The Jacket That Got Away
I don’t usually go to the mall. I thrift the majority of my clothes, but I was recently accompanying my husband, who needed some clothing.
When we were walking through the mall, I stopped. Sitting in the display window of a shop was a beautiful, blush-pink jacket. Rose pink. Strawberries-in-cream pink. It jumped out at me, like it was in color and everything else was black and white.
We walked into the store, where a salesperson immediately walked over to help us. I realized this wasn’t your typical mall store. The jacket I’d seen was the last one in stock, and it was on sale — for $77, down from over $100.
I tried it on. I still loved the color, but I was unsure of the fit. I also I didn’t really have anything to wear it with. I don’t usually wear pink.
The salesperson was waiting patiently, but I decided against buying it, saying it was too expensive. She seemed surprised.
My husband said he’d buy it for me, but I politely declined. It was too much money. I could thrift eight pieces of clothing for that. I have plenty of debt already, and several jackets hanging in my closet.
On the way home, my husband said, “You’re allowed to be spontaneous, and just buy clothes because you like them.”
I had mixed feelings. I did like the jacket. Was I right not to buy it?
I don’t shop a lot, and when I do, I lean toward minimalism: buying only what I need. Minimalism is now a mainstream way for people to spend less money. The thinking goes that if you buy less, you’ll spend less. Then the savings compounds: you won’t need to spend money on storage space or supplies, or maintenance costs.
For instance, if I bought the jacket, I might need to tailor it. Then I might want to buy a dress to match. Then I’d need to buy more hangers.
For me, buying clothes has always been an activity that requires a fair amount of thought. I know my style, and what I prefer to wear. When I was a kid, my parents were often busy with my younger siblings, so relatives sometimes took me out to buy clothes. I had one relative who was perfect at figuring out what the best items were, but not pressuring me. Everyone else … not so much.
I’d pick up a white shirt, and one relative would point to a neon yellow one and say, “Yellow is easier to keep clean.” I don’t like neon yellow.
Or she’d pick up a tiny, Christmas-themed shirt and say, “What about this?”
I said, “It’s a bit short for me…”
She pointed to the sale tag and said, “But it’s only $3! You have to get it if it’s only $3.” And she bought it. It was comically short on me, and I ended up giving it away.
Once in awhile, my grandmother would take me out to buy clothes for school. When I was little, she sewed the most beautiful dresses for me. She was a self-made businesswoman, and knew how to shop sales. But in my teens, she was in an early stage of dementia.
I had to follow a dress code for school, so I needed business casual clothes: button-down shirts and dress pants. She wanted me to try on a pair of thin, lavender capris with scalloped hems.
“I like them, but they look like pajamas,” I admitted, while modeling them in the dressing room.
“No, they look fine.” She asked another woman passing by: “Do these look like pajamas?”
“No,” the woman assured us.
My grandmother bought them. When I got them home, I looked at the label: Sleepwear. But for years, they served me well as pajama bottoms.
I started buying my own clothes in college (though my mom picked up some great stuff for me, too). I’ve identified my measurements and style, and primarily shop online.
I know it’s a little more unusual to be a minimalist with clothes, but I’ve long realized that no one remembers what I wore to the last social event. Even with social media and the modern custom of sharing photos of every event, if I mix up my blouse and cardigan, I never seem to have photos of the same outfit twice.
I have made spontaneous purchases in the past. Years ago, I was walking through a store with my husband, and I stopped and looked at a dress. It was $25. I thought it looked amazing. My husband thought it looked amazing. I bought it right away. I wore it to two weddings, and still have it in my closet for the next event.
But something told me not to buy the rose-pink jacket. It was the intuition I had since I was a kid, that the item wasn’t right for my needs. Besides, I can pick up a similar, thrifted one for under $20.
I don’t want to run up a credit card balance on a whim, but sometimes, my wardrobe can use something cute and fun. For me, it’s all about striking a balance.