Friday, January 3, 2014

Saving For Best

RHYS BOWEN: Have you made any New Year resolutions? I usually only make general ones--to be kinder and more generous and give more to charity. But this year I've made a bold one--to use and enjoy everything in my closet.

Like many of you I was brought up to save the good stuff "for best". I come from a long line of frugal women. My great aunt told me that they got a new dress around Christmastime. That would become their best dress--to be worn only for church and special occasions. At the end of the year it would become their everyday dress, to be worn with a white pinny over it to make sure it lasted. I'm sure the winter dress was never ever washed. I can't imagine how it smelled by the end of the year!

My childhood wasn't as bad as that, but I had very few clothes. I had my school uniform for winter and summer, then a couple of cotton dresses for play in the summer holidays, a pair of warm trousers and a hand-knitted sweater or two for the winter, plus one party dress--saved for best until I grew out of it.

And now, as I go through my closet to purge I come across items I hardly ever wear. A drawer of cashmere sweaters, to be worn when I have to look professional or go out somewhere special. I have several good suits for when I go to New York. I have some nice pieces of jewelry. I have unopened bottles of perfume.  And in the downstairs bathroom I have various luxury bath products, waiting for a suitable occasion to indulge myself.

 And I found myself thinking--if I died now, what a waste. I've never really enjoyed these things. Why not wear cashmere every day, all winter, until they fall to pieces? I had a dear friend who recently died and wore matching jewelry every day of her life. Why shouldn't I take the time to put on jewelry, even if nobody was going to see it but John and me? 

So that's my resolution--enjoy everything I have to the full. If you happen to drop in on me when I'm writing this year, I won't be wearing my customary sweats--I'll be in cashmere and Ann Taylor pants, with my pearl earrings and necklace and a dab of Chanel Number Five behind my ears. And don't even be surprised if I'm wearing a tiara! (or not. We'll see how long this resolution lasts, but certainly I'm resolving never to come across an item in my closet with the tags still on it, several years after I bought it.)

What do you think of this resolution? Is this a problem you have? Or have you learned to overcome it?


  1. The one thing that sticks in my mind with regard to clothing when I was growing up is that I had school clothes, play clothes, and good clothes for church and other special occasions. I find that I still tend to think like that, and i do have clothrd that I only wear to church or “for good” when I need to be “dressed up.” I’d never given it much thought, but I think your idea of wearing and enjoying the special things that you have is an excellent one. I’m all for the pretty things, the jewelry, and the perfume, even if you are planning to stay home. If you loved it enough to buy it, then you definitely should take it out, wear, it, and enjoy it . . . and I think I will do the same.

  2. I think it's a wonderful resolution. You look marvelous. xo

  3. Love the resolution, Rhys... but cashmere makes me itch.

    It wouldn't be clothing and jewelry or bath products for me - it would be food. I've gotten a head start. For New Years eve we indulged in pan seared duck breast, crispy and served with a lovely orange sauce. Next morning a little smoked trout on my bagel. Luxury foods... a little goes a long way and the pleasure lingers.

  4. I think it's a wonderful idea! I should try that myself, at the risk of being tremendously overdressed for my decidedly casual software company. Hmmm.

    I look forward to seeing the treasures of your wardrobe at various conferences this year.

  5. I have "conference clothes" that I really should stop wearing. The same outfits show up in photos dating back waaay too many years. But then the frugal Yankee in me pops up and insists they've barely been worn at all! This year: shopping trip before Malice.

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  7. I'm actually ahead of you on this one, Rhys. When my grandmother died quite a few years ago I had the same epiphany. Under her bed were gift boxes full of lovely items that had never been used. I vowed then that I would never do that.

    For me the place where I really had to change my habits was not clothing, though. It was household items. So for years now, when I have a casual gathering of people at my house, they drink out of crystal stemware. When I have a summer cookout, some items might go on silver serving trays. Because I keep reminding myself, if it's too nice to use, it's not worth owning!

  8. I think it is a grand idea! And I'm wondering if Susan and I had the same grandmother! I had the same experience. We found boxes of the loveliest things in her home after she died and it made me enormously sad. And because of that, nothing stays in the closet, on a shelf, in the silver chest or in the china cabinet. If Donald and I have take-out pizza on Royal Crown Derby Traditional Imari, using the "good silver," so be it - makes me smile.

    And even though I'm home most days, a huge amount of that time is on the computer and it's kinda fun to look down at a pretty ring and bracelet while I'm typing.

    I think you're going to enjoy liberating all your pretties into the world on a daily basis, Rhys, and I applaud your New Year's resolution.

  9. I put on pretty earrings every day, and often a favorite sweater. I think I'll start using that perfume, though. Pants however, must be comfortable, so you won't catch me in my conference slacks at my home computer! Stretchy jeans all the way, and yoga pants, too.

    I love the idea of using the silver platter for a cookout. And the nice glassware, too.

  10. Dear Rhys,
    It must be something in the air ... I came to this same conclusion about six months ago. I found myself wearing old tried and true clothes all the time because I didn't want to "wear out" my good clothes - the result being that I never wore my good clothes. So I tossed out every item in my closet that I felt so-so about, and suddenly, everything in my closet was something I wanted to wear. Now, when I buy something new, I have to throw out something old. So far, this seems to be working, and every time I get dressed, I'm happy with what I'm wearing. And now, I will think of you in your cashmere and smile - what a wonderful resolution!

    PS - Hallie, you've made my mouth water. My poor yogurt and muesli is a poor second to your smoked trout this morning!

  11. Same here, too. I am wearing a cashmere sweater right now, even though I am just hanging out at the farm. But the temperature is in single digits, and by golly nothing else is as cozy as cashmere.

    I made a decision several years ago, and have broken it several times, but it is a good guide. Not to buy anything unless it is "the best", whether that means holding out for that pair of jeans that really fits, or not settling for three shirts that itch instead of the lovely, comfy one. In other words, not wasting time, space and money, just to have something, anything. I find that makes me much happier.

  12. Well, now we know what to wear if we're ever photographed with a Rolls -- what a classy, classic photograph, Rhys!

  13. Live while you are alive! Great idea.

  14. I do see your point Rhys, but on the other hand, I love being comfortable. And to me comfort is yoga shorts or pants and very old cotton shirts:). I don't think I could make myself dress up to write!

  15. Rhys, I think this is SO important.

    There's a story I read, after Sept 11, where in one of the victims' apartments, they found a drawer full of gorgeous lingerie, still in its pink tissue paper, which she was obviously "saving" for something.


    As part of my mother's estate, all us kids split the contents of her wine cellar. When my cases arrived, my first instinct was to save the bottles for special occasions.

    ANd then I thought--no. LIVING is a special occasion. So we're drinking it.

    And if you don't love it--give it away! If it's not your first choice, or second choice, or third choice to wear--why not get it to someone for whom it WILL be the first choice??

  16. Rhys, love the photo! That says champagne and oysters all the way!!

    I don't really save clothes for "best" although I do have things I wear over and over and others that hang neglected in the closet. I'm pretty good at the closet purge (not much space) but I think it's time for another one...

    But as for everyday writing days, I can't type wearing anything on my hands and wrists other than my wedding ring. And like Lucy, cashmere makes me itch, and I can't write if I'm not comfortable. So it's shorts or yoga pants in the warm and hot seasons, and sweats in the cold.

    BUT--after wearing the same horrible old shorts and sweatpants for about ten years, this year I decided I was tired of being embarrassed to even go to the grocery store in my writing clothes. So I bought new summer shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops, and then in the fall, brand new really nice sweat pants and zip hoodies from Land's End. Fleece-lined, pretty colors--warm AND no longer mortified to go out of the house!

    But Rhys, I will dress up for you the next time we go out in the Rolls...

    PS My everyday luxury is pretty wine glasses. The current favorite is a pattern called Horta from Anthropologie. And like Hallie, I love to splurge on luxury foods.

  17. Happy New Year, Rhys and Reds!

    I used to do that with my clothes too. I'd buy something hip and fashionable, and then not wear it -- and then it would go out of fashion.

    I forget about my jewelry. I have some pretty cool things that are just fun, and I don't wear them. They can jazz up any outfit -- even my writing sweats! :-)

    One thing I do that's a bit luxurious (I think) is use only cloth napkins whether I'm eating popcorn or a proper dinner, eating on the couch or at the dining table.

  18. I decided (well, my wallet decided) several years ago that I did not need any new clothes, and I have been wearing out what I own (or, what I own that fits); I like being comfortable as I sit at the computer. I am happier with things I can throw into the washer than with things that have to go to the cleaners. And I LOVE not having to wear a bra at home.

    But I do have my favorite (better) clothes for going out in public. The problem is, when one goes out in public, it is often someplace where one eats, and inevitably, something of a contrasting color lands on what one of my friends refers to as "the shelf"-- and won't come out.

    Thus the better stuff gets rotated to the everyday pile. Eventually, I may run out of good stuff and have to go shopping again. I dread that.

    My sister now buys nothing unless it is black. I think she has a point. She always looks pulled together, and the spots don't show.

  19. Rhys, I know just what you mean. I faced up to the fact that I am not going back to a corporate job, ever, and I can stop saving the nicest sweaters and the good pants for "work." At home at the computer, yoga pants all the way,but the cashmere sweaters and wool blazers have been coming out for the casual lunch with a friend, an MWA meeting, dinner out with my daughters. I get cloth napkins and nicer china out for a dinner meeting at my house, too. Why not? However, being a klutz who drops things, the "best" china is still for special occasions.

  20. Happy New Year everyone.

    This is a great resolution Rhys. Seems much more practical than the typical dieting resolutions that never last the month. This is do-able and a great way to re-evaluate how one views their life.

    Like Hank said, everyday we are alive is a day to be celebrated. So why not use the best of what we have to enjoy it.

  21. A clothing resolution! I'll be passing that one along.

  22. Great resolution, Rhys! I have gotten somewhat better about not saving my "best" clothes for only the best occasions. It's hard to overcome saving clothes like that when you grow up with you mother urging you to do so. I promised myself that I wouldn't do that to my daughter, and I was much more relaxed about letting her or encouraging her to wear her "good" items. However, my daughter has taken it to a whole new level of deregulation. Whenever I buy one of my granddaughters something new to wear, my daughter lets them wear it immediately if they want to. That took a bit of getting used to for me, but now it's a very freeing type of action to watch.