Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Can't Buy Me Love, Oh
I've always been somewhat the reluctant shopper. There was no money for new clothes when I was growing up, and other than what my mother and I sewed, the gifts that magically appeared under the Christmas tree were pretty much the only injection of fashion into my sparse wardrobe. But those presents were so fabulous that I remember them all these decades later--a faux fur "maxi" coat, lace up suede boots, a red and white sweater that conjured an elite ski resort. During my college years it was fashionable to shop at The Salvation Army and Goodwill, but I didn't do much of that either. When I moved from the midwest to L.A. in 1975 all of my clothes fit into one suitcase.
But even though I had nearly a decade of living near the poverty line in Los Angeles, I began to acquire more clothes. Thrift stores and garage sales were a cornucopia of bargains, and the wholesale prices in the fashion district beckoned. Soon I needed a closet organizer system. Then garment bags and storage bins for the off-season items I stored in my garage. I was an actress then, and I needed a large wardrobe for auditions--or so I convinced myself. Then came maternity clothes, tops that accommodated breast feeding, ensembles suitable for law firm parties--all in a range of sizes as my weight fluctuated between 114 and 180 pounds.
These last few years, I've engaged in a constant culling. I now have two pairs of jeans, a drawer full of t-shirts, a drawer of exercise clothes, and a shelf of sweaters. Everything else fits comfortably in my closet--but these nicer things in my closet aren't worn very often. I remind myself of this whenever I have the urge to buy something new. Retail therapy seems to promise sanity and salvation whenever I'm in the vicinity of the two banks that house the joint checking accounts I still share with Mr. Ex. A particular store in this neighborhood sends out its siren call and, before I know it, I'm in there fondling bowls and dishtowels, and trying on things that somehow channel the fashions of my own youth while managing to also be the style of the moment. The merchandising alchemy in this place is formidable. But I've figured it out. They have perfumes that smell like an amalgam of the two scents most popular when I was a teenager--Heaven Scent (if you were trying to be a good girl) and Tabu (if your impulses were a bit more daring.) The dishes and furnishings look like they hail from places I want to travel to. They have displays that include the books I most loved to read to my children. And, for the coup de grace, a slim volume of poetry, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, selected by Caroline Kennedy.
But I look awful in most of their clothes. I have no more room for dishes or rugs or embroidered pillows, so I'm saved by vanity and lack of space. But they've got me.
If only this merchandising genius could be applied to the things the world really does need. Things that we would hold dear the rest of our lives.