Thursday, June 14, 2007

What To Wear

I'm thinking of turning over a new leaf and getting interested in clothes. At Rio Hondo I said I wanted to maybe get some clothes because I didn't have enough clothes for a week. Not a problem at home where there is a washing machine, but you know, kind of embarrassing on a week long trip.We went down the mountain to Taos where Karen Fowler took me firmly in hand and picked out something and then when I said, 'This looks good, I don't even think I need to try it on," looked me squarely in the eye and said, "you do."

I ended up buying clothes! That fit! And then when I told Bob, he took me shopping and bought me MORE clothes. Granted, if you saw me in these clothes you would not think, DAMN. On the other hand, you wouldn't think I was homeless, either.

What is it about clothes? I find that when I try on clothes at the store I am appalled by the fact I don't look like me. Me, of course, is thirty. That's what I look like in my head or when I'm dreaming. I've always prided myself on not being obsessed with aging--I don't dye my hair, I'm not thinking about skin peels or botox injections, and I don't lie about my age. But here, underneath where I wasn't looking, is this thing about how I look.

Granted, when I lived in New York I mentioned to someone that when I bought a new item of clothing I always felt as if I were, in some sense, reinventing myself. You know, trying on clothes used to be an exercise in trying on personalities. (Although I came from a family that did not shop recreationally and was so poor in my twenties that I just didn't buy clothes.) I mentioned the trying on personalities thing to someone in New York and they looked at me through narrowed eyes and said, "You're beyond all that, surely."

So now I'm curious. Is the clotheshorse thing genetic? Is shopping in one's DNA? Or can it be learned? And what will it mean for Bob and our checkbook if I do?


Blogger Beth Adele Long said...

I think shopping is in one's DNA the way books are. Just about anyone literate can develop a fondness for books, even enthusiasm, but those of us who suffer withdrawal symptoms if we don't read fiction for two weeks are a different breed.

I've learned to enjoy shopping, and I consider myself a pretty good shopper: I subscribe to Elle, I stay reasonably current on fashions, and I go on a serious shopping trip once or twice a season. I have come to accept the need to try on clothes, and also the fact that clothes that look stunning on the rack might look miserable when I actually put them on.

I never buy anything that's not comfortable. I shop sales, but will pay full price for something I really like (rather than a slashed sale price for something I'll wear once and then stuff in the back of the closet).

But I have a limit: one hour at the mall, maybe two, and I have to get out of there. I wasn't born to it.

My sister, on the other hand, shops to relax. She thinks about clothes the way I think about books, or office supplies. If you woke her up at 3am during a tropical storm and said, "Let's go to J. Crew," she'd not only be happy, she'd probably have her store card under her pillow.

So don't worry: it can be learned, it's partially genetic, and your checkbook is probably safe. Set yourself a generous shopping budget and see if you can spend it all. You'll probably have a great time and will avoid malls for 6 months after the spree. :)

June 14, 2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger Karen Sandstrom said...

Several years ago, for a period that lasted several years, I was buying new clothes all the time. I mean, like, something once a week. It took a while to figure out that I kept trying to find the item of clothing that would make up for the fact that I'd gained 30 pounds and didn't look like me to myself. I would buy pretty much the same kinds of things, over and over, thinking it was the CLOTHES. All I'm saying is that being a clothes horse can be overrated - and neurotic. I'm sure you're not neurotic about it, because you're generall more well-balanced than I am. But I don't think it's something to aspire to.

June 14, 2007 9:22 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

I like clothes, but I hate shopping for clothes. I'd probably hate it less if I lost about fifty pounds.

As it is I go through phases. When I worked in downtown San Francisco, and later downtown Seattle, I used to wear slacks and a sportcoat and good shoes most of the time. When I got laid off and got a job in the suburbs, doing that freaked out my coworkers.

Now I wear worn T-shirts and cheap cargo shorts, partly because I can get away with it (I work with a bunch of German ex-academics with no fashion sense), partly because getting anything dry-cleaned or even getting a shirt pressed is insanely expensive here.

(What I'd really like to do is get in the habit of wearing bespoke suits and custom-fitted shirts, but that adds up quick.)

June 15, 2007 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be learned, but some are born to it. I hope you'll experiment. I like special items from craft shows, one of a kind items. And yes, sometimes it's to change my personality. What's wrong with that? And next year at Wiscon you can go to Ellen and Delia's clothing exchange and they will swap you something fabulous. Because in learning to do this you will make a few mistakes, find that something you thought you liked really doesn't suit you.

The weirdest thing to me is how different clothes are right for different parts of the country and it isn't just a question of's also a question of light and attitude.


June 15, 2007 6:37 AM  
Blogger Tour Mistress Of The Darkness said...

I definitely wasn't born with the shopping gene, and it's not a behavior I ever care to learn. Just thinking about the mall makes me break out in hives. A couple times a year I'll go to and stock up on a couple new pairs of jeans or shorts (depending on the season), and I collect t-shirts like our couch collects cat hair. Fortunately, my job (touring with a band) doesn't require that I wear anything fancier than that!!

June 15, 2007 4:22 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Sadly, it is genetic. Only we got it from Dad not Mom. I used to think "if only I loose a few" I did and still have zero intrest in clothes or shopping. So, buy whatever you like and is comfortable or you will just end up donating it to the pet charity store. There is a reason at my age I still wear Levi's and t-shirts - genetics.
I do love sunglasses and watches. Go figure.

June 15, 2007 4:48 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Pat, since our father could rumple a shirt by looking at it, the thought that we inherited his clothing DNA is really scary. But, I suspect you are right.

Still, if I make the occasional stab at shopping, maybe I won't be quite as pathetic. (But things do not look promising. Bob and I drove almost to San Antonio today to go to Natural Bridge Cave. Cave was great. Afterwards, looking for info on other caves, I saw a brochure for an outlet mall. I warned Bob that in my new shopping mode, I might decide to make him go there. He wasn't worried. "We passed it on the way down," he said. And as he had observed, I had not noticed.)

June 15, 2007 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adore shopping. I think it is genetic. Has to be. My mother and father both loved to shop. I have a photo of my father in the forties wearing a light-colored jacket and black shirt -- and he was not Mafia. He had a collection of Indian bolos (stolen, alas, many years ago) that was to die for. My mother was, as you might expect, even worse. She kept a diary of what she wore every single day of her life until she became blind and too demented to write.

I've also heard that a keen interest in clothes is related to estrogen (and my shopping jones has fallen off some in recent years), or to Toxoplasmosis Gondii infection. Folk science, of course, but it could explain my rabid interest in any store than has clothes in a style I haven't seen before.

When I'm very very poor, or just inspired to be stingy, I shop at thrift stores. It's just as much fun, and when I'm in a strange city, the thrift stores have local crafts and styles. Nothing can raise my spirits or take my mind off the inevitability of death and the gloom of the universe like finding a Laurel Birch brooch or a Lilly Pulitzer shirt for three bucks.

If I were an interstellar traveller, I'd always head straight for the thrift store on any alien planet. (Then I'd head for stores that have cool ethnic stuff.)

A hobby, or a disease? You tell me. I used to have a friend who liked to fish so much he would watch people fishing on TV. So, who's crazy?

June 16, 2007 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last anonymous was me, BTW.

Mary Turzillo

June 16, 2007 7:24 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I love clothes but I only like shopping in stores that are unique. Malls bore me 70 percent of the time, though I've found some good stuff in them over the years. I especially like them when they have major sales. Those are about the only times I like malls really. And when I don't have money, I just stay away from buildings that sell *anything* at all that I might want and not need, so as not to feel so wretched and depressed about not being able to get luxuries.

But little boutiques and shops with particular clothing that is both cheap and weird or wonderful in some way--those places I love. Every Wiscon, I shop Madison till I drop. There's a great recycle shop/new weird fashion store there called Ragstock, and a store with unfortuantely pricey but really pretty stylish clothes for guys called Jazzman too. And of course Urban Outfitter. In any case, I know what you mean about the trying on clothes thing, inventing personalities as well as not feeling like your mental image of yourself. It's sort of a disorienting experience in a way. But I'm glad you went shopping and had fun! If we're ever in shopping territory together, we can give it a spin and see if there are any treasures to find.

June 18, 2007 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be learned -- and perhaps, it is genetic. I will tell you this -- all through school I disdained shopping, make-up, purses, cute shoes, the importance of grooming one's hair, and anything else you can think of.

And then, one day, someone convinced me to get a cute haircut.

And then, after that, on a lark, I got my make-up done by one of those mall experts.

I liked it. After that, I lost about twenty pounds. Bought new clothes that I felt good in. I bought more clothes. And more. And, like you, every time I tried them on I felt as though I was "reinventing" myself.

I still do. And it is fun. Somewhat addictive and probably hard on the checkbook, but on the other hand, there is something to be said for looking in the mirror and seeing fresh possibilities that have nothing whatsoever to do with intellect or professional obligations, but simply that personal excitment of feeling like, "Hey, I look pretty good, and maybe I can do something with this." That's satisfying on a whole different level.

June 19, 2007 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a cheap chic shopper. I love thrift stores and sales racks in small stores. Nothing makes me smile like finding a designer label at 90% off the original price. An absolute must, though, is that it is the only garment in that style in the store in any size. I hate the thought that I might walk into a party and see three other women (in three other sizes) wearing what I just bought.

My workmates and I have a clothing swap twice a year. This cuts way down on expenses and we get a kick out of seeing our "old clothes" on each other.

Marjorie Farrell

June 20, 2007 4:41 PM  

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