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The Price of Fashion

Itís the kind of store where you can buy a butter dish as well as a sweater, Anthropologie is.

Sure, you can buy both a butter dish and a sweater at Kmart, too. Or at Target. But itís not the same. In those places itís all about saving money. At Anthropologie itís about trying to get out without spending way, way too much money. Everything is expensive.

Expensive pima cotton underpants with little satin rosebuds. Expensive beaded- velvet camisoles to be worn beneath expensive black-lace shrugs. Expensive silk chemises and expensive brocade trousers. Expensive tufted throw rugs and expensive chenille pillows. Expensive cut-glass goblets and expensive satin boxes for expensive shimmering baubles.

Anthropologie is the quintessential girlie store. I defy any woman to go in there and willingly leave empty-handed. It would take a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

Because once youíre inside the door, all you want to do is touch everything. Yeah, everything. The sense of texture surrounds youónap, depth, heft and color. You canít keep your hands to yourself.

You want to try on everything. The rabbitsí-fur pom-pom scarf. The lace-up peasant blouse. The needle-pointed slippers with the little kitten heels.

You want to try things on you know will look awful because, well, maybe they wonít look awful. And maybe you will just drop the $178 on that sweater because you canít find a sweater like that in Albany and besides we arenít in Albany anymore. And besides that $178 isnít even going to begin to cover the cost of heating fuel this winteróbut that sweater will sure keep you warm.

Anyway, thatís the warped direction my thinking took when I was at Anthropologie a few weeks ago. Standing there surrounded by beaded cashmere and lace-trimmed lambsí wool and soft, heathered tweeds I decided that it was time for me to get serious about conserving energy and saving money. Instead of cranking up the furnace, I would wear more sweaters.

I would wear sweaters in jewel-tones and pastels. I would wear fitted sweaters layered over paper-thin silk long johns. I would wear cardigans over fetching little camisoles or lettuce-edged mock turtlenecks. I would wear chunky sweaters, belted. I would wear sweater jackets, with broaches. I would wear raglan sleeves and dolmen sleeves, shawl collars and V-necks. I would diversify. I would be warm.

I would look terrific.

But first, I had to buy some sweaters.

An hour and a half later I left Anthropologie with a very nice cardigan that has sleeves so long Iíll never chew my nails again. And also a butter dish.

I got on the train feeling kind of smug. Yes, I had spent too much on the butter dish; $18 on a butter dish is ridiculous. True, itís a nice sizeóholds only half a stick so you can leave it on the counter without ever worrying that the butter will go rancid. But it was a little on the pricey side when I could have just gone on using a saucer.

The sweater, on the other hand, was a good purchase, I told myself; $80 isnít cheap, but it was practical. Versatile. And though I couldnít come up with any hard science to justify this, I just felt that somehow this sweater would be a significant help in controlling household fuel costs this winter.

I got back to Albany and put the sweater in my closet. It was Indian summer. I was still wearing sandals and talking my tomatoes into turning red. Once in a while Iíd cruise Marshallís or the Salvation Army for a sweater deal or think about the dull, boring sweaters I already owned. But for the most part I forgot about the Anthropologie sweater.

Until my credit-card statement came. I did a double take then. Something was wrong! I must have signed off on the credit slip without noticing that I had been seriously overcharged. I went off in search of the shopping bag in my closet and there I found itóthe sales slip with a copy of my signature and the itemized listing of my purchase.

The first thing I noticed was that the butter dish hadnít cost $18 at all. It had been a virtual steal at $12. I should have bought a couple of butter dishes to give away as Christmas gifts.

But I had to squint to block out the glare from the price Iíd paid for the sweater. Why did I think Iíd paid so much for the butter dish, but somehow managed to block out what I had actually paid for the sweater? What kind of mind game was I playing with myself?

I looked again at the sales slip. Yep, it was there, all right, the price Iíd paid. It was a lot more than $80. It was a lot more than Iíll admit to here in print if for no other reason than that my daughterís college financial-aid officer might see this and decide she doesnít really need a work-study job and low-interest, federally funded student loans at all.

But she does, especially now that I have that dish-y fern-green-and-turquoise-tweeded sweater jacket in my closet.

She needs her financial-aid package and I need to avoid Anthropologie. At all costs, though that may not be the best choice of words.

Donít get me wrong. Itís a nice sweater. And now Iíve got two reasons for wearing it: For warmth. And for penance. I donít even believe in penance. But I donít believe in spending so much money on a sweater, either.

So if you see me in it, say something nice. Because the rest of the time Iíll be wearing those pilled, dull, worn-at-the-elbows sweaters I finally hauled down from the attic. And huddling in front of my electric space heater, waiting for spring.

óJo Page

jopage@graceniska.org


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