Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Importance of Maintenance Shopping

Two weeks ago, I had the delightful opportunity to meet my good friend Frenchie in the big city to do what we do best: gab, eat, and shop. It's something that we try to do once a year, and this time it was enabled by my wonderful, miraculous leave. Generally, we have to wait until the summer when both of us are available, but this time, we were able to go on her spring break.

As we tooled around the city, I found myself in the clearance section at Ann Taylor (hey, it happens). I tried on a bunch of stuff, from the feathered to the spangled, but found myself at the register with three items: a black cowlneck sweater, a black cardigan, and a black tweed skirt (a departure, actually, given that it's got pockets and pleats). Not exactly my most fashion-foward moment. As I waited in line, I defaulted to the rationalization of "maintenance shopping."

What exactly is maintenance shopping, you ask? Strangely, I'd never articulated it that way to myself before, but it's the utterly necessary task of buying and/or replacing the must-have items in your closet that you go to again and again. Black cardigans aren't exactly exciting, but when the one that you have is little but a collection of fabric pills and mended holes, it's time to do some maintenance shopping. I should note as well that it's easy to let maintenance shopping become a rut---and you'll know when you're there when you get home, stow your new purchase next to its brethren in your closet, and then when you go to wear it, you can't tell it apart from the others---but it's not a task to be neglected. It's not exciting, but it's necessary.

An academic leave does not engender maintenance shopping (at least not for me). This is the time when I realize how shallow other parts of my wardrobe are, in fact. I'm now wearing jeans that have been idling at the bottom of the stack for years, I keep running out of clean t-shirts, and my sweat pants are on permanent rotation. My array of professional clothes are hanging in a deserted end of my closet, all lined up with nowhere to go (and I'm just hoping that some of them will fit when I have to put them on again). Given that my sartorial experience for the next 4 months will involve the same t-shirts and sweatpants, maintenance shopping was pretty far down on my list of necessary expenses. However, Frenchie's visit goaded me a bit. "If nothing else," I figured, "it will be less I'll have to find and pay for come fall."

The bigger lesson here, however, is that maintenance shopping is important for exactly the reason that fashion experts tell us to always have one LBD in our closets----you never quite know when you're going to need it, and when you do, you can't guarantee that you'll have time to go and find something. Case in point, when a semi-random employer that you never really expected to hear from calls you and asks you to come for an "informal lunch" the next day. 24 hours notice is barely enough time for me to check in with every person who's ever given me advice about this kind of thing, let alone to go through my closet to see what fits and isn't stained. Thank you, maintenance shopping, for ensuring that I at least looked cute on short notice. [I just mis-typed that as "shirt notice" which would be a far better title for this post...]

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Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

I concur... and now I'm wondering about the semi-random employer who invited you for an informal lunch. More importantly, what did you wear? Black cardigan? New skirt?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 9:18:00 AM  

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