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Archive for July, 2010

Clothes and the art (or mind?) of finding them

July 27th, 2010 at 10:45 am

I've never really followed fashion. One year, long ago, I completely gave up the idea of even trying. That was when for half a year someone in the fashion industry had decided that the only acceptable trendy colors were brown, brown, and brown. Not exactly a color I fancied, and as I could not find anything in any other color in the shops for months, I simply quit browsing the stores and didn't buy anything new.

Anyway, fashion is for those without a style.
Why would all the women and/or men want to wear - and even look good - wearing the same style, colors or haircut?

And my style would probably tend to be closer to Steve Jobs than any of the fashion divas. Classics, comfortable classics, and styles and colors that don't look ridiculous in a few years. Most of the time everything ends up being black but I'm trying to break an occasional hint of color (shirts) and have found that the best way to do that is with second hand clothing.

And talking about clothing, in 2009 from January until (US) Thanksgiving, I spent 70 euros in clothes and shoes. That's nearly 7 euros or $ 10 a month.

Why? Because I felt like.

I didn't see anything I liked.

And I knew I'd move soon to the US (the climate is rather different in Texas from that in Ireland) so I wouldn't have been able to use most of what I'd have got anyway...

Within that time I still got some clothes - a new rainproof coat (15 e and will last forever), some shirts, a lovely brown plain thin travel ideal t-shirt at Penneys for 1 euro, underwear etc etc.

So, some ways we shop...

1. My first advice for women trying to impress a specific guy with what they wear is ridiculously simple: take that guy or some other hetero guy with sensible taste with when clothes shopping. And respect the honest views. Shoot, ask.. "what skirt or dress would look good on me?" "which of these looks better?" etc. Don't overdo it, a few shops at a time should do it, just as you wouldn't like to be dragged into a dozen sports bars or garages in a row. Seriously - guys know better what looks good on a girl than another girl. Why would another girl be honest? She wants to look better. And women are prone to manipulation - just look at what the fashion industry manages to push out as "must wear" for the season, season after season. Ask a guy.

2. And for the same reason, when having your hair cut, pick a guy hairdresser. Women don't want to make other women look more attractive than they are.
(note: I hate complicated hairdos, and most of the time it's the hubby cutting my hair, and there will be a hair entry later.. but for those times one must absolutely have the hair cut by someone else, pick the guy)

3. Charity stores
This is the jackpot. Know your style, or learn to know your style and try different things until you find what you like.
The stores and which of them are the best depend where you live, what you have there, and how much you want or can spend.

In Ireland we used to love Concern and Cancer Society (of the dozen big chains, if I remember correctly which ones they were.. I could place those places on a map any day though), and in UK I loved Oxfam. Ireland has had a huge income and cash explosion in the past ten years or so, and you could and can so observe this on the main streets on Saturdays (or any other day). Cash burning holes in the pocket, so the money flies fast and they buy some more of the stuff their closets are already full of. End result - the charity stores were and are full of nice men's classic shirts, like Polo Ralph Lauren, even a few Armani or Boss or something swankier. Although since maybe 2007 shopping in the charity stores got way more mainstream, and suddenly a lot of people who previously didn't shop there started browsing there. And by now a decent brand shirt in those could sell for 10 euros (or $ 15). Well, still cheaper than new, but less fun.
And you need to know where and when to browse.

In US he hadn't looked for similar ones, other than shopgoodwill.org occasionally, where he however made some nice finds.
But it's with shipping, and one likes to browse random things faster than the browser allows...

Here the two big ones are Goodwill and Salvation Army. Again, ton of locations. There are two in less than ten minute drive from us, where he again scores nice classic men's shirts, and where my recent love is weird t-shirts. The two stores are next to each other, so usually we first see Goodwill (slightly more expensive, and where he finds most the shirts) and then Salvation Army (where there are two color tags 50 % every day, and where I find most my wild t-shirts and dresses).
My recent favorite clothes finds include e.g. light green US Embassy Baghdad official t-shirt, Trinidad & Tobago bright yellow t-shirt, a UT shirt with some New Year related text in Thai, and a bunch of Apple t-shirts. When looking at the price tags, those that were seen as 'weird' are usually 99 cents, so 50 % off is 49 cents. Not too bad for wild tries.

If you find the idea of shopping in the second hand or charity stores, break yourself free. Just because they had a stigma of poorness decades ago, and some people shopping there shop there because they can't afford to shop elsewhere doesn't mean you shouldn' shop there, or should feel ashamed to shop there.
If that's difficult to try, think it this way: you support local economy. Goodwill or the other stores help employ people locally.
And you are better using the nature's resources - someone already has bought those clothes before. Why always dump everything to waste after someone got tired of them? Way more green than buying those eco-nazi brands that the big designers sell new.

4. Of course one can't find everything always in these stores so those are mostly for the browsing and finding items in longer run.. when running out of luck AND need something urgently, my next bets would be Old Navy (style allowing), and outlet malls.
I love Old Navy's colors - at least you find everything and always.
And if it's not the Old Navy time or style, can't beat the outlets.
Here in and around Austin there are two - Tanger outlets in San Marcos (45 min drive on i-35 from North Austin, or 30 min from downtown) and one in Round Rock, again i-35, the exit after IKEA.

No matter what clothing it is, usually I've found what I like. While DKNY jeans for instance aren't as ridiculously priced to start with as they are in Europe, in the outlet they are around $ 30 instead of $ 50+.
And I found an awesome Calvin Klein plain black dress for around $ 40, a style that will keep good forever so just a matter of how or whether to accessorize it.
The same goes for shoes too.
And will go for work clothing once I'll need to get prepared for the next job and interviews... it will be a trip to San Marcos.

5. Target, or Walmart...
Or any place with the wild clearance section.
I love those too, as you never know what you find.

6. Keep it simple.
My weird find after living years of wardrobe fitting in luggage and moving around life is that usually when I had a wardrobe size of one luggage, I still end up wearing only 50 % of what I own.
So 2 jeans or trousers and 4-5 shirts or blouses plus some warmer clothing.
I'm still trying to figure out which is better in the long run - trying to get me to use everything I have, or to have less. I'm fairly sure the way I prefer is just having much less.

7. Combine.
One dress, 10 ways to wear it.
Forget what the fashion magazines suggest for how to wear it, and get inspired by what you see in the above places and try with what you have.

8. Set some rules or challenges for yourself.
Why not?
Set a limit on how much you can spend even if you don't have to.
Try a month (or six) without any clothes shopping just to see how it feels.
Get one piece of clothing out for every piece of clothing that comes in.
Divide your wardrobe in 2 categories: the clothes you really really like and those that don't fit in that category.
Interestingly while trying to find my style, I really have come to prefer to browse the charity stores as you never know what you can find.

9. Mend.
Learn basic mending and fixing techniques. Fix those broken jeans and wear them longer.
Shorten those jeans or that skirt if it's otherwise perfect.
Big penny saved.

When I first browse the second hand stores, I wasn't impressed.
But I don't have to be impressed - if in a huge section of shirts I find 1 or 2 that I love that's good enough.

The second hand clothing has been helpful as for years and years I couldn't always afford the newest while studying (why get a loan just for buying clothes?). Not as the only factor but it's one thing that helps.

And last year, I wanted to see how little I would need to use (buying something if or when I still needed). Last year's difference of what I spent in clothing and what an average lady would spend in clothing I used for getting a week of holiday for us in Spain. And it still left some money as savings... (using the figures of what I found in the internet in how much an average UK woman spends in her wardrobe).

Howdy

July 23rd, 2010 at 09:35 am

I guess a sort of introduction would be good as the first post.

Howdy.

I created this blog to track the efforts of myself and the hubby in our challenge of living and doing stuff more frugally in Central Texas.

Right now we are two people and two cats living with one income.
Most of our ways in living aren't that frugal, I think, but my husband tells about several of his coworkers who are with two equal incomes and way more broke than we are. So even when we'll be back in having two incomes (or an income and half, as I might consider a half time job) finding ways to pinch the pennies occasionally does not hurt.

In our house, my husband is the one who loves getting new clothes more than I do. I'm more a gadget and computer lover, and he's worse in that than i am.

He likes eating out way more than I do. I always make my own lunch, and love trying new things while cooking. I love when eating out is a special treat instead of a daily occurrence.

We both hate hairdressers, or more specially having anyone with a sharp metal object around our necks. I like cutting his hair: his hair is curly and easy to cut, and he (like most men) look awesome with a classic cut. Hey, my mum cut my dad's hair for over 40 years saving a huge penny. And he usually keeps my hair even length now, at least until I figure what low maintenance haircut I want next. (In the past fifteen years, I think I've been to hairdressers about five times in total, all while having a short hairdo that I loved. I'll probably go back to that again as long hair sucks for swimming).

We both like to travel, and for five years we lived in a forced long distance relationship. During that time, the airlines made a huge amount of money as we lived in different continents. Now that the long distance is over, we still like to and have to travel. My mum lives in Europe, and we have to see his parents too. And as visiting relatives doesn't count as free and enjoyable travel, one of our saving objectives for now is travel: we want to see South America, Asia and a bunch of random places.

I like gardening too. Should I say frugal gardening? I love growing pineapples (from a pineapple), and herbs and tomatoes, and citrus trees. Right now in my balcony I have a banana plant, a lemon tree, orange tree grown from seed (12" or so tall), and bunch of tomatoes, an avocado plant, coffee plants, pineapples and a sago palm.

And we both like reading but are not too good in remembering to return library books always in time. That brings challenges too.

So, based on the above some things are easier to save money on than others. Haircut is the standard, and could be counted as instant $ 50 to travel funds. Right now we are experimenting in getting more in clothes, books, foods and eating out - so that pretty much covers everything in life doesn't it?