This post is peppered (with my tongue at least slightly pressed into my cheek) with items from Net-A-Porter that I would buy for fall 09 if money was no object.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the ideology of consumerism as it relates with notions of class, individuality/rhetoric of choice/agency, and capitalism. I have also been mulling over the volume of stuff I accumulated in just the short time I've lived in the home I own. It has been almost one year since the closing date and somehow I acquired what amounts to an entire wardrobe of clothes, shoes, and bags. Granted many were bought at an 80% discount. Many were financed through selling the old to make way for the new. And all were arguably legitimate upgrades from a wardrobe full of business casual mall fare. But it is still so frivolous.
While the rational part of me *knows* that my closet is already amply stocked with clothing and accessories for all seasons, the irrational part of me is preoccupied with the newness, the thrill of scoring a bargain, and that nagging drive for "progress" to occur in some capacity. Progressions can happen in a variety of ways. There are progressions as style evolutions or aesthetic shifts in the way one represents oneself. Such as the decision to select after a series of trials and errors, one particular silhouette that you plan to sport for every formal occasion in your future, or finalizing for the time being just how you will mix and accessorize a particular garment. There are progressions in terms of accumulation. For example, when shopping functions empirically, as one continues to amass quantities of new goods, each piece fills a perceived hole or lack, allowing you to cross from your checklist another "necessity," and each functioning to prove, almost positivistically, one's absolute prowess as a savvy shopper. And there are progressions in the procedural methods one uses to hunt new retail conquests. This reminds me of the first time I lost a dress on ebay to last-minute, sniping bidders. I quickly adjusted my strategies and employed bid sniping services, myself.
Personally and historically, I am in a moment immediately following a social period that embraced materialism and encouraged people to live aspirationally. Many hoped that living aspirationally under capitalism (with all its narratives of self made men and exceptionalism, individuality, and market discipline) would become a self fulfilling prophecy. I am fortunate that Pittsburgh's cost of living is so reasonable, or else I would probably find myself under mountains of debt from my shopping endeavors. The wake of markets that took for granted the social conditions of mass gluttony are still evident in the current spate of sales. Hopeful retail buyers overbought in orders that were made before the economic bottom fell out (as they say). After months of disbelief, I still find myself remarking that "we might never see a sale like this again." At some point, epic sales came to be the norm. While WSJ and NYT articles continue to insist that we should buy as though it is the end of the world, and the fact that we might never see sales like this again might be true since we might never again see stocking patterns that require such epic clearances, that doesn't mean that a person in my financial circumstances (graduate student, home owner, and saving for the future) should buy as though the sky is falling. Just because I can sort of afford it doesn't mean I need it.
As such, this is why I'm not really buying much right now. Despite the sales. Despite that nagging desire for progress. I'm trying my best to enjoy what I have, sell a few handbags to replace my emergency car fund (since I just had an epic car repair), and build a new reserve for my future.
This post was inspired in part by a comment from the lovely Dream Sequins, and the IFB articles about the recession and fashion blogging.