Without realizing it, and maybe without even wanting to, my mother passed along a value of frugality in clothing from a young age. Most of my clothes in grade school and middle school came from hand-me-downs that her friends with older daughters passed along. Perhaps she’s embarrassed that I’m telling the Internet about this, but I’m not ashamed to say that I loved it. Nothing was more exciting than to open a box of clothes, breathe in exotic laundry detergent and unpack a whole new wardrobe.
And in many ways, those hand-me-down boxes have shaped me into who I am today. First, it made me appreciate old clothes. A lot of my clothes were undoubtedly out of style, depending on how much older the friends’ daughters were, so I had to just to embrace it and try to rock my turtlenecks and dated color schemes. It forced me to be creative and see the potential in unusual pieces.
It also made me appreciate saving money, because that was all I knew. Except for the occasional Old Navy Fourth of July T-shirts, dresses for nice occasions and purchases from my family’s after-Christmas outlet shopping trips, I rarely walked into a mall until junior high, maybe high school. Going to Limited Too was a rare treat, and I made a single purchase there during my tween years — a plaid button-down with rhinestones that I still have to this day (and, after all the rhinestones fell off, became quite versatile).
I’m sure the result is some kind of diagnosable psychological disorder. It’s just really, really hard for me to spend money on clothes — even when my mother offers to pay (which I suspect is her way of apologizing for all those years of turtlenecks). I want to be the kind of person who’s OK with splurging on the best quality clothing, on something that I’m totally in love with. But then I think about how I found my favorite jeans at a garage sale for $1 (and later found a dollar in the pocket, effectively rendering them free of charge); and how I found the blazer I wear multiple times a week to work at a thrift store; and how, even though I loved those Zara pants, I loved them just as much when they were on sale at the end of the season. And then I leave the store empty-handed.
Which brings me to — the shoes.
I’ve decided that if I’m going to spend money on anything, it might as well be shoes, because uncomfortable shoes aren’t even worth walking in. Earlier this year, I wanted a pair of summery sandal wedges. I was prepared to drop cash.
After literally weeks of scouring shoe racks, in person and online (did I mention I get compulsive over large purchases?), I found them at Banana Republic: fashionable, comfortable, me in sandal wedge form. Except … they were $120. And my big-spending bravado left me on the spot. I didn’t even try them on.
I kind of gave up on sandal wedges until last Sunday, when I saw them at Banana Republic on sale. And not just any sale — it was one of those blow-out extravaganzas where everything already on sale is another 40% off. And I also found a gift card in my wallet, a relic of a birthday long ago, to BR’s sister store Old Navy.
With all the discounts and gift money applied, those $120 shoes cost me $3.73. Call it a deep-seated psychological issue, but I’m pretty damn proud of that.