Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Essential Wardrobe Building

Let's continue the conversation of the essential wardrobe and how it relates to the French concept of joie de vivre. After all, the French are known for the art of conversation! Building one's essential wardrobe first means tearing down what currently exists, as we have discussed. Today I went back into my closet and removed some belts that were too small, a nightgown (I can't stand long nightgowns!) that I didn't even know I still had, some scarves, and other items. These too will go to the thrift store I previously mentioned, which is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays. This means that my three large bags have been sitting in my kitchen since Sunday, when I did the big cleanse. I think this is a good thing. If there was something I really wanted to keep after all, it would not be too late.

For example, yesterday I ordered three pairs of shoes from Kohl's. The dress shoes, pretty nude pumps, were cancelled. I am disappointed. Now what will I do if I need a dress shoe? I have the option of pulling my black high heels back out of the bag. Yet realistically, I wouldn't want to wear them. They make my once-broken knee hurt, and they kill my toes. With the back problems I've been having, wearing high heels would be stupid. The two pairs of ballet flats I ordered, one black, faux patent leather, and the other a purple faux velvet with tassels and silver metal embellishments, will arrive soon. Either of these could be worn with a dressier outfit. Yes, I want a pair of pumps now, because I want my essential wardrobe to be complete. But here is the next lesson: learn to wait.

If I buy something just to have it, but am not excited about it, I won't love to wear the shoes. Therefore, I won't wear them, and I will have wasted money. Instead, I must wait for the right shoes to come along. A local department store is clearing out their summer shoes right now, so they should have some new ones for fall soon. Or maybe if we go shopping for some new clothes and shoes for Beezy, I can look at the designer shoe outlet store about a half hour away. Perhaps when I drive to Ft. Wayne for my annual bra shopping at Macy's, I'll also look at shoes. Imagining how happy I will be when I find just the right pair will hopefully help me to be patient! Last year my parents gave me Amazon gift cards for Christmas, and I used them to finally purchase a pair of Clarks booties that I had really been wanting and needing. Once I had them, so many outfits were complete! It was worth the wait, and now I am excited to wear them again this fall.

That reminds me of a friend of mine named Cheryl from high school who I lived with for a year in college. Cheryl had a really unique pair of brown leather shoes that she wore all the time. And I do mean, all the time. Cheryl loved those shoes. When they wore out, she got them re-soled. Who knows how many years she got out of her perfect footwear. I bet she cried when she finally had to say good-bye. Ideally, that's how every item in your essential wardrobe should be. Don't buy good enough. Buy just right.

I think that the notion of buying the best quality clothing that you can afford doesn't go far enough. I would add to buy the best you can afford at the lowest price you can find it! It almost makes me feel richer to do this. It's like a frugal sort of snobbishness. I could pay $100 for a cashmere sweater, for example, but I don't wish to. Maybe I don't want to spend more than $45. Why should I have to spend more than I want to for anything? Think of yourself as so tres chic that they really should give you their clothing for free, it would be such an honor to them for you to deign wearing it. Try this trick. Write down the items that you desire on a list, being as specific as you can. I did this when I was a poor, single school teacher and had an unexpected opportunity to go to NYC for the first time. What would I wear?! I took my list into a Cancer Society thrift store and found everything on it, or nearly so. I was thrilled with my travel wardrobe for the Big Apple! I find that when I put the request out there to the cosmos, if you will, in a very intentional way, I get what I need at just the right price.

The most put together woman I know is my own mother. She always looks nice. No matter what. Even back in the days when she had small children--I'm the oldest of six--and stayed home with us, she always took the time to put on makeup and hot roller her hair. In fact, I had to go home from high school early one day, because my dad was out of town, and my mom's water had broken. She was about to have a baby, and I needed to be there when my other siblings got home from school. I ran upstairs in a panic to find her, and there she was in front of the bathroom mirror, calming apply eye shadow. I was shocked. "Well, I want to look nice when I go to the hospital," she said. My mom is sooo French! I went to the hospital to give birth in my pajamas! No makeup. Maybe I brushed my teeth.

My mom wears designer clothes, but I don't think she would ever pay full price for them. I think this is where I get my stubbornness from. The thrill of the hunt--consignment shops, thrift stores, vintage boutiques, clearance racks, and for me, Ebay--is part of the fun. You don't have to be rich to look rich. One key is to know what brands you really like. My favorite store is Anthropologie, and when I lived in Columbus, I could shop there in person. I couldn't afford the clothes at full price, but they had spectacular clearance sales, and I was picky. I only ever paid full price once. Now I get my Anthropologie on Ebay. I also like Ann Taylor Loft and Free People. Sometimes I find something great in a surprising place, like the floral rayon maxi dress I got at Target for about $7.00! Actually, I think my husband found it for me. He has really good taste and knows what looks good on me. That's another tip--find a free personal shopper!

I hate going to Kohl's stores. They depress me. Maybe it's the lighting; I don't know. But their online website is so easy to use, which I found out when I was really desperate for some new clothes, and I have been happy with my purchases. A Simply Vera pair of ballet flats I got from there hurt my feet, though, so I didn't wear them much and am now giving them away. I could have sent them back or taken them to the store to return, so that's my own fault. When ordering from Ebay, very often the sellers will list specific measurements for the items, so I have rarely received something that didn't fit. One pair of pants was too big, which I had my grandma alter. That's another good tip--find a tailor! A too-small shirt became a Christmas present for a friend. Know what styles and shapes look good on you, and usually you can tell what will work when shopping online. Of course, knowing what looks good on you comes with time. Trial and error is part of the game.

Well, I hope that gives you some more food for thought! Now, get back in your closet, be merciless, and make your wish list! Oh, I got my brown and black belts today on sale at Peebles. I think I will add a cashmere sweater, once I decide on what color I want, to my wish list. I also need comfortable tights that don't leave unsightly bulges around my middle. Once I have those things and my dress pumps, I think I will be done shopping for fall. Done! And isn't that joie de vivre?

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