06 June 2010

Consciously-Considered Clothing, part 1

I've been thinking about clothes a LOT recently...thinking about them so much that I've written several imaginary blog posts about them in my head.

I've been thinking about clothes so much because:

1) It's that no-longer-winter-but-still-not-warm-enough-to-wear-summer-clothes time in Portland. Yes, STILL. We have had innumerable grey, rainy days. I have such a hard time dressing in this weather. It can be in the 40s when I leave for work in the morning, hang out in the 50s most of the day and then suddenly warm up into the 70's if the sun comes out. Layering is a must.
2) I really haven't purchased much in the way of clothes in the last two years. First, I was pregnant and bought just enough maternity clothes to get by. Then I was post-pregnant with a small baby in tow and not able to do much shopping. And then the Wise and Bearded One was laid off for almost six months and we made no nonessential purchases. My clothes need a spruce up.
3) We live in a 1930s house. Those of you who live in houses from that period or before need no further explanation. For those of you who live in homes with spacious closets, you probably don't get it. The challenge is for all the clothes for two adults to fit in one 2x6 foot closet and one chest of drawers. In some ways I welcome this constraint. Although I can store off-season clothes in a closet in our office, I don't have the space to hold onto a large wardrobe of clothes, This forces me to edit, edit, edit.

I edited again this spring. Three bags of clothes donated or put on the re-fashion pile. As I was editing I noted what clothes I kept and what I purged. I got rid of clothes that were ill-fitting or poorly made--I noticed a lot of these were impulse buys from Target or the clearance rack at a better store. They were separates that never found a match or they were of poor quality fabric and construction.

I also noted the clothes that I wear the most. I'll talk about my winter "uniform" in another post, but let me say there is definitely a formula to the clothes I prefer. It is clear that I gravitate toward basic, neutral pieces that are constructed from better fabrics. The clothes that I have spent a bit more on are usually worth it. And these are NOT impulse buys.

All this to say, that I want to be much more conscious in my clothing purchases in the next few months. I want to wear clothes that are classic, well-constructed and worth the money that I have paid for them. I would love to wear more clothes that reflect my values--natural, organic textiles, fairly-paid labor, hand-made or recycled. I am not opposed to paying well for items that I know I will wear for several years. For example, I paid a pretty penny for my Frye boots (pictured above) several years ago and I wear them at least 40 times each year. They get better every year, and I think they will last me ten years at the minimum ($200 divided by 400 wears= $.50/wear).

If you've stuck with this post all the way to the end, I'd love to hear what items in your closet are worn the most frequently and you feel are worth the money you spent on them. Do tell!

I hope to build a series of "Consciously-Considered Clothing" posts. I'll share my thoughts about building a casual/professional woman's wardrobe and I'd love to have your input as well.


cara. said...

love this, deb!

i think you should probably fork up the cash on shoes (though i only own a few pair that i actually did)

i buy 97% of my clothes used, usually from consignment or thrifting. you get better quality/construction/fit for better price. plus i don't feel like i'm supporting certain laboring issues, but instead paying homage to the idea of reusing/recycling which is in line with my values.

i also value other things more than i value clothing (not to say i don't like to follow a certain style that's true to myself) but that urges me to spend less on clothes so i can throw my money at more valuable things like travel, time with my babe, certain edible treats, etc.

also used to have those frye boots, until i slipped on marble floor in them while i was pregnant (they didn't have any traction on the bottom)--immediately got rid of them and bought some steve madden which are more comfortable but won't last me as long, i'm sure. splurge on shoes. buy clothes based on fit/comfort for cheaper if you can. that's my vote. but don't be scared of investment pieces like a sweater and jeans.

Anonymous said...

I have avoided shopping this year all together. Before school started last summer I bought myself a few pair of dress pants. One pair came from Ann Taylor and they are the best, most durable and well fitting pants I've had. I totally agree that quality over quantity is the key. I just have no sense of style and no idea where to begin with my wardrobe. I also have no extra money to make investments, which is so frustrating. I think it's why I knit and make lots of things. But even the things I make need a step up in quality (I'm talking sewn items here...not knitting)I need to take more time choosing fabrics and patterns and spending time to get excellent fit. We've talked about that weight issue before, but that plagues me. I hate buying clothes when I'm not at my ideal weight, but I'm starting to realize that I may have to make some investments anyway. Teaching preschool music and piano lessons doesn't really necessitate nice clothing, but I still want to look stylish and be comfortable when I leave the house.

Boy...can you say can of worms? I've been thinking about this a lot lately as well. I love your sense of style and you have a normal body like me, so I'm looking forward to your posts on clothes where I don't have to glean fashion advice from a bean pole model who can wear just anything and look great.

Kris said...

One thing that I know for sure...when I am not pregnant, my favorite shirts are always Eddie Bauer. Hands down. I still need a little more not pregnant time to figure out pants/jeans, but I've noticed that usually the ones I really like are Gap.

Sarah said...

i've got to get some boots like those.

I'm slowly working on redoing my wardrobe as well - I've had six years of not caring what i wore since it was about to be pulled or spit on or smeared with jelly and it looks like we're entering the wear-something-nice years. I'd love to make the majority of what I (or even we as a family) wear, and I'd love it to be with organic cottons or hemp or natural things.

And I'd love to make do with less. Much less. To have basic pieces that all work together.

Oh my word I'm starting to sound Amish or something.