Monday, February 26, 2007

My New Clothes Shopping Guidelines

I love clothes and am really into fashion (I actually started college at a fashion design school before switching to fine art), although you may not think it unless you see me out on a weekend evening. I'm typing this with fingernails painted with Chanel's Ceramic Noir and am happy that black nail polish is in right now for everyone, not just for the freaky.

We are trying to streamline operations here at the Crocker house. So, in an attempt to spend less money on clothes, I have tried to institute some new policies.

My first incarnation of the idea included the policy "Only buy expensive things". This may sound counter-intuitive. However, any time a big price tag enters the equation it forces me to be more discriminating. The most expensive things in my closet have been around a long time and I expect them to be around for a while, as they are more classic. I've gotten rid of a few expensive things and felt tremendous guilt that I didn't choose wisely in the first place--I don't want to experience that again.

I realize that the "expensive only" policy could work except that some of my favorite things come from Old Navy. Before you point out that they make clothes crappily, I admit that 90% of their stuff is cut very poorly as they are only interested in clothing stick-like teenagers who'd look good in a pillowcase with the seams ripped to make head and armholes. Yes, they fade and fall apart faster, but I wear the heck out of them. I've even thought about taking some of the pieces to a tailor and having them recreated in higher-end fabrics. I promise I'm not actually insane.

So here are the current policies:
  1. Consider whether I'd buy it if it was more expensive. A sale price should figure into the decision very little, if at all.
  2. Does it make me say "Wow, I look better" when I put it on? Pretty good is not good enough.
  3. Is it trendy? If so, it has to be pretty cheap. Money spent should correlate with the expected longevity of the garment.
  4. Does it fit perfectly? If not, do I like it enough to pay for alterations? I've discovered tailoring in the last few years, even for things like cheap jeans (it's like drinking cheap wine out of a Riedel glass).
  5. Does it need modification? Will I modify it (whether I do it myself or take it to a tailor)? Do I need another project like this?
  6. Will the fabric bother me in any way? I've learned not to buy any more wool or animal hair ever again. Well I do have a cashmere hat, but it's high-end enough that it doesn't itch.
  7. Does it require dry cleaning or hand-washing? I can handle a few things that are drip dry but every time I buy hand-wash-only things, I end up machine washing them accidentally or intentionally, but with fingers crossed. I am pretty good at knowing what fabrics can actually be laundered but have learned this through expensive experience. If it needs dry cleaning I have to think about how often I'll wear it (special occasion or weekly wear?) and calculate the dry cleaning costs for a year. Ouch!
  8. Don't drink and shop! Never shop after dinner that includes alcoholic beverages.
  9. Don't be seduced. Nordstrom has a mysterious seductive power, especially when shopping with my husband for clothes for him. Do they use aromatherapy or subliminal audio or what?
  10. Don't shop under duress. This is what happens when you realize you don't have appropriate shoes or something for an event. Unfortunately the antidote to this is either A) spend more time planning your wardrobe so it is well-rounded or B) shop recreationally--I must admit I find the best stuff when I'm not looking for anything particular. Any time I go looking for something specific, I can't find it. It's a paradox.
And I must remember the extra effort that comes with buying stuff:
  1. Coming home with a bunch of bags means unloading them, removing tags, figuring where you're going to put stuff in my already-full closet, putting the bags in the recycling (which can mean disassembling the plastic or fabric handles), figuring out whether to keep the extra button provided and where to put it.
  2. Buying a bunch of stuff means having to enter more receipts in my Quicken, reconcile more items on my statement.
  3. More stuff means cleaning out my closet more often. It's something I do approximately twice per year, and although it takes 15 whole minutes, I'll procrastinate about it for months.
  4. Shopping takes a lot of time. In the last few months we've gotten really good at Scrabble because we stopped going to the mall for recreation.
So, I'm sharing what I've learned with you. It's taken 35 years to figure out and is still hard to do but I'm trying.


Alex Fayle said...

When I go out to buy clothes now, I think about what I need but also I remember something that they say all the time on What Not to Wear, which is: it's just as easy to look good as to look like a slob.

So I buy clothes that are nice, even if they are going to be used to garden - because looking good while gardening feels good too.

Kerry Crocker said...

I agree. I think cute workout clothes are essential. And, as I'm taking up golf, I've gotten a few cute outfits but am still looking for a good golf bag that will match both pink and red (I've seen bags in the right color but not with the right features or price). The shoes are a problem too--they're all terrible except for Sandbaggers--I'm on a quest to find them locally.