Don't invest clothes with magical powers

March 06, 1991|By Pat Morgan | Pat Morgan,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Glamour magazine reports that 65 percent of American women surveyed buy most of their clothing at sales. Only 22 percent usually pay regular price for their clothes, and only 8 percent said they rarely wait for a sale. This is news?

I used to attribute my own habit of shopping mostly for sale merchandise to my frugal nature, my sharp eye and the fact that I spend so much time in stores that I catch markdowns early. Now that the price of a coat can rival that of a small car, shopping for sales is a near necessity.

But I have another, more personal and specific reason for not spending an entire paycheck on a single garment. It's an emerald-green shirtwaist dress with a full, flowing skirt.

Years ago, I tried it on while shopping for something to wear to my sister's wedding. My waist looked tiny, my body appeared to be rounded only in the places it was supposed to be, my eyes seemed to reflect the brilliant green color.

I bought the dress. Paid full price, $165, when I was recently out of college and on a budget that would make Mother Teresa's seem extravagant. That was an awful lot of money to spend on one item. But after seeing the dress, I knew nothing else would do.

After the wedding, the dress was a little rumpled from its time in a suitcase. I wanted to wear it on an important date, so I spread the full skirt on the ironing board and started to press.

Irons are not supposed to emit a thin stream of gray smoke when you put them on fabric. When they do, one is likely to find a melted brown spot where emerald green rayon once reigned.

The spot was not a large one. My boyfriend, no doubt taken aback by my rage, tried to convince me that it would be hidden in the folds of the skirt and not even show. Perhaps he was right, but it didn't matter. The dress was ruined.

And I had learned my lesson.

I had broken the rule. The one that says you should never invest so much in an item of clothing either financially or emotionally to allow its demise to devastate you.

It is the Murphy's Law of fashion. Spend more money than you should on a garment or endow an article of clothing with the power to transform you, and it will be ruined before it has the chance to fulfill its destiny.

On a recent episode of the new TV sitcom "Seinfeld," stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld spends far too much money on a suede jacket. Why? Because he becomes convinced he will never be the person he should be unless he owns this jacket.

I started tsk-tsking before he even left the store and long before he got caught in a sudden snow shower.

The suede jacket, of course, was ruined. Seinfeld gave it to a friend who didn't mind the stains. And why should he mind? He's not the one who blew his savings on a stupid piece of clothing.

Still, I think Seinfeld should have kept the jacket. As a reminder. Sort of like taping to the refrigerator a photo of yourself 20 pounds overweight.

The green dress, for instance, has survived years of closet-cleanings. It still hangs next to clothes I actually wear.

Few of them make me feel magically special. But when they're old or tattered or wrecked by an ironing mistake, you can bet I won't have any trouble tossing them out.

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