For the sake of adding bulk to this blog, I’ve decided to pull from things I already have written. This was a submission I sent in to my friend Ida’s financial blog. You may be picking up on a fashion-theme here, but I promise that this will be the minority of my subject matter going forward. I had a lot of fun with this one, so enjoy!
If I told my friends I’d be writing an entry in a frugality blog, I’d get more than a few raised eyebrows. You see, I’m not a saver and I’m not thrifty by nature. I love shopping and have been known to covet a pair of boots so desperately my preoccupation bordered on obsession. Certainly I commit one or more of the seven deadly sins every time I shop.
We all know that the days of smothering ourselves in luxurious wardrobe overhauls are on hold (as if we really did that anyway). But are we resigned to martyr ourselves on the altar of a failing economy?
I first heard the word “recessionista” last year in a fashion magazine and was instantly ensnared. Here was a term that would absolve me of my devilish obsession with fashion while easing up the mileage on my Visa. You mean we are still allowed to look great on a tight budget? Yes, but only if you’re willing the break the rules a bit.
Now, we all know the basic tricks of shopping frugally – TJ Maxx, end of season sales, coupon codes, etc; but what about the basic chicanery of fashion? Knowing how to be a little naughty can save you a lot in the long run. Here’s how a little sin can save the soul of your wardrobe.
Do you ever get over-zealous when you shop? The fashion bloggers tell you that you must have the basics in your closet: skirts and pants and blazers and shoes and tanks and tees and blouses… but the basics that you truly need all depend upon your lifestyle, career, and taste. A homemaking super-mom is not going to need the same basics as an executive office dweller. Additionally, there’s no point in stocking your closet with pencil skirts if you’re as lazy as I am at shaving your legs. Finally, don’t force yourself to be preppy when you’re most comfortable in slovenly boho garb. So slack off on packing the complete package into your closet. You’ll overspend on items you won’t wear.
The beauty of a proud peacock is the unapologetic bravado with which it boasts its color. Whoever said that black goes with everything told the biggest and most convincing lie in the fashion world. I cannot tell you how often I’ve tossed on a pair of black pants, only to realize that I can only pair it with red, white, or another black (Note: if you put black on black, they must match perfectly or the outfit is a huge failure, and matching blacks are hard to find). Black pants, pumps, and skirts should be purchased sparingly when you are selecting your wardrobe basics. I get more mileage from my taupe pants, my gray boots, and my teal dress (all colors found in the peacock, as it were). All these items are racier versions of their neutral cousins and add flair to your wardrobe. Try it; take a color risk and pair these items together. You may be proud of yourself.
I know the feeling: you saw a fashion fad an HAD to have it – oh the guilt! But pigging out on fashion fads isn’t as lamentable as you think. Remember four years ago when you considered buying a pair of leggings, but decided that no one would be wearing them next year? Well they are still around, though their wear has evolved year over year. The truth is a fashion fad will stay around longer than you’d expect, and you can keep current by staying up to date on the newest ways to wear them. Used to be you could only wear skinny jeans with boots; now heels and sneaks are perfectly acceptable parings. Choose a version of said fad in neutral color (see above for the anti-black rule) and keep an eye on how celebrities are donning them around town. *A quick side note: the key to following celebrity fashion is to watch what they wear when they are at their drabbest (think a trip to Starbucks) – sloth at its best.
Nothing is more seductive than running your hands over the supple leather of a designer handbag or fondling the grommets of a fantastic pair of boots. But is that too painful to bear when you know you can’t have them? In my opinion, remaining fashionably chaste can often lead to over-indulgence – think Catholic schoolgirl goes to college. Many of us will simply avoid the high-end designer boutiques, merely because we cannot afford their wares. If you completely deny yourself the delicious stalking of, say, a pair of Gucci boots, you won’t remember what you are missing, nor will you truly appreciate a fantastic steal when they come about. (If I didn’t covet Michael Kors I wouldn’t have realized that $50 at Marshall’s for a pair of pumps was too good to pass up). Not to mention the fact that the cheap stuff just builds and builds and builds in your closet. If you have five pairs of marginally wearable Target shoes in your closet, you could have splurged on one pair of amazing heels, saving you closet space and the guilt of donating the rejects.
In complete contrast to the last paragraph, less is not always more. Sacrificing a bunch of acrylic sweaters for one great cashmere piece is not saintly. No one ever told me that wool shrinks, cashmere stretches, and cotton wrinkles. I had to learn the hard way that natural and luxurious fabrics are a frugal fashionista’s worst nightmare. Not only are they expensive and time-consuming to maintain (dry cleaning, ironing, special detergent etc), but also they are not as comfortable and as versatile as their synthetic counterparts. This is not necessarily permission to buy loads and loads of cheap items, but rather an opportunity to educate yourself on the fabrics that work best for you and exploit your discoveries. I happen to love a blend of polyester and Lycra for my pants (from Express) because of its durability, comfort, and low maintenance –so I bought that pair of pants in six colors. This education also comes in handy while shopping online. I know that if a pair of pants is 100% cotton they will need constant ironing, and I just won’t wear them. Take a look at the tags of your favorite items, and make smart, greedy purchases based on their make-up.
We all have that friend – that flawless fashionista who flounces fierce frocks unfettered by floundering finances. We love her. We hate her. We want to be her. But you need not flog yourself for your jealousy. If you’re close with her, ask to borrow a piece in exchange for babysitting her malti-poo while she parties in the Hamptons for the weekend. If she’s a frienemy, don’t bother trying to match wits with fake designer garb – she’ll see through it and could possibly out you. Take the basic silhouette and make it your own. Notice how she uses the items she has, and pick the most versatile pieces to copy (accessories are the easiest to do this with). It may be bratty, but it’s not a sin to rip off another girl’s look. If she dares whine about your covetous behavior, remind her that flattery is the most sincere form of compliment. Then sneeze in her Fendi bag.
“No wire hangers EVER!!!” Joan Crawford may have been taken the wardrobe histrionics to epic proportions, but she wasn’t that far off base. Your closet should be a temple in which you worship your beloved duds and treat them with respect. This includes staying organized and utilizing high quality storage options to keep your clothes looking new. Every spring I get so angry at the state of my drawers I yank them all out, dump the contents on the floor and reorganize one piece at a time. It’s cathartic, if not a little frightening to watch. Additionally, a small hissy fit can actually improve the wearability of your stuff. One unfortunate Maxi dress of mine recently lost a battle with an escalator at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. The bottom was completely shredded, and I was wrought with rage over the wasted frock. So I did what any self-respecting drama queen would have done; I took out my scissors and hacked off the bottom, leaving me with an adorable mini. I’ve since manually “altered” another maxi, turning the leftover ring of material into one of those hot new infinity scarves. Hell hath no fury…
Despite what the wealth gurus preach, a frugal fashionista can be cost-conscientious without being a martyr. Decadence should not merely be reserved for the trust-fund crowd; women of all income brackets can learn how to bend the rules in order to look fabulous on a budget. So bear witness to your wicked ways; Hades has never looked so hot!