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The lost weekend

January 13, 2011

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.

Your new shoes are here...somewhere.

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.

Don't expect this to happen in Hoxton.

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!

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. nathalie permalink
    January 18, 2011 3:37 pm

    I’m a bit late to the party, but Yay, you’re back!
    Happy New Year and looking forward to your new posts.

  2. January 17, 2011 9:35 pm

    Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!! So good to have you back! You have been missed. Loved this post, it’s so cool you have learnt to second guess your initial attraction to garments and not get sucked into the thrill of the purchase. Really looking forward to reading how the rationing challenge effected your sewing activities xxx

  3. January 16, 2011 9:53 pm

    It’s great you are back. Have been checking from time to time and just wondered if you’d tell us how your year on the ration went. And there you are :D splendid!

  4. January 16, 2011 11:54 am

    I just saw your response on Weimar. Thanks for the book rec’s, I’ll check them out as soon as they re-open the library.

    I’ve been pondering putting together a wardrobe for a look I call “Voluptuous Androgeny” in my head, drawing heavily on Weimar inspiration. Man-clothes worn sexy, flowing lines and simplicity, celebrating curving little pot bellies, brilliant colors anchored with darks…. I might call it “Voluptuous Panic” instead. What fun.

    I couldn’t agree more with you re: partying. Sometimes I read about what the Romans got up to (or certain passages of Herodotus) and I realize I’ve seen nothing.

    (I can’t seem to email you or I would have instead of commenting, mine is bellelass@yahoo.com)

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 17, 2011 8:32 pm

      Ooh, if you like sexy man-clothes, you MUST see “Tipping the Velvet”! Definitely not kid-friendly, but full of wonderful 1880s cross-dressing and a long-standing style inspiration.

      • January 18, 2011 12:07 am

        Heh. I picked that up once looking for a staid costume drama and oh my. Delightful show, though a little heartbreaking. You remind me I want to watch it again…

        • March 4, 2011 8:45 am

          And you’ve both reminded me that I need to watch that again! Such a fabulous movie. The BBC can clearly manage period pieces that are not staid….to say the least. In fact, I have some friends who really ought to see it. Hmmmm, Netflix, here I come!

  5. January 14, 2011 9:01 pm

    Welcome back to the blogosphere! Your rigorous pre-purchase self-questioning is inspiring and will coax me out of my post Wardrobe Refashion splurge tendencies.

  6. January 14, 2011 5:23 pm

    It’s good to have you back! More posts in 2011 please (preferably sewing posts). :)

  7. Kitty permalink
    January 14, 2011 4:53 pm

    Congratulations on making it a whole year on the ration. Do you think it’s made a permanent change in how you view your clothing purchases?

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 14, 2011 6:07 pm

      Absolutely — and I’ll be posting the learning shortly.

  8. January 14, 2011 2:50 pm

    Great to see you back – and impressed re the coupon savings!

    I don’t think I’d ever VOLUNTARILY shop in Oxford St or Covent Garden – the hell of London! Much prefer provincial towns – and BEST fo all si Cornwall, lots of fun little shops, great shoes. Weird but true!

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 14, 2011 6:07 pm

      Cornwall, huh? Duly noted — I always welcome an excuse to go west!

  9. January 14, 2011 10:24 am

    Happy New Year and welcome back.

  10. Geogrrl permalink
    January 14, 2011 6:32 am

    Good to see you back! I was getting worried about you.

    Thanks to you and Erin of “Dress a Day” I paid a visit to Shaukat when I was in London and blew 40 pounds on 2 metres of a Liberty print called “Birdsong” in blues and greens. I had pulled several bolts off the shelf, and they were all fine, but as soon as I pulled that one out, my husband said, “That one. That’s for you.” Of course, it was the most expensive of the lot.

    Now I have to make time to sew it.

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 14, 2011 6:08 pm

      I too have discovered I have an internal homing beacon that unerringly leads me to the most expensive item on display.

      Just don’t fall into the trap I always do and stash the fabric forever because it’s “too nice to cut”.

      • Geogrrl permalink
        January 15, 2011 6:54 am

        You read my mind. Part of me keeps thinking “It’s too nice to cut.” I really have to get over that.

  11. January 14, 2011 3:51 am

    Welcome back and cheers to sticking to the FOTR plan! Looking forward to seeing more from you.

  12. January 14, 2011 1:33 am

    Yay, you’re back! I’m impressed that you managed to make it through the year with 15 coupons to spare. Will you splash out on something? If you can find it, I guess…

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 14, 2011 6:09 pm

      Ahahaha, yes. I have just splurged on some silk noil fabric to make myself a top. A year’s worth of fabric lust is returning with a vengeance!

  13. dawn s permalink
    January 13, 2011 11:46 pm

    Thank you for returning! I still like it when you dress up for your readers’ benefit.

  14. January 13, 2011 11:04 pm

    Welcome back, I missed your insights.

    15 coupons, my my. Well done indeed. Will you continue asking yourself all those questions even after the ration is over?

    • Susannah permalink*
      January 14, 2011 6:12 pm

      I’m pretty sure I will. Once you start seeing things (like the fact that fashion trends tend to follow what’s cheap and easy for manufacturers to make), you can’t stop. And once you start asking hard questions about whether bought clothes are worth the money, you can’t stop either. The great thing is that when the answer is Yes, I’ve usually got myself a piece of clothing I can wear into the ground.

  15. January 13, 2011 8:01 pm

    Ohhhh! So glad you are back! I’ve missed your posts!!!

  16. January 13, 2011 6:44 pm

    Yay, it’s nice to have you back! And I totally agree about the London shopping experience – that’s what when I think about fighting my way into town, the sweaty changing rooms, long queues, etc, I would actually just spend the same time at home in my sewing room listening to Radio 4 *making* said item of clothing.

    I can’t actually remember when I last bought clothing, but I’m betting it was online rather than in a shop anyway!

  17. January 13, 2011 6:35 pm

    Welcome Back! I was actually just thinking about you :)

  18. January 13, 2011 6:28 pm

    I really like this blog, so I’m pleased that you’re back to blogging!

  19. January 13, 2011 5:17 pm

    Hello again ! I took the wardrobe refashion pledge a couple years ago for 2 months because I thought that was all the longer I could make it without new clothes. About 2/1/2 years later, the thought of having to search out brand new clothes seems like a chore not a thrill. The quality of what I see is just more and more disappointing, and prices don’t seem to reflect materials anymore. For example, a trendy acrylic blend sweater is almost as much as cashmere sometimes. Gotta admit though that good boots are a necessity.

  20. January 13, 2011 3:54 pm

    Good to have you back! You’ve been missed! I can’t wait to hear more about your year on rationing – and what lies beyond!

  21. January 13, 2011 3:31 pm

    Nice to “see” you again. I’m looking forward to your review. I find myself looking inside clothes these days to see how they are made. I’ve not bought a new item in ages, so much easier to resist now I’ve started sewing. I want things that fit and are easy to dress up/down etc.

  22. January 13, 2011 3:23 pm

    It is so true what you said about it not really mattering what you wear in London. I have spent most of my adult life in or near New York. Practically every time I walk the streets of Manhattan, some total stranger tells me they like what I am wearing. I lived in London for 2 years from 07 to 09. This happened a grand total of once in the entire two years. I was so shocked that I did not even thank the woman properly for overcoming her reserve and commenting on a stranger’s clothes.

  23. January 13, 2011 2:53 pm

    Wow, that surprises me too, but your reasoning explains everything! I love those boots, very nice and I may have to save for my own pair. I don’t envy you having to shop in London, it’s what I hated most about the city when I lived there. Looking forward to reading your year end reflections and welcome back!

  24. January 13, 2011 2:43 pm

    So glad that you’re back! It’s great to hear too that the rationing has gone so well–I remember at the beginning you weren’t so sure it would. Bravo for you!!! :)

    ♥ Casey | blog

  25. Miriana permalink
    January 13, 2011 2:08 pm

    It’s lovely to have you back!

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