Purple Sweaters, Orange Dresses

I have acquired a goodly number of sweaters over the years. This is New England. Winters are long. Heating oil is expensive. Sweaters fill the gap.

This morning I noticed most of my sweaters are purple. I’ve got a few in black, a couple in red. But over all, purple dominates. The sweater collection used to be mostly 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 could never wear the bright colors she wore. I’d feel like I was dressed in a neon sign and I’d have to wear sunglasses all the time.

The purpling of my wardrobe occurred gradually while I wasn’t paying attention, one sweater at a time … a lavender cashmere here, a dark purple merino there.  The 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 a color frequently remaindered at clearance time … and it is the most acceptable (to me) of the frequently 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 much 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 in my closet. I’ve had it for almost a year but the tags are still attached. It was a 2011 leftover bought the spring of 2012. It’s still waiting to be worn as the spring of 2013 approaches. My problem? It’s not black. I’m not sure I’ve ever worn a winter dress that wasn’t black.

So this lovely garment — a nice soft color, not one of the putrid glowing ones — is still in the closet waiting for its first public appearance. I suppose I could have worn it to one of the parties I went to in December, but I 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.



Categories: Celebrities, Entertainment, Humor, Money, Seasons, Shopping

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6 replies

  1. I still have tags on some new, unworn slacks. Believe we got ’em at good prices. Can’t wear them in house with the dawgs. And, I mostly wear one or two pair of jeans when I “go out”. The “good” jeans or the “shopping” jeans. Gone are the GQ days.

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  2. Ha! Take that Carly Simon! 🙂

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    • I may have looked dangerous. She is a lot taller, but I have a low center of gravity! I probably also had that flinty-eyed look my mother always had during final clearance days at Bloomingdale’s.

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  3. My fave: Coldwater Creek’s end-of-season sales, where I can buy an $80 top for $15. On the rare days when I dress well enough to receive a compliment from anyone not visually impaired, chances are I’m wearing a Coldwater Creek top — and black WalMart bottoms. And, of course, brilliant white athletic shoes with velcro closures. When formal dress is required, my velcro-secured athletic shoes are an appropriately somber, clerical black. If only they made orthotics for the mind….

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    • Garry wears pajama bottoms and I wear stretchy pants (Land’s End final clearance) and a purple sweater. Today, I have struck out into new territory: black sweat pants and a grey sweater. Be still my heart. And my earrings don’t quite match (OMG!!). I need to add that I no longer wear shoes at all. I wear socks. Fuzzy socks that don’t match anything. Senior fashionistas stand tall!

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