Once upon a time, I loved a skirt.
The year was 2003 and I was still a newbie in the work-a-day world. I had just been hired at a concert booking agency just outside of Nashville and the girl whose position I was filling had a fantastic sense of style. The time I spent with her being trained for the job was also something of a week-long fashion show because that girl knew how to dress. And, sadly, I did not.
One of her outfits that week included a long, ivory skirt with a minimal black plaid design in light wool. It was somewhat fitted from the waist to the knee and then just barely skimmed the floor, with a kick pleat in the back that reminded me of something a woman might have worn a hundred years ago, which obviously made me love it that much more. Normally, I would semi-frown on the idea of buying an item of clothing exactly like someone else's, because that's, well, awkward. But, if there is such a thing as a dream skirt, this one was it. The questionable journey of my wardrobe's life found its destiny in that skirt and so, I did what was necessary. I purchased it for full price, which I'm pretty sure was around $85 (big money for my 24-year-old self). And, let it be known that I have never regretted that purchase for a single minute. Even when I seriously wore that skirt to the office while the girl who owned the original one was still there. That skirt managed to epitomize the way I had always wanted to dress but was never able to because I grew up in the fashion wasteland that was the 90s.
But, I digress.
That purchase was a major anomaly in my history of buying clothes. I typically don't fall in love with articles of clothing AND I almost never buy clothes at full price.
To be clear, I like pretty clothes. In fact, I had literal (though tiny) tears in my eyes when I walked into Anthropologie recently, because, well, it's beautiful, and it's basically where my closet wants to go when it dies. But, the price tag situation at Anthropologie is somewhat dream-dashing and all I can think about when I see a pair of jeans for $198 is that I could support five missionaries in India for that amount. Seriously.
So, is it even possible that the desire to have lovely clothes doesn't have to be completely in conflict with also valuing being frugal?
Oh, but it is.
Once T.J. Maxx and I began our beautiful and somewhat dangerous relationship, shopping at the mall for me became as obsolete as renting a movie at Blockbuster. I can only imagine the sense of failure I would feel if I bought a $100 dress at the mall only to discover one almost exactly like it for $25 at T.J. Maxx. Or, better yet, on Amazon with two-day free shipping.
I cleaned out my closet a few weeks ago after reading a motivating blog post called Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe, which made me realize that my dependency on yoga pants as a wardrobe staple had to end. After years of buying cheap t-shirts, shorts and "athletic wear" at Old Navy and Target, I had a closet full of junk clothes. And at 37, wearing a faded t-shirt with Harvard stamped on it and a pair of drawstring shorts from Old Navy is just a little bit sad. Two babies and the obvious realities of aging have necessitated that I step it up a bit. And so, out went the too-short shorts, the raggedy t-shirts, the slightly flared jeans (that I secretly hope will show back up in the fashion "do" list eventually), the strapless dresses, and anything else that had been worn before I turned 30. It felt like therapy tossing all that stuff into a big garbage bag, all ready for it's new life at Goodwill.
Now, here's the part where I explain one way in which frugal and fancy can bump right up against each other. I found a company online called Twice that buys and sells gently used clothing, purses, and shoes. A few of the things I had decided to cull from my closet were nice brands and still in great shape, so I figured I'd give Twice a try.
I mailed around fifteen items to Twice and about two weeks later got an offer for my clothes, a cash offer and an in-store credit offer. I took the in-store credit offer of around $60, added a 40 percent off "new customer" coupon, and bought myself the first fancy purse I've ever owned. The day it came I laid it on the bed in our room and found myself wandering in every little bit just to gaze at it and feel the fabulously soft leather. AND, despite it's $100 price tag on Twice ($195 originally), I paid $0.
So, the moral of the story is, even cheap-ish shoppers like moi who love pretty things but don't want to overspend can find practical ways for fancy and frugal to meet.
Honestly, it's a bit out of the ordinary for me to talk about skirts or a purse or shopping. I'd much rather be talking about the book I'm reading (Bread and Wine) or what my kids are doing (Mae's counting to twenty. What?) or what's for dinner (burgers, chips and salsa, and homemade ice cream). But, despite the somewhat shallow topic of skirts and purses, I'm going to file this post under "practical-ish." Get rid of your old stuff, buy pretty new stuff for cheap, save money, and support missionaries.
Win, win, win and also, win.
Hope you get the same satisfaction I did cleaning out your closet and maybe even finding your own fancy purse (or dress, or jacket, or shirt...) at Twice.
Now, go clean out that closet! (she said in her most encouraging, non-bossy way).