Jill ponders her year without shopping in a fun, fresh, engaging and occasionally informed way

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Shop your Wardrobe: A Working Definition

A hearty Friday hello to you. Our weather has been having rather wild mood swings of late. Rainy and overcast in the mornings, brilliant sunshine by late morning, cloudy and menacing by dusk. I thought that kind of cantankerous climate only happened in Melbourne. Or Toronto.
So, here we all are at blog #59. A lot has happened this last week.

  • We've been taped by Australia's Channel 7. Their evening magazine show, Today Tonight is doing a story on recovering shopaholics, and I'm one of the featured people on it. The show is probably going to air early next week. Like heavy towels on a cloudy day, it takes time for a story like this to air properly. I'm looking forward to airing. (actually, while we're talking about this... if you watch the show, you'll see the shots of my wardrobe. Which is not only one of my favourite rooms in the house, but is also a converted bedroom and very deliberately designed and laid out. Just for a bit of context, I have attached a photo that shows a portion of Mariah Carey's wardrobe. All we see are some of her shoes - not even all of them. And that's just her shoes. Heaven knows how big the entire thing is. I'm thinking football field sized).

  • We have moved full steam ahead on getting our 12 month My Year Without Clothes Shopping program knocked into shape. Check out the updated website here. I'll wait while you check it out..... back? Good. What did you think? We're pretty pleased with the site and have received some positive feedback to it. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a wet fish, isnt' it?
  • We've got some great guest writers/contributors lined up to be part of the 12 month program. Avis Cardella (author of Spent: memoir of a shopaholic) is going to be part of Months 4 and 9. Jennifer Selby Long (author of Wealthy Types) is going to contribute to Month 8. Helen Robinett of Image Quest (image advisor extraordinaire) is going to contribute to Months 2, 5 and 11.... It's all go, I tell ya. There'll be so many fabulous people contributing to this program, our heads will collectively spin.

Ok, before I get too business-y here, let me get onto what else I want to talk to you about today. You'll probably have noticed the words the Shop Your Wardrobe website. And you're probably wondering: what does that mean? Good question, and I'm glad you asked!

And if you're really asking: I wonder if it's too early for lunch? Or, is Chelsea Clinton really going to serve gluten-free cake at her wedding? Then I'm sorry but you've come to the wrong website for answers to those burning questions. So let me go ahead and answer my own question, and try to stay with me, please!

Ok, so here's the scoop. There's two bits to Shop Your Wardrobe. Well, two bits I could think of anyway. Here they are:

1. The first bit is about attitude. Psyche. Thoughts patterns. What goes on in the upstairs department. You know how you can look at the stuff in your wardrobe and be silently saying "yeah, this is all ok... but what I really want is....[insert name of desired object here]!". Desired object may be the latest Must Have item you've read about or seen tantalisingly displayed in a store window. At the moment, I've noticed a lot of military-inspired stuff around. Which is not for me. You put military-style with animal-print and I'll look like I'm about to stage a coup in some third-world country. Not the look I'm going for.

So, back to this attitude thing. Maybe you're looking at your winter jackets and wishing for a military-inspired jacket instead of what you've got now. Whatever it is you're wishing for, what that's doing is creating or reinforcing a feeling of want. You feel something is lacking. Now, maybe your wardrobe has the goods, maybe it doesn't. That's not the point here (it's the next point -- let's keep our points in order, shall we?)

If you want to Shop Your Wardrobe, you gotta have an attitude of what I've got is enough. Your 'tude should be one of enjoying and using what you've got to the full. Easy enough to say, harder to do. But it can be done.

And of course, it's easier if point #1 and point #2 are in synch. Let's get into point #2 now, shall we?

2. The second bit of Shopping your Wardrobe is to create a working wardrobe. Oh, so what the Gucci is a working wardrobe?, I hear you ask. Sheesh, you're asking all the great questions today.

A working wardrobe is one where every single item in it:--

  • works for you. Every thing makes you look good and feel even better

  • pays its rent. You wear everything in your wardrobe. None of that "oh the last time I wore this was when I went to see The Godfather when it first came out at the drive-in". No. It all gets worn. Regularly. Seasonally. Frequently.

  • plays well with other items. Every item coordinates with at least 3 other items in your wardrobe. And 3 is just the minimum. There's no maximum.

  • has been purchased consciously. None of that random whirling through a store, picking up things thither and tither, with no overarching plan in your head of what you're there to buy, why you're buying it, and how it's going to fit into your current wardrobe. Working wardrobes don't get created that way. The people who stand at their wardrobe, staring into it with a slightly white-eyed look, lamenting "look at all this stuff! Yet I've nothing to wear" have usually shopped in that random fashion. There's no consciousness to that kind of shopping.

Working wardrobes usually take a bit of time to develop. Mine has taken 10 years to get to the point where it is now. 10 years ago is when I started getting conscious about pulling my wardrobe together.

10 years ago is when I learned about and applied the building blocks of a working wardrobe (and this is also a useful guideline for me in upcoming blog pieces I should cover, right?).....

  • colour. What colours support me and make me look my best? Ok, you might or might not buy into that whole colour thing. That's ok. But I reckon there's something to it, and it sure makes shopping easier

  • style and shape. I'm not a fan of Trinny and Susannah's body shapes that are modelled on inanimate man made items (who wants to be a 'brick'? or a 'bell'? yegods). But there is something to understanding the different shapes that we humans tend to come in, and knowing yours in particular. Then dressing accordingly. It's the way nature intended it. I mean, there's a reason why hippos, rhinos and elephants come in standard grey, isn't there?

  • personality dressing. You don't have to be Carl Jung to know that people come in different personality packages. This is also the way nature intended. Take birds for instance.... peacocks are different to eagles, and both are different to owls, and they're all different to doves. Right? (And let's not even get started on the hairy woodpecker). However you slice and dice it up, we all have different personalities, and knowing yours can help you determine a style of dressing that supports or expresses or even informs who you are. Assuming you have your eyes open and your brain turned to the on position, you'll likely feel quite different wearing a navy blue structured suit than you will wearing a pair of board shorts and thongs.

  • lifestyle. When I worked for an international consulting firm, what I needed in my working wardrobe is really different to what I need in it now. Putting that knowledge into practice to keep my wardrobe truly working for me is part of Shopping My Wardrobe. Out with the suits! In with the animal print jackets! I didn't have a single animal print jacket 10 years ago (and now I have 12.... ok, don't say anything! That's why I'm on this challenge, right?)

  • mixing'n'matching. There's a skill to pulling a whole bunch of outfits together from only a few items of clothing. You truly have a working wardrobe when your options expand exponentially every time you bring home something new. Which leads me to my next, and final point....

  • shopping consciously. You gotta have a plan, or at least some broad ideas of what you're going out there to buy. Without it, you're a walking duck, vulnerable to the sassiest table displays and most alluring window displays. You're like Isla Fisher walking along the street with the store mannequins beckoning to her (loved that part of the movie!). For me, having a plan meant that I could shop purposefully. I knew I'd never bring home an 'orphan' that wouldn't play nicely with any other item in my wardrobe. I discovered my love of consignment shopping, which meant I could shop for quality items without breaking the bank. And who doesn't want an unbroken bank, right?

Ten years ago is when I stopped shopping randomly. Ten years ago is when my working wardrobe really started to take shape. I was in training before then... I had some good ideas, but I didn't really know what the building blocks were, and I sure didn't know how to pull it together. Now I know. And I can honestly say that I shop my wardrobe. Neat, huh? (that, or slightly annoying. I know).

And I can help you do it, too. True blue. (you can read more about why I'm qualified in that particular department about halfway down this page).

So that's the skinny on what I've been up to and what shop your wardrobe means. You're up to date. Right?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Breakthrough - Relief!

Greetings and welcome to blog #58. I had a breakthrough recently. Don't you just love it when people have breakthroughs? I do. A breakthrough implies that someone has come through adversity. That they've been in the mire, prone, prostrate, miserable, stuck, eating worms. It's been HORRIBLE for them. And now - ahhh - the sun has come out, they've gotten to their feet, wiped the dust off their clothes and the mud out their eye.

Breakthroughs imply battling. Some form of battling has taken place. We weren't sure who would win -- good or evil. There were times we were sure that the good guy wouldn't win - he was down on his luck, down in the dumps, down on the dollar. Aussies love a good battler story. I don't think that we are culturally unique in that regard, but we do like to think that the battler is something we invented, don't we?

Anyway, I've been battling. As you know, if you've been reading thiseehere blog. Which of course I know you are, dear reader. Remember blog #51? (it's sure to become a classic). All bent out of shape with nowhere to go and nothing to buy.

Well, on the weekend, I had a breakthrough! (this is worse than an episode of LOST, isn't it? All this bloody build-up! Ok, I'm getting to it, promise. Next sentence. Well, paragraph at least.)

I was in Peter Alexander, my favourite pyjama store (doesn't everyone have a favourite jammie store? Ha! Can you imagine women of our mother's and grandmother's era, having a favourite PJ store? Unheard of! Pajama's aren't fashion items! They're practical things! How things have changed..). I happened to have my camera with me and snuck the above photograph of their current winter range (yep, still "winter" here in Queensland).

Animal print! And what do you notice? Lotsa animal print, right? Waaaay back, in blog #9, I talked about my love of all things animal print. Whenever I see it, I'm sure some synaptic nerve goes bananas in my brain. So what they had in this store was:

  1. zebra print brushed cotton pj sets + just long bottoms

  2. giraffe print brushed cotton pj sets + just long bottoms. Giraffe is an unusual print - you don't see it so much

  3. cheetah print polished cotton (so a shinier look & feel fabric) in pj sets + just bottoms

Lovely stuff. Right up my alley. I looked longingly at items #2 and #3. I picked out my size (M) and held it up. I ran my hands over the fabrics. I had a few moments of "oooh, lovely, I wish...." (those damn seagulls from Finding Nemo and their "mine! mine!" chants haven't quite gone away, but they are receding. Which is a relief - I'd hate to have a Pixar character take up permanent residence in my head. I blogged about them at the Halfway Point most recently).

And then.... something magical happened. I remembered the challenge (yes, brief amnesia is one of the side effects of going into shops, which is why staying out of them is such a good idea) and my commitment to not going clothes shopping for one year. I want to feel proud of myself at the end of this challenge - that I achieved what I set out to do.

I remembered that there are always lovely things to be purchased - they wont go away on December 16 2010 (when the challenge finishes for me). I told myself that if I desperately needed a new pair of PJs next year, I'd find something lovely then.

Wait for it....And I hung up the item in my hand. And here's what was so amazing. I felt relief. Yes, relief. You read that right, clothes fans. For the first time ever on this challenge, I had an item in my hand that I really liked, that was at a price I was happy to pay, that would be worn (pay its rent in my wardrobe), that had practical value.... and when I let it go, I felt something other than a twinge of regret, a shiver of misgiving, an agitation that I might be "missing out".

I felt relief that I didn't have to buy this item. The challenge is the fence that's keeping me in, sure, and that wont last forever (well, it finishes on December 16 2010). But I hope that I can simulate the same emotional braking mechanism that kicked in on Sunday.

Ahem (cough), excuse me.....Now, if you're reading this and thinking to yourself: ok, this bird is saying she feels some kind of regret that she didn't buy pyjama bottoms - am I reading this right? I getcha. I'm writing the damn thing and thinking that. But I'm also thinking: thank god I'm getting a handle on this now. That I'm waking up, tuning in, and letting the entire internet-reading world to witness my struggle.

This is what's real for me right now, warts and all (well, probably more than just warts - I could keep a dermatologist busy for a month with all my 'blemishes'). I just hope you won't cross the street to avoid me if you see me out in public one day.

So, there it is. My breakthrough in 9 easy-to-read-paragraphs. It's not exactly the Kokoda Track, but it's real for me. I feel lighter somehow, and stronger too. And it only took until nearly Month 8 for it to happen.

See - this stuff doesn't happen overnight, I knew it! Who knows what the remaining 4 months of the challenge will bring? More television appearances, perhaps. And more insights and breakthroughs, too. Although possibly not in that particular order.

But for now, I feel like I'm in a good place. It can't all be stones. Right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

5 Things I'd tell you

G'day and welcome to blog #57. Being 7 months into the challenge, it's probably a good time for me to deliver some pearls. Not the freshwater kind, mind, but the wisdom kind. Surely I've learned something that can be distilled in 5 neatly organised points, right?

So, let's imagine we were sitting together over a glass or three of Shiraz (which I had a few too many of last night and am feeling slightly icky today as a result), and you were to ask, as people do:

"So, what's your advice for other shopaholics?"

I mean, that question is on everybody's lips, isn't it?

Let's pretend it is. So you've asked. The question is hanging in the air. I might pause for dramatic effect, take a ladylike sip of my full bodied red (that's the wine I'm talking about now, people) and say something like this.

1. It's ok to love clothes. Clothes are there to be enjoyed, loved, taken on holiday. Recognising you are a recovering shopaholic should not mean that your enjoyment, heck let's just say it - love, of clothes need change. You can still enjoy them. Clothes are fun, they have meaning, they can be a form of personal expression. You just don't need to keep buying them at such a rapid and unrelenting pace. Right?

2. You wanna work out why you buy. With few exceptions, the purchase of almost any item you can think of is more than just about the thing or the money. There's usually some emotions involved, some psychology at play. Exploring what shopping means for you, what need it is plying, is important. Why? Because it'll help unhook you from it, that's why. If you shop when you feel low as a way to perk you up, and you realise this, you've now got better choices. So next time you feel low, you can check in first and make a better choice than to go shopping as a reflex action. Right?

3. Think what else you can do - with your time, money and energy. Being a world class shopper takes a lot of time. Imagine what else you could be doing if you spent less time spending and more time living. Being a world class shopper takes a lot of money. Imagine what you could do if you invested or saved that money, or spent it in a way that enriched your experience of life. Being a world class shopper takes a lot of energy. Imagine what other ways you could direct your precious energy if you weren't spending it spending (see blog #15 where I turned my energy into jewellery design for a day. So not only did I use my creative energy, I used it in an area that I love - adornment of the body!). Right?

4. Resistance may be futile but avoidance works. I talked about this before in blog #25 and to quickly recap: avoiding temptation by not going anywhere near shops is a strategy that works, so why not use it? Sure, it's not a very, well, advanced strategy - it's more sledgehammer than fine scalpel - but it's effective. You don't have to slay your shopaholic dragon in one single day, and you may still feel the pull of the shops when you first start exploring why it is you shop so much. Set yourself up to succeed during the tough early days -- stay out of the shops. Why surround yourself with unnecessary temptation. Right?

5. Remember that the fashion industry's job is to sell you stuff. The fashion industry is one of the most profitable in the world. And why? Because they have worked out how to sell us stuff - more stuff than we need. They use terms like Must Haves (which I blogged about in April). They create in us a bottomless pit of desire for new things to add to our wardrobes. They inform us in authoritative tones about what's in and why. When we are vulnerable to these messages, they can literally be irresistible. And here's what I reckon about is the real purpose of those fashion shows. Remember that the fashion industry's job is to sell you stuff - just keeping this in mind can make it easier to work out what you want, rather than what it is they want to sell you. Right?

And if you are a shopaholic and want to have your own Year Without Clothes Shopping, let me know if you want to be inspired and supported as you do it. I may just have something for you....

So there you have it, clothes fans. My Friday afternoon wisdom for recovering shopaholics. Ask me next week, and I may tell you something different. But for now, there endeth the lesson. Wasn't too painful. Right?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Same old but new somehow

hi there and welcome to blog #56. You know, one of the things that I have so enjoyed about the challenge is a feeling of rediscovery about my existing clothes. Knowing that there are no new friends to be joining the team of wardrobe dwellers this 12 months, has somehow translated into me feeling more appreciation for the gear I currently have. This has manifested it self in several outstanding ways. I feel the need for bullets coming on. Ready?

  • No Saving For Good. You know that feeling of "saving this for good"? Like you can't wear something because it's only for special occasions. Well, apart from the two evening gowns (well, they're more dresses than gowns) that I have, I have let that feeling go. I wear 'good' stuff on everyday days. This doesn't mean I'm wearing my Ashley Fogel suit to work in the home office where no-one will see me except Mango the zen princess ragdoll cat. But it does mean that I'm wearing my silk shirts for casual lunches; I'm wearing my animal print All Stars instead of my Uggs in the office; and I'm wearing my jackets on almost every occasion I can get.

  • More Combos. I'm finding myself being more experimental with the variations I am pulling together. I'm not a set dresser (I talked about this in the Mix'n'Match post) but I realised that I was putting the same combinations together time after time. I feel like I have so many more clothes now because I'm combining different things. Things that have never been paired together before. So, peas and carrots have become peas and chocolate chip ice cream. Yum!

  • Loving it. I'm enjoying my clothes so much more. Maybe it's because I know they aren't about to be bumped aside to make room for something new. I'm getting fuller use out of the plentiful supplies I have. You know, some winters I wouldn't wear some of the jackets I own. This is partly because we don't really have a winter. We call it winter because it falls in between autumn (which we kinda get here) and summer (which we definitely get here, often for longer than we wished we got it for). This winter, I've worn over half my jackets (I have so many that wearing all of them may be a feat). And this Wearing More thing is extending to more than my jackets. I feel like I am using what I've got more in all departments. And that feels good.

So, that's the Wednesday roundup of my feeling good about the challenge. Some days are diamonds and some are stones (thank you, John Denver)... and fortunately there've been some diamond days amongst it all. And for that, I'm grateful. Right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Exit here - via your Visa.

Crikey - get a look at that!
G'day and welcome to blog #55. Yesterday we went to Australia Zoo with 9 year old nephew, Thomas, who's really into the natural world and animals in particular, and reptiles in particular-particular. Want to know about the different types of feet that various types of geckos have? Just ask Tommy (bonus info: some geckos have suckers and others don't). Want to know about the habitat of cane toads? Just ask Tommy. He is a miniature David Attenborough, minus the Oxbridge accent.

The day before, we went to Underwater World with him. I've never discussed stingrays for so long in my life, and possibly never will again. (more bonus tips: depending on the type of ray, their barb appears at different intervals down their tail. Unless they are a shovel-nose ray, in which case, there is no barb. they are barb-less. but hey! they get a shovel for a nose, so it's not all bad!!). ANYWAY. What was fascinating about these visits was how our departure from said harbingers of the natural world was arranged.

Via the shop. Both of these tourist attractions have their exit via the shop. After you've finished absorbing yourself in all things underwater, you get to do some retail therapy! After you've finished your dip into the sumptuous surroundings of the Zoo, you can buy a Bindi t-shirt or tiger towel.

And these aren't the only tourist attractions that are arranged thus. We visited the 6th Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza in Dallas in August, and it was the same thing. After you've finished learning about conspiracy theories and magic bullets, go buy something! Now, doesn't that feel natural? - learn something new and fascinating, then take out your wallet and buy! Yikes!

No choice. And you can't decide to enter the store, or not. It's the only way out. I imagine that this exit arrangement is de rigueur if you own a tourist attraction. It's just the way things are done. And way back when this idea first got going, somewhere around the time of the gladiators, I'm sure that some young gun consultant with a PhD in retail consumer behaviour came up with this idea. It was probably considered brilliant and ground breaking at the time.

Manipulate me? But it just feels manipulative to me. Cheap somehow. Dare I say?... tacky. Sure, I may have had a good time at your tourist attraction, but do I really want to be manhandled into a retail environment after I've decided it's time to vamoos? This kind of exit strategy is the equivalent of "would you like fries with that?" (which apparently earned Maccas millions of revenue each year), or those 372-page email sales letters done in Courier typeface, that are full of yellow highlighted words (and have more than their fair share of the word "hurry" in them). It's so obvious it's audacious. Brash, brassy, brazen. And they are just the "b" words; don't get me started with the rest of the alphabet.

Ok, so you've gotten the idea that I don't appreciate being shepherded through a store as I make my departure. Does this mean I'm anti retail opportunities being presented in tourist attractions? Nosiree, not at all. I just like to have the choice as to whether I'll enter them or not.
And just for the record, yes, we went home sans any products bearing the name 'Bindi', sans plush animals in the shape of hand puppets, and sans neoprene stubby holders bearing the image of the dearly departed Steve Irwin. We did, however, take home a squeaky plastic squid ..... which somehow managed to not get thrown out of the window of our moving vehicle, which was to be its fate if the overuse it was getting on the drive home were to continue past the level of normal human endurance.

Phew! After more discussions about the length of Australia's most deadly snake (more bonus info: this is the Fierce Snake and it can grow over 2m long) than I care to mention, it felt like a lucky escape to exit the store purchase-less. There's only so much info a girl can take in on any given Saturday. Right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Old Shoes

Greetings and welcome to a beautiful mid Winter day here on the Sunshine Coast. It is a balmy 18 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining and wait - is that a bird I hear singing? This must be paradise.

We're up to blog #54. On Sunday I received a new pair of shoes. WAIT! Before you go calling the Challenge police (well, that'd be me), hear me out. I haven't broken the challenge rules. Firstly, the shoes are not new new. They're vintage. See? That's them in the photo to the left - you can tell they're not new new, right?

Second, and most importantly, they were a gift. From the Diva - remember her from blog #14? We'd been invited to their beautiful canal-side home and after many glasses of champagne, the Diva mentioned this sensational pair of shoes that she had. The details are champagne- (excuse me - white carbonated wine)-induced sketchy, but they may have been gifted to her, also. However they came to be residing in the Diva's wardrobe, they were too large for her feet.

Her loss was my potential gain, my foot being a half size larger than hers. (how do women know these facts about one another? Can you imagine a bunch of blokes knowing that their mate has a foot size half a size larger? They barely know one another's names sometimes, let alone vital details like foot size, belt measurements and the names of wives and children).

As I say, many glasses of the good bubbly stuff were being consumed at this stage of proceedings. I put the aforementioned and above-pictured shoes on my feet, and it was like Cinderella and the glass slipper. They fit like a glove. And for shoes with a heel, they were comfortable (and yes, I have since put them on and they're still comfortable, even though I'm now completely sober).

At first the Diva was reluctant to give them to me straight away. She said that she and Terry, her divine husband, had already decided that they'd end up in my wardrobe. But she wanted to attempt to wear them at least once before she gave them to me. I can understand her thinking here, although possibly millions wouldn't. I guess the male equivalent is a guy who's giving his chainsaw away and wants to chop down one more tree before he gives it to his buddy. Or something.

Anyway, I finally took them off my feet -- this is after about 40 minutes of admiring them on my feet, modelling them for the other lunch guests and sprinkling the conversation with words like "oh, you're going to New Zealand next week? So, you wont be needing these shoes then, will you?". It was funny at the time. Once the shoes were off my feet, the Diva proceeded to put them on as she ushered us all to the door. Terry was berating her with words such as "just give them to Jilly! She'll end up with them anyway!". I wisely kept silent during this transaction, Terry having been a senior sergeant detective with the Sydney Police, he can be intimidating when he wants to, and he's not nicknamed the Bear for nothing.

Finally, with the front door in sight, Diva removes said footwear and stuffs them in the top of my handbag. And "stuff" is indeed the right verb, I tell you... I could tell she was experiencing mixed feelings. I've been waiting for the phone to ring and the Diva to say something like "you know those gorgeous vintage shoes I gave you on Sunday? Well....." But so far, nothing. Maybe this means I'll get to keep them after all.

And I've been thinking about the question I posed in the last blog about clothes swaps. Namely: is clothes swapping a breach of the challenges spirit, if not a breach of the rules? And I reckon the answer might be NO. Especially if it is being done only intermittently and not every week or somesuch. Now, I know what you're thinking -- I'm only saying that because I was given these shoes on Sunday. No, no. Ok, maybe just a little bit. But mostly I'm saying that because I believe it. The occasional clothes swap (or receipt of 'new' items given by friends and family) is an acceptable component of the challenge. That sounds reasonable. Right?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Not Quite New - Clothes Exchanges

howdie all and welcome to blog #53. Most of you know that I started writing this blog in December 2009 as a way of chronicling my journey and expressing the thoughts and feelings that I experienced as I undertook to have my year without clothes shopping.

Sometimes I talk about the emotional side of that ride - like the last two blog postings (and very cleverly weaving in The Princess Bride, too - not bad huh?). Other times I focus on more practical stuff, like mix'n'matching, or colour. And then other times I just wax lyrical about what's on my mind, like what do clothes mean? and the fashion industry.

Today I'd like to pick up something we talked about in blog #41. We talked then about not-quite-new shopping and the three ways you can shop for clothes without paying full price:

1. op shopping

2. vintage

3. consignment

Almost as soon as I'd finished that posting, I knew there was at least one other category that I'd left out -- clothing exchanges. This is where you get to inject something new and fabulous into your own wardrobe, and you get to clear something unwanted and fabulous (for someone else) out of your wardrobe. And no money changes hands!

There are a number of organised clothing exchanges around, and I'll get to them in a sec. Worth noting that you can exchange clothes without any help of course. But it has a 7.6 technical difficulty because the people you are exchanging clothing with:

  • need to be the same size as you. Not nearly the same size or could be the same size if some form of surgical procedure were performed. No. The same size you are now. Including your foot size. Having swapped shoes that were nearly my size, I can talk from experience. I had greater sympathy for the foot bound Chinese women after walking in those shoes from the house to the car.

  • need to have a similar style to you. If you are boho-chic, and they are corporate traditional, it could be a challenge to find items that you'll love and will represent something of who you are in each other's gear.

  • need to have similar colouring to you. Ok, some of you may not adopt the whole colour system, that's fine. But you at least have watched those "worst Oscars dresses" fashion autopsies where Nicole Kidman is wearing dark cobalt blue and she looks like she needs a blood transfusion, and Halle Berry is wearing nude apricot and looks like she hasn't slept for weeks with dark circles under her eyes. So, you'll appreciate that colour makes some difference. If you are Goldilocks and she's Sleeping Beauty, it could be hard to find something that actually looks good on you in each other's wardrobe

  • need to have a similar attitude and agreement on what "price" your items are worth. So you want to swap a bunch of Kooki singlets and she has a Dolce & Gabanna jacket and that seems fair to you but grossly unbalanced to her. You need to get your guidelines straight on what's worth what, keeping in mind not only the style of item, whether its "branded" or not, but its condition and style.

If all this seems far to freakin' hard, then you might want to consider a clothing exchange that's already in operation. You know, people who do this either as a full time hobby or a full time job and have learned the ropes. Here are a few I know about or have spent 80 seconds on Google researching:

Sizexchange.co.nz -- a unique site that focuses on women who are in the process of losing weight. Great idea!

Clothing Exchange (dotcomdotau) who run exchanges in Australia's largest cities, and Adelaide.

Swap! Not Shop! Which is based in the USA and runs a big swap event twice a year and also has some helpful blog posts like How to Swap (no wives required)

There's bound to be more people out there organising swaps. If you know of any, please be in touch and let me know, and I'll post again about this.

One last thing on this before I finish up this post, dear reader. Do I reckon this is a breach of the Challenges rules, to not go clothes shopping? You know, I'm not sure. It doesn't cost anything, so that's a vote in the "it's ok" basket. But then it does bring something new into your wardrobe, and one of the things I've found so valuable these last nearly 7 months is truly "shopping my wardrobe" and not having any new items. Being more creative with combining what I have, rather than itching for something new. So, I'm undecided. Either way, clothes swaps are eco-friendly and an outstanding way to bring something new into your wardrobe without buying new. Right?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Princess Bride

Hello and welcome to post #52. I haven't posted on a Wednesday in a while, so this week seemed a good time to do it.
So, I'm going to go a little metaphorical with this post. Hope that's ok with you. It's because I have to, you see. Because something is happening for me. Within me. I have this very clear sensation that something is going on, some shift, is happening. I'm feeling all kinds of intense things, and am generally feeling a little uncomfortable. Like when you have cut yourself and it's scabbed up; you know that the wound is healing, but it scratches like mad, you know that feeling? Well, it's kind of like that.

And so.... what does this have to do with the shopping challenge? Well, something. I'm sure it has something to do with it. I'm still working out how the lines are drawn directly from the challenge to this feeling, but I know it's connected.
Let me give this a try: shopping has been a method that I've used to both express and channel feelings. So, now that I no longer have this method at my disposal, what do I do with those feelings when they are in need of expressing or channeling? Where do they go instead? Last week, I talked a little about the dark side of this. Well, it's been more of that same thing, except it's not quite so dark now. I'm moving along, emotionally speaking.

Wuv, twue wuv. Let's talk about Wesley and Buttercup for a minute. We're talking The Princess Bride now, but you knew that already, right? I mean, doesn't everyone use The Princess Bride as a guide on how to live one's life? Sure they do.
So, you know how Wes and Bcup had experienced a spine-tingling, nerve-jarring, no-thanks-but-ok-if-I-have-to journey that took them up hill, down dale, through the Fire Swamp, the Thieves Forest, into despair, being tortured and betrayed, spat upon by warty old crones, jumping into eel-infested waters, battling revenge-focused Spaniard fencers? Well, the journey I'm on now is a bit like that.

The Princess Bride is a modern metaphor of the sort that Pilgrims Progress is (which scared the living poop out of me as a child, I still get a nervous tick in my left eye when I think about it). It describes how with every challenge, there are many layers.

You think you know what danger you're facing, but it turns out to be something more than what it appears. The challenge is more sinister, requires more courage, or involves a 7ft giant with hands the size of a bunch of sausages. That you didn't see coming.

You think you know what you need to face it, to conquer it, to walk away with a swagger in your step, chest out and chin held high. But you don't know what it's going to take. And the kicker is: it always takes more than you'd be willing to bet (before you started) you wanted to give. But by the time you're there, in that place, you have to keep going. That's how these challenging journeys extract their price - you are choiceless by the time you realise how deep you're going to have to dig. It's either hands on the shovel, or bye byes.

Ok, someone hand me a head mic and a soapbox, I'm on a roll with this now. We could wax on for hours about how instructional The Princess Bride is, right? It's so freakin' apt. And, I'm going to admit it, it's really helped me to see that even though this 12 months seems to be about saving money, not purchasing, staying out of the shops, it's not really about those things.
Sure, those things are happening, but that's not the real challenge. The real challenge is happening far beneath the surface. My plates are shifting (there's that seismic analogy again). My molecules are moving, my neural networks are changing shape. And, just like having a ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size) take a chunk out of your shoulder, that's gotta hurt a bit. Right?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Emotions go shopping

Howdie and here we are at blog #51. You know, dear reader, I've been having something of a tough week. Emotionally speaking now. Fed up with this, frustrated with that, fumbling around and fuming about something else. All those Ffffeelings, huh? Yes. I'm a believer in feelings. They exist. They affect us. Some of us more than others, I suspect. Because there are those people who seem to skate through life without nary the hiccup of experiencing a painful or pointy emotional state. They're like Teflon, and feelings are like oil - they slide right off. But not me. No. My feelings are generally my friends. But some days they are a kryptonite to my superman. This was one of those weeks.

Feelings Convention. So yesterday being Thursday seemed like a good day for my feelings to all converge. They had a Bad Feelings Convention. Right here in my body. Did they ask me? Nosiree, they did not! They just all congregated and then jumped up and down and made a big racket until I had to get in the car and screech out of the driveway. Which I did. Fortunately no small children, dogs or metal trikes were behind me because I suspect we would have had a wee accident if they had been.

Just looking. I took myself off to one of my favourite places to meander (read: shop, way back when I was in shopping mode), Noosa Junction. It has a collection of stores I love to look in, including a great fabric store (Oh Sew), a bead store (Shi Sha), a shoe store (Shoex), a homewares store (Casa Noosa) and a few other places I can never remember the names of. I wandered here, poked my head in there, shilly-shallied in a few other places. It was actually a very nice time, despite the motivation that had gotten me there.

I don't really want to...No, really. But here's what's fascinating. I was looking in a few stores, and discovering stuff that I found quite attractive. And I wasn't really wanting to buy it. I was happy just looking at it, and appreciating it. Sure, I had a couple of well, not so much "close calls" but moments that in a previous life, might have had me reaching for my wallet (oh, those turquoise All Stars on sale - down from $89.99 to $59.99 - one size left - mine! And that orange wrap dress thingo -- also on sale. Silk animal print fabric - gorgeous!). It wasn't a wrench to not buy them. For probably the first time since I've been on this challenge, I actually felt good, walking away from these items.

Good huh? This felt like real emotional progress. That even in my charged emotional state, when shopping would have been a salve, a balm, a distraction - used to 'help' get me through an emotionally tough time, I could stay on the challenge. And not just "not fall off the wagon", but actually feel I had some feelings of mastery about not buying. It wasn't a challenge in the "oh this is going to h-u-r-t" sense. But a sense of accomplishment. Dare I say it, a sense of deep caring for myself. That there was - is - a bigger thing in play here, and sticking on the challenge during that difficult time, was going to grow me somehow. Gosh, I've gone all California, haven't I? Someone, hand me a plate of mashed alfalfa sprouts and start singing Kumbaya, will you? So, feeling pretty good, in the midst of feeling pretty bad. Guess that makes me about even. Right?