I wrote a couple weeks ago about the dangers of always thinking "I deserve", but what about always thinking "I don't deserve"?
For a little background, I have been a francophile since college when I was entranced by the style wonders of the French girls I knew. There was something special and different about them, but I couldn't tell you exactly what it was until I began studying french women a few years later. When I say studying, I mean reading the onslaught of books that has hit the market in the last few years. One of the messages that conflicted with my own was that I was always thinking "I don't deserve" which led me to make poor choices in my wardrobe. French women somehow know that they are worthy of high quality and are willing to pay the higher price.
In my mind it goes something like this. Those shoes are $150, well I can't afford that (meaning I am not worthy of $150 shoes)! So I may buy a pair for $50, and perhaps there will be a sale and I'll pick up the next pair for 1/2 off. Well these shoes probably weren't what I really wanted and not the best quality, but they certain aren't $150 and they are kinda cute. THIS mentality directs my spending habits which usually keeps me looking for what I truly wanted, and in turn unsatisfied. And to tally up the totals, in the end spending more than the original, seemingly extravagant price of $150.
This is where I bring in the French girls shopping mentality again. In order for me to change, I have to understand that they do not WANT all the shoes that I feel I NEED. It is a cultural difference for so many reasons, but there it is. As an American, I have been trained that it is truly necessary to have many options, even if I don't wear them. Those closet fillers ensure me that I am not poor.
My issues with "I don't deserve" come from not being able to afford things growing up. It has manifested itself metaphorically like a dieter. I would deprive myself of calories, only to binge (shop) when I felt too deprived. Instead of eating a simple, high quality diet, I would overdose on the junk food. Telling myself that I don't deserve high quality only led me to make poor decisions financially and in the quality of my clothes. It seemed more reasonable to buy more for less.
Once I recognized that I was an American girl through and through in this way, I have made my own adjustments to eventually get to the holy grail of closets. I've been working for years, and it is a process that is ongoing. What I have done every season to propel me forward into closet simplicity and perfection is:
1. Wear what I have. If I don't wear it, I release it. Since I started actually wearing my clothes, (I know, what a novel idea! Hey, don't judge me, I know you've had tags still on your clothes hanging in your closet too) I have noticed what terrible quality some items are after only a season of wearing. When you own something of great quality you will see the difference.
2. Buy only items that coordinate with what I have. No new complete wardrobes that ignore the clothes I have decided to keep. It's so easy to do, especially those end of season sales where you are getting such great deals! Buy pieces that work with what you have, but don't reinvent the wheel.
3. Magazine shopping, Internet dreaming. I've realized that I don't actually have to buy anything. I can rip out pages of magazines and go shopping online to keep me dreaming of what I will buy next, when the time is right. For me, when the time is right is when I have saved the money.
4. Do not be seduced by sales, outlet shopping, or consignment shops. We tend to become so distracted by lower prices and trendy items that when we return home, these things really don't work with what we have. (This is the royal "we", as in me!)
5. Change my perspective on having so many clothes. I realize that I can combine outfits creatively to express myself in an interesting way with fewer items.
When you are ready to add or replace an item in your wardrobe, if you are in the "I don't deserve" camp, let's go back to the scenario I mentioned earlier. First step is to realize that when you are building your wardrobe, take a page from the french girl's book. Quality, not quantity. And understand that by buying a quality item one time you are saving yourself money, not to even mention that the quality shows!
Since I am going through this process myself I plan to make the investments of tropical weight wool pants, high quality leather shoes, one leather purse, and a cashmere sweater. I may wait until January when items are on sale, or not. I may ask for something special for Christmas. I want something as classic for me as possible. Almost everything looks dated eventually, but an item flattering to my body can last for a long time, regardless of the trends.
My dream is to have a small, quality, appropriate for anything wardrobe that perfectly reflects my personality. As I whittle down my clothing season by season, it becomes more and more obvious how important accessories are. I am a huge fan of scarves, the little neck ones. Camis aren't exactly accessories, but they can add a layer of color to add interest to your outfit. Since I have learned that most of my wardrobe charm comes from accessories and my own creativity, I know that I can multiply my outfits this way. I also like to have at least one interesting pair of shoes, whether it's a solid color or pattern. My only criteria is that I must be able to wear them with many, many things.
1 part wardrobe, 2 parts creativity, we deserve to make smart financial decisions in our shopping and that means having fewer clothes of better quality.
If you are interested in more of the "French Girl Style", I started with Anne Barone's books 7 years ago. Her first one is wonderful and she also has an in depth web site. It's www.AnneBarone.com. This looks like a diet book and it is, but it also has a chapter on how the French view simplicity in their wardrobes and rely on accessories.
My Disclaimer: If you find great quality at low prices, even better! I'm not saying you have to spend a lot of money to find it, but often you do get what you pay for...as the saying goes.