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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Worth It or Not Worth It?

Let's play a game. I'll give you a category and two possible items, one pricey and one budget-ish. You predict if I found the pricey one is : Worth It or Not Worth It?

Category #1: Sunglasses  


 Category #2: Athletic Tops 

Category #3: Winter Coats

It would be easy to come out the of Bye Buy Challenge only buying name-brand, higher priced items given my experience with ill-fitting, poorly made clothing. The real challenge is to take the emotion out of the choice. Not to be swayed by a name brand or by a super-low price. Buy only what you need, but choose with an open mind.

The verdicts:
Sunglasses: Hands down, the D&G sunglasses feel great, look great and perform well in bright sun. Definitely worth the higher price. I was one of those "I'll just buy cheap sunglasses because I just lose them anyway" people. There is something skewed about that thinking. Sunglasses are not (or shouldn't be) disposable. Do I lose my purse? My keys? My phone? Not usually. If I treat my sunglasses like my other important items, there is a really good chance I won't lose them either.

Athletic Tops: I had to replace a few of my stretched out workout tops and did so with eyes wide open. I tried many on for support, comfort and style. My verdict surprised even myself-- I went with the Tek Gear tops from Kohl's. Both brands fit nicely and had good support. This left style as the deciding factor and the sporty style of the lime green top from Kohl's makes me feel speedy fast! It's also a bit longer so riding up is not an issue. Athleta was nice, too but I am not going to spend more if I don't have to.

Winter Coat: The winter coat I have been using for the past year and a half is great in many ways. It is a perfect style and length and is an excellent color (leopard print). The problem is the quality of the fabric and construction. I bought it for the positive qualities and ignored the negatives. Big mistake, because I spent the Bye Buy year in a coat that felt like an old bathrobe. I promised myself that I would only replace this coat when I found one that was just right in color, fit, style and quality. By January, most coats were on clearance so I have to just ignore price tags. So which coat did I choose? Again, I am shocked to report that the Target coat fits better, is a way better color (Wowser red with a purple lining) and fits better than the CK coat. I scrutinized the Target coat for quality and it is nearly the same as the CK coat. The fabric contents were identical. Imagine my continued shock to find that the Target coat was $17.

This game did not turn out as I imagined it would. Lesson: Be open minded. Search for quality. Know what is right for you and don't waver. I suspect that since most of the clothing available comes from far away places, there is a good chance that the same factory could make a Target coat and a CK coat. This makes the challenge of finding the right clothes for you even more difficult. But I have to say, I am loving the new things I bought this January!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Finding Rewards for Exercising

A mature, sophisticated woman would find the reward for exercise to be in the results, no matter how minuscule the progress or how tedious the road. I think I am not mature, nor sophisticated. You will never hear me say, "I just do it because I love it." I have a good friend who actually likes to jog. If I say, "Hey, let's do something fun!" she may suggest we jog for 5 miles. I can not relate.

I need more immediate rewards than the potential loss of a jeans size six months down the road can offer. I would like cookies or donuts as my reward but I think it would prove counter-productive. Thanks to the results of the Bye Buy challenge, shopping doesn't even feel like a reward any more (yay!) So where does one find a carrot to chase in the short term?

My husband found his carrot in the form of a Biggest Loser contest. Not the televised version (he would be laughed right off the giant scale if he tried to convince them he needed to lose weight!) The people in his office have come together to challenge each other. There is money involved. Someone will win. That is his carrot, a competition. I'm not sure if it's a guy thing or not, but I cheer for everyone trying to get fit. He leaves cookies on people's desks as temptation and emails photos of cheeseburgers and pizza. He really wants to win.

I think I have found my carrot, though. It's a playlist! My injured knee finally healed and I have graduated from the treadmill to jogging, which is a good thing because I have a hard time staying steady on a treadmill. I am shocked that I haven't been thrown off the back yet. But the treadmill keeps track of things like distance, speed and calories burned. Rather than watching a clock, I decided to make a playlist on my iPod that would run for 30 minutes, plus a warm up and cool down. I picked songs I really love that get my blood pumping. Here's the catch- I can only listen to these songs while jogging! Not in the car or while I clean. Not when I am working. Only jogging. I love it! I look forward to enjoying my favorite songs. The time flies and I almost always manage to not sing them out loud. Here is my jogging playlist:

Warm up: Home   Phillip Phillips (I may be one of the three people in the country not tired of this song)
30 minute jog:
Titanium         David Guetta and Sia           this song really gets me moving 
Don't Stop the Party                Pitbull           que no pare la fiesta
Locked Out of Heaven   Bruno Mars           love it
International Love                    Pitbull           can't translate the lyrics, don't care
Wepa                          Gloria Estefan           listen to this if you like fun workout or dance music
Star Baby                        Guess Who           a little blast from the past
Gasolina                    Daddy Yankee           my favorite Zumba song
Cowboy                              Kid Rock            very nasty but a guilty pleasure

Cool down: Lucky    Jason Mraz                 then I go find my fitness pal in the gym

I'll change it up as needed or add more tracks when I increase my time. 

Other good exercise rewards:
Workout with a friend
Enjoy a magazine after your workout
Try for $$$ rewards

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Fitness Pal

Like many of you (especially this time of the year), my husband and I are buckling down and making a real fitness effort. A week at a resort pool left us both feeling like a couple of dough balls and we knew changes were needed.

Also like many of you, we have sampled many tactics and programs to achieve fitness. We have tried all the popular diet plans from Weight Watchers to Atkins to South Beach. We've worked out together and separately in gyms, at home and sometimes, in group classes. Still, we resemble dough balls.

At a recent lunch, my friend shared a website she really found effective called My Fitness Pal. Available online or as an app, she found it user-friendly and easy. That very evening, my daughter shared the exact same site with my husband. I didn't know she had been using it, but she has been making great progress in her own quest for fitness. Now, my husband is hooked. He is constantly checking in, scanning products to gather nutritional information, determining how many calories he has burned and checking his projected outcome. And it is working! He has broken through a wall and is losing weight steadily.

Here's the problem: I thought I was his Fitness Pal. Instead of talking calories to me, he's ogling his app. Instead of simply accepting the healthful meal I have so lovingly prepared, he logs every morsel into his program. He peeks at it when he thinks I am not looking to seek out some calorie burning activity. A recent cell phone catastrophe sent him into a tailspin. Oh no! Lost your contacts? Nope, he thought he had lost his Fitness Pal. No worries, it was still there when he logged onto the site from the internet.

Still, I have to admit, it is working. It is not that he loves or trusts me less, it is that I am more forgiving than his other Fitness Pal. Need a cookie? Of course you do! A tiny bit more dinner? It's because you love my cooking. Skip the gym? Yes, lets stay home and cuddle. His Fitness Pal holds him accountable for all choices throughout the day. I love him as is.

So, in the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" spirit, I am following his lead. I don't have an account but make better choices when he does. If it's working for him, it will likely work for me. I am putting bruised feelings aside and going with the program. If, however, his Fitness Pal suddenly has a name like, say, Jacqueline, there will be trouble.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The link to Thrift Shop Song

If your post was emailed, you may not have gotten this link:

It's worth it!

Thrift Shop Song

Have you heard the Thrift Shop Song? (warning: explicit lyrics)
(warning, warning: very catchy)

I don't listen to the radio much but I noticed that the Thrift Store Song was the number one song on iTunes. What? What, what, what?

Of course, I had to listen to it. I love the lyrics:
I'm gonna pop some tags
Only got 20 dollars in my pocket
I, I, I'm hunting, lookin' for a come-up
This is ******* awesome.

Awesome indeed.
I am not fluent in rap, but I am pretty sure the artist is looking for some new clothes and only has $20 to spend. I feel that. These are tough economic times. Not the first young people to realize that thrift stores make practical sense. But the first ones to rap about it, I think. 
Later in the song:

I hit the party and they stop in that ************
They be like, "Oh, that's Gucci-- that's hella tight."
I'm like, "Yo--that's fifty dollars for a t-shirt."
Limited addition, let's do some simple addition
Fifty dollars for a t-shirt-- that's just some ignorant ***** (***)
I call that getting swindled and pimped (****)
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt's heela dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don't
Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Trying to get girls from a brand? Then you hella won't

Translation (I think): So you think you are cool in that $50 Gucci t-shirt? You are stupid for being tricked into thinking that a) that t-shirt is worth $50, b) that you look original wearing it, and c) the chicks will dig it.

Again, ******* awesome.

During my Bye Buy challenge, I met many people interested in only buying used clothes for a year. Heaven knows, there's plenty out there, as people like me just keep filling the racks with impulsive purchases we didn't really need or want. Well, ,maybe there is less from me these days, but thrift stores are popping up everywhere. There are great deals to be had and great items if you shop carefully (and wash the clothes first!)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

a thought ...

It's the journey, not the destination. 
742 steps but who's counting?

p.s. Thanks to reality television, I am highly allergic to the phrase "amazing journey" 
and even mentioning the word "journey" is painful but it's oh, so appropriate.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Colored Jeans

Colored Jeans

For two years now, retailers, magazines and fashion gurus have been singing the praises of commanding that we all get colored jeans. It's subtle, sure, but it's a command. They are EVERYWHERE!! I have been so tempted. I love color and they seem to come in every conceivable shade. I have tried a few pairs on but if they are snug, flaws are magnified times 50. I was at Sam's Club today and they had these exact red Bandolino jeans, in my size, marked down (the pain ...) to $12.91. I seriously considered them because the style is not super tight. I even carried them around for a while.

I have purposely, carefully examined shoppers everywhere I go to determine just how many people wear colored jeans and how many look good in them. Frankly, I haven't seen many actual people wear them. Frankly, frankly, few people over 21 or over 110 pounds look good in them. One exception: our friend Sheila rocked some red jeans and looked fantastic. Besides Sheila, not too much.

Still, I love red (my signature color) and they had my size ... STOP.
First clue. On clearance and they had my size. This indicates that very few, if any have sold at Sam's Club. Then I asked myself, "what would I wear with red jeans?" I decided I would have to buy a bunch of tops ... (warning, danger, abort! abort!)
Finally, I stepped over to a mirror and held them up. I looked like Sue Heck. (Sue Heck is a hilarious character on the ABC sitcom, The Middle.) In other words, I looked like a nerdy high school girl. I simply can't get past the notion that colored jeans = Sue Heck.
I strongly suspect that this is why so many stores still have so many pairs, and why they are on clearance.

The Bye Buy Outcome

Here we are in mid-January. I have been post-challenge more than two weeks. I have been shopping, been way more selective and been on vacation. The transformation I have experienced has been so great, so life-changing, that I have been gathering an organizing all that I have learned to continue to share it. I was trying to figure out how to print all of the posts I have written when I found myself staring at Day One

My initial post included this:

The Outcome.
Here’s what I hope:
1.      I hope to become more thoughtful about what I purchase.
2.      I will try to re-purpose or re-style my existing pieces.
3.      I hope to spend some of the time previously spent shopping being more productive, better to my family and better to myself.
4.      I hope to save money (we have a kid in college).
5.      I hope that by challenging myself I will begin to take control of the roller coaster that is my life.

I had forgotten that I had even wrote it (the beginning of the challenge is still a bit of a blur because I was so high on the anticipation of a cool challenge). Okay, let's see, did the Bye Buy challenge achieve what I had hoped?

1. More thoughtful? You bet more thoughtful. Downright picky. I see things in a whole new way, and sorry retailers, but you are going to have to up your game.
2. Re-purpose? Well, not so much. I even left a clause in my rules allowing me to sew my own garments and guess how many I made. Zero. I did learn from my favorite existing pieces, though, thus defining my personal style. I also learned that I will rarely alter garments to fit or have them professionally done as is often suggested in magazines. If you do, yay for you. I don't. 
3. Better use of my time? Oh, yeah. Way. I've read more, learned to eat healthier, exercised more, relaxed more, and spent much better quality time with family and friends. I was shopping at least 10 hours per week pre-challenge and I assure you, I found much better ways to spend those hours. 
4. Save money. Yes. A giant yes.
5. Gain control? I would say more than gaining control, what I have learned is that it that I have choices. It is my choice as to what I buy, what I wear, who I spend time with and all the other things that make up my life. It was my choice to step away from my bad buying habits. It is my choice to step back to allow my kids to grow. It is my choice to enjoy our family and do the things I like to do for them. It is my choice to love my husband despite our differences, and choose to spend my life with him. I choose what to eat, and how I take care of myself. I do all of these things because I choose to. Don't have to. Choose to. And choice is POWER. 

I realized something else not on my Day One list. It's the biggest thing of all. I realized that a life spent in a shopping frenzy is a life spent focused on what you do not have. Searching for fulfillment. Seeking a different you. A thinner, prettier, younger, richer, more in control, better styles, smarter, funnier ... the list goes on. 
One year later, I focus on what I have. I am healthy and strong. I am smart and creative. I have a wonderful husband, great kids and a grandson who I adore. I have wonderful friends and we laugh until it hurts. I am not the prettiest, thinnest or best dressed. But I am happy now. Deep down happy. 
On our recent trip to Costa Rica, we were fortunate enough to stay at a very fancy resort. A resort crawling with young, beautiful, rich people including a real, live television star. If you ever want to feel inadequate, sit by the pool here. In spite of that, I am feeling good with my new outlook and decided to just enjoy myself. Don't need to win a pool-side beauty pageant to have a good time. At this resort, we met a lovely couple from Mississippi named Ray and Lorraine. We hit it off immediately. During the week, our crossed paths many times and we compared notes and experiences. At one point, my new best friend, Ray, stopped and said, "you are so beautiful, you have such a beautiful smile." And I think he really meant it! In a sea of beautiful, he saw my happiness. He saw beauty. And that is beauty that 10,000 dresses can not achieve.

So, 4 out of 5 in the possible outcomes, not bad. In fact, pretty darn good.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flip Flops: Rubber Vs. Foam

I love flip flops, those wonderful, loud, colorful sandals that just scream "summer!" No better way to show off a great pedicure and tanned toes. During the Bye-Buy challenge last year I had to learn to live with the pairs I had, which numbered approximately 6. While flip flops all look similar, there is a distinct difference between the two main types, those made of rubber and those which are synthetic, or made of a type of foam. I had a few pairs of each.

At a glance, the most noticeable difference between rubber and synthetic flip flops is the price. Old Navy flip flops go for about $2.50 whereas Havaianas start at about $25. My newer, wiser self wants to know, are rubber flip flops worth the higher price?

Thinking back to last summer, I recall surprising myself by wearing my brown Havaianas most. I don't even like brown and they were the regular style, not even Havaiana slims. But, they are comfortable and durable. 10 times comfortable and durable? I found out in Costa Rica.

 For our Costa Rica trip, I packed my favorite pearl white Havaiana slims. During the pre-vacation panic, I also bought 2 pairs of Old Navy flip flops, one pair turquoise and one florescent orange. Throughout the week, I alternated between the orange Old Navys and the Havaianas. My husband only brought a pair of synthetic flip flops. Rubber flip flops are more cushioned, more flexible and softer. Synthetic, cheaper. Here's how they compared:cheap, fun color, floated when I lost one in the ocean, got dirty very 
                                             quickly, very slippery on wet rocks.
cost more, better cushion, much better for walks, very good traction on wet surfaces.

The verdict: I'd rather wear the far superior Havaianas than the Old Navys. I will keep them longer and they are more comfortable and more stylish. It will be better to have fewer pairs but better pairs. My husband threw his synthetics in the trash as soon as we got home. I will be shopping for rubber flip flops for him by summer.

Having stepped away from shopping for a year has allowed me to see things more clearly. Quality is important. A low price should not justify a purchase. It will save time, save space and have less of an environmental impact if I just get the thing I want rather than 5 cheap imitations. 

Havaianas is a great brand but other brands of rubber flip flops are Dupe, Cariris and some of the better designers like Tory Burch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Buying Jeans: What's in a Name?

My research indicates that American women own an average of 10 pairs of jeans. I had at least 10 pair before the Bye Buy challenge, but most were uncomfortable or unflattering. With careful weeding throughout the year, I was down to 3 pair by December 31. "Jeans" is a very broad category. After all, would you include yard work jeans and "going out" jeans in the same category? How about jeans for heels and jeans for flats? When you really look closely, maybe 10 isn't so bad.

But I have 3 pairs, so one of my first orders of buying business was to get one additional pair of jeans, preferably very dark denim or black. Also, I would like jeans that FIT. Not jeans that may fit if I lose 5 pounds, not jeans that show my butt every time I bend over and not jeans that are too long, short, or produce a muffin top. Tall order, I know. But hey--I am very picky now.

I don't have a "go-to" store or brand for jeans. One of my top criteria in the past was price, $30 or less, usually. Now that I am much wiser, I have learned that 1 pair of $100 jeans, if they are perfect, are a better deal than 5 pairs of ill-fitting $20 jeans. So, what are the popular brands of jeans?

In the day, Levi's were the thing. The coveted orange tag peeking from the pocket ensured that, at least for the moment, you were cool. Fashion brands emerged like Sassoon, and Calvin Klein. What is cool today? Again, a little research indicates that Lucky Brand, Hudson, True Religion, 7 for All Mankind and Rock Revival are all considered fashion-do-s. Just the names sound hip so despite the hefty price tag, surely I must need jeans in one of these brands. I think I am very cool.

A couple rounds in various fitting rooms indicate that, as a matter of fact, I am not cool. These jeans to not flatter my, um ... mature figure. So what's left? Mom jeans? (remember the SNL skit???)

I happened to do a quick browse through a rack at TJ Maxx and spotted a black pair that looked like they could work. Right leg width, a zipper longer than 2 inches, a waist larger than 15 inches. Hmmm... quick trip to the fitting room and, what??? They fit??? Scrambling for a tag, I had to know, were they Rock & Republic? Diesel? No. They were NYDJ, or Not Your Daughter's Jeans. Seriously? I couldn't believe I even tried them on. Who want to wear jeans that scream, "I am old! I have an old daughter!" Not me. I was putting them back on the rack, thinking of 100 other names that they could have given these jeans. Something cool, mysterious and flirty like G-Star. But they fit so I looked again.

No obvious pocket name (remember the Apple Bottoms?) Nothing that screamed "mom" or "old." Could I really feel cool wearing these? They do, after all, retail for over $100. So I did it. I bought the jeans. And even though NYDJ gives their styles names like Kendall and Aleshia, I call mine "Night on the Town." So there.

How to Look Thinner at the Beach or Pool

After a week at a lovely resort and a lot of observing, I have determined that there are three keys to looking thinner at the beach or pool.
1. Take the time to find the right swimsuit. For you. Not what a magazine says is right. Not what a sales clerk says is right. My comfortable suit was skimpier than I had planned because large swatches of fabric emphasize the large areas covered. It's true!!!  And DON'T look at size tags. Very often, your swimsuit size is at least a size larger than normal. It takes a lot of trying on and being open minded. Hopefully in a decent fitting room. But a comfortable, well-fitting suit is worth it's weight in gold.
2. My two fav accessories: a great cover up like a wrap or sarong in a tropical print, and lipstick. Yes, lipstick. It will protect your delicate lips from the sun and emphasize the final key-
3. SMILE. Observing the crowd at the pool was very interesting. Even the women with the most incredible figures looked uncomfortable and even stressed. Here is the truth of the matter: there is a very, very good chance you have neither the best, nor the worst figure at the pool. So just enjoy. Smile.

Here is the swimsuit I chose:
The brand is Bleu by Rod Beattie. It cost $136 (much more than I usually spend) and I bought it from Everything But Water. It is well made with good fabric and didn't creep. I did not look like the gal in the picture but I felt pretty great. In fact, I will be returning suit number two because I realized that if you have a great suit, you may only need one. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Know Your Triggers

My one year, no-buy challenge ended January 1 and we departed for Costa Rica January 6. Those dates were in no way related, just a coincidence, but an expensive one. I was very careful and thoughtful for about the first 3 days of buying. Then panic set in and all hell broke loose. My buying habits are not completely healed and this brings an very important lesson to light: know your triggers.

By "trigger" I mean the feelings that lead to an action. In my pre-no-buy days, my triggers were many and various. I was happy, I went shopping. Sad, shopping. Fat, thin, excited, bored ... all shopping. When I took a year off buying, I was forced to channel those feeling elsewhere. I couldn't rush to food because I couldn't buy larger clothes. I learned to channel my feelings into actions like reading, walking, organizing, learning, cleaning, etc. Sounds dull but it was really remarkable. I not only spent a ton less, I was smarter! The impending trip brought forth one of my most powerful triggers: the feeling that I have to be dressed perfectly for all occasions. This may sound silly, and I could just dismiss it but for me it is very, very real. I don't mean to imply that I think I look perfect, just that I have chosen the perfect outfit. I am guessing that there is some deep, lurking personal reason for this but all that matters is that it is real. 

So--buying embargo lifted + fancy resort + clothing completely out of season + my very favorite kinds of clothes + feeling like I have to have the perfect clothes = big, fat TRIGGER.

Summer is my way-favorite season. I adore flow-y dresses, bright, tropical prints and sandals. Of all of the clothing I own, my summer collection has my very favorite items. I have some great things, just not enough of them for a week at a resort. I determined that the bare minimum I needed was: 2 swimsuits, 2 dresses and one great cover-up. January is not the ideal time to purchase flow-y dresses in Michigan. Never a giver-upper, I set out January 3. 

What started as careful browsing morphed to frantic searching, then dissolved into a panic-stricken-ed  frenzy. My rules flew out the window. I was grabbing and buying, grabbing and buying. I spent three days driving to any and all stores in an effort to enjoy a beautiful vacation. Was the previous year a big waste?

I returned quite a few things right away and have a few more to return this week. I did manage to find two dresses, two swimsuits and a cover-up. I did feel like I had the correct outfits for each day of vacations. But at what cost? Some good purchases, some bad. Time wasted. Cheeseburger consumed to relive stress. Way too much wine in the days preceding vacation. I was a complete nut-ball.

Once the returns are complete, I will evaluate the situation and the triggers. I had to wait until just days before departure and waiting until the last minute creates a panic-trigger. Panic-trigger, bad. I've done this many times for events and it's always bad. I must plan ahead.
Feeling like I have to have perfect outfits is my perfection-trigger. For this trip, I nailed it, but realized that if my wardrobe consists of only things that are perfect for me, this won't be a problem. Choosing only "just-right" clothing going forward will be crucial. 
Finally, the thought of wearing skin-baring outfits in January snapped the fat-trigger. I am actually smaller January 2013 than I was January 2012. It didn't change the fact that I was freaking out about looking fat at a resort. Which I did, but that's another post.

Looking back at our fabulous trip, it was made easier by bringing the perfect clothes. It really, really was. Finding those perfect clothes was not easy but I am working on it. Finding those triggers was easy, fixing them ... still working on it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Clearance is the Stuff Nobody Wanted

Day 3, continued

Yesterday I also ventured to my closest mall which happens to be an outlet mall. I'm not sure which cosmic forces aligned to plunk an OULET mall in my backyard, but that's what we have. My addiction to sales, particularly clearance sales, is easily fed here where on any given day, a "fix" can be bought for a few dollars. Clearance is my kryptonite.

I stopped in the the Lord and Taylor outlet store. It's well known that outlet stores contain an irresistible combination of the stuff nobody wanted and poorer quality imitations of the stuff everyone bought in the regular store. Surely there would be a dress here, overlooked by the many, many shoppers before me, with perfect style and good quality. I felt a definite buzz in the store and spotted very long lines for the cashiers. The little hairs on my neck stood up. What's going on here? I narrowed my eyes, gazed around and realized that nearly everything in the store was marked down to $9.99. Seriously. Dresses, suits, Michael Kors sportswear.  Sequins, sparkles, faux-fur, all $9.99. Looked like an inventory reduction was taking place. 

My breathing quickened, my palms got sweaty, my eyes became darty. The customers in line were positively LOADED with stuff. Panic set in. What can I get??? But I am stronger now so I calmed myself and casually browsed. How could it be that there was an entire rack of a particular dress, originally priced at $198, now $9.99?  If nobody bought the dress in a regular store, how good could it be? More browsing and more weird clothes. More beat up, ripped, stained clothes. More styles that nobody wanted. There is perhaps a little hope for those who wear a size 2, but not average sized women. I am positive that last year, I would have been in that long checkout line. This year, I walked away.

Because I was forced to really identify and live with my very favorite clothes for the year, I know that almost nothing came from a clearance sale. Maybe 25% off. Experience told me that I could load up with $9.99 clothing and very likely NONE would become one of my favorites. And I would have spent a couple of hours sifting through the racks. And spent more money than one favorite item might cost. Progress? I think yes.

Tales From the Mall

Day 3

Second official day of shopping and I am really wondering what I was missing! After the disappointing Kohl's trip, I think I would have given up for a while but I have a trip to pack for and I will NOT be wearing my old bathing suits. Yesterday, I took on Parisian.

Parisian has the good manners to debut a swim collection January 1, and I appreciate that. Of all categories of clothing, I felt I suffered most with no new swimwear last year so I was determined to buy a swimsuit perfect for me. Armed with a 25% off coupon, I hit the store. At first I could not find the swimwear department but found myself in dresses. I also need two dresses to round out my vacation wardrobe so I started there. I need beachy-cool dresses for vacation but was immediately blinded by dazzling sequins and that darn yellow-dot clearance sign. Of all shopping emotions, getting over the clearance addiction is by far the hardest.

My new rules for shopping dictate that things MUST be tried on so once again I loaded up and found a fitting room. Bad, awful, ugly, everything I tried was hideous. I found that I range 3 sizes. I do not think that men's clothes range three sizes. If they wear a 34 inch waist pant, it's the same no matter which brand. But for women, it's anybody's guess. I still have size-tag phobia which prohibits me even trying some potentially nice things. Parisian is a nice department store. Not a Neiman Marcus, but not Target or Kohl's. But I found the quality of the dresses to be awful. To be fair, it could be that most of what is available is clearance, and (perhaps I should tattoo this on my credit card signing hand) what is left for clearance is what nobody wanted.

Okay, no dresses. But I found swimwear and found some optimism. The wonderful thing about buying a swimsuit in January is that you are probably the only one. The racks were neat. They had every size. It felt hopeful. Buying a swimsuit for most of us mere mortals is an emotionally draining experience. Doing this in January when most of us (me) are flaky, pasty and fluffy from the holidays, well- it's a recipe for a fast-track dash to the gym (or Coldstone Creamery depending on your emotional state). I rounded up 10-12 potential swimsuits, held my breath and chose a different fitting room from the first, hoping to find a "lucky" one. And lucky it was. I didn't scream, not even once. No tears. I am no swimsuit model by any stretch but I wasn't forced to throw anything, kick anything or eat chocolate. I could have taken three of these to my vacation and been good. 

At the very least, clothes are meant to protect us from the elements. At best, an outfit can lead to feelings of confidence, sexiness and power. Designers are supposed to artfully wrap us in fabric and turn out a supermodel. So here is my big, million dollar question: How is it that 30 dresses, each with about 10 times more fabric than a swimsuit,  made me look like a holiday cow and I felt fine in 10 swimsuits? I am starting to realize, it's not me--it's them. There is no artful wrapping. Again I say, the clothes out there right now suck.

I left Parisian with nothing, although I could return for a swimsuit if I have to. Today I venture to the nicer mall in the area. There is a store dedicated to swimwear but also requires a second mortgage. I head out with an open mind, a hopeful heart and two gift cards. I will let you know ...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bye Buy Clothes: Mission, Accomplished.

Day 367, or Day 1

I did it. First I want to send a heart-felt thanks to everyone who supported me in this year-long challenge. I tend to be a very private person so making my challenge so public was a little unsettling at first. But in the words of John Donne, "no man is an island." Or woman. My experience was richer for having shared it and more bearable with your words of encouragement.

So today, I could shop. As I said yesterday, I had $35 in Kohl's Cash and coupons that expired today. I didn't plan to spend this entire New Year's Day shopping but I'd be a fool to let Kohl's Cash expire. If Kohl's had a Black Card, I would have it. Up until last January, I was a Kohl's regular. The associates knew me.

I fixed myself up and set out to the store. My husband was not interested in joining me. On the drive over, the anticipation grew. I was imagining the entire staff at Kohl's lined up outside the store. There would be happy, welcoming faces on each side of my path to the door. Clapping, high-fiving, glad to have you home. The store manager would open the door, hand me a shopping bag and cheers would erupt. I would be back.

There was no team of associates waiting for me, but I was still excited. I walked through those door and headed over to the women's department wearing the biggest, stupidest grin you ever saw. I was pretty sure my fellow shoppers thought I came directly from a New Year's Eve bash. I kept trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone. "Look at me! I'm here! I can buy stuff." I guess they were all wrapped up in their own shopping because barely anyone even looked up.

My rules for today:

1. No looking at price tags (hence the blindness brought on by a clearance tag)

2. Everything MUST be tried on in the store (if it looks good int that fitting room, it will be FAB at home)

3. Whatever I chose to buy had to be right. Not close, RIGHT.

Within a half hour, my arms were loaded to capacity. I struggled into a fitting room, stripped off my clothes and got to work. I had no illusion that I would love everything but I had given my needs much thought and felt certain I could enhance my wardrobe today. 25 items in the first round. 1 pair of pants were nice. A pair from the Narciso Rodriguez collection I was so eager to try. The dresses were awful and I had been certain they would be perfect for me. Round 2. Back to the sales floor to load up with 25 more items. Nothing. I decided I didn't need pants that had to be dry cleaned, so I put the Narcisos back. Round 3. I was getting very aggravated by the messy fitting rooms. My closet at home was now beautifully organized and neat. I wanted to stop and clean every fitting room. I continued on, even venturing over to Toddler Boys.

2 hours later I was in line at the checkout. Want to know what I bought? A black tank top that I desperately needed, a hat and mitten set for my grandson and a neoprene travel case for our tablet. Did not even spend all the Kohl's Cash and coupon. I was no longer buoyant and happy, I was crabby and tired. This is what I have been missing? Poorly made, ill-fitting, wacky colored, barfy printed, stupidly styled clothes? Crazy thing--I was certain I would have bought many of those items last year.

The good news: there has been a real change in how I view what I will buy.

The bad news: so far, the clothes out there suck.

I'll be out at the malls this week. If you see me, please give a high five, or at least a smile.