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

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).

4 Responses to “Clothes and the art (or mind?) of finding them”

  1. MomEsq Says:

    Thanks for the great tips!! I have two more thoughts - I spent some time on the internet recently and figured out which colors were best for me. It's really worked out: I don't spend time looking at things that aren't going to make me look my best, and I don't buy items that aren't flattering (color-wise, anyway). Also, EBay is a also great place to find quality classic pieces for the fraction of the price. You do need to know your size, read descriptions carefully, and really be confident about the purchase -because you can't count on a return policy. That said, I revamped my work wardrobe with classic pieces from Coach, Ralph Lauren, Talbot's and Ann Taylor -for less than $100, and I'm happy knowing that these items are good quality and will last a long time. I've also purchased some vintage items quite inexpensively on eBay(I tend to go for classic lines, so they don't look too dated or trendy).

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Oh, you really have a different experience of other women than I do. I would not advise someone poorly on their appearance in order to make myself the better competitor or for any other reason.

  3. Jerry Says:

    I love a good second hand store... and it is true, you don't have to love everything that they are selling to find a good deal! If you can look at a place that has the insurance of donations from a well-to-do area, you can also find brand new, first-rate apparel for very cheap.

  4. giax Says:

    Joan, I guess it's more of a style thing or something subconscious...

    I read somewhere a few days ago that some (womanly, style guru woman) got frustrated when she tried to learn to do a great make up, and went to all sorts of cosmetologist. Each of them did what looked great on the person making the make up. Which was usually not the same colors that would have looked great on her, or even be of the style she asked for (natural). She figured then out by herself how she'd like it and started from there. I don't think even in that case the cosmetologist would have wanted to give a not so perfect look; they simply did what looked good (as they had learned it). I feel very lucky when my husband shares the same ideas - and when in doubt of some item, we both ask. If it's an "... mmh" or "I'm not sure..." or anything else than "I like that on you" then it usually stays in the store.

    I haven't gone much clothes shopping with women ever. Most of them have their own styles and likes which aren't necessarily mine. Or I don't like to spend a full day running in the clothing stores... so I can only think of one friend in the past that I'd trust her style advice. My room mate from years ago in Italy, Nadia. She had a ton of different things and styles and could pick patterns and fabrics that looked awesome. And accessorize them.

    But most of the time - and it goes back to those times - I have found it much more effective to ask the guys. Would this look good? What do you think? I'm sure it works better when I avoid the most seasonal (or fashionable) items, but it works. Which jeans look better? What do you think of this shirt?

    But no matter what gender, once there are some great shopping buddies they are priceless and fun to have.

    MomEsq, the colors matter a lot too.
    I remember reading years ago about the color Seasons - that everyone would be a winter, summer, spring, autumn, or any combination of them. But even then the colors seem to change. Most of the time I guess I've been in the range of winter-summer or summer-winter, but there are colors that are definitely not in that range that just fit.

    So here comes my own theory: one likes the colors they need, and looks great in them. So even if lime green wouldn't fit in the cold color schemes, when I need the energy that color has it fits me. In high school magenta looked good on me, but not any more - I guess that color has given what it had to give to me long ago. Maybe in five years dark green or some other color looks better instead.

    Shopgoodwill.com is also an awesome resource for clothes (and all sorts of other things), like those of any otherwise pricier brand like Armani or Boss etc.

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