I’ll start this post off with a story. Last night, my husband and I had a “date night” to see a movie (“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” which I really enjoyed). I decided to wear a dress that I had purchased back in August and had worn once during September. I didn’t try this dress on for the “first impression test” two weekends ago, as I had worn it so recently, but I really should have.
The first time I wore the dress, I didn’t love it. I partially chocked up those feelings to being bloated and hormonal, but I also I felt the dress was too voluminous. So I did what I’ve often done in the past. I brought it to my tailor to have it taken in. After I picked it up, I tried it on to make sure the alteration had been done correctly. It seemed fine, so I hung the dress back up in my closet.
Not Honoring the First Impression
Fast forward to last night… I was getting ready to go to the movies and thought it would be a good time to wear the dress again. I put it on and wasn’t thrilled with how I looked and felt in it, but I pushed myself to wear it anyway. Instead of heeding reader Deby’s excellent advice about honoring my first impression, I wore the dress, mostly out of guilt and the feeling that I should give it a chance. However, if I’m being completely honest, which I always try to be here, I was seriously worried that I had made two big mistakes, in buying the dress in the first place (yes, it was another consignment store purchase!) and in trying to rescue it through alterations.
The result was that I felt frumpy and unattractive the entire time I was out for a nice evening with my husband. What should have been a purely enjoyable outing was marred by my stubborn commitment to wearing a sub-standard dress! I liked the rest of my ensemble – the jacket I topped the dress with, my shoes, and my jewelry. But that stupid dress ruined the entire look and pretty much spoiled my evening!
When I got home, I tried swapping the dress out for a stand-by favorite – and I instantly felt much better. I no longer felt like I had gained twenty pounds overnight and aged at least ten years. I was struck by strong feelings of regret at not having changed into a more suitable dress before leaving the house. Had I done so, I would have felt far more confident and attractive and would have had a much better time last night. Needless to say (I hope, anyway), the dress is now in the consign/donate pile, but not without my having suffered through two evenings of feeling “less than” while wearing it.
I Know I’m Not Alone…
I shared this story because I know I’m not alone in this type of experience. I’m sure many of you have gone through something similar. We have things in our closets that we shouldn’t have bought but are unable to return for one reason or another. Perhaps the return window has passed or maybe it was a final sale item bought on clearance or at a resale store.
We feel guilty for our purchasing mistake, so we force ourselves to hold on to the item. In some cases, it hangs in our closet for months or even years with its tags still attached. In other (and perhaps worse) instances, we force ourselves to wear the item, all the while internally kicking ourselves for the stupidity we exhibited by taking it home with us in the first place.
Metaphorically Flogging Ourselves
Why do we do this? We do we insist on punishing ourselves and prolonging our self-effacing feelings? Do we think that by continuing to metaphorically flog ourselves, we’ll teach ourselves a lesson or be able to do penance for our wrong deeds? It may be one or both of those things or something else entirely, but I’m here to say that life is too short to settle for less and feel bad!
I’ve done that for far too many years and as I approach the big 5-0 (yes, it’s close to two years away, but it’s coming!), I’m ready to stop such nonsense now and forevermore. Even if you’re in your twenties and are reading this, life is still too short to wear sub-standard clothing as a way of trying to un-do a purchasing mistake. We just don’t need to do that anymore!
Wise Words from Bridgette
I had my follow-up Skype session with Bridgette Raes yesterday afternoon. I’ll do a full de-brief on the session next week, but I want to share some words of wisdom that she imparted to me. In preparation for our session, I sent her photos of some problematic outfits for which I wanted advice. Some of those were outfits I’d actually worn, while others were ensembles I put together using either wardrobe “benchwarmers” or new pieces that I was unsure how to wear. I also sent her photos of about twenty of my favorite outfits, looks in which I felt good about myself and true to my style.
Here’s what Bridgette had to say… She told me that although she could help me style some of the tricky pieces I showed her, there was really no need to hold on to them. She was very impressed with my “good outfits” and felt that I had more than enough pieces there to mix and match and create all of the looks I’d need for the various events in my life. Her basic sentiment was,
Why try to force old, sub-standard, or no longer your style pieces to work when you already have so many good items in your closet?”
She said that many of her clients have few or no garments that work and pretty much have to start from scratch, but that is not the case for me at all. I have a lot of great items and should be wearing those all the time instead of pushing myself to wear other things out of guilt or obligation.
An “Aha Moment” and a Vow
After last night’s dress incident, Bridgette’s words came back to me and I had sort of an “aha moment.” She is exactly right! I could have worn one of my “9” or “10” outfits last night and felt fabulous, but instead I forced myself to don a mistake dress as a sort of penance for my shopping faux pas. In a sense, I wasted a precious evening out with my wonderful husband when I could have felt amazing in one of my tried and true “winner” looks. While I still managed to enjoy the movie and time with my husband, the whole experience could have been much better, if not for my stubborn nature!
So today I make a vow and I’m hoping some of you will join me in this commitment. I vow to only wear things in which I feel attractive, comfortable, and true to my style. If I try something on and my first impression is either “Yuck!” or “Ho-Hum,” I will take it off and change into something else in which I feel fabulous. I will then pass the less-than item(s) on to someone else who may be able to enjoy them far more than I will.
If I can re-coup some of my money through consignment, great, but that won’t be my primary concern. My first and foremost commitment is to enjoying my life. So no matter how much money I spent on something, I won’t keep it if it’s uncomfortable, ill-fitting, frumpy, or in a style that doesn’t mesh with the aesthetic I want to present.
We Are Given No Guarantees
I’m sure this won’t always be easy. There will still be pangs of guilt and feelings of remorse that will surface each time we opt to pass something on that is “still perfectly good” or for which we spent “good money.” But life isn’t just about saving money, getting a “great deal,” or mitigating our mistakes.
Life is to be enjoyed, cherished, and experienced. After all, we are given no guarantees. While many of us will grace this earth for eighty, ninety, or even more years, some of us won’t be blessed with so much time. I’m not assured that I will reach 49 and I’m definitely not promised decent health (I already struggle a lot there) with which to fully embrace my life.
I want to make the time I have count. I don’t want to shop my life away and I’m working on developing new interests and coping mechanisms. I also don’t want to “settle” and treat myself as anything less than the truly deserving being that I am. I’d rather have just fifty pieces in my closet that I love and feel great in than 100 or 200 or more in which I feel old, fat, frumpy, or attractive. Closet set point or no closet set point, I’m ready to pass along any and all garments that have me feeling the way I felt last night.
Please Hold Me to My Promise
As you can tell, I have very strong feelings about this. I wanted to write this while my emotions were still heightened and my commitment was maximized. I want you to remind me of what I wrote here if I should ever falter. I want to be held to the promises I’ve made here today and I encourage you to make similar promises to yourselves, if you have not already done so.
I know some of you are farther along in the journey and have already learned these valuable lessons, and I applaud you for doing so. Perhaps you can help the rest of us to stay strong should we ever lapse back into settling and allowing guilt to force us to hang on to our shopping mistakes.
We’re all in this together. I value the support I’ve gotten from many of you and I feel so honored when I receive comments and emails that tell me my words have touched you and helped you in your journey to trade your full closet for a much fuller life. I am truly blessed to be able to share my thoughts and experiences here and I am grateful for how much I’ve learned from all of you, too.
I’m going to keep on keeping on, day by day. Some days are easier than others to be sure, but little by little, I’m growing, learning, and changing. The light at the end of the tunnel has grown stronger for me and I hope it has for you, too. We all deserve to have workable wardrobes that we love, as well as full, happy, and joyous lives.