Trend Spending Rules of Thumb

Money is tight for those of us who aren’t oil magnates, and slowly but surely, positive repercussions of our crap economy are percolating to the surface: SUV sales are down, use of public transport is up, and more people are biking to work.

In addition to these carbon-conserving phenomena, shoppers are considering each purchase more carefully before laying down the MasterCard. Turns out that a financial climate which forces us to be frugal also forces us to be better, more focused consumers. We no longer snap up $6 tanks at the Gap for the sheer thrill of the bargain. We think. And thinking is always, ALWAYS good.

So where does this leave trends, the ultimate anti-thinking purchases? The pull of popular items remains strong, but the cash just ain’t there. How can we determine if a trend is worth a small splurge?

Although I avoided becoming a teen trend lemming via my family’s budgetary constraints and retrospectively-beneficial horse sense, I have avoided becoming an adult trend-monger merely by learning about myself and my style. As I’ve repeated often enough for it to approach mantra status, every one of us should pick and choose from the buffet of trends offered forth each season. Select those that work with your figure and your established personal style, and discard the rest. The same fashion media that instruct you to “be yourself” insist that you need a new pair of gold gladiator sandals. Just listen to your gut. Are you gladiator girl? You may not be, and that is A-OK.

But say you are! And say your budget is getting smaller than a Smurfette Shrinky-Dink in a 450 degree oven. Here are some things to consider before shelling out for an item that might last a year or two before you’ll be too embarrassed to wear it:

Can you think of at least 3 outfits you can wear with this item?
Over the weekend, I broke this rule by purchasing a high-waisted skirt:


I’ve wanted one for ages, because knew it was a style that would flatter my figure – make me even more hourglassy than I already am. But I also knew it would take a lot of work – and, potentially, the purchase of several new tops – before I could assemble 3 kick-ass outfits around this piece. But I bought it anyway because it qualified for my next personal rule of thumb.

Does it cost around $35?
Arbitrary, yes. And girls with different budgetary constraints may use higher or lower numbers as guidelines. But here’s my thinking, as it pertains to my personal budget: any more than $35 and I’m sacrificing the cost of a good meal out, any less and I may be buying something so poorly made that it will fall apart WHILE I AM WEARING IT. (Unless it’s on clearance.) So trends that I covet and that fall around the $35 mark are typically justifiable.

The skirt pictured above cost me $28. It’s cheaply made, but not utter junk. Fits great, is supremely comfy, and if I waited much longer to purchase it, I might miss that particular trend train.

A garbage bag full of donated clothes typically amounts to $10 written off of your taxes.
How many garbage bags will you have to give away to cover the cost of this item? Are you likely to give away that much this fiscal year?

Does it have some practical application?
Also bought this gigantic floppy sunhat over the weekend:


I’m not a hat-wearer, generally. My wavy/curly hair is a delicate ecosystem: A stiff breeze or sprinkle of rain transforms me from smiling Sal to Severus Snape. Hats have the same effect – squashing the curls beyond repair – so I can really only wear them when my hair is up. But this adorable chapeau is big enough to shield my shoulders from the sun when I’m casing the weekend art fairs or sipping lemonade in a friend’s backyard. No matter how much sunscreen I slather on, my shoulders get roasted. So I can justify this pup because it’s going to keep me from getting shoulder cancer.

Although wellies also qualify for this exemption, I’ll admit to having trouble thinking of others …

Is it classic enough to remain wearable, post-trend?
High-waisted skirts and floppy sunhats, yes. Gladiator sandals and oversized clutches, maybe. Dip-dyed dresses and Ikat prints, probably not. If it’s a style that was popular once or twice before and is coming back around, it has a better shot at staying power. If it’s a new look that is difficult for many body types/complexions to wear, it is more likely to fade into obscurity within a year or two.

Does it make you feel AMAZING?
As I’ve said, anything that makes you think, “I want to have sex with me RIGHT NOW” should be purchased. Period. Trendy or not.

Occasionally an item or style that I’ve adored for years independently – and feel will outlive its trend window – comes into favor. I bought a pair of spectator pumps when they were hot, and still wear them happily, even though they aren’t part of the popular shoe clique anymore. They perfectly suit my vaguely retro vibe, and I don’t regret investing a chunk o’ change in a high quality pair. But that happens only rarely. I generally stick to inexpensive options such as cheap in-house-brandsters Forever 21 and H&M for items that are hot this very instant, or brand-name discounters TJ Maxx and Marshalls for items that were hot recently and are now drifting toward tepid. Lower-end department stores like Kohl’s, Sears, and JC Penney are also goldmines for the bargain trend shopper – and frequently offer higher quality versions than F21 and similar.

In this era of penny-pinching, what factors determine if YOU’LL indulge in a trend?

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A Sad, Telling Quote

“I’ve never met a woman who loves her own body. Ever.”
~L’Wren Scott, via InStyle

Her clientele and fans include SJP, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, and Renée Zellweger – a list that encompasses women sporting big, medium, and small boobs, women with curves and sans curves, tall and short women, ivory- and carmel-skinned women, and women with hair colors and styles of all varieties. Scott knows and works with “elite” bodies of all conformations, and none of them are happy with how they look.

Is this a comfort? Does it make you feel normal to hear that women who make a living honing and showcasing their physiques don’t love their bodies either?

Or does it just make you sad that women possessing natural radiance and who can access nearly infinite body refining resources STILL can’t accept their own beauty?

A little of both perhaps? That’s where I land …

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Chicagolandia

Chicago was awesssssome, but as always I’m happy to be back here at Chez McGraw. The cats missed us, we sleep better in our own bed, I prefer access to my entire closet instead of mere selections, blahdie blahdie blahdie. Don’t get me wrong, though: the weekend was pretty darn close to being the best visit ever. Here’s a summary:

Chicago drivers are NUTS.
I mean, Minnesota drivers can be dim and inattentive, but they just don’t hold a candle. Chicago drivers are mean and unpredictable and simply adore their car horns. There were several near-panic-attacks and many birds were flipped.

Mike Doughty has returned to his former state of lovability. In my mind.
I interviewed the dude for one of the free weeklies. I’ve loved him since the Soul Coughing days. He was in my personal top 20 artists for ages. But I got really bored with seeing him do the same schtick at every damn show, and was disappointed by his most recent studio album. The lure of a free show won out, though, and I’m so glad it did. His set at Taste of Randolph Street was a glorious, joyous, perfect first-day-of-summer experience. The audience was relaxed and well-behaved, the band was TIGHT and looked like they were having the time of their lives, and Doughty remains among the most appealing stage presences I’ve seen. You just want to hug the guy. Or invite him home to dinner. Or ask if he wants to go get new tattoos together. It felt delicious to dance uninhibitedly to hooky pop songs and reconnect with a beloved artist. Coupla photos here, at Husband Mike’s OTHER blog. Doughty’s blog is well worth a read, too. That man is funn-eee.

Sadly, the ‘rents couldn’t take the volume, and stood in the back, grumpily. They enjoyed his cover of “The Gambler,” but that was about it. I believe they’re older than they’d like to admit, both having just turned 64 … but full points for trying, right? Go ‘rents!

Indiana Jones was horrendous.
Dad commented, “Well, at least it had a high mumbo-jumbo factor.”

Frontera Grill is every bit as good as they say.
I will dream for months of those succulent beef enchiladas, darkly woody duck-meat tacos, smoky salsa, and silky guac, all the while pondering if Rick Bayless is gay and in denial …

Finally, we have arrived at the actual style-related content of this post. Thank you for your patience, and we will now return to our regularly scheduled fashionesque ramblings:

Unsurprisingly, I still love Fluevogs.


The Chicago store is bright and colorful, much like the gorgeous shoes it sells.


My dad eventually fell asleep in that chair. The man is a workaholic, but whenever he has free time he wants to go-Go-GO! He’s a real doer. But anytime there is a pause in the action or a squashy armchair – including at movies with high mumbo-jumbo factors – he dozes off.

He thought the shoes were goofy. Mom, on the other hand, ADORED them. She could, however, hardly believe I would shell out that much for shoes … even though she, too, reads InStyle and Lucky.


I’ve been eyeing these pumps with the draped chain detail for quite a while, wondering if I could pull them off. As it turns out: No, I cannot. They are more fabulous than I. But it was fun to try them on and pretend to be TUFF.


I am in love with this woman. Leigh Anne has singlehandedly helped me put at least 4 pairs on layaway, enabling my shoe addiction like a true friend would. She was incredibly helpful, as always, during our rather lengthy stay in her store. (I tried on 5 pairs, if memory serves.) The entire Chicago store is staffed by friendly, funny individuals who adore their employer, but Leigh Anne takes the cake, I tell ya. Check out the kick-ass postcard for her clothing line. RrrrrOWR.


Several pairs tried on this weekend will eventually make their homes in my closet, including those pictured above. Husband Mike picked out these burgundy Wearever Gracias for me to try on and, as always, he was spot-on. I liked them fine, but never would’ve picked them out for myself. They look funky and fun in photos, but on a foot, you realize that their little cutout styles them as alternative Mary Janes. Much more versatile than I would’ve imagined.

My mom continues to rock.


I have two silk skirts from BR that have languished in my closet for YEARS. If I buy silk or silky tops, they tend to be sweaters, and these skirts both demand actual blouses. Additionally, they are both crafted from jaw-droppingly beautiful patterned fabrics that contain difficult-to-match colors. I’ve looked everywhere for worthy mates, and struck out. So my magnificent mom agreed to MAKE me some simple silk shells from cloth we purchased together this weekend. One will be crafted from this lovely orchid silk. Yummy! More photos to come when the blouses are complete.

I’m so grateful for my mom’s skillz, and envy the craftily gifted like Ambika and Trinknitty. I keep trying to do-it-myself, but I just haven’t the attention span. Luckily for me, Mom is willing to help out. Bless.

I was surprisingly surprised …
… to find that a black thong actually DOES show up under my new favorite summer dress crafted from lightweight ivory jersey. ASTONISHING! Had to borrow a half-slip from Mom. Felt dumb and ill-prepared.

There was also a visit to a neighborhood store that’s been a fave since childhood, Evanston’s own The Mexican Shop, which yielded several exciting purchases. But I’ma save those for a separate post, since photos do not yet exist and I have THOUGHTS about these particular items.

It was a great visit, and I miss Mom and Dad already. But, as Art and Paul always say, gee, but it’s great to be back home.

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