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May 4, 2011 / Danielle

A Quick Look Back (and Preview to Come)

I know I’ve given you a week-by-week breakdown, but now that I’ve put it on hiatus for three solid months? I’d like to take a quick look at the evolution of my shopping sensibilities in this time of my getting-dressed-in-what-I-got.

Here’s what I remember best.

The first week? Was okay. I was pretty excited, and also had some new things to wear that I was looking forward to sporting. By the second, I’d begun a slow-simmer panic; I was really, genuinely, a little lost on what to wear. Without something new to automatically reach for, I had absolutely no clue where to begin attacking my closet. In the weeks from four-to-eight, I did a lot of mixing with a few key pieces; I knew that I liked this skirt or these tights, so, what could I wear them with?

By week nine, I think, I’d really begun to start making my closet work for me. I began my now-weekly ritual of going through everything and finding stuff I hadn’t worn in a while or at all, and picking a few specific pieces to build an outfit around. It’s now pretty customary for me to have a short rack of twenty-or-so pieces that I want to wear. Some of them are fully planned outfits, while others are just a particular accessory or piece that I want to find a way to sport. I’m also much better at making sure that even if the laundry piles up, the important, versatile bits (neutral tights, white shirts) get handwashed and dried on a regular basis, so they can always be available when I need them.

By now, I feel like my style – my sense of who I am through these things I love – is really beginning to emerge. And I love that. I’m able to more quickly access what is going to work for me (knowing, after 100 days of paying close attention, what shapes and colors I like reflected back to me in the mirror.) This makes it easier to pull something unworn from my closet and figure out how I can wear it now; and when I can’t answer that question? I start the process of deciding if it’s worth keeping around.

My ability to stay strong under pressure has basically come and go in waves. I get hit with some relatively intense cravings in times when I’m stressed out, busy, or emotionally worn down (as you might expect).  Moments of self-restraint in other areas generally lead to some pretty dramatic desire-for-clothes as well; the first two weeks on my healthy diet were a big challenge (I wanted to buy everything in sight), but I was able to stay strong, add things to my wishlist (for hunting down in January, should I so desire), and move forward without breaking.

I wondered at the beginning of the year what it would be like to finally have nothing new to wear (nothing I hadn’t worn before) – and obviously, I still do have one or two lurking pieces that I’ve never put on. Honestly? This may change a bunch as I wear and wear and wear what I own for the next three months, but right now, I’m feeling really okay about it. (Truthfully, sometimes, I don’t even remember what is still unworn.) Having had such a constant craving for new things, I really like this more “loving-what-I-got” feeling I have these days.

I’m also feeling cautiously optimistic about my ‘shopping with purpose’ goal, as it develops. Looking at what I’ve worn over the past 100 days has been incredibly informative; it’s useful to make myself face what I am actually wearing. That, in turn, makes me realize that while I certainly don’t need more clothes? I should be able to shop, in the future, for clothes I will actually get use out of. Versatile skirts, casual jackets, plain Ts, neutral-but-pretty flats – these are all things that I’ll put to frequent good use. So they’re worth getting. (In 255 days).

(If you have a similar issue as I did – buying things that are pretty, cheap, and such a good deal oh my god you know I’ll wear it sometime and why not why not – then I can’t, honestly, recommend anything better than documenting what pieces are getting out of your closet over the course of several months. It’s kind of mind-boggling, how many things I realize I haven’t put on in easily a year or two. And these are pieces I adore! But because I had so many things, and so many new things, I paid the old no mind.)

All of this has kickstarted my rumination about the Great Purge of 2011 – getting rid of the things I don’t wear. This is, in a word, scary. I’m still working through the reasons that I’m so attached to the clothes I’m not even wearing -and at this point? I think it has a lot to do with losing wearable options ( . . . even though I’m not wearing them.) (I didn’t say this all made sense.)

But. I’m definitely not taking everything with me on my cross-country move, and I feel, on a deeper level, wildly positive about getting rid of things that are simply making it more difficult to get dressed. (Keeping only all my A+ options? Seems a great way to let myself feel good in everything.) There’s something fantastically zen about keeping what I love and letting the rest go, and I love the idea of opening my closet to just see a perfect small array of clothing (everything fitting, everything suitable-t0-my-lifestyle, and everything adored).

I’ve got eight and a half more months of working with what I’ve got. I’m sure those will be equally informative, and I hope I keep strong enough not to fall off the wagon. ( .  . . still want that Glanz dress.)  And I’m still looking forward to mixing and matching – there’s just a whole. bunch. I’ve yet to show you all – and once you’ve seen all of that? I’m still sure there’s plenty to mix and match with. (Suggestions? Tell me!)

Beyond that – I’ve been working on a few thoughts on the shopping fast, and how to prepare/what to expect (in case you feel like doing your own, as some of you have mentioned.)  Keep an eye out for those, coming up soon!

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2 Comments

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  1. jesspgh / May 6 2011 10:14 pm

    I am really glad I found your blog via anthroholic. I love how you write and I think you are as smart as a whip! Your words resonate with me a lot right now. I did a purge of barely worn things recently. I am still sorting. And I can’t believe how much quantity I have. I partially blame the Great Sales of 2008, during which I was able to really afford to transition my wardrobe to mostly fancier stuff (away from fast fashion which wasn’t that much cheaper than 85% off DVF). My shopping increased into early 2009 then began to slow down when retailers stopped buying enough stock to have much left for the discount racks and last call sales. Now I am proud to say that I abstained from both Saks Friends and Family and Bloomies’ recent Private Sales.

    I definitely think that my recent consumption curbing has led me to think more critically about *why* I want the new when I have things already similar or even dissimilar but mostly unworn.

    To a significant degree, the process of starting a blog (which I did four years ago around this time of year) enabled me to justify new things with ease. Blogging and reading blogs of others fed into my desire for more. Because even if I wasn’t going to some fancy party that required an occasion dress, I could buy it and review/wear on the blog, with the intent to find an occasion in the future. But what often happened was I bought dresses months in advance of eventual events. By the time it was time to wear them, the luster and lure had already worn off that barely worn item. I wanted something new. And I re-used the event as the excuse. It’s actually kind of embarrassing to confront these shopping demons.

    Your blog is really helping me make sense of my own relationship with shopping and consumption. Although I am not technically on a strict ban, I have made a conscious effort to buy less. It was actually my somewhat unsuccessful resolution for 2010. That year I was planning a wedding, trying to finish my dissertation while I had a writing fellowship, and applying for academic jobs. All of these stresses led to emotional buying. I craved quick fixes when I didn’t have time or the emotional energy/courage to seek actual therapy. I still do this, actually. It is so much easier for me to rationalize a quick stop in Anthropologie to check out the sale room than it is to take the time to do something healthy or productive otherwise. It is a struggle (in that privileged sense of “struggle” because I realize there are people far worse off).

    • Danielle / May 7 2011 3:04 am

      Oh, Jess – thank you for all of the lovely things you said. It’s amazing what builds up when we’re not paying attention, isn’t it? And how incredibly important it was to me to be able to buy all the things I wanted, and just as you said – I was honestly very embarrassed by my shopping demons, especially by how important it felt to have something that was brand new. And I absolutely feel you on fashion blogging making temptation more difficult – before I quit (and I was shopping SO much then), I knew that I’d only get worse if I had my own blog! (So fortunately, this project got to marry the two needs, hurrah.)
      I’ve been thinking a lot lately that my shopping, as well as a manifestation of my stress/frustration/boredom (as I’ve mentioned before), was also a way to hide from myself artistically. Rather than facing my disappointment and frustration with where I was, artistically (which meant having to work harder and be more vulnerable, and braver), I’d just say ‘well, here’s something I can achieve easily” – and buy a skirt. Or dress. Or necklace. or shoes. Or . . ahem . . all of ’em. (I’m gonna think that over a bit more and write it up at some point, I’m sure.)
      But everything you’re saying – I so hear you. And in many ways, that’s why my “nothing new” rather than “limited new things” works best for me – it’s much, much easier for me to self-enforce abstinence rather than moderation. (I think that’s a big difference between people – and whichever works best for you? is obviously the right path.) It’s so much easier for me to say no to everything than to have to choose!
      At any rate – congratulations on your conscious shopping – that’s so great! And it’s great, too, that you’ve taken the time to examine your behavior when it was worrying you, figure out why, and find a way to move forward that you’re comfortable with. I am, clearly, pretty much on board with that.
      I’m so glad to have you here!

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