Hello, I am a sartorial fledgling.
Throughout my life I have gone through several style phases, none of which have been particularly good. I haven’t had any tremendously embarrassing clothing eras, but thinking back through all my style iterations there is an ongoing theme of not feeling great about how I dressed.
This is due in large part to… well, being large. I’ve always been shopping from the back of the rack, digging to see if there’s still an XL in stock. I didn’t buy a bikini until I was 22 when I finally realized that you don’t need to look like a model to dress like one. No one on the cover of Cosmopolitan looked like me. On TV you were either rail-thin or Rosie O’Donnell. Dorinha jeans definitely weren’t made with a body type like mine in mind, so it followed that they didn’t make my size.
Not that I wanted those stupid things anyway. The fuck is a 1″ zipper for.
ANYWAY. Last year I got fed up. I was tired of always feeling underdressed, or of panicking when I needed to be onsite with a customer for two days and couldn’t wear my go-to superboring grey sweater and black pants two days in a row. We don’t have a dress code at work, but despite that (or maybe because of that) people generally dress really well, and I just felt sad in the corner wearing my jeans and a black t-shirt.
So I decided to make a big, strategic investment into my wardrobe.
I know there are a lot of people who are opposed to the word ‘investment’ when it comes to clothes and blah blah blah I don’t care. Listen, the amount you can sell something for later is not the only possible positive return you can get when it comes to clothing. Confidence, happiness, and polish all have value, and in some instances can open doors to cheaper apartments or high-paying jobs, which are monetary returns. Also, buying nicer, higher quality things can result in having to buy fewer things overall, which is also!!! a monetary return, so don’t tell me buying Chanel bags and then flogging them when they’re vintage is the only way to get a good ROI.
So I shopped. I bought things a notch above what I was previously buying and wearing. I bought my very first merino wool and cashmere sweaters. I bought leather boots and (even more) leather bags and real, actual, Vancouver weather-appropriate outerwear. (👏🏼 Two 👏🏼parkas 👏🏼 and 👏🏼 a 👏🏼 raincoat!!! 👏🏼) I built a wardrobe of high-quality clothes that I feel good in, and now when I have to plan what to wear onsite with a customer I am overwhelmed by choice.
I also ventured out of my comfort zone. I bought my first crop top, and then bought six more. I bought a pleather miniskirt and a skin-tight bodysuit. I bought boxy cropped tees which is one of the worst possible shapes for my body type and I look like a cereal box in them. But you know what cereal can be? A snack.
I spent thousands of dollars on making serious upgrades to my clothes.
And let me tell you, it is paying off. Fall descended fast and hard on Vancouver this year, and for the first time in my entire life I had zero panic about what to wear. Instead of mourning having to put away dresses I was excited to make the switch to sweaters. I can’t remember the last time I worried about what to wear to a party, date, or customer meeting.
What’s worse, is that although it felt like I was bleeding money, I didn’t actually spend much more. I’ve been keeping a complete record of where my money goes since 2016, so I was a little astounded when I compared last year’s super spendy investment to the year prior.
2018 total: $7,528.38
2017 total: $6,049.07
Difference: $1479.31, or only a 24% increase.
This was upsetting. The year that I *intentionally* set out to spend a lot was really not that much more than the year prior. And looking just at only clothes (excluding bags, shoes, and accessories) it gets even worse. In 2017, I spent $4,027.28 on clothing. 2018? $4,660.89 – $633.61 more. A measly 16% increase.
Considering the medium leap in brands and big leap in quality these are really astounding numbers from 2017, and I think the reasoning for this is emotional shopping at fast fashion retailers. I’d feel like I didn’t have anything nice, so I’d drop $200 at H&M or order $350 worth of stuff from Old Navy, and my closet continued to bloat with ill-fitting cheaply-made garbage that was intended to be disposable from the moment a factory worker in Bangladesh was given the pattern.
Clearly intention is a good thing overall. I feel better. I have nicer clothes that will last me a long time. My closet mostly makes sense, with very few gaps.
And for the gaps I do have, I can concretely describe what I need to fill them in. A knee-length belted peacoat in grey, ideally with a hood. A pair or two of closed-toe comfortable heels that can withstand unexpected rain. Leather flats that aren’t ballet flats, and also a new pair of ballet flats because mine are dying. Wide-legged pants. A white camisole. A bra that fits because apparently I am wearing one that is four cup sizes too small?????
I will fill these gaps in thoughtfully and with the right pieces, because I can make do without them for the time being. The wardrobe emergency is gone, the shopping urgency is gone. I’m thrifting instead of buying new. I have so many nice things to wear now.
And most importantly, I still feel like me. If anything, I feel more like me than I did before. I still have fun and whimsical things in my closet. I have colour and feminine skirts and boots with studs on them and several adidas tracksuits.
I have clothes for pretty much whoever I need to be. And it feels nice. But I still can do better. I can be more adventurous, have a more defined style, put in more effort, and come up with more interesting outfits. So here we go.