22 January 2006

the unthinkable

I'd like to say I was bullied into it. That fashion-conscious friends wrestled me out my $4 Paris Blues, and as I writhed in protest in not thrifted—though reasonably priced—underwear, they forcibly slid on a pair of designer jeans.To anyone that knows me, this scenario would be more believable over the reality: I bought $100 jeans.

I had a modest upbringing. No cable TV. No computer until 1995. No designer clothes. My parents chose to substitute crap like creativity and love and family time in the place of materialism. (Let me tell you how many years of therapy it took to get over that!)

I received a lot of hand-me-down clothing in my youth, which I thought was fun. Adolescence brought the interest in shopping for my own clothes, but money constrained the quantity of duds I could get. Until I discovered the thrift store. I could buy as many blazers as my seventh-grade heart could desired and only top out at $25. This was back in the day when shopping at the Salvation Army was for poor people and not a sacrament of hipsterdom. I quickly embraced the idea of thrifting, albeit only as a covert activity. I could get so many more clothes and items others didn't own.

Ever since then, thrifting has been my primary source of clothing, supplemented with sale items from Kohl's or Gabriel Brothers or Old Navy. As far as jeans—or any pants—went, I have NEVER paid over $15 for a pair of pants. (And it was only recently that I shelled out that $15 for a pair of cords at Gabe's.) Sometimes I thought $6 was too steep for jeans.

Becoming a working stiff afforded me a little bit of disposable income, and along came the maturity of coveting well-made, nicer things. I'm suspicious of any furniture I have to assemble myself. And, as a professional—as I like to call myself—I need to dress accordingly. Though it's noble that Rave and Wet Seal make suits for, ahem, working girls, I'm just not into an unlined, polyester business suit.

Fortunately, with my cultivated bargain-radar, I've found some respectable pieces of furniture and clothing to suit my maturing tastes. But I've resigned my frugal self that I'll have to shell out some considerable cash for some things—like a sofa, for example.

But I never resigned myself to spending $100 on jeans.

Although Lucky magazine had started to brainwash me that $150 for a sweater was actually quite reasonable, I snapped back to reality when shopping. ($300 bangle bracelets are not reality, Kim France! Have you forgotten your Sassy days of combat boots and baby doll dresses!) Still, it was a major concession for me to pay $20 for a new button-up blouse—on sale at the Ann Taylor outlet.

So how did I end up sitting here, typing this, while expensive, new denim hugs my ass?

I don't really know. I had scoffed at my fashion guru friend's insistence that good—i.e. expensive— jeans were integral to life. I claimed I'd think about spending $50 on a pair. MAYBE. So I didn't think much when we stopped by an Indigo Nation store. I figured I'd put down my cheaply-clad foot if he tried to bully me.

But it was I—of my own volition—who picked out a stack of jeans ($100+) to try on. It's like my frugal conscience had been gagged and drugged. I heard nothing. It was a virtually pain-free decision. (Well, except the jeans are a little tight when I sit down but I was informed "real jeans" such as these naturally loosen up.)

Girding my, uh, total lack of rationale for the purchase is the knowledge that these jeans were made in American, not in a sweatshop and won't fall apart in the wash.

Oh, and I totally bought them on sale.

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