Thursday, September 29, 2011

Doing the right thing...

As many of you know, I've sworn off buying any new clothes (or shoes) for twelve months, beginning this September first.  I'm now 29 days into the project, and have felt no pain regarding it, so far.  In fact, it's been quite a relief to be able to just completely turn a blind eye to all of the "must-have" lists that float around this time of year.

Why is it that I don't see so many "must-have" lists for men?  They have more money than we do...  Maybe there's a connection there?  But I digress...

One thing that has become even more of a priority for me now is the upkeep and maintenance of the things I currently own.  This could sound like drudgery, but it really is quite gratifying for all sort of reasons:

  1. The obvious saving of money - alterations, mending, and shoe repairs are all much less expensive than the purchase of a high-quality new item.
  2. Everything that you don't throw away is (a) one more thing that doesn't go into a landfill somewhere, and (b) one more thing that doesn't have to have a replacement manufactured.  The amount of water pollution attributable to clothing manufacture worldwide would make you cry.
  3. The work that's done to take care of your items is work that's done locally.  My alterations are done in the basement of my building, and my shoe repair shop is 6 blocks from here.  I know the people doing the work, and I know that they have happy and comfortable working conditions, and make a decent living.

Speaking of shoe repair, I know many of you have told me that you don't live near a good repair shop.  Not to worry, my friends at Brooks Shoe Service have a service by which you can mail in your item and they'll take care of it.  In fact, if you email them at and tell them what you need, they will SEND you a UPS mailing label.  Pack up your stuff, send it off, and someone on Mike's staff will call you when the item arrives.  You can then discuss the options and the costs, and arrange for payment.  In a few weeks, you get a package back, and it's like a gift - you get something back that looks better than you could ever have imagined.

I recommend them wholeheartedly, and NO, I do not get any sort of kick-back or discount from them.  I have strong feelings about buying nice things and taking care of them, and Mike agrees with me - that's all.

Another favorite project for me is to replace buttons on garments which have lost their original luster.  Finding nice buttons, however, is quite a chore.  Any suggestions?


  1. You could try Googling button store and put in your city/town. I also save nice buttons (such as mother of pearl) from garments that have outlived their usefulness to anyone (stained or otherwise beyond repair). You could probably be able to find something online, although I always like to see exactly what I'm getting.

  2. Oh...I had not thought about the pollution issues with clothing. For others who also want to know more, here is an interesting article:

    It surprised me that only about 20% of clothing donated to charities is resold, the rest is turned into other products such as industrial rags.

    My grandmother was adamant on a shopping trip when I was 10 years old - no polyester. I still hear her voice when I'm in a store, but it is hard to find clothing in natural fibers these days.

  3. I can suggest The Button Shoppe, Carmichael, CA
    for mail order buttons. They are very nice on the phone. Or Sawyer Brook Buttons.
    And, as I said on FrugalScholar's blog, I like Nu-Shoe in San Diego for shoe repairs. In fact, two pairs of my shoes are there right now for major overhauls. You are correct about the satisfaction of repairing clothing and accessories. I'd much rather pay $60 to refurbish my pumps than spend $375 to buy another pair!

  4. The article linked in the second comment is very disturbing - well worth a read! Thanks to my anonymous friend for providing the link.

    The suggestions for finding buttons area great - I appreciate them!

    and thanks for being here, everybody,

  5. I've known many people who bought garments at thrift shops for the buttons. Then they recycle or re-donate the garment. Not sure where that fits in the reuse/recycle continuum.

  6. The article was eye-opening and timely. I've been working on editing both my closet and my spending to emphasize thoughtful decisions, quality, usefulness, and longevity, as well as style and pleasure.

    The linkage of "fast fashion" with "fast food" (versus "slow fashion" and "slow food") resonates with me. I've done most of my shopping second-hand this year, carefully seeking out high quality items in great shape that are just right for me, not just buys.

    Vivienne, your blog is helping me to make better, more thoughtful choices. And yesterday, after a couple of months of studying and enjoying the various wardrobes you put together, I did my seasonal wardrobe switch-out differently this year. Instead of just moving the summer stuff to the lower pole and the winter stuff to the upper one, pitching a few worn-out things, and making notes on what I want, or think I need, for the new season, I did a capsule evaluation.

    On my bed I laid out pants and skirts by color (one pile each for each of my neutrals, and one pile for color, as you have helped me narrow down my colors to three colors that work together and make me feel great--plums, wines, and dark greens). Above the pants and skirts I stacked jackets and cardigans by the same capsules, and then dresses. That let me really see what my core pieces were, where I had good capsule stuff to work with, where I had a lot of duplicates, and where I had gaps. Then I did the same for tops and sweaters.

    I purged a number of older pieces. Your capsule concepts and my interest in down-sizing made this the easiest, smartest purge I've ever done. I wrote down just a few things I need: replace a navy skirt and my brown pants, find a dark green cardigan, and get a silk scarf that has my colors in it. That's it.

    I have a long-running wish list of clothes that I'd like to have. I used to think of this list as stuff I need. All that shifted after my big capsule analysis. I have my tiny little needs-list, which I expect to fill second-hand. The rest of the stuff is now a watch list, to use slowly and surely, and only while editing my current wardrobe to keep the number of pieces going down, not up. This way my wardrobe is a strategic evolution (sort of like your wonderful post yesterday about color transition), not a frantic collection and closet-stuffing exercise.

    I feel like I've calmed way down about my wardrobe. And actually, this is the first time I've really thought of it as a wardrobe. I always wanted my clothes closet to hold what felt like a wardrobe, but even though I've been a reasonably careful shopper, it just never felt like a Wardrobe.

    But yesterday, when I put everything back in my closet, it felt like pieces of a good scheme falling into place. This was not just because everything was hung by color--I've done that and all the other closet-organization schemes. It was that everything had been thought through with capsule and style principles in mind that I've learned from studying the many wardrobes here and then finally applying them to my own clothes. Almost everything goes with everything else. I know what pieces to go to for a nice monochromatic column, and what to put with the column to bring it to life. I see where I can use the same pieces in different ways for different purposes.

    Everything in the wardrobe seems friendly with everything else, and there's not one thing in there that I have a nagging suspicion that I am going to have to figure out how to wear, or to make myself wear it more often just because it's there and it seems like it ought to work. My closet is a very happy place right now. So, at late mid-life, I finally have a wardrobe. And I have slow fashion to go with it! What a treat. Thank you.

  7. Dear Anonymous,
    I'm speechless! You have achieved exactly what I wish for, for everybody who reads this blog. Once we have our wardrobes under control, we have SO much more energy to devote to projects that are, in the final analysis, much more important than our clothing.
    If you were here, I'd squeeze the stuffing out of you.
    big hug,
    and thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to write out such a wonderful comment,

  8. Thanks for the Brooks shoe Repair link. I live in a resort area in New England and there aren't any shoe repair places nearby. I have a pair of Cole Haan loafers and the leather is tearing where they are stitched. I've had them 9 years and they are still my favorite pair of shoes but I need help. Great suggestion.

  9. I love your blog! I will now evaluate my wardrobe and carefully edit and purchase accordingly.

    Thank you for helping me move towards my goal of a closet that truly works for me.


  10. Thanks for the information about Brooks Shoe Service! Do you have any recommendations for a good tailor/seamstress for alterations or custom-made clothing?