I haven’t written about clothes since dinosaurs roamed the earth. When I’ve forced myself to do it anyway, (because I don’t think when Emily gave me this big fancy "clothes editor" title, she meant for me to solely write about washing my hair with bottled water) I’ve felt like it was a horrible, arduous chore.
I thought perhaps this was just a symptom of clothing fatigue. After 10 straight months of dressing people day in and day out, I sort of never want to think about what to wear ever again.
But then I realized the problem was a little deeper, and that I was in fact the problem. I realized that I may possibly need to toss out almost every single bit of clothing I have managed to acquire over the past 10 years and start over.
Everything in my closet suddenly seems so cheap, tacky, and not me. Everything is too tight, too short, and made of terrible crappy fabric, horrible to the touch. Quantity has trumped quality.
I’ve got an entire bedroom full of tired, repetitive styles that now seem far too "young" for the current me. It’s all the result of shopping in a grotesque mallrat wasteland ruled by made-up trends, and awful ones at that.
Anything I decide I sorta like (Fringe! Velvet! Baby doll dresses!) burns itself out almost immediately due to sameness overload. It all just cycles in and out of the packed racks at cheap chain stores, smelling like melted plastic and tires.
All this time I’ve thought I was the shimmering golden girl, a budget Daisy Buchannan, the babe you never see in the same dress twice. Now I’m grossed out and overwhelmed. I find myself wishing I just had a dozen perfect garments I could never tire of wearing.
I couldn’t really put my finger on any of this until I recently read the first 20 pages of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” immediately following a Target dress-purchasing binge. My mouth literally fell wide open as I read the words.
Like the author, Elizabeth L. Cline, I’ve become so strung out on purchasing cheap, trendy fashion that I’ve lost touch with my true personal style. I don’t even have a clue as to what I really love to wear anymore. I’ll buy any old dress, no matter how ugly, as long as it has pockets.
As a result, I open my closet and nothing I own seems good enough to actually wear. I am constantly chasing some fantasy, an idealized version of how I’d like to dress -- and falling far short of the mark every single time.
It’s not lost on me that I’ve cultivated an entire career out of thin air by telling people what they should wear. People PAY ME to dress them. And rightly so -- I have excellent taste. Just, it seems, not when it comes to myself.
I’ll come out and say it -- I have somehow devolved into dressing like an overgrown toddler. A tacky toddler, even. Every dress I own suddenly seems like it’s just too damn short. Would it kill all these cheap and cheerful manufacturers to make a few of their dresses somewhere near mid-thigh length? I feel like I can’t even bend over at work anymore unless I am wearing tights. I live in Southern California -- tights weather is sadly short. What about the other 325 hot, sunny days of the year?
I have started to feel incredibly self-conscious in my clothes. I had a few fittings recently with some really big stars, and I felt like a weird baby-clown woman wearing a succession of bright, gaudy clothes my mommy bought me to hide stains because I dribble food on myself often.
I used to come home from a trip to Target feeling victorious -- as if I was the smartest little budget fashionista in all the land. Then I realized I was taking bags of Target clothes to Goodwill as fast as I was purchasing them.
“Oh well!” I thought,” I’m stimulating the economy!” Isn’t that what we were supposed to do after 9-11? Go out, live our lives, and keep shopping, lest the terrorists win?
I’d be out in the world, fully dressed in something I’d just bought, and suddenly find myself desperately looking for somewhere to buy something new, wanting to change into whatever new thing I bought mid-day. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I just bought enough things, I’d finally really love something.
Then I took a good hard look at my closet, and it was terrifying. It’s bursting at the seams with tons of ugly, cheap crap. 29 pairs of inexpensive jeans in 3 different sizes, all of which I hate to wear. Poorly constructed dresses with the lining torn out. Garments I don’t even really like but bought because they were just there. Terrible, gaudy floral prints when I actually DETEST a floral print on myself almost without fail.
I forced myself to drastically re-assess my shopping habits. I also took a cold, hard look at what really flatters me -- and now find myself inexplicably drawn to really simple, almost preppy clothes. I still trash them up with bandannas and skirts with zippers and American flag scarves, but the bones of my style are definitely changing, and I think for the better.
I’ll never give up buying inexpensive clothes -- I’m just being really brutal about what makes the cut. I’m forcing myself to really love something before I bring it home these days. It’s kind of an awesome challenge. I am holding the new things I bring into my closet to a very high standard.
I am also testing the waters with some more expensive, possibly better made pieces. I recently splurged on a pair of Rag & Bone skinny jeans, and am pleased to say that they were worth every single penny.
They fit like a damn dream, and I can wear them a half dozen times between washings. They never get all stretched out in the knees and the bum like all my cheap-o jeans. Would I rather have 2 pairs of great jeans instead of 35 pairs of just so-so jeans? I’m starting to realize that yes, yes I would.
I find myself spending an entire day looking for something to buy and sometimes coming home empty handed. Considering I used to leave my shopping bags in the car to sneak them past my boyfriend when he wasn’t looking, this new reality is totally freeing.
I actually find most of what I deign to buy these days at vintage/consignment spots like the Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange. Yes, it’s a lot more work -- but I truly LOVE what I’ve bought recently, for the first time in years.
We have a million more shopping options for clothing than my grandmother ever had in her day, but still sort of not a damn thing to wear.
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.