Confession time: I went shopping. Twice.
Shopping is not technically forbidden by the Six Items or Less rules. There are actually a few Sixers who seem to have purchased all new items in order to complete the challenge. That is their diet. But since I got into this mess in order to take a closer look at my clothing consumption, it seemed like at least half the point of wearing only six items would be that I also wouldn’t purchase new items. Through 30 days of abstinence, I would be detoxing the whole shopping addiction right out of my system.
Two things wrong with that theory.
A) I hate detoxes. I don’t care what kind of science you have drummed up about carb addictions, blood sugar levels, gluten or dairy — I think an awful lot of the time, detox is a fancy word for crash diet. Which always fail. And then you feel like shite.
B) Fashion is super fun. And I’m pretty good at it. And these are not things I should get over or even apologize for. When I gave you the SIOL update last week, The Chawmonger raised an excellent question.
Where is the guilt coming from? Feeling like “what’s the point” when you put on the same clothes every morning doesn’t mean that you’re some kind of horrible consumerista. It means you’re interested in fashion. I don’t think everyone is or should be interested in fashion, just as I don’t think everyone is or should be interested in movies, or music, or visual art, or books. But why is it that having an enthusiasm for clothes is something that people feel should be forced out of them — something vain, materialistic, even on some level sinful — something to be ignored so they can keep their minds on “more important things” — whereas these other interests are viewed as positive, even virtuous? Why is it that picking out a different awesome outfit every day of the week is seen as a waste of time, whereas visiting a different museum every week of the year is seen as an accomplishment? Why is it that a full closet seems “bad” to us, while a full bookshelf seems “good?”
And she adds, “I think that a rigorous, thoughtful, and sustained aesthetic interest in clothing is something to be proud of, not something to stifle.”
I had two good reasons for doing this Challenge: To think a little harder about my consumption decisions (both in terms of how much money I spend on clothes and the environmental/social impact of the clothes I buy) and to try to break the habit of channeling my anxiety into trying on lots of outfits and being way too self-critical every time I got dressed.
And I’ve made a lot of progress on both those fronts. It has been entirely freeing to not obsess over what I wear day in, day out, and I’ve been feeling way more warm and fuzzy towards my appearance, probably because I’m not indulging that “you look like an elephant in that” voice over and over again every time I get dressed. And of course, by not shopping for three weeks (which may or may not be a personal best), I didn’t buy anything made in sweatshops/that I couldn’t afford.
But I have SO missed the fun of playing around with clothes, and I’m not the only one. Fellow Sixer pickeju says, “I still love clothes, building outfits, feeling good about what I’m wearing, but that this experiment has given me permission to choose the clothes I love the most, and wear them basically every day.”
I think that is all amazingness, and I have no interest in adopting a “fashion is sooo shallow” position, because that’s part of a grand tradition of trivializing predominately female pastimes (sewing, cooking, crafting) just because they’re a girl thing. And I’ve got no interest in that.
Now I need to also tell you that said Chawmonger accompanied me on the first of my two shopping trips. We had some time to kill before various appointments last Friday, and suddenly found ourselves mere paces from a J. Crew store.
If you’re dead-set on the shopping addict metaphor, J. Crew — especially the J. Crew clearance rack, especially in January when it’s loaded with post-holiday goodies and everything is an additional 50 percent off — is my crack. (Anthropologie, with its higher price tags and sometimes hard to find anything that actually fits right stylings, is more like the designer party drug of your choice.)
In The Chawmonger’s defense, she left me drooling over a lace miniskirt before the actual shopping began. So don’t be mad at her. Also, I didn’t buy the miniskirt because it was full price and it’s not exactly lace miniskirt weather around here. I did buy a pair of gray matchstick-cut corduroys and a lace-trimmed tank top. For $26.
And I didn’t feel bad about it at all. In fact, I was pretty darn proud of myself. Because you better believe, I tried on a hell of a lot more clothing and there were several shawl-collar sweaters just screaming at me. But after I tried everything on, I whipped out my phone and added up all of the deeply discounted price tags. And set myself a limit of $30 (somewhat arbitrary, but it felt like a good won’t-break-the-bank number for a spontaneous splurge) and then made some hard decisions.
This would not have happened before the Challenge.
Not only was I way more prone to mindless spending, I never had a clear sense of what I needed versus what I just plain wanted. And not that it’s bad to buy something just ’cause you want it — you can’t put a price on happy — but it’s useful to know which category you’re in, especially when your budget can only withstand so much want-based shopping before your mortgage payments are in jeopardy. But having spent the past three weeks in the same two pairs of jeans/jeggings (because they were all the pants I owned at the start of January) I knew I needed more pants. That actually fit right. And given how key tank tops are to my layering style, a lace-trimmed tank in a color I don’t already own for $6 is basically a no-brainer.
In terms of the environmental/social impact of this shopping trip, obviously, I’m not winning any medals. Unfortunately in our current retail environment, you are pretty much always going to have to choose between affordable and sustainable fashion, and this time I went for affordable. But that’s better than unsustainable and hideously expensive. Even the German judge is nodding.
And then, the very next day, my husband wanted to go to the mall near us because he also needed new cords, so I accompanied him to Banana Republic, which was having an “extra 30 percent off the whole store even clearance” sale.
And I. Did. Not. Buy. A. Thing.
I tried on loads and I came really close to a charming blue sweater. But it was $34 even with the discount, so I decided to sleep on it. And by the next day, I was over it. I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of fabric that would pill like crazy in the wash and I don’t need that drama.
Again, I’m not telling you this as a “look, I’m so virtuous and above fashion now!” lesson. I was really happy to be trying on clothes again. I cannot fricking wait to wear my new cords next week when I’m allowed to have more than six items of clothing again. Detoxes — whether they’re about clothes, food, or anything else — are generally not sustainable and I came veryveryvery close to having the kind of rebellious “f*ck it, I’m buying everything in the store” response that leads to the feelings of failure and regret.
And I’m not sure if it was the Challenge itself, or the conversations I’ve been having (with The Chawmonger and you all) as a result of the Challenge that kept me from OD-ing on shawl collars and lace miniskirts. I guess the distinction isn’t all that important, since the Challenge inspired the conversations and what not. But it is important to emphasize that for me, this isn’t about hating fashion. It’s about figuring out a positive way to have fashion in my life.
Because all pastimes can border on obsessions that become not so great for our health. (Hi, long distance runners, poker fans, and comic book collectors.) And in that sense, a Six Items rule could be helpful in a lot of situations: What if you pared your cosmetics bag down to just six items? Or your electronic gadgets? Or your collection of vintage milk bottles that now takes up an entire kitchen cabinet? (Maybe that last one is just me.) It might also become a rule I employ when shopping at places like Target and Ikea, where it’s all too easy to overload your cart and end up with 57,000 tea lights that you’ll never even be able to find the next time you need tea lights.
But in terms of the clothes I wear every day, as of next Wednesday, February 9, I’ll be done with Six. And upgrading to 30! As part of Kendi Everyday’s 30 for 30 Remix Challenge.
This time, I get to pick 30 items to wear for 30 days. Shoes count, but underwear and accessories are still extras. After six, it feels like I’ll be spoiled for choice. This challenge is really about having fun with the clothes you own, because 30 items should give you tons of opportunities to mix and match and build outfits. (Here are some of Kendi’s remixing tips.)
Why another challenge? For starters, I’m a little worried that I’ll have serious culture shock if I jump right back into my full wardrobe (yes, I own far more than 30 items) after this month of minimalism. And like pretty much all of the Sixers, I’ve been realizing that there are plenty of things in my closet that I just haven’t missed. (Not the toggle sweater. I can’t wait to wear the toggle sweater. WITH my new cords. Oh!)
So this will be an opportunity to create a more focused closet and weed out the items that cause the most “you can’t pull this off” angst during those “all of my clothes are stupid” spirals. There are tons o’ bloggers participating in this challenge, so check out the full list here.
Why do you think women are prone to so much shopping/fashion guilt? And what are your tips for handling recreational shopping in a way that is fun, not bank-breaking/soul-crushing?