Coast Modern in Seal Beach, CA.

Dori who writes over at Dorigamii brought up some points in her recent post about shopping that made me think back on my own evolving values. I found the exercise interesting. She talks about the price vs. quality conundrum while shopping (“…how hard it is for me to come to grasps with dropping a lot of money on nicer clothing”), avoiding using specific items because of cleaning costs or fear of damage,  and a desire to pinpoint weak areas of her wardrobe to be addressed in future purchases. These are all things I have done and still touch upon sometimes when I shop.

I think a good reason why this post interests me is how it calls to mind the changes I’ve undergone with regards to my own shopping habits. I’m not at all “enlightened” or have become some minimalist minion touting restrictions left and right. But I’ve cut down on a lot of extraneous browsing “just looking!” window-shopping trips. I’ve also used my somewhat detailed (read: obsessive) research of items more efficiently–the time spent trying everything on those browsing trips showed me where to shop first for a higher rate of fit/quality/price success; a steady stream of promotional emails means a sale is ALWAYS around the corner, and I’m practicing daily on that mental fortitude needed not to impulse buy. If I do slip up and pull the trigger on something, I try to figure out why. It’s almost always an emotional reason. Feelings of inadequacy is a frequent one.

I would even hazard to say that even as we “bloggers” (really, regular people over here) write our own wardrobe philosophies, it does not neatly apply to everyone. I started with goals to look professional and appropriate and “me.” But that last variable, me, is still rapidly changing! How can I effectively shop for a me I haven’t met? Luckily, most of what I bought when I first started my now full-time career is still a favorite and still fits. There were a few items that faded poorly and a few sizing mistakes that became apparent with weight loss (they were non-salvageable–I’m not going to spend half the cost to tailor a wool coat I can donate. Chalk it up as a lesson.) It’s hard to preach any one specific school of thought with regards to how to edit and replenish your wardrobe. So much can happen. Needs change, bodies change, circumstances change. There is no universal “wardrobe staple.”

The last thought fragment I want to discuss is the growing awareness of the effort it takes to shop. I noticed that I came home from browsing trips less happy, and more somber (because inadequacy: “I can’t afford it” or “It didn’t look good on me.”) I also knew for a while that the euphoric feeling after new purchases grew shorter and shorter. Why such little payoff from so much money and effort expended? Looked online because you saw a sale. Spotted a potentially cute shirt with enticing 30% off code. Made plans after work to check out the shirt. Drove 15 miles to the mall, parked the car, walked half a mile to where the specific store is. Found the item on the rack, tried it on in the dressing room, mulled it over for fifteen minutes. Lined up at the counter, paid for it, walked back to the car and drove home. By the time I got home and hung up the new shirt I’d already lost the excitement of new item!!! and it had visibly and mentally joined the pile in my closet.

In some ways I kind of want that shopping high back, like yeah! I bought the thing. The thing in the nice color and cut I always wanted. But if it means that the importance of material objects is diminishing, back to its proper place (IMO, to where 1. the item serves its purpose and is the best at doing so 2. ideally it also satisfies the aesthetic I want to project) then I’m OK with that too. It’s just funny that it used to be such a thing–yay new stuff because new stuff. Now it’s yay new stuff, now I can go to work feeling comfy AND on fleek in these new black sneaks (I am waiting to acquire said black sneaks. Another story, another time.)

I hope that wasn’t too convoluted to follow. Nothing I’m saying above is revolutionary; to me, however, it feels somewhat cathartic as well as a sort of way-marker for the person that I am in this point in time. It is also possible, as one of my dear friends likes to remind me, that I am overthinking things as usual (isn’t that what a blog is for? I can just blahg ad nauseam to my little heart’s desire.) What is the most you’ve ever done to shop for or buy something? Was it worth the effort? What (if any) sort of experience do new purchases give you?

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9 thoughts on “Effort expended

  1. The overthinking part can be taxing though! When you try to simplify and be more mindful, there is more mind wrecking about what to buy or not, and when etc. I guess this also takes some “instant fun” out of shopping. But in my humble opinion, it also yields many rewards, such as a more adequate collection of objects and a longer term satisfaction of having found suitable pieces to enjoy for months or years to come. I find shopping to be annoying these days, but when I do find something suitable I’m happy about it longer than if it was an impulse purchase. But are objects worth so much overthinking? I hope it makes sense, this is a tired “I should be going to bed now” night…

    1. And the sheer effort to check things out in-store! I know Pret’s a fan of shopping in person–I enjoy the trip where I’m dead sure about something and all I have to do is go pay for it and walk out. But I now have less patience in general to fit stuff–the music is always too loud, and the physical effort of shrugging your clothes off and on multiple times is annoying.

  2. I can totally relate to this when I was starting my wardrobe from scratch—and that was before “blogs” and as a broke (first time) college student at that. My goal was to look neat and appropriate. The thing about having an effortless wardrobe, it takes A LOT of effort. You have to put in all the thinking during the purchase process, so that you can roll out of bed & pull blind & be secure that you look put together in the morning. When I was redoing my wardrobe 10 years ago, I would buy the most random stupid things and my wardrobe made absolutely no sense. So I had a closet full of nothing to wear & make believe clothes for me to wear in lala land. Now that I’m more conscious or “obsessive” about fit/color/material etc… I can get dressed (for work) in less than 2 minutes.

    One of the many reasons I wanted to shop in person more or as I call it “shop like a tourist”, was because I tend to value the items I bought in person more, than just getting a box and throwing it into the closet. But in person shopping can have its own frustrations too, especially that its ridiculous when size 00 are still too huge on me or this darn ankle length being the norm now. Yahyah skinny girl problems boo-hoo.

    When I feel compelled to have something, I will go to any lengths to track it down! I’ve called all over town & out of state to track things down. And I had to fight for months for my Samourai bag. I’m sure at the time it was worth it. Lol! As I’m learning not to settle for almosts, and it’s not like I will be roaming the streets naked if I don’t have whatever IT is. I can wait years. Sometimes I’m doing the “recon” work a year ahead—esp. for big ticket purchases. I’m not too impressed by current fashion, so the designer items I want are usually YEARS old and long since discontinued.

    1. “The thing about having an effortless wardrobe, it takes A LOT of effort. You have to put in all the thinking during the purchase process…”

      THIS T_T

      This is me and my running shoe/sneaker conundrum right now. I’ve got these new orthotics I have to deal with (and that I won’t give up, as it has improved my running/foot pain in general) but not every shoe is deep enough to accommodate it. So my purchase process has literally been going to shoe stores and shoving my feet and the orthotics in every model possible until I find something that fits my foot. And is black and cool enough to wear without looking like I’m going trail running.

      I hate it.

      It’s either I wear non-supportive, flashy swag shoes, or I’m in an impressive fortress of Vibram sole and padded mesh that makes me look like a walking North Face ad.

      Also not hating on your tall skinny probs at all. I won’t know what it’s like, since ankle length anything is actually the proper length for me (lol), but I can empathize with the frustration of going to a store and nothing works.

  3. I definitely agree there are no wardrobe staples. I am not falling into the staple trap again!!

    In regards to finding the perfect item, I actually think it’s half the fun for me. And I know that buying something that I’ve spent ages looking for in terms of the best prices/material/fit gives me a much better high than impulse buying or settling on something (which generally ends up making me feel guilty for ages). At the beginning of this year, I was convinced that I needed slim, cropped black trousers and I think I bought and returned about three pairs of them. I just couldn’t find any that specifically fit what I wanted… and now a few months later I’ve realised that I’ve been fine without them in my life! That’s so many hours wasted on looking for pants I didn’t even end up wanting haha. I actually feel a kind of sick sense of happiness from being able to walk away from something that I wanted to impulse buy, or a weird sense of relief from trying something that I liked on and finding it not suitable.

    1. Slim cropped black trousers sound nice 🙂 I’m with you on the difficulty of finding a good fit though. A lot of what is out for black trousers (at least, when I was looking last year) had odd crotch/hip fit issues due to being low-rise. I’m sticking to straight leg midrise black pants for work for now.

      Why do you feel relieved at avoiding the purchase? I almost hear you challenging yourself to like it/purchase it, and when you don’t that is a triumph?

      1. Hmm. I guess at this point I know I don’t *need* to add to my wardrobe anymore (I mean, I can add more to put together more outfits that I feel good about, but really can survive without) so I guess my main aim is to NOT buy more I guess? But I do still love window-shopping, and there are always things catching my eye!

  4. “In some ways I kind of want that shopping high back, like yeah! I bought the thing. The thing in the nice color and cut I always wanted.”

    Yesss. I definitely hear this. I loved hearing your thoughts on this topic!

    I kind of disagree with the wardrobe staple thing though. I think they exist, but there’s no *universal* wardrobe staple. They might not be a staple for Jane, but slim black cropped trousers were an all-day-everyday thing for me back when I had a client facing job. They still are, but I wear them a lot differently these days.

    1. “Universal” is the part I take issue with. I mean, I suppose I should know enough to not be intimidated by grand lists of “10 things every woman needs in her closet,” but sometimes, that stuff does sway me. That’s how I got on the white oxford shirt train…if I could re-do that purchase again I would have prioritized buying beater ones in broadcloth and cotton first before trying to buy the dress versions (e.g. Brooks Brothers and the like.)

      I get that writing such a list might be attractive to the reader by providing some guidance, but I wish I could tell old me that needs and inclinations are worth examining before purchase (and budget of course.) I would tell old me that a white oxford shirt would not be very effective cost-per-wear wise because I spill and rub up on things and this tendency would make me avoid wearing white in general.

      Super personal, but those were things I didn’t know to consider when first wardrobe building.

      Ugh I could rant about this for hours. CLEANING COSTS. Fabric behavior (shrinking, pilling.) Undergarment woes–black bra white shirt? nude bras? no bras? all part of the debate-purchase process.

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