When I think of all things classic, like Chanel No 5., Starbucks classic hot chocolate, rouge lipstick, Claudia’s fashion style, the original LBD, a pair of killer black heels, the little black vintage clutch, oversized head-wear and merlot; I realise that very few of these things actually feature in my life. It is now, as I enter into my ‘budget phase’, that I realise years of wasting my money on disposable fashion and lifestyle accessories has left me with nothing but a wardrobe of un-co-ordinated pieces, cheap fabrics, and quite frankly, nothing that can get me through my budget period, let alone help define me!
Why do I feel the need to buy so much?
Being a toddler when the decade ended, I missed out on all that the 70s had to offer. My childhood was spent during the technologically booming but financially recessing 80s, where our preoccupations with the fact that we could suddenly video tape something on one side of the television while watching a different show left little time for fashion, and I spent a lot of my childhood wearing neon, global hypercolour, and Pollyanna style dresses. Then came the 90s, the era of my teenage years, where the indie music scene took over and I spent my time wearing corduroy jeans with little vest tops. This was when I first started to experience what it was like to have money to spend thanks to my little Saturday job and the £80 a month pay packet I received (remember this was 1994). Growing up in a family where money wasn’t easy to come by, I was accustomed to wanting to get a lot for my money. Thus came the C&A days – I guess the equivalent of Primark in today’s high street, only probably slightly more classy. In C&A you could get an entire outfit for less than £20, and when they had sales – what you couldn’t get for your money wasn’t worth it. By the time I was 19 I had a wardrobe bursting at the seams, piles of jeans everywhere in my bedroom and boxes and boxes of shoes.
Into my twenties, came the first of my ‘poor years’ – moving out of home and fending for myself left little money for food let alone clothing, and I retreated back to my indie-kid days – music was my fashion, and my two pairs of brown baggy trousers and hooded jumpers saw me through many a year. Just to complete the look I had a pixie hair cut and a spiderman back pack!
Then the mid to late twenties came, and after moving around I found myself house sharing and with a massive disposable income. A reasonably paid job and little household bills left me free to shop shop and shop. Growing my hair long and starting an exercise regime that took me down from my already super skinny 6 ½ stone frame to a shocking 5 ½ stone with bones protruding from my waif like figure. I loved the feeling of slightness and slenderness and appearance became so important to me. I wanted to be able to create many different looks, have lots of different outfits for every occasion and be someone who was talked about for her clothing. It was then I discovered ebay and soon I was having parcel after parcel delivered of items I’d purchased through the site. It’s only £2.50 plus £1 postage – I wouldn’t usually go for it but it’s so cheap it’s worth giving it a go. ‘You might as well, you can afford it’ became my motto and before long I had two wardrobes bursting at the seams.
All the fashion though became disposable – throw away pieces you’d get rid of when you no longer liked them, or they were no longer in style. I can only think of one item I have in my wardrobe now that I had back then – a suede gilet, which has proved to be quite a piece! Clothes got disposed of and replaced with new ones, which again lasted a season if they were lucky before being replaced with another item. In fact I’m sure I even bought two of the same thing once, having thrown it away and then it came back into fashion!
It was all about fashion, trends and what the magazines told me to wear. How I wish I’d listened to my mother’s advice when she warned me not to buy a pink sequin skirt that needed to be dry cleaned. It seemed a bargain in the French Connection Sale, but getting home and trying it on I realised it was completely unpractical – I had nothing to go with it and quite frankly, where was a 26 year old woman going to wear a pink sequin sparkly skirt to anyway?
Now my mid thirties are approaching and I’m doing all I can to save up to move house. By this time next year I want to be typing from a new house, five minutes away from my sister and parents, nesting for a baby that will hopefully come along in the not too distant future. So saving is the buzz word of the moment – looking at where I can make cut-backs. What do I need and what don’t I need. The main area that sadly has to be cut is my money to buy clothes. I need to reduce my spending to no more than one item a month. To some of you that may seem like a lot – I know people who spend less than £200 a year on clothes. But I am someone who has been spending more than £200 a month on clothes. It isn’t going to be easy. My boyfriend said it should be fine as I don’t need any more clothes as I’ve got lots anyway. It was then that I realised. I do have a lot of clothes, but nothing with longevity. Nothing that will get me through several seasons. No classic pieces that can be styled with accessories to give different looks. No basic white t shirt you can sling a cardigan over in the winter or little jacket in the spring. No core pair of black heels that I can wear with anything. I have a wardrobe of different coloured tops, jumpers, skirts and quite frankly random items. I have dresses, vests, camisoles, blazers, cardigans, you name it - yet I still struggle to put together a look and create my style without feeling like I need to buy something else.
So here is my challenge – work with what I’ve got. Identify my core, key pieces, sell of anything that doesn’t fit with them, and, with inspiration from the ever stylish Ms Schiffer, find my own style.