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