When I was growing up, I remember engaging in back-to-school shopping and then as-we-needed-to-replace-things shopping, not sport- or bordom-shopping as many of us (myself included) do now. My mother made a lot of my clothes through middle school, and although we did shop at Jacobson’s sometimes (a higher-end department store in Orlando when I was growing up), we spent more time scouring the racks at SteinMart, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx so my mother could buy her Liz Claiborne petites at a discount.
As you can probably tell, my mother is absolutely a brand-loyal shopper, as is my father. So no wonder I am too; we tend to stick with brands we can count on to fit our bodies and our aesthetics, and that we know will stand the test of time. We hardly ever paid full price for anything though, growing up, but we always took very good care of our clothes, and never had a lot more than we needed.
Through high school and college I honestly didn’t pay a lot of attention to my clothes. I was very heavy and just wore what I needed to to cover myself. I loved the t-shirt I wore CONSTANTLY that said “life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes” with one of my many pairs of Birkenstock sandals, of course, but I really never thought about what I was wearing, certainly not as much as I do now.
While I was going to graduate school I worked at Starbucks and taught pre-school full-time, so I wore very toddler-friendly/casual clothes all the time. Then when I started working for the Israel Economic Office in 1998 I added in more “work” clothes, but didn’t need very conservative attire. I guess that was when I started thinking about my clothing more, and how what I wore portrayed me as a person and as a professional.
With “professional” work, I finally had more money and discovered the “joy” of shopping for clothes. I had also lost some weight at that point, and liked dressing my new-ish body. I got into significant credit card debt (Nordstrom & Neiman Marcus credit cards…) buying for my new body, started feeling overwhelmed financially, gained weight again, and couldn’t wear my clothes anymore. Which of course started the cycle of having to buy more clothes to fit my ever-changing body; from 2000 to 2014 I lost and gained the same 50-75 pounds 4 or 5 times…
In 2004 I started Grechen’s Closet, and the rest is pretty well documented. I became obsessed with shopping, finding pieces I wanted at the best price, and discovering new designers. Lots of things were changing in my life and I went through bouts of emotional shopping, ending up with too much stuff, and having spent WAY too much money.
Finally in 2014 I started paring back and writing about my experiences for The Minimal Closet.
Now, I have fewer clothes, and a more tightly edited wardrobe, and I try to be much more thoughtful about what I add to it. I thought when I pared down I wanted to have a “capsule” wardrobe, dress in uniforms, shop only once every season, buying only the “perfect” things that would last forever, never having to buy anything ever again.
I’m more realistic now, and understand that I love trying new things too much to stop shopping, or to think I can find “the perfect” pair of jeans and then quit looking. I always want to play with new styles and shapes to see what they’ll do for me. I love to see what’s new and explore designers who are trying to change the industry. And there are SO MANY.
I did shop my share at H&M and Zara, but I never really bought too much into fast fashion, thanks in part to my upbringing and appreciation for quality, craftsmanship, and lack of desire for something new every week. Now, I try to focus more on slow fashion: pieces with a story and people behind them, people I can see and learn more about.
And I’ve found myself gravitating much more towards wanting to buy a few things at the beginning of a new season – or end of the last, because I’m bored with the weather and itching for something new, instead of spacing things out. It’s a bit like creating a “capsule” wardrobe, but not…
Honestly, I’m still not very organized when it comes to clothes/accessories shopping. I’m not great at preparing a budget, although when I do have one, I stick to it. I don’t shop with lists, but I do have a pretty clear idea of what I “need” or want at any given time. And since I have fewer clothes, I know what I do have, so I can avoid buying duplicates (something which I did often before my wardrobe was organized – mostly without even realizing it).
As I’m fond of saying now, this is a journey, not a destination. I no longer think I can achieve the perfect wardrobe full of the perfect things. I don’t want to, anyway. What fun would that be?
I am always amazed at how much I’ve changed over the years, both in terms of my style, and otherwise. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be where I am now, when I was in college, or in graduate school.
Maybe now I’m coming back around full circle? to the way we shopped growing up? Are things moving back in that direction? There really wasn’t fast fashion in the 70’s/early 80’s, so it may be more natural for those of us who grew up then or before to embrace the idea of shopping more deliberately and thoughtfully than it is for those of us born in the 80’s.
I do hope that’s where we’re headed: towards more conscious consumption, but I understand the hurdles to get over, especially the perceived high-cost of sustainable style.
But before I go on forever…do tell, how do you shop? how has the way you shop changed over the years? What’s your shopping history and how does it shape your consumption habits now?