Clothes make the woman?
This past week, the weather has been cooler in Albuquerque, cool enough that I have been able to wear some of my fuzzy favorites. Thursday, I pulled out one of my better ensembles, a sweater of acrylic knit in a dramatic black-and-white pattern with metallic gold tracings, over black velour trousers – good-looking while also being very comfortable. I was complimented on the outfit several times. With a faux pearl hair clip and gray loafers, my entire outfit cost less than $25 – and about half of that was the shoes.
Now I hear that a certain political party has paid for a political candidate to go on a shopping spree, spending about $150,000 on clothes. My mind boggles. How in the world can anybody spend $150,000 on clothes? I mean, maybe some people believe that it is worth a few thousand dollars for something special like a wedding dress, but to spend that kind of money on what one is going to wear every day … that just doesn’t make sense. For that kind of money, I could buy not just one, but two, nicely equipped luxury cars. That kind of money would buy a house in many parts of New Mexico, and not just in the slums.
Back when we had the money to pay for satellite television at Five O’Clock Somewhere, I saw a couple of episodes of the show “What Not to Wear.” The basic premise was that some deserving person with no fashion sense was nominated by friends, family, and/or coworkers to get a makeover – primarily of wardrobe, but also including hairstyle and (for women) makeup. This person was then given a prepaid credit card with a really big balance on it (I don’t remember the exact amount, but I believe it was $2000 or so), taken shopping at upscale stores, and taken to world-class hairstylists and makeup experts. The end result was usually dramatic.
I’m sure that if I had an extra couple thousand dollars lying around that I could spend on such things, I could also achieve a similar result. And if the folks at “What Not to Wear” actually had $150,000 to work with, I bet they could accomplish something really stunning.
But I don’t have that kind of money. In fact, I would guess that over the past year, I have spent less than $100 on clothes. I might not look highly polished enough to be on the stage in a nationally televised political debate. But I do look reasonably presentable and professional.
My secret: thrift stores. While a lot of what gets donated is on the shabby side, there are always hidden gems. This is especially true of the larger thrift stores – they will sometimes get donations from merchants of high-quality fashions that have gone unsold at the end of the season. But even the smaller thrift stores are worth mining. One of my greatest finds was a luxurious fake-fur coat for $15 at a tiny thrift shop run by a small-town humane society. As for the outfit mentioned above, the sweater was $2 at a humane society thrift shop, the pants were $3 at a church thrift shop, the hair clip was $3 at a drugstore, and the shoes were $15 at a discount mail-order outlet (plus tax, shipping, and handling).
I’ve had this idea for some time now, since long before the political party got into the fashion-makeover spending binge. “What Not to Wear” is interesting to watch, but ultimately unrealistic, since most television viewers aren’t going to get a prepaid credit card with a couple thousand dollars on it dropped into their laps.
What I would like to see is “What Not to Wear: Trailer Park Edition,” in which the funding is $200, not $2000, and it’s cash, not a credit card. The fashion shopping is done in thrift stores, the hairstyling is done at a barber college such as the one where I get my hair done (about a third the cost of even the bargain hairstyle places), and the face makeover is done by a local person who sells cosmetics for one of the major franchises. THAT would be realistic.