From Ask Lutz

Style Seeker

Dear Lutz,

I am a full time student/part time worker with a wardrobe problem. Basically, I want to have nice clothes but have no money. I have at times aspired to be one of those people that slowly "builds" their wardrobe--buying one expensive piece of clothing every six months until, ten years later, they're always looking great. But basically I'm too cheap. With the very little money I have I can't justify spending $60 on a shirt, let alone $150, etc. So I often pass up what I really like in front for the clearance racks in back. There I can have the gratification of getting a good deal but rarely find something I really love (or that fits right).

Sometimes I am so elated to find a bargain in something that I sort of love and sort of fits right that I buy it simply to realize I have only added to my closet crisis. On top of this, I basically find shopping overwhelming. Every time I send myself into a series of stores (let alone an enclosed mall) I come out! saying to myself, "remember, never go shopping again!" It can be so horrible. What should I do?


Style Seeker


Dear Style Seeker,

I’d like to thank you for your fine question. Many of us struggle with fashion and need guidance and support in making sartorial decisions. Unfortunately, I am not an expert on the subject. I do, however, have expert common sense and will do my best to help you in this matter.

First of all, keep in mind that a lot of people who wear nice clothes, and have limited funds, shoplift regularly. In good conscience, I cannot recommend that you do that.

Since my own knowledge on this topic is limited, I found myself asking for advice this time. I questioned my friend Dave (who happens to have recently spent $500 on new clothes) on the subject, but I became distracted by his use of the word ‘mack’ to describe his friend’s wardrobe and couldn’t follow the point he was trying to make.

Then I smartened up and consulted my friend Carol who happens to be a fashion designer. You can check out Carol’s clothes by visiting [UN]DESIGNED. This is what Carol had to say:

"Since I've been in the same situation (am in the same situation!), I know where she/he's coming from. From experience, I say don't settle--buy ONLY things that you LOVE and make sure they're NOT on sale, or you will end up with a closet full of crap. Even if you pay full price for something, you'll ultimately get more wear out of it because it's valued more and fits well."

Correct me if I’m wrong, but what Carol is saying is that you are too cheap and too impatient. Therefore, cheapness and impatience are the real issues we must address. But since frugality often results in having a better retirement fund, I’m not sure I’m comfortable instructing you to alter your ways on this issue. It is important to me that you enjoy your golden years.

They say that patience is a virtue. I would agree with that, for the most part. But occasionally a really patient person just seems sedated. The point is, as with anything, moderation is key. I have taken the liberty of coming up with a few exercises you could do to help improve your patience:

Go to the DMV, wait in line and when your turn is up, say, “Oops, I changed my mind,” and leave.

Call up your great aunt Ida (or another garrulous relative) and ask her how her sciatica is treating her.

Drive in rush hour traffic for no reason at all (the catch: you can’t swear).

Tape every episode of the Sopranos, but don’t watch them until the season is over.

Stare at a pine nut for a whole hour.

Move back in with your parents—if your patience doesn’t improve, at least the money you save on rent can go for a new ‘mack’ wardrobe.

The most important thing to remember, Style Seeker, is that a deal’s not a deal if you didn’t want it in the first place. I hope I have been some help to you in this matter. Please write a letter of complaint if I have not, in fact, been helpful.

Best wishes,


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