What’s been really fun about encouraging myself to stick with secondhand/vintage/small batch shopping this year is that shopping suddenly feels so much more purposeful. I honestly do not miss my dead-eyed scrolls through the sale sections at Madewell and Anthro. I’ve been spending a little less time online shopping overall, and when I do shop, it’s so much more rewarding to scavenge for little treasures that are in some way special or unique.
That said — there was definitely a part of me that hoped cutting myself off from fast fashion would mean spending less $$$, and, uh, that has not been the case. In theory, I don’t at all mind paying higher prices for pieces that were made ethically, and/or pieces that are made to last, but I think I’m still figuring out the best approach to buying well & buying sparingly.
I think it would be easier for me to buy, say, a really fucking great $300 dress and then forego shopping for a few weeks if I were more of a capsule wardrobe person, but for better and for worse, I’m a maximalist. I love color, I love shapes, I love patterns, I love big bright accessories. And I love the opportunity to dress all in neutrals whenever I want a change of pace. I also tend to dance around the gender presentation spectrum; I can go from a high femme dress/heels/lipstick mood at the beginning of the week to a white button down/platform oxfords feeling at the end. And I don’t know if I really want to try streamlining my style just because it would be simpler and cheaper — I get a lot of joy and satisfaction and just a sense of rightness from treating fashion as an everyday source of discovery and play.
This is all to say that I’m constantly erring more on the side of getting a few midprice things at a time rather than one or two big-ticket items. I still have a weird mental block about spending more than, like, $80 on a shirt or $150 on a dress or maaaaaaaybe breaking $200 for a coat or shoes. I’d pretty much always rather get two or more very different kinds of looks out of the same chunk of $. Now that I’ve built up a wardrobe I’m generally quite happy with, though, I’d like to challenge myself in future editions of this letter to consider how rewarding it might be to spend more than I usually would on just one or two things, and that’ll be it for me for the month.
That was definitely not what I did this time, though!!! Though I’ll cut myself some slack here because I have had so much fun with this new (for me) search for vintage and secondhand things that I ended up going a little overboard. And maybe sometimes that’s okay?
I have so much anxiety and guilt about money, which I know isn’t at all unusual, especially for people who have ascended into a class status that their own parents/families have not. I’m constantly struggling to determine what’s a normal, healthy amount of self-criticism about my spending — obviously it’s important to make wise financial decisions — and what might be an unhealthy amount of class guilt and self-punishment. I think there’s a big part of me that still doesn’t think I deserve to have such a good job and make as much money as I do, even though I know those things are extraordinarily relative. Sometimes I don’t think I deserve any of it: the nice clothes; the vacations; the ability to go out for a fancy meal without worrying about how to pay for it anymore.
And then I think about all the people who haven’t grown up knowing any sort of precarity who probably don’t feel guilty about their much more lavish spending a single day of their lives.
Because I’m still navigating all this stuff (and, let’s be real, probably always will) I’m going to adjust some elements of this project. Because I make the rules here!! I’m going to stop including price totals and just focus on my purchased items — I’d like to, if not celebrate my consumerism, then at least just own my choices, acknowledge when things were really worth it (and maybe sometimes when they weren’t), and continue to learn and grow.
When I went on Gee Thanks, Just Bought It, my friend Caroline’s podcast, she told me that budgeting had always been stressful for her because it reminds her of calorie counting — of wanting to either starve or eat the whole cake — which I 100% identify with as a former disordered eater. Obviously budgeting and calorie counting serve very different purposes, and both can be done in either healthy or unhealthy ways, but I think it’s important to acknowledge one of the reasons why I might be so resistant to a perfectly reasonable and semi-flexible budget so that I can then work my way towards establishing one in a positive way. Lots to discuss in my next therapy session!!!!
K enough anxious word vomit — onto the purchases.
What I Bought
A sale at one of my favorite vintage shops on Etsy meant that I picked up a beautiful emerald green wool and velvet Pendleton blazer for $39 (half off)!
I have a bit of a clog problem, but I hadn’t yet acquired any of the fancier boys, which is why news of a Beklina sale-on-sale led me to a pair of sky-blues ($135). My friend Ellen is right — they are SO comfortable. I’ve long coveted these green boots, which are also on sale but sold out in my size :( I was also tempted by their goofily oversized sleep masks.
I’m a sucker for a) abstract lines/shapes and b) anything in green, so: a North of West dress ($132).
I would wear dresses more often in the winter if I didn’t fucking hate tights. I’ve tried Instagram ones like Heist which were fine and then they either started mega-sagging or ripped after like 3 wears. So in a last ditch effort I’m gonna try Sheertex sheers, which are supposedly unbreakable??? At 60 bucks, they better be. I do like that they come in different heights as well as sizes, so I’m holding out hope.
Now here’s where I really went nuts. I’ve finally got the hang of browsing for vintage stuff on Etsy; there’s actually a trove of good plus-size stuff if you take the time to look. I got this crazy blue/orange color block blouse ($35), a western belt in red and green ($38), this funky flowy white wrap top ($25), this psychedelic 70s tunic (lol) ($35), a beautiful linen orange/pink/green blazer ($40) and — perhaps most exciting of all — a handmade color block shoulder bag ($29.50 at half off).
Last year I was mostly stocking up on basics to hopefully keep for a long time, and then tried renting more trendy / loud / statement things. I’m glad I have a good base of basics to work with now, but when I look at my closet, the clothes I’ve kept the longest and still love the most are my more unique items (and I think the distinction between “unique but timeless” and “trendy” is an important one): a Mara Hoffman dress bought on clearance with bright splashes of color; 70s style collared shirts from Big Bud Press; oversized red floral earrings. So now I’ve reoriented my shopping towards more interesting things that bring me joy, even though they might seem less practical. (They’re also either to sell/thrift later then fast fashion is!)
My favorite purchase of the year so far is hands down the fuchsia overcoat I wrote about in my first letter — 60 bucks for the most compliments I think I’ve ever gotten from strangers in my life? People at Sundance literally stopped me on the street to tell me how much they loved it. And I love it too! So even though I was worried it was a frivolous buy, it ended up being soooo much more worth it then $60 on, like, another black top.
I tried and loved Peach and Lily’s glass skin refining serum last year, so now I’ve stocked up ($39).
I’m out of my travel sized Biologique Recherche 1970 — the kind with phenol — so I ordered another travel sized guy without it to compare the two. I’ve only used it a couple days so far, and I miss the bad smell of the phenol one; I had at least gotten used to it. Now I have some new bad smell to contend with. But I would like to make do with the phenol-free option (not like I really know the difference or if it matters???) so TBD. If anyone has strong BR feelings PLEASE let me know!!! I’m also curious about the lotions…
That’s all for now.