Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School Not Shopping


Back to School Purchases:
black shift dress with skinny faux patent belt (H&M)
mustard toned buckled slice wedges (Nine West Outlet)
You've Seen Them (almost) All Befores:
purple cardi (NY&Co)
black faux patent belt (H&M)
punchy beaded necklace (Old Navy)
sand colored swing jacket (H&M)
gray short sleeved turtleneck (via sister's closet)
silver toned ring necklace (JC Penney?)
gray cardi (NY&Co)
clear lucite bead necklace (Kohl's)
faux snake print belt (Kohl's)
white and cream circle print top (H&M)
stone colored belt (NY&Co)

I am taking a 30 day hiatus from shopping.  I have not yet found all of the items on my "back to school shopping" list, but I've decided to stop here-- with this black shift and these mustard slice wedges.  After reading Tania's description of how liberated she felt after her 30 days without shopping, I realized that is just the sort of liberation I need.  I don't buy very much, but I engage on thoroughly exhaustive hunts for the items I've decided I need.  When shopstyle shows up as one of the "top sites" in your web browser, you have a problem.  Since my semester starts soon, I think it makes perfect sense to set aside this annoying habit of mine for a while to focus on more important tasks.

To get myself excited about this undertaking, I thought I'd see how many different ways I could style this perfect! simple shift dress.  I only stopped here because I ran out of time, not because I ran out of ideas.  The course I'm teaching this semester meets fewer than 30 times, and I am 100% sure I could style this one dress in a different way for every single session.  And these shoes?! 
Two of the items on my back-to-school list were "colored wedge" and "nude closed-toe shoe," and I actually think this pair ticks both boxes.  I wore them with all of the outfits above mostly for convenience, but the experiment also confirms my suspicion that depending on the ensemble, they can function both as a neutral and as a pop of color.

I'm also pleased that this shift fits right into the conversation Anne-Marie started yesterday about 50s and 60s style trends.  What I'll add to her post is this: I think I feel different in my shift than the real life Joans and Bettys of the past felt in theirs.  Clothing technology has made some remarkable strides in the past 50 years.  I can purchase similar silhouettes, but my options are constructed from breathable, washable fabrics that move with me.  My version of femininity might look similar, but it doesn't require me to wear undergarments that dig into my body, either.  Anne-Marie's own experience with her belt in the heat speaks to how uncomfortable our clothes can make us in certain circumstances, and it gives me sympathy for all the ladies back in the day who had to learn to walk in skirts that minimized their strides.

So while some may say that its anti-feminist to return to styles that were popular when women's bodies were inhibited in these ways, I say to them: I can do a cartwheel in this dress and these shoes.  Thank goodness for stretch fabrics!  Since new technology has allowed the physical liberation of my body in these clothes, I'll argue that I can absolutely wear them without claiming all the old ideological baggage that they carried back in 1962. 

  • What's your favorite closet workhorse?  Have you run out of ways to wear it yet?
  • Have you ever stopped shopping for a predetermined length of time?  What was your experience with it?
  • In your opinion, what's the best innovation in apparel technology from the past 50 years?  Why?


Scholar Style Guide said...

You make a great point about less restrictive fabrics translating to a less restrictive ideology surrounding the clothing. No doubt feeling physically free in our garments contributes to feeling psychologically free in them as well. I had been thinking more abstractly on this subject, so I'm glad you raised this practical point.

As for apparel technology, I award three cheers for wrinkle-free, no-iron shirts!


Jill said...

I love this idea of wearing two items multiple ways! I actually just asked Anne-Marie for help with my wardrobe. My problem is the opposite of yours: I don't shop enough and my budget just doesn't support regular shopping. My question to her was, what are some essential wardrobe 'must haves' that won't make me look like a Plain-Jane? (And on a clothes budget of $50 a month)? I think my first purchase will be a cute, neutral shift dress! Or maybe some comfy nude wedges!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have to add some thoughts here about fashion in days gone by....your 96 year old grandmother still will not start the day without putting on her girdle. I have tried for years to get her out of it and explain that she doesn't need to be so confined anymore, but to no avail. She does not feel comfortable unless she is firmly held in place. I think part of it is also that she is uncomfortable talking about her undergarments....so, I don't think that some of your posts the past few days talking about previous fashion are entirely correct.....ladies used to be raised differently and the way they saw themselves and felt comfortable was based upon their own comfort level and it didn't bother them.
I agree with you that the current fashions offer us so many more comfortable options that are much less time consuming to wear and clean....and hallelujah for that! I love my no-iron blouses and pants...

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add that I love the many different looks and the shoes!!!
Enjoy your 30 day hiatus from shopping....

A-Dubs said...

'Love the fabulously versatile shift and wedges! What great finds.

I had a forced 8-month shopping hiatus last year and found the first couple of months VERY difficult because I'd come to use shopping as relaxation/therapy. Now that I've had to develop more savings-friendly treatments for what ails me, I feel better, and so does my house down payment fund.

And my favourite closet workhorse is also a black dress that's a kind of modified shift. It's got a slightly bloused top and a small cowel (sp?) neck. And the best part is that it is, like your dress, fully washable. It's also a microfibre, so it requires zero ironing.

'Looking forward to seeing more styling of your lovely pieces!

Anonymous said...

I love this post! That dress is truly versatile, and those shoes have such personality to them.

At the end of this month, it will have been two months since I shopped. This break was pretty much unintentional, though. I just haven't felt at all like shopping. In the recent past, I went for three months without shopping. It was a good experience - it made me take a good long look at what I owned, forced me to think more creatively about what I had, and I ended up purging some things that I was keeping for no real reason at all.

Good luck with your break! I can't wait to hear how it goes for you!

Scholar Style Guide said...

AM, I know I'm highly likely to look at things from a practical angle anyway, but here I was also taking a cue from Ms. Rich, who writes/speaks explicitly about how she derives theoretical understanding out of a practical analysis of her world.

Jill, thanks for chiming in! I spend less than $50/mo on clothes, but the amount of time I spend doing various types of shopping is not so regulated (i.e. I shop quite a bit without making any purchases). I think a shift and nude wedges are a great place to start, and maybe we could each outline our "wardrobe basics" in a future post. Great idea!

Mom, I think we're talking about two different versions of "comfortable." I meant comfortable in terms of what is not physically restrictive to one's body, and you're talking about the sense of comfort that Gramma seems to get from wearing something that makes her feel "right" about herself. With all due respect to women who were raised in different eras, I don't believe very many women (if any) would put on girdles if society had not made them believe girdles were necessary. Feeling "comfortable" in a girdle is, I think, a reaction to societal pressures put on a woman (especially of Gramma's generation) to fit the norms of beauty or femininity endorsed by that society. I feel thankful that, since Gramma came of age, plenty of women (and men, too) have done enough intellectual heavy lifting that I have the privilege of being able to recognize societal pressures as such and to try to begin to think outside them.

A-Dubs and Sara, thanks for your thoughts on not shopping. I can relate to both of your comments in that I really enjoy the items I already own, and I don't like shopping to be my go-to relaxation activity. I hope I'll come out on the other end with the clarity that both of you seem to have achieved about your time without shopping!


La Historiadora de Moda said...

Yay for a versatile and professional LBD!

I've been on shopping bans before and I'll be one one again soon. I think they can be instructive in determining motivating factors for shopping. In general, I think a plan and a budget is more useful for me than an all-out ban because I tend to chafe and rebel against rules -- even ones that I set for myself. I also think after a shopping fast, I still tend to binge when the restrictions are lifted.

E-Jo said...

I too am putting myself on a shopping ban but this post is making me think that shopping for a black shift dress is a necessity. Your's is awesome and so versatile. I particularly love outfit #2.

Scholar Style Guide said...

@Jill - my clothes budget is roughly the same as yours, so I feel your pain! I almost always shop discount, and if I really want a particular item or new things for the season, I'll go without for a certain period of time and then splurge (though still on discounted items usually).

Liz, when I first glanced at the pictures, I didn't even register that it was the same dress. So, mission accomplished!

Also, even though I just got new shoes, I want those wedges. And nude pumps have been on my shopping list for.ev.er.

Speaking of, I too shop constantly without buying anything. Though I just did (actually am still in the middle of) a closet purge and now need some new replacement items. I find, though, that I browse so much that I have trouble pulling the trigger - which is good, don't get me wrong, because otherwise I'd be broke. But I've let some good (great) deals slip by on stuff I actually needed because I get gun-shy, especially with online shopping.

Anyways, interested to hear how this experiment goes.


Brooke said...

Liz, I love your creativity in this post. What a lovely idea to style the same dress so many ways. Today is only the end of my first week of teaching, and I have already turned to the 'casual Friday' jeans due to lack of inspiration. I'm going to try to dress up my LBD a few different ways now too - that should help get me through a few more Fridays!