[Six Items or Less] In Which I Remember Why I Like Clothes.

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.”

Amen, sister.

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?


[Photo: J. Crew store at The Original LA Farmer’s Market by _e.t.]







Filed under Six Items or Less

11 responses to “[Six Items or Less] In Which I Remember Why I Like Clothes.

  1. My tips for staying away from the bank-breaking/soul-crushing shopping experience are pretty basic:

    1. I don’t buy anything full price. Everything goes on sale eventually.
    2. I try not to go to the mall, because for me shopping online leads to less purchases. Even more so if I leave my wallet downstairs.
    3. When I do go to the mall, I take my husband with me and give him some “guidelines” to remind me of. This past weekend he told me at least five times that “I don’t need another black skirt.” Which is so very true (I bet I have 8 easily).

    By the way hi! I’m a new rss reader and am also taking part in the 30-4-30 remix. So far so good… (three days in)

  2. Hi Jenn!
    Those are some smart tips. Though I find I have to be careful with the “only buy on sale” rule because sometimes it means I buy things I’d never pay full price for — because I never really end up wearing them… HMM. Leaving the wallet downstairs is definitely something I need to do more!

    Anyway, glad you found me and I look forward to checking out your blog!

  3. I’m kind of stumped by the Chawmonger’s question about a bookshelf full of books vs a closet full of clothes. I definitely have that fashion-can-be-gluttonous-bordering-on-sinful thing going on. Partly due to the fact that fashion, as an industry, has not been kind to women. And partly due to the fact that I feel that we are way too focused on appearance. I’ve also really found it difficult to stomach the idea that fashion, and daily dressing and making choices, can be construed as art–even performance art. But the bookshelf thing is a puzzle. Because I definitely feel comfortable buying books–shame doesn’t even enter the picture. Clothing? Another story. Not sure I have any answers or great nuggets of insight, but loved the post as it is food for thought.

    • Dana – I think those are all great reasons why we have more shame around clothes shopping than book buying. Book buying seems so much more “worthy” — though, as someone with a serious weakness for mass market sexy murder mysteries, I’m not sure I can really say that about every book I buy!

      But I do think that shame and fashion doesn’t have to go hand in hand. We have to keep getting dressed every day, after all. And if you like clothes, why not take pleasure in that?

  4. shannon

    Okay here is a great way to wear the same six things for months on end…. get pregnant. If you are anything like me (who is only three months deep into this pregnancy- but it being my second I had to start wearing maternity clothes about 22 minutes after I got knocked up) there is nothing that keeps your ass in line more than the prospect of spending your hard earned cash and only getting to wear the clothes for six months or so before you burn them or hide them in the deep recesses of your closet, along with your period granny panties. I have now been wearing the same 2 pairs of pants for 6 weeks, and far from being fun- I just look at them as “uniform”…(kind of how I look at my yoga clothes I own a yoga studio and wear them way too much). The good thing is though is that there is very little thinking and debate in the morning, so I have freed up an extra space in my brain…which god knows I need! It’s also is pretty liberating to walk into Anthropologie and know it’s just not even an option.

  5. Miranda

    I’ve always been a pretty frugal person when it comes to shopping, in quantity as well as in price. I usually have a pretty strict price range for myself, depending on the type of item and the quality/amount of complexity. I also try to balance what kinds of items I buy – having just moved to the Midwest from Arizona, I’ve been trying to severely limit the amount of dresses I let myself buy, whereas I let myself go crazy when it comes to sweaters and other cold-weather clothes. If I’m considering an item and I already have a very similar item, I won’t buy it. As a result, I have a very small closet – maybe I have 30 items, but probably not – but I always feel good about what’s in it.

  6. Pingback: From 6 to 30. (And I Have Newfound Respect for Fashion Bloggers.) | Beauty Schooled

  7. Lizza

    I don’t think there’s any way I could pare down my cosmetics bag to six items, unless one of them was allowed to be one of those mega-huge million color eyeshadow palettes. Because although I do have a few tried and true go-to quick looks, I like variety and experimenting. I get bored.

    I handle recreational shopping by going with my friends. They keep me from justifying stuff to myself – “This will be so cute with X or Y, which I don’t own! Or if I had to go to X event! Or maybe when it’s warm!” – so I don’t buy something just because it’s pretty, or because it looks okay. But they will fully support and endorse things that look awesome and have a purpose. And I try to go right around season change time or post-holidays: when there’s likely to be a boatload of clearance stuff that’s useful (a $13 pea coat in January? Hells yeah!) My weakness is when Target changes out their shoes and has tons for 30/50/70% off.

  8. Hey Virginia, I have clearly fallen behind in reading your posts, because I only got to this one right now! Anyway, thanks for the shout-out to my comments… and I’m proud to have made a cameo appearance in the anecdote as well 🙂

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  10. Pingback: [Fun With Press Releases] Maybe Just Go The F*** To Sleep, Instead? | Beauty Schooled

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