Clothes Shopping- A True Story

My mom is a great woman, with a lot of terrific values that she passed on to us kids. One thing my mom feels strongly about is that materialism is really bad, both for individuals, and for society, and, because of that value of hers, tried to discourage us from chasing after materialistic pursuits. Stylish clothing, my mom feels, is materialistic; clothes should be functional and decent looking, but keeping up with the latest trends is silly, a waste of money, and misplaced values. (I do agree with her that a focus on materialism is bad- kind of obvious from my blog- but don't agree with her that keeping up to date with clothing choices is a bad idea.)

As a result of her values, when I was a kid, and my mom went clothes shopping for myself and my sister, she'd often pick out clothes that were (to put it lightly) not exactly in fashion. When Violet and I got old enough to start realizing this, we asked our mother to take us shopping so we could pick out “normal” clothes, so she started taking us with her to the thrift store, where we'd sort through the racks, trying to come up with something name brand to buy.

Occasionally, we'd be able to convince mom to take us to a “real store”, something other than a thrift store, so we could buy new clothes, which would mean the inevitable trip to Walmart's clothing department; meanwhile, what my sister and I really wanted was to go to the mall like our classmates, window shop, and pick up “cool” and “in fashion” clothes from stores like Banana Republic, Aeropostale, and The Gap. My baby Anneliese is named after my grandmother; some of my fond memories with that grandmother include those jaunts we took together to the mall where we'd load up the cart with nice, stylish, “cool” clothes.

When I started babysitting and doing other odd jobs to make some cash, I started making trips to the mall, where I would typically check out Old Navy, because I knew I could find exclusive deals and discounts there, especially on the clearance racks; sometimes, I'd be able to find clothes there that was even cheaper than Walmart, but much trendier.

When I was 17, I moved out of the house, and became fully self supporting, while going to college. That was a period of trial and error for me financially, a period of experimentation and self exploration, a time in which I figured out what things were important to me, even if it differed from the values with which I grew up. In short, among many things I did during that time, I blew a lot of money on clothes. I spent most of the money I made on clothes, going out to eat, and makeup, but wasted the most on my (attempting to be) trendy wardrobe, so much so that twice during that year I needed to be bailed out by my dad because I couldn't pay my bills. I wish I had known that instead of spending lots of money on clothes, that you can find great coupons online; there's no need to pay full price, even for stylish, brand new clothing- you can get great deals for stores such as Aeropostale, The Gap, and other stores... Instead, I, for the most part, bought all my clothing brand new, full price. Embarrassing to even think about it.

Just one year later, I had made an overseas move, gotten married, and set up a household. Now it was no longer “fun and games”, life was “real” now. I was going to be starting a family, I had responsibilities other than just figuring out my priorities in life, and a lot more expenses. I couldn't keep on going and spending money on clothing like I used to... I kind of came around to my mother's style of clothing shopping...
When I got pregnant and needed a maternity wardrobe, I ended up receiving much of my clothes as hand me downs, the rest from second hand stores, and only one or two skirts were bought new, full price, from expensive maternity stores. Definite progress...

Since then, though, I have been getting better and better at not buying expensive clothing. I try to get as many things as possible either as hand me downs, at yard sales, thrift stores, and via dumpster diving, and occasionally I'll get clothes at bargain clothing stores... And when there's something I need, I have been known to pay full price at cheaper clothing stores... (Finding decent looking cheap clothing is harder because I wear a large size...)

One day, hopefully, I'll be a good enough seamstress to be able to sew my own nice clothing for those times when the thrift store stuff doesn't cut it, but in the meantime, I'm happy to say that I manage to look decent enough even without paying top dollar. (Ok, at least when my kids don't get my clothing filthy five seconds after I just got dressed.)
And yes, looking decent is important to me. I disagree with my mom on that note. Wanting to look nice, wanting to wear clothes that flatters your body, clothing that makes you look presentable and stylish is not a bad thing. It can only help a marriage when a husband is proud of how his wife looks. And I find that when you're wearing nicer things, people take you more seriously and treat you more respectfully. Wearing nice clothes is a way of showing you respect yourself.

But also respect your pocketbook. Fortunately I've learned since I was 17 years old that you can look nice even without blowing all your money on stylish clothes.

What's your "clothes shopping story"? Did you always clothes shop frugally? Did you never clothes shop frugally? Has there been a drastic change in the way you clothes shop, and if so, why? 
Who do you agree with more, me or my mom? That a focus on nice clothes is stupid and misplaced priorities, or that looking nice is important?

Linking up to Frugal Friday

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Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. My favorite way to get new clothes is from either charity shops where they're a dollar or less per item of clothing, or at clothing swaps which enable me to get rid of a bunch of old stuff I no longer need, while acquiring a whole new wardrobe for nothing!

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