Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Don't Deserve

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.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quality: A Tale of Expectations

I'm curious about something. What do people expect from the quality of their clothes? I realize that we have become a somewhat "disposable" mentality in our society, but I have to report what happened to me yesterday.

I thought I'd found the impossibly cheap but good quality t-shirt with a fabulously flattering neckline from the George line at Walmart. OK, red flags already, I know, but I needed some layering pieces for Wyoming weather and I was very impressed with the colors of these boat neck, three quarter sleeve silky like t-shirts. I was very happy with how they felt and how they looked.

Then, I suppose I made the mistake of actually expecting to wear these shirts more than once or twice. The quality of the fabric was so poor that after two wearings it looked as if I'd scrubbed my tub with it. The fabric was rubbing off everywhere, pilling and discoloring. I am not a rough wearer of clothes, being in the office all day. I'm not doing anything like holding a baby or moving around file boxes. I just sit there.

For the principle of it, I took them back to Walmart. The girl at the customer service looked at me as if I was a cheapskate like she had never seen. She refused to take them back. They have been worn. Uh-huh and see the fabric, I explained. The second lady comes over. They have been worn. Yes, ma'am and can you see the fabric? I just bought them and haven't even washed them yet. If I had washed them, I'll bet it would be even less of a shirt to bring back. Third, much more reasonable (but not apologetic, more like indifferent) manager is called and he allows me to return them.

Indignantly, I ask the first girl, "You understand why I'm returning this, right?" She shakes her head in disbelief, gives me a sparkly, gold-toothed half smile that made me think she thought I was pathetic, and says "Well, I wouldn't have brought them back." So that begs the question, what do people do with these shoddy shirts? I know they must keep wearing them, but after it wears out completely as it is destined to do, it's in the trash I suppose. And I'm assuming from this girls perspective of me, that it is really without a second thought that she would spend money (no matter how little), realize her shirt was worn out, and just move on probably back to Wal-Mart to buy another one.

Immediately I left the Walmart, and had three things on my mind.

First, am I alone in daring to return such a shoddy product? I am a frequent and unashamed returner if I don't like something, even drugstore cosmetics, so I thought maybe I am not in the majority on this issue. By the way, I recommend that you do return items to at least put a dent in the poor quality madness, if not stop it.

Second, how can quality this poor possibly be acceptable? Even if you are buying something at Walmart, does that mean it has to be such poor quality that it is practically disposable? I also bought a Mossimo T at Target and it is holding up very well. It was $6.82 so price is not always indicative of quality. Old Navy also is very good quality of everything that I have purchased. The t-shirts from there have lasted me 3 years already.

And third, that this mentality is not really helping those who can only afford these $8.82 shirts since they are forced to replace so often. Wow, what a vicious circle! It's overwhelming to think how this affects those who really can only afford a certain price level, OR SO THEY THINK! What if they bought one shirt for $25.00 that lasted 2 years, wouldn't that be better?

Well the questions keep coming. Should I boycott Walmart? I heard they pay poor wages and don't give their workers healthcare by keeping them part-time. If that isn't a good enough reason, then the lack of understanding from "customer service" certainly is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Beauty Money Saving Tips

I just found these tips on Carmindy's site. If you watch What Not to Wear, the American version, Carmindy is the makeup artist. I love that part of the show where she teaches people how to wear the makeup. I just love that show period!

I'm not sure about all these tips, but I love to pass on money saving beauty tricks. Here are some of my own:

*Mix distilled water and baby shampoo to make eye makeup remover. It's actually better than any I've ever bought, including Clinique and drugstore brands. One part shampoo to 3 parts distilled water. I just saved my last bottle to put it in.

*Use white vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.

*Mix olive oil and sea salt or sugar to make a scrumptious body scrub. You can use other kinds of oil too. I think almond oil or jojoba oil is recommended for the skin. You can also do this on your face.

*Baby shampoo for cleaning lingerie. I currently use Nordstrom's lingerie cleaner, but when I run out, this is the way to go. And forget about the $10 a bottle for cleaning my precious Chantelle bras. You can get the lavendar scent baby shampoo to smell the same as Nordstrom's.

*Baby shampoo for cleaning makeup brushes. Also conditioner occasionally. I currently have Mac brush cleaner. I can't remember what the price was, but I'm sure it was too much. I've been doing a lot of research to see if it works and it has good feedback.

Please share your tips. This kind of information is so useful! I'm a huge fan of multi-tasking products to keep the clutter down. I'm still doing research on making my own cleaning products using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. I know it can be done, but I haven't run out of my others yet.

Shout OUT for Beauty Products

Occasionally I come across some outstanding combinations and I wanted to share.

HAIR:
My hair is fine and my natural color (finally!) so I needed something that would give it grip, volume and hold. Bumble and Bumble Prep first, then Thickening Spray has been miraculous. I am on my second day and I usually have to wash it every day, but I just sprayed more thickening spray and voila, same hairstyle as yesterday! I don't need hairspray or anything else. This is an expensive combination, but I think you will find B&B salons generous with their return policy if you don't like it. Also, they have smaller travel sizes for about 1/2 to 1/3 the price.

Since I have been on strike against highlighting, finding a product to make my natural hair manageable is worth every penny to me. It's also a considerable cost savings. How much do you spend on hair maintenance a year? Which brings me to another question, what gave everyone the impression that their natural hair color needed to be changed?

www.bumbleandbumble.com

SKIN:
I ordered samples of Jane Iredale's mineral foundation from http://www.skin-etc.com/janeiredale.html. I tried the loose powder and the pressed powder. The loose powder turned an awful shade of orange on me. I may not have used it right because I didn't have the special brush to apply it. However the pressed powder is wonderful. It is nothing like Bare Escentuals, not shiny and cakey. I just used a powder puff from Sephora and smoothed it on. As a base/moisturizer/primer, I use Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. The results are perfect skin! It covers up all the redness in my face. I think the makeup is supposed to have spf, but I still like to use a sunscreen every day. I haven't figured that part out. It seems that the more I goop on my face, the worse it looks.

NAILS:
I am not normally a painted nail kind of girl, but I've been keeping shorter nails and wanted a little bit of polish. After testing many colors at the store, I found a great natural and polished look. It's Essie "Vanity Fairest". Most of the light colors I used were different in the bottle, but exactly the same on my nails. This one is more milky when applied. It is also very shiny. If you take the time to file and push cuticles back when you are taking a bath (Thank you, my Grandmother taught me that!), you will have beautifully manicured nails for the cost of a bottle of polish.

www.essie.com

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Then What

Coming to Wyoming has been quite an experience so far. As in every new situation, I am learning so much about myself and pushing myself in new ways. Since I normally write about style and life, I've been thinking along those lines wondering what would inspire me here.

My main focus here is to work, and being in a city that is going to be very cold very soon, I am not very interested in building an Alpine wardrobe. After all, I will return to Houston next year. So being in a new city where I won't be working on my wardrobe has got me thinking about the "then what". What else is on the menu?

I've been thinking about our society and culture in general. How much of our lives are spent trying to obtain a perfect wardrobe or perfectly decorated home only to find that the fashion wind blew and now you're out of date. It is an endless cycle, a chasing after the fashion wind. This is the nature of fashion, so our goal isn't to change it, but to change our perspective of it. We take what we want from it and move on to more important things in our life. It serves us. We choose how we take from the neverending array of choices and put it into our style.

The process of building a great wardrobe never ends, but that doesn't mean that you have to be constantly obssessing about it.

The problem with these goals is that they are a standard that keeps moving, and we may never attain them because of that. Sometimes people don't want to think of beyond these goals because that would take too much effort. I'm sure you noticed that most people would rather buy a pill to lose weight, rather than actually exercise. Well that's an easy one. How about it's easier to complain about your job or your significant other than actually do the work it takes to make those improve.

I think we spend too much time on these big ticket goals, and don't get around enough to the after. Many women don't think their life should begin until they lose weight, until they get married, until they have their house redecorated, or even find the perfect concealer. Let's get on to the after part. If you are waiting for all of your life to be perfect to begin your "then what", I would encourage you to at least contemplate what you would like to do then. Why not?

I spent most of my college years checking off the days on the calendar, then I got to work and spent my time waiting for the weekend. This is no way to live! Carpe diem is easier said than done though. It's much easier to buy our way or eat our way to living. It takes so much work to dig deep and see what our real potential in the world can be. Each of us is so unique and has so much to offer one another and ourselves. I am proposing that we get to the "then what" right now. Let's look
beyond money, possessions, clothes and houses and get to the heart of life. God, relationships, self discovery, and hobbies can bring us real satisfaction and peace.

Having said that, a simplified wardrobe can also bring you peace. It's a different kind of peace and maybe we should call it ease. Deciding what works for you will help you in your "then what" activities. Remember that clothes are supposed to work for you, not you for them. What good is a $500 purse going to do you next year when it is out of style (trend) if your goal is to be in style? Remember that style is not the trends, style is a reflection of you.

Let's move forward to the "then what" in our lives. What is holding you back from taking the next step towards your dream? When you make those excuses in your head, write them down and see if you can work through them. My theory is when you need an excuse, ANY excuse will do! Don't wish your life away. Today is your life.

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