Saturday, February 24, 2007


When my daughters were in high school we went -- at least once, maybe twice -- all the way to Boston (300 miles) to shop at the real Filene's basement, i.e., the original bargain store on two levels beneath Filene's department store in Boston. They had been there a time or two when we went to Boston from their grandparent's home in Fall River, Mass. They understood the philosophy of bargain basement shopping: have an idea of what you hope to find, then have the flexibility to decide about things you find that you like but aren't immediate needs and don't be disappointed if the hoped for item isn't to be found.

We had a grand time and settled into a motel after the work out with our sacks of bargains. I think we had a good dinner somewhere but I don't remember. I know we stopped at a bakery and bought treats -- that was when Leslie discovered the delight of Napoleons. We then spread out our purchases, gathered the tags and compared what we paid with the original price tag and felt a smug, even righteous glow about how much money we had saved.

For the most part this kind of shopping is a woman's sport. I am always surprised how few women actually understand the mindset of this kind of bargain shopping. It is definitely a middle class game. Although wealthy people usually like bargains they don't get the same joy. They can buy the $100 jacket anyway; but if we know we won't buy the $100 jacket until it's at least half price, we feel we've outsmarted the forces of retail commerce. Unfortunately, most poorer people simply don't have the discretionary cash to buy except what they really must have. I think about these economic realities but I truly love textiles and what is done with them. I can wander in expensive stores and buy nothing but very much enjoy the feel of luxury fabrics and the way they are cut and draped and sewn. I'm very good at "just looking."

Once in a while, perhaps every six weeks or two months, I really feel an addict's urge to hit certain stores that reliably have bargains. In New York one is Daffy's which has many clothes imported from Italy. Their merchandise ranges from quite good to really schlocky, from tasteful to tasteless. Today I had in mind that the last boots of the season might offer up a pair of excessively plain ones that I would like. That was the ostensible excuse. But really it was just time to shop. In fact the boots were all horrible, nearly all the shoes were horrible too. But there were racks and racks of sale items. I happen to have the patience to look at such racks item by itme; because I look at tailoring details, I feel fabrics -- unless one has experienced this it's impossible to understand the enormous range of fabrics used in making women's trousers, blouses, jackets, skirts. I can almost O.D. on tactile sensations. The color variations are equally enormous, and the variety of cuts, is much greater than the uninitiated would guess.

I literally spent three hours just looking, mostly rejecting and sometimes greatly regretting that so many sale clothes are very small sizes. Store buyers seem to think their shoppers are going to be size 6 and 8 and America really does not have so many 6es and 8s anymore -- as the media tell us almost daily. After three hours did I come home with a bundle? No, I spent less than $40 for two pair of trousers and a sweater any one item had been meant to retail for over $50, so -- yes, I got the nice kick of getting bargains. Now that I've had my fix I'll probably stay out of stores again for some weeks. I'll probably wear the new brown pants and sweater tomorrow. Immediate gratification!

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