America is soon going to slip into a shopping frenzy. Maybe its a good time to introspect and learn from the past. The wiser people who write quotes that go viral often write :There are no failures, just opportunities to learn. Alright, alright! But we still have to discuss the mistakes to learn. As I write this, I realized that I have made them all. I almost qualified for the click bait title ’20 shopping mistakes to avoid in your 20s’ but it felt too eeek to go through with it. I was the cliche they talk about before the discourse on the benefits of a minimalist closet begins. Here they are :
1. Not having a plan
I am an immigrant. America and Western civilization was a fresh start with respect to dressing. I wanted to wear everything I saw on campus. Everything I could never wear in India. Everything that I fantasized about. Everything I saw on MTV. Denim shorts. Tube tops. Tank tops. You could wear sweatpants to class. Coming from a more rigid traditional society, I wanted to swing to this extreme and try everything out. I never once sat down and decided that I needed 3 pairs of jeans, 10 shirts, 1 jacket and 1 coat AND STOPPED THERE. It was all haphazard. I accepted all the free tshirts and hand me downs that came my way. ‘Buy when something is cheap without looking at the bigger picture’, was my plan. “How much do I really need” & “How much can I really wear”, was never honestly answered. I was in this mindless accumulation pipeline while under the impression that I was being frugal. I could have greatly benefitted from Project 333 back then.
2. Confused Identity
After I emigrated, my identity became – ‘brown girl’. To my fellow Indian immigrants, I became ‘another immigrant trying to make it’. Most of my peers who came fresh off the boat with me would go to Aeropostale/American Eagle/Gap/Polo and buy clothes with logos/brand name splashed on top. A preference towards – bright printed tops and blue jeans. I didn’t like that style of dressing and maybe I saw a need to stand out but keep the Indian influence. Free People came to the rescue. They had Isabel Marant-esque clothes in Indian fabrics. It had interesting shapes that are not the ‘boring tshirt’. I experimented a lot and was buying clothes not suited to my lifestyle. It led to a lot of wasted money.
3. Clothing sizes
When I landed in America, everyone around me would tell me that I was lucky for being a size 0. It was unfortunately the first thing people saw when they met me. I think I took it as a compliment and smiled when I heard it. I would go to the stores and only try on a 0. It would fit okay, and I would walk out with the garment. I never even tried a size up to see how it fits or if its more comfortable. I thought you were meant to buy the smallest size you fit into. I now know that clothes look better on me when I size up. It puts less stress on the seams of my clothes and gives me a relaxed fit. I can bike in them. I can work in the garden wearing them. I can take a nap on the couch and stretch. They last longer. I know that I can continue to wear them even if I put on some weight. Get over the numbers, understand fit.
4. Not learning about fabrics
I would buy sweaters that were made of cotton. And then wonder why they don’t keep me warm enough during the winter.
During my first Fall, I wanted to buy a jacket to keep warm. I went and bought a polyester rain shell instead. (Still have it.) Sigh, why didn’t I ask for help ? I had no idea as to how to keep myself warm during my year one in America. Libraries/classrooms were cold. My lab was an ice box. Outside was desert sun burning you. Biking home at 2am with cold wind blowing in the winter was torture. I didn’t understand layering.
I don’t think I even glanced at the fabrication of the garments I bought. I would cut the fabrication tags off as soon as I bring it home, which later lead to more bad decisions – from not knowing how to launder the garments.
Not doing laundry often enough. The washer drier was situated far away from my apartment and was located in a shady part of town. I would let my sweaty clothes sit in a basket for 2/3 weeks. Body oils and sweat rot the fibers in our clothes if left in there and laundry should be a weekly affair.
5. Reward system
Every semester, I would buy a blue dress. It was a tradition more than need.
With exercise clothes, as I hit my fitness goals, I would buy myself a Lululemon garment. It served as a motivation.
Sometimes, I would go to Barneys to look for formal clothes. 400$ pants and 1000$ blazers was what I saw. It felt hostile and unaccessible. I would then go to Zara and feel relieved. Pants were 39$ and blazers were 89$. It would intern make me feel welcome and spendy.
There would be times when I would fall in love with a 200$ dress at Anthropologie and talk myself out of it. As a reward, I would go spend on a 40$ dress instead and count the 160$ as money saved.
When I hit brick walls at work, I would buy shoes to cheer myself up. When I did good at work, I would buy blue dresses to reward myself.
Making a yearly round up on this blog saved me. Else, I would have gone unchecked.
6. splurging on evening wear that hardly gets worn and not investing in every day wear
Cost per wear is not a number but a way of life. When I think of the quality of life, its the everyday comforts that elevate it. Not that one fancy dinner or an event I attend that I dressed up for. The everyday suppers made from fresh vegetables and the well made everyday garments that make dressing a pleasure in the morning …. Invest in the everyday and make do/beg/borrow for the outliers.
7. Not understanding quality
I didn’t try to learn. I would automatically assume anything expensive was for the sake of the label and didn’t understand craftsmanship. Then came a phase when I associated everything expensive with good quality. Then came a phase where I was looking to settle for mediocre quality if the garment was ethically made. (This was like my vegan days. I would compromise on nutrition at times for the sake of being vegan.) Quality is a quantifiable entity. The fabric, the stitching, the design, the details – everything can be recognized.
8. The classics.
Buying for the imaginary life. Buying for a future body shape. Shopping because you are bored. Window shopping and getting obsessed with procuring the item. Accepting hand me downs that you don’t need. Shopping as a group activity with girl friends. Doing thanksgiving shopping just because entire America approves of it. Thinking a closet size of 100 is normal. Thinking its the adult thing to do – have a shoe collection, handbag collection, coat collection, jewellry collection, stripe top collection, ….. Collections suppress the ability to assess a need, decide on the one and stick to it. Buying online and not being diligent on making returns before they are due. Not being picky enough.
9. Fear of missing out
This happened a lot with Free People/Lululemon. They had a scarcity model working for them. I usually get over my wish lists given a week to sleep on it. If something was selling out, I would buy it without giving it enough thought. My impulse purchases have the same amount of success as flipping an unbiased coin – 50/50.
10. Associating a personality type with clothes
I am an engineer. We dress like a geek.
I am a tomboy. We dress in these garments.
I am a free spirited. We love bohemian clothing.
I am a no-nonsense intellectual. We wear clean cut clothing.
I am chic. I dress in the 10-garments-every-Parisian-owns.
I am a minimalist. We wear neutrals.
We should wear what we feel good in. We don’t all fall into these dozen categories.
11. Buying and purging. On repeat.
No introspection. No learning. Not getting wiser.
I would buy clothes that were on super sale/second hand. In a year or two, I would have accumulated enough to initiate a purge. I would feel good about donating them to the Goodwill. And then repeat this process.
12. A garment for each activity
Traveling along the European countryside influenced me in some way. I saw men wearing regular clothes biking to work without breaking into sportswear. Women were biking wearing a dress and what ever footwear. Women were working in the gardens wearing their dresses with an apron on top. We stayed with a host who was wearing her silk blouses with an apron while cooking breakfast for us. I can look nice while staying active. I don’t need to walk around in yoga pants all day because I did one hour of yoga. Durable simple everyday clothes are suitable for life.
13. Beyond buying clothing
Taking pride in not ironing my clothes.
Not knowing how to take care of clothes.
Spending on clothes but being cheap with skincare/not getting haircuts/not taking care of nails/not knowing anything about makeup.
Knowing nothing about accessories. Having zero accessories.
I have to credit Vogue for helping me out here. I used to be reasonably presentable for the most part. But the shoes was a total miss. I owned one pair of these flip flops and one pair of slouchy cheap looking boots till I turned 24. Vogue had an article with the lines “most woman put a lot of effort into their clothes and totally get the shoes wrong”. I looked down at my feet and saw the rubber flip flops staring right back at me. The End.
15. Picking aesthetics over quality
How else can I explain all the money spent at Zara ?
16. Feeling entitled to clothes
I knew of sweatshops back then too. But I felt entitled. Everyone is saving their money by shopping at XYZ. Why should I try to do otherwise. Fight against fast fashion is about worker rights and the environment. Its about sustainability. But I spun the narrative around myself and painted myself as the victim. “I need”, “I want”. “I deserve”. I would spend on 4$ chai lattes and eat out multiple times a week. But when it came to clothes, I would feel sorry for myself for not being able to afford cruelty-free clothes. I made it easy on myself by telling ‘one cant be sure fair trade companies are actually fair trade. I am being a sceptic, not stupid.’ and then go back to my dear Zara. Zara didn’t need to satisfy any of the requirements I required from the fair trade brands. I didn’t hold it to the same standards. No questions asked other than ‘is it cute?’
17. Quality and quantity
I wanted them both. It was easy to find affordable items in the second hand market. And I went for it. This is the reason I own so many shoes and blue dresses.
18. Schizophrenic style Vs Coherent style
I saw the word schizophrenia used in reference to women’s closets in one of those ‘find your personal style in 10 steps’ sort of articles. Its okay to dress a certain way to survive work life and dress like a diva when off duty. This idea that we fall into one bucket or dress in a decipherable way is ridiculous. The idea of coherent closet is confused with easy to classify closet. We change with time. We have different needs. What if our day jobs are so darn taxing that we want an all black uniform to survive it but bring it all out in our evening wear ? I let these articles tell me other wise. I took it very seriously and judged other women who didn’t have a coherent closet.
19. Picture Perfect Outfits Vs real life
I envision me going to fine dining establishments wearing heels and carrying a clutch. But in reality … We go to local taquerias, hole-in-the-wall sort of places, bars and Schezuan food for the most part. This weekend, we are playing volleyball and getting some beer after. We go camping on weekends when the weather is good. We entertain at home. Even semi-strangers who want to have a quick bite with us get invited home and fed. Most of our dates involve walking for miles around the city and walking for miles after the meal before we catch the last train home. I go to weddings and other events but I always am asked by the hosts to bring my camera along. There is never an occasion where I can hold a clutch and greet the foreign dignitaries with my other hand while talking international policies. If you read enough fashion blogs, its easy to look at yourself from the lens of a camera/part of a photograph. Which colors to wear so that you are feng shui-ed with the background ? Wearing a bag with straps will ruin the outfit ? For whom ? For the onlookers ? really ?Not even fashion bloggers pose like themselves after the picture gets taken.
Giveaway : Clutch, Cuyana
Its well made. Its gorgeous. Its taupe with a strong undertone of pink. It’s new and comes with a dust bag. I sprayed it with the Saphir suede protectant and its ready to be used. Its been a year and it hasnt seen the outside of my closet. It was a mistake from the past and I am trying to pass it on to someone who has a need for it. Please win it and wear it. It can be used as a wallet. Or use it in your gift giving process if you do Xmas presents. Or consign/sell it and use the money for better things.
To enter the giveaway, I require you to contribute to this post. Please share a style mistake of yours – we could all learn something from each other. Even if a few coincide with mine, I want to hear them nevertheless. I haven’t touched upon the incorrect pairings of garments, because its all a personal preference. But if you think they constitute a mistake, do write about it. If you have made no mistakes, well done ! Then write about : a style mistake that gets committed around you and is a pet peeve of yours. The winner will be chosen
based on the contribution by me ( or using a random number generator ? ). Make sure you enter your email when you fill the comment form. Will ship world wide. Last day to enter : end of next weekend, November 12th, 2017. Thank you !
WINNER : DEBI ( contacted and got her address.) Thank you everyone for contributing.