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May 16, 2011 / Danielle

The Lure of the New


I may have mentioned last week (here, I’ll catch you up), that my good friend LJ’s roommate was doing a closet purge. As LJ is, in fact, a good friend – she not only pulled a few great things for herself, but picked out a few odds and ends for her (ever so enormously grateful) little redheaded friend – moi.

Because of her awesome generosity, and her eye for my style, I officially had my first ‘new to me’ clothes of the project.

And how I reacted to it? Really, really surprised me.

First, I was full of a fierce excitement and hunger I vaguely recognize from my shoppin’ days. Not the same pit of the stomach “oh, god oh god should I spend the money”, fortunately, because I was lucky to get these hand-me-downs gratis; but definitely that old familiar sensation of “gimme gimme gimme”. Who might I be in these clothes? what kind of marvelous reinvention awaited me?

(Sidebar; whenever people are giving up clothes, it’s frequently the simple and basic items, and yet my mind always imagines stacks of vintage frocks, beribboned and jeweled and cut in fantastic shapes and colors, decked with beading and sequins and basically a luscious treasurebox of clothes .  . .  clearly, this is my fantasy giveaway pile.)

In any event, I came away with LJ’s wonderful offerings; mostly simple J. Crew ts and cardis, a button-up shirt or two, and a quirky little Marc Jacobs sweater. These were all truly perfect; none of them like anything I already owned, and all of them, conveniently, pieces that would work wonderfully in my upcoming life as a graduate actor-type.

Guys? I could not. wait. to put them on.

No, seriously.

No, seriously.

I wanted to wear them all at once. I wanted them to be the clothes I lived/slept/breathed for the next full week. I didn’t care what was seasonably appropriate, I didn’t give a crap what I’d planned or where I was going, I just wanted to wear ’em all the time. 

I wanted to put on something new in which I’d never seen myself before, and be completely reinvented.

The first day, I chose this simple and classic J. Crew button up. My insane puppy-glee at getting it in the first place gave away to this total giddy high the moment I put it on.

. . . .And then? Transferred to a sort of anxiety. How would I style this? Oh my god I liked it, I felt great in it, I wanted to run around in trousers like Katharine Hepburn or Rosie the Riveter – I wanted to be one of those gorgeous women who are stunning and simple in the most classic of essentials – with my hair curling loosely and lusciously at my shoulders, or up in a Swedish-style braid, perhaps.

(Again – style by dress-up and ‘who would I be?’)

So it was a bit of a shock that it was so hard to wear. Owning nothing like it, I had no idea what it needed. It didn’t tuck smoothly into my circle skirts. Nor would it lie over them, without making me look ridiculous and marshmallow-shaped. It was too big to tuck in and too small to wear over. Finally I settled on my pencil skirt, but a little seed of worry had be planted in my mind. Maybe – just maybe? This amazing lure of the new was more complicated than I thought.

That night at work, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror as I washed my hands, and thought;  “hmm. It’s definitely a little too big at the waist. And -” and this was the shocker of shockers ” maybe I’m not so infatuated with it after all. Maybe I don’t need it.”

After my utter shock at my own nonchalant realization, I thought “Huh. But I’ve felt this way before.”

How many times have I bought something, been so thrilled and excited and gleeful, and then worn it immediately – only to discover it was sort of imperfect? The skirt hiked up and twisted as I walked, or the top kept slipping off my shoulders and showing my bra, or the heels were practically inhumanly cruel to my feet. Of course, I would never encourage a return post-wearing – that’s not on – but when I count the number of items I’ve purchased that earned a “huh” on their second wear? I’m shocked that I didn’t pay attention sooner.

As we know, if it doesn’t fit? It’s out. If it hurts? It’s out. (well. I mean some of those heels have a BIT of leeway. But not these.)

To be clear; I’m still wildly grateful and excited about my newbies. But they definitely created as much confusion and frustration as they did joy. Not because they’re not useful and versatile pieces; but because I’m so accustomed now to sorting through what I have that the mere idea of something completely foreign is jarring. I don’t know where to start styling it; I’m not sure how I make it look like me.

And, worst of all? It ruined my closet. I was beyond petulant when it came to returning to everything I already had. “Ugh, I wore that last year” I sighed in my head the next morning, flicking my hair and pouting. I wanted my high back. I wanted a shiny, pretty, gorgeous something new again; I wasn’t ready to go back to the person I had already been defined as, to play with everything I already knew.

It only took two days of new things to undo half of the goodwill and love I’d developed towards my closet. Everything else now feels boring and unsightly, relics of my past, whereas shiny new things – physical evidence that I am moving forward in time, getting things done, changing and being alive – that was wildly tempting.

I’m not going to turn around and get rid of the new things I received – if nothing else, because I need them for graduate school (that kind of casual, comfortable dress is exactly the actor-wardrobe I’ve got in my head.) (Umm. And I still have to wear half of them, hurrah, huzzah!)

But my relationship with clothes – especially, the sparkly attraction of NEW? – is something I’m clearly not as through examining as I’d like. My perception is clearly, clearly skewed. Here’s an example; the day after my brush-with-the-newbies, I was playing with cardigan options for that day’s outfit, and reached for my Anthro Breezy Rides cardi. My instinct was to recoil; I feel as if you’ve all seen it a ton – that I’ve worn it and worn it and worn it into the ground, that it’s boring and I’m being unoriginal by throwing it on, that I’m not being creative or taking a new risk or trying something different when I wear it, but am falling back into a (cute) fashion rut.

And yet, when I looked back on the previous times I’d sported it . . .

Guys? I have officially worn it a scant seven times in this project.

Just to repeat: Seven times. 124 days. Apparently, that’s ‘boring’ to me.

(That’s a project cost-per-wear of $4.28. Just sayin’.)

Clearly? I’ve still  got a ways to go in getting a grip on my taste of the new.


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