Dressing with dash

1 Oct

I was an odd college student, clotheswise. When everyone else was in jeans, I wore designer dresses. No clunky shoes for me, I was in heels. How did I manage? I was an expert seamstress, and my designers came via Vogue patterns, so I had money for attractive shoes (which my feet now complain about. Nag, nag, nag). I’ve fallen out of the habit of sewing, and am no longer as dashing as I once was–admittedly, the impetus was greater when I was a size 6, not more like a 16. But that’s no excuse! Rubens’ ladies looked elegant, after all. So, what to do for a thrifty makeover?

Pare down your demands, reduce consumption. Raise creativity and dash!

My first order (handed over by my visiting sister): purge! My closet (a lovely walk-in) was a disgrace. A furnace repairman had  been up to the crawl space and crawled back down with tufts of insulation that had gotten all over everything. Many kinds of things were on the floor. Though a walk-in, the two sides were so close together you couldn’t walk through it without disruption. The plan? Get rid of anything ill-fitting or ill worn, move everything to one side of the closet, and put the shoes on the other. Done, and done!  Goodwill got a big haul–five garbage bags of clothes and shoes. But the paring-down isn’t done yet. I have ambitions to now craft my wardrobe; to have the best mix for the biggest bang, to never buy carelessly, but with purpose, and to get back to making clothes as well. A web idea caught my eye: Project 333, whose goal is to, over the course of three months, whittle the wardrobe to 33 perfect mix-and-match elegant choices. Make other people happy with that dress that was never worn because it didn’t hang right, or those shoes that pinched! Then get down to business. I’m going to start today, and while I may not stick to it to the letter, I’ll use it as a catalyst. What that means is that I will have the fun of retapping my creativity, clothing-wise, but prevent impulse buying or hog-wild tendencies. I will figure out what I don’t have that would be useful, then look for just that–with a perfect fit, made with good quality materials and workmanship.

Stein Mart--basic but pleasant enough layout, great clerks

And here we get to my objections to most stores: they are selling shoddy merchandise with big price tags. And, yes, I’m talking to YOU, regular middle-class stores like Macy’s. No wildly-printed polyester jersey knit dress has any business with an “original price” of $79. Pppfahhh! (a noise of derision, if it needed spelling out). But discount doesn’t necessarily mean bargain either, if the quality is still poor. I was happy my friend Miss J introduced me last week to Stein Mart in Westlake, on 25001 Center Ridge Road. There are two others in the Cleveland area, one at 23949 Chagrin Blvd in Beachwood, another at 33321 Aurora Road in Solon. Wow! Although I didn’t buy any clothes, I plucked one for Miss J’s perusal–she’s professionalizing her wardrobe, which had emphasized a hippie/bohemian vibe, so she wanted some dash that had funk. There was an Evan-Picone cape/jacket in a houndstooth check, loaded with dash; started its lifespan at over $100, went down to $70-something, and had gone on sale for $48. It’s not only a signature piece that works with black, red or tan, it’s quality. The seams aren’t finished with machine overcasting, they are FINISHED WITH BINDING–something you rarely see. But Evan Picone is a good and an old label, and their clothes generally ooze quality. What I liked about Stein Mart was that they included clothes that were zippy, with intriguing details–not just the same old thing you find everywhere. They also had a gamut of sizes. Men’s clothes are present, though I didn’t explore, nor did I look closely at bags, shoes, jewelry or housewares. I took Miss J’s advice, and signed up for a preferred customer card, and have already started getting coupons that reduce things further (not all clothing is eligible, but those items that aren’t are clearly marked).

I’m going to write more about sewing soon. In the 70’s, we all learned it in junior high and fabric stores were everywhere. Now most people don’t know how to sew, and JoAnn’s has cornered the market (with crafts edging out the cloth). But don’t just wave it aside if you don’t know how! I’ll hip you on to Cleveland opportunities to learn and open a whole world of haute couture at a bon prix. Tune back in!

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