I have many sweaters. Winters are long. Heating oil is expensive. Sweaters fill the gap. And I like them. Cuddly, warm, soft garments into which I can snuggle when the north wind blows.
Turns out, most of my sweaters are purple. I’ve got a few in black, a handful in red, but purple rules. Until recently, all my sweaters were black. I’m from New York where women wear black. It’s a thing. A co-worker in Israel once told me I dressed like a nun. I guess I do or did. I could never wear the bright colors she wore. I’d feel like I was wearing a neon sign. I’d need sunglasses all the time.
The purpling of my wardrobe occurred gradually. It crept up on me, a sweater at a time … a lavender cashmere here, a dark purple merino there. Seasons passed until my wardrobe was awash in purple.
If you surmise from this that I love purple, you’d be wrong. While I have nothing against the color, the plethora of clothing in purple signifies only that purple is the color most frequently remaindered at clearance time … and it is the most acceptable (to me) of the commonly left over hues.
Purple sweaters scream “final mark-down.” One of the perils of waiting until the end of the season is the selection of colors and sizes is limited. As a habitue of end-of-the-season sales, I know what to expect. Lots of purple, white, orange and some nasty shades of green in which no one looks healthy.
Leftovers also will include whatever “specialty colors” designers were sure would be the next big things. These colors are inevitably named after fruits or veggies. They never sell well, so there are plenty of whatever it was in the clearance aisle. All the normal, neutral colors are gone, but you’ll find fruit salad: cantaloupe , mango, kiwi, aubergine, honeydew, sugarplum, pumpkin, mocha and vanilla bean are among many recent attempts to boost the popularity of familiar colors by giving them fruity new names. The problem is, we all knew they were tan, and orange and coral and lavender, so people who like those colors bought them. New names did not make any old color the next big anything.
I’m a big fan of neutral colors. In addition to being essentially conservative where color is concerned, I spent many decades working and commuting. If I wanted to have a life outside of work, dressing had to be fast, mindless.
Neutral colors are the backbone of a working woman’s wardrobe. If almost all of your clothing is black, grey, off-white, taupe, brown, or khaki, putting together an outfit is a piece of cake. Grab a top, grab a bottom, attach earrings to lobes and voilà. It’s a go-anywhere wardrobe for the fashion-challenged. In other words, me.
The years rolled on. I stopped working and I didn’t have money to spend on clothing. The percentage of purple and orange in my wardrobe rose accordingly. All of this goes to explain the orange dress. I had it for almost two years and gave it away a month ago with the tags are still attached. It was a 2011 leftover bought the spring of 2012. It’s was still waiting to be worn as the autumn of 2013 approached. My problem? It’s wasn’t black. I’m not sure I’ve ever worn a party dress that wasn’t black. I gave it to my daughter-in-law. It looks much better on her anyhow.
So this lovely garment — a nice soft color, not one of the putrid glowing ones — was still in the closet waiting for its first public appearance years after purchase. I could have worn it to one of the parties I went to last December, but wound up, as usual, wearing black. I fit right in. Boston women wear almost as much black as New York women. It must be a Right Coast thing.
Although a shortage of money has elevated and honed my bargain hunting skills, I have always been a bargain shopper. As far back as I can remember, I’ve looked for final sales and closeouts, even when I wasn’t strapped for funds.
It’s a family tradition. My mother raised me to hold fast to one unyielding principle: Never pay full price.
I have always taken pride in scoring a really great buy. You aren’t supposed to brag about how much you pay. You’re supposed to brag about how much you didn’t pay. The less you pay, the greater your bragging rights.
I was astonished to discover that some people are proud of paying a lot for something they could have gotten for half off if they’d waited a couple of days. That’s weird, don’t you think? Okay, they might have had to get it in purple or orange, but think of all the money they’d save!
Would I have different attitude towards shopping if I were rich? Maybe, but mostly, I don’t think I’d change — much.
To put it in perspective, back in the early 1990s, I got into a tug of war with Carly Simon for possession of a 70% off clearance sale silk blouse in a very chi-chi shop in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The blouse was orange. I won. It was a fantastic blouse.
Bargain hunting is not just for people on a tight budget. For some of us, it’s a contact sport.
Somewhere, in Heaven, Mom is smiling proudly.