Sunday, February 05, 2006


I do NOT love to shop. I do love finding something nice, and getting it cheap, but I usually hate what you have to go through to do it.
I've already posted about my TJ Maxx gift cards and how I don't like TJ Maxx. Like Marshall's, it's one of those stores where you can sometimes come across a gem, but I don't usually have the patience to do it. Even in "nicer" stores like Lord & Taylor, I sometimes feel so dragged down by the experience of wading through people and carrying stuff around, especially in the winter when I'm also lugging a coat and feeling overheated indoors. But at least at the "nice" stores you can usually check your coat. The last time I decided to really get serious about buying some new work clothes on sale at L&T, I took the elevator straight up to the coat check place and left everything there except my wallet, so I could be a lean, mean, stripped-down shopping machine. Of course, despite my best efforts, I don't think I found much on that trip!
Lately, I have been trying to stay away from buying much of anything, but I've been starting to feel like I am wearing the same things all the time and could use some new clothes for work. A couple of weeks ago, I tried to clean out my closet a bit, thinking I could imitate Caitlin's PantRy Challenge and do a Closet Challenge. Yeah, there were a few things in there I'd forgotten about but it wasn't the windfall of nice-fitting designer fabulosity I was hoping for. There wasn't even any ill-fitting designer fabulosity, as I had already given up on ever again being able to squeeze into the 2 pairs of Nicole Farhi pants I once bought on sale, which are now being enjoyed by a size-smaller friend.
So, deciding I needed to put my money where my mouth is (and keep most of it there) by being a smart bargain hunter, I resolved to look for some cheap new duds at Century 21.
Century 21 is a discount department store. It's become a big destination here, both for native New Yorkers and for tourists, particularly the Europeans who come here in droves to shop, especially now that the exchange rates are so favorable. I hadn't been to the Manhattan store in years, probably due to some kind of post-traumatic reaction to the crowds I remembered from the last time, magnified in memory by all the legends of people fighting over skirts and trying things on in the aisles because the fitting rooms are such a zoo. So last weekend, I decided to ease back into the experience by going to the store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It's a bit smaller, maybe not quite as crowded. But I didn't find anything-- I tried on a few tops, but all I ended up buying was a baby gift. So this weekend, I got serious and went to the store in Manhattan. On a Saturday afternoon. While there was a sale going on. On a tax-free weekend!
Sure enough, it was kind of chaotic, but not as bad as I expected. And the selection was much better than in Brooklyn. In the shoe department, I was only a size away from getting some lovely suede boots by JP Tod. But then, when I hit the upstairs, I had some luck. Some unmentionables of my preferred brand were half price, and I found a few pairs of pants worth trying on. The line for the fitting room was about 20 people long, but it ended up being worth it. I bought one pair of very nice, perfect-fitting John Varvatos pants: original price $400, my cost $49.99.
That was enough to make me feel like I'd won the game and didn't want to play anymore, so I got the hell out of there. Some people would argue that I could have gotten a perfectly good $50 pair of pants somewhere else, and that is true. I'm not into buying a lot of designer clothes just for the sake of the label (and I never buy anything with visible logos, except maybe jeans where it is pretty much unavoidable). But sometimes-- not always, but sometimes-- you get what you pay for with expensive clothes, in terms of fit and materials and looks, and I'd rather have a few things I really love than a lot of things that are just okay. That doesn't mean I would ever pay $400 for a pair of pants. But it does mean I'd sometimes rather go through a hassle to pay $50 for those pants, instead of effortlessly buying a lesser pair of $50 pants at the Gap, or two pairs of $25 pants at K-Mart. (Remember Rain Man? God help me if I ever start quoting Tom Cruise lines to explain my outlook on life, but "K-Mart sucks" definitely resonated with my shopping philosophy!) And the fringe benefit is that I'll have had as much retail guerilla warfare as I can stand for a good long time, so I won't want to go anywhere near a store for the next few months! Just a little aversion therapy to keep me in line!


Caitlin said...

I love the idea of a "closet challenge" ... I went through my closets this weekend and I can assure anyone who is curious that there was ZERO fabulosity hiding back there.

I hatehatehate shopping for clothing. Luckily I do get to wear business casual clothing for work, but I feel I need some "designer" education to truly have a well rounded wardrobe. Mostly I have a few high quality items gathered at thrift stores (and tailored, natch) for the higher end stuff.

But my entire wardrobe is pretty sad right now and the thought of going to a place THAT chaotic makes me want to spend the rest of my days in jeans and a fleece (ok, not really...well, almost)

Anonymous said...

just be glad yu didnt get a beatdown at Century 21. they just settled come big lawsuit for beating up a woman suspected of shoplifting.