Championship Shopping

SHOPPING IS NOT A HOBBY,” read the pretentious bumper sticker.

up to 40% off

up to 40% off

That’s true. Shopping is not a hobby. It’s a sport.

Like the Olympics, there are many categories and events. Shoppers with higher incomes excel in Brands, Early Adoption (buy it before it hits the racks), Boutique, Custom, and Couture. Creative divas and penny pinchers make out like bandits in events like I-Got-This-At-Walmart-But-You-Can’t-Tell-Can-You?, DIY, Consignment, Thrift, and Yard Sale.

Me? I specialize in Bargain Hunting New Merchandise, with major wins in the Women’s and Children’s Clothing divisions.

Once I bought a floor-length Ralph Lauren evening gown for $9. Set a personal record. Wore it to my brother’s wedding. Alas, the victory was bittersweet since I got it at Lord & Taylor’s closing sale.

that's me in the $9 evening gown

that’s me in the $9 evening gown

Then there was the time I paid $5 for a wool pea coat for my son. A darling post-season triumph he wore with panache the next winter.

Before the big snow fell this year in Wichitawesome, I snagged a pair of leather and calf-hair, zebra-print gloves at Ann Taylor for $12.

Anything animal print counts as Big Game and earns extra points.

My aptitude is genetic, geographic, and circumstantial. My mother was a Bargainista before Bargainista was cool. I grew up in a textile manufacturing town. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes. Trained by example, opportunity, and necessity, I have the makings of one of Gladwell’s Outliers.

store full of bargains

store full of bargains

Mom was a pro. At true factory outlets—the kind located in tiny, dimly-lit rooms inside actually factories—she fished out overstocked nightgowns from big cardboard boxes for pennies per pound. She bought me a pair of pants with a small tear at the ankle for $2. Roll up those preppy chinos and no one knows the difference. She waded through piles of Esprit and Liz Claiborne 80 percent off at Dillard’s Clearance.

Full-court bargain shopping may be beneath some women, but that’s where champions are made. Take the Smith & Hawken store in Chicago. Had to reach for it. Bottom of the box. Linen sundress. $16. Nothing but net.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. Impulse buys that were just not right. Like the time I bought a candy pink sweatshirt with “PRINCESS” emblazoned in large, white letters across the front. It cost me less than $10, but I was 34.

“My daughter would love your shirt!” said a neighbor as I pushed my son past her in the stroller on our way to the park. That Sunday I promptly wrapped the sweatshirt in a nondescript, brown paper bag and slipped it to a man at church between praise songs.

“It’s for your 15-year-old,” I whispered. “I hope she enjoys it.”

I brake for designer fashion

I brake for designer fashion

The older I get, the more likely I am to pay full-price for a basic wardrobe piece of superior quality, fit, style, and color. Do the math. A bargain is only a bargain if you wear it. A $100 dress worn 20 times costs less per wear than a $10 dress worn once.

My husband reminds me the cost of my time also needs to figure into the equation. Shopping for sport, especially Bargain Hunting, burns a lot of hours.

But it’s like I tell him, practice makes perfect.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25 NLT

Madame Onassis got nothing on you.” You Wear It Well by Rod Stewart.

What’s your shopping story?

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Filed under humor, women's studies

10 Responses to Championship Shopping

  1. Bought several bargains this weekend. I used to buy bunches but as I trim down my weight, I am also trying to trim down my wardrobe. More classic pieces I will wear several years, things of good quality but on sale. The Banana Republic outlet store clearance racks are perfect for all of that!

    • Hi, JP! I totally agree. The best wardrobe organizing books I’ve read all say the same thing: Less is more. It can take some getting used to, but it’s certainly easier to manage!

      • Jenny

        Remember sophomore year when you gave your presentation in speech class on how to bargain shop? I do. I bow to your retail prowess. :)

        • Remember? How could I forget? That was one of the best classes of the best semesters. So much fun with you and Connie. And I was wearing my $2 pants!

  2. I should hire you! I’m all for a bargain, but hate shopping. Yes, I absolutely loathe it. Keep on keeping on…and looking great!

    • I would totally be your personal shopper! I did it for one of my BFFs and we had so much fun! We’ll make a date for the next time I’m in CA :)

  3. Love this!! Funny, I spent a few hours thrifting with friends today… I am always one for a DOUBLE slam: Bargain AND I wear them multiple times!!! I get one of those every once in a while. lol

    • The DOUBLE slam has a special place in heaven! lol I have a few items at such an elite status. And I’m impressed you’re a Thrifter. We’ll have to dish more about it when you get a chance. I’d love for you to share some of your strategies :)

  4. I like your point that something a little more expensive that lasts longer and gets more wear is actually more cost effective. : 0 ).

    • Thank you, Theresa. I learned from experience and from books I read about wardrobe management. It can be a difficult pill to swallow for a bargain hunter who would like to never pay full price :)