The lost weekend
It’s been a while! I’ve been concentrating on other things for the past few months, including career and other life changes, but I’m happy to inform you I’m still alive, back at the crafting and extremely pumped for 2011!
As the end of the ration approaches (only 10 more days to go!), I’m happy to report I’m still on target. This is all the clothing I’ve bought since my last update:
- 1 pair boots (Cole Haan Brookings — tomboyishly chic! waterproof! walkable! You can pry these boots from my cold dead feet!): 5 coupons
- 1 moss-green pashmina (65% pashmina, 35% silk) to combat chilly neck issues and add a splash of color to a black coat: 2 coupons
Seriously. Seven coupons. That’s all. Which leaves me coasting into the end of the year with a startling 15 coupons to spare.
WTF? I was expecting more drama. Crises over pantyhose runs! Weeping in front of shop windows! The anguish of self-denial! It’s been anticlimactically easy not to buy clothes. Why?
For one thing, being on the ration didn’t change the fact that London doesn’t make it fun to shop for clothes. It’s crowded, hectic and exhausting, and much of what’s on offer is of only fair-to-middling quality, variety and value for money. Meaning that on the occasions when I had a day off and some cash in my pocket, I could usually think of half a dozen things I’d rather do than head out to Oxford Street or Covent Garden in a quest for a decent sweater. I comfort myself with the thought that time-pressed and cash-strapped women shopping for clothes in wartime shortages must have felt much the same.
Being on the ration also made me think hard about the quality of the clothes I bought. Probably much harder than the consumer for whom the typical garment is made. Every time a twinge of attraction pulled me towards a garment in a shop, I started asking myself all sorts of fatal questions. This may be the only new top I buy all year. I will have to wear it maybe twice a week, in various situations. Is it well-made? Is it worth the money? Does it suit me? Will it keep me warm? Can I dress it up and down? Will it go with other things I already own? Much of the time, the answer was No. Being on a ration made me demand a lot more from my clothes — maybe too much for me to keep shopping in the usual way.
Once I started thinking about style and quality in clothing, it also became impossible not to notice that in London it doesn’t really matter if you’re well-dressed, because Londoners ignore each other religiously. This has both advantages and drawbacks. I am profoundly grateful not to have to put up with the kind of ugly street harassment women in America regularly undergo, but I’m not sure I enjoy being Ms. Invisible either, especially in social settings like bars and parties where mingling is half the fun. It’s great that I can stagger around un-made-up and with my unwashed hair in a ponytail without attracting comment, but on the other hand I could also step out every day looking like Coco Chanel without attracting comment. It does take a certain amount of wind out of the sartorial sails.
The nicest discovery was that I already had treasure in my closet. Being on a tight clothing budget forced me to look again at what was in my wardrobe and see what I could restyle or refashion. As a result, I salvaged a lot of garments I might otherwise have thrown away — unflattering T-shirts, shapeless sweaters, tired tops, not-so-successful previous sewing projects etc. Some of them are now wardrobe staples I wear weekly or more.
I’ve learned a lot in my time on the ration — I’ll be posting my year-end reflections shortly.
It’s nice to be back!