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?