It felt like cheating, I’ll admit. I prepared for my year of nothing by buying a few things.
it wasn’t technically cheating, and thinking about what I might need to buy before my year of nothing started was an insightful exercise. It forced me to ask what I might actually need (or at least find very useful) during the upcoming year.
The answer was principally sweaters. I love sweaters. They are a comfortable thing to wear with jeans every day. I can wear them with jeans now that I am working from home as a writer (more on that in a later post for those who don’t already know about my (temporary? permanent?) career change exploits), but even when I was still working at a law firm, I had started wearing sweaters with trousers most days. They are comfortable, and they are easy. And that’s what matters.
My closet is full of pretty dresses. Looking at my closet, you would think I liked wearing dresses every day. I continued buying them even after I started wearing trousers and sweaters to work most days. I bought them because they were pretty but also because I felt the need to at least imagine myself as a ‘well dressed’ person who made an effort. But I rarely wore them because, while I like thinking of myself as a pretty dress wearing person, they just aren’t that comfortable (especially with tights – ugh, I cringe just thinking about them), and there were no reasons to wear them that outweighed comfort.
The reason to wear them would have been to look nice – but who would I have been trying to look nice for? Who was I trying to impress? I could try to look nice for myself, but my revealed preference is comfort over looks. My office colleagues who I saw everyday? Sure, I needed to look nice for interviews and client meetings, but after getting to know me well, my office colleagues were not even going to notice whether I was in a dress or a sweater, much less be impressed by it. (As an aside, I once had a boss who wore black pants and a sweater every single day, and I thought she was literally the classiest person ever. I am pretty sure everyone else did too.) Random people on the street who would have no idea who they were being impressed by even if they were impressed? My dog? I am pretty sure she would like me just the same if I wore a paper sack.
I think the ‘dressing up for’ instinct fueling a lot of my clothes buying is propelled by this idea from social media that some hypothetical snapshot of my life might be taken at any point in time and shared with the world as a distillation of my essence. Instagram (and previously Facebook) has created this impression in my mind of all these people existing in a perpetual state of ‘dressed to the nines’ perfection, and I feel that I too need to be perennially prepared, just in case, for a snapshot of ‘who I am’ to be taken, with the names of the makers of all of my possessions tagged for the world to see and judge, so that I can convey the right image of myself. Just in case that happens, I need to be prepared with pretty, expensive things that will impress the hypothetical viewer who I do not know but about whose opinion I seem to care terribly.
Anyways, this constant feeling that I need to be ready to meet some standard of hypothetical social media observer expectations propels me to buy lots of nice things, but it is not usually enough to get me to actually wear them. Most days I wear sweaters and trousers. And having come to the realization that there is literally no real person or animal who cares what I wear daily, I feel happy and free to wear them proudly.
So, I bought some sweaters. Not fancy expensive sweaters the designer label of which literally no one will ever see, but comfy bulky sweaters that were on sale at the T.K. Maxx (the UK version of T.J. Maxx) for £40-60 each. (One of my biggest weaknesses, by the way, is buying things on sale for cheap, so I expect there will be a post to come on the temptations of T.K. Maxx.) Cashmere is supposedly nicer, but I prefer 90/10 wool and cashmere blends because in my experience they neither pill nor itch as much as cashmere (and they are usually cheaper).
Most of the sweaters I bought were made by Jaeger, a British brand that was popular in the 1960s and has more recently been described using words like ‘dowdy’ and ‘frumpy.’ I may be the first person born after 1970 to say so, but I think Jaeger is great! Feel free to call me dowdy or frumpy, but its sweaters are the best, not least because they are available for reasonable prices at T.K. Maxx! It is too bad that Jaeger has been in financial trouble for the past few years. I don’t think my year off from shopping will help it out ..