Wednesday, October 31, 2012
You know that old saying about the kindness of strangers? I've been really thankful for that lately. Starting this blog has brought some really lovely people into my life, and although I may never meet them in real life, they have inspired me and helped me in ways I never would have imagined. I started this blog A) because my husband told me I needed a hobby, and B) because I was frustrated with the way my face and body were changing after I turned 40, and I wanted to become comfortable with and accepting of myself as I aged. I've always prided myself on trying to be fashionably dressed, and I wanted to still be that way while dressing appropriately for my age. I have learned so much in the last year: I realized after years of fighting it, I had to do some form of exercise, and even if I will never be a size 4 again, I need to make conscious decisions to eat a healthy diet. Those lessons or should I say my realizations of those facts I'm thankful for, but they were things I hear everyday. I just had to accept them which I have. Some recent lessons though have been far more exciting.
I received a lovely email from a new reader of the blog recently. She was very kind, thoughtful and complimentary. Then she challenged me: "It seems like you spend a lot of money on clothes. I don't have extra money. It's easy for people like you to look good." I know the part I've quoted here may not seem lovely to some of you, but it really was a kind email, and it shocked me because I say that about celebrities all the time. Of course actress X who is the same age as me looks like she's 30, she has a personal trainer, nutritionist, chef and stylist. I would look that good if I had her life too. I know I don't live that life, and I know that I don't look that good, but I do have a lot of clothes. I knew immediately that the reader is frustrated and not so much at me but at circumstances. The reason I knew this (or maybe it's just an assumption): I've lived that life. I've written about my life before here, but to quickly review, there was an 11 year period of my life when my annual clothing budget was around $500, and I never had more than $100 to spend on myself at any one time (and that was a rarity). During that time, I always held management positions at a Fortune 500 company (where the rest of my money went is not on topic for this kind of blog, but I assure you it was not illicit or illegal).
How did I manage to go to work dressed professionally from my late 20s to 30s on this budget? I narrowed my wardrobe down to four basic colors, black, white, beige and grey, shopped at stores like Target, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross, and only bought basic items. My uniform every day was trousers or a skirt, a tee shirt or blouse, a blazer and basic black pumps. When shopping for my uniform pieces, I would always be looking for a unique cut or extra detail like contrast piping around button holes or ribbon trim. I became a pro at sticking to my color palette and my uniform pieces while shopping clearance racks but having unique details kept my outfits fresh and made me still feel as though I was expressing style.
Back to the letter from my lovely reader. She questioned if I could dress like "me" if I were on her budget. In my defense, I have quite a bit more in my closet from H&M, Zara and Forever 21 than I do from Neiman's and Sak's. On a daily basis, I mix high and low and usually have a lot more low to mid-priced items in an outfit than high, but having lived on a strict budget, I completely acknowledge that the price point of a mid-priced item from Ann Taylor can seem like a fortune. The outfit I put together here was pulled from things already in my closet and some of them for a long time, so I had to estimate the price but here goes: Vintage Jag dress $17.00, Target jacket $19.99 and shoes $21.99, H&M bag $12.99, JewelMint rings $29.99, Brighton necklace gifted (I wouldn't have worn the Coach sunglasses in order to make my price point, but I was squinting unattractively without them. Please pretend they aren't there). Total for outfit $101.96.
I wrote back to my reader to ask her what a reasonable budget for an outfit would be for her. I really wanted to give an example that was true to her world, but I have not heard back from her.
Here is where the learning something part of the story kicked in for me, and maybe I'm just stupid or naive. There are truly a lot of people who struggle with this and they shouldn't have to. Send me a homework assignment. I love to do this. The focus of this blog will still be my personal style outfits, but maybe there is another home for me to do this and I just have to pull it together. Until then, post a comment or send an email if you want to talk about body types or party clothes. If this post wasn't already making you yawn, I would tell you about my training in Image Styling in the 80s. But that's a whole new post.
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