Sunday, October 24, 2010

The New Rules of Shopping

Like I've said numerous times, entering a new phase of my life - one in which I spend approximately 80% of my waking hours wearing professional clothing, and appearing put-together is my primary goal when I get dressed in the morning - has completely shifted the way I shop.

But you know what's helped a lot? Laying down a few specific, straightforward rules, to be observed every time I plan on buying something. And while I realize these aren't exactly earth shattering, they've been extraordinarily helpful to me, so perhaps they'll be of benefit to you, too!

RULE #1: BUYING WELL MEANS BUYING ONCE.

BCBG Jeweled Sweater Top, $168

This might sound like I'm suggesting that you always choose expensive things that are made to last, but I'm not (although I do think this is true, in general, of shoes). What I mean is, make sure you buy pieces that are immediately wearable and have a lot of mileage. Does it coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe? Does it fit? If not, can you - will you - take it to the tailor? I cannot tell you how many times I've bought something when the fit was just slightly off - shoes that were a little too big, rings that were a bit loose, vintage clothing I loved but couldn't zip without sucking in - and then was surprised, months later, when I realized it had been sitting idle in my closet, unworn.

RULE #2: LET GO OF THE IDEA THAT EXPENSIVE = GOOD, INEXPENSIVE = BAD.

Forever 21 Mesh and Lace Skirt, $19.80

Until quite recently, I avoided stores like Forever 21 and H&M... not out of snobbery - I'm all for the democratization of fashion - I just assumed I wouldn't find anything that wasn't poorly made or would fit with the rest of my wardrobe. I was missing out! For one, these fast-fashion retailers are perfect for indulging in trends that have a short shelf life - the other day I bought a rocker-chic purple feather vest which, at $25, I won't feel silly only wearing a few times. (Side note: last night I worked at event with Kim Kardashian, who was wearing - a presumably more expensive version of - the same vest. I don't know what this says about me or my style... I just wanted to share.)

But there are also reliable basics to be found at these stores if you're willing to dig through the trendier pieces. My favorite swingy cardigan - $12! - is from Forever 21. And I have a cropped H&M cotton blazer that's perfect for summer.

RULE #3: CULTIVATE A COLOR PALETTE.

BR Monogram Rose Applique Jacket, $198

For awhile, I kept trying to "incorporate more color" into my wardrobe and failing. I was wondering why I was having such a hard time with this seemingly simple task when I looked in my closet and realized that nearly everything is either black, navy, brown, tan or olive green. And that's okay! For one, nearly everything matches, so getting dressed in the morning is a cinch. For another, those colors look good on me! There are a few deviations - a turquoise blouse, a silver leather jacket - but for the most part, I clearly know what works for me and stick with it.

Take a look at your wardrobe. Do you notice an overarching color theme? Could this mean that you, too, unconsciously (or, perhaps, consciously) gravitate toward what works best for you?

RULE #4: TAKE CARE OF YOUR BASICS FIRST BEFORE YOU MOVE ON TO THE FUN STUFF.

J. Crew "Gemini" Satchel, $238

As long as I'm continuing to beef up my work wardrobe, I have a system: each week, I take a portion of my paycheck that serves as my shopping allowance. This week, that allowance went to investing in a few pairs of opaque tights - as the ones I've had for several years are beginning to run and pill - and a blazer. Next week, I'm hitting up Macy's and Bloomingdale's for gloves and scarves.

Is this the sexiest way to shop? No! It would be much more fun to blow all my cash on some rad, esoteric contraption of a dress at an overpriced Lower East Side boutique. But being an adult means spending one's money judiciously. And that means, if you notice a hole in some essential aspect of your wardrobe, you've got to take care of that before you unleash yourself upon the Brooklyn Flea Market or go crazy at a Tory Burch sample sale.

RULE #5: JUST BECAUSE IT'S VINTAGE DOESN'T MEAN IT'S GOOD.

Vintage Art Deco Rhinestone Belt Buckle, $8

First of all, let me say that I love vintage clothing - the obsession began when I was 14 and unearthed a polka-dot 1950s dress in a dingy thrift store in Flagstaff, Arizona. But I'll also be the first to admit that vintage shopping is a fickle mistress. When you're in the throes of it, you must keep your wits about you and remember that just because it's vintage doesn't mean it's good. Just because it's designer vintage doesn't mean it's good, either - we all make mistakes, and Yves Saint Laurent is no exception. In nearly a decade of collecting, I've acquired some amazing things: a terrific black brocade swing coat, an armful of carved Bakelite bangles, a Pucci dress I plan to someday pass on to my fashionable daughter or gay son. But I've also purchased some duds (that purple wool secretary dress that's so dated, it looks like a castoff from Mad Men's costume department - what was I thinking?).

Two important things to keep in mind when vintage shopping: 1.) make sure your find can be worn in a way that modernizes it (this may mean you'll have to swap out the buttons or have it hemmed shorter or whatever) and 2.) remember that the label means nothing! One of my favorite pieces, a navy blue wide collar jacket, is from "Styled by Rudy." I have no idea who Rudy is, but I'm a fan of his work.

RULE #6: FEAR NOT THE SPARKLE.

Anthropologie Golden Fleece Bolero, $158

So, we've established that I basically wear the same five neutral colors pretty much exclusively. Boring, right? No! That's because I love jewelry, and my collection is as extensive as it is eclectic. I've got everything from giant rhinestone-encrusted cocktail rings, to strands of faux pearls, to tinkly chandelier earrings, to this crazy necklace with a huge amethyst stalactite as the focal point, and I wear it all. I think every woman should wear jewelry everyday as a celebration of her femininity and beauty, and I honestly don't think you can wear too much jewelry (look at Iris Apfel and Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti: two sartorial maximalists who look fantastic).

I wear sparkly jewelry to the office everyday. Sparkly clothing, though, is a different beast entirely. Matte sequins, like the ones that adorn this Anthropologie jacket, work for day - but probably not in a corporate environment. Approach with caution.

My point, though, is that many women consider jewelry - especially their nicest, most expensive jewelry - to be something that should be reserved exclusively for special occasions. It's not! If something makes you happy, you should wear it everyday.

RULE #7: REMEMBER THAT RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN.


I know "rules are made the be broken" is a huuuge cliche, but it's never more true than it is in fashion. Shopping should be fun, and if there's not a tinge of naughtiness to it, how much fun can it be? If I obeyed these rules all the time, I wouldn't own a fantastic Diorling velvet floor-length coat from the 70s or ridiculously high Steve Madden platforms I can barely walk in.

If acquiring these wonderful, outrageous things also means making the occasional mistake (I'm looking at you, ugly secretary dress), so be it. In my mind, it's worth it.

2 comments:

one Firey Fashionista said...

I LOVE your post!!

I had written/started a post similar--more about fashion "myths" a month or two ago, but hadn't finished it or posted it yet....i FINALLY did---AND I LINKED to YOUR BLOG from mine!! they were similar enough that readers might enjoy both!!

LOVE your blog....super fun to read!!

Check it out here:
http://twofireyfashionistas.blogspot.com/

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