Wednesday, 6 October 2010

TGAAD 9/52: So far

If my calculations are correct, I have entered my 9th week of The Great American Apparel Diet. Time has gone by quickly. It has been tremendously helpful to live in a town that does not offer too many shopping options (for those of you who asked about relocation, there is a post to come on that topic), and the weekend spent in Ithaca made me fully realise the extent of this. I walked into a lovely vintage store and didn't buy the gorgeous 1950s pencil skirt I immediately fell for. I couldn't even bring myself to look at the stunning vintage dresses - the thought to have to leave something beautiful behind felt too painful. As I walked past the Urban Outfitters' SALE sign, it occurred to me that I didn't really have to deal with any temptations in Binghamton, apart from the occasional Etsy piece or the more generic want-want feelings a spread in a fashion magazine might temporarily produce. I got to thinking whether the lack of temptations was undermining the whole excercise: surely it would be more fruitful to say "no" to things I wanted, rather than to cruise comfortably in an environment where those temptations didn't exist in the first place.

I got to talking to a young woman who sold customised vintage pieces and crocheted hats (too cute to even describe, with feathers and all) at the Ithaca Apple Fest. I went through the stuff she was selling, and was seriously tempted while trying on a lime green felt hat with spray paint. The hat looked spectacular, and I knew that I'd wear it all autumn if I was given the chance. At that moment, TGAAD felt awfully silly. I was having to pass by a great piece of artisan fashion that I knew I would wear for years to come. It was one thing to not walk into Urban Outfitters and not spend money on things I'd wear one season, but it was profoundly stupid to have to say "no" to something I sincerely loved and could, in fact, use. I felt horrible leaving the young woman's stand. I wanted to support her business and her vision of active recycling and local craftmanship. I loved the hat. It occurred to me that perhaps being on TGAAD was, to some extent, preventing me from supporting my own ideals and beliefs.

I have tried to give more thought to my daily wear since going on TGAAD. It is not just about not shopping; for me TGAAD has been developing into a more thorough research project. The questions I ask myself almost every morning include "why do I choose to wear this as opposed to that?" and "why did I buy this piece of clothing in the first place?" The questions have already proven to be very helpful in thinking about my shopping habits in the past, and how I can mould them into something more rational in the future. Here are some of the lessons I have learned about my existing wardobe in the past eight weeks:

1. It is very difficult for me to figure out if a piece of clothing has staying power. This might have something to do with the experimental nature of my style choices. It is one thing to want to try new things, but it is another to know what makes me feel good year after year.

2. In terms of what types of clothes I get a lot of wear out of, there is an undeniable comfort factor that I should take into consideration more often when buying something new. I like having pretty stuff in my wardrobe, but if it is not comfortable, it will not get a lot of wear, no matter how much I like it.

3. I should pay more attention to the colours I buy. A lovely piece in the wrong colour will not be worn. Sometimes an odd piece with the right colour works.

All three seem almost too self-evident to mention. Believe it or not, I have never given thought to these questions previously. So far, so good, then. I am learning. My heart still aches for that felt hat, though.

Knit dress: Lindex, 2008ish
Zipper belt: Max&Co., 2009
Leggins: Urban Outfitters
Boots: Urban Outfitters, 2003
Necklace: second hand / America's Attic, 2010


Modesty is Pretty said...

Wow, you do have more will power than I did, but it is a great thing that you have been able to stop yourself from buying things, I recently broke my shopping diet after a couple of weeks of not buying, not being able to buy has really taken away the excitement of shopping, and I realized how much I was shopping just for the thrill of finding something "great" that would not be worn. So with the thrill gone shopping is not much fun now. Now I've been seriously thinking about buying thins I love regardless of the price tag which was very important for me, if it was cheap and cute I would get it, however I recently bought a hat, that I know I'll be wearing for a long time during the winters, it's a very classic beautiful hat and I didn't think about the price tag, which was more than I have ever paid for a hat. I'm now realizing the importance of buying something for the quality, instead of for the price tag, and going research first, because sometimes the price tag (expensive) doesn't necessarily equals quality. =) Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your shopping diet.

lin said...

I went on a shopping ban for six months earlier this year, and I went through the exact same issues - there were times where it was really plain silly not to buy because not all purchases are a bad thing, and some of them are wise decisions.

In the end I caved and bought a pair of shoes that I needed them for work and loved them and they was 50% off, and I didn't feel like it was a betrayal of my "ban" at all. They were the only things I bought in six months.

I didn't extend the ban, but I carried over a lot of useful "guidelines" to consider whenever I'm out shopping, and I've avoided falling into some of my traps so far - like buying things because they're beautiful and look beautiful on me, but I don't wear for inexplicable reasons.

I'm sure the lesson of the felt hat will come in useful the next time you go shopping.

Also, I really enjoy your blog!

Charlotte said...

You shoulda bought the hat, Waves. I think the GAAD isn't a prison. It's more like a reform school, where we go to think about our wanton ways, which you're clearly doing. I love your outfit here, BTW.

Myrna said...

All or nothing ideals can be self destructive. It's the pendulum swing thing from too far one way to too far the other. Isn't recognizing the hat as "me" with such strength enough to allow its presence in your life?

I'm not on it so I can't speak from a personal perpsective but the point of this diet seems to be the avoidance of needless and excessive shopping. Purposeful shopping is an entirely different category - isn't it?

I'm already a minimal shopper (unless we're talking fabric and creative potential and then I'm a great sales finder) but I remember clearly a few years ago seeing a sweater where even the sale price was more than I would normally pay. It called so strongly and was so me that I did buy it. I've never regretted that action. I wear it all the time and have begun to wonder how I will reproduce it when it wears out.

That this sweater - although expensive - has been such an amazing find taught me a lesson in shopping. I learned more than ever to wait for wonderful and when I see it, buy it if I can.

mirattes said...

wow amazing shoes!!!

FashionTheorist said...

Your experience with the hat illustrates beautifully my problem with shopping bans like GAAD. While they can be very useful tools to break an unthinking pattern of consumption, I feel that any absolute in fashion - whether it's a year-long shopping ban, an insistence that in order to be well-dressed you 'need' to have a certain item in your closet, or declaring a specific style a fashion 'don't' - is overly restrictive and can even be damaging.

I prefer gentler restrictions, with allowances for one-of-a-kind opportunities.

Is it good to rethink our patterns of consumption, the ceaseless urge to buy, buy, buy? Absolutely. But are there times when it's appropriate to buy? Certainly, if it's done with moderation and foresight.

I've put myself under shopping bans in the past, and they really have been educational in terms of what purchases really matter to me. I think that bans exist to be broken, in part: when something's truly going to enhance your wardrobe or make you happy (not by the act of purchasing it, but by the continued act of owning and using it, for an extended period of time), then it's worth breaking a ban for.

Anonymous said...

What you've written poses quite an important question: what do we actually mean when we say that we want to stop mindless consumerism. I agree that running into H&M and buying bunches of clothes is wrong in oh so many ways (actually, I can't think of any good side of it), but still, if you come across a quality piece that would last for years, then why not? As someone here said, this experiment is not a prison, you're not doing any detox and given your thoughtful attitude towards buying, I really doubt that buying this one hat would turn you into some rampaging shopaholic. Then again, you do have some strong will. Which is good :)
Cheers, Katya

Cynthia said...

I just bought a necklace. The necklace is from an Etsy craftsperson who makes lovely, interesting pieces out of salvaged materials.

And even though the GAAD technically allowed that purchase, I'm feeling queasy because I can feel in my head how justifying it could lead me to justifying other things.

There is some kind of habit circuit up there that I have to break, and maybe I have to break it at the expense of letting beautiful things go by.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I LOVE that asymmetrical hemline! Super cute!

wardrobeexperience said...

wow, you're a real strong and will powered lady. I wouldn't be able to restrian to check out those vintage items.