April Shop Your Closet 30 Day Challenge

04 April

As you know I’ve been endeavoring on a “buy no new stuff” project over the last few weeks. When I looked at my shopping habits at the end of last year, I realized that they were unhealthy, to say the least, and I decided it was time for a change. One of the main reasons I concluded my shopping was a bad habit rather than a harmless pass time was that I found shopping was taking up a mammoth amount of my time, not even speaking of the cost, with increasingly little reward. While I was buying more, I certainly wasn’t wearing more or dressing better, and my treasured wardrobe had become a chamber of terror to me. Or should I say, wardrobes! I have a big wardrobe in the spare bedroom, a chest of drawers in the spare bedroom, a chest of drawers in the main bedroom, a small bit of the wardrobe in the main bedroom, and a third wardrobe in the office. My handbags are stacked away separately. Doh!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my clothes and I love fashion, but I also find owning all this stuff increasingly overwhelming and unfulfilling. Why do I continue to shop when I already have so much? All I really want to do is express my own unique style, and for this I don’t need a mountain of things; a few good quality items well put together is all anybody needs to look great. Instead, my closet is full to the rim with stuff I’m not utilizing well.

Apparently I am not alone! Most women wear 20% of what they own about 80% of the time… you’ve all heard the statistics I’m sure, and you may even be one of many who have spent a lot of money on stuff that, two years on, still has the tags on. This is a terrible waste, don’t you think? How do you shop less, and wear more? I’ve done a post before on how to make your wardrobe a place of inspiration, which really works a treat to make it easier for you to actually see what you have. However I recently found another way to get inspired on a fellow style blog which presented a thirty day challenge as a starting point to shop your own wardrobe. The idea is not new and I certainly haven’t invented it and neither has the blogger I nicked it from, but I’ve tailored it to myself and created my own 30 day challenge to shop my wardrobe over the coming thirty days. So if you are one of these girls who stand in front of their bulging wardrobes screaming “I’ve got nothing to wear!”, then why don’t you follow me through April and take part in the challenge. It’s a great way to get inspired, to get more mileage out of what you already own and to have fun with your style.

The challenge

There is a theme for every day for the 30 days of April which provides a starting point for creating this day’s outfit. Some themes are very specific, some themes are quite abstract; the interpretation is entirely up to you. Use only items that you already own – the whole point of this is to use what you have, not to go shopping! Do each day – it doesn’t have to be in order but you should try and do them all. If you create an outfit you’ve never created before, and you love it, take a picture of yourself! Ideally after 30 days you will end up with 30 new, fantastic outfits that you can fall back on when the “I’ve got nothing to wear” phenomenon strikes again.

Excited? Great! Let’s go!

Primark, Princesses and the Death of Language

CNC.youtube

I’m not sure if alcoholics get a kick out of watching other people drink, but I certainly do get a kick out of watching other people shop. This goes way back to sitting in my best friend’s room after a term break or a holiday and going through all her new purchases with her, me lounging in a deep round chair, glass of wine in hand, watching her reorganize her wardrobe and shoes. Not much has changed to this day: I still regularly ask her to show me any new arrivals to her wardrobe on skype, and TV shows on makeovers are among my favorites as they usually involve a whole new wardrobe for the unfashionable subject of the show.

A whole new wardrobe. *Sigh*.

I haven’t done so well so far at staying away from the shops (damn you, ever reducing, ever seducing Oasis sale!) and not shopping has proven to be excruciating. No seriously. It’s been absolute torture. Whip me with a belt, hack me with a stiletto, throttle me with a scarf but please, please, let me be near some brand new clothing. Oh the smell of new clothes. The sound of ripping off a tag. *Sigh*.

Anyway, something’s gotta give here cause I’m going up the walls with cold turkey. I may not be able to shop but I can still watch other people doing it, right? A sort of secondary kick, clothes voyeurism, shoeporn, call it what you will. It’s a rainy Monday evening and I’m browsing the web for some of the above. My most used search engine terms have lately been overshopping, cheap fashion and shopaholism (yes, that’s a word). I have to admit I get a bit of a sick kick out of seeing people with bigger closets than mine and, likewise, with bigger problems than mine. It makes me feel normal. So on my journey through the blogs and pages of self-confessed shopaholics, I come across a link to what is called a “shopping haul video” on youtube.

Maybe I’m too naive or don’t spend enough time on the internet, but I’ve never heard of such a thing before and in fact I have to put the word “haul” through an online translator. The German translation of haul has a criminal ring to it. The kind of thing pirates get up to. What on earth is this?! I need to know more and give it a click, and here I am, catapulted into some teenagers bedroom somewhere in California.

Tiffany* (*all names changed) is 16, incredibly pretty and has put a lot of effort into her hair and make up. She claims to be “just a teenage girl from California” who happens to live in a mansion; her bedroom is all huge windows, white carpets, 1001 cushions and the de rigeur toy dog. Not to mention the professional camera crew which has been shooting her little video – the camera moves extremely steadily compared to the sort of home videos I tend to produce when I once again film my cat doing something funny. There’s intro music, there are subtitles, you name it, she’s got it, and the whole thing has a feel of a well choreographed MTV reality TV program to it.

So Tiffany*, who I find immediately suspect, proceeds to present me with her “Black Friday haul”. In between a lot of oh my god-s and I’m so excited-s she reveals a moderate shopping spree of 7 or 8 tops, 3 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of boots, some underwear, cosmetics and candles. Flicking through her channel, I realize that she goes on shopping sprees like this one quite regularly. Another one, posted in January this year, comprises of two sweaters, one scarf, one dress, one pair of brogues, 2 pairs of shorts, two tops, one skirt and two pajamas. One viewer has posted below her latest video: Where do you get the money to shop this much? Hm, do you want me to have a guess?

You’ve got to hand it to Tiffany* though – her youtube channel has 1.8 million subscribers and between hauls, she posts outfits, make up tips and DIY room decorations. She is in fact so professional that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a television channel snapped her up next week. There’s a career in there I’m sure, and best of luck to her with that.

I’m hooked on the hauls now and the next one I click on is Carmen* who starts jabbering into the camera in Spanish, which is enough to make me shut down the window immediately. Lo siento mucho, Carmen*, pero I feel a bit tired sabes y un poco lazy tambien? This by the way is not some weird mix of English in Spanish, it is, in fact Gibraltarian and I am fluent in it. Take that, coño!

Next on is Kelly*, also broadcasting from her immaculate bedroom. Kelly’s* more my cup of tea, as she speaks in a likable British accent and actually asks you to get yourself a nice cup of tea because she just finished a “huge haul” and it’s gonna take a while to go through all the stuff. Cup of tea you say? Let’s make it a glass of red. I return with a monster tumbler of Spanish plonk to join Kelly* in her bedroom while she goes through everything that she bought. Kelly* has bought a lot of stuff, but even better still, she got a lot of the stuff for free. Now we’re talking. I like your style, girl.

There is some appeal to this type of entertainment I have to admit, it makes you feel like you are sociable when in fact you are anything but, stuck alone in front of your screen. Watching Kelly* feels a bit like spending some quality with a girlfriend, just that she does all the talking and you can hang around in a tracksuit and burp without anybody taking offence. Ah the joys of the internet age.

Another few of these videos and it all starts to blur into one big stream of clothing floating across the screen, it’s in fact like watching an hour long advertisement for H&M if there ever was such a thing. None of the haulers seem to be too concerned about quality, how many times you can wash something before it will fall apart or even – and this is the worst bit – how and when they will wear this latest buy. Much more interesting than the Primark jumper that has – would you believe it – buttons, as Kelly* points out enthusiastically, would be to see in how many different variations Kelly* can restyle the Primark jumper. But who restyles in this day and age – the Primark jumper will go out of shape after one wash and probably go in the bin – doesn’t matter, it was only a fiver! Buying and discarding and rebuying has replaced quality, caring for and reusing clothing.

The saddest thing about videos of this kind however is that they will eventually replace blogging and writing, as they speak to a much wider audience: the illiterate! No need to read anymore, and for the hauler, no need to write anymore! Correct spelling will never again be a problem, and you’ll never have to worry again about the number of times you can get away with using the word “like” before you start to sound like a moron. The slow death of written language starts here, so enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Enough from me – join me again from Monday on my youtube channel…

Cinderella

images

I am standing in the dressing room of the Gibraltar branch of Monsoon, in a floor length sequined golden gown, admiring myself in front of the mirror.

“Any good?” the shop assistant asks me, as she always does. We haven’t exactly exchanged phone numbers yet but I am certain she knows my face. I’ve handed my debit card over to her more than in the past year.

For a moment I am lost for an answer. I redirect my view from my own image in the mirror to the changing room cabin, where the potential purchases of today’s shopping spree stare at me like silent witnesses of my madness.

I have tried on: a short sequined silver dress, a 1930s blue sequined dress, an off the shoulder blue and gold asian frock, bespoke gold extravagance, and a black jersey wrap with a small pattern. Everything is 70% off and I want everything.

I can’t be quite that mad though, at least I recognize that I’m about to make a mistake here. The gold dress comes in at 67 pounds (which, coincidentally  is also its weight), reduced from 200. It is, indeed amazing. I just have to get it, right?

At that price?

The problem is though, what for? My brain goes into justification mode and starts running scenarios, desperately looking for a reason why it would not be a waste of the 67 pounds and 50 pence if I got this dress now. I can’t come up with anything. If I ever wear anything out of the ordinary, it is for a wedding (way too overdressed!) or the Christmas party (way too overdressed!). I realise that the reason this wonderful gold dress hasn’t sold is exactly that – who would need it in Gibraltar, and for what.

“Yeah”, I finally respond, “they’re all good, but where on earth would I wear any of them?”

The only occasion where this gown would not look completely out of place that comes to my mind are the oscars, and I’m reasonably certain I won’t be going there anytime soon.

“I’m not invited to the oscars, unfortunately”, I finally add.

“You sound like Cinderella who can’t go to the ball!”, she exclaims. “How sad!” Do I? Am I?

“I suppose you do need an occasion though…”, she says as I hand her back ALL of the incredibly beautiful, high quality, extremely cheap ballgowns and occasion dresses.

Thing is, I’ve fallen into this trap more than once before: buying for the lifestyle I aspire, but not the lifestyle I actually have. I kept on buying summer dresses in Ireland for example, without a chance of ever wearing them in the wet island climate. I was desperately craving a good summer and I was shopping for it, with no connection to reality. Shopping for ballgowns, if you think about it, is a little bit stupid if you never go to any balls.

I leave the shop not quite empty handed, with a black jersey dress for just 16 pounds. Great quality, it will be an addition to my everyday work wardrobe. It may be sad (thanks for assuming, dear shop assistant), but work is actually a place I go to a lot, and floor length sequined golden gowns are definitely out of place in my office.

Madrid

1917boot0032

If there was ever anybody who most wanted to see the back of 2012, it was me. Why? Well it was a f***ing awful year. There were things breaking and relationships rupturing left right and center. My health was poor and my mood poorer. A friend of mine told me that cosmic energies in the latter half of the year had been all wrong. I’m not superstitious but I believed her, there was enough evidence in my own life and it didn’t need the predicted end of the world to make 2012 my year from hell. Understandably I couldn’t wait for the clock to strike midnight. Apart from everything else, we were to set off on an epic journey to Madrid on the 1st of the 1st 2013.

But 2012’s bad taste didn’t just leave without a fight. I think it took me another four days to shake it off. On the way to the airport, forty kilometers outside of Tarifa, in the gloom just before dawn, I ran over an owl. I’m an animal lover, I live almost totally vegetarian, and I’ve never killed anything in my life. It wasn’t that I was going too fast. The owl was just too slow. What a start to my year, I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched the frustration with me and my bad mood grow on R’s face.

I had been looking forward to Madrid for months, and to be honest, mainly for the shopping. I heard it was amazing and in fact, unprecedented in Europe. And it was amazing. Our little room in a family run hostal was right at the top of Calle Fuencarral, one of the to-go-to shopping streets. Happy. Happy? In the run up to Christmas, and while lugging home supplies to feed our visitors, I had torn something in my shoulder. I had been medicating myself with Ibuprofen for days over the festive period and I was still suffering in Madrid. The noises coming from my spine when I turned in a funny way were frightening and so was the pain at times. Big boo to shoulder injuries then.

I am a good time shopper. I shop when I feel good and when I am enjoying myself. I’m no good at shopping when I have a swollen eye, a cold or a “fat” day. My pain might not have shown to others but there is something about pain that just makes you feel old and sad. I kept on looking at girls lugging home tons of half price goodies envying them not for their purchases, but for their health and the joy on their faces, while I hobbled through Madrid like the hunchback of Notre-Dame. I abandoned the plan to go to Las Rozas village, a designer outlet just outside of Madrid that I desperately wanted to see and that came highly recommended, because I knew I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. What else was there to do than to trudge along with my other half R and to look at art and bars. Art and bars! The Prado instead of Prada! Goodness sake! At least the Prado has a gift shop and, as I found out, is conveniently located near Salamanca, Madrid’s upmarket shopping district. I wasn’t even going to pretend that I was going to buy anything there – lacking the prerequisite fur coat and salon blow dry, I kept it to pressing my nose against the shop windows and marveling at the prices of things.

For a compulsive shopper like me it can be quite a freeing experience to forsake retail therapy and just go with the flow. So in the days that followed I found myself enjoying the perks of a big city – the stately facades, the museums, the nightlife and even the Metro! (I am from the countryside, you must know). Of course I couldn’t entirely abandon the notion that I might just find an amazing bargain I could bring back home with me, so when the pain subsided a bit I did venture out to explore the shops in our area.

When I am in a city like Madrid, with all the variety it has to offer, I am understandably not interested in visiting one of is branches of Zara. I want to explore all the things that I can’t get hold off where I live. This, however, is easier said than done. New brands confuse me – is this shop good value for money? Is it good quality? Is it a local designer or some sort of foreign chain I have never heard of? Should I even be in here – on the door it says rebajas but none of these nice handbags has a price on it? And what is the story with the guy over there who looks like a bouncer? It’s always the same with me – the chances that I will find something on foreign territory are slim to non existent. If I buy anything at all, it’s most likely a plain shift dress from Zara that I could have picked up anywhere, creature of habit as I am. Also the sheer amount of shops, clothes and people did their best to freak me out. Even though this is Madrid, a place of some three million people, the amount of things on sale seemed over the top. I couldn’t help thinking: who needs all this stuff? Who had to produce it? Does anybody want it? I found the choice disorientating and the moral of it all questionable. I never thought there could be such a thing as too much shopping, but whether it was real or imagined, it put me off my intended Christmas sales spree. I really did want something nice though, so I decided to go for quality instead of quantity. It came to my mind that my wardrobe actually needed (yes, needed, not just wanted!) a fantastic pair of black leather boots. Now that was a notion! After exploring Chueca, or the shoe district as some like to call it, and checking out at least twenty previously unknown shops, I arrived back at our hostal on our last evening with a triumphant look on my face and a box containing a beautiful pair that were still not so cheap at 30% off. As R asked me which expensive shop I had gotten those from, I burst out laughing.

“They’re from Clarks“, I managed to blurt out between giggles.