Sunday, May 19, 2013

Empowered Fashion

Well, my experiment lasted 6 months.

Beginning in December, and going until May, I did not purchase any new clothes. My plan was to do this for an entire year. I even pledged to give away much of my existing wardrobe, though that was primarily because I was tired of it and/or many items no longer fit. I had several reasons for this experiment, all noble and very liberal-conscientious-almost pretentious sounding.

But by May 1st, I'd quite had enough of opening my closet door with zero enthusiasm. So I went shopping.


In pink silk, fresh from the salon...
 Because I like clothes. Alot. And shoes. And jewelry. Does this make me a shallow, lemming-minded person who has no depth or real life purpose?


Back in fall, when I wrote a feature article on fashion for a local online magazine, ( a friend asked me how it felt to write about something so trivial as high fashion. I'm not sure why they asked me this; fashion is hardly trivial. It's an industry, a lifestyle, a huge part of how we define who we are. I have read fashion magazines since I was 12 years old. And though from time to time I like to explore my own ideas about style, blending thrift store jeans with department store shoes, a hand-me-down jacket with a DKNY blouse, vintage gemstone jewelry with brassy finds from the $1 jewelry shop, I've come to realize is this one, simple thing - when we look better, we feel better, no matter what our style.

New shoes, new hoodie, new hair - because kids like to look good, too!!
At 39, I've been through many phases of style, but now prefer a more sophisticated look. And why not? I'm a grown up, and I've waited a long time to dress like one. During my shopping hiatus, I took a critical  look at my wardrobe, and thought, for the most part...bleh.

Ugh...that's all I'm going to say.

I took a good long look at a few items and asked myself, "What were you thinking?" Then I got a big black bag and filled it up so much that Stacy and Clinton (of What Not to Wear fame) would have been proud. I think it's the typical mom thing - with the kid comes the desire to go for ease and convenience with clothes and in the end we realize our entire wardrobe is composed of beige, wrinkle-free garments with lots of elastic. In the far back, somewhere, are designer jeans and strapless dresses but who has time for that now? When I did want a little flair in my style, I went back mentally to my post-motherhood days, when I shopped over-priced vintage clothing stores on the streets of Ann Arbor and sewed sequined things onto the legs of my jeans. I don't know why. It just seemed to fit.

But that all changed during my 6-month shopping hiatus. I noticed fashion more once I wasn't purchasing it, and I realized that I had no real, authentic desire to dress like the 23-year-old art student whose most prized posession was a pair of perfectly faded 501 jeans with a sequined rose vine climbing up one side. And because I had given away most of my wardrobe, come spring, there was no other choice...I went shopping.

I love these shoes so much, I want to marry them...
And it was so glorious, I did it again.

And again.

My man friend laughed, saying he knew I couldn't do it, go a whole year without buying clothes, but he's a trendy Euro-chic guy who would not be caught dead in public wearing sloppy jeans and/or a baseball cap himself, so he can't throw stones at my love of clothes. (He even has a Nomination bracelet like the one he gave me, but without the dangling silver star, of course!) And wise soul that he is, he never saw the point I was trying to make in my no-shopping mission. It just took some time before I realized I didn't really see the point in what I was doing, either. He laughed when I explained how I had chosen to end the vow and buy some spring tops. It's both frustrating and warming to the soul when someone knows you better than you know yourself. And I also realize that a love of fashion does not negate any depth or originality in person's soul. I've learned that the best things about a person are the things you get to see when you take time to get to know them, and even the most enlightened person will make a quick judgement based on a person's style - or lack of it.  We all need work in this area. But I've decided if I'm gonna be judged, I'd rather it be because I'm overdressed for an event rather than looking like I got dressed in the 1990s for it.

So did I learn anything else from my 6 months off shopping?


I learned that the department stores miss you when you don't visit often. They send out the big guns, with amazing coupons and discounts and something-for-nothings for cardholders that make me wonder how they make any profit at all. But I'm not going to complain; I refurbished my wardrobe for near pennies by saving these coupons up. I learned some things seem more noble, but they really aren't a big deal to most of the world. I learned that feeling good and looking good are often inter-connected. I learned there is no shame in loving and desiring quality, pretty things. I learned that my entire attitude changes when I slip on my D & G sunglasses and purple (faux) snakeskin pumps. Does it change who I am inside? Of course not. But it does make me feel empowered when I know I look stunning, and that's a pretty damn good feeling.

And that, my loves, is the entire purpose of fashion.

Go get some.

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