To put it bluntly, now middle-aged, I realize I am a very smart person who has been very stupid when it has comes to clothes.
Worse, I have been deliberately and even proudly stupid. I had for decades thought I was somehow above thinking about clothes. I had thought that thinking about clothes was a habit of vain and vapid people, and that I, for whatever reason, didn’t need to.
With clothes I have been alternatively cheap, trendy, secretive, wasteful, extravagant, gaudy, and impulsive. I realize I have, through my spending, supported the wrong stores and wrong products. The sorry state of clothing vendors today is my fault. Now, in my mid 40’s, I look at my collection of clothes as being disconnected from how I see myself. This is a small but relevant area in my life where I have failed.
Let me ask you, then, can one be smart about clothes? To be honest, I hate the term “Preppy.” I never say the word aloud, let alone describe myself that way. When I suggest your blog to others, I apologize for both words “Preppy” and “Muffy”. But most of what it connotes, and all of what you describe, feels right.
So, to make a short story long, can one have a guiding framework for clothes? Do you, Muffy, simply have great taste, in which case I am in trouble because I don’t? Do you work really hard at it, which again I really would rather not? Or are there principles that you can articulate and that I can intellectually defend and work to own myself? Is there a Muffy Manifesto? Can I hope to one day be comfortable with my wardrobe?
I know this is a lot. Thank you!
Here is what I want from clothing vendors, although I realize some of these are more aspirational in many areas than achieved!
- I want to look good, respectable, competent, and gracious. Beyond that, I don't want to stand out or bring undue attention to myself by what I wear; I want to improve the scene I am in. I like simple.
- I want to enjoy clothes if I am in the mood or the occasion requires, but I absolutely don't want to have to think about what I wear each day. I want clothes that are generally compatible with each other.
- I want to buy less over time. I don't want my clothes to look dated (either in my closet or my photographs). I don't want to have to purge my wardrobe of bad choices every few years.
- I don't want to buy something cheap and have it quickly fall apart. I really don't want to buy something expensive and have it quickly fall apart. I want high quality in much of what I have.
- I want my clothes to get better with age. I want a few nicks and tears to be badges of great adventures, and not activate some kill switch and be the end of an item. I want clothes that can be repaired. I want clothes to shift roles as they get older, from going out to working in.
- I am willing to spend more for a good item. I am increasingly suspicious if I don’t have to.
- I don't want my items made in third world sweat shops. I don't want to contribute to environmental disaster. I want a visit to the factory to increase my loyalty not decrease it. I don't want to be deliberately ignorant.
- I want clothes to not get in my way. I want clothes to enable unplanned physical activities, not inhibit them. The best clothes have been designed around meeting the needs of active people, and often for specific outdoor pursuits.
- I want it to be easy to buy clothes in general. And effortless to repurchase clothes I already have and love.
- To get even some of these, I must care more than I want to about the right cut, the right materials, the right construction, and the right colors. I have to plan ahead and even stockpile. I have to learn from others. I have to be on guard for clothes that look right but are not (Why J. Crew is not preppy.). And even, unfortunately, I have to care about the right brand.