Wednesday, 9 March 2011

On the Appeal of New

As Marc Jacobs re-defined the question of "does my bum look big in this?" in his latest collection for Louis Vuitton today, I read Cathy Horyn's recent Paris fashion week update with great gusto. Her review of the LV collection wasn't in yet, but she did point out some important issues regarding the pressure fashion designers are constantly under, or in her words, "the nearly brutalizing feeling that something new and relevant must be communicated each season".

I got to thinking about "new". Ever since I got off the Great American Apparel Diet I have been eyeing clothes that would ease my seasonal transformation which always kicks in when the weather is about to change in the way that signals the arrival of either spring or autumn. I have found myself wanting a hot pink maxi dress (like the one by Michael Kors below), and something in that denim-look-a-like fabric that you see in catwalk pictures for this coming summer (even if I already have a blue linen shirt that sort of fits the description), among other things.

I honestly can't explain the logic behind wanting new clothes. I have plenty of clothes already, I have plenty of clothes I could play around with to achieve a different look. The Sex and the City-logic of "a girl can never have too many clothes and should treat herself" has never fully appealed to me. And yet I want new things. The feeling comes from the inside, but the desire's target can be whatever I see and get fixated on. Last year it was circle skirts. This year it is a hot pink dress, something in light-weight denim, a pair of moccasins and a long vest, namely this one from Free People. To make things more complicated, as in the case of the FP vest, it seems that there exists a particular appeal of the new "new" that's hard to beat.

Shey of Modesty is Pretty wrote in my comment box recently that when she buys clothes new (as in from a store rather than thrift), she wears them more. I think I am the same. I buy second hand clothes often and get a fair bit of wear out of them. I like to think that I consume more ethically than some when it comes to clothes, and I rant about the bad quality of mass-produced clothing all the time. But the items that have true staying power in my closet tend to be the ones I have bought brand new. This is a little disturbing. It seems that there is some weird, distorted magic in new "new", be it on the level of ideas or in the actual product. Or maybe when I have thrifted in the past, I have ended up buying things that I haven't really wanted all that badly. We all know the temptation of just buying stuff because it is cheap and gives us a quick thrill.

I eventually got my hot pink maxi dress from eBay a few weeks ago. It is just the right colour, just the right length, it is practially unworn second hand Ralph Lauren green label, and it cost about $10. I found my light cotton denim-type dress (Talbots!) at Salvation Army for $8.99 (I swear the prices at SA have been going up recently). I hope that these clothes have at least some level of true staying power. I have a feeling that the fact that I hunted down things I specifically wanted and didn't settle for anything that wasn't just right will change things and make these second hand finds worth while.

I don't really know what the point of this post was, or is. Maybe I just struggle with the idea of buying things when they really aren't all that necessary. Maybe I still feel a little guilty for abandoning the GAAD and getting back on the bandwagon of consumption, even if it seems, for now at least, that I learned something important along the way.

Catwalk images:


Sal said...

The changing seasons always bite me, too. I've been shopping like a maniac recently. But I think it's also because I'm a bit down in the dumps due to the eternal winter we're currently suffering through ...

That hot pink maxi is MARVELOUS. Not to be an enabler or anything.

Shey said...

Left your post for last, because it's always like a great dessert I wait to actually read until the end, but today it's so hard to concentrate when my son is dancing to Scatman with his silly steps, you should see him, he's hilarious! I'll come later with my opinion!=D

Charlotte said...

I think near the end of this post, you hit on the reason why you probably wear new-new clothes more than old-new clothes, Waves, and that's because you've been settling. At a thrift store, you settle for the almost-right, whereas when you buy something new, you spend more so you want it to be perfect.

It's interesting how the press for something new & different is always in the air, not only with clothes, but everything. We're insatiable in that regard--trained by advertising to be constantly dissatisfied!

wardrobeexperience said...

yes - sal is right, i'm shopping like a maniac, too. it's always the changing season which makes me throwing money down the drain like crazy.
when i was buying(something necessary) bulbs today, i found a charity shop just some minutes away from my flat and got my hands on some nice pieces.

love your two new dresses.

Anonymous said...

There just has to be the "falling-in-love-effect.
In "new-new or old-new. I try not to buy new (and it's getting easier and easier these days, there are so many options to buy second-hand in Helsinki! And the shops also follow trends, so if I desperately need something "new, straight from fashion magazine", with a little effort I will find it second hand).
I think Charlotte is right, you just have settled for less than you actually have wanted when buying things "used."
pinkki on jee! Ja nyt kaduttaa ettei ostanu sulle yhtä Marimekon pitkähköä pinkki/punainen hametta kirpparilta, oisit tykänny :)

Jane W. said...

I second Charlotte's comments--as a long time, hard-core thrifter I find that I have a closet full of "almost right." I'm starting to re-adjust my habits, but the sticker shock is tough.

Ru said...

I'm sure prices at SA ARE going up. Just when a lot of people are turning to thrifting because of the economy, the "thrift" stores are absolutely taking advantage of that (us). Though the prices are higher, the merch is NOT any better!

I don't shop at SA often myself because I don't want to support religion, but I went to a new-to-me Goodwill the other day. It was terrible! Ugly used tops for $5.49 each?? Dresses from $9 to $20?? At a GOODWILL? The selection was bad and the quality the same as ever. I walked out with nothing.

Oh, and I was looking for a few dishes in a certain size too. They wanted $1.49 to $1.99 each for most of their boring/dated/worn things and almost always a set was missing one piece. Screw that...I went to a discounter after that and bought a set of 4 NEW and quite stylish plates for $1.91 each including tax.

Sheila said...

Having just cleaned out my closet, I noticed that as well. It was harder getting rid of the clothes that I'd bought new, whereas the thrifted items were easily removed with little remorse.

I don't see a great deal of actual NEED for new clothes for spring (aside from always wanting the trendy shoes), but I know something in a magazine will catch my eye and then I'll scour the thrift stores for something close.

That pink dress is lovely!

Sheila said...

Having just (just!) cleaned out my closet, I also noticed that it wasn't too hard to get rid of any items I'd thrifted, but it was much tougher to remove items I'd bought new. Not that the new ones had been perfect, just that I knew I'd spent a bit more (I buy all my new on deep discount anyway) so it was more like, "Did I get my money's worth out of this?"

I seldom shop for specific items, but I like when I've thrifted something (like the new sky-blue pencil skirt I just found) and then I see something similar in a magazine!

Anonymous said...

I think having a list when you go thrifting makes all the difference. I will take ideas from the style shows and then try to translate into what I find at thrifts. Almost never buy anything new, so I guess I really can't compare the two shopping experiences.

Shey said...

Prices at thrift stores have been going up, I think at al thrift stores, I think because more people go thrifting and less people give out their stuff? Who knows but their popularity has also increased, I mean there's rich girls out there who are hitting the thrift stores too. I'm going to try and see whether I can make my clothes and maybe they have the same staying power as the clothes I bought new, since my clothes are very simple and not too hard to remake maybe I can make the skirts I like in the color I want and with the perfect fit? I hope so. I've also noticed a pattern in my shopping habits, it's usually when I'm PMSing, that my mood swings are all over the place that I feel an intense urge to find something to cool me down, another time that I tend to want to shop a lot is after my period when I'm no longer feeling bloated and clothes fit me the best, then I get so happy I want to find something else that adds to that moment of joy. It's very odd. Have you ever tried to look for a pattern in your shopping habits? I don't knwo if it says more about what I shop but it certainly helps to be aware of it. =)

metscan said...

Hi, late with my comment, but better late than never.
I applaud. I believe you are getting on the right track, from my point of view. What I mean is that, I think that it is great that you have stopped to think of what you buy. I have never understood thrifting. I believe it to be something, that one has to do these days, in order to be trendy/accepted. Personally I really wish to buy even less, than I do these days. But I want to get my money´s worth, including service. I do visit shops, I take clothes home for trial, I take them back ( learned this from my adult daughter ).
On my own last post, I felt sad, when someone commented on my expensive purchases, to her, considering my age, I should act in a more adult way. I admit having an expensive taste. I don´t tote my totes for the attention, they are something completely for me to enjoy. I enjoy my life as it is. Being a woman of a certain age, does not fully mean that one should stop enjoying what fashion has to offer.

Meg said...

I started a yearlong shopping ban on January 1st, so I undertsnad where you're coming from. I can't buy clothes for spring, so I find myself buying new cosmetics instead (and I never used to wear makeup at all!). I feel like it's a byproduct of capitalism: just buy, buy, buy.