Haute Thoughts by Heidi Dillon: Frugal Shopping in your closet – Snob Essentials

Originally published in Snob Essentials on April 30, 2009

My mother always told me that it is better to buy one good thing than 10 cheap things. In a fit of adolescent defiance, I would snap “I agree, but I want 10 good things!” Being a life-long, die-hard fashionista, trying to curtail my free- spending ways has proven to be a bit of a challenge. Why let falling stock prices get in the way of a great wardrobe? Didn’t Karl Lagerfeld, my hero who abhors stinginess, say “The money has to go out the window to come back through the door”? All my attempts to justifying my natural tendencies to shop-’till-I dropped were dashed when my darling, patient and generous husband informed me that if I did not reform, we would not be able to live the life to which I have become so accustom past his retirement. His sobering words forced me to become a bit more circumspect about my shopping habit and forced me to give serious thought to how I could significantly reduce the amount I spent on clothes and still feel fulfilled and look like a million bucks. (jump for more!)

It is difficult, if not impossible, to alter your DNA, but I was determined to give it a try. The first step towards my reformation was to go shopping in my closet which I planned to do when we returned from our summer vacation in Malibu. Every year we spend a couple of months there enjoying the company of family, friends, loads of wine and scrumptious sea-side meals. When we got back to Dallas I threw open my closet and began to “shop”. To my absolute horror, I found that nothing fit! That’s what happens when you spend two months reveling on the beach. An emergency dieting program went into affect and I have, thank God, taken off the weight. During a tough economy it is absolutely critical to watch your food and wine intake like a hawk. Even a couple extra pounds will make your clothes look like you need to “size up” and the whole point here is looking good in what you already have. Go into your closet and start pulling things out that you like. Try putting together outfits – this is your opportunity to be your own stylist. You will be amazed at how many different looks you can come up with just with the things you already own.

When it comes time to hit the stores, you can look for specific items to tie some of your new “looks” together. Having something specific in mind when you go shopping also prevents you from making needless purchases. Only buy the pair of shoes (something with an ankle wrap, lots of straps and sky-scraper heels) or the handbag (read snobessentials.com) that you really need to pull everything together. I adore all of my friends in the stores, but when you’re trying to stay focused, it’s best to avoid a lot of conversation, buy what you need and get out fast. Take some time to look for fetching pieces on line. I have snagged quite a few wonderful things for incredible prices on Giltgroup.com like a killer Nina Ricci LBD (when in doubt, a little black dress will always make you look and feel like a million) that I picked up for $390 (original retail price was $1,800!) Gold jewelry is huge this season but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on the real stuff so I ordered some great fashion pieces from Alexis Bittar’s website.

I don’t think we will ever stop wearing jeans. They make getting dressed so easy. Have a look at Gap’s 1969 Collection designed by Patrick Robinson. You can choose from boyfriend jeans, rinse washed skinnys , or vintage inspired bell bottoms – all premium denim priced at $69.00 a pair. Add something “of the moment” on top like a cropped glittery, shimmering gold jacket, or an interesting geometric, folded, bended, twisted top. If you are a fan of the exaggerated shoulders seen on the runways but don’t want to make a big investment in a trendy piece, just sew some shoulder pads in to jackets or tops you already own. (I lived through that look in the 80’s and have no desire to go there again).

I’m not going to say that cutting back has been easy, but it has been well worth the effort. My husband is happier and, anyway, I didn’t have any more room in my closet for new clothes.


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