“Belt-tightening” is the word on everyone’s lips these days. We’ve all become uber-cautious purchasers of everything from laundry detergent to pancake syrup.
This new ethos fits in perfectly with my lifelong approach to shopping. I’ve never been a big spender. Au contraire. My chief indulgence has always been to hunt for earth-shattering bargains.
But now I have another reason to watch my pennies when I consider buying something new. With a class reunion looming, the prospect of seeing my former classmates has led me to rethink how I shop for clothes.
After scrutinizing a closetful of things I wouldn’t dream of wearing to my reunion, I’m launching a whole new wardrobe strategy.
The new standard for my purchases? Are they reunion-worthy?
I’m a bargain-hunter from way back, and one of my favorite pursuits has always been scouring the reduced racks at stores ranging from Loehmann’s and Macy’s to Nordstrom and my neighborhood boutiques. Not to mention bopping into stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls now and then. The result? Although some of my choices have served me well, my closet is crammed with bargains that I never wear.
OK, I’ll admit that some of them don’t fit. They were impulse purchases during those giddy moments when I actually thought I was going to wear a size 4 again.
But even those that fit me perfectly well often hang there along with the others. Yes, they looked good in the dressing room. Was it the soft lighting that sucked me in? Or was it the “skinny mirrors”? (Remember how Elaine on “Seinfeld” accused Barney’s of having skinny mirrors?)
I happily toted my bargains home. But by the time I appraised them in my bedroom mirror and realized that they didn’t look so great on me after all, the deadline for returning them had too often expired. I was permanently and unalterably stuck with them.
Fast forward to now. Before I hand over my cash for another purchase, I’m going to ask myself: “Is it reunion-worthy?”
We all understand what that means. We want to look absolutely smashing at a class reunion. Everything we wear has to be fabulous. Now translate that to your everyday wardrobe.
Here’s how the new approach will work. Remember those classmates who were slim and sleek when you were kind of puffy? Thanks to your fitness regime and a healthier diet, you’ve pared down your poundage and tightened up your tummy. If you were going to a class reunion, you’d want everyone to know it, wouldn’t you? So view every dress with that in mind. Ask yourself, “Do I look as slender in this dress as I really am?” If not, don’t buy it! It’s not reunion-worthy.
Or suppose that you’ve slowly, painfully, come to realize that you look awful in pale pink and that navy blue suits you much better. You wouldn’t buy a pale pink pantsuit to wear to your reunion, would you? So…don’t buy it for any other occasion, no matter how gigantic a bargain it may be.
I’m frequently tempted to buy jackets in bold bright patterns with large colorful designs. But after I bought one the other day, I took another look at it in my bedroom mirror. It overpowered my petite size and shape. Would I wear it to my reunion? Not on your life! Back to the store it went.
Thanks to my awakening, we can all begin to view everything we buy through this new lens. So what if an outfit’s been reduced from $200 to a rock-bottom 39 bucks. Don’t buy it unless it’s reunion-worthy. That designer dress may be terribly chic, but let’s face it: it’s styled for someone with a totally different shape. Forget it. It’s not reunion-worthy.
As you hunt for clothes in your favorite stores, keep thinking this way, and spend your hard-earned dollars on only those duds that make you look terrific. You’ll save money, and your closets will no longer be clogged with unwearable clothes.
Happy shopping! You can thank me (and my class reunion) for a splendid result.
[A version of this commentary previously appeared as an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.]