Building a Wardrobe for Life

An article in this month’s More magazine struck a chord with me. More‘s tagline is “for women of style and substance,” which I take to be marketing code for “women in their forties who are smart and look good for their age.” Since I will be one of those women in a few short months, I’ve started reading the magazine with some regularity.

In this piece the author, Jennifer Braunschweiger, forces herself to consider every last item in her closet. “If I put it on, and then take it off, I have to give it away…If I wear it to work and feel uncomfortable, out it goes as well.” (You can see a slideshow of Braunschweiger’s closet project in More magazine online, but the essay is only available in the hard-copy magazine, and it’s worth a read.)

She continues, “a closet isn’t a museum or an archive. It should be a simple storehouse of clothes that reflect who I am today and that I can wear to work tomorrow. .. Letting go of clothing is letting go of who I used to be.”

Closet as Archive

That’s true, but for me there’s something more. The truth is, and I say this without meaning to sound like the world’s biggest Debbie Downer, but I have had little success to date in building the things most women my age have. Through many missteps for which I take full responsibility, a couple strokes of bad luck, and a select few cases of good old-fashioned getting screwed over, I haven’t as yet succeeded in building a lucrative, flourishing career or a family of my own.

But a wardrobe? Now that, I have managed to build.

Don’t get me wrong. I have managed to grow as a person these last years and I’ve certainly had some successes.  But the truth is that one of the few very tangible things I have to show from my last 10 years is my wardrobe. If I dismantle it blouse by sweater by skirt, what do I have to show for the last decade? Continue reading

O Black Sweater at Marshalls, Where Art Thou

The other day, Nurse V mentioned that she needed clothes for an upcoming vacation, and asked if I would help her shop. She really had to twist my arm, as you can imagine, and we wound up at Marshalls in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Center.

Now, when it comes to brand-name discount stores, shopping at that Marshalls means seriously kicking it old school. It makes browsing at the Upper West Side Loehmann’s that I know and love looks like amateur hour. At Marshalls, there are only a few racks organized by designer, and almost no neat endcaps displaying merchandise in that spare, boutique style that makes you want to buy something.

No, this Marshall’s offers up endless racks of clothes divided into the most basic categories. Shirts. Sweaters. Pants. Small. Medium. Large.  Not for the faint of heart, was this Marshall’s. Luckily, Nurse V and I were up to the challenge. We patiently went through each rack in Nurse V’s size, evaluating every piece of clothing.

Once my friend had a decently sized “definitely coming home with me” pile as well as a a reasonable “maybe” one (many items successfully found by me, I’m just saying), I went in search of a little something-something for myself.

Gold buttons like the ones on the sweater I left at Marshalls.

I am bad at taking camera-phone pics in dressing rooms, so I don’t have a picture of the Magaschoni sweater from Marshalls. Just picture a very plain, long-sleeved black sweater, crew-neck. The gold-button detailing at the shoulder was made from buttons that looked like these. It’s the best I could do.

Which was when I happened upon a black crew-neck Magaschoni sweater. Simple and elegant, it was plain except for a row of gold disk-shaped buttons running from the chest to the shoulder. It looked fabulous on. It had been almost $200 and was now a reasonable $50.

Continue reading

What I Bought–I Mean Did–on My Summer Vacation

Now I’ll give the long-awaited answer to the question: What did I end up buying on vacation?

The answer is: Wait for it…

Nothing.

Yes. I’m just as shocked as you are.

See: There were a couple things I contemplated, but I found myself mired in an existential discussion with my Really Irritating Internal Voice (RIIV), about whether I actually wanted to have these things, or whether I just wanted to buy them. This is, of course, a broad and, may I say, extremely tiring question. I mean, I certainly didn’t want to buy something just to buy something. On the other hand, some of my most-worn items are ones I bought on vacation or at some other time when I just felt like buying something for the pleasure of buying something.

Anyway. First, I almost bought a ring. It had a simple, gold-plated base and a round piece of red/pink sea glass. It was not at all expensive and Mom was like “just get the effing ring,” though she said it more politely because she’s a mom. But it was only the second day of vacation. What if I found something I liked more?

Over the next day or so I did think about the ring, and planned to go back for it, but I got too busy doing such vacation-y things as lying down, reading, drinking wine, eating, and lying down again.

Gone fishing - Herringbones Design Shop

The shop where I almost bought (yet another) bag. I may call and ask them to send it to me. Will I like it as much now that vacation is over?

In a different store, on the last day, I found a super-cute fabric/knit tote bag, with all my fave colors (black, maroon, olive, grey), and lots of little pockets inside. It was a great end-of-summer bag, and everyone knows you can never have too many bags. But again, doubt raised its ugly head. Did I want THIS bag? Or did I just want to go home from vacation with a souvenir?

I decided to ignore my RIIV and “just buy the effing ring.” But, when I returned to the first store (stay with me here, I know it’s getting confusing) the ring had been sold. Suddenly, I really, really wanted it. “And you’re sure you don’t have one in back, right? What about online? The Portland store?” The saleswoman was fairly unsympathetic, conveying a kind of “you snooze, you lose” attitude which seemed fair enough, since the day before, when I had been about to go back to the store, I had actually fallen asleep.

However, now that I’m home I find myself thinking about that bag. I’m even considering calling the store, giving them my credit card, and asking them to send it to me. The problem is, will I like it as much, now that vacation is over?