What (not?) to wear

By | September 4, 2009

A few weeks ago, I had plans to catch up with friends downtown. Temptation was running high for a new outfit. I had it set in my mind that I could run to Ann Taylor Loft for a quick sales-items-only shopping spree to find something nice to wear. Actually, it was an urge I’d been suppressing all week after attending two meetings where I had to leave the house in less than optimal business attire.

The truth of the matter is that I have 3 (maybe 4 when ironed) summer business shirts that I pair with an equal number of pants and skirts. This is typically enough to get by on when working from home, but it can make dressing painfully dull. Sometimes I can’t help but long for a closet filled with clothes I like, purchased for my body the way it looks now (not a year ago, two years ago, or…gulp six years ago).

TV shows such as “What not to wear” would suggest it’s normal to spend $5,000+ on a wardrobe. We see how the participants are teased for wearing sweat pants, t-shirts, and ill fitted suits. Then whisked away and transformed with their preloaded credit cards into TV appropriate models of refined taste and dress.

I don’t have $5,000 to spend on clothes. What I do have is a mortgage, student loan, daycare expenses. You get the point. So, I decided to have pride in those commitments and wear something from my closet. After all, there should be no shame in wearing what you can afford.  I “shopped” my own racks, dedicated time to ironing, dug into my box of accessories. Actually, it was kind of fun. If not fashionable, I at least felt tidy.

Once I was with my friends, I realized how lame I was for obsessing over clothes. Then Saturday came and I figured it probably would be worth hitting up the last of the summer sales. After all, even if I found something to wear out with friends, I still needed business clothes. I shopped for items that would actually be useful to me — not just fun for a night out, which is what often happens when I go for “last minute trips” to some store with an hour left before an event.

A little planning and restraint can go a long way in saving money. That said, I still grimaced seeing the total ring up ($188 for two dresses, two business shirts, and a skirt), knowing how hard it was to get that money — the first bit of “allowance” since losing my job in March. But it was worth the peace of mind it afforded me, opening my closet and not having to freak out about what to wear to my next meeting.