This is a somewhat embarrassing thing to admit, but shopping can be an intensely emotional experience for me. I’ve amused many sales clerks over the years with my dramatic battles with my will power over whether or not to give into temptation and plunk down for something I really shouldn’t spend the money on but have decided in the span of five seconds is absolutely essential to my ability to go on, and when I’m torn between two enticing choices but for practical reasons have to put one back, the agony is palpable to anyone around me. In my lesser moments, I can become pretty nutty, like the time a heated squabble ensued when a fellow shopper tried to grab the leather jacket I had set down for just a moment while I reached for my cell phone, and sometimes the mere act of shopping is such a maelstrom that when it’s over I feel disoriented and overwhelmed stumbling back to my car. I like to believe such reactions are normal, and when I listen to the conversations of other women trying on clothes or debating a purchase, I’m always empathetically attuned to the emotional context of their comments. Is getting dressed really worth all the drama, and for those of us on budget, is it a good use of our funds? In the most basic sense, clothes are merely a necessity to keep us warm and socially appropriate, they serve a practical function and in theory shouldn’t contain such emotional baggage or drive us into poverty. What are the benefits of the pricey and sometimes frustrating journey of developing your own sense of style?
Fashion hunting on a fixed budget adds an extra layer of complexity because by design in order to build your unique style, you are forced to be resourceful with what is locally available, constantly research and explore new options with the hopes of locating something great that won’t put a dent in your wallet, and learn to be really discrimnating about which pieces you will get the most long terms mileage from. But fashion is not the exclusive domain of those who can best afford it, its a personal statement and a life long relationship, and the extra effort put into to having to tirelessly track down to your look only make the finds more rewarding. In my own experience, I’ve reinvented my sense of style while stretching pennies to thier absolute breaking point countless times, and often wondered if it wasn’t a silly or superficial use of my means. At other times, I’ve resisted shopping altogether when it wasn’t absolutely essential, which is sometimes unavoidable. As I settle into my mid thirties and prioritize where to allocate my disposable income, style has again begun to rank high on the list and become once more what it always represented to me in its purest form: an outlet of self expression, a means to channel creative impulses, and a reoccurring opportunity to take risks and be open to new things. In my happiest phases, getting dressed in the morning resembles more of a costume designers sensibility than merely coordinating an outfit. Because for some reason, as weird as it sounds, standing in front of the mirror creating new and unusual ensembles is just freaking exciting to me, and the process of picking a theme and methodically building an entire outfit around it contains the therapeutic value of years of daily Freudian analysis. When I give into this passion and allow myself to go out on a style limb, I feel innovative and invigorated. It can get pricy, even with years of experience making cut rate priced options come to life, and I’ve created a disaster or two while trying to work together a look that “pops”, but all in all, if I’ve had one creative passion that I’ve consistently nurtured in my life, it’s the content of my closet and how I utilize it.
Finding the style that best expresses who are and puts in your most confident mindset is an on going process, and it takes effort, patience, and being willing to let go of preconceived notions and try new things. It also requires a kind of comfort in your own skin that can only be achieved by making peace with your real or imagined physical flaws, and focusing the whole of your shopping energies on what’s positive about your appearance. The truth is, no matter how much effort is put into eradicating every physical feature we have that seems to slam hard against the grain of what’s conventionally attractive, it’s a losing battle, and one that can easily lead to a slippery slope of insecurity and self loathing. Coming to terms with this and resolving to celebrate…no, absolutely cherish….what is agreeable about your outer (and inner) being is liberating and healthy, and the best vantage point to locate your fashion unique voice from.