I am an anti-fashionista. I know nothing about style and I care nothing about style. I shop at thrift stores. I shop sales. I buy for my kids first and myself last. I buy cute dresses to wear around the house so I won’t look like a schlub in front of hubby, but I don’t obsess over shoes or drool over purses. Do I have to turn in my woman card?
Recently I was thinking about my shoes. Those shoes, the ones in the picture. I bought them from the thrift store sometime maybe last fall. They cost $4. I was going to sell them on ebay – they were in new condition when I found them – but when the buyer ended up not paying I decided to keep them. They are my kind of shoe. Right size? Check. Slip ons for getting out of the house easy? Check. Not a hideous dayglo color? Check.
I have worn these shoes almost exclusively for at least six month. Eww, you might say. I do regularly disinfect them so they won’t smell grody, but hey, they are standing up to daily wear and they are comfortable. I once wore the same pair of imitation Crocs (on sale at a retail store for $2) for three and a half years. Three and a half YEARS. Summer and winter. Rain, snow, or shine. So now I’ve moved on to these shoes and I can tell now they are nearing their end of life, so I’m starting to look for other shoes.
These are not the only shoes in my closet, and once in a blue moon I will wear another pair, like the one time each season when I feel the need to lie to myself and say I’m going to exercise. I have a really nice pair of workout shoes in the closet, not even broken in. I have a pair of “dressy” clogs with wedge heels which look a lot more comfortable than they are. I have a pair of really ugly sensible shoes that actually are not very sensible since they are silver and make me feel like I’m wearing canoes on my feet so I never wear them. I guess I figure since these shoes are strong and comfy and they are usually covered up by the hem of my abaya, why change? If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
I want to share a secret with you about these shoes. Come close, because I really want to share this with some of my dear sisters and friends who tend to obsess over having just the right scarf, or the matching purse, or the exact pair of shoes, for whatever outfit you are wearing. The secret is this: It doesn’t really matter. I have walked around in one pair of shoes at a time for years, and it has not gained me friends or lost me friends. It has not made me a pariah at parties. It has not caused me mental stress to know they are not quite the right shade of brown for my blue abaya. It has not made people turn up their noses at me. It has not caused the heartbreak of social abandonment. It-does-not-matter. People have not looked at me and told me “Man, you really h.ave polite kids and your cooking is good and I enjoyed that article you wrote, but damn, your shoes are awful so I can’t be your friend!” No one, not one person, shunned me because I wasn’t dressed in the latest fashion. Well, not anyone who matters, anyway. If someone has judged me by my shoes, I can only say my life has been enriched by their absence.
Part of my reluctance to buy a lot of fashionable clothes is due to financial constraints. Housing, feeding, and clothing a large family is always a challenge, and we moms tend to put ourselves last when it comes to buying for the family anyway. But I do shop. I just shop cheap. I have several very nice hijabs, but I bought them at the thrift store for about $3 each. I have a closet full of abayas, but again, I found them at the thrift store and they were about $6 each. Allah has blessed me to be able to find them even though we don’t have a ton of Muslims in the area; it seems that when I need something it’s there. So I’m not saying walk around in rags, and some people are not able to find appropriate clothing at the thrift store or on sale. Buy what you need and shop for what you like and what appeals to you. But think when you shop. Before you buy the twentieth scarf or the tenth purse or the fortieth pair of shoes, stop and think. A) How much are you paying? If you are shopping the sales and the thrift stores, maybe you can justify buying something that you love but wouldn’t pay full price for. B) Do you really need it? If you have a closet full of scarves, many of which you rarely wear, do you really need to buy another, even if it is your favorite color? C) If you did not spend this money on the item, where else can it be put to use?
Every time we shop we make a decision. Not everyone would be comfortable wearing the same pair of shoes all the time and I’m not recommending that for anyone. But I do want to remind you that your worth is NOT determined by a designer bag, or a fancy watch, or Jimmy Choo shoes, or an expensive car. Before you buy, think about what you are doing and why. Think about where the money is going and where it might do more good. Think about wants versus needs.
I not judging anyone, let me say that. I love to buy things as much as the next person. I indulge by buying yarn for future crochet projects. I buy toys for the kids. I treat myself to a chocolate bar that I eat in the car so I don’t have to share it with the kids (sorry kids). I compensate in other areas, though. I don’t have a fancy haircut or professionally done nails. We eat out only about once a week. We go to the movies about once a year and otherwise use Redbox. I try to balance everything so my life is full, but not full of things. I am frugal, but not cheap. Okay, about shoes, I’m cheap, I admit it. But I’m not a miser. I just try to be mindful of what I’m spending my money on, and in this world where there are so many whose basic needs are not being met, it’s easier to say no to the fancy outfit or the purse or the shoes when you realize that you can give money to a worthy cause instead and help perhaps to literally save a life. And of course, if you surround yourself with good people who have similar values, then you won’t have to worry if some lady it tut-tutting under her breath about your well-worn clothing and unadorned nails. Or your thrift store shoes.