of top at all times, and it's not very "me" outside of work.

      I have a glut of casual clothes, but my staples are not always the best fitting (jeans). With weight fluctuations and a love of thrifting, I also have a lot of items that don't quite fit right.

    2. Ooooh, yes, the "special" stuff. In my closet, there are many items that are special in a different way -- spaghetti straps that require a cardigan or jacket over them, gaping armholes that necessitate a tank top underneath them, jeans with a weird rise that require a certain type of flowy shirt on top.

      Those must-be-worn-with-x items are what I've been focusing on removing from my wardrobe in the last year. If I pick up an item and can't think of at least 3 other things I already own to wear it with, it doesn't come home. If it requires another item to make it work, it doesn't come home.

      It's not perfect, but it makes me feel less like I have a revolving door on my closet.

    3. I really need to stop buying things that require me to buy another piece to go with it. Shaelyn, you are dead right about setting a rule that it has to go with 3 other things in your wardrobe.

      Evie, perhaps we should help each other. I can help you figure out your business clothes and you can help me create a casual wardrobe. (Seriously, I only have two t-shirts I like and two pair of jeans.)

  2. For the last few years, I have been attending clothing swaps that a handful of friends host. It's fantastic and chaotic and a total crapshoot on whether you will get something you really like but the net result is always positive. A few people walk away with some new thing they LOVE and most people walk away with things they like or would like to try. And the whole thing is ridiculously fun.

    But it has also opened my eyes to just how much crap clothing we all buy!! We hold these swaps about 2-3 times a year and still, almost everyone manages to bring a fairly major bag of stuff to purge with them each time they come. Granted some of that might be clothing from the last swap that didn't work out but still - IT'S A LOT OF CLOTHES. And at the end of each swap the donation pile (the leftover clothes no one wanted) is always a mountain. Eye opening.

  3. Yes, yes, yes to everything in this post! Evie, I started chronicling everything that I bought this year on my (pathetic) blog, and I couldn't even post March/April's update because I was so embarrassed. I just posted it though, thanks to your post, and am committed to post May-August (which will be easy because I was sick and didn't buy anything). But I have been struggling with this consumerism guilt, too, and wasn't sure what to do about it. I also have similar shopping habits to you - I have a lot of one-off pieces b/c I can't pass up a good deal, and oddly-fitting clothes because of weight fluctuations. But I'm more like Jacqueline in that I have a hard time with casual clothes! I ended up dressing like a 40 year old woman because I just wear my business casual work clothes all the time.