No Pants 2012: I Made It, Suckers!

In January of 2012, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

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So, I made it a year without clothes shopping.

I went out to shop today with my sister-in-law, a well-known professional shopper and the only person who was willing to take on the Mall of America with me the day after Thanksgiving and live to tell the tale. I want to tell you that I got all this super fancy stuff and I gorged on clothes, but not really.

I bought maternity jeans. A couple tunic tops and a sweater. They are basic. Bold colors. Good fits. Yawn. I feel like your mom shopping at Chicos.

The truth is, I’m saving some of my pennies to shop with my personal stylist friend who helped me last summer. Also, for this tunic, which I am pretty sure can cure cancer.

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Also, I am 12 weeks pregnant and in that adorable phase that I like to call the lady-lay-off-the-Whoppers phase, where I look just enough chubby to be noticeable, but not enough circly to be identified as pregnant. And honestly, I did not feel the need to gorge on clothes. Unlike when I went to college and, after a 18 years of not being allowed to watch TV, I went and drowned myself in a smorgasbord of  “Desperate Housewives” and “My Super Sweet 16″ and CSPAN. When I walked into the Mall of America, I was all…

KaylaMaroney

 

And I am not trying to be all high and mighty. I imagine this is what it feels like after taking a break from refined sugar. You go from craving it in your belly to realizing that despite it being completely unAmerican and bordering on high treason to think this, that one piece of cake is enough. So, I got some basics and I’m holding out for some cute spring dresses and some Toms.

This is probably when I should remind you that I am not a fashion blog. I’m not gifted with the clothes. I’m just a normal girlmiddle-aged woman, who loves leggings and dresses, hates pants and fancies herself a hippy, even though she gets giddy at the sight of a nice Ann Taylor sweater set.

My goals for shopping this year are to focus on nicer pieces. Pieces that will last. Quality that fits. And things I like, not just things that are cheap. I went to Destination Maternity and tried on a pair of maternity skinny jeans that felt like butter. They were just delicious all over my thighs. But they were $125 and that is more than I have ever paid for a single piece of clothing in my life. So, I passed on them, which probably means I already failed. But baby steps. I am a Midwesterner after all. The idea of paying full price for anything makes me reach for the Zoloft.

I’m excited to shop. Sure. But more than that, I’m excited to feel like I’ve learned that clothes are not a panacea. They don’t cure. And that I have plenty. This past year, I survived two photo shoots a movie premier in LA and a fancy conference where I was a panelist all without shopping.

I have plenty. You have plenty. And I hope that for me, 2013 will be about quality over quantity in all things.

Goodbye, Wal Mart.

PS If you want an insightful post about what I learned, go here.

No Pants 2012: What I’ve Learned About Fashion

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

In approximately 27 days I can shop again.

It’s almost been a year, since I gave up clothes shopping. In that time, I’ve purged over 10 black trash bags of clothes from my closet. Two bags of shoes and one bag of purses and belts.  And yet, today, I still managed to clear out another half a bag full of clothes from my drawers. After a year of saving, I’m still surrounded by excess.

Last year, I looked at my dismal wardrobe made up of cheap Target finds and thrift store salvage and calculated the cost of my habits. Over $50 a month, and nothing to show for it except well-worn graphic tees and ill-fitting pants. [Read more...]

A Trophy Wife

Today at the Doctor’s office the nurse asked me my occupation.

“Uh, good question.”

The nurse didn’t laugh.

“Um, I’m a writer. I guess. Freelance.”

I’m pretty sure she checked off “Unemployed.” But only because there is no “Trophy wife” box.

For the past year, I’ve been working up to this point. We’ve been planning and saving and not buying pants, just so that when the moment came, I could quit my regular consulting jobs and write. It’s a dream come true. We paid off my last Sallie Mae loan and all we have is one small government loan that we will pay off by the end of the month. We did it. We’re there. We’re high fiving Dave Ramsey and all the angels.

So, naturally, Monday night, when it came time to quit. I curled up into the fetal position and sobbed. Dave poked my shoulder, like I was a dead bird on the sidewalk. “Are you okay? You, uh, don’t have to quit.”

“No, I want to. I just don’t want to be a trophy wife.”

That’s when he offered me ice cream. And I cried harder, because I obviously just wanted some Cheetos. Men.

I’ve been juggling an array of jobs since college–copywriter, proofreader, editor for a martial arts magazine, community manager, social media consultant, writer, blogger, marketer, test reader, tutor, teacher. I love working. I love how work defines who I am and gives me an outlet to explore my passions like Bigfoot and the difference between North and South Korean taekwondo. But like so many people, I want to just write. I know. So original. I’ll spare you the stories of how I read early and wrote books at a young age. You know them. They are your stories too. And they are all the same. Little girl loves books so much that she wants to become part of them. She grows up and struggles to make that dream happen.

So, Monday night, on the cusp of taking a leap further into that dream. I panicked. Giving up some of my permalance jobs (although I do hope to say “yes” to more freelance work from time to time) feels like giving up part of who I am.  And now, with my babysitter gone on her maternity leave. I am not just a full time writer. I am a full time mom. And when people ask me what I do, and I tell them I write, they are going to hear, “Trophy wife.”

I shouldn’t care. We all have our own paths. And I love my daughter. I’m so excited that I can share this part of her life with her, before she goes off to school and unfriends me on Facebook for dancing Gangam style on the internet. And I have writing jobs. I’ll still make money. And women should have choices. We are free. Independent. Strong. We should all be so lucky. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I am scared.

Scared of failing. Scared of losing myself. Scared of waking up in a Mickey Mouse shirt and Lee jeans, driving a minivan and regretting all that writing that I was going to do.

Leggings with shorts are what smart people wear

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

The other day, I bumped into a friend at a coffeeshop and she asked if I was still doing that “No clothes shopping thing?”

I broke down crying.

Yes. YES I AM STILL NOT SHOPPING. And no, I haven’t gotten used to it and whenever I see someone in a fetching top I go dead inside. This is how serial killers are made. The next time I see a Target commercial, I’m just going to snap and start killing people for their clothes. The cops will be all, “This woman was forced to remove her J Crew sweater at gunpoint and then shot! But the killer left her $300 jeans. Look, remains of chicken nuggets were left a the crime scene! MY GOD! WHO DID THIS!?”

But what if the clothes don’t fit? Returns will be tough.

January 1, 2013, I can shop again. So, to bide my time and to prevent homicidal rages, I created a pin board of all the things I want to wear. Yes, there is a Katniss inspired outfit on there. Don’t judge me!

But here is what I would love, if you would suggest your favorite pieces of clothes, trends, wardrobe staples, and tunics that I can wear while I compete in the Hunger Games. You can link them below in the comments or just send me to your Pin boards, or Disqus lets you upload pictures. I need some help, because this is what I wore last week.

Wait? Where are you going? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS! Also, that is my basement bathroom. The previous owners painted the concrete floor pink, filled the shower with mold and then sold the house to us.  We would renovate it, but the last time we hung drywall together we almost divorced and that was 6 years ago and we still haven’t recovered. Also, with the results of the recent election, my marriage is already on tenuous ground. I mean, I TRIED to make Dave feel better about losing with these cupcakes, but he just told me I was gloaty and then cried for Karl Rove.

 Wait. He didn’t cry. Dave never cries. Because he feels no emotion except superiority and smartness. He is a rock. An island. His heart is titanium wrapped in razor wire. It doesn’t beat, it CUTS YOU.

Also, I need to tell you something. Along with my friends Heather and Jen from de Novo Alternative Marketing,  we will be bringing Listen to Your Mother to the Eastern Iowa area in May! I want you to audition, or help us, or both! We need sponsors and people who audition and tell other people too (I call them “Peer Pressurers” ). And if you can’t do those things I want you to cease being my friend, you are dead to me.

Just kidding.

(Not really.)

I’m excited. Super excited.  Watch this site for updates! We’ll be launching a site next week.

PS A site I’ve never heard of “nominated” me for a “Most Beautiful Baby Blog” award, which I only get if people VOTE! So I was told to tell my friends to VOTE. VOOOOTTTEEE. I don’t really believe in voting contests because they are just free traffic for the site. Also, “Most Beautiful Baby Blog” have you seen this site’s design? I MADE THE BANNER IN MICROSOFT PAINT! In some countries using paint is a punishment for stealing. But I also secretly love that somebody thought enough of me to nominate me for a scam. It makes my heart so happy.

PPS On an unrelated note, I am a raging narcissist.

PPPS People giving thanks on Facebook every day makes me want to stab November in the eye.

 

No Pants 2012: Month 9 is almost done…

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

Today, it took me 30 minutes to put on clothes. That’s 30 minutes of me putting on a shirt, shucking it off, trying again. Rolling up my pants. Pinching my back fat.  Tickling my baby. Trying on a necklace. Sucking in my stomach. Pulling a toothbrush out of the heating vent. Tying scarves. Sighing into the mirror.

I settled on rolled up jeans with gray belt, black shirt with green necklace.

Did you ever pay an exorbitant amount of money on a mediocre meal? That’s what getting dressed this morning felt like. After all of that time I should have emerged exuberant, stylish. Coiffed. Instead, I’m muddled and mediocre.

This month, I lost a pair of wool pants that I loved to the tyranny of the dryer, my favorite knit dress I lost because it finally got holes after living with me for five years and my favorite white sweater because The Dave washed it with the jeans. I pretty much cried over that dress. And there was a part of me that figured I could just go buy a new one and only me, Dave and the spreadsheet would know…I didn’t. I know it doesn’t matter, but I didn’t.

Tracy Morrison wrote over on Sellabit Mum, that in all the kerfuffle of dressing, fluffing, primping and priming that it really doesn’t matter, but she continues, “…some days this is truly all I have to make me feel significant. Because so many times I feel like that little girl blending into the wallpaper with nothing interesting to say.”

That’s the thought that kicks me in the gut everyday I get dressed. No one cares, really. Not even Dave. He doesn’t care if I stop shopping for a year (although, he does enjoy the money savings).  I’m really just doing it for me. To save money and pay down our debt (we’ll reach our goal the moment I get paid for some work I did this summer, so any day now…) But the unexpected benefit is that I am learning who I am in the middle of all of this polycotton blending, piles of wool, knit, and maybe some polyester. The benefit of looking outward is that it is also making me look in.

Am I leggings or am I capris? Leggings.

Am I comfy tee-shirts, button ups or tunics? Tunics.

Am I colors, am I grays and blacks, am I muted hues? Colors.

It’s such a little thing to learn at almost 30.I’m kind of ashamed. Why do I have so much black, when all I want is a bright yellow? Why do I have only one sweater when I want to swim in them? And it’s such a first-world problem, not being able to shop, because you don’t want to until you’ve paid down debt from your Master’s degree.

But almost 2000 years ago, Marcus Fabius Quintillianus orated, “Vestus virum reddit.” The clothes make the man. It’s the first Latin phrase I learned and it’s been ringing in my head all year. Like a nagging nursery rhyme.  So there must be something to all of this–the window dressing of my life. Between the nakedness of birth and death, there are tunics, thrift store sweaters, hospital gowns, silk shirts, wool hats, knit dresses, and whatever else fits my self.

Me and my friends Kristin and Alexa, at the LA Shorts Film Festival, where my movie “The Way The World Ends” was shown. I wore an old stretchy black lace dress, gold shoes and I had a lovely gold necklace, but Ellis hid it. And I didn’t find it in time. I discovered it a week later in the couch cushions.

Better Than You Since 2012

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

Today a lovely woman gave me a shirt of hers. She said she feels bad for me because of my No Pants 2012 challenge and I was all, “No, I’m fine!” and while stuffing the shirt inside of my purse. “I’m totally above consumerism!”

Has this challenge destroyed my dignity? Probably. But I don’t regret it.  I mean, I don’t regret it now. I do regret it every time I go to a J. Crew. And by “Go to a J. Crew” I mean see it on the internet, because I live in Iowa and the closest J. Crew is a 2 hour drive away.

(Not shopping for a year is totally doable when your state’s largest exports are Meth and corn.)

And I’m not the only one rethinking shopping. Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a piece for Salon about the book Overdressed, by Elizabeth Cline. Williams notes, “We all have closets overflowing with clothing, drawers spilling over with T-shirts, and underwear in every color of the rainbow. Yet, as Cline tells us, “We spend more money on eating out in restaurants” than we do on attiring ourselves – and only 3 percent of the measly amount we spend on clothing goes to apparel made in the United States.”

Also, an article on Grist.com, explains:

“Since 1994, the consumer price of apparel, in real terms, has fallen by 39 percent. “It is now possible to buy clothing, long a high-priced and valuable commodity, by the pound, for prices comparable to cheap agricultural products,” notes Juliet Schor. Cheapness — and the decline in durability that has accompanied it – has triggered an astonishing increase in the amount of clothing we buy. In the mid-1990s, the average American bought 28 items of clothing a year. Today, we buy 59 items. We also throw away an average of 83 pounds of textiles per person, mostly discarded apparel, each year. That’s four times as much as we did in 1980, according to an EPA analysis of municipal waste streams [PDF].Since 1994, the consumer price of apparel, in real terms, has fallen by 39 percent. “It is now possible to buy clothing, long a high-priced and valuable commodity, by the pound, for prices comparable to cheap agricultural products,” notes Juliet Schor. Cheapness — and the decline in durability that has accompanied it – has triggered an astonishing increase in the amount of clothing we buy. In the mid-1990s, the average American bought 28 items of clothing a year. Today, we buy 59 items. We also throw away an average of 83 pounds of textiles per person, mostly discarded apparel, each year. That’s four times as much as we did in 1980, according to an EPA analysis of municipal waste streams [PDF].”

It’s not about being cheap. It’s about being smart.  Before this, I’d buy something because it was cheap who cares if it had shoulder pads. Now, I’m re-prioritizing how I spend and how I value what I put on my body.

Do I sound self assured and confident? Because ERMAHGER! THE CLOTHES! Stepping outside of consumerism and being better than people is hard.

I suppose now is the time when I admit that I totally traded a dress of mine to a friend for a pair of pink pants.

 

No Pants 2012: Month Nine

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

If this challenge were a baby, I’d be eating donettes and telling strangers how dilated my cervix is. Because, ladies and gents, I am done. Just-schedule-this-C-section-and-get-this-kid-out, kind of done.  Does that metaphor not work for you? How about If-I-hear-Carly-Rae-Jepsen-one-more-time-I-may-punch-a-puppy, kind of done? My dad’s a lawyer, so this makes me an expert, and I am pretty sure that you would not be legally responsible should Miss Jepsen push you to such lengths.

In the past nine months, I’ve cleaned the crap out of my wardrobe and pared down to the essentials. The internet told me that I was privileged and a bad dresser with bad hair, I had someone teach me how to dress, I got upset, then I cheated and bought new underwear, because, gross.

Now,  I open my Gap emails and imagine myself prancing around in red skinny jeans and flowy top from Zara. (I also know what Zara is.) I went on a coffee date with a friend and I spent an uncomfortable amount of time complimenting her pants.

“No really, I like them.”

“Thank you.”

“Seriously, they are lovely.”

“I’m sitting down now.”

I’ve turned from someone who regularly wore novelty t-shirts with any sort of skirt to someone who willingly bought a fashion magazine, which I brought home the other day and Dave just stared at it like it was crystal meth.

“You brought that into our home? OUR HOME?”

“It’s a fashion magazine. We’ll all get through this somehow.”

“I just don’t know, Lyz. I just don’t know about this.”

And I have to constantly remind myself that this is worth it. That this year I’ve resisted consuming hordes of cheap crap. That I can look good without spending at every turn, and that last year 1 in 5 Americans had one day when they could not put food on the table. So, who am I? I’m a privileged, upper-middle class woman trying to pay down debt in order to aggressively save for her child’s college education. On some level, complaining about not being able to buy a J.Crew top because we’re paying off my college education sounds like someone whining because they had to forgo the foie gras and Krysal at because that Italian villa just cost so much.  But really, villa’s these days, so overvalued.

Last week, Dave and I sat down to evaluate how we are doing and we are ahead of schedule. We planned on reaching our goal by December and we should reach our goal two or three months early. So any day now. And I was so excited, I clapped and said, “Dave what will we do with the extra money? Can I buy new blinds for our room?”

He held up his hands. “Wait, hold on, what extra money?”

“The money we won’t use to pay down the debt those last couple of months.  You know…”

“So, wait? You want to spend it?”

“Yes.”

“You can’t just spend money willy nilly, you know.”

And that’s when I pulled my hand back and full on slapped his arm so hard, I think the neighbors hear thwacking resound down the street.

“What’s that? A gun shot?”

“No, just the Lenzes talking about money again.”

No Pants 2012: I Bought Underwear

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here andhere. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

Underwear is the canary to the mine shaft of my body. The state of my underwear indicates whether we are safe for work or whether people just need to up and run for their lives. And ladies and gentleman, my canaries were dead. Not just dying but dead. Run for your lives.

When I started this whole no-shopping-for-a-year-thing, I didn’t really think through what would be going on with my undies.

And dead canaries means that things aren’t right. You aren’t okay. Some one is going to die. Even mine owners in West Virginia would advocate worker safety in these situations.

In general, I don’t really think much about my canaries. I just pick what is functional. What works. Clearly, I’m a dream boat to be married to. Yet, two weeks ago, as I was doing laundry, I was forced to toss some dead canaries. I mean, I tried to revive them. But the loss of elastic, the giant holes and Dave’s vomiting were making it impossible to justify putting them in the drawer.

In eight months, I’ve only bought one sweater (and spent no money!) And I’m determined to make this whole, no shopping thing work. But when I realized I only had five pairs of underwear in my drawer, not even enough to make it through the week, I had to buy some undies. When I asked Dave, I think his response was, “PLEASE! YES! PLEASE!”

So, I bought underwear.

I tried to use the principles I’ve learned from my eight months of no shopping. Get what is good. Buy what will last. Look for deals, but don’t just purchase because it’s cheap. Really, that’s how you end up with an extra-small jumpsuit that shows too much thigh in the back of your drawer because it was only $10. BARGAIN.

I did alright. $60 for 6 pairs, one bra and a Spanx. I think I could do better.  But I wasn’t a rabid consumer of cheap crap. Those cheapo polka dotted boy bloomers that previously would have tempted me because they were only $2, they stayed in the bin. But I didn’t overspend on ugly things either. Because, let’s just be honest. This butt is only getting bigger. Be afraid my canaries. Be afraid.

Also, can we just ponder the fact that I’ve given up clothes shopping for eight whole months?

No Pants 2012: 5 Things I Learned About Dressing Myself Like Big Girl

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

I had a lovely lady named Liz (she spells her name like a normal person, weirdo) come over last week and help me learn how to dress.  In addition to having really gorgeous hair and a spunky sense of style, Liz had all sorts of tips for me, which she managed to make them sound not like tips but like ideas I came up with on my own.

So, when I was all, “I want a green sweater!” She said, “That’s great. Perhaps something in this hue?” She pointed to yellow. And then I was like, “Oh, I thought those were the same color.” And she smiled really big, like I had just said something super smart.

She didn’t even judge my gross bedroom. Seriously. My baby has this lovely nursery of light and splendor and Dave and I live in squalor. I also eat her food off the floor. This is like some messed up reverse Cinderella. I think my fairy godmother might be Ronald McDonald.

Liz had clipped some fashion inspirations from magazines for me to look at and learn from. And you guys, I did not know things didn’t have to match. Also, it’s important to plan your clothes shopping trips as carefully as you plan your grocery trips. I know, right now, some of you are vomiting into your carefully accessorized barf bags, but be kind. I’m learning. Remember, I still like my pajama jeans. Baby steps.

Liz also didn’t give me rules for dressing. She said that she often toys with the idea of putting together a must-have list, but she thinks everything on that list could be debatable, so it doesn’t matter. For example, she recommended I rock the tunic trend, and thinks some good quality tunics should be in my future, but for her, not so much. She also doesn’t believe in rules. Wearing clothes in the Midwest isn’t like dressing up for NYC. If I wore heels everywhere I’d probably get uninvited from trips to the farm. Or playdates to the park.

Liz was very teach-a-man-to-fish. She suggested some pairings, but ultimately she walked me through how to wear my favorite pieces and suggested ways I could jazz them up. Belts. Hemming a dress. Bold necklace. Layered sweaters. Some things I can’t do until I  can clothes shop again (January, you can’t come soon enough) and other things just blew me away, like putting a sweater over a sun dress and making it look like a skirt. You can do that!

But most importantly, just talking through the looks I liked with Liz helped me get a handle on how I like to wear clothes. Just articulating why I liked or didn’t like something made me understand oh hey, I actually DON’T like dressing like Audrey Hepburn. I like dressing like Audrey’s drug-addicted sister, Amy. So, I’m trying to pair basics with bold colors and coordinating (not matching). Using some of the tips, Liz gave me, I put together three pieces of my wardrobe in 4 different ways. The sweater was a gift and the skirt and pink button up blouse were from The Dave, everything else is from my horrible closet. So, without further preamble here is what I learned.

Note: That all-black outfit actually looks better in person. It’s just that by that picture I was so sick of standing in front of the cyclops eye of the camera and listing to the right. I don’t know how you fashion bloggers do it. Must be a serial-killer’s level of narcissism.

5 Things I Learned About Dressing Myself Like  Big Girl

1. Know your assets. We all have our problem areas, but instead of hiding those, we should focus on playing up our good areas. You know what the best solution to stomach flab is? Showing a little cleavage.

2.  Wear what flatters your body, not what flatters your ego. I’m a size six. But, I have no waist. I’m build like a Duplo lego. Well, a Duplo lego that eats too many tacos. So, when I was trying on high-waisted skirts, they all fit kind of wonky. I kept returning the skirt and trying on different styles, until finally a kind sales girl suggested a larger size. “It will hang lower on you and feel more comfortable and no one has to know it’s a size bigger.” Except, I just told the internet. So, there is that. But guess what. That skirt is so awesome now.

3. Plan your shopping trips.  I’m too guilty of just going out to Target, grabbing whatever is on the clearance rack and saying, “good enough.” But part of dressing like a big kid is planning things out. One of the reasons, I’m such a big donor to Goodwill is that I don’t plan my purchases. So, I’ll wear something a couple times and then, a few weeks later I realize that OH Puffed sleeves aren’t a good idea?! Who knew?

4. Return until it’s right. I bought four different yellow sweaters before I found the right one. And yeah, it was just a Target sweater purchased on a gift card from an anonymous donor (Dave says this purchase makes my No Pants 2012 Challenge invalid, but I told him his face was invalid, so I’m clearly winning), but it’s the only thing I’ve “bought” in six months and I needed it to be right. And because of that careful planning I can basically wear this sweater with everything I own. It’s kind of magic.

5. One good piece makes everything else look better. That skirt pictured above is worth more than my life (which oddly enough is $59 at Banana Republic). But you guys, I love it. And everything I put on with it looked amazing. I don’t even like that green shirt much, but when I put it on with the skirt I was all “Green shirt, where you been all my life?”

 I realize I’m not going to suddenly become a fashion blogger, but you guys. I’ve come from this to THIS, with no money spent, unless you count the $20 gift card.  And quite frankly, before, that $20 would have been spent on two different items that would end up in the Goodwill pile next year. Now, it’s a veritable $20 wardrobe makeover.

No Pants 2012: Six Month Update

Back in January, I gave up clothes shopping for a year. You can read about my journey here and here. This post is part of my effort to reinvent my wardrobe and look good, without being a rabid consumer of cheap crap.

On July 1 I hit my six month anniversary of not buying any clothes. In honor of hitting the six month mark (and our 7 year anniversary at the end of the month) Dave gave me a lovely button-up shirt and skirt from Banana Republic. It was all fancier than I would have ever bought myself. I mean, I dream of shopping at Banana Republic, but I never do, because more than $10 for a top? I’m not made of money, Banana Republic! Yet, Dave, the man who’d rather walk around in socks with no heels than pay the $10 for a brand new pack of tube socks, bought fancy clothes for me. He said he just wanted me to “feel as smart as I am.”

And that pink button-up top, wrapped in tissue, that wasn’t on clearance.

I was also gifted a $20 gift card to buy something at Target for the conference. Then, this week, I had a lovely lady named Liz come help me look at what I had for clothes and put together some outfits. She taught me many things and I planned on putting together some outfits based on her suggestions, taking pictures, blogging them, and then declaring victory over consumerism. Six months without clothes shopping and I still look good! I wanted to say.

Yet, as I reviewed the photos of each outfit my triumph diminished. I tried to pull more outfits together, and I started sweating and my hair looked harried, and each picture looked increasingly desperate. I filled another bag of clothes and took them to Goodwill before picking Ellis up from the sitters.

Now, you can see the bottom of my drawers even with all of my clothes in them. All my hanging up items fit into my closet. The only items I have in storage are a few winter sweaters. My supplies and my resolve are depleted.

I just want to look good.

It seems so silly to feel this desperate over clothes. But Liz, who helps women dress and shop for a living, tells me that most people feel this way. Most women, when she comes to help them, end up crying into their Marc Jacobs handbags because there is something about the process of clothing ourselves–covering flaws, emphasizing assets, choosing colors that bring out our eyes or those auburn highlights we secretly hoped made our hair look red in the sunlight–that makes us feel that we have control. And when that power fails, it reduces us to all the vulnerabilities we try to hide with flattering cuts and colors, belts and hemlines.

I’ve always thought I was above that. Turns out, I think I’ve just thought that I would look good if I tried. But I don’t try. Until now. And it wasn’t quite the silk from sow’s ear scenario I imagined. I’m still me.

A well-put together outfit transforms us into the version of ourselves we want to be. Bold and daring. Soft and feminine. A carefully orchestrated waistline hides the flub. A neckline gives us eye-turning grace. Every movie heroine, after she turns a corner, gets a new wardrobe. We signal life change, momentous occasions, with the costume of celebration.

But in the end, it seems, it’s all pumpkins and mice. The flub is still there and no carefully tailored pant can give me the illusion that my pancake butt is somehow as full and as confident and as fabulous as I want to feel.

As transformative as wardrobe can be, it can be equally as devastating when all of the magic of polycotton blends fails to give us what we need. This is the time when I would go out and buy something, anything. And I did. With the gift card, I bought a sweater carefully chosen from Liz’s suggestions. But I’m returning it tomorrow, because it doesn’t look quite right. My first piece of chosen clothing in six months and it doesn’t look like magic, or confidence, or cool unassuming style. It just looks like a sweater.

Maybe it’s just clothes-induced ennui, but tonight Ellis and I ate a whole frozen pizza, while we watched Law & Order with no pants on. Dave was out, so it was just us girls, snuggling, self medicating (ibuprofen for her, wine for me), and taking a break from all the things we think we should be so we can just be what we are in the moment; tired, a smidge whiny, with chubby thighs that need some fresh air.

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