Monday, September 05, 2005

I'm (Not) Worth It

I'm sorry that I haven't been updating my blog as often as I would like to - work has been busy!
I have a couple of topics which I would like to share, hopefully I can translate them fast enough into posts before my work catches up with me again.

In the meantime, I just came across this interesting article in the NY Times, which I'll just like to share with everyone; especially for the shoppers out there who felt they have spent too much on a particular item!

Reproduced from the NYTimes, August 28th edition

Right at this moment, somewhere in the deep recesses of the fifth floor of Barneys New York, a flimsy black Dries Van Noten dress waits for me. It's hidden away because I whined and begged until a saleswoman -- who is not, after all these years, unfamiliar with me and my ways -- agreed to put it on hold, partly to get me to shut up and partly in the slim hope that I might break down and buy the thing at full price.

And, sad to say, I might, even though it is borderline unwearable (transparent top) and the tag says $1,440, a gross reflection of the inflation that's afflicted fashion since the dollar sank against the euro.

Still, if the saleswoman is suffering, I am suffering more. I have an exquisite S-and-M relationship with shopping: I'm in agony most of the time, but I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, when pants cost as much as a weekend in Paris and a coat as much as a couch, is it any wonder one is so neurotic? You might not expect a $300 jacket to solve the world's problems, but for $3,000, it ought to do more than just keep you warm.

I may be an extreme case (in a whirlwind of zeal and regret, I tried the nerves of the usually beatific staff at Bergdorf Goodman when I bought and returned a hideously expensive Comme des Garcons skirt not once but twice last winter). But I'm hardly alone. When I ask Laird Borrelli, an editor at, if she is plagued with shopping guilt, she confesses that she is frequently troubled by shoes: ''Say there's a pair I want. If I don't buy them, they become my constant companions, haunting my waking and sleeping dreams. I become simply obsessed, until, usually, I buy them. It's not so much about the shoes as much as the wanting, I suspect. When I hand over the credit card, I feel like I've closed my eyes and dived into the deep waters, things are now out of my control, like at the hairdresser's, and fate has taken over.''

Lots of shoppers employ creative accounting to justify stratospheric purchases, but Borrelli's was a new one on me: she actually splits the cost of a pair of shoes in two because, after all, you are getting two things. (And, you know, she does have a point. An idiotic point, perhaps, as George Sanders said to Marilyn Monroe in ''All About Eve.'' But a point.)

More typical tricks include dividing the cost of the item by the number of times you plan to wear it. This would work if you were Nostradamus -- otherwise, how can you know if you'll even wear it once? Another ruse is to buy something that's really overpriced, return it and then figure you have suddenly freed up that amount to spend on other things.

Some shopping rationalizations have a built-in element of self-flagellation. Kym Canter, the creative director of J. Mendel, is forcing herself to take the subway instead of taxis until she has made up the cost of a diamond brooch that she was sure she'd wear every single day. As of this writing, she has worn it only a couple of times -- it isn't quite as magical pinned to the hip of her jeans as she had hoped -- and it'll be months before she can stop riding the rails.

Relatively more successful was the $2,500 coat Canter bought two years ago. It was a sweltering July 4 weekend, and the town was empty, save for Canter, who wandered into a tomblike Prada, only to be ushered into a V.I.P. fitting room by a bored sales staff delighted to have someone to play with. Not only was she among the first to see the new fall line, but also, miracle of miracles in the teeny world that is Prada, something actually fit, a plaid manteau with bracelet sleeves. No way was she buying, until it dawned on her that she had saved $2,500 by not going away for the weekend. O.K., so she's only worn it a few times. But at her prep-school reunion at the Modern, ''everyone loved it.''

For Bernice Kwok-Gabel, who does public relations for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, work offers a perfect rationalization for overspending. ''I manipulate my own vocabulary,''

she admits. ''Instead of viewing something as what it is -- just another acquisition -- I convince myself it's part of a collection I'm building.'' Kwok-Gabel fantasizes that someday her purchases will be a generous bequest. Which might be true, when you're talking about a red Dior couture suit, complete with bustier and top hat (''I wore it once, to dinner at the Ritz''), but doesn't add up when you ask her about the clothes she wears every day. ''Will any of them retain value?'' she asks plaintively.

I know better. This stuff has almost zilch resale value, and you can't even give it away, unless you want to haul trash bags to Goodwill yourself. Still, it's not as if everything ends up ignominiously stuffed in a garbage bag. Sometimes, after all the math tricks, the double-think, the soul-searching, there's one little item, one silly little Moschino skirt bought with a sick stomach and a deep sense of shame, that exceeds all expectations. When you wear it, your heart sings, and you understand the expression ''to feel like a million bucks.'' Even if you've just spent it.

No comments: