Retail Therapy – my new page on overshopping

Dear reader

I have recently added a new page to my blog titled “retail therapy“.

On this page I hope to be documenting my journey towards less: shopping less, having less, and wanting less. Please stop by regularly as I will be posting new content at least once a week. If you, like me, also tend to overshop, my posts should be both entertaining and informative for you and I am looking forward to your comments in the comments section. At the same time I will continue to blog about everything style on my main page. I hope to see you around!

The perfect wardrobe

A couple of weeks into the summer sales and my closet is aching. That’s right, aching. A closet can’t ache, you say? Well, mine can, and I feel for it. The rail is slowly bending and buckling, carrying too much weight, there are clothes thrown over the doors that haven’t got a home at present, and closing the wardrobe can no longer happen without a certain amount of well timed pushing and shoving. I  think the odd time I can hear it moan, a slow, tortured groan as the rail sinks a little bit further.

I am moaning with it, as I am once again scanning the house for space, for another free box to store some winter jumpers or a five centimeter gap of rail space in my boyfriends’ wardrobe, where I could sneakily dump one of my winter coats to make space for the new additions. It’s a losing game, as I have long exhausted the options, filled all the gaps, stuffed all the cracks.

There is one thing I have never had and I have wanted all my life: a decent wardrobe. I have never had enough space to house my belongings, which is a real bother, because they are precious to me. Half of them are always stored away somewhere else, crammed and inaccessible. Forget about shoes for the moment – shoe racks must all be designed by men as they tend to fit a maximum of eight pairs and take up half a wall. Eight pairs?! And where will the other 70 pairs go? You’ve got to be kidding me. But wardrobes are just as bad. I have moved many times and so far every single house I rented was a complete and utter disappointment on the closet space front.

It might sound a little excessive that I have so many clothes, they do not fit into a double door wardrobe. Extravagant, people like to tell me, to spend money on so many clothes, when you can get away with a clever 2.5 item capsule wardrobe. Is it really that excessive? What about the book lover whose collection doesn’t fit onto the standard sized Ikea BILLY shelf? Or the music lover whose CD collection doesn’t fit into a fifty pouch CD wallet? Some people like to collect the things they love, and for me, it’s clothes, shoes and what have you. Yes, but you don’t need all these clothes, do you? Of course I don’t need them. Who needs a collection of crystal figurines, or stamps, for that matter? It’s pointless to ask for the purpose of things that people collect because they love them. They have no purpose, except to bring a smile to the face of the owner.

So, this is my dream, and one fine day when I buy my own place, I am going to turn it into reality: a walk in closet. No more plastic boxes with shoes shoved under the bed. No more clothes that disappear between other clothes. No more bending rails. It will also mark the end of a period of occupation of my boyfriend’s closet, which I imagine he will be happy to hear. The wardrobe of my dreams will have:

  • visibility and accessibility: everything will be on display. There won’t be any clothes stuffed into dark corners any more. My walk in closet will not have shelves beyond my reach and sight. Out of sight out of mind, as they say. I have to store clothes I don’t wear often because I simply do not have the space to keep them in my wardrobe. But this mostly just means that they go from “not worn much” to “not worn at all”.
  • space:  clothes should have space to breath, there should be gaps between hung up garments so that you can see what you have and that they do not crinkle or hold humidity.
  • appropriate storage: plenty of racks for shoes, drawers for underwear and socks, ample rails for clothes, including high rails for floor lenghts gowns and long coats, shelves for hats and bags, a little rack for sunglasses and plenty of  boxes and chests for my jewellery.
  • full length changing room mirrors
  • seating and nice light, to enjoy my walk in wardrobe with a friend and a glass of wine.

It may be years away, but a girl can still dream!

How to handle the summer sales – 5 top tips to get full value out of half price

It’s that time of year again. Summer has just about started (for some of us, sorry UK and Ireland!) and ironically, so have the sales. I can remember a time, about five or six years ago, when the sales were just plain depressing and no proper bargains were to be had anywhere in the western hemisphere. People had money, or thought they did, and were spending heavily. It was a time when I wouldn’t flinch at handing over 70 Euros for a nice top, even though I was earning very little. It was what it cost, and if you weren’t willing to part with that kind of money, you had to wear something ugly. Nice clothes were selling out quickly and nobody was holding out for the sales. What was still available in the end of season sales wasn’t anything you would have bought in the first place. I’m not saying bless the recession but really, apart from the collapse of the world economy, the breakdown of the housing market and the rise in unemployment, it has been a god send for us compulsive shoppers. Yes, you may take this with a pinch of salt.

For my part, I haven’t bought ANYTHING at full price in about a year. I don’t have to – I only have to lurk around my favourite stores a bit more often, and usually the item I desire will be available in some sort of mid season sale at half price within a few weeks of arriving in store. This speculative wait works for me 95% of the time. I forget about the other five percent I couldn’t get on sale. Half price or not, you can’t have everything.

If you want to get the most out of the summer sales, here are my top tips for how to do it:

1. Go early

If you want to get the best bargains, you have to be the first in the shop when the sale starts. High street chains can be a bit erratic and they are not going to tell you when exactly they will put up the 70% off signs, so you’ll have to be on their case. Walking past a few times a week is crucial – or exchange information with your equally fashion enthusiastic friend or colleague.

2. Know what you want

Before you even approach the sales rack (which is probably chaos, and blocked off by buggies and dangerous looking women with elevated elbows), know what it is that you want to buy today. How do I do that, you wonder? I follow the collections of my favourite labels either instore or on their website. By the time the sale starts, I already have two or three things in mind that I would like to get, but wasn’t willing to pay the full price for. So in amongst all the chaos, look for the items you wanted anyway. Knowing what you are looking for will focus you immensely, and you are reducing the risk of coming home with some neon green bodycon dress that you got because it was the only cheap thing in your size.

3. Don’t forget the rules of “What not to buy

They apply to the sales equally. You do not have to get something because it is cheap. Something cheap you are not going to wear is still money wasted.

4. Accept the queue

There will be a queue for the changing room when the sales are on and the shops are busy. Live with it. You absolutely have to try things on before you buy them as most shops have a no returns policy on reduced items. Unless of course you have followed point 2, and already tried on what you are going to buy today before it came on sale.

5. Shop the web

We all know the problem – you have found your favourite dress, the last remaining one, at half price, and coincidentally also at half your size. “I will lose some pounds,” you keep saying to yourself, and buy the dress that you will never be able to fit into. This may sound cruel, but to be good at the sales game you have to be honest with yourself. You will live a much better life accepting your figure and having another pie than trying to slim yourself into a dress. But don’t despair! If there is a will, there is a way, and nowadays you can get ANYTHING you want on the internet. A woman who was smarter and quicker than you might have beaten you to the dress in your size, but there is a good chance it is still available on the website.

So, happy shopping!

7. Dare to be different

When I was growing up, I thought with my head of red hair I’d never be able to wear anything but black, white or navy. Any other color just seemed wrong and usually set off some schoolyard bullying. Depressed, I turned to black and graveyard music, even dyeing my hair black to get rid of the dreaded red.

At university a few years later I met a girl who eventually became one of my best friends. The first time I saw her she had a pixie cut, bright red hair and wore a red jumper. In fact, she loved wearing reds and oranges and it worked incredibly well with her pale skin and her red hair. I realised I had been missing out for years, and that she was using what I thought was a flaw to her advantage.

We often see what makes us different as an imperfection, and we try to cover it up. However style is about individuality, not conformity. You need to embrace yourself and your flaws to find your style. True style is not in your beauty, but in your attitude.

Forget the rules

People with style don’t play by the rules. With rules I mean the endless advice of what to wear as a “spring type”, an “hourglass”, if you are petite or tall. I’m not saying they are all rubbish, but most of them are. We human beings are simply too complex to slot easily into one of four categories.

Opposites attract

Style doesn’t mean matching everything to perfection. Often, it is the opposite. A great look integrates opposing elements, elements which should mirror who you are.

  • the hard with the soft: leather with lace, silk with studs, a ballroom gown with a biker jacket
  • the feminine with the masculine: a girly dress with brogues, a man’s shirt with a belt and heels
  • the conservative with the edgy: a tailored dress with bonkers heels, ripped jeans with a formal shirt and blazer
  • the sporty with the elegant
  • the grown up with the girly

What seems crazy usually looks amazing. Go on and try it for yourself.

Don’t be an actress

I can’t emphasize how important it is not to over-coordinate. A sixties inspired pair of boots is one thing, but if you go the whole flower power hog with dress, hair and blue eyeshadow you will look like you’ve walked off the set of an Austin Power movie. Style is not role-play; it is being yourself.

… but do be a drama queen

Oh yes. I do love a bit of decadence. That huge statement necklace, the blood red dress, a bit of fur (fake for me). If you see that one thing that makes your mouth water, and your toes curl, get it. Don’t worry what other people think when you wear it, just be confident. Don’t be afraid to be colorful. Most bold colors mix incredibly well. Don’t be afraid to mix materials, or prints, just try and stay within a color scheme. It takes some guts at first to be a great drama queen, but God knows it is worth it.

It’s in the detail

Accessories are so much more than add-ons to your outfit. They can transform your outfit from boring to stylish. A plain black trouser-suit can be updated by pairing it with heels in a scream-out-loud color and lots and lots of bangles. A little black dress will set one tone when you wear it with black satin courts, another with a pair of Doc Martens, black nail polish and a smoky eye. The most important part of your outfit is your accessorising. Be as individual as you can. Be a collector and let your accessories tell your story. The most expensive diamond jewellery is no match for the coin bracelet from Jordan, the latest designer bag no match for the camel leather satchel from Morocco.

Have fun

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about achieving a state of permanent perfection. Actually, perfection might make you seem a bit ridiculous. Don’t try too hard, wear what you love and have fun instead. People with style never do it all – perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect make up, perfect outfit, perfect accessories. It’s just too much, and they know that at the end of the day, looks aren’t all that important.